The MEK Still Has Not Changed
(Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
... the reality is that the group’s beliefs are antithetical to liberal and democratic principles. The MEK’s reinvention as a “democratic” opposition group is a classic example of a revolutionary organization adopting the rhetoric of its would-be Western patron. Suffice it to say that a group that relied on the patronage and protection of Saddam Hussein for over two decades is not one interested in creating a “fair and democratic society.” The MEK has not been an “ally” in a war against terrorists, and any “experts” that told Page this were not telling him the truth ...
Daniel Larisonm American Conservative, July 04, 2012
“I thought they were simply a group of Iranian exiles who were opposed to the regime in Tehran,” Page said. “I later found out they can be construed as a MEK front group, and I don’t think it’s worth it to my reputation to be perceived as a paid spokesman for any political cause.”
I love that “they can be construed as a MEK front group” line. That’s rather like saying that Sinn Fein could be “construed” as the IRA’s political wing, as if it were something up for debate or interpretation. It could be “construed” that way because that was the truth. Just look at the website of the organizing group. “Delist MEK” and “Camp Ashraf” are two tabs prominently displayed on the site. Who else would be so focused on these issues other than a front group for the MEK? How does someone agree to speak at an event sponsored by this group and not know that? Page deserves some credit for deciding to return the group’s money right away, but what was he doing at the event in the first place?
One of Page’s defenders isn’t helping him by highlighting what Page said in Paris. According to Achy Obejas, Page said the following:
* “Thanks for inviting me to speak up for values I believe we share: Freedom, democracy and respect for human rights for men and women across racial, ethnic and religious lines.
* “I believe we share a desire for regime change in Iran to a more fair and democratic society.
* “The historical record shows – and a variety of experts have told me – how the MEK has been America’s ally in our war against terrorists [bold mine-DL], but as former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has said, the State Department appears to have been left behind with outdated information. Now a federal court has said the State Department should check its relevance.
* “You have allies to whom you should reach out in common cause as long as you advocate the values all decent human beings share. As long as you work for freedom, equality, human rights and democracy, you are not working alone.”
It is obvious from these remarks that Page was badly misinformed. Whoever offered him the “expertise” he cites here did him a disservice. These views are “pretty mainstream” in the sense that a lot of prominent former officials and politicians have made similar claims. One small problem with these views is that they are based on misinformation.
The MEK has been trying to reinvent itself over the last decade by claiming that it has embraced all of the principles Page mentions, but the reality is that the group’s beliefs are antithetical to liberal and democratic principles. The MEK’s reinvention as a “democratic” opposition group is a classic example of a revolutionary organization adopting the rhetoric of its would-be Western patron. Suffice it to say that a group that relied on the patronage and protection of Saddam Hussein for over two decades is not one interested in creating a “fair and democratic society.” The MEK has not been an “ally” in a war against terrorists, and any “experts” that told Page this were not telling him the truth.
Ray Takeyh testified about the MEK’s ideology last year:
As the organization has lost its Iraqi patron and finds itself without any reliable allies, it has somehow modulated its language and sought to moderate its anti-American tone. Such convenient posturing should not distract attention from its well-honed ideological animus to the United States.
Terror has always been a hallmark of MEK’s strategy for assuming power. Through much of its past, the party exulted violence as a heroic expression of legitimate dissent. One of the central precepts of the party is that a highly-dedicated group of militants could spark a mass revolution by bravely confronting superior power of the state and assaulting its authority. Once, the masses observe that the state is vulnerable to violence, than they will shed their inhibitions and join the protest, thus sparking the larger revolution. Thus, the most suitable means of affecting political change is necessarily violence. Although in its advocacy in Western capitals, the MEK emphasizes its commitment to democracy and free expression, in neither deed nor word has it forsworn it violent pedigree.
P.S. The point here isn’t that Page’s remarks are unusual, but rather that they are unfortunately entirely too “mainstream” nowadays. This episode reflects how extensive the pro-MEK lobbying effort has become, and it underscores the need to show that the lobbying effort is based on falsehoods and misrepresentations.
Is One Man's Terrorist Another Man's Freedom Fighter?
(Americans use Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult to assassinate civilians)
... Back when the Bush Administration wanted to go to war in Iraq, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with 9/11, they did their best to persuade terrorist-hating Americans that Saddam Hussein was a sponsor of terrorism. For example, the Bush White House published a document called "Saddam Hussein's Support for International Terrorism." Check out this bullet point especially: Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians ...
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, May 17 2012
The ongoing saga of Mujahedin-e-Khalq is a good example of how the unfortunately imprecise cliche ought to be understood.
Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's car,
in which he was killed by an explosion. (Reuters)
In his new book, The Tyranny of Cliches, Jonah Goldberg goes on a rant against the phrase, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," writing, "It is simply absurd to contend that because people may argue over who is or is not a terrorist that it is therefore impossible to make meaningful distinctions between terrorists and freedom fighters." Is that what those who invoke the phrase are saying? Like a lot of cliches, it doesn't really make literal sense and is probably best avoided, but I suspect what many people mean when they use it is something like, "As a descriptor, terrorist is almost never applied rigorously and consistently to describe the tactics a group is using -- rather, it is invoked as a pejorative to vilify the actions only of groups one wishes to discredit. People who agree with the ends of the very same groups often don't think of them as terrorists, the negative connotation of which causes them to focus on what they regard as the noble ends of allies they're more likely to dub freedom fighters."
Put more simply, it's possible to rigorously determine who is a terrorist if you go by the actual meaning of the word, but in practice the term is almost never applied in accordance with a strict definition.
And today I can alert you to an especially Orwellian example.
Back when the Bush Administration wanted to go to war in Iraq, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with 9/11, they did their best to persuade terrorist-hating Americans that Saddam Hussein was a sponsor of terrorism. For example, the Bush White House published a document called "Saddam Hussein's Support for International Terrorism." Check out this bullet point especially:
Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.
Nowadays, Iran is Public Enemy Number One. Mujahedin-e-Khalq, also known as MEK, is still a terrorist organization. That is to say, it both uses violence to terrorize civilian employees of the Iranian regime and appears on America's official list of foreign terror-sponsoring organizations. But various prominent Americans are being paid big bucks to help get MEK off the official list of terror groups.
And they're reportedly poised to succeed. As my colleague Bob Wright puts it:
If MEK had, as it claims, left its terrorist ways behind, this "delisting" of it, though geopolitically unfortunate, might be legally or morally defensible. However, within only the last few months, according to NBC News, MEK agents have murdered people by placing bombs on their cars. The murdered people were Iranian scientists, and the assassinations were apparently orchestrated by Israel -- facts that may raise MEK in the esteem of some Americans.
But that doesn't make the killings any more legal or less terroristic.
As Glenn Greenwald writes:
The application of the term "Terrorist" by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and -- presto -- it is no longer a "foreign Terrorist organization."
If you want to know the intended rather than literally expressed meaning of, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," you need look no further than the story of MEK.
Link to RAND report
Link to HRW report
Ray Takeyh testimony on Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, ...)
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing
... All this is not to suggest that Iran-Iraqi relations will ever degenerate into the hostility and tensions of Saddam's period, but nevertheless, a competitive relations is more likely than an alliance of unequals. The one issue that has brought Tehran and Baghdad together is their mutual antipathy to the MEK presence in Iraq. As mentioned, the roots of Iraqi regime's hostility to MEK stem from its intimate ties with Saddam's regime. In essence, the Iraqi government has its own legitimate reasons for seeking to evict the MEK from their sanctuary. To be sure, such an act would garner Iraq further Iranian goodwill, but the core motivation for the conduct of Baghdad lies in MEK's own checkered history within Iraq ...
Foreing Affairs Subcommittee, July 07 2011
Testimony by Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations - July 7, 2011
The Mujahidin-i Khalq (MEK) was founded in Iran in the early 1960s, as one of the many opposition groups that were agitating against the Shah's monarchy. Early on the MEK quickly distinguished itself from other dissident forces by the discursive nature of its ideology that sought to somehow amalgamate Islam and Marxism. Islam was supposed to provide the values while Marxism offered a pathway for organizing the society and defeating the forces of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism. The MEK's foundational philosophy stressed that Islam's ideal society was an egalitarian one that had been corrupted over time by class division. To reclaim God's original mandate one had to mobilize the society against the prevailing order. In essence, MEK's ideology is a curious mixture of seemingly incompatible dogmas. From Shiite Islam, they appropriated the powerful symbol of martyrdom; from Marxism they claimed various stages of historical development; from Lenin they embraced the importance of a vanguard party committed to mass mobilization, and from Third World revolutionaries they took the primacy of guerrilla warfare and violence as indispensible agents of political change.
The core of MEK's ideology has always been anti-imperialism which it has historically defined as opposition to U.S. interests. The MEK opposed the Shah partly because of his close associations with the United States. MEK's anti-American compulsions propelled it toward embracing an entire spectrum of radical forces ranging from the Vietcong to the PLO. Given its mission of liberating the working class and expunging the influence of predatory capitalism, the United States has traditionally been identified as a source of exploitation and injustice in MEK literature. As the organization has lost its Iraqi patron and finds itself without any reliable allies, it has somehow modulated its language and sought to moderate its anti-American tone. Such convenient posturing should not distract attention from its well-honed ideological animus to the United States.
Terror has always been a hallmark of MEK's strategy for assuming power. Through much of its past, the party exulted violence as a heroic expression of legitimate dissent. One of the central precepts of the party is that a highly-dedicated group of militants could spark a mass revolution by bravely confronting superior power of the state and assaulting its authority. Once, the masses observe that the state is vulnerable to violence, than they will shed their inhibitions and join the protest, thus sparking the larger revolution. Thus, the most suitable means of affecting political change is necessarily violence. Although in its advocacy in Western capitals, the MKE emphasizes its commitment to democracy and free expression, in neither deed nor word has it forsworn it violent pedigree.
During the 1970s, at the height of its revolutionary ardor, the MEK was fairly indiscriminate about its targets of violence. Among the victims of MEK terror have been American installations and military personnel. The MEK's Communique Number 3 stressed that violence against the United States was permissible given America's suppression of legitimate revolutionary movements in Palestine and Vietnam. The first such attack came in May 1972 on the occasion of President Richard Nixon's visit to Iran. To derail that visit, the MEK bombed the U.S Information Office and targeted American companies such as General Motors and Pan-American airways. That same year, the party attempted to assassinate General Harold Price, the Chief of U.S.
Military Mission in Iran. Although General Price escaped his assassins, the MEK did tragically succeed in murdering Colonel Lewis Hawkins, the Deputy Chief of Military Mission outside his house.
It must be stressed that throughout the 1970s, the MEK did have a following among the Iranian intelligentsia and the working class. Its revolutionary message and its resistance to the Shah's regime proved alluring to many university students. The MEK was part of the revolutionary coalition that overthrew the Shah only to find itself increasingly on the margins of power. The critical year for the changing fortunes of MEK seems to be 1981. On June 28, 1981 a massive bomb destroyed the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party, killing more than 100 individuals, including four cabinet members, six deputy ministers and twenty-seven members of the parliament. The episode sparked the internal war that destroyed the last remnants of the left-wing opposition. Pitched battles in the streets, summary executions of MEK guerrillas and closure of all critical press became the order of the day. Before the year was over, the regime had executed approximately six thousand of its opponents. In one of its more gruesome displays, the pictures of those executed were exhibited in the front pages of the newspapers. In the end, the Islamic Republic's superior fire power and sheer brutality allowed it to triumph and effectively end popular dissent. The MEK's political infrastructure in Iran was effectively subdued. However, a series of decisions by the MEK leadership itself ensured that the party would never reclaim its place of influence in Iran.
As it went into exile, MEK's willingness to side with Saddam's Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war disturbed its already diminished cadre. During a key 1983 meeting between Masud Rajavi and Tariq Aziz, an alliance was forged. The MEK personnel often fought alongside of their Iraqi counterparts and were used in some of the war more daring missions. Given the highly nationalistic nature of the Iranian populace such an act was viewed as a betrayal of the homeland and not just a legitimate act of opposition against the regime. The MEK would go on to behave as Saddam's Praetorian Guard, as they were employed by him to repress the Iraqi Shia uprising of 1991. Given the fact that the Shia community is having a leading role in the future of Iraq, such miscalculation has alienated the MEK from the rulers of Iraq. The Baghdad regime's hostility to the MEK cannot be seen as a function of its ties with Tehran, but as a legacy of MEK's alliance with Saddam.
During its prolonged exile, MEK steadily transformed itself from a political movement into a cult-like organization. The movement no longer cultivated other opposition parties or attempted to broaden its appeal beyond its narrow constituents. Militancy and ideological discipline have displaced political pragmatism. The daily life of the members reflected this change as they had to submit themselves to the authority of the party and renounce all their previous ties. In the end, all that was left of a movement that appealed to a segment of the Iranian population is a cult-like party with a discursive ideology and a disturbing legacy of terror.
Despite its activism in Western capitals, the MEK commands very little support within Iran. Its alliance with Saddam and its cult-like dispositions have alienated even the radical segments of intelligentsia that once found its ideological template attractive. The main opposition force in Iran remains the Green Movement that features not just liberal activists but clerical dissidents, and middle class elements chaffing under the theocracy's repressive rule. The Iranian populace is seeking ways of liberalizing its society and not embracing yet another ideological movement with totalitarian tendencies.
Iran-Iraq Relations and the MEK
During its seven-decade monopoly of power, Iraq's Sunni minority dismissed and relegated the Shiites to the margins of the society. The Ba'athist regime would go on to extract a cruel revenge for any signs of Shiite political agitation and demands for representation commensurate with its demographic power. The esteemed men of religion would be persecuted, the Shiites' southern habitat would be subject to a man-made ecological disaster, and the ancient shrine cities reduced to squalor. The Ba'athist malevolence was nowhere more evident than in its treatment of the Shiite uprising of 1991. The Ba'athist retaliation was brutal: summary executions, the razing of cities and massive deportations became the order of the day. The fact that the MEK is implicated in that act of violence is not lost on Iraq's current leaders.
The fortunes of history rarely change with the rapidity that confronted the Sunni minority in 2003. The American invasion accompanied by expectations about "democratic transformation" irrevocably altered Iraq's political landscape. The Shiites, confident of their numerical majority, viewed the democratic process with optimism and proved patient with the vicissitudes of the postwar order. The remarkable aspect of Iraq was how the Shiite clerical estate had managed to preserve its essential infrastructure of influence. Despite the Ba'athist onslaught, the quietism of the Ayatollahs allowed them to maintain their seminaries and mosques. At a time when all organized political activity was viciously suppressed, the clerical class would assume prominence. Ironically, Iraqi society had undergone decades of forced secularization, but the Shiite political parties that now emerged would be either led by clerics or men of religious devotion. The United States had to adjust and deal with religiously-oriented parties that did not always share its views.
As the Islamic Republic contemplated its policy in Iraq it has to content with a number of difficult positions. The overarching objective of Tehran is to prevent Iraq from once more emerging as an ideological and strategic threat. Thus, it is critical for the theocratic regime to ensure the Shiites' political primacy. However, Iran must also guard against any civil war that could threaten Iraq's territorial cohesion. Dismemberment of Iraq into three fledging states at odds with each other would confront Iran with more instability in its immediate neighborhood. In the meantime, Iran desires a withdrawal of American forces, as its hegemonic aspirations can never be ensured so long as a sizeable contingent of U.S. troops remains in the area. To pursue its competing goals, Iran has embraced a contradictory policy of pushing for elections and the accommodation of responsible Sunni elements while at the same time subsidizing Shiite militias who are bend on violence and disorder.
To a great extent, Iran's policy today is driven by its own prolonged war with Saddam's Iraq. Iran is a country that lives its history. The war is far from a faded memory--it is debated in lecture halls, street gatherings and scholarly conferences. After more than two decades of reflection, a relative consensus has finally emerged within Iran's body politic that suggests that the cause of Iraq's persistent aggression was the Sunni domination of its politics. The minority Sunni population sought to justify its monopoly of power by embracing a radical pan-Arabist foreign policy that called for Iraq to lead the Middle East. Thus, the Sunnis were ruling Iraq not for crass parochial purposes but for the larger cause of Arab solidarity. Such a posture inevitably led to conflicts between Iraq and its neighbors. One of the primary victims of the Sunni misadventures was the Islamic Republic. However, Iraq is a land of sectarian divisions and contrasting identities. The Shiites and Kurds also possess a foreign policy orientation, but one that calls for a better relationship with Iraq's non-Arab neighbors.
Iran's model of operation in Iraq is drawn from its experiences in Lebanon in the early 1980s. At that time, Iran amalgamated a variety of Shiite parties into the lethal and popular Hezbollah. Since the removal of Saddam, Iran has similarly been busy strengthening the Shiite forces by subsidizing their political activities and arming their militias. Iran hopes that the Shiites will continue to exploit their demographic advantage to solidify their gains. Nonetheless, as Iraq moves toward its democratic path, it is likely to have serious disagreements with Tehran. The scope of Iranian interference in Iraqi politics is beginning to alienate even the most pliable Shiite parties. The Iraqi populace that spent decades seeking relief from Saddam's rule is unlikely to acquiesce to such external interventions in their politics. The overarching theme of Iraqi politics today is a desire for restored sovereignty and genuine independence. Baghdad would like to have friendly and formal relations with Iran, but it is unlikely to submit to Iranian mischievousness in its internal affairs. The notion that Iraq and its Shiite government are mere subsidiaries of Iran is spurious and utterly without foundation.
In the long-run, Iraq represents important economic challenges to Iran. As Iraq's oil facilities rehabilitate and its production increases, it is likely to further damage Iran's prospects. A democratic Iraq is a far better place to attract international investments than a theocratic tyranny at odds with the international community over its nuclear aspirations. Although the global demand for oil is likely to remain high, the coming Iraqi production will diminish the appeal of Iran with its dilapidated petroleum facilities and truculent leadership. All this is not to suggest that Iran-Iraqi relations will ever degenerate into the hostility and tensions of Saddam's period, but nevertheless, a competitive relations is more likely than an alliance of unequals.
The one issue that has brought Tehran and Baghdad together is their mutual antipathy to the MEK presence in Iraq. As mentioned, the roots of Iraqi regime's hostility to MEK stem from its intimate ties with Saddam's regime. In essence, the Iraqi government has its own legitimate reasons for seeking to evict the MEK from their sanctuary. To be sure, such an act would garner Iraq further Iranian goodwill, but the core motivation for the conduct of Baghdad lies in MEK's own checkered history within Iraq.
The question that continues to bedevil the MEK debate is what to do with the residents of Camp Ashraf. It would be wrong and immoral to forcefully repatriate inhabitants of the camp back to Iran. Given the fact that the Islamic Republic lacks even the basic rudiments of impartial justice system, they are likely to be met with certain death. Nonetheless, the international community under the auspices of the United Nations should begin to search for new homeland for the MEK personnel today stuck in a country that does not want them. The MEK cadre cannot remain in Iraq and cannot be returned to Iran. The question then becomes an internationally-mandated search for a new home for them.
New U.S. approach to Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO, MEK) in Camp Ashraf overlooks the victims’ human rights
... The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc. Nine years after the fall of Saddam ...
Attitudes are slowly crystallising and shifting over what should be done about the MEK, with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey introducing a new and positive approach in U.S. dealings with the group in Iraq. But the July 4 Miami Herald article ‘Iranian dissidents in Iraq want refuge in 3rd country’ , also highlights the danger that various elements are still trying to derive their own benefits from the MEK even though the demise of Camp Ashraf has become inevitable. Of course you would need to ask those involved what they each hope to get out of such a defunct group.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, addressing only MEK leaders, has urged them to “‘dissolve’ their paramilitary organization and become refugees someplace else in Iraq”. In its turn the MEK itself has already threatened to massacre its own members if any external body interferes in the camp. Jeffrey added that the group "really believe that the U.N. and the United States will protect them forever." Well, they have good reason to believe that to be so.
Trita Parsi’s timely article Washington's Favorite Terrorists exposed U.S. hypocrisy in dealing with the MEK in Washington. But we may very well see a similar level of support continuing in Iraq. The obvious way this would manifest would be for the MEK to be taken (en masse) inside a U.S. military base and held there until further notice. This would protect the group from Iraqi attempts to expel them from the country, and also obviate the need for the U.N. to enter Camp Ashraf and rescue the individual residents from their enforced imprisonment by the MEK leadership.
The wholesale transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf would truly be a human rights disaster. The sooner it is acknowledged that Rajavi is nobody’s representative but his own, the sooner the victims of the MEK will be helped.
From the hardliners in Iran who want to keep their dangerous foreign backed enemy, to the neoconservatives in the U.S. who want to keep the hatred between Iran and the west (as the neocon version of Holocaust denial, the fact that the MEK has killed so many Iranians is what feeds this hatred), to Iraqi internal factions which want to use the MEK for attacking other factions, to Europeans who still believe the MEK are a useful bargaining chip with Iran or can be used to influence the internal affairs of Iraq. All these have an interest in keeping the MEK intact. None wants the dissolution of the camp or the organisation. They all want to stop the camp being disbanded because they are using the MEK for their own various agendas.
The problem is that without taking the necessary action to access the individual residents of the camp they are essentially being left in the ownership of the Rajavis and their backers. In this respect where are the human rights organisations which should be directly involved in helping these victims? What attempts have the U.N. made to actually get inside the camp and have free access to the residents? Human Rights Watch published its ‘No Exit’ report in 2005 which was laudable, but what have they done since then? Amnesty International still prefers to think of the MEK as an entity and ignore the existence of the individuals in the camp. What has AI said about the internal problems of the residents; the daily violations and abuses of their basic human rights?
The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc.
Nine years after the fall of Saddam and the disappearance of the cult leader it is not acceptable for a U.S. official to simply try to move the group from one part of the world to the other part without the slightest concern about the human rights of the captives there.
Washington's Favorite Terrorists
(Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... No one should be surprised -- not even DC's "unwitting members of Congress" -- as the FBI calls the group's supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK's disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam's brutal campaign against Iraq's Kurds and Shia; its "cult-like" behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages. And let's not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members - more than ...
Trita Parsi, Huffington post, June 30, 2011
In the 10 years that I have lived in Washington, I have never seen lobbyists for al-Qaeda parade through the halls of Congress. I have not seen any events on Capitol Hill organized by Hamas. And I have not seen any American politicians take campaign contributions from the Islamic Jihad.
But the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization with the blood of Americans and Iranians alike on its hands, freely does all of these things, despite being a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
And in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list -- not as a result of any change of heart -- but as a result of an unprecedented mutli-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.
If al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization were holding fundraisers in DC, lobbying Congress, or holding press conferences at the National Press Club, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement would be all over it.
Not so with the MEK. There, law enforcement seems nowhere to be found. In fact, a prominent spokesperson for the MEK terrorist group was hired by Fox News in the mid-2000s to serve as their on-air terrorist analyst. Go figure.
Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.
But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.
No one should be surprised -- not even DC's "unwitting members of Congress" -- as the FBI calls the group's supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK's disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam's brutal campaign against Iraq's Kurds and Shia; its "cult-like" behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.
And let's not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members - more than 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes, according to a RAND Corporation study.
But even if the MEK could be believed, the reality is that they are currently on the terrorist list and, as a result, they must be subject to U.S. terrorism laws. Simply put, the laws must be enforced -- without exception.
The State Department's review of their terrorism status, which is due to be completed by August of this year, must be conducted without the essentially illegal pressure tactics the MEK currently is employing through lobbyists, lawmakers and hired former officials.
If the group is taken off the list, not as a result of an objective review, but by virtue of their lobbying prowess, several repercussions can be envisioned.
First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are advocating using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.
As one former State Department official put it, the "paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror."
Much like Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the permanent leader of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, seeks to return from decades of exile as the anointed President of Iran. And freed of the terrorist designation, there is little reason to believe the MEK won't turn its lobbying apparatus -- which puts Chalabi's to shame -- to obtain U.S. funding and to promote war with Iran. In fact, some members of Congress already refer to the MEK as the "real Green movement." Even more shocking is that top former U.S. officials have called on the U.S. to recognize Rajavi as the rightful President of Iran.
Second, de-listing the MEK would spell disaster for the Iranian pro-democracy movement. According to prominent Green movement figures Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri:
If you recognize the necessity of a non-violent campaign against the Iranian regime, the last thing you want is to have the US government support and fund one of the most violent and undemocratic Iranian organizations -- and, to make matters worse, to do so in the name of the Iranian Green movement.
Third, de-listing will put the rising Iranian-American community in a state of shock. In the last decade, an impressive civic awakening has occurred in this successful but previously politically silent community, with dozens of new groups being formed with the aim of contributing to the American democracy and providing the Iranian Americans in the U.S. with a voice. A U.S. funded and supported MEK will ensure a return to the pre-1997 era. Back then, in the eyes of most U.S. lawmakers, the voice of Maryam Rajavi was the voice of the entire Iranian-American community.
Now, by buying off officials to pry open the floodgates of U.S. financial and political support, Rajavi and her small but vocal minority threaten to simultaneously drown out the voices of the rest of the Iranian-American community, co-opt the voice of Iran's true opposition, and carry the U.S. down the path of war yet again.
Follow Trita Parsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tparsi
Iran’s internal opposition succumbs to a dose of poisoned soup
Washington backed Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, NCRI, Rajavi cult) kills the Green Movement
... Sadly, no one could have been in any doubt, including – perhaps especially - the MEK’s backers, that people would disappear from the streets once terrorists backed by foreign powers were thrown into the pot. And it is not only in Iran but in demonstrations held in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington that this phenomenon shows itself. The destruction of Iran’s internal opposition, the so-called Green Movement’ simply cannot be all blamed on the IRI. It should be clear that those who greedily and imprudently contribute the fatal ingredients to the mix are more than any culpable of poisoning the Ash ...
Massoud Khodabandeh, MESConsultants, March 03, 2011
Today, March 2, Iran’s Majles issued its report on the 14 February demonstrations. Its reading had been delayed in order to assess the outcome of yesterday’s demonstration which had been called by the opposition.
The result was disappointing for the organisers. Not many people turned out. And this poor turnout has now unfortunately given a clear indication that after one year during which the IRI has manoeuvred to separate Mousavi and Karoubi from their support base among people inside Iran, the time has now come to deal with them. The report from Majles makes it clear what the next steps will be.
But the poor turnout cannot be attributed to a lack of will on the part of the opposition as many, many ordinary Iranians are known still to strongly oppose their government. Neither can the poor turnout be laid exclusively at the door of the IRI which, contrary to predictions, did not strike with disproportionate force; unpleasant as the use of tear gas and beatings are for demonstrators anywhere in the world.
Instead it is probable that Iran’s internal opposition is being slowly murdered with a dish of poisoned Ash prepared with a fatal mix of ingredients; the pot provided by the hardliners in Iran and the fire provided by Israel, the chickpeas and beans provided by the neoconservatives, the herbs provided by American foreign policy and the salt and pepper of the dish was the addition over the last few months by warmongers and regime change pundits who liberally sprinkled ‘support for terrorism’ into the dish. This added seasoning was of course the overt American and Israeli support for the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq working against the interests of the Iranian people.
The Iranian government chefs have proved themselves professional enough to use the ingredients to poison the soup. It’s not that people didn’t want to come out, and not that the regime had to use force; people didn’t come to the streets because they didn’t want to be associated with violent activists linked to the MEK.
Sadly, no one could have been in any doubt, including – perhaps especially - the MEK’s backers, that people would disappear from the streets once terrorists backed by foreign powers were thrown into the pot. And it is not only in Iran but in demonstrations held in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington that this phenomenon shows itself. The destruction of Iran’s internal opposition, the so-called Green Movement’ simply cannot be all blamed on the IRI. It should be clear that those who greedily and imprudently contribute the fatal ingredients to the mix are more than any culpable of poisoning the Ash.
Our Political Responsibilities
(Camp Ashraf, Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, NCRI)
... Today, the MKO is active in toppling both regimes ruling Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, the governments of Iran and Iraq are closely cooperating with each other. In recent months, some very influential politicians and political circles in the US have been actively supporting Mrs. Rajavi – as president – and strive to use the force at Ashraf Camp to change the Iranian regime. During the last three months alone, six important conferences were held in this regard and all six looked at this force as the agent of change in Iran... As these conferences began and progressed, it was clear that the Iranian and Iraqi regimes would not tolerate General Jones’s proposals ...
Farokh Negahdar, April 15, 2011
Translated by Rooz online
Original article (Persian)
A group of prominent Iranian human rights activists and intellectuals have responded to the horrendous killings of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization members by publishing an open letter condemning the killings. The moderate and peaceful spirit of the letter is commendable and deserves support.
Harm to MKO members was feared from the day Saddam Hussein’s regime came to its end. Iranian freedom-lovers knew that in view of the nature of the new regime in Iraq the MKO would have difficulty in maintaining its camp, Ashraf Camp and organization. The new political realities would one day come bring their status to a dead-end. It was clear from many years ago that it was prudent for MKO leaders to decide to that its members should migrate to other countries.
When the US handed over Iraq’s complete sovereignty to the Iraqi government concerns amplified about the imminent catastrophe. Many Iranian organizations, including Etehade Jomhurikhahan Iran (The Union of Iranian Republicans) rightfully stressed the need for the MKO to immediately depart Iraq while also emphasizing governments to encourage the MKO to do this.
Unfortunately the leadership of the MKO spent its greatest and most effective resources on a campaign whose goal was to attain the right to remain at Ashraf Camp.
In view of the political goals and policies of the MKO today vis-à-vis the governments of Iran and Iraq, it is clear that attempts to maintain the MKO in Ashraf Camp will only lead to more violence and clashes. When the Mojahedin settled in Iraq Saddam Hossein ruled over Iraq and the war between his government and the Islamic republic of Iran was in full swing. The MKO too wanted to continue their war with the Islamic republic. Because of this, they received the full support of the Iraqi government and at the least their security was completely provided to them. Saddam’s relations with the MKO were very cordial while those with the Shiites and the Kurds were deeply inimical.
Today, the MKO is active in toppling both regimes ruling Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, the governments of Iran and Iraq are closely cooperating with each other.
In recent months, some very influential politicians and political circles in the US have been actively supporting Mrs. Rajavi – as president – and strive to use the force at Ashraf Camp to change the Iranian regime. During the last three months alone, six important conferences were held in this regard and all six looked at this force as the agent of change in Iran.
At these conferences US general James Jones, Obama administration’s former national security advisor is the key driver.
As these conferences began and progressed, it was clear that the Iranian and Iraqi regimes would not tolerate General Jones’s proposals regarding Iran. At the time I wrote a piece explaining that a new game had begun which was another source of danger for the country and the region.
The condemnation of the tragedy that took place on the morning of April 8 in Ashraf Camp is the least and simplest response that Iranian pro-democracy activists can undertake. But our responsibility goes further. We have a deep responsibility towards the 3,500 individuals who are trapped in the neo-conservatist policies of the US and Israeli dreams for Iran. The policy of staying and preparing itself for the eventual outcome pursued by the MKO cannot last. Pressure and insistence of the neo-conservatists for using this force as a pressure against the Iranian regime must end.
Before the tragedy repeats itself, now is the time to approach the MKO and its powerful international supporters and press for the organization to submit its request to the UN Secretary General to resettle the group and its members in a secure country, while at the same time condemning any killing or bloodshed by the Iraqi army and to press the Iraqi government to announce a moratorium on the MKO.
I specifically request of the MKO, General Jones, John Bolton, Mrs. Mary Robinson, and Messrs. Howard Deen and Patrick Kennedy who are the most influential supporters of keeping the MKO and recognizing it as the alternative to the Iranian regime to facilitate the departure of this group from Iraq and set a specific date for this. At the same time, the Iraqi government should provided assurance that it would not enforce its sovereignty over Ashraf Camp until the departure of the MKO.
Hillary Clinton's crucial choice on Iran
"Supporting Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, NCRI ,Rajavi cult), kiss of death for Green Movement"
... First and foremost among such groups is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). But despite its obvious threat to global security, the MEK could be taken off the State Department's Terror List within the next week. If this happens, it promises to spell disaster for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and will be a devastating setback in the country's attempts to move forward... It is highly unlikely that other U.S.-designated FTOs, such as al-Qaida, would enjoy this astonishing degree of latitude in the corridors of the U.S. military, and within its executive and legislative branches ...
By Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri, March 27, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Right: supporters of opposition
leader Mir Hossein Mousavi listen to his speech
at a demonstration in Tehran on Thursday June, 18, 2009
(Mohsen Kadivar, left and Ahmad Sadri, right)
As Tunisians and Egyptians work through their respective political transitions, the Iranian government increasingly detaches itself from the realities of its restive population. The longer it resists meeting public demands, the shorter its lifespan becomes.
At the same time, within the Iranian Diaspora, some have sought to usurp leadership of Iran's indigenous pro-democracy movement. This has alarmed the leaders of the Green Movement in Iran. Mir Hossein Mousavi warned against "international surfers" seeking to wield their own axe in the furnace of the Green movement in his last communiqué that was issued before he was put under house arrest on Feb. 29.
First and foremost among such groups is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). But despite its obvious threat to global security, the MEK could be taken off the State Department's Terror List within the next week. If this happens, it promises to spell disaster for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and will be a devastating setback in the country's attempts to move forward.
The MEK has no political base inside Iran and no genuine support on the Iranian street because it was long based in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's patronage. It lost any semblance of credibility it might have had inside Iran due to its opposition to the Shah's regime when its troops fought on behalf of Iraq toward the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Hence, it would behoove U.S. policymakers to be skeptical of the boasts of MEK lobbyists regarding the extent of this group's popularity inside Iran.
Since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003, the MEK has been depending almost entirely on the uneven enforcement of existing U.S. laws concerning designated foreign terrorist organizations. Surprisingly, the MEK military compound in Iraq enjoys de-facto "protected persons" status, and its activities at the U.S. congress have long been unchecked. It is highly unlikely that other U.S.-designated FTOs, such as al-Qaida, would enjoy this astonishing degree of latitude in the corridors of the U.S. military, and within its executive and legislative branches.
Countless first-rate analysts, scholars and human rights organizations -- including Human Rights Watch -- have determined that the MEK is an undemocratic, cultlike organization whose modus operandi vitiates its claim to be a vehicle for democratic change.
Most importantly, MEK activities in Washington could be causing irreparable damage to Iran's home-grown opposition. When post-election turbulence commenced inside Iran, the MEK quickly sought to join the frenzy of brewing opposition to the current government. The Ahmadinejad government promptly connected the Green Movement to the MEK in an effort to discredit the pro-democracy movement. Opposition leaders such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karrubi immediately pushed back. Rahnavard pointedly said, "the Green Movement is a people's movement that is alive and dynamic and holds a wall between itself and the MEK." Opposition leaders in Iran have good reason to erect and maintain such a wall. They see the MEK as an organization capitalizing on U.S.-Iran enmity to shed its terrorist designation and subsequently receive U.S. government funding -- effectively becoming the Iranian version of Ahmed Chalabi's infamous Iraqi National Congress.
As Washington policymakers seek new ways to pressure their counterparts in Tehran to yield on nuclear developments, they must refrain from actions that would harm the long-term prospects of trust and friendship between the two peoples.
Removing the MEK from the FTO at this juncture would embolden Iran's hardliners to intensify their repression and discredit the Green Movement by implying that it is somehow connected to the widely detested MEK terror group. Furthermore, supporting the MEK would provide the Iranian government with the specter of a foreign-based threat that could be exploited to heal key fractures within the system, increase the number of Iranians who would rally around the flag, and facilitate the suppression of the indigenous political opposition.
For all of its mistakes in the Middle East, the Bush administration -- even at the height of its aggressive foreign policy -- understood that delisting the MEK from the State Department's terrorist list would be a dangerous gambit. It would trigger a huge loss of U.S. soft power in Iran, damage Iran's democratic progress and help Iranian hardliners cement a long-term dictatorship. The Iranian people won't forgive or forget such cynical moves. Bitter memories associated with U.S. policies toward the Shah and Mohammad Mossadegh, the prime minister overthrown with covert American assistance in 1953, continue to linger and poison U.S.-Iran relations to this day. We urge the U.S. government to avoid committing this critical mistake at a time when the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people hang in the balance.
Mohsen Kadivar, a leading figure in the Green Movement, is visiting professor of religion at Duke University. Ahmad Sadri is professor of sociology and James P. Gorter chair of Islamic world studies at Lake Forest College.
Secretary Clinton trapped by a false dichotomy
... the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation. Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK ...
massoud khodabandeh , Iranian.com, March 20 2012
In November 2011 a large group of interested people met in Baghdad to discuss the seemingly intractable problem of how to dismantle the Mohjahedin-e Khalq foreign terrorist group and remove the members from the country. At the behest of families of the individuals trapped inside Camp Ashraf, the GOI agreed to proceed in a way that would avoid violent confrontation. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced later, “We will refuse them the satisfaction of becoming martyrs on our soil”. The Governor of Diyala, the military head of Diyala province and other authorities all went the extra mile to prevent the MEK from killing more hostages and blaming the Iraqis for it.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN which would allow more time and give oversight of the eviction process to the UN and to representatives of the EU and US.
The Iraqis have kept their side of bargain – the deadline for the MEK’s departure was extended and negotiations were facilitated to persuade the MEK to cooperate in a move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty where the UNHCR would be able to assess each individual for refugee status. (Remember that no external body, including the GOI, has been able to freely access the inside of Camp Ashraf since the fall of Saddam Hussein.) The first 800 individuals have now moved and another 800 are lined up to move over the next few days in two groups of 400. The MEK leader has not been able to exploit the situation and kill any hostages. The GOI has control of the situation.
UNAMI has been rigorous in its supervision of the move and, by enforcing its own rules and regulations has not allowed propaganda to overshadow activities at either camp. Facilities at the new camp were approved by UN inspectors, the ICRC has been involved and behind the scene EU and US special advisors have been keeping a watchful eye on events. The MEK has ‘character assassinated’ UNAMI and its officials, and others, in the media but UNAMI has not been diverted by the efforts of the MEK and their backers.
But one pernicious factor which has actively impeded proper progress in this task has been the support given to the MEK by Israelis and US Neoconservatives whose clear intent is to politicise what is essentially a humanitarian situation. The MEK is a well-honed tool in the hands of these ideologues and is used to incite hatred against Iran and Iraq among ignorant and lazy political communities. The MEK is far too valuable for them to allow it to disappear. Most recently, the MEK has been used by Mossad to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
This being so will make it even more difficult for UNAMI to transfer them to third countries. This ruthless use of the MEK as a mercenary terrorist force has a direct impact on the situation of the hostages trapped in the camp; their future becomes all the more uncertain.
But then, it has been all along, the clear intention of the MEK’s paymasters to keep the MEK intact as a terrorist entity in Iraq, in total disregard for the human beings involved.
If it wasn’t because of the backing of Israel and the Neoconservatives, Rajavi would have had no choice but to open the doors of his closed totalitarian group and allow the individuals trapped inside to walk free. That is the aim of everyone on the ground working to resolve the situation in Iraq. In this respect it is no less the responsibility of the US Government to work with the international community to dismantle this terrorist group and rescue the hostages.
But while the rest of the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation.
Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK. So what is really behind this position?
On the surface this would appear as though the USG is prepared to do a political deal to get the MEK to leave Iraq (and in doing so gain credit with the Iraqi government). It is as though the MEK were a far distant uncontrollable threat to US security which needs careful handling to bring it under control before dismantling it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that the MEK’s western owners can do is being done to help the MEK’s leader keep the doors to the camp closed, to keep the hostages inside and to deny them contact with their families – even though this is against all humanitarian, moral or indeed criminal law.
By talking about the terrorism list rather than talking about what is happening in Iraq Clinton is bowing to this pressure. Certainly if UNAMI is allowed to do its job properly – with the support of all the international community – there will not be an organisation left to be listed or not listed. By invoking the US terrorism list, the actual script appears to be whether the MEK can be more useful listed as terrorists or if they are not regarded as terrorists. This false choice disguises the real intent of its proponents which is to keep the group intact as a terrorist group so it can be rearmed and used.
Secretary Clinton, indeed the whole government of America, needs to unhitch the politically charged consideration of the MEK’s inclusion in the US terrorism list from the very real humanitarian situation in Iraq. If the USG’s intention is really to deal properly with this terrorist group, it should reassert the humanitarian focus of American policy toward the MEK and unequivocally support the dismantlement process in Iraq.
Our Men in Iran?
... Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding ...
Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, April 6 2012
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”
Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”
In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
Captain Lewis Lee Hawkins
(Photograph courtesy Annette Hawkins)
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
(Izzat Ebrahim and Massoud Rajavi still at large)
(Washington backed Maryam Rajavi in terrorist cult's HQ in Paris)
(In the streets of London with Lord Corbett!!)
(MKO members in European Countries 2003)
(massacre of Kurdish people)
(Abdolmalek Rigi on Voice of America, presented as a democratic alternative)
(Mojahedin's Maryam Rajavi and Jondollah's Abdolmalek Rigi)
(Daniel Zucker, Maryam Rajavi and ALi Safavi)
(Ali Safavi as the commander of Saddam's Private Army in Iraq)