Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK Terrorists

Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK Terrorists

Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK TerroristsDW, Deutsche Welle, January 22 2020:… The US and Albania reached a humanitarian agreement and in 2013, thousands of MEK members were resettled to the Balkan country. Indeed, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said following Khamenei’s threats the resettlement resulted from his country’s “unwavering alliance” with the US. Rama concedes that taking in the MEK members poses a risk for Albania. Yet he said it was a risk that “also honors and keeps alive the Albanian tradition” — by which he means the country’s previous role in protecting Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Albania deported not one single Jew to Nazi Germany. Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK Terrorists 

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Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK Terrorists

Iran lashes out against Albania after Soleimani killing

As tension between the US and Iran escalate, NATO member Albania finds itself in the crosshairs of the Islamic Republic.

The MEK in Albania

After the recent assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike and ensuing saber-rattling between the two countries, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, lashed out against a surprising target: Albania, a tiny Balkan country on the edge of southeast Europe and NATO member state. “There is a small but evil European country in which Americans and traitors against Iran got together to conspire against the Islamic Republic.”

Albania has become caught up in the escalating conflict between the US and Iran. Indeed, leaders in the capital, Tirana, welcomed Soleimani’s assassination; they immediately expelled two Iranian diplomats, reportedly for engaging in activities deemed unacceptable for diplomats.

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A ‘steadfast alliance’

But why, exactly, is Albania involved in this US-Iranian standoff? The connection goes back several years and involves members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a formerly Iraq-based group that has endeavored to bring down the Iranian regime. After former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted, MEK members in the country found themselves under attack from Iranian rocket strikes. The Iranian leadership regards the group as a terrorist organization; the group, however, has ties to the US, which then arranged for fellow NATO member state and staunch Washington ally Albania to grant refuge to over 3,000 [Correct number is 2100 -Iran Interlink] MEK members.

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The US and Albania reached a humanitarian agreement and in 2013, thousands of MEK members were resettled to the Balkan country. Indeed, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said following Khamenei’s threats the resettlement resulted from his country’s “unwavering alliance” with the US.

Rama concedes that taking in the MEK members poses a risk for Albania. Yet he said it was a risk that “also honors and keeps alive the Albanian tradition” — by which he means the country’s previous role in protecting Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Albania deported not one single Jew to Nazi Germany.

MEK members fear for their safety

Behzad Saffari, Saddam's Private Army Commander On Trial In AlbaniaBehzad Saffari, Saddam’s Private Army Commander On Trial In Albania

The MEK members live in a large, high-security camp near the coastal city of Durres, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Tirana. But now that Iran has vowed to avenge the killing of General Soleimani, they are increasingly concerned for their safety. While camp security has been tightened, MEK legal adviser Behzad Saffari told DW the group does not feel safe anywhere.

“The terrorism of the Iranian regime poses a threat to us everywhere in the world. The Iranian embassy in Tirana, and those in other European capitals, are centers of terrorist operations of the regime,” he told DW, adding that German security agencies had confirmed that Iranian spy operations were targeting the group.

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The organization has welcomed Albania’s expulsion of Iranian diplomats. Saffari praised the move, saying “this is a courageous and honorable step in the fight against terrorism and for the protection of Albanian national security. And it protects Iranian dissidents in exile.”

Albania in the crosshairs

But even prior to the Soleimani killing, MEK resettlement to Albania had already caused considerable tensions between the Balkan state and Iran. In October 2019, for example, Albanian police uncovered an Iranian-controlled terrorist cell that was aiming to carry out attacks on MEK members in the Balkans. Albanian police believe the group is part of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

Albanian security expert Redion Qiriazi says the Balkan country is increasingly under threat from the Iranian regime, and that cyber attacks and terrorism pose the biggest danger. According to Qiriazi, Iran possesses “stable and experienced resources” in this regard. He believes Iran could mount attacks on Albanian territory, or on Albanian forces serving as part of international missions abroad, for example in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Behzad Saffari in Iraq and AlbaniaBehzad Saffari in Iraq and Albania

MEK adviser Saffari warns that such attacks pose a danger not only for Albania but the entire Balkan region. “Iran’s long-term strategy is to turn the Balkans into a gateway for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Europe,” he told DW. Speaking at a Tirana security conference earlier this month, US General Michael Barber also warned that Albania must remain vigilant as all US allies may be targeted by Iran. In a reference to the trans-Atlantic bloc’s cornerstone agreement to wage common defense, he assured the country that the US and NATO would stand by its side: “The alliance will respond to any attack on one of its members.”

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Albanians Pay The Price For Hosting MEK Terrorists

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US Imposed MEK Terrorists Put Albanians At Risk

US Imposed MEK Terrorists Put Albanians At RiskElis Gjevori, TRT World, January 16 2020:… In 2014, under US pressure, Albania took in more than 4,000 members [Correct number is 2100 – Iran Interlink] of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) a secretive group formerly based Iraq. “Albania is hosting one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations on behalf of the United States,” says Dr Olsi Jazexhi, an Albanian academic and expert who has been tracking MEK activities in Albania. “The Americans imposed them [MEK] on Albania and since Albania is a very fragile state they had to accept. The same thing was done by Prime Minister Edi Rama who is still hosting MEK in Albania,” Jazexhi tells TRT World. Considered a terrorist group by Iran, the MEK was also listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department until 2012. US Imposed MEK Terrorists Put Albanians At Risk 

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US Imposed MEK Terrorists Put Albanians At Risk

Albania becomes a front line in the proxy battle between Iran and the US

By hosting the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) on behalf of the US, despite the group being labelled a terrorist organisation by Iran, Albania has drawn the ire of Supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

The acting Albanian foreign minister Gent Cakaj announced on his Facebook account that an additional two Iranian diplomats would be expelled from Albania. This follows a decision in 2018 which expelled the Iranian ambassador and has made Albania a frontline in a clash between the United States and Iran.

The decision to expel the Iranian diplomats seems likely a result of the comments made by Iran’s powerful Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the aftermath of Qasem Soleimani’s assassination at the hands of the US in which he said: “In a very small European country but an evil country in Europe, there are American elements with some Iranian traitors, they got together to conspire against the Islamic Republic.”

In 2014, under US pressure, Albania took in more than 4,000 members [Correct number is 2100 – Iran Interlink] of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) a secretive group formerly based Iraq.

Albania is hosting one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations on behalf of the United States,” says Dr Olsi Jazexhi, an Albanian academic and expert who has been tracking MEK activities in Albania.

“The Americans imposed them [MEK] on Albania and since Albania is a very fragile state they had to accept. The same thing was done by Prime Minister Edi Rama who is still hosting MEK in Albania,” Jazexhi tells TRT World.

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“The Americans imposed them [MEK] on Albania and since Albania is a very fragile state they had to accept. The same thing was done by Prime Minister Edi Rama who is still hosting MEK in Albania,” Jazexhi tells TRT World.

Considered a terrorist group by Iran, the MEK was also listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department until 2012.

The Obama administration re-designated the group and formalised a relationship that the US had been cultivating covertly, protecting the group in Iraq at a US military base, then under American occupation.

“The reason for the MEK being brought to Albania is the general ignorance of Albanian politicians who do not understand the danger of international terrorism and the implications that this terrorism has on nation-states” added Jazexhi.

The MEK is a militant political organisation that subscribes to an unusual mixture of Marxist and Islamic ideology.

It has been accused of killing of American military personnel, bombing American companies and targeting innocent Iranian civilians during a campaign of terror over several decades.

A report by the US media outlet NBC News suggested that the group is being financed by Israeli intelligence and was also behind a string of assassinations targeting Iran’s nuclear scientists between 2007 and 2015.

“The MEK is deeply despised in Iran, they fought for Saddam Hussein against Iran for eight years. Then they spied for the Americans and the Israelis, they are mercenaries and a cult group,” said Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran.

Former members of the MEK have spoken out about the oppressive cult-like rules enforced in the organisation, including marriages that have to be arranged by the leadership. There have been reports that the organisation has at times asked its followers to divorce en masse and locked up and even killed members who have criticised the dogma of Maryam Rajavi, the current head of the MEK.

“No one in Iran has any sympathy or respect for them [MEK], they are traitors to the country. They are tools of Western powers. Thousands of them are working as an online army in Albania,” said Marandi speaking to TRT World.

Earlier this year The Intercept, an online investigative publication reported on how the MEK had created a fake online persona called Heshmat Alavi in order to spread propaganda against the Iranian government, including advocating for regime change.

The so-called writer Alavi was managed in part from Albania and had fooled many American publications who had published the fake persona’s writing.

“Using different aliases on the internet, on Facebook as well as Twitter” they have managed to create a digital army, says Marandi, adding: “These social platforms do not block their activities because it is done in coordination with the US government and also they carry out spying activities in Iran.”

The US assassination of Iranian general Soleimani and the subsequent retaliation by Tehran in a series of rocket attacks on US bases underscores the dangerous manoeuvrings between the two powers and the potential to suck in other countries, including the small Balkan state of Albania.

“Albania has become the most dangerous country in the world for Iran after the United States and Israel,” says Jazexhi.

“While the United States and Israel are in open conflict with Iran, Albania by hosting MEK has become a major centre of anti-Iranian propaganda in the world.

The MEK doesn’t lack powerful friends in Washington and in particular enjoys close ties with the hawkish Trump administration. In 2017 the group paid National Security Adviser John Bolton and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani for speaking engagements.

With powerful friends like this, Albanian politicians don’t “dare to do anything” says Jazexhi even though “the majority of Albanians are appalled by what the government is doing.”

The MEK could also be acting against the Albanian penal code says Jazexhi.

“The Albanian penal code states very clearly that if a person or a group of people incites to fight against a foreign country or incites people or asks people to participate in a conflict in a foreign country they could be persecuted for this,” adds Jazexhi.

MEK actions in an impoverished country like Albania, which is still struggling to emerge from a communist dictatorship, doesn’t bode well for its long term stability or rule of law. Iraq has become a battleground of influence between the US and Iran, a faraway conflict for many Albanians.

“When you host terrorists and you aid terrorists than you should be afraid of suffering the consequences. These are not normal people,” says Marandi. “The Albanian government is foolish to cooperate in such a way with the Americans.”

Albanian President Ilir Meta shot back at comments made by Khamenei saying: “Albania is not a devilish country, but a democratic one.” However, Meta made no mention of the lack of democratic structures within the MEK and the human rights violations it has been accused of.

“MEK with its paramilitary camps that they have in Manza, Albania has created a state within a state,” says Jazexhi and as tensions between Iran and the US continue to heat up the role that the MEK is playing in Albania could also make it another theatre of conflict.

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US Imposed MEK Terrorists Put Albanians At Risk

Link to the source

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