Iran Exile Group Nears U.S. Rebirth
(Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult, closure of Camp Ashraf and the Americans list)
... Other officials briefed on the MeK issue said Mrs. Clinton purposefully tied the closing of Camp Ashraf to the designation issue to defuse a thorny diplomatic issue between Washington and Baghdad. The U.S. military had provided security at the camp before pulling its forces from Iraq last year. Baghdad now controls the camp and has threatened to return MeK members to Iran if it isn't swiftly closed.These officials stressed that Mrs. Clinton could still rule against delisting the MeK due to other information gathered on its role in terrorism. But they acknowledged it would be difficult politically for Mrs. Clinton to maintain the designation after publicly stating the importance of the Camp Ashraf issue ...
JAY SOLOMON And EVAN PEREZ , Wall Street journal, May 15 2012
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department's terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington's relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program.
The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.
The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department's list. The terrorism designation, which has been in place since 1997, freezes the MeK's assets inside the U.S. and prevents the exile group from fundraising.
Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK's status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.
The group has already renounced terrorism, which was the main earlier sticking point. Residents have resisted leaving the camp because they feared retribution if they were returned to Iran and political irrelevancy abroad.
The U.S. officials said Mrs. Clinton would make her final decision on the MeK's status no less than 60 days after the last MeK member is relocated from Camp Ashraf to a new transit facility near Baghdad International Airport. The U.S. is working with the United Nations to resettle Camp Ashraf residents in third countries. Roughly 1,200 people remain at the camp from an earlier population of over 3,000.
"The MeK's cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf…will be a key factor in her decision regarding the MeK's [foreign-terrorist organization] status," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday.
Western and Iranian diplomats are concerned that the MeK issue could draw serious recriminations from Tehran, which has been fixated on neutralizing the group. Many of Iran's top leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were targets of MeK attacks during the 1980s.
Iran has regularly accused Western countries of hypocrisy for providing shelter to MeK members while criticizing Tehran's support for militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. "We believe that despite the claims that others make about fighting terrorism, they [Western nations] provide the most support for terrorist groups," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said last week. "In Europe, the MeK has already been removed from the list of terrorist organizations and they are completely safe to continue their activities."
U.S. officials said that the moves weren't related to coming nuclear talks, but are tied to the MeK's legal challenge to its designation in a Washington appeals court.
A judge ordered the State Department to review the MeK's status nearly two years ago, and congressional rules maintain the process should take only 180 days.
"There is a great deal of animosity among Iranian officialdom toward the MeK. But Our delisting has to be done by the facts and the law," said a senior U.S. official. "Any move to delist should not be seen as a sign of our support."
Other officials briefed on the MeK issue said Mrs. Clinton purposefully tied the closing of Camp Ashraf to the designation issue to defuse a thorny diplomatic issue between Washington and Baghdad. The U.S. military had provided security at the camp before pulling its forces from Iraq last year. Baghdad now controls the camp and has threatened to return MeK members to Iran if it isn't swiftly closed.
These officials stressed that Mrs. Clinton could still rule against delisting the MeK due to other information gathered on its role in terrorism. But they acknowledged it would be difficult politically for Mrs. Clinton to maintain the designation after publicly stating the importance of the Camp Ashraf issue.
"The secretary's statement was clear that there's a relationship between delisting and closing Ashraf. It is also true that we are making progress," said an official briefed on the deliberations. "To make that assertion on your own that the MeK will be removed is a realistic one. But in policy making you never know for sure what will happen."
The MeK's status has become an explosive political issue inside Washington and a major irritant in U.S.-Iranian relations.
The group, despite its history of terrorism and anti-Americanism, reoriented itself after Saddam Hussein's 2003 fall and the capturing of Camp Ashraf by U.S. forces. The MeK renounced violence and turned over its weapons. And it has cooperated with the U.S. and U.N. in gathering intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.
This ideological shift by the MeK has been accompanied by an intensive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. A number of former senior U.S. officials said they were offered payments to speak on behalf of the MeK, including James Jones, President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, and James Woolsey, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Jones confirmed last year that he received a fee, but declined to specify how much. Mr. Woolsey said he waives his usual speaker's fee.
The Treasury Department has an continuing inquiry into payments made to MeK advocates, for possible violation of sanctions that prohibit financial dealings with terrorist groups. It is unclear how any delisting would affect that probe.
The deliberations over the MeK's status come as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are gathering in Baghdad next week for negotiations with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program. Officials from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency met Monday with Iranian officials in Vienna and pressed for greater access to the country's nuclear facilities.
Diplomats and Iran analysts worry that any moves to delist the MeK could result in Iran driving up its demands at the negotiating table. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, but also says it needs advanced weapons systems to guard against the U.S. and other hostile states. The MeK issue will likely be perceived in Tehran as another American-led effort to topple Iran's theocratic government, these analysts said.
"In the cynical, conspiratorial world view of the Iranian regime, delisting the MeK will be interpreted in Tehran as validation that Washington's underlying goal is regime change, not behavior change," said Karim Sadjadpour of Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Critics of the MeK allege that the organization has no major support inside Iran and that its leaders, who are based outside Paris, run the group like a cult. They also worry that any perceived U.S. support for it could undercut the Iranian opposition, known as the Green Movement, which pushed for democratic change during 2009 street protests.
Still, the organization has large support on Capitol Hill. And some lawmakers are seeking to use the possible delisting of the organization to begin providing U.S. financial support. Congress took similar steps in the 1990s to provide funding to Iraq's opposition and, in particular, the exiled politician, Ahmad Chalabi.
"If there's a coalition against the mullahs, then we should fund that coalition, and the MeK should be a part of it," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.). He cautioned that for now, he wasn't advocating directly funding MeK. "The MeK has the resources to resist and fight the mullah dictatorship. They don't need our money, they just need us to get out of the way and take the shackles off."
West has a duty to take care of its retired terrorists from the MEK
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
... So far European and North American countries have been reluctant to offer to take in the mostly elderly and sick former fighters. They should remember that it is their governments and other Western political pundits who have gleaned the greatest benefit from these victims. The MEK have been exploited relentlessly in the interminable political wrangling against Iran. Most have lost the best years of their lives trapped in the MEK’s Iraqi camps. It is now only fitting for these countries to pay back their debt to these victims by allowing them to retire with some dignity and ease, and with access to health care, in the West ...
Anne Singleton, Middle East Strategy Consultants, May 09 2012
According to the Tehran Times, the IRI has raised concerns that the Americans want to transfer the MEK en masse to a new terrorist camp in another neighbouring country, probably Azerbaijan.
Since these people are in fact too feeble to be actually used for anything, the intention behind such a move would be to antagonise the IRI and increase political tension. Such a move though would also suit others – Iraq, the EU and North America – by enabling them to wash their hands of this intractable problem; send them to a remote desert location where they can rot until death, circumventing the need to find homes for them in western countries.
Even dreaming of such a ‘solution’ would reveal that the dreamers are happy to ignore the human rights of these victims in the name of political gain or simple expediency.
So far European and North American countries have been reluctant to offer to take in the mostly elderly and sick former fighters. They should remember that it is their governments and other Western political pundits who have gleaned the greatest benefit from these victims. The MEK have been exploited relentlessly in the interminable political wrangling against Iran. Most have lost the best years of their lives trapped in the MEK’s Iraqi camps. It is now only fitting for these countries to pay back their debt to these victims by allowing them to retire with some dignity and ease, and with access to health care, in the West.
RT: Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
... The Alyona Show on RT – Russian English –Language news Channel suggests the US media focus on the “Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money”, on July 9th. The show criticizes US officials’ hypocrisy and double-standard sell the cause of terrorists. Comparing MEK with Al-Qaida the show poses the question that how a terrorist designated organization can be debated in a hearing held in the US congress ...
Alyona show, Russia Today, July 16 2011
Link to the full program on RT
same video on you tube (Alyona Show)
Royals V. MEK
The Alyona Show on RT – Russian English –Language news Channel suggests the US media focus on the “Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money”, on July 9th. The show criticizes US officials’ hypocrisy and double-standard sell the cause of terrorists. Comparing MEK with Al-Qaida the show poses the question that how a terrorist designated organization can be debated in a hearing held in the US congress.
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.”
An Iranian mystery: Just who are the MEK?
... Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany. His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq. He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw. He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years. He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way. He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says ...
Owen Bennett Jones, BBC, April 15 2012
The MEK forced its members to divorce
How do you get a group described by the US government as a cult and an officially designated foreign terrorist organisation to be viewed by many congressmen and parliamentarians as champions of human rights and secular democracy?
It would challenge even the most talented PR executive.
The starkly differing perceptions of the MEK or People's Mujahideen of Iran could be a case study in the power of image management - of what can be achieved not with guns but by the way information is disseminated.
The organisation has a history of ideological and tactical flexibility.
Since the 1970s, its rhetoric has changed from Islamist to secular; from socialist to capitalist; from pro-Iranian-revolution to anti-Iranian-revolution; from pro-Saddam to pro-American; from violent to peaceful.
And there is another dichotomy - it has admiring supporters and ardent critics.
Take, for example, the US military officers who had to deal with the MEK after they invaded Iraq in 2003.
Not only was the MEK heavily armed and designated as terrorist by the US government, it also had some very striking internal social policies.
For example, it required its members in Iraq to divorce. Why? Because love was distracting them from their struggle against the mullahs in Iran.
And the trouble is that people love their children too.
So the MEK leadership asked its members to send their children away to foster families in Europe. Europe would be safer, the group explained.
Some parents have not seen their children for 20 years and more.
And just to add to the mix, former members consistently describe participating in regular public confessions of their sexual fantasies.
You might think that would set alarm bells ringing - and for some US officers it did.
One colonel I spoke to, who had daily contact with the MEK leadership for six months in 2004, said that the organisation was a cult, and that some of the members who wanted to get out had to run away.
And yet another officer, who was there at precisely the same time and is now a retired general, has become an active lobbyist on the MEK's behalf.
With his open smile and earnest friendly manner, he is a good advocate. "Cult? How about admirably focused group?" he says. "And I never heard of anyone being held against their will."
We later emailed him about a former member who claimed to have told the general to his face that people were held against their will. "He's lying," the general replied.
You just have to decide which side to believe.
Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany.
His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq.
He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw.
He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years.
He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way.
He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says.
There are many other stories.
Children who never forgave their parents for abandoning them. Children who did forgive and are now joyously reunited. Divorcees who have got out of the organisation saying they still love their former spouses who are still in.
In over 25 years of reporting, I have been lied to often enough but, as successive former MEK members told what they had been through, their tears seemed real enough to me.
And yet a significant number of politicians in the US and UK would say I was tricked because the former MEK members who spread these kind of stories are, in fact, Iranian agents.
Again, who to believe?
In the US in particular, an impressive array of public figures have spoken in defence of the MEK.
There are more than 30 big names - people like Rudy Giuliani former mayor of New York, Howard Dean at one time the democratic presidential hopeful, a retired governor, a former head of the FBI.
Many get paid. Of those who have declared their earnings, the going rate for a pro-MEK speech seems to be $20,000 (£12,500) for 10 minutes. But then many other prominent MEK supporters act without payment.
Why do people take such strong positions on the MEK?
After a month talking to people on both sides of the argument, I am left thinking this. Some supporters are paid, others see the MEK through the prism of Iran - they will just support anything that offers hope of change there. Many are well motivated but some are naive.
And the former members?
Some are embittered, others just seem broken.
Which is when it occurred to me - the perception people have of the MEK may say more about them than about the organisation itself.
It is so difficult to pin down you can see your own reflection in it.
How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:
BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST.
Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only).
BBC World Service:
Hear daily 10-minute editions Monday to Friday, repeated through the day, also available to listen online.
The Strange World of the People's Mujahedin
(aka; MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... Whether they leave voluntarily, or by force, leave they must. The PMOI has a history of killing Americans and mounting attacks within Iran. But it now says it has renounced violence and should be removed from America's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. Its high profile PR campaign involves paying senior retired US officials who then speak on its behalf. We report on the way in which a former pariah group accused of killing Americans has won over intelligence experts, generals, and congressmen from both sides of the political divide...
Owen Bennett Jones, BBC World Service, April 11 2012
Link to download the file:
The People's Mujahedin of Iran - a group of dissident Iranians who have been fighting to topple the Mullahs since the 1980s - say they fear they are about to be massacred.
Over 3,000 PMOI members – designated terrorists by the US and a cult by some former members - live in Iraq at Camp Ashraf, 40 miles north of Baghdad and 70 miles from Iran itself.
The camp residents say they are vulnerable because with the US now having left Iraq, they are at the mercy of the pro-Iranian, Iraqi government, which is demanding the camp be closed down.
Whether they leave voluntarily, or by force, leave they must.
The PMOI has a history of killing Americans and mounting attacks within Iran.
But it now says it has renounced violence and should be removed from America's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations.
Its high profile PR campaign involves paying senior retired US officials who then speak on its behalf.
We report on the way in which a former pariah group accused of killing Americans has won over intelligence experts, generals, and congressmen from both sides of the political divide.
As the deadline for the closing of Camp Ashraf draws near we ask just who are the People's Mujahedin of Iran - terrorists or freedom fighters?
A cult or a deeply committed army who could be used by the US to fight for change in Iran?
Martin Kobler (U.N.), Daniel Fried (U.S.) discuss Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in European Parliament
(Remains of Mojahedin Khalq, MKO,MEK, in Iraq)
... On Wednesday, 21/03/2012 Martin Kobler, the UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nation Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), reported to the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the work of the UNHCR and UNAMI in Iraq and the current situation of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. As part of his description of the problems of resettlement of the Ashraf residents Kobler said that it demanded a cooperative attitude from the residents. Also the U.S. special envoy for Camp Ashraf, Daniel Fried, said that the information that the United States has of the situation in Camp Ashraf and Liberty is consistent with Kobler's descriptions. The conditions at Camp Liberty are not nearly as bad as described by the MEK ...
European Parliament, March 21 2012