Rendell and Ridge: From Militant Labelers to Terrorist Enablers (U.S. and Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
Rendell and Ridge: From "Militant" Labelers to Terrorist Enablers
(U.S. and Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... In the fall of 2010, while Ed Rendell was Governor and Tom Ridge was Strategic Advisor of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the media discovered that Pennsylvania's Office of Homeland Security (DHS) was monitoring and filing intelligence reports on citizens speaking out against the then nascent shale gas industry's presence in the Marcellus Shale basin. In one bulletin, PA Homeland Security refers to "militants" and "environmental extremists" who dare to question the fossil fuel industry's practices.That incident came and went, with many believing it was an isolated incident. It wasn't. Far from it, in fact ...
Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, after the recent Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision — a controversial decision itself — it is a federal crime to provide "material support" for a designated terrorist organization. But legal niceties are apparently of nil concern to those on the dole of the MEK, a list that includes several big name political figures, according to a report written by former Bush Administration attorney and RAND Corporation analyst Jeremiah Goulka. A sample is below:
Former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA)
Former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA), who was also the former head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush
Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was also a Republican primary candidate for President in 2008
Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT), formerly the head of the Democratic National Committee and a Democratic primary candidate for President in 2004
"To be labeled as, or even associated with, an ecoterrorist is no small thing…Clearly, a need for government to protect the people within the United States from real acts of aggression or violence has been usurped by private interests when journalists, or the public, can be so easily labeled as 'ecoterrorists.'"
There's more. On February 28, The Washington Postreported that the FBI is labeling anti-fracking activists in Texas' Eagle Ford shale basin, in the city of Denton, TX, as "eco-terrorists."
"Even as environmental and animal rights extremism in the United States is on the wane, officials at the federal, state and local level are continuing to target groups they have labeled a threat to national security, according to interviews with numerous activists, internal FBI documents and a survey of legislative initiatives across the country," wrote The Post.
While citizens concerned about the impacts from fracking and reckless gas industry practices are being labeled "eco-terrorists" and "an insurgengy," those responsible, directly or indirectly for having them labeled as such, are shilling on behalf of a State Department-designated terrorist organization.
Training Terrorists in Nevada: Seymour Hersh on U.S. Aid to Iranian Group Tied to Scientist Killings
(Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens ...
Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh also discusses the role of Israeli intelligence and notes the Obama administration knew about the training, "because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area in terms of the MEK, in terms of operations inside Iran." His new report for The New Yorker blog, "Our Men in Iran?," comes as nuclear talks are set to resume this week between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. [includes rush transcript]
Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter for The New Yorker magazine. His latest piece for their website’s "News Desk" blog is titled "Our Men in Iran?"
... Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding ...
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”
Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”
In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
... Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany. His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq. He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw. He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years. He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way. He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says ...
How do you get a group described by the US government as a cult and an officially designated foreign terrorist organisation to be viewed by many congressmen and parliamentarians as champions of human rights and secular democracy?
It would challenge even the most talented PR executive.
The starkly differing perceptions of the MEK or People's Mujahideen of Iran could be a case study in the power of image management - of what can be achieved not with guns but by the way information is disseminated.
The organisation has a history of ideological and tactical flexibility.
Since the 1970s, its rhetoric has changed from Islamist to secular; from socialist to capitalist; from pro-Iranian-revolution to anti-Iranian-revolution; from pro-Saddam to pro-American; from violent to peaceful.
And there is another dichotomy - it has admiring supporters and ardent critics.
Take, for example, the US military officers who had to deal with the MEK after they invaded Iraq in 2003.
Not only was the MEK heavily armed and designated as terrorist by the US government, it also had some very striking internal social policies.
For example, it required its members in Iraq to divorce. Why? Because love was distracting them from their struggle against the mullahs in Iran.
And the trouble is that people love their children too.
So the MEK leadership asked its members to send their children away to foster families in Europe. Europe would be safer, the group explained.
Some parents have not seen their children for 20 years and more.
And just to add to the mix, former members consistently describe participating in regular public confessions of their sexual fantasies.
You might think that would set alarm bells ringing - and for some US officers it did.
One colonel I spoke to, who had daily contact with the MEK leadership for six months in 2004, said that the organisation was a cult, and that some of the members who wanted to get out had to run away.
And yet another officer, who was there at precisely the same time and is now a retired general, has become an active lobbyist on the MEK's behalf.
With his open smile and earnest friendly manner, he is a good advocate. "Cult? How about admirably focused group?" he says. "And I never heard of anyone being held against their will."
We later emailed him about a former member who claimed to have told the general to his face that people were held against their will. "He's lying," the general replied.
You just have to decide which side to believe.
Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany.
His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq.
He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw.
He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years.
He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way.
He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says.
There are many other stories.
Children who never forgave their parents for abandoning them. Children who did forgive and are now joyously reunited. Divorcees who have got out of the organisation saying they still love their former spouses who are still in.
In over 25 years of reporting, I have been lied to often enough but, as successive former MEK members told what they had been through, their tears seemed real enough to me.
And yet a significant number of politicians in the US and UK would say I was tricked because the former MEK members who spread these kind of stories are, in fact, Iranian agents.
There are more than 30 big names - people like Rudy Giuliani former mayor of New York, Howard Dean at one time the democratic presidential hopeful, a retired governor, a former head of the FBI.
Many get paid. Of those who have declared their earnings, the going rate for a pro-MEK speech seems to be $20,000 (£12,500) for 10 minutes. But then many other prominent MEK supporters act without payment.
Why do people take such strong positions on the MEK?
After a month talking to people on both sides of the argument, I am left thinking this. Some supporters are paid, others see the MEK through the prism of Iran - they will just support anything that offers hope of change there. Many are well motivated but some are naive.
And the former members?
Some are embittered, others just seem broken.
Which is when it occurred to me - the perception people have of the MEK may say more about them than about the organisation itself.
It is so difficult to pin down you can see your own reflection in it.
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... Whether they leave voluntarily, or by force, leave they must. The PMOI has a history of killing Americans and mounting attacks within Iran. But it now says it has renounced violence and should be removed from America's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. Its high profile PR campaign involves paying senior retired US officials who then speak on its behalf. We report on the way in which a former pariah group accused of killing Americans has won over intelligence experts, generals, and congressmen from both sides of the political divide...
... the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation. Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK ...
In November 2011 a large group of interested people met in Baghdad to discuss the seemingly intractable problem of how to dismantle the Mohjahedin-e Khalq foreign terrorist group and remove the members from the country. At the behest of families of the individuals trapped inside Camp Ashraf, the GOI agreed to proceed in a way that would avoid violent confrontation. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced later, “We will refuse them the satisfaction of becoming martyrs on our soil”. The Governor of Diyala, the military head of Diyala province and other authorities all went the extra mile to prevent the MEK from killing more hostages and blaming the Iraqis for it.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN which would allow more time and give oversight of the eviction process to the UN and to representatives of the EU and US.
The Iraqis have kept their side of bargain – the deadline for the MEK’s departure was extended and negotiations were facilitated to persuade the MEK to cooperate in a move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty where the UNHCR would be able to assess each individual for refugee status. (Remember that no external body, including the GOI, has been able to freely access the inside of Camp Ashraf since the fall of Saddam Hussein.) The first 800 individuals have now moved and another 800 are lined up to move over the next few days in two groups of 400. The MEK leader has not been able to exploit the situation and kill any hostages. The GOI has control of the situation.
UNAMI has been rigorous in its supervision of the move and, by enforcing its own rules and regulations has not allowed propaganda to overshadow activities at either camp. Facilities at the new camp were approved by UN inspectors, the ICRC has been involved and behind the scene EU and US special advisors have been keeping a watchful eye on events. The MEK has ‘character assassinated’ UNAMI and its officials, and others, in the media but UNAMI has not been diverted by the efforts of the MEK and their backers.
But one pernicious factor which has actively impeded proper progress in this task has been the support given to the MEK by Israelis and US Neoconservatives whose clear intent is to politicise what is essentially a humanitarian situation. The MEK is a well-honed tool in the hands of these ideologues and is used to incite hatred against Iran and Iraq among ignorant and lazy political communities. The MEK is far too valuable for them to allow it to disappear. Most recently, the MEK has been used by Mossad to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
This being so will make it even more difficult for UNAMI to transfer them to third countries. This ruthless use of the MEK as a mercenary terrorist force has a direct impact on the situation of the hostages trapped in the camp; their future becomes all the more uncertain.
But then, it has been all along, the clear intention of the MEK’s paymasters to keep the MEK intact as a terrorist entity in Iraq, in total disregard for the human beings involved.
If it wasn’t because of the backing of Israel and the Neoconservatives, Rajavi would have had no choice but to open the doors of his closed totalitarian group and allow the individuals trapped inside to walk free. That is the aim of everyone on the ground working to resolve the situation in Iraq. In this respect it is no less the responsibility of the US Government to work with the international community to dismantle this terrorist group and rescue the hostages.
But while the rest of the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation.
Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK. So what is really behind this position?
On the surface this would appear as though the USG is prepared to do a political deal to get the MEK to leave Iraq (and in doing so gain credit with the Iraqi government). It is as though the MEK were a far distant uncontrollable threat to US security which needs careful handling to bring it under control before dismantling it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that the MEK’s western owners can do is being done to help the MEK’s leader keep the doors to the camp closed, to keep the hostages inside and to deny them contact with their families – even though this is against all humanitarian, moral or indeed criminal law.
By talking about the terrorism list rather than talking about what is happening in Iraq Clinton is bowing to this pressure. Certainly if UNAMI is allowed to do its job properly – with the support of all the international community – there will not be an organisation left to be listed or not listed. By invoking the US terrorism list, the actual script appears to be whether the MEK can be more useful listed as terrorists or if they are not regarded as terrorists. This false choice disguises the real intent of its proponents which is to keep the group intact as a terrorist group so it can be rearmed and used.
Secretary Clinton, indeed the whole government of America, needs to unhitch the politically charged consideration of the MEK’s inclusion in the US terrorism list from the very real humanitarian situation in Iraq. If the USG’s intention is really to deal properly with this terrorist group, it should reassert the humanitarian focus of American policy toward the MEK and unequivocally support the dismantlement process in Iraq.
Maliki stresses need to adhere to the Agreement on MKO
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki confirmed the need for commitment to the agreement on the Mujahedeen Khalq Organization of Iranian opposition, especially the deadlines of the eviction of MKO from Iraq. Kobler said "the MOU in general establishes a process whereby the Iraqi government will move the Camp Ashraf residents to a temporary site where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR begins the process of determining refugee description which is a necessary first step to resettle them outside Iraq." ...
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki confirmed the need for commitment to the agreement on the Mujahedeen Khalq Organization of Iranian opposition, especially the deadlines of the eviction of MKO from Iraq.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister's office today "Maliki met with Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq, Martin Kobler."
397 people from the residents of Camp Ashraf were transferred on January 18 to camp "Liberty" [TTL] in Baghdad, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the Iraqi government with the UN on October 25th, 2011, for a humanitarian and peaceful settlement for the Camp Ashraf residents.
Kobler said "the MOU in general establishes a process whereby the Iraqi government will move the Camp Ashraf residents to a temporary site where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR begins the process of determining refugee description which is a necessary first step to resettle them outside Iraq."
He added "the MOU contains a clear commitment by the Iraqi government to ensure the safety and security of the Ashraf camp residents in the new location, the government is also committed to the involvement of the Ministry of Human Rights actively in all stages of the process including the allocation of a liaison officer."
Camp Ashraf, which was established in the beginning of the eighties of the last century, is located about 155 km north of Baquba, capital of Diyala Province, it is the headquarters of the People's Mujahedeen Khalq Organization of Iranian opposition in Iraq, and includes more than 3400 people.
Martin Kobler (U.N.), Daniel Fried (U.S.) discuss Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in European Parliament
(Remains of Mojahedin Khalq, MKO,MEK, in Iraq)
... On Wednesday, 21/03/2012 Martin Kobler, the UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nation Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), reported to the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the work of the UNHCR and UNAMI in Iraq and the current situation of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. As part of his description of the problems of resettlement of the Ashraf residents Kobler said that it demanded a cooperative attitude from the residents. Also the U.S. special envoy for Camp Ashraf, Daniel Fried, said that the information that the United States has of the situation in Camp Ashraf and Liberty is consistent with Kobler's descriptions. The conditions at Camp Liberty are not nearly as bad as described by the MEK ...
Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) terrorists in Iraq battle using press releases targetting UNAMI
... But soon after, the group began complaining about conditions in Camp Liberty and accusing the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which in January said Liberty met "international humanitarian standards," of misrepresenting conditions there. The PMOI's focus on public relations campaigns marked by frequent statements to the media and cultivating well-known western politicians to speak on its behalf differs dramatically from its past activities. The leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but took up arms against the country's new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution ...
Iran exiles in Iraq do battle using press releases
An Iraq-based Iranian opposition group that is fixated on conspiracy theories allegedly carried out attacks in Iran and elsewhere for decades, but now relies on a different weapon: the press release.
The United Nations mission here, which has been attempting to facilitate the exit of some 3,400 members of the opposition People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) from Iraq, where they have been based for decades, has been the latest target of the group's statement-issuing ire.
Iraq wants the PMOI out of its territory, and signed an agreement with the UN in December to that end.
On February 18, the first group of 397 exiles moved from their longtime base of Camp Ashraf in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near the Iraqi capital, as part of that process.
But soon after, the group began complaining about conditions in Camp Liberty and accusing the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which in January said Liberty met "international humanitarian standards," of misrepresenting conditions there.
The PMOI's focus on public relations campaigns marked by frequent statements to the media and cultivating well-known western politicians to speak on its behalf differs dramatically from its past activities.
The leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but took up arms against the country's new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The US State Department, which blacklists the PMOI as a terrorist organisation, says it has carried out attacks that killed Iranians, as well as American soldiers and civilians, from the 1970s into 2001.
Now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the PMOI to establish Camp Ashraf in Iraq after he launched the 1980-88 war with Iran in which the group reportedly fought alongside his forces, and provided financial backing to the group.
But the PMOI said it renounced violence in 2001 and its members in Iraq were disarmed following the 2003 US-led invasion, leaving it in need of other tactics.
It successfully campaigned to be delisted as a terrorist organisation in Europe and is working to do the same in the US too.
A day after the first group of the exiles moved to Liberty, PMOI spokesman Shahriar Kia sent a statement by email alleging a UN expert who assessed the camp told "lies" and apparently "was compelled to file an unrealistic report," with "necessary modifications" made by "political authorities" from UNAMI.
"The bungalows and toilet facilities" were "dirty and unusable," and "there is serious water shortage and electricity is cut off, as in prisons, after 10.30 pm."
A statement emailed the next day described Camp Liberty as "a highly controlled prison," referring to the presence of Iraqi security forces.
Iraqi forces carried out two deadly raids on Camp Ashraf in 2009 and 2011, leaving dozens of people dead.
It continued: "Everything shows that at the behest of the Iranian regime, the Iraqi government has turned this camp into a prison and regretfully, UNAMI and (UN envoy) Mr Martin Kobler himself ... assist in this prison-making by confirming it as a refugee camp."
Another email from Kia on February 27 referred to the "lies that Martin Kobler made to the residents of Camp Ashraf for a forcible relocation to Camp Liberty."
When asked about the PMOI statements, Kobler told AFP that Camp Liberty "was host of 5,000 American soldiers, so it should be possible to have the infrastructure ready also for these 400 persons who are now living there."
"I do not think that the infrastructure problem is the problem," he said.
"If there is garbage, the garbage can be removed and should be removed, and the government of Iraq stands ready ... to have garbage trucks available, but they have to enter the camp to remove the garbage," he said.
"The aim of the whole exercise is to have the ... refugee status determination moving," he said, referring to a process which must be completed before the exiles can be resettled.
The PMOI meanwhile says it is facing "conspiracies."
"The whole plan for the relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty is an Iranian plan, and the mullah?s regime?s plan, and nobody else," Kia said in an interview with AFP, referring to the cleric-led government in Tehran.
He referred to the new camp as "Prison Liberty," saying that "their plan is to destroy the Iranian opposition" there.
Kia also said that "espionage cameras and ... eavesdropping devices" in Liberty give information "to the Iranian embassy and to the agents of the Iranian regime."
When asked about the purpose of the flurry of statements on the UN, Kia referred to demands over Camp Liberty.
These include the removal of Iraqi armed forces from Liberty and freedom of movement for residents, but also, despite numerous statements accusing the UN of lying about conditions there, a demand for around-the-clock UN monitoring.