Eldar Mamedov, Lobelog, November 13 2016:… New Gingrich, John Bolton, and Rudy Giuliani, are slated for top jobs in the Trump administration, including the crucial secretary-of-state job. All three have deep tieswith the Iranian dissident cult MEK, on the US terror list until 2012, bitterly opposed to the current Iranian government and advocating regime change in Iran. Although the Saudis …
EU-Iran Relations in the Trump Era
One undeniable benefit of the historic nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is that it opened the channels of communications between Iran and the EU beyond the narrow issue of the implementation of the agreement. As the high-level political consultations between the EU and Iran on November 8-9 in Brussels have shown, the bilateral agenda now includes economic cooperation, discussions on regional issues, notably Syria, and even a nascent dialogue on human rights. Thus, the Brussels meetings have provided a suitable opportunity for both Europeans and Iranians to compare notes on the election of Donald Trump as the US president and what it means for the survival of the JCPOA and broader normalization of EU-Iran relations. What emerged from the conversations shows a considerable convergence of views.
Despite Trump’s pre-electoral pledge to renegotiate the deal that he deemed to be “disastrous,” both Iranians and Europeans have adopted a wait-and-see approach. To illustrate how the electoral rhetoric may not match the real actions in office, Iranians pointed to the quiet removal from Trump’s webpageof his statement vowing to ban Muslims from entering the US. Another glimmer of hope, from the Iranian perspective, lies in Trump’s repeated expressions of willingness to work with Russia in Syria and the broader Middle East on the ultimate goal of defeating the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or IS). Since Tehran’s already works closely with Moscow to achieve these priorities, it would be very hard for Trump to square the circle by simultaneously cooperating with Russia and antagonizing Iran. According to this most optimistic reading, Trump foreign policy’s uncertainty holds out some possibility of a more restrained and realist course—as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s predictably hawkish policies that might have undermined the nuclear deal even without consciously seeking such an outcome.
There is, however, a danger of some neoconservatives moving closer to Trump and setting his administration on a more aggressive course than his campaign pronouncements suggested. Already some notorious uber-hawks, such as New Gingrich, John Bolton, and Rudy Giuliani, are slated for top jobs in the Trump administration, including the crucial secretary-of-state job. All three have deep tieswith the Iranian dissident cult MEK, on the US terror list until 2012, bitterly opposed to the current Iranian government and advocating regime change in Iran. Although the Saudis, Iran’s archrivals in the region, cast their lot with Clinton, they may now be busy trying to figure out how they can “buy off” Trump. And one of Trump’s top donors, Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate with strong pro-Likud views, has threatened Iran with a nuclear strike.
This uncertainty has prompted analysts like Ariane Tabatabai from the Center for Strategic and International Studies to call on the EU to be more assertive in safeguarding and implementing the deal and act as a check on America. The EU might do exactly that. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief and chair of the Joint Commission tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA, explicitly emphasized the multilateral character of the Iran deal, codified by a UN SC resolution. Since Iran, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, complies with its commitments on the deal, there is absolutely no incentive on the EU side to renegotiate the deal.
Furthermore, the EU’s own interests have been pushing it to invest in its relations with Iran. The EU is closer to the Middle East than the US and is directly affected by the turmoil there in the shape of a terrorist threat and irregular migration. Whether it is the Syrian war or the flow of refugees from Afghanistan, Europeans realize they have to deal with Iran. They also see it as a potentially lucrative market for their businesses. The traffic of officials and businesspeople between Tehran and European capitals is heavy these days. On October 25, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a forward-looking report on relations with Iran. The Council of the EU, the main foreign-policy making body representing the bloc’s 28 member states, is preparing to adopt its new guidelines on relations with Iran, which are expected to overlap significantly with the EP report.
More broadly, there are signs that the election of Trump is already stimulating some hard thinking about the EU’s strategic autonomy. Plans to create a “defense union” are likely to gain further momentum. Of course, transatlantic relations possess a certain inertia that will likely persist. This link is long-standing and deserves to survive the Trump presidency. However, the EU is unlikely to follow the US in doing something as self-defeating as revoking or even re-negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. What could, however, put the EU in an indefensible position is if Iranian hardliners sabotage the implementation of the deal as a response to American non-delivery on its commitments. It is only to be hoped that cooler heads will prevail in Tehran in the face of possible provocations from the Republican-led White House and Congress.
There is, however, a wild card on the European side as well—Europe’s own right-wing populists, such as the leader of the French National Front Marine Le Pen. Her election as France’s president can no longer be ruled out. Le Pen and her Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), a far-right group in the EP, generally sticks to a superficially friendly line on Iran, regularly lambasting Iran’s foes such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This, however, is part of a general backlash against the French elites, known for their close relations with the Gulf despots, rather than an expression of support for Iran. Le Pen is known for her staunch support for Israel. In the European Parliament vote on the Iran report, she and most of her colleagues from the ENF group abstained. Should Le Pen, who professed her enthusiastic support for Trump, be elected as the president of France, the Iran deal might suffer another blow.
In a world of growing uncertainty, the current leaders of the EU and Iran must do their utmost to ensure that the Iran deal survives the complicated politics of some of its parties. The stakes could not be higher: the fate of a working agreement that not only defused a potentially devastating conflict but also opened a way for re-engaging with one of the key countries in the Middle East.
Photo: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the European Parliament.
About the Author
Eldar Mamedov has degrees from the University of Latvia and the Diplomatic School in Madrid, Spain. He has worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and as a diplomat in Latvian embassies in Washington D.C. and Madrid. Since 2007, Mamedov has served as a political adviser for the social-democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) and is in charge of the delegation for inter-parliamentary relations between the EP and Iran.
Rajavi’s lobbyists demand Mojahedin Khalq terrorist cult in Iraq be re-armed rather than removed
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Iran Interlink, January 14 2015:… Whether delusional or corrupt, this gang – listed below and now posing as the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) – says the residents of Camp Liberty should have their “personal protection weapons returned to them for self-defence following serious threats and attacks [sic] as the …
Rajavi’s lobbyists demand Mojahedin Khalq terrorist cult in Iraq be re-armed rather than removed
It is surely ironic that the same bunch of people who lobbied hard and at great expense to have the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist cult removed from European and American terrorist lists (the flimsy claim they had renounced terrorism was only possible because in 2003 the US army captured, disarmed and confined them to a single camp in Iraq), is now lobbying to have them re-armed.
Whether delusional or corrupt, this gang – listed below and now posing as the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) – says the residents of Camp Liberty should have their “personal protection weapons returned to them for self-defence following serious threats and attacks [sic] as the Iranian regime’s intervention in Iraq grows”. But has neglected to inform their English speaking audience that the MEK leader, Massoud Rajavi, has demanded the MEK be re-armed with heavy weapons as well as small arms.
In any case, anyone who knows anything about the situation of Camp Liberty knows that the residents are deliberately imprisoned incommunicado inside the camp by the MEK leaders, that the greatest danger these residents face is from these MEK leaders, and that small arms are wanted in order to impose greater control over these captives as they become more and more desperate to escape the tyranny of the cult.
The ISJ statement should certainly not be read without context: Since attaining sovereignty in 2009, each successive government of Iraq has designated the MEK as a terrorist entity which must, under the Constitution, be entirely removed from Iraqi territory. The demand for re-arming rather than removing this group is doubly insulting for a country still swarming with Western spawned terrorist groups.
Perhaps the most ironic ‘complaint’ of the Committee is that the government of Iraq is not investigating the September 1, 2013 attack on Camp Ashraf in which fifty three people died. How is this possible when forty two key eye witnesses – survivors of the attack – have been incarcerated by the MEK inside Camp Liberty so that no investigator in the world has access to them?
Instead of demanding the MEK be re-armed ready to utilize violence again – the raison d’etre of the terrorist cult – this gang should be demanding from Massoud and Maryam Rajavi that each resident of Camp Liberty be given the opportunity to make contact with their families in privacy and to freely leave the camp if they desire. Then we would see how quickly and efficiently these people can be resettled.
List of members of the ISJ according to the MEK:
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former MEP; Patrick Kennedy, former Congressman; Günter Verheugen, former member of the EU Commission; Nicole Fontaine, former MEP; General Hugh Shelton former US military; David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State; Ingrid Betancourt; Raymond Tanter; Horst Teltschik; Colonel Wesley Martin, former US military; Senator Lucio Malan, Italian Senate; Alessandro Pagano MP; Antonio Razzi, Italian Senate; Gérard Deprez MEP; Ryszard Czarnecki, MEP; Tunne Kelam MEP; Lord Carlile, UK; Lord Clarke, UK; Lord Maginnis, UK; Lord Dholakia, UK
An Unfinished documentary for my daughter – Trapped in Rajavi cult, Mojahedin Khalq
Paulo Casaca, Struan Stevenson and Alejo Vidal-Quadras lost their seats as MEPs over support for terrorism
European MEK Supporters Downplay ISIS Role in Iraq (aka Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, NCRI, Rajavi cult)
MEPs support for MEK terrorists undermines human rights pressure on Iran (letter to Federica Mogherini)
Massoud Khodabandeh, Middle East Strategy Consultants, London, December 09 2014:… By publishing an article directed by the MEK, a group of MEPs has played directly into the hands of Iran’s hardliners. The MEPs Gérard DEPREZ, Tunne KELAM, Ryszard CZARNECKI EP Vice-President, Eduard KUKAN, José BOVÉ, Julie WARD, and Rina Ronja KARI are …
MEPs support for MEK terrorists undermines human rights pressure on Iran
Open Letter to Federica Mogherini, the new EU foreign policy chief
As you are aware the Iranian Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group works through the “Friends of a Free Iran” in the European Parliament. This parliament is to give a platform today (December 10) to the second-in-command of this group Maryam Rajavi (a private room has been hired in the buildings by one of the MEK’s lobbyists purely for lobbying purposes). Not only that, a group of MEPs has boldly written to you demanding you change your policy to suit this woman. What possibly can be their motive? As a European citizen and an expert in the field of cults and terrorism, I cannot agree that you ignore such a presence in the parliament. It cannot be in the best interests of the European Parliament as a home to democracy to give a platform to for what is an undemocratic stance toward the people of Iran.
By publishing an article directed by the MEK, a group of MEPs has played directly into the hands of Iran’s hardliners. The MEPs Gérard DEPREZ (ALDE – Belgium), Tunne KELAM (EPP – Estonia), Ryszard CZARNECKI EP Vice-President (ECR – Poland), Eduard KUKAN (EPP – Slovakia), José BOVÉ (Greens – France) Julie WARD (S&D – UK) and Rina Ronja KARI (GUE/NGL – Denmark) are members of the MEK’s ‘Friends of a Free Iran’ in the European Parliament.
The article starts with the claim that Ban Ki Moon said people should hold their governments to account. He did not say that the EP should interfere in the internal affairs of another country. Certainly these MEPs have no mandate to hold another country’s government to account in this way. It is not their elected government, but that of a sovereign nation with its own electorate. It is certain Ban Ki Moon was referring to this electorate when he made this statement.
However, let us allow that Iran’s human rights record, like that of every other country of the world, should come under proper scrutiny. The proper bodies to conduct such research are those quoted by these MEPs – the UN – in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran – Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International. The reports of these bodies are public knowledge and widely available.
(Interestingly, in addition to all these human rights bodies, there is hardly a group or organisation or government, and not a single Iranian opposition group inside or outside Iran which has not condemned the Mojahedin Khalq for its human rights abuses time and time again.)
Now, if the MEPs do indeed see fit to challenge Iran over this issue on International Human Rights Day, is it not proper to do so directly, through dialogue, communication and diplomacy, rather than a futile rant. A rant which, in addition, quotes the second-in-command of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group, Maryam Rajavi. This group of MEPs has been persuaded – somehow – to have her words put into their mouths as though they cannot make their own statements or figure out their own political arguments. (The MEK shoehorned one of their favourite words, ‘embolden’, into the piece but didn’t manage to get another favourite, ‘appeasement’ in.)
As a result they stupidly allow themselves to say such things as “Tehran has also been the center [sic] for the expansion of terrorism and fundamentalism throughout the region, endangering world peace and security.” The article cannot and does not present any evidence for this opinion. Indeed, most sensible people anywhere would point first to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States as the source of increased terrorism and fundamentalism in the region. But then, the MEK are known advocates of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Relying on this argument, these MEPs are demanding less dialogue with Iran, not more. Again, back to the ‘let’s bomb Iran or at least disrupt dialogue’ narrative.
Such nonsense has delighted Iran. The semi-official Fars News Agency has immediately translated the article for distribution among Farsi speakers in Iran and worldwide. What better argument could the hardliners have that the issue of human rights is being politicised than to have the leader of a notorious terrorist group put their words into your mouth.
These MEPs really need to get to grips with the fact they are being manipulated into pursuing an agenda not of their own making, which ultimately serves to worsen human rights in Iran and to help crush any indigenous opposition movements and activities. Any Iranian not associated with the MEK terrorist group – on any side of the argument – will tell them this.
Holly Dagres, Huffington Post, December 12 2014:… Maryam Rajavi’s marriage to one of the original founders of the MEK symbolized the transformation from an organization to a “cult of personality.” With the money provided by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein–they formed an alliance due to a deep disdain for the Iranian regime–to “construct self-sufficient camps” …
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Foreign Policy Journal, November 08 2014:…In addition to the “Iran experts”, Washington has found itself other sources of ‘intelligence’, foremost; the Mojahedeen Khalg (MEK) terrorist cult. This group feeds Washington information provided them by Israel. Previous to this assignment, the cult was busy fighting alongside Saddam …
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Iran Interlink, November 01 2014: … When a supporter of ISIS sits in the French parliamentary building and attacks President Obama, the cracks are seriously beginning to show in the West’s approach to resolving the whole Middle East situation. Observers may not be sufficiently informed to tell Western governments what to do in …
Azar Hossein Nejad, Hossin Nejad weblog, January 01 2015:… I am contacting you to ask for your help regarding the situation of my sister, Zeinab Hossein Nejad, a 36 years old woman who is living in Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq. I never saw my parents or sister during my childhood and youth as all of them had to run for their lives. They left Iran along …
Farideh Farhi, Lobelog, April 22 2014: … members (some of them with links to the exiled Iranian opposition group, the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK), such as Spanish EPP member Alejo Vidal-Quadras and British ECR member Struan Stevenson) proposed amendments deleting the call for an opening of the EU office in Tehran, fully in line with the position of their supposed enemies — Iranian hardliners …
Nejat Association reporting from , Ashraf news, April 21 2014: … Massoud Rajavi has ordered the officials of the Camp to intensify the limitations against women especially after the revelations by Batoul Soltani and other dispatched members who bravely exposed the internal affairs especially the sexual scandals of the cult leader such as ‘Salvation dancing’ …