Spend enough time kibitzing about international affairs and you are liable to develop an obsession with blunders — how they happen, the costs they incur, and the devilish difficulty of overcoming the big ones. In my case, I have long been intrigued by the three-cornered competition in blundering played out among successive US governments, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the anti-regime Iranian organization known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or MEK.
Viewed in this light, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent decision to remove the MEK from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations is interesting. It looks like an attempt to undo the decision of Bill Clinton’s administration to put the MEK on the terrorist list as a conciliatory gesture toward a newly elected “reformist’’ president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, back in 1997. To be fair to Hillary Clinton, she was also responding to a federal appeals court order and seeking to resolve a looming humanitarian crisis confronting more than 3,000 MEK members trapped in Iraq. Third countries were reluctant to take in the stranded MEK members as long as the group remained on the US terrorist list.