Radical by Nature - The Mojahedin Khalq (MKO,MEK, Rajavi cult) will never become a moderate political force
Radical by Nature
The Mojahedin Khalq (MKO,MEK, Rajavi cult) will never become a moderate political force
... Of course, no one denies that an unconventional political group, a paramilitary or any other non-state actor could potentially moderate itself if it is engaged in a conventional political process. But the conversion from an eccentric actor to a rational one is not automatic. And not every group is capable of it. It requires a minimum of rationality and reasonableness amongst the group’s leadership. It takes some element of moderation – eventually represented by a faction within the group - that can be enhanced and boosted through engagement and recognition. But with the MEK, we’re talking about a senseless monolithic cult - with absolutely ...
The presumption that the MEK would transform itself into a “moderate” political group if delisted is flawed. The MEK did not become “radical” as a result of being “listed” as a terrorist organization in 1997. It was an extremist group way before that date. What fuels its radicalism and taste for terrorism is not how it is termed by the State Department or the nature of its relationship with the U.S, but its fanatical ideology, pugnacious discourse, undemocratic structure, leadership, mission and agenda. So unless the act of delisting provokes by itself a miraculous mutation in the group’s genetic fabric (something that proponents of delisting have to prove), there is absolutely no reason to believe that the MEK would or even could go against its own nature and fundamentally change its behavior solely because of a new legal status. Expecting an inherently violent and erratic organization to relinquish its raison d'être and become pragmatic because of a mere change of designation is as absurd as removing a snake from the list of “reptiles” and expecting it to act as peaceful dove.
Delisting the MEK would more likely allow it to advance its agenda with more freedom and with much more funding and act out its twisted vision with a credibility bestowed upon it by a U.S stamp of approval.
Of course, no one denies that an unconventional political group, a paramilitary or any other non-state actor could potentially moderate itself if it is engaged in a conventional political process. But the conversion from an eccentric actor to a rational one is not automatic. And not every group is capable of it. It requires a minimum of rationality and reasonableness amongst the group’s leadership. It takes some element of moderation – eventually represented by a faction within the group - that can be enhanced and boosted through engagement and recognition. But with the MEK, we’re talking about a senseless monolithic cult - with absolutely no voice or seeds of moderation inside – with a violent mentality and language that has not evolved one bit since 1980 (they still shout “death to Khomeini” in their rallies 22 years after the former leader’s demise). We’re talking about a cult that did not hesitate to go as far as instructing its own members to set themselves ablaze for the sheer purpose of attracting media attention when it wanted to coerce France to release Maryam Rajavi after she was detained by a French judge for a few days in Paris in 2003.
So, the subject of debate is not a normal political group that has at one point made few bad choices, then reformed and now deserves a second chance to integrate. But an inherently spiteful and unbridled cult in which members are still expected to show an excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to their immovable leaders, where mind-altering practices (such as group chanting, collective rituals, denunciation sessions) are daily routine and where violence and coercion have been deeply engrained as very legitimate tools of achieving the end. Therefore, it is very unlikely that removing the MEK from the FTOs list would suddenly make its guru-style leaders change their ways (the only ways they know) or awaken the dormant forces of compromise and rationality within it so that it can act as a rational political actor.
Moreover, even if we accept the improbable assertion that delisting the MEK may somehow moderate its future behavior, it is still not a solid reason to do so. The State Department’s mission is not to close its eyes on the realities, history and current nature of an organization under review and to forgo all statutory criteria for designation in hope of taming or pacifying it. Its mission is to assess the current state of the organization and make a decision based on what it sees. A mere hypothetical prospect – or hope - of “moderating” the group in the future should not counterbalance all the actual and real facts supporting its designation as a FTO. If a group qualifies as a “terrorist organization” under U.S law based on its past actions, nature, ideology and material capacity to act violently then it should simply be called a “terrorist organization”. In other words, the process of designation is not about how we hope a particular group would act if delisted; but about what the group is or isn’t in its current form. Not calling a demonstrably dangerous organization what it so to induce it to change is not exactly a prudent or wise policy. Besides, it would send a terrible message to all other terrorist organizations about the United States’ resolve to fight terrorism.
Finally, among the State Department’s list of FTOs, the MEK is in one grim sense one of the few exceptions: The current leaders of the MEK, unlike the leaders of many other listed FTOs, are suspected with very probable cause of the highest and most serious crimes under international law – especially of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Whilst the members and/or leaders of many other FTOs – vicious and violent as they may be - are considered common criminals, outlawed rebels or simply “terrorists” liable for criminal prosecution under their respective domestic jurisdictions, the seriousness, nature and gravity of the crimes imputable to the MEK leadership is such that it makes them prone to prosecution in just any territory that they could be found. In other words, we’re not just talking about “terrorists” or “corrigible terrorists” that some proponents may, by a stretch of logic, even call “freedom fighters” but about alleged perpetrators of the most heinous and wanton crimes known to mankind. For this reason, it would be both irresponsible as a political act and disastrous as a legal precedent for U.S officials to take the risk of legalizing and legitimizing a group accused of the highest crimes, simply in hope of “moderating” its future behavior. Just imagine what sort of message such laxity could send to both the defenders and violators of international criminal law.
U.S. State Department country report on terrorism published August 2011 includes Mojahedin Khalq
(aka; MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... MUJAHADIN-E KHALQ ORGANIZATION. aka MEK; MKO; Mujahadin-e Khalq; Muslim Iranian Students’ Society; National Council of Resistance; NCR; Organization of the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran; the National Liberation Army of Iran; NLA; People’s Mujahadin Organization of Iran; PMOI; National Council of Resistance of Iran; NCRI; Sazeman-e Mujahadin-e Khalq-e Iran. Description: The Mujahadin-E Khalq Organization (MEK) was originally designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The MEK is a Marxist-Islamic Organization that seeks the overthrow of the Iranian regime through its military wing, the National Liberation Army (NLA), and its political front, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) ...
Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are designated by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). FTO designations play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities.
Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended:
1. It must be a foreign organization. 2. The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)), or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)), or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism. 3. The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
U.S. Government Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB) Al-Qa’ida (AQ) Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Al-Shabaab (AS) Ansar al-Islam Asbat al-Ansar Aum Shinrikyo (AUM) Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) Communist Party of Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) Hamas Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI) Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B) Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM) Hizballah Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) Jemaah Islamiya (JI) Jundallah Kahane Chai Kata’ib Hizballah (KH) Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LT) Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ) Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) Mujahadin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) National Liberation Army (ELN) Palestine Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction (PLF) Palestine Islamic Jihad – Shaqaqi Faction (PIJ) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) Real IRA (RIRA) Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) Revolutionary Struggle (RS) Shining Path (SL) Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION
aka ANO; Arab Revolutionary Brigades; Arab Revolutionary Council; Black September; Fatah Revolutionary Council; Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims
MUJAHADIN-E KHALQ ORGANIZATION
aka MEK; MKO; Mujahadin-e Khalq; Muslim Iranian Students’ Society; National Council of Resistance; NCR; Organization of the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran; the National Liberation Army of Iran; NLA; People’s Mujahadin Organization of Iran; PMOI; National Council of Resistance of Iran; NCRI; Sazeman-e Mujahadin-e Khalq-e Iran
Description: The Mujahadin-E Khalq Organization (MEK) was originally designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The MEK is a Marxist-Islamic Organization that seeks the overthrow of the Iranian regime through its military wing, the National Liberation Army (NLA), and its political front, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The MEK was founded in 1963 by a group of college-educated Iranian Marxists who opposed the country’s pro-western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group participated in the 1979 Islamic Revolution that replaced the Shah with a Shiite Islamist regime led by Ayatollah Khomeini. However, the MEK’s ideology – a blend of Marxism, feminism, and Islamism – was at odds with the post-revolutionary government, and its original leadership was soon executed by the Khomeini regime. In 1981, the group was driven from its bases on the Iran-Iraq border and resettled in Paris, where it began supporting Iraq in its eight-year war against Khomeini’s Iran. In 1986, after France recognized the Iranian regime, the MEK moved its headquarters to Iraq, which facilitated its terrorist activities in Iran. Since 2003, roughly 3,400 MEK members have been encamped at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
Activities: The group’s worldwide campaign against the Iranian government uses propaganda and terrorism to achieve its objectives. During the 1970s, the MEK staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. In 1972, the MEK set off bombs in Tehran at the U.S. Information Service office (part of the U.S. Embassy), the Iran-American Society, and the offices of several U.S. companies to protest the visit of President Nixon to Iran. In 1973, the MEK assassinated the deputy chief of the U.S. Military Mission in Tehran and bombed several businesses, including Shell Oil. In 1974, the MEK set off bombs in Tehran at the offices of U.S. companies to protest the visit of then U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger. In 1975, the MEK assassinated two U.S. military officers who were members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group in Tehran. In 1976, the MEK assassinated two U.S. citizens who were employees of Rockwell International in Tehran. In 1979, the group claimed responsibility for the murder of an American Texaco executive. Though denied by the MEK, analysis based on eyewitness accounts and MEK documents demonstrates that MEK members participated in and supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and that the MEK later argued against the early release the American hostages. The MEK also provided personnel to guard and defend the site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, following the takeover of the Embassy.
In 1981, MEK leadership attempted to overthrow the newly installed Islamic regime; Iranian security forces subsequently initiated a crackdown on the group. The MEK instigated a bombing campaign, including an attack against the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Prime Minister’s office, which killed some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. These attacks resulted in an expanded Iranian government crackdown that forced MEK leaders to flee to France. For five years, the MEK continued to wage its terrorist campaign from its Paris headquarters. Expelled by France in 1986, MEK leaders turned to Saddam Hussein’s regime for basing, financial support, and training. Near the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, Baghdad armed the MEK with heavy military equipment and deployed thousands of MEK fighters in suicidal, mass wave attacks against Iranian forces.
The MEK’s relationship with the former Iraqi regime continued through the 1990s. In 1991, the group reportedly assisted the Iraqi Republican Guard’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds who rose up against Saddam Hussein’s regime. In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and consular missions in 13 countries, including against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. In June 1998, the MEK was implicated in a series of bombing and mortar attacks in Iran that killed at least 15 and injured several others. The MEK also assassinated the former Iranian Minister of Prisons in 1998. In April 1999, the MEK targeted key Iranian military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, Brigadier General Ali Sayyaad Shirazi.
In April 2000, the MEK attempted to assassinate the commander of the Nasr Headquarters, Tehran’s interagency board responsible for coordinating policies on Iraq. The pace of anti-Iranian operations increased during “Operation Great Bahman” in February 2000, when the group launched a dozen attacks against Iran. One attack included a mortar attack against a major Iranian leadership complex in Tehran that housed the offices of the Supreme Leader and the President. The attack killed one person and injured six other individuals. In March 2000, the MEK launched mortars into a residential district in Tehran, injuring four people and damaging property. In 2000 and 2001, the MEK was involved in regular mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids against Iranian military and law enforcement personnel, as well as government buildings near the Iran-Iraq border. Following an initial Coalition bombardment of the MEK’s facilities in Iraq at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, MEK leadership negotiated a cease-fire with Coalition Forces and surrendered their heavy-arms to Coalition control. Since 2003, roughly 3,400 MEK members have been encamped at Ashraf in Iraq.
In 2003, French authorities arrested 160 MEK members at operational bases they believed the MEK was using to coordinate financing and planning for terrorist attacks. Upon the arrest of MEK leader Maryam Rajavi, MEK members took to Paris’ streets and engaged in self-immolation. French authorities eventually released Rajavi.
Strength: Estimates place MEK’s worldwide membership at between 5,000 and 10,000 members, with large pockets in Paris and other major European capitals. In Iraq, roughly 3,400 MEK members are gathered at Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s main compound north of Baghdad. As a condition of the 2003 cease-fire agreement, the MEK relinquished more than 2,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery.
Location/Area of Operation: The MEK’s global support structure remains in place, with associates and supporters scattered throughout Europe and North America. Operations have targeted Iranian government elements across the globe, including in Europe and Iran. The MEK’s political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has a global support network with active lobbying and propaganda efforts in major Western capitals. NCRI also has a well-developed media communications strategy.
External Aid: Before Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, the MEK received all of its military assistance and most of its financial support from Saddam Hussein. The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime has led the MEK increasingly to rely on front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities.
... According to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) continued to plan terrorist acts years after they claimed to renounce terrorism. 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 ...
US State Department claims no popular support for Mojahedin Khaq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) among Iranains
... A U.S. State Department document released in May 2011 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act says the MEK has no popular support inside Iran and “to the extent Iranians know about this group they are far more likely to oppose it than support it.” It added, “Any U.S. support for MEK would extremely damage its reputation amongst Iranians and would increase anti-American sentiments in Iran.” The State Department cables quoted defectors as describing MEK as a cult that punishes former members. The cables said the MEK leadership ordered the execution of all attempted defectors ...
A U.S. State Department document released in May 2011 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act says the MEK has no popular support inside Iran and “to the extent Iranians know about this group they are far more likely to oppose it than support it.” It added, “Any U.S. support for MEK would extremely damage its reputation amongst Iranians and would increase anti-American sentiments in Iran.” The State Department cables quoted defectors as describing MEK as a cult that punishes former members. The cables said the MEK leadership ordered the execution of all attempted defectors.
IRANIAN POPULAR ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE MEK
Summary Showing a unanimity rare among Iranians, anecdotal information gleaned from both ordinary Iranians living inside Iran and abroad and from Iran analysts strongly indicates that the ‘Mujahedin-e Khalq’ (MEK) opposition group has not significant popular support inside Iran. To the extent that Iranian respondents are familiar with the MEK they express severe dislike for this group, primarily due to its alliance with Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. All Iranians queried tended to disbelieve the MEK’s expressed allegiance to the ideals of human rights and democracy, with even hardened Iranian oppositionists and persecuted religious minorities such as the Iranian Baha’i saying they would prefer the current Iranian government to an MEK-affiliated one. Many Iranian respondents believe that any indication of USG support for the MEK would seriously harm USG popularity among ordinary Iranians, even among those Iranians who oppose the current Iranian government, would fuel anti-American sentiment, and would likely empower Iranian hardliners. END SUMMARY
******* THIS IS A COMBINED MESSAGE ****** SUBJECT: IRANIAN POPULAR ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE MEK
1. (SBU) NOTE: The following cable is based on input from State Department Iran-watchers and consular interviewing officers in the main posts that interact with Iranians on a regular basis, i.e. ANKARA, BAKU, BERLIN, DUBAI AND ISTANBUL. END NOTE.
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Showing a unanimity rare among Iranians, anecdotal information gleaned from both ordinary Iranians living inside Iran and abroad and from Iran analysts strongly indicates that the ‘Mujahedin-e Khalq’ (MEK) opposition group has no significant popular support inside Iran. To the extent that Iranian respondents are familiar with the MEK they express severe dislike for the group, primarily due to its alliance with Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. All Iranians queried tended to disbelieve the MEK’s expressed allegiance to the ideals of human rights and democracy, with even hardened Iranian oppositionists and persecuted religious minorities such as the Iranian Baha’i saying they would prefer the current Iranian government to an MEK-affiliated one. Many Iranian respondents believe that any indication of USG support for the MEK would seriously harm USG popularity among ordinary Iranians, even among those Iranians who oppose the current Iranian government, would fuel anti-American sentiment, and would likely empower Iranian hardliners. END SUMMARY.
3. (SBU) MEK – BACKGROUND (see Appendix): Originally a 1960s Islamic-Marxist group dedicated to violent overthrow of the Pahlavi regime, the ‘Mujahedin-e Khalq’ (MEK- a.k.a. ‘The People’s Warriors’) was one of the main popular organizations to emerge in the early days of the 1979 Revolution. The increasing ascendancy by clerical elements supporting Ayatollah Khomeini after the revolution let to this group’s gradual elimination from the ruling coalition and its eventual flight from Iran in the early 1980s. Using Iraq as its base, the MEK mounted attacks against Iranian military during the latter stages of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, then after the 1988 Iran-Iraq cease-fire it continued attacks against Iranian leadership until it was forced to stand down its Iraq-based operations as a result of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ in 2003. Currently, MEK supporters claim the group has renounced violence as a tool and seeks a secular, democratic Iran, while its detractors claim it is more a cult of personality centred on a leadership unchanged since 1979 than a popular-based political movement. Its membership in its ‘Camp Ashraf’ base in Iraq consists of a few thousand rank-and-file members, mostly either older original ‘first generation’ members from the 1970s or younger Iranians from poorer ethnic minorities such as Iranian Baluch. Since deprived of Iraq government funding since 2003 the MEK has increasingly relied on fundraising in Europe under various front organizations that use popular antipathy towards the Islamic Republic to solicit money. END BACKGROUND.
4. (SBU) In January and February 2011 State Department Iran-watchers and consular offices in the main posts that interact with Iranians on a regular basis (Ankara, Baku, Berlin, Dubai and Istanbul) asked Iranian contacts and visa applicants their opinions on the MEK.
5. (SBU) In speaking to hundreds of Iranians both in the preceding two months and before, ordinary Iranians were almost uniformly dismissive of the MEK, reacting with either disdain or apathy, their responses strongly indicating a lack of any significant popular support for the MEK among Iranians living in Iran. Among older Iranians this lack of support was largely due to MEK support of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. Among younger Iranians (i.e. most of the population) this lack of support was derived from both the MEK’s ‘treasonous acts’ in supporting Iraq during the war and also from a near–total lack of information due to the absence of any MEK influence inside Iran.
6. (SBU) The following direct quotes reflect what was heard from ordinary Iranians both inside Iran and abroad:
--- “The MEK are detested among the young and old in Iran, although many young Iranians don’t know much about them, and to the extent they do it is in relation to their pro-Iraqi activities during the Iran-Iraq war. Many young Iranians familiar with the MEK’s lack of any support inside Iran wonder why this group is so well-supported abroad and in international organizations.”
--- “They are hated among Iranians, since their hands are stained with the blood of their fellow countrymen.”
--- “I’m an Iranian Bahai (i.e. the most persecuted religious minority in Iran) and I can tell you that even Bahais in Iran would much prefer the current Iranian government to any MEK government.”
--- “We are scared of them because we think they want power. They are like Fidel Castro in Cuba. They will turn Iran into a North Korea or Cuba. It’s not correct to call them a terrorist group THOUGH: THEY JUST WANT POWER. THEY DO NOT HAve the support of the majority of people. They are not democratic just because they appointed a lady as ‘President of Iran’.”
---“They were supported and loved during the Revolution, especially among young people. We loved them. They were beautiful people. But their Marxist-Islamic ideology has passed away. The group’s ideology is far away from the people now.”
---“Aside from their cooperation with Saddam against Iran, their leadership is immoral – Massoud Rajavi has forced himself on many women, with Maryam’s awareness, and in their camp in Iraq they separate children from their parents. I had a distant relative who joined the MEK and once he did so the rest of the family disowned him.”
---“Nobody likes them.”
---“They have no support in Iran.”
---“The group is not popular. People hate them, and they are terrorists. They killed many people.”
---“Once they fought for what they believed in and they had some support but now we don’t really know who they are and what they do.”
---“They are a terrorist organization.”
---“The MEK is a joke.”
---“They are a bunch of #@$*!” [From a young Iranian male]
---“They MEK under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi and President Maryam Rajavi are meaningless in the domestic Iranian political spectrum and totally marginalized. They try however, with great effort, to create the impression that they are the most significant Iranian exiled opposition group.”
ANALYSTS ON MEK
7. (SBU) The above-cited characterization of the MEK by ordinary Iranians was replicated in feedback from political analysts focused on contemporary Iran, all of whom were Iranian by birth. Without exception these analysts said that the MEK lacked any significant popular support inside Iran, with Iranian popular reactions to the MEK varying from rank ignorance (mostly among the young) to extreme aversion (to those more familiar with their history).
8. (SBU) The following direct quotes from prominent analysts of contemporary Iran, all of whom are Iranian by birth, reflect the feedback received:
---“Right after the 1979 revolution the MEK had considerable support in Iran, especially among the youth. Even after the MEK began its campaign of assassination of official figures in June 1981 and the regime responded by executing several thousand of MEK supporters, there was still sympathy. But then MEK leadership left Iran and went first to France and then Iraq, began collaborating with Saddam Hussein’s regime, and acting as its spies. This turned the tide against the MEK, and the Iranian people began despising MEK for its support of Saddam, for its revealing information about Iran, and for still continuing its campaign of assassination while the nation was involved in a long war.
That has not changed, and in fact it has become stronger, since all sorts of horror stories have been told to the public by former MEK members who had become disillusioned with the leadership and wanted to leave Iraq and Camp Ashraf but were tortured and then delivered to Saddams intelligence as Iranian spies. It was also revealed that the MEK had a direct role in putting down the Shiites uprising in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq right after the first Persian Gulf War. The fact that MEK revealed some information about Iran’s nuclear program also angered a lot of people, because they consider it treason. The net result is that, with losing thousands of its members to executions and consistent opposition to the IRIG, the MEK has no significant base of support in Iran. Given that 70 percent of the population is under 35, they do not even know who the MEK are.
Iranians who know about the MEK consider it nothing but a religio-political cult. MEK has the same power structure as does the IRIG; It has a “Supreme Leader”, Massoud Rajavi; a “President”, Maryam Rajavi, and it demands absolute obedience of the leadership. So, as we say in Persian, “as chaale dar biyaam to chaah biyoftim?” (We are getting ourselves out a small ditch in order to fall down in a deep well?)”.
---“The trick used by MEK is to approach the “simple man on the street” or politicians with little expertise on Iran and convince them that they are collecting signatures or money to protest human rights violations in Iran. These signatures are then used by the organization as proof of support for the organization’s broader political agenda. The organization works under a number of PSEUDONYMS. THE RECENT PROTEST MOVEMent in Iran that followed the 2009 elections showed quite clearly that the MEK has no noticeable support inside Iran and is isolated amongst exiled Iranians as well.”
---“Generally speaking I encountered two things concerning the MEK from living in Iran. The older generations’ has a disdain for the MEK because of their belief that MEK contributed mightily to the radicalism and violence of the early years of the revolution and for its siding with Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war. This disdain was not merely based on the fact that the government held MEK responsible for the bombings of the early revolutionary years. In addition, many liberal and/or secular people whom I know still hold MEK responsible for the radical Islamist turn of the revolution that was then manipulated by more established clerics. The younger generation’s views on the MEK are characterized by apathy and lack of basic knowledge about the group, its leadership, and its political positions. I have not found any evidence that MEK has been able to fire the imagination of a single university or high school student in Iran. Believe it or not, the few students who express interest in radical politics, instead of reform, were much more interested in Marxism than MEK”.
---“Outside Iran, a handful of groups and individuals have sought to emerge as centers of opposition. Among these groups is the MEK. It has no political base inside Iran and no genuine support on the Iranian street. The MEK, an organization based in Iraq that enjoyed the Baathist regime’s support, lost any following it may have had in Iran when it fought on Iraq’s behalf during the 1980-1988 war. Widespread Iranian distaste for the MEK has been cemented by its numerous terrorist attacks against innocent Iranian civilians and Iranian government officials. Since Saddam Hussein’s fall, the MEK now depend almost entirely on the goodwill of the United States, which placed it on its list of foreign terrorist organizations and, at most, seems prepared to use it as a source of intelligence and leverage in its dealings with Iran.
The most prominent international human rights organizations-- including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- have determined the MEK to be undemocratic, with a cult-like organizational structure and modus operandi that belies its claim to be a vehicle for democratic change.
During my time living and working in Iran, it became quite clear that the MEK is not at all popular among the Iranian people. Of the literally hundreds of people I interviewed and/or spoke with in Iran about the MEK, not one had anything positive to say about it. When Iran’s (2009) post-election turbulence commenced, the MEK quickly sought to join the frenzy of brewing opposition to the current government inside Iran. But by claiming links to this indigenous opposition, the MEK connected their name to genuinely disenfranchised voters, thereby providing the Iranian government with yet another excuse to “discredit” and crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Increased U.S. government support for the MEK will empower Ahmadinejad and other hardliners in Iran, thereby increasing their (Ahmadinejad and the other hardliners) overall domestic support exponentially. Never has the level of cohesion among regime “insiders” been so low (but) supporting the MEK will provide Iranian government insiders with a foreign-based treat that can be exploited to heal fractures within the regime, increase the number of Iranians that rally around the flag, and eliminate indigenous political opposition -- thereby hurting the very people that America seeks to help. Ironically, if the U.S. wants to help Ahmadinejad and the hardliners cement a long-term dictatorship in Iran, support for the Mojahedin is the way to do it. It will significantly reduce any chance of real rapprochement with the Iranian government, and severely curtail indigenous democratic progress in Iran. The Iranian people won’t forgive or forget this -- particularly given the history surrounding U.S. policies toward Mossadegh and the Shah. And this is one of the cardinal sins poisoning U.S. – Iran relations to this day. It is worth noting that increasing American support for the MEK is a step that the Bush administration—even at the height of its openly hostile Iran policy -- wasn’t willing to take. Even they understood that increased support for the MEK will exacerbate all of the challenges and problems that Iran policy currently poses to the USG.”
--- “The MEK is a dead political group in Iran, even if its specter is not anymore haunting the Iranian people. The MEK has no considerable support in the country, either among the elites or among the ordinary people, whether in the capital Tehran or in the PROVINCES. WHILE IRANIANS FOLLOW ON A DAILY BASIS different opposition websites, the MEK website is one of the poorest regarding the amount of its viewers (this fact is easily provable by checking the traffic the website has comparing to others). The truth is the MEK is one of the most hated political groups in Iran. If Iranians would be asked to choose between MEK and IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – they would definitely go for the latter. The MEK is mostly known as a terrorist group in Iran; people are afraid of the group’s obsolete ideology, its aggressive and vengeful rhetoric and its authoritarian leadership.
The Iranian regime is aware how notorious the MEK is and takes advantage of this in certain political situations. During the 2009 unrests, the MEK’s support of the Iranian protestors was a gift for the regime, as it led many people hesitate to come anymore to the streets evidently afraid of their paving the path for MEK to take advantage of the situation. Regardless, the government accused the MEK of initiating terrorist attacks and gunning down people in the streets.
Any U.S. support for MEK would extremely damage its reputation amongst Iranians and would increase anti-American sentiments in Iran. People would regard such an act not as animosity towards the regime but towards the nation. They would assume that the U.S. intentions are not to promote freedom and democracy in Iran, but simply to spoil the country. The Iranian regime would definitely take advantage of such a situation, showing it as a proof of its claims of calling Americans as the enemy of the nation.”
---“The MEK are an Islamist-Socialist cult whose membership numbers in the thousands. Their popular support in Iran is negligible. Over a four year period living in and travelling to Iran I never met anyone who expressed any affinity for them. On the contrary they are widely perceived as brainwashed traitors who fought alongside Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. The U.S. government should stay as far away from them as possible. Even (former NSC head) general Jones recent interactions with them have spurred concerned rumors among Iranian democracy activists that Washington may be flirting with the MEK.”
9. (SBU) COMMENT: The results of this admittedly unscientific polling of contacts and ordinary Iranians concerning the MEK confirms what those familiar with Iran already assumed to be the case: regardless of whether the USG deems it a terrorist organization, the MEK lacks any significant popular support in Iran, and to the extent Iranians know about this group they are far more likely to oppose it than support it. The pro-human rights and democratic ideals which the MEK now claims to espouse are ones which the USG also emphasizes in our own Iran policy. But one does not need to support the MEK to promote these goals, and indeed it seems to be the case that any increased show of USG support for this group will not help the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran, but will only adversely impact popular perceptions of the USG among ordinary Iranians, and could also strengthen support for Ahmadinejad and other hardliners. END COMMENT
APPENDIX: MEK HISTORY
1965: MEK Founded on Islamic-Marxist ideology by former members of Iran’s nationalist “Freedom Movement of Iran”.
1970s: MEK engaged in ideological work combined with armed struggle against the Pahlavi regime, to include terrorist killings of US military and civilian personnel in Iran.
1975: MEK splits in to two groups, Marxist and Islamist, with the Marxist group changing its name to “Paykar”.
1979: Massoud Rajavi assumes MEK leadership, and MEK becomes one of the main political groups active during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. MEK supports US Embassy takeover in November 1979.
1979-81: Like Iranian nationalists and leftists elements, MEK influence in government slowly eliminated by the clerical elements supporting Ayatollah Khomeini.
Early 1980: As IRIG moves against MEK, MEK elements inside Iran mount massive assassination campaigns against the IRIG leadership, killing approximately 70 high-ranking IRIG officials in one June 1981 bombing, with another MEK bombing two months later killing the IRIG President and Prime Minister. Hundreds of MEK supporters and members either arrested or killed. Massoud Rajavi forced to flee Iran in 1981, and majority of MEK relocates in France.
1981-1986: Using France as base of operations, MEK continues campaign of violence against Iranian government figures.
1986-1988: In 1986 due to improved Iran-France relations MEK relocates headquarters to Iraq, relaying on Iraq for basing, financial support, and training. During Iran-Iraq war its “NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY” UNDER CONTROL OF THE IRAQI MILITary mounts attacks against the Iranian military, causing it to lose massive support among the Iranian people.
1988: Mass execution of MEK prisoners inside Iran by IRIG.
1989-2003: MEK continues assassination attacks against IRIG officials, receiving major financial support from Saddam Hussein, to include:
--1992 (April): MEK conducts near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries.
-- 1999 (April): MEK assassinates key Iranian military officers, to include deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, Brigadier General Ali Sayyaad Shirazi.
-- 2000 (February): MEK launches series of attacks against Iran, to include a mortar attack against a major Iranian leadership complex in Tehran.
--2000-01: MEK conducts regular mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids against Iranian military and law enforcement personnel, as well as government buildings near the Iran-Iraq border.
1991: MEK assists Iraqi Republican Guards in crackdown on anti-Saddam Iraqi Shia and Kurds.
2001: FBI arrested seven Iranians in the United States who funneled $400,000 to an MEK-affiliated organization in the UAE which used the funds to purchase weapons.
2003: At start of Operation Iraqi Freedom MEK leadership negotiated a cease-fire with Coalition Forces and voluntarily surrenders their heavy-arms to Coalition control.
2003: French authorities arrest 160 MEK members at operational bases they believed the MEK was using to coordinate financing and planning for terrorist attacks.
Post -2003: High level MEK leave MEK’s “Camp Ashraf” in Iraq, relocating in various European capitals.
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 ...
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.
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 ...
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.
Congressional Leaders Voice Support for Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) Violence
... But Rohrabacher was adamant in his support for MEK. “I will have to admit the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight," he responded. “It won’t just be pacifists," Rohrabacher said, referring dismissively to the Green Movement, "it will be people with courage and people who stand up.” Mukasey, in addition to calling for the MEK to be removed from the terrorism list, urged that MEK members be allowed to resettle in the United States. Mukasey acknowledged that members of terrorist organizations are legally barred from entering the U.S., and suggested legislation be introduced to change the law for MEK members ...
Ali Safavi, a senior member of the MEK's political wing, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), coached witnesses before and during the hearing. The NCRI is designated as a terrorist affiliate of the MEK.
Washington, DC - Congressional supporters of the drive to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. terrorism list defended the organization’s use of violence while dismissing Iran’s nonviolent Green Movement at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week. The hearing was also remarkable in that senior leaders of the designated foreign terrorist organization were caught counseling some of the witnesses before the hearing. It is illegal to coordinate with a foreign terrorist organization to advocate on behalf of the terrorist group.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, compared the use of terrorism by MEK to violence employed during the American Revolutionary War. He justified the “cult-like” behavior of the MEK, saying American revolutionaries included "religious fanatics and Christian cults.”
Alireza Jafarzadeh, who has served as NCRI spokesman, counseled former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey prior to his testimony
Rohrabacher called for the MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which prevents the group from receiving government funding and makes it illegal for MEK to operate in the U.S. "Any group that chooses to use violence to resist doesn’t make them right or wrong,” Rohrabacher stated. “Backing people who fight against tyranny is also something the U.S. should be doing.”
Despite the terrorist listing, Ali Safavi, a senior member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was at the hearing, where he openly counseled witnesses before and during their testimony. The NCRI is the MEK’s political wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The hearing’s witnesses included three former U.S. officials who have actively participated in pro-MEK conferences, including former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
All three witnesses who previously appeared at MEK conferences unanimously called for the MEK to be removed from the terror list, though none were asked to disclose whether they had received money to support the organization, as have other officials who have advocated for delisting the group.
The lone dissenting voice among the witnesses, former Obama Administration advisor Ray Takeyh, was subjected to an intense back and forth with Representatives on the panel.
Takeyh warned panelists who viewed MEK as a viable alternative to the Iranian regime that the organization has no support in Iran.
“I don’t agree," responded Representative Bob Filner (D-CA). "Even if you’re right, so what?”
Filner laughed off evidence that MEK President Maryam Rajavi is a cult leader, despite reports from the State Department and FBI of “cult-like” practices by MEK that include indoctrination rituals and torture. "She is as intelligent, humorous, humane and humble as anyone I’ve ever met," Filner observed, recounting what he said have been numerous meetings he has held in Paris with Rajavi.
Filner accused Takeyh of justifying violence against the MEK by highlighting the group's history of terrorism, and said the U.S. should be supporting the organization as a “third way” alternative in Iran because it opposes the Iranian regime.
“These are our friends! We should be getting out of their way and de-list them,” Filner exclaimed. “Let them do what they can! Why are we helping Iran by not helping the MEK?”
Rohrabacher defended the MEK's history of violence, saying, “This is a territory that’s filled with violence—I would be surprised if there wasn’t any organization that wasn’t in some way involved with using force to protect themselves.”
Individuals wearing yellow jerseys featuring pro-MEK slogans filled the hearing room to capacity.
"Oh I would disagree with that," responded Takeyh. "Within Iran there are many opposition movements, such as the Green Movement, that explicitly reject violence.”
But Rohrabacher was adamant in his support for MEK. “I will have to admit the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight," he responded. “It won’t just be pacifists," Rohrabacher said, referring dismissively to the Green Movement, "it will be people with courage and people who stand up.”
Mukasey, in addition to calling for the MEK to be removed from the terrorism list, urged that MEK members be allowed to resettle in the United States. Mukasey acknowledged that members of terrorist organizations are legally barred from entering the U.S., and suggested legislation be introduced to change the law for MEK members.
Prior to the hearing, Mukasey was witnessed receiving coaching from Alireza Jafarzadeh, who served as the official spokesman for the NCRI before it was declared a terrorist group and its offices raided by the FBI in 2003.
Meanwhile, many were turned away from the hearing or sent to the overflow room to watch the proceedings because the hearing room was at capacity. It was filled with individuals in yellow jerseys emblazoned with the slogans, “De-list the MEK,” “Protect Ashraf,” and “Ramp up sanctions.”
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 tomassacre its own membersif 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 Terroristsexposed 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.
... Iran-Interlink representative Anne Singleton travelled to Iraq mid April at the invitation of the Baghdad based human rights NGO Baladiyeh Foundation, officials of the Government of Iraq and other NGOs involved in the Camp Ashraf problem. The Baladiyeh Foundation, headed by Mrs Ahlam al-Maliki, provides humanitarian assistance to a wide range of deprived sectors of Iraqi society arising directly from the invasion and occupation of Iraq by allied forces in 2003. Baladiyeh Foundation is concerned by the humanitarian crisis at Camp Ashraf caused by the group’s leaders who are refusing to allow access to human rights organisations to verify the wellbeing of all of the camp’s residents ...
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 ...
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.
"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 ...
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.