Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian, April 29 2017:… It’s not long ago that the MEK, described by US thinktank Rand as a “skilled manipulators of public opinion”, was listed by the US and the EU as a terrorist organisation. The group fought alongside Saddam Hussein against Iran in the eight-year war in the 1980s. That itself should explain its immense unpopularity inside Iran. According to state department and FBI assessments, the MEK was behind the killing of Americans …
Iran’s people care about elections. The so-called democratic fringe doesn’t
Trump’s hard talk has buoyed Iran’s exiled opposition, like the son of the late Shah and the shadowy MEK. But these intemperate voices are not to be trusted
In Donald Trump, opponents of the Iranian establishment bent on regime change have identified a new hope. The US administration, which often talks tough on Iran, has rejuvenated fringe exiled Iranian opposition groups who are irrelevant to modern Iran, yet appeal to gullible Americans.
One such group is led by Reza Pahlavi, who gets attention mainly because he is the son of the late Shah, who was exiled during the revolution in 1979. An “advocate of secularism, human rights, and parliamentary democracy in Iran” as he puts it on his Twitter profile, he reached out to Trump to congratulate him when he won the election, asking him to to engage “with the secular and democratic forces” to defeat “political Islam”.
In his letter, he wrote that the Islamic Republic was promoting a “regressive ideology [that] has spread like a cancer across the globe: from the Middle East to Asia and Africa, and even to Europe and the Americas”. With such overblown rhetoric, Pahlavi sounds like war-mongering Republicans and Israeli hardliners who seek to portray Iran as a bigger threat than Isis.
“Iran’s exiled crown prince wants a revolution,” is how AP began its interview with Pahlavi in April, in which he says “this regime is simply irreformable because the nature of it, its DNA, is such that it cannot”.
“My focus right now is on liberating Iran, and I will find any means that I can, without compromising the national interests and independence, with anyone who is willing to give us a hand, whether it is the US or the Saudis or the Israelis or whomever it is,” he told AP.
In February, Pahlavi told Deutsche Welle that “the Iranian regime from the very beginning has been the root cause of practically every problem we see emanating from that region … The majority of the Iranian people, I would say easily 90% of Iran’s society, is against this regime and wants this regime to go.”
The other group calling for a revolution is the MEK (the People’s Mujahedin of Iran), a shadowy group characterised by many observers – including former members – as cult-like. Earlier this month, Senator John McCain travelled to a conference in Albania to meet with the group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi. Speaking in a packed room of MEK supporters, many wearing identical clothes, McCain praised the group and said: “This is an example of the support you are able to get in the United States of America, in the world, to get you to get to freedom.”
Rajavi, who has led the group for almost as long as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been the supreme leader of Iran, said during the conference that “experience has shown that this regime is incapable of changing its behaviour. Thus, regime change in Iran is necessary for peace and stability in the region and for global peace and security.”
Contrary to what you might expect, these two opposition forces do not get along. “It’s pretty much a cult-type structure,” Pahlavi said of MEK in his AP interview. He’s absolutely right.
It’s not long ago that the MEK, described by US thinktank Rand as a “skilled manipulators of public opinion”, was listed by the US and the EU as a terrorist organisation. (When it was delisted by the US in 2012, the US government acknowledged that the organisation had renounced violence and had committed no terrorist acts for more than a decade. It was also delisted by the EU in 2009). The group fought alongside Saddam Hussein against Iran in the eight-year war in the 1980s. That itself should explain its immense unpopularity inside Iran. According to state department and FBI assessments, the MEK was behind the killing of Americans in Iran in the 1970s, though the current MEK leadership disavows those killings. Rajavi has also been barred from entering the UK.
In recent years, the MEK has paid many senior American officials to speak at their events, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Elaine Chao, Trump’s secretary of transportation, who received a $50,000 honorarium to speak at an MEK event.
A strong supporter of the MEK is Saudi Arabia. In July 2016, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, spoke at MEK’s rally in Paris.
In a not-so-subtle reference to Saudi Arabia, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, said: “In most countries in our region election is a dream … You are talking about a region where people don’t have a constitution for God’s sake.”
Zarif has a point. In a few week’s time, Iranians yet again go to the polls to choose their next government. Groups such as MEK have portrayed Iranian elections as futile. In reality, elections do matter in Iran. While they are far from being fair, given the extent of the vetting of candidates, they are still competitive and are taken seriously by the electorate.
There’s a constant battle in Iran between the elected faction of the establishment, and the unelected faction. In 2013, Iran’s majority pro-reform population threw its weight behind Hassan Rouhani. Iran has indeed drastically changed under the moderate cleric.
Rouhani, to his credit, fulfilled his main promise of ending the stalemate over the nuclear issue. And if he hasn’t been able to succeed to the extent that was expected of him in economic terms, it’s not because his government did not do enough to generate investment, it’s because the west – the US and the UK in particular – have failed to give Iran proper access to the global market.
It is also true that the president’s hands are tied in many matters, and that the human rights situation is poor, but perhaps not worse than in many US allies in the region. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi remain under the house arrest over the 2009 disputed election. A string of dual nationals languish in jail, including Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American national belonging to the Zoroastrian faith, and his wife Afarin Niasari. Journalist Hengameh Shahidi is on hunger strike. And on the international front, Iran’s support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad remains a contentious issue even at home.
Nevertheless, the Iranian people by and large still believe in gradual change, however slow the pace of reform might be. Huge turnouts for elections represent a rejection of the sort of things that Pahlavi and Rajavi have to offer.
In their constant mission to demonise Iran, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have heavily relied on groups such as MEK. The fact of the matter is that they remain out of touch with the realities on the ground. Both groups have used human rights as a casus belli, and have simplified the complexities of politics on the ground to suit the foreign audience. So long as reform-minded Iranians are working hard to generate change from within, the intemperate voices of Pahlavi and Rajavi, and their attempts to build political capital in the west, should be dismissed.
Fake News, Alternative Facts and Opinions – MEK succumbs to the American disease of hysteria
Iran Interlink, February 15 2017:… The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites. Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing …
Fake News, Alternative Facts and Opinions – MEK succumbs to the American disease of hysteria
The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites.
Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing on the Hill.
Wesley Martin, The Hill, February 12 2017
Americans must be wary of Iranian influence over US media
BY COL. WES MARTIN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 02/12/17 01:00 PM EST
Many seemingly important news reports that gained attention in 2016 turned out to be marred with falsified information.
A major threat to the dissemination of true information to U.S. citizens lies in the existence of suspicious figures sent by foreign countries for the purposes of espionage and influence over U.S. foreign policy.
Iran is a prime example. Its golden age of insider influence has passed with the inauguration of President Trump. The Tehran loyalists no longer have established access to the U. S. State Department and the National Security Council.
But this does not mean Iran’s network of spies and agents in the U.S. are going to stop spreading misinformation. It simply means the primary means of influence has been relegated back to mainstream and social media.
Left unchecked, it still remains a serious problem that cannot be underestimated and deserves due attention. As someone who had to deal with the threat of terrorism firsthand, I appreciate the significance of such due vigilance.
A prime example of Iranian infiltration comes in the form of Masoud Khodabandeh. He introduces himself as the “director of Middle East Strategy Consultants.” As such, he published nine Huffington Post articles in 2016.
Seven of those pieces were focused on spreading fake news and demonizing the main Iranian opposition, the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran/Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).
The MEK believes regime change is needed in Iran as Tehran remains the main source of Islamic fundamentalism and is the number one state sponsor of international terrorism.
It is committed to establishing a democratic government in Iran based on the separation of church and state. As such, the extremist government in Tehran has good cause to be concerned about the MEK.
A report commissioned by the Pentagon and released by the Library of Congress provides an alarming look into the operations of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Services (MOIS) right here in the United States.
“MOIS recruited former members of the (People’s Mujahedin of Iran) in Europe and used them to launch a disinformation campaign against (PMOI),” the report reads.
Among those named in the Pentagon report are Massoud Khodabandeh and his British wife, Anne. They were recruited by the MOIS in the mid-1990s and used as assets against the opposition before launching the ‘Iran-Interlink’ website explicitly under Tehran’s orders.
The MOIS resorts to character assassination against lawmakers and reporters who hold positive views of the Iranian opposition, aiming to silence their voices.
The Iranian intelligence service also seeks to employ such individuals to influence U.S. and European foreign policy in the hopes of allowing the Iranian regime to remain intact.
Iran’s MOIS has recently attempted to demonize and silence a British politician through the efforts of Khodabandeh’s wife.
The co-author of many of Masoud Khodabandeh’s articles in The Huffington Post under the name Anne Singleton, she accused Lord David Alton of receiving money from the PMOI/MEK in exchange for supporting the Iranian opposition in a letter penned on the Iran-Interlink site.
Singleton, however, failed to provide any evidence for her allegations.
Lord Alton, a lifelong advocate of human rights in the British Parliament, is a professor at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University. He has received many honors.
Most recently, he was awarded the St. Thomas More Religious Freedom Award for his commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 2014, iSight Partners uncovered a three-year espionage campaign, originating in Iran, that used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to deceive victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere.
The Middle East Strategy Consultants seemed bogus from the onset and an investigation of its public records reveals it existed for a very short time before dissolving in 2013. The Huffington Post continues to name Masoud Khodabandeh as the entity’s director.
It is worth noting that all websites used by Khodabandeh, such as mesconult.com, Iran-Interlink and khodabandeh.org are hosted by Ravand Cybertech, an entity run by the Iranian regime, as reported by Stand for Peace, a Jewish-Muslim interfaith organization.
The American Enterprise Institute conducted a very interesting investigation titled, “Growing Cyberthreat from Iran,” providing further Iran-related information of Ravand Cybertech.
Khodabandeh’s profile in The Huffington Post introduces him as an advisor to the Iraqi government.
Their relations with Iraq are nothing but continuous efforts by the Khodabandeh couple to legitimize seven massacres carried out by Iran-backed Iraqi forces against MEK members in two camps outside of Baghdad — Ashraf and Liberty.
Their measures were directed by Danaie Far, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq and a former senior Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander.
Tahar Boumedra, former chief of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Iraq, explained how the Iranian embassy introduced Khodabandeh as an interpreter for the embassy in Iraq.
Many images of Khodabandeh have been posted on the internet showing him in 2011 expressing gratitude to Iraqi military commanders who attacked defenseless MEK members in Camp Ashraf, leaving 36 killed in the process.
In 2010, a number of Iranian regime agents, introducing themselves as relatives to MEK members, installed 300 powerful loudspeakers around Ashraf with support provided by the Iranian embassy and Iraqi army.
These loudspeakers were used to blare deafening sounds, insults and profanity into the camp, as part of psychological torture against the residents.
Khodabandeh’s wife supported this psychological torture by appearing at the scene, advocating these measures and taking images of herself standing near the loudspeakers.
The time has come for America’s mainstream media to distance themselves from Iran’s spies, as these individuals are supporting a regime that is understood to be the world leading state sponsor of terrorism, with the highest per-capita rate of domestic executions.
The American people deserve not to be misled by the false information provided by these intelligence agents.
(End of the article)
Some related documents:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
link to one of the Mojahedin Khalq songs
advocating terror and killing Americans
(In Persian written and distributed after the Iranian Revolution)
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hoo
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hook
They say actions speak louder than words. Looking behind the Twitter storm which creates a smoke and mirrors effect to disguise the Trump administration’s true intents, one fact is blindingly clear; for this government, Iranians are first in the firing line.
This, of itself, is not unexpected. On the campaign trail Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran. So it was already clear he’s no fan of Iranians.
His first act as president has been to issue a direct and belligerent challenge to Iran – he included Iran in the Muslim ban and then declared that Iran is “on notice” after Iran test-fired a ballistic missile which it says is defensive. Iran is clearly in the crosshairs for Trump and his team.
And the evidence stacks up. As a barometer for any individual or even government’s aggressive approach to Iran, support for the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK aka Rajavi cult) is as accurate an indicator as any. The group has advocated violent regime change against Iran for three decades. Its supporters are in doubt that this is a rallying cry for a US-led war.
Even before taking office, revelations about potential Trump administration advisers and officials giving support to the terrorist MEK cult caused concern among foreign policy experts. After all, anti-Iran pundits can choose from literally thousands of civil groups and personalities to act as advisors and partners in challenging Iran. The MEK’s dirty past includes the anti-Imperialistinspired murder of six Americans in pre-revolution Iran which it later celebrated insongs and publications. (The family of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Turner – “We were the first victims of terror before there was ever a war on terror” – is currently seeking redress for his death.) The new president has apparently brushed aside such concerns and has chosen to surround himself with people who have advocated for the MEK.
By not denouncing the MEK Trump has done several things. One is to signal that he is at war not with Iran but with Iranians. The MEK is hated more profoundly than any of Iran’s current political leaders by Iranians inside and outside the country.
He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
But most importantly, this tolerance, even warmth, shown toward the MEK in American foreign policy circles is a message that can be read from afar and by everyone else in the world: the American war box is virtually empty. Aside from a handful of puny sanctions, bringing the MEK into the equation means that not only does the America not have a stick to wave at Iran, it appears foolish enough, befuddled by ideological zeal perhaps, to tie its fate to the most unlucky and doom-laden group there ever was.
Laughably, parasitically, the MEK has consistently tied its fate to whichever it assumed was the winning side. However, the choice of MEK sponsors no longer looks so astute. Ayatollah Khomeini quickly saw through the MEK’s smarmy overtures to share power and promptly exiled them from Iran. The next step was to ally with Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war – a feat of spectacular treachery for which no Iranian will ever forgive them. After Saddam’s fall the MEK believed that the chaos in Iraq which gave rise to the insurrection of Al Qaida in Iraq would somehow carry them forward. The MEK even flirted with support for ISIS and the Syrian Free Army hoping they would find a home in the new Caliphate. Instead, the MEK were evicted from their base and sent into deeper exile in Albania, a country with no axe to grind against Iran. Long term sponsors have included Israel – which tasked MEK operatives with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists – and the anti-Shia Saudi Arabia. Both countries are bogged down with interminable troubles of their own. And now the MEK are hoping to cosy up with the Trump administration.
The Obama administration kept the MEK at arms’ length and never entertained direct support for the group. When the government of Iraq held the US, along with the UN, responsible for removing the MEK from Iraq to a third country, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was forced to agree to remove the MEK from the US terrorism list before any third country would legally be able to accept them on their territory.
Since 2001 Trump’s predecessors have built up strong homeland defences and led counter-terrorism efforts particularly against the threat of ISIS to the US and Europe. It is now likely that this legacy will be squandered by an administration with an overriding hatred of Iran. Instead of understanding the benefit of developing strategic partnerships with countries like Iran and Iraq in the global fight against terrorism, the Trump administration would rather rain down terror on the Iranian people.
But the biggest delusion would be to believe that the MEK could be a reliable or effective partner in any sense. If Donald Trump has any insight into his own modus operandi – the erratic demands and refusal to take criticism – he will have a direct view of how the MEK operates. Aligning America’s foreign policy with the whims of a mind control cult will not secure victory over Iran. Instead, it will diminish America’s standing in the world, and it will certainly not make the world a better or safer place.
Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, Rajavi cult)’s Fake Intelligence On Aleppo Only Hinders Fact-finding Bodies Finding The Truth
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, December 24 2016:… That can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues. The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report …
Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, Rajavi cult)’s Fake Intelligence On Aleppo Only Hinders Fact-finding Bodies Finding The Truth
An article published in the Washington Times Security section claims that (yet again) the Mojahedin Khalq (aka MKO, MEK, NCRI, Rajavi cult, Saddam’s Private Army) has provided intelligence to the West on Iranian crimes and atrocities. However, in terms of actual intelligence revelations, the article should more properly have sat in the Opinion section.
In this post-truth era, it almost goes without saying that facts and fiction rub shoulders in most of the articles reporting on Syria and Aleppo from all sides. But if Western journalists had no presence in Aleppo and uncritically reported hearsay and opinion to support their own agendas, think then what the MEK’s reporting is based on.
The MEK pretends it has some kind of insider knowledge which it can apparently tap into whenever it needs to make a point. Iran, however, has made no secret of its involvement in the Syrian conflict. Newspapers and state run media probably tell us in much greater detail than the Washington Times report about the deployment of fighters and how they are funded. The dead from this conflict are mourned very publicly inside Iran. It is disingenuous of the MEK to merely recycle this information as a ‘revelation’
But the MEK is notorious for its role as a misinformation and propaganda outlet. Variously over the years, the MEK has been exposed for false reporting and intelligence in issues such as the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. After passing one piece of genuine intelligence in 2002 which it was given by Mossad, the MEK continued to pass fake information to the IAEA so as to disrupt the negotiation process, and to enable the US to impose severe sanctions against Iran. In 2015 the MEK ‘shock revelation’ of a secret nuclear facility in Iran – intended to derail ongoing nuclear negotiations – when subjected to just a little bit of investigatory journalism was soon revealed as sheer fabrication. The MEK similarly muddied the waters of truth during investigations into the bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina in 1994 for which MEK supplied intelligence implicated Iran.
Iran and Russia’s behaviour and agendas have their own place in these issues which should be rigorously investigated and reported. But that can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues.
The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report from the NCRI site of Maryam Rajavi. The NCRI site then reposts its own report as though it originated in the Washington Times and both, without further verification, get taken up by Fox News.
National Security: Could Maryam Rajavi (Mojahedin Khalq) blackmail her friends in high places – Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, November 12 2016:… In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation (also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult). It is certain that …
National Security: Could Maryam Rajavi (Mojahedin Khalq) blackmail her friends in high places – Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich
As the reverberations of the American election echo and ripple across America and around the world, some of its repercussions are already being felt – demonstrations, racist attacks, global market and currency fluctuations, the Russian reaction and more. But as President-elect Trump considers who to appoint to the most influential positions in his Administration, the hopeful candidates may want to consider repercussions which may arise from their own backgrounds.
In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation(also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult).
Newt Gingrich bows to Maryam Rajavi
It is certain that neither these three hopefuls nor the MEK believed they would make a comeback. Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich are not Republican favourites. But apparently, with the election of Donald Trump, their time has come. The MEK also didn’t think Trump could win and therefore advertised for Hillary Clinton in their websites.
Rudi Giuliani with Maryam Rajavi
In American politics, such things can be quickly glossed over, dismissed as political strategies. But Donald Trump does need to take this past into consideration. What Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich do not know is that the MEK have a full record of all their meetings, dialogue and discussions. After being tutored by Saddam’s Intelligence service the MEK learned to film and record every conversation with an external person, particularly people like Rudi Giuliani, on every occasion whether in the US, Paris or Europe, even during dinner gatherings. This means that every time they hosted speakers and supporters in Paris or America these meetings were recorded. The MEK is now in possession of hundreds of hours of audio/video recordings as well as emails and phone calls of individuals like these three who have been mingling openly over the past decade with people they took to be ordinary oppositionists, but were in fact trained agents of the MEK and Saddam. The recordings can be edited and published by the MEK to suit the time, need and place.
John Bolton with Mojahedin Khalq operatives
The MEK’s hope was, of course, that by recording these private conversations they could be used in future to pressurise or even blackmail individuals if needed. They perhaps didn’t have any hope then that these individuals would reach such high office. As such this is a national security concern for the US. No one knows what is in the tapes and no one knows how these three, who have done everything for a fee in the past, would be able to stop the MEK from exposing them.
These three entered into paid lobbying for a group such as Mojahedin Khalq knowingly (perhaps not envisaging a day which they could be back in the game) accepting the end of their careers as officials. If they are now brought back and appointed to key positions, US policy could simply be taken hostage by a notorious terrorist organisation such as the Mojahedin Khalq.
Even if these three gave assurances that the paid support they gave to Maryam Rajavi and her terrorist cult Mojahedin Khalq has been done purely on straightforward lobbying grounds, no one can be certain that a decade of recordings and document gathering by the MEK would not end up producing enough leverage to highjack the national security of the United States and or its allies across the globe.
President Trump (and security advisors) simply can’t afford to take such a risk with the future of the country.
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? From whom is she hoping to garner support?Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s …
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
Co-authored by Anne Khodabandeh
The Middle East is in turmoil. Deaths and destruction are a daily occurrence throughout the region. Families flee their homes in fear, forced into an uncertain future. No end is in sight. Yet into this calamitous scenario a slick, sophisticated terrorist recruiter’s advert has popped up which ISIS itself could learn from.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) website carries a glamorous advertising campaign for a Grand Gathering. Surrounded by glitzy pictures of flag-waving youth, the central focus of this gathering is ‘Our pledge: regime change’.
Well, we all know what that means. Don’t we? Apparently not. Because this advertising doesn’t reflect the destruction wrought in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen. Here is no promise of jihad and the caliphate. It looks very much like a carnival. Which is exactly what it is – a show. So, what is meant by the promise of regime change?
The first port of call is to understand that the NCRI is just another name for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) which was also known as the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA).
Back in 1994, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi tasked his wife Maryam to leave Iraq for America in order to regain political recognition of the Mojahedin Khalq as ‘the’ Iranian opposition which had been lost when he refused to abandon Saddam Hussein during the First Gulf war.
Refused entry to the USA as the leader of a terrorist entity Maryam instead took up residence in France as a refugee. But instead of meeting politicians to talk about how the MEK could overthrow the Iranian regime, she discovered she could simply create the illusion of support by paying both audience and speakers. She discovered a talent for dressing up, holding fancy dinner parties and talking about her cult ideology.
To create the appearance of a willing audience for her views, she recruited a rag-tag following of Iranian economic refugees who would happily turn up when paid for their services. She paid for feminists from North America, Europe and Scandinavia to visit Auvers-sur-Oise and attend dinner parties. She posed in her hijab to speak about her version of feminism to these western women; carefully spelling it out for them that they would never really understand what feminism is until they understood her husband Massoud Rajavi.
When Massoud recalled her to Iraq in 1997 she had spent a third of the total MEK budget and had no political support to show for it. She had lost around half the loyal MEK members who had defected whilst in Europe. With morale at an all-time low, Maryam was forced to retreat to Iraq with what remained of her personnel and leave the western bases in the hands of largely uneducated paid ‘supporters’.
When allied forces next invaded Iraq in 2003 Maryam Rajavi again fled to France. This time, as luck would have it, western politics was focused on curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme which it insisted was aimed at creating a nuclear weapon. The MEK’s services as propaganda experts were just what was needed, ensuring the MEK’s ostensible survival as an opposition group.
But in reality the MEK was already in terminal decline. Its fighting forces, disarmed in 2003, are currently being transferred from Iraq to Albania by the UNHCR to begin a process of de-radicalisation and reintegration back into normal society. Nobody expects veterans with an average age of sixty to wage the terrorism of thirty years ago. Disarmament also allowed American experts to investigate years of complaints about human rights and cultic abuses inside the MEK. As long as the MEK was being used to muddy the waters of the nuclear negotiations, such details could be glossed over. But since last year when agreement was reached, the MEK’s murky past can no longer be dismissed.
The main reason, of course, is that the new theme for challenging Iran in the international community is based on the country’s dismal human rights record. But Maryam Rajavi has her own well documented human rights abuse dossier to answer for. The MEK, under whatever name it is used, is simply the wrong tool to use to demonise Iran.
Beyond this, the MEK is not the popular opposition its own advertising claims it to be. The group is almost universally despised among Iranians both inside the country and in the diaspora. Not only did the MEK fight alongside Saddam Hussein’s army during the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq war, but the MEK’s anti-Iran role in the nuclear negotiations hit a nerve with most ordinary Iranians who regarded support for their country’s right to nuclear technology as an issue ofnationalism rather than politics.
Maryam Rajavi cannot get support from Iranians unless it is paid for. Nor can Maryam Rajavi deign to share a platform with any other Iranian opposition personality. So this year Maryam Rajavi will again do what she does best; pay audience and speakers alike to give the illusion of support.
So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious reporting outlet – she then proposes a ten-point plan for Iran, approved this year by Italian parliamentarians. And then she promises regime change.
Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? From whom is she hoping to garner support?
Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s websites are home to a bizarre mixture of anti-Shia, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, items which reflect very closely the views of neocons, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Maryam Rajavi is not promising regime change, she is advertising her services as a propaganda queen.
Maryam Rajavi’s lobbyist convicted for child sexual abuse
BBC, April 11 2016:… All the victims “struggled and are still struggling” with what Hastert did to them, prosecutors argue. Hastert made them feel “alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity”, they say. Hastert, who retired in 2007 after serving as House Speaker for eight years, will be sentenced later this month for concealing the large sums of money he paid to Individual A to buy his silence. Between 2010 and 2012 he withdrew $750,000 in lump sums of $50,000 …
Maryam Rajavi’s lobbyist convicted for child sexual abuse
Dennis Hastert ‘paid hush money to cover up sex abuse’
Hastert has pleaded guilty to lying and breaking financial laws
Prosecutors are seeking a six-month jail sentence for disgraced former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is alleged to have paid hush money to cover up sex abuse.
Court documents say Hastert agreed to pay $3.5m (£2.5m) to a person he sexually abused when the victim was aged 14 and Hastert was working as a teacher and wrestling coach.
Prosecutors allege he abused five boys.
The 74-year-old has admitted lying and breaking financial laws.
The plea represents a dramatic fall for the former senior Republican politician, who has had his portrait removed from the House of Representatives in the US Congress.
The alleged abuse happened while Hastert was working in Yorkville, a suburb of Chicago, between 1965 and 1981. Three of the victims were wrestlers on a team he coached.
He cannot be charged with sexual abuse as the statute of limitations has expired in the cases.
One of the victims – referred to in court documents as Individual A – said Hastert had stayed with him in a motel room on the way back from a trip to a wrestling camp and touched him inappropriately.
Two of the others, aged 14 and 17, said Hastert had performed sex acts on them in the locker room at the high school in Yorkville.
All the victims “struggled and are still struggling” with what Hastert did to them, prosecutors argue. Hastert made them feel “alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity”, they say.
Dennis Hastert along side other American paid speakers in Mojahedin Khalq terrorists gathering in Paris
Hastert, who retired in 2007 after serving as House Speaker for eight years, will be sentenced later this month for concealing the large sums of money he paid to Individual A to buy his silence.
Between 2010 and 2012 he withdrew $750,000 in lump sums of $50,000 before learning of rules requiring banks to report large transactions.
After that he withdrew a further $952,000 in lump sums of less than $10,000 between 2012 and 2014.
He was able to pay Individual A $1.7m in payments of $100,000 before being questioned by the FBI in 2014 about his withdrawals.
One of the reasons he gave for the large withdrawals was that he was being blackmailed by someone making a false claim of sex abuse.
He agreed to let investigators record phone conversations he had with Individual A, but prosecutors said the “tone and comments” of Individual A in the conversations were “inconsistent with someone committing extortion”.
In a deal with prosecutors, he admitted the charge of “structuring and assisting in structuring currency transactions” by removing small sums of money to avoid the transactions being reported.
However, the charge of lying to FBI investigators is set to be dropped.
Defence lawyers want Hastert to be spared jail because they say he is suffering from ill health.
He is due to be sentenced on 27 April.
Dennis Hastert before the fall – Maryam Rajavi’s Villepinte speaker 2014
JOSH GERSTEIN, Poitico, June 12 2015:… Hastert, 73, was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he arranged nearly $1 million bank withdrawals to avoid filing disclosure reports, then lied to the FBI about it. The money was allegedly part of a $3.5 million payment Hastert agreed to make to an unidentified former male student over what was reportedly …
Dennis Hastert before the fall
Papers from the former House speaker’s congressional years suggest there was more than a touch of hypocrisy in his long record as a staunch social conservative.
Just before his election as House speaker in 1999, Dennis Hastert spearheaded legislation to prevent use of the Internet to encourage sexual acts with children. As he often did, Hastert invoked his personal history “as a father and a person who has dealt with public schools for a long time” to urge passage.
“We must continue to be proactive warding off pedophiles and other creeps who want to take advantage of our children,” Hastert said, according to an account of an Internet forum he held in his congressional district.
Known among his colleagues as “the Coach,” Hastert cultivated a nice-guy image and man-of-the-people persona during his years on Capitol Hill. But papers from Hastert’s congressional years suggest that there was more than a touch of hypocrisy in Hastert’s long record as a staunch social conservative.
Long after he’d become a powerful figure on Capitol Hill, Hastert reflected often about the values and strategy he learned in 16 years teaching at Yorkville High School in Illinois. He never gave a hint that there was a darker side to his early career as a teacher, coach and Explorer Scout leader, a picture that has begun to emerge since his May 28 indictment on federal charges.
“I’m sure you can understand how important wrestling is for the development of adolescents in their crucial high school years,” he wrote in a 2005 letter to a retiring Maryland wrestling coach. “And in my role as Speaker of the House, I still employ many of my old coaching techniques while trying to achieve our goals here on Capitol Hill.”
Hastert, 73, was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he arranged nearly $1 million bank withdrawals to avoid filing disclosure reports, then lied to the FBI about it. The money was allegedly part of a $3.5 million payment Hastert agreed to make to an unidentified former male student over what was reportedly past sexual misconduct. The sister of another former Hastert student, who died two decades ago — Steve Reinboldt — has accused Hastert of victimizing her brother but said the family never sought money.
Hastert’s extensive collection of personal papers and memorabilia, housed at Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, offers few clues about his relationships with former students or insights into any of the ethical scandals that rocked the House during his tenure as the chamber’s longest-serving Republican speaker. A Wheaton archivist gave POLITICO permission to review the files but asked that extensive document use be approved by Hastert’s former chief of staff, Scott Palmer. Palmer did not return phone calls or emails.
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left.
Hastert co-sponsored a successful effort to impose stiff federal criminal penalties for Web-based pedophiles, a cause that he said was inspired by a mother’s visit to his Batavia district office. The woman told Hastert that her 9-year-old daughter had been targeted on the Internet by a sexual predator, creating such fear that the family moved to a city in Hastert’s district. Hastert issued a concerned letter to constituents to flag the dangers.
“This bill sends a strong message to the most heinous of criminals who prey upon our children — you will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Hastert said at the time.
Hastert billed himself as a social conservative from his earliest days in the Illinois Legislature, when he sided with the Moral Majority to fight a bill barring discrimination against gays.
The Hastert congressional files show that his influence escalated dramatically with his selection as speaker. Republican members wrote him to try to schedule floor debates and appealed to him for seats on their favorite committees. His mailbox was filled with requests from members like former former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe who wanted re-appointment to the board that supervised the House page program, and Florida Rep. Mark Foley, who wanted to join a parliamentary exchange with NATO countries.
“The need to represent U.S. interests and work to strengthen our ties with NATO is more pressing now than ever before,” Foley, from West Palm Beach, wrote to Hastert in December 2004.
Two years later, Foley led Hastert into one of the biggest scandals of his career. Foley was accused in 2006 of sending sexually explicit text messages to male teenagers in the House page program and showing up inebriated at the page dormitory. Hastert’s office was criticized for failing to act promptly when Foley’s behavior was first reported. The House page program never recovered and was disbanded in 2011. There appear to be no hints of that scandal in Hastert’s papers.
Throughout his congressional years, Hastert traveled widely on taxpayer-funded congressional delegations with staff and other members, leading CODELS to Russia, Korea, Israel and Colombia. He collected gifts — a sterling silver clock from 10 Downing Street, an etching from Russia — and eventually donated them to the archives, along with boxes of awards from groups like the National Pork Producers Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
After resigning in 2007 to pursue a lobbying career, Hastert again ventured far from his Plano, Illinois, home with adventures in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Some of the travel and push for greater income came in 2010, when federal prosecutors contend the former speaker struck a deal to pay an acquaintance $3.5 million to keep quiet about Hastert’s “past misconduct.”
Because of the federal charges, Hastert’s early dealings with legal and judicial figures are getting special scrutiny. The federal judge assigned to Hastert’s criminal case, Thomas Durkin, formally recused himself Tuesday because of perceptions about his ties to the former speaker and others involved in the case. However, the judge said he would not ultimately step aside if both the prosecution and defense agree he should continue.
At Hastert’s arraignment, Durkin detailed his work with Hastert’s son Ethan at a Chicago-based law firm and $1,500 in donations made to the former speaker’s reelection campaigns over a decade ago. Durkin also noted that his brother Jim is the Republican minority leader of the Illinois House.
Hastert’s archival files reveal yet another connection: Jim Durkin once lobbied Hastert to block proposed federal legislation that would have ended a program offering prosecutors a public-service forgiveness for student debt. “This is not a time in which government should be eliminating resources but rather investing resources in a system whose integrity has been challenged,” Jim Durkin wrote to Hastert in 2000.
If the current judge gives up Hastert’s case, the former speaker’s files show ties to other judges who might take it over.
In a 2005 thank-you note, then-Illinois Solicitor General Gary Feinerman said he was “deeply grateful” to Hastert for his support in a potential nomination for a federal judgeship in Chicago. Feinerman didn’t make it to the bench at that time but got the nod from President Barack Obama in 2009 and was confirmed to the lifetime post the next year. (Judge Durkin acknowledged in court Tuesday that he’d sought similar help from Hastert’s office to win his appointment.)
The Hastert records also show federal judges in Illinois reaching out to him for help funding courthouse renovations and increased security after the 2005 murders of the husband and mother of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow. One such plea came from the chief district court judge in Chicago at the time, Charles Kocoras, who asked Hastert to give more resources to the U.S. Marshals Service for security systems for judges’ homes and other security measures.
Hastert’s files don’t appear to contain a reply. Kocoras is now overseeing a federal civil lawsuit filed against the former speaker by an ex-business partner, David John, who claims Hastert used taxpayer funds to advance his lobbying career. Kocoras has dismissed the case twice but another attempt to refile the suit is pending.
Hastert’s files also show that in 2005, Hastert met with top leaders of the FBI in Chicago to urge them to combat money laundering in connection with drug trafficking. Hastert now stands charged with a type of money-laundering offense, known as structuring, for breaking nearly $1 million in cash withdrawals into increments of less than $10,000 in order to avoid federal reporting requirements.
In the main, though, the records illustrate the rise of an Illinois farm boy to a government leader who mingled with presidents and foreign potentates. The files also show how ordinary folk from Illinois— including some former students — streamed into Hastert’s Capitol Hill office and signed the guest register.
The archives include notes of thanks and friendship from nearly every former U.S. president alive during Hastert’s tenure as speaker. “I am so very proud of your leadership,” George H.W. Bush wrote on a Walker’s Point card in 2001, adding a “#41” to his signature.
“Thanks for coming to the ranch,” President-Elect George W. Bush wrote in December 2000. “Together we can make a real difference for our country.”
President Bill Clinton penned a handwritten thank-you note to Hastert for coming along on a trip to South America. “The day in Colombia was great,” Clinton wrote in 2000.
A 1999 note from former President Jimmy Carter said he and wife Rosalynn enjoyed Hastert’s appearance on a PBS show and “appreciate the difficulty of your job and also the way you are approaching your duties.”
There are personal notes from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A letter from singer Bono declined an invite to a St. Patrick’s Day event but called a Hastert-hosted party at the 2004 GOP convention “hugely memorable.”
Hastert’s 2005 surgery to remove kidney stones brought well wishes from politicians of all stripes. “I don’t know what brings those on — raising hell with Democrats?” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joked.
The papers also hint at Hastert’s religious devotion. One file includes a copy of music from a church hymnal and, on the opposite side, an extremely ornate cross hand-drawn in ink.
In the lower right hand corner, the sketch is signed: “Dennis Hastert.”
Tarini Parti contributed to this report.