By Carlo Muñoz - 09/21/12 03:40 PM EDT
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to pull the Iranian group known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) off the department's list of known terrorist organizations, according to news reports.
Clinton will notify congressional leaders of the her decision on Friday, according to reports by CNN that were based on comments from several senior Obama administration officials.
Prior to Clinton's decision to take the MEK off the terror list, administration officials had been in negotiations with group members on the closure of its paramilitary base located near the Iran-Iraq border.
The MEK was allied with Saddam Hussein in his war against the Iranian regime, making them foes of the current Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK base in Iraq, was the key prerequisite for the group before being removed from the State Department's terror list.
Camp Ashraf's closure "is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a June statement.
However, a number of lawmakers argued the group would not be able to relocate out of Iraq until they were first taken off the terror list.
“I think the Iraqis are totally justified in saying they want the MEK out of their country. If they're not out of their country, it's the fault of the United States and others who will not eliminate the designation of this group as a terrorist organization, which then makes it impossible for them to be relocated outside of Iraq," according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
Rohrabacher, is the lead co-sponsor of a House resolution urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to delist the MEK.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who sponsored a resolution urging the Secretary of State to remove the MEK from the terrorist group list, said the decision was "warranted."
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s expected decision to delist the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list is long overdue, but a much welcomed and warranted decision,” Poe said in a statement. “The MEK long ago renounced violence, and in recent years, has been actively working with U.S. intelligence agencies to get information on activities inside Iran. Recently, we have seen that the real terrorists are the mullahs of Iran and the tiny tyrant in the desert, Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, not the freedom fighters hoping for a democratic Iran.”
Poe's resolution has bipartisan support with 98 co-sponsors.
Placed on the State Department's terror list in 1997, the MEK has since abandoned its operations and renounced its violent tactics in 2003, turning over their weapons to American forces in Iraq that year.
MEK supporters say the organization today is pursing freedom and democracy and is not engaged in terrorism. They also deny it was ever Marxist or had a role in the attacks that killed Americans.
The push to delist the MEK has involved K Street as well as high-profile former government officials.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the influence industry’s biggest lobby firms, registered to lobby on behalf of the Iranian American Community of Northern California in April 2011 to remove the MEK from the terrorist group list. The firm has earned $490,000 in lobbying fees from the Iranian-American group so far, according to lobbying disclosure records.
In January 2011, the Iranian-American Community of North Texas hired law firm DiGenova & Toensing to lobby in support of the MEK’s removal. The firm earned $110,000 in lobbying fees before its contract ended last year, according to records.
Former government officials, meanwhile, mounted a surrogate campaign where they made the case for taking the MEK off the terrorist list.
That led to some big names — including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and Gen. Hugh Shelton (ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — coming under scrutiny from federal authorities over who was paying their speaking fees, according to reports earlier this year. Providing services or being paid by a designated terrorist group can be against the law.
Kevin Bogardus contributed.
This post was last updated at 12:59 p.m.