American Special Advisor, Daniel Fried: Take a look at RAND and HRW reports on Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult
American Special Advisor, Daniel Fried: Take a look at RAND and HRW reports on
Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult
... QUESTION: Well, I mean, like the North Koreans, are they running around kidnapping people and bringing them to Camp Ashraf? How do you get there involuntarily? How would one get there? AMBASSADOR FRIED: There – well, let me refer you to some of the outside studies that have been written – the Rand Corporation report, for one. Take a look at that, or Human Rights Watch. They’ve described what they think are some of the problems. The MEK denies it. Right now, our concern is humanitarian and getting the people out of Ashraf over to Liberty, and then we’ll deal with the next set of really tough problems, which is repatriation/resettlement of these folks ...
Special Briefing Ambassador Daniel Fried, Special Advisor for Camp Ashraf
Washington, DC, December 29, 2011
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. So we’ll go ahead and get started. Everybody, this is Ambassador Fried. This session is on the record, unless otherwise indicated. We do have the director of our Iraq office here to go into some further detail if necessary. But as we start, this is all on the record, unless otherwise indicated.
So Ambassador Fried, please go ahead.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I’ll start out with some prepared remarks and then take your questions if that’s all right. Oh, and forgive me if I speak a little slowly. This is the result of Novocain and the dentist this morning.
The U.S. seeks a safe, secure, humane resolution of the impasse at Camp Ashraf. Our interest is humanitarian and independent of our views of the MEK’s past record. Thanks to intense efforts by Ambassador Martin Kobler, the head of the UN Mission in Iraq, a reasonable path forward for a safe and secure relocation from Ashraf to Camp Liberty is at hand. On Christmas Day, Kobler signed with the Government of Iraq an MOU that provides details of the transfer and commitments from the Iraqi Government for the safety and security of the residents of Camp Ashraf.
The residents of Camp Ashraf will be moved from Camp Ashraf to former Camp Liberty, which used to be a U.S. military facility and is located near the Baghdad Airport. UNHCR is – will begin immediately to process these people for refugee status. At the same time, those wishing to return voluntarily to Iran as, by the way, several hundred from Ashraf have already done, will be able to do so.
The UN will conduct 24/7 monitoring at Camp Liberty – or former Camp Liberty. In addition, Embassy Baghdad will visit former Camp Liberty on a frequent basis to provide robust observation. The Government of Iraq has agreed in this MOU to the safety and security of Camp Liberty and those there and not to forcibly repatriate any resident of Camp Ashraf/former Camp Liberty to Iran. The Government of Iraq accepted many of Ambassador Kobler’s suggestions, and the plan agreed now reflects major progress since the discussions began. Secretary Clinton, the EU, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have all publicly welcomed the signing of the MOU and have urged that it be implemented in good faith by all sides.
This is Iraq we’re talking about, however. We must be realistic about the difficulties. We’re also acutely aware of the mistrust and even animosity between the MEK and many Iraqis, given the MEK’s history in Iraq. We’re concerned by the recent series of rocket attacks on Ashraf and we condemn them. While these have not caused injuries or damaged property, they heighten and underscore the risks in this situation. U.S. facilities in the area have also been under attack recently.
The UN has expressed its concerns about these attacks to the Iraqi Government. We are doing so as well. Nevertheless and for – perhaps especially because of these attacks, it’s important to move ahead with the MOU. We welcome the willingness expressed yesterday by the MEK to cooperate with implementation of the MOU, specifically their announcement that they are prepared to move the first 400 persons to Camp – to former Camp Liberty. That move is being prepared now.
The UN is putting its assets in place for monitoring and refugee processing. It’s up to the Iraqi Government to prepare Camp Liberty, to receive the first residents of Ashraf, and this is likely to take several more days at least. It’s important that this first move be followed by other moves from Ashraf to former Camp Liberty. Ashraf is relatively isolated and, frankly, less secure than Liberty will be with its UN monitoring and a frequent U.S. presence. We also hope the day-to-day issues of camp management can be worked out on the ground as, hopefully, confidence grows.
The good news is that we are finally entering a phase of implementing an agreement that’s been painfully negotiated and is understood by all sides. But implementation will take sustained cooperation and patience by all. The U.S. will remain closely engaged in all stages of this process.
So with that, let me take your questions.
QUESTION: So how many people in all are we talking about moving? You said a few hundred have gone back to Iran.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: The MEK says there are about 3,200 people at Camp Ashraf. Years ago, when the – in the early phases of the Iraq conflict, we identified about that number of people, but we don’t know how many people are there now. We don’t know how many have left.
QUESTION: Okay. But several hundred, you said, have gone back to Iran?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We – yes. We believe several hundred have gone back to Iran voluntarily over the years, not recently. Recently, a number of people at Camp Ashraf have gone back to European countries where they have either citizenship or long-term residency. This has been relatively small in numbers, but it’s picked up in recent weeks.
QUESTION: And do you get the sense that some of these people that will be moving over to Liberty are going to want to move on further or that could be their --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, they all want to move out of Iraq. That seems to be – well, let me back up by saying we don’t know actually what the residents of Camp Ashraf want. We know what their leaders say they want. And what they say they want is for them to leave Iraq in safety and security. There is some number – and estimates vary very widely – of how many will actually want to go back to Iran.
Our view is that if residents of Camp Ashraf want to go back to Iran, this is their right, but it has to be really voluntary and not, quote, “voluntary.” That’s why I mention that some hundreds have gone back already. According to international organizations, there is no evidence that they have been mistreated by the Iranians, but we can’t verify that independently for ourselves.
QUESTION: Have they – have the Camp Ashraf group – have they given you any sort of timeline that – you said the first 400 are going to be ready to move. When do you expect them actually to move? When is the camp going to be able to accept them? And do you have a sense that there’s going to be a clear follow-on from that, that they’re going to keep on moving more and more people? Or is this first 400 sort of a test group?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: In the last 48 hours, we have been heartened by the increased willingness of the leaders of Camp Ashraf and the MEK leadership in Paris to participate in this process. We believe that the first 400 are ready to move soon. The – as I said, former Camp Liberty has to be set up, the infrastructure has to be put in place, and this will – it’ll take, we think, at least several days for this to be done. But under the circumstances, we think that the 400 should move as soon as possible, and this should be followed up by more moves.
There are issues of how the new facility will run. Some of these issues were addressed in the MOU. But in reality, they can be worked out on the ground. It’s important now that people start leaving Camp Ashraf, which is really not a secure place, and move to a place where they can be processed by the UNHCR. So we very much hope that as many people will move out as fast as can be accommodated. The first 400 is a good start; it needs to be followed up.
QUESTION: Well, just on the resettlement issue. I understand in the past there was some demands on the part of the Camp Ashraf or MEK that they be done in groups, that they want (inaudible) all go together. What can you – just walk us through what the current understanding is of how and where they might go?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: You are correct that the MEK in the past made many demands, and it wasn’t until recent weeks that it started working with Ambassador Kobler in a serious way. We are very glad that they decided to do so. Late is far better than never, and it’s never too late to do the right thing. So they have done the right thing by working with Ambassador Kobler.
Specific to your question, the UNHCR does not do group refugee designations. They’ve made it clear that they are prepared look at them as individuals and to begin immediately to process them. We’ve also encouraged the people at Camp Ashraf to send in this – in the early group, in the group of 400 and other early groups, those with the strongest ties to the outside world - that is citizens of European countries, citizens of the United States, if there are more still there. We know of only two left there, but we – there could be more. If they send out those with the strongest ties, those will be the easiest to move out of Iraq. And it’s important to show the Iraqi Government and Iraqis and the people of Camp Ashraf this process can work all the way, meaning from Ashraf to former Camp Liberty and out of Iraq safely.
QUESTION: But isn’t there some risk in that, that if you’re starting with the easiest cases then the hard cases are just going to sit there, right?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, the hard cases aren’t going to get any easier with – easier if you move them up front. Move – our view is move those who can most easily move. There are – in terms of numbers, there are a lot of unknowns. But if you start with a topline of 3,200 people, there is – you have to subtract the number of people who may have left. We don’t have it accounted for, so it’s 32 minus X. Then it is minus those will really want to go back to Iran, and there’ll be arrangements in place for them to do so. Then you take away the number of people with citizenship or strong compelling ties to foreign countries. Then you – what you have left is the group which will be interviewed individually for refugee status by the UNHCR. So hopefully those groups subtracted from the topline number will be as big as possible, but we just don’t know.
QUESTION: Is there a risk that you’re just moving – even if it’s Liberty as a more secure place, you’re just moving the problem a few miles?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, there is no way that Ashraf was going to be the venue for the UNHCR interviews. And for reasons having to do with history and the history of the MEK in Iraq, there was no way that the Government of Iraq was going to allow a Camp Ashraf to exist as it was. So for those reasons, this move is critical to start the process in earnest.
QUESTION: Why do you think the MEK has changed its tune? Have you offered them anything? Like, will it be easier for them to get off the terrorism list if they cooperate?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We have not offered them anything, but it is, I think – and I can’t read their minds, but I think that it became very clear that the United States was (A) concerned with their welfare and willing to put substantial efforts into this process, and (B) quite serious that we could do nothing if they were going to stand pat with maximalist, unachievable positions.
So I think they realized that they had a reasonable offer made by one of the strongest UN officials I’ve ever worked with, Ambassador Kobler. They had the full engagement of the U.S. Embassy in Ambassador Jeffrey. They had the strong interest of Secretary Clinton and other senior people in the U.S. Government. And I think they realized that now was the time to deal seriously.
QUESTION: Does the designation affect their migration status at all, their eligibility to go to any other country, let alone the U.S.?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: One of the enduring urban legends of this process is that the MEK’s current status as a foreign terrorist organization, so listed by the American Government, is in itself a great impediment to resettlement and that removing them from that list would suddenly make many more eligible that are not now eligible. That apparently, as it has been explained to me by those very familiar with American immigration laws, is not true.
The FTO designation process is quite independent from my office and what we’re doing. I haven’t participated in this, in the paperwork. We will – the United States will look at people at Camp Ashraf or future Camp – those who will be at former Camp Liberty on a case-by-case basis. The status of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization is not, by itself, disqualifying to any particular individual. And removal of the MEK from that list, if it were to happen in the future, would not necessarily make eligible someone who is now statutorily ineligible.
QUESTION: So you can be a member of a foreign terrorist organization and not an American citizen and be given political refugee status in the United States?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: That isn’t what I said.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m asking --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: What I said was it is not – we are going to look at these people on an individual basis. They may have arrived at Camp Ashraf under all sorts of circumstances.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: The reason I’m hesitating and being very careful is because interpretation of our immigration laws is not my business at all, and the Department of Homeland Security has, let’s say, a very great deal to say on this subject. But I’ve – in my conversations with them, it’s clear that they’re prepared to look at individuals, but against, obviously, our immigration laws.
QUESTION: They’re going to look at an individual and then say, “No,” right?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I’m not going to pre-judge how they look at individuals. I will say that people may have found themselves in Ashraf on a variety of circumstances.
QUESTION: Unwillingly, perhaps?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I don’t want to characterize it that way or any way, but just say what I said.
QUESTION: Okay. Now the UNHCR – I understand when they do their interviews, they have to be private. So they won’t have like a MEK superior watching over them and hearing what they say. But this determination of which ones want to return to Iran – is that done somehow through a private interview process? Because then otherwise you might get the groupthink and the “don’t say you want to go back to Iran” and the numbers would be far smaller than you’d expect maybe.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Without getting into the details of how individuals will be processed by international organizations, it’s not the U.S. doing it on the ground, I should point out. I would say that the UN and other international organizations are very well aware of the potential problem of, as you said, groupthink or group pressure, and they’re very well aware of the many reports about the atmosphere at Camp Ashraf and the character of that place. And I really shouldn’t say any more than that, but --
QUESTION: So they would be doing it, and – UN and international organizations would handle all of the --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, it’s --
QUESTION: Even the part related to the Iran question, not --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: It’s not the United States doing it.
QUESTION: No, I understand, but --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Everyone is aware of the problem you identified. I should say also that the MOU does contain an Iraqi commitment not to forcibly repatriate anyone to Iran.
QUESTION: Dan, have you seen these latest statements from the MEK in Paris? There was one this morning that says that they have information that the IRGC is going to launch some new rocket attacks tonight. Whether you’ve seen it or not, the other thing they say is that they’re asking for U.S. and UN monitors at the – at Camp Ashraf until it’s been emptied. Is that something from – at least from the U.S. side, is that something that you guys would be willing to consider, sending people to observe?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: The UN has said that it will monitor the former Camp Liberty. Not Ashraf; that’s not your question. But they’ll be at Camp Liberty on a 24/7 basis. The United States is prepared to mount a very robust monitoring – or I should say observation – a robust observation operation at the former Camp Liberty. It’s not practical, for a number of logistic and security arrangements, for us to be out with anything like that intensity at Camp Ashraf, which is one of the reasons people need to think seriously about moving fast.
QUESTION: Why? Why is it not practical?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, it’s a lot farther away, for one thing.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: And the move – it is harder to move people back and forth. I don’t want to say much more because that involves the logistics of these kinds of things, but we’re going to be at Camp Liberty a lot – at former Camp Liberty a lot more than we are at Ashraf.
QUESTION: Wait, who – I mean, so in other words, you’re not – that’s not in the cards, this latest request for --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: That’s not in the cards. That’s not – that’s right. That’s not in the cards.
QUESTION: And who runs Liberty now? Is it the Iraqi army or --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: It’s an Iraqi – that’s right. We turned over Camp Liberty to the Iraqi military. They’re there. There have been some – a lot of discussions about the security arrangements in future Camp Liberty, and Ambassador Kobler has had these in some detail with his – with his Iraqi counterparts. It will be an Iraqi facility. It’s not going to be a kind of independent, self-governed, autonomous, extraterritorial facility, which is what Camp Ashraf has been for many years.
And the – Ambassador Kobler has had extensive and detailed discussions with both the people at Camp Ashraf – well, the leaders at Camp Ashraf and with – and in Paris. So the MEK knows very well what he is – what the circumstances will be and what the arrangements are.
QUESTION: Are these two Americans who remain?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We know of two American citizens that are still at Camp Ashraf.
QUESTION: Are they high-level or more of the --
QUESTION: Okay. If they were to return, would they face possible prosecution?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I can’t talk about any of that. Now there are some at Camp Ashraf – some of the leaders say there are more American citizens there, that there are more permanent residents. We know of just two that remain.
QUESTION: Have others come here?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Yes. Recently, two have come here from – American citizens have come here from Camp Ashraf. And the – I think I can say that the Iraqi Government facilitated that, and it was – when they finally left, it was very smooth.
QUESTION: Are these Iranian-Americans or Americans of Iranian descent?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I believe they are, but I’m not sure.
QUESTION: As far as you know, there isn’t anyone who’s a non-Iranian in Camp Ashraf, are – I’m just curious. You said there are – some people might have gotten there by very – in different ways.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Different means, that’s right.
QUESTION: Can you --
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I just don’t know. I don’t think so. I have not heard reports. But I’m not trying to prove a negative. I don’t think so, but I don’t know.
QUESTION: And when you talk about it, can you just say, I mean, just for example, what kind of means would one have gotten there other than voluntarily going in?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Sorry?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, like the North Koreans, are they running around kidnapping people and bringing them to Camp Ashraf? How do you get there involuntarily? How would one get there?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: There – well, let me refer you to some of the outside studies that have been written – the Rand Corporation report, for one. Take a look at that, or Human Rights Watch. They’ve described what they think are some of the problems. The MEK denies it. Right now, our concern is humanitarian and getting the people out of Ashraf over to Liberty, and then we’ll deal with the next set of really tough problems, which is repatriation/resettlement of these folks.
QUESTION: Some of those other reports that you mentioned have also discussed potential threats to the residents of Camp Ashraf may be internal rather than external. Without going into what your assessment is of where the threats are, is it the U.S. Government sort of understanding or feeling now that the immediate threats that they may have been facing to life and limb in the camp have decreased significantly? Are they not as at-risk as they were prior to this MOU being signed?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, certainly the developments of the – the good developments of the past several days – that is, the signing of the MOU and the MEK’s expressed willingness to work with Ambassador Kobler on the basis of the MOU and move 400 people out – have the effect of lowering the temperature and putting us on an implementation track rather than a negotiation and imminent disaster track.
Now that’s better, right? That’s a better place to be, but implementation is not easy. It’s fraught with the problems we can imagine and probably some we can’t. So no one who’s working on this issue is putting their feet up and saying, well, job is now done, we can just – it’s just on autopilot. Far from it. It will take a lot of work, a lot of work.
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.
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.”
"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.”
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.