Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, April 09 2019:… Democrats including former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Republicans such as former New York mayor (and Trump apologist) Rudy Giuliani or current National Security Advisor John Bolton have spoken at rallies sponsored by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) an Iranian exile group that was listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department from 1997 to 2012. The MEK is despised within Iran for its past collaboration with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but that didn’t prevent it from recruiting a wide array of prominent Americans to its side, many of whom received lucrative speakers’ fees. See how easy this is?
America Is Wide Open for Foreign Influence (Including MEK terrorist group)
If you’re an outsider with a political agenda, there’s no better country to target than the United States.
Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia, the idea of territorial sovereignty has been central to how most of us think about international politics and foreign policy. Although a huge amount of activity occurs across state borders, one of the chief tasks of any government is to defend the nation’s territory and make sure—to the extent it can—that outsiders are not in position to interfere in harmful ways. But for all the effort and expense devoted to keeping harmful influences out, sometimes countries wind up locking and bolting the windows while leaving the front door wide open.
Take the mighty United States, for example. It has a vast Department of Homeland Security, whose job is to defend its borders from international terrorism, illegal migration, drug smuggling, customs violations, and other dangers. The United States has intelligence agencies monitoring dangerous developments all over the world to keep them from harming Americans at home. It has spent trillions of dollars on a sophisticated nuclear arsenal designed to deter a hostile country from attacking the U.S. homeland directly, and it’s spent additional hundreds of billions of dollars pursuing the holy grail of missile defense. Americans now worry about cyberthreats of various kinds, including the possibility that foreign powers like Russia might be interfering in U.S. elections or sowing division and false information via social media. And then there’s President Donald Trump’s obsession with that southern wall, which he declares is necessary to keep the Republican base riled up—oops, sorry, I meant to say “is necessary to protect us from impoverished refugees or other undesirables.”
Given all the time, effort, and money the United States devotes to defending the realm against outside intrusions, it is ironic that the United States may also be the most permeable political system in modern history. More than any great power’s that I can think of, America’s political system is wide open to foreign interference in a variety of legitimate and illegitimate ways. I’m not talking about foreign bots infecting the national mind via social media—though that is a worrisome possibility. I’m talking about foreign governments or other interests that use a variety of familiar avenues to shape U.S. perceptions and persuade the U.S. government to do things that these outsiders want it to do, even when it might not be in America’s broader interest.
Suppose you were a foreign government, or perhaps an opposition movement challenging a foreign regime. Suppose further that you wanted to get America on your side, or maybe you just wanted to make sure that the United States didn’t use its considerable power against you. What avenues of influence are available to achieve your goal?
Obviously, you can use traditional diplomatic channels. You can tell your official representatives (ministers, ambassadors, consular officers, envoys, etc.) to meet with the relevant U.S. counterparts and plead your case. While they’re at it, your official representatives could also shmooz with other members of the executive branch and try to win them over too. There’s nothing remotely dodgy here; it’s just the usual workings of the normal diplomatic machinery. And sometimes that’s all you’ll need, especially when your interests and America’s interests really do coincide.
But you don’t have to stop there. For example, you could also take your case up to Capitol Hill. There are 435 representatives and 100 senators, and that’s an awful lot of potential points of access. Most of them don’t care a fig about foreign policy (and know even less), but some of them do care and a few of them have real clout. If you can win over a respected and well-placed representative or senator—or even just persuade one of their top aides—there’s a good chance a lot of the other lawmakers will follow their lead. Back in the 1950s, for example, Sen. William Knowland (R-Calif.) was often derided as the “Senator from Formosa” because of his consistent opposition to communist China and ardent support for Taiwan. More recently, Beltway denizen Randy Scheunemann was both a paid lobbyist for the government of Georgia and a top foreign-policy aide to the late Republican Sen. John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign, which may help explain why the latter was such an ardent defender of Georgia during its 2008 war with Russia.
On top of that, there are plenty of politicians outside Congress who might be enlisted to your cause as well. Over the past decade or more, for example, Democrats including former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean and Republicans such as former New York mayor (and Trump apologist) Rudy Giuliani or current National Security Advisor John Bolton have spoken at rallies sponsored by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) an Iranian exile group that was listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department from 1997 to 2012. The MEK is despised within Iran for its past collaboration with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but that didn’t prevent it from recruiting a wide array of prominent Americans to its side, many of whom received lucrative speakers’ fees. See how easy this is?
But wait, there’s more! Foreign governments, corporations, and opposition movements can also hire public relations firms and professional lobbyists to clean up their public image, lobby politicians directly, and try to get influential Americans to see them as valuable partners. In his amusing but disturbing book Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship, the journalist Ken Silverstein showed how eager D.C. PR firms were to serve as the paid agents of a ruthless Central Asian dictator, along with the various ways that savvy spin doctors can scrub a despot’s reputation and get them access to influential people in Washington. The sad news is that Silverstein’s saga is far from atypical.
And don’t forget the rest of the Blob. In recent years, for example, we’ve learned that several prominent D.C. think tanks took millions of dollars from foreign governments eager to enhance their visibility, presence, and influence in Washington. The receiving organizations predictably denied that the money had the slightest influence on what they did, said, wrote, or believed, but former employees tell a different story. And yes, I know: Universities are not immune to temptation either.
The influence of self-interested foreigners increases even more when they can partner with domestic groups that share their objectives, and that will use their testimony to sell whatever course of action they are trying to promote. The most notorious recent example of this phenomenon was the infamous Iraqi schemer Ahmed Chalabi, who joined forces with American neoconservatives to help sell the Iraq War in 2003. Foreign voices like Chalabi’s often exercise disproportionate influence because they are (falsely) perceived as objective experts with extensive local knowledge, making uninformed, gullible, or mendacious Americans more likely to heed their advice. It is usually a good idea to listen to what foreign witnesses have to say about conditions far away provided that one never forgets that they may be telling Americans what they think they want to hear or feeding Americans false information designed to advance their interests at America’s expense.
Notice I haven’t said a word about espionage, bribery, or more ordinary forms of corruption, though each can be another way for foreign powers to advance their aims inside America’s borders. After all, when the U.S. president continues to defy the emoluments clause of the Constitution, and when his son-in-law and White House advisor is still financially connected to a real estate firm that recently got bailed out by a Qatari-backed investment company, one may legitimately wonder whether key foreign-policy decisions are being influenced by the personal financial interests of the president or his entourage. Trademarks in China, anyone?
Last but by no means least, foreign governments (or in some cases opposition groups) can also benefit from support by Americans with a strong attachment to the countries in question. Ethnic lobbying by Greek Americans, Polish Americans, Irish Americans, Indian Americans, Jewish Americans, and other ethnic groups has been part of the U.S. political scene for more than a century, and foreign governments understand that such groups can be a valuable asset. As an official Indian government commission noted back in 2002, Indian Americans “have effectively mobilised on issues ranging from the nuclear test in 1999 to Kargil … and lobbied effectively on other issues of concern to the Indian community. … The Indian community in the United States constitutes an invaluable asset in strengthening India’s relationship with the world’s only superpower.”
To be clear: Americans holding strong attachments to a foreign country are free to express their views and try to influence what the government does, regardless of whether their particular attachment is based on ethnicity, ideology, family connections, or personal experience (such as tourism, a Peace Corps stint, or whatever). That’s how our system of interest group politics works. Nonetheless, India and other countries have also recognized that Americans with powerful connections are a potent source of political influence, and it would be naive to expect them not to take advantage of it.
This issue is not one-sided, of course. The permeability of the U.S. political system allows more sources of information to penetrate U.S. politics and undoubtedly contributes to a broader understanding of complicated international problems in some cases. U.S. foreign policy would be even less effective if Americans tried to wall the country off—sorry, Donald!—or if they foolishly tried to bar politicians from talking to people from other parts of the world. So my warnings are not a recommendation for a head-in-the-sand approach to the outside world.
Rather, it is an argument for a more hardheaded, cynical, and realistic approach to the influence that foreigners invariably seek to exercise over U.S. foreign policy. As long as the U.S. political system is so permeable, it behooves Americans to treat foreign efforts to shape their thinking with due discretion. It also requires preserving a sophisticated and independent analytic capacity of their own, so that they can distinguish when they are gaining useful information and when they are being conned. Americans should always be willing to exchange ideas with others—including their adversaries, by the way—but let’s try not to be foolish about it. Foreign policy is not a philanthropic activity, and even close allies think first and foremost about self-interest, which sometimes means trying to bamboozle the United States into doing what they want, even at some cost to Americans. If the United States is spending all this money securing the borders, leaving the national mind unlocked and ripe for manipulation is a tad short-sighted.
The Mojahedin e-Khalq Aren’t America’s Friends. Even Iranians who hate the regime don’t want MEK
Michael Rubin, National Interest, March 29 2019:… Unable to win any support from Iranians inside Iran, the MEK has turned to the gullible and greedy: they are political chameleons. When in Iran, they were a combination between Islamists and social justice warriors. In Iraq, they were secularists, basically Baathists without the Arab identity. And while in France, they are democrats. In reality, their behavior resembles a cult, right down to dictating where members live, whom they should marry and divorce, and the rent-a-mobs who populate their rallies.
The Mojahedin e-Khalq Aren’t America’s Friends
And even Iranians who hate their current regime don’t want the MEK.
The Trump administration is not afraid to defy long-held conventional wisdom on U.S. foreign policy. With regard to the Middle East, such disruption can be a good thing: Across administrations and for decades, U.S. policy has achieved only lackluster results. For example, Israeli-Palestinian peace has receded even as successive administrations poured billions of dollars into a Middle East peace process. Nor has traditional diplomacy contained the growth and expansion of Iranian influence across the region.
Trump, however, has been willing to break diplomatic china. He has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, held Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s feet to the fire over the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and walked away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA or Iran Deal). In each case, prognostications that the sky would fall, and disaster would loom proved false.
Sometimes, however, breaking conventional wisdom can backfire. While legal arguments about the necessity of an authorization for the use of military force in Syria are valid, a precipitous withdrawal would likely be disastrous. There has been tremendous mission creep in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over the last several decades but defunding the American-European military alliance would probably encourage aggression rather than ensure stability. And, when it comes to the Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group, any cooperation and coordination—let alone support—from the United States would be disastrous.
The Trump administration, however, is reportedly reconsidering the pariah status of the MEK within U.S. diplomacy. Barbara Slavin, an American analyst often apologetic to the Islamic Republic, reports that “US administration talking points no longer exclude the Mujaheddin-e Khalq as a potential replacement for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” While there remains a great difference between “refuses to exclude” and “supports,” Slavin is correct to raise concern.
Iranian Hatred for the Mojahedin e-Khalq
I spent seven months in the Islamic Republic of Iran during both the Rafsanjani and Khatami-eras while completing my Ph.D. dissertation. During that time, I shopped daily in the market, rode public transportation, and met fellow university students from across Iran. Most were curious to meet an American with no family links to Iran. Most were cautious but keen to talk about the antipathy to the Islamic Republic once they were out of buildings or vehicles which could be easily bugged. For example, one couple from Ahvaz, in Tehran, complained while their twelve-year-old daughter underwent treatment for brain cancer that in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, the regime built mosques but not hospitals. A professor in Isfahan would remove the ignition wire from his car every time he parked at night to deter car thieves. And, a lawyer in Isfahan laughed at a general amnesty for weapons taken home after the Iran-Iraq War because they might be needed in a future revolution. Many Iranians asked about the Diaspora, and especially the exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi. That did not mean they were monarchists, but decades of being under the Islamic Republic had left them craving the past as a golden age. “Oh my shah, my shah, where is my shah?” one storekeeper asked when a merchant walked by with spoiled bananas selling for far more than what he said fresh bananas did pre-revolution. Whereas many Iranians rightly castigate the shah’s police state and his dreaded SAVAK intelligence service, they also acknowledge that the successor VEVAK was as bad if not worse.
But there was only one item that united Iranians inside Iran: absolute hatred of the Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK). I offered a brief history of the MEK here but, in sum, they evolved out of reactionary anger at the shah’s more progressive agenda, especially elements which would have prioritized democracy and religious equality above the dictates of Shiism. Following the shah’s 1963 crackdown, the Islamist opposition splintered. While its older elements drew inspiration from the left-leaning nationalist and ousted Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, younger members concluded political reform impossible and embraced armed struggle. These younger members, including a University of Tehran political science student named Massoud Rajavi, coalesced what would become the MEK, though it would take another seven years before the MEK would declare itself to the wider world.
MEK ideology fused Marxism and Islamism. They believed both that God created the world and that he set forth societal evolution in which a classless society would overcome capitalist inequity. Rajavi and his fellow activists also argued that Islam justified terrorism. Death during armed struggle, they said, was consistent with Shiite glorification of martyrdom. MEK militants trained both with the PLO and under Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.
They put their training to quick use. In May 1972, shortly before President Richard Nixon’s state visit to Iran, the MEK launched a series of bomb attacks against American diplomatic and business targets, including Pepsi Cola and General Motors. They also sought to assassinate the top U.S. general in Iran. In 1973, they bombed the Pan-American Airlines building, Shell Oil and assassinated the deputy chief of the U.S. military mission. They also targeted Iranians: striking at clubs, stores, police facilities, minority-owned businesses, factories, and symbols of the state.
The MEK participated wholeheartedly in the Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, after all, led not a coherent movement but rather a coalition of disparate forces united only in their opposition to the shah. Once the common enemy fell, his coalition immediate began to turn on itself. Khomeini welcomed MEK assistance in fighting the shah, but he considered their blending of Marxism with Islam to be sacrilegious. He and his followers labeled Rajavi and the MEK “hypocrites” and “unbelievers” and, the MEK, in turn, accused Khomeini of hijacking a revolution that was not supposed to be about him. Some of the worst post-revolutionary terror in Iran was planned, executed, and claimed by the MEK. Khomeini’s regime responded just as brutally, with summary executions and, in 1988, the wholesale slaughter of alleged MEK prisoners. Many of the attacks killed their intended targets, but also many innocent Iranian bystanders.
What really broke any remaining popular support for the MEK among ordinary Iranians, however, was their embrace of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq War. For most Iranians, the MEK-Saddam relationship is unforgivable. The best analogy for Americans would be to John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. While he may have embraced a movement, which sheltered Bin Laden and killed thousands of American servicemen in Afghanistan, the casualties Iran suffered pushing back the Iraqi invasion were several orders of magnitude higher.
The Mojahedin e-Khalq are a bad bet
Unable to win any support from Iranians inside Iran, the MEK has turned to the gullible and greedy: they are political chameleons. When in Iran, they were a combination between Islamists and social justice warriors. In Iraq, they were secularists, basically Baathists without the Arab identity. And while in France, they are democrats. In reality, their behavior resembles a cult, right down to dictating where members live, whom they should marry and divorce, and the rent-a-mobs who populate their rallies.
Which brings us back to the present: The MEK are no longer deemed a terror organization by the State Department, but that does not make them a responsible partner. Yet they have cultivated a bipartisan coterie of officials who attend their rallies and endorse Maryam Rajavi, their heir apparent. Among their supporters are National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Critics say such hefty honoraria to attend and speak at MEK rallies amount to bribery. This is true in some cases but unfair in others, as some of those who headline MEK rallies may truly believe MEK rhetoric. The MEK, after all, is expert in telling officials what they want to hear about their program, and most senior and elected officials neither have the expertise in Iran nor the wherewithal to fact-check the spin. Other officials say the MEK has proven themselves and their infiltration of Iran by exposing such facilities as the covert nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz and later the underground nuclear facility in Fordow. The trouble with crediting the MEK for deep infiltration of Iran is that often MEK bombshell reports are wrong. It is far more likely that foreign intelligence agencies like Israel’s utilize the MEK to launder intelligence rather than expose it directly.
As generous as the MEK is to their foreign supporters, they can be equally caustic to their critics. They usually throw flak at anything unflattering published about the group and rapidly produce online rebuttals filled with footnotes which, if tracked, do not prove what they purport to, even if the original source exists at all. Online trolls will also seek to drown out the criticism and de-legitimize the MEK’s critics.
But, their behavior aside, what is the harm of working with the group or at least including them in any discussion of Iran’s future after current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s death? The answer is simple: The spin in Paris and Washington remains entirely discordant with the sentiments of the Iranians who matter most—those who live under and resent the Islamic Republic. While most Iranians feel that the Islamic Republic has gone off the rails and cannot be reformed, they are more apathetic than revolutionary. After all, the last time Iranians supported a revolution, they replaced one dictator with an even more brutal one and ended up fighting an eight-year-war which killed up to one million people. Certainly, when a spark occurs, they will join in the protests, but otherwise most will stay on the sidelines and simply seek to provide for their families.
Herein lies the biggest problem with treating the MEK as anything more than a pariah: Because Iranians hate the group for its history, previous actions, and past allegiances, the current Islamic Republic will utilize the MEK to delegitimize any movement or group of which they are part. Indeed, many Iranians continue to insist that the only thing worse than the regime under which they suffer now would be the MEK.
The MEK may dismiss this as propaganda, but it is not. Nevertheless, whether they think their reputation fair or unfair, they must acknowledge the perception which surrounds them. If they are Iranian patriots, therefore, and truly garner the support they claim, they would stand aside for now. The Islamic Republic may very well die with Khamenei for two simple reasons: First, the regime elite may be unable to form a consensus on a successor and, second, even if they do, it is not certain the successor will be able to consolidate control. Many Iranians already expect a provisional government will usher in a new constitutional convention and internationally-monitored elections.
If the MEK is as popular as they say, let them support such a process from afar and then compete at the ballot box. Alas, the reason they so often seek to be spoilers now is they know—as does every Iranian—that they will never get more than 0.001 percent of the vote in any election.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Maryam Rajavi’s MEK is a defunct force in Iran foreign policy
Massoud Khodabandeh, Middle East Strategy Consultants, February 25 2019:… As the following articles show, the complex issue of ‘dealing’ with Iran cannot be solved by the Trump administration or the European Union using the defunct Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) to shake a stick at the country. Iran’s government and ruling system is proving far too sophisticated for this stupid ‘regime change’ narrative. Iranians – inside and outside – don’t want that. Time for a new policy maybe; one that acknowledges facts on the ground rather than the delusion of empire.
Maryam Rajavi’s MEK is a defunct force in Iran foreign policy
As the following articles show, the complex issue of ‘dealing’ with Iran cannot be solved by the Trump administration or the European Union using the defunct Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) to shake a stick at the country. Iran’s government and ruling system is proving far too sophisticated for this stupid ‘regime change’ narrative. Iranians – inside and outside – don’t want that. Time for a new policy maybe; one that acknowledges facts on the ground rather than the delusion of empire.
1- Pro-Reform Group Condemns U.S. Sanctions As Iranian Opposition Becomes More Vocal
Radio Farda, February 25 2019
Link to the source
In a letter to political parties around the world, Iran’s Freedom Movement (Nehzate Azadi) has called for international condemnation of the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), adding that U.S. sanctions will give Iranian hardliners the upper hand in the country’s domestic politics.
The Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) is a pro-reform group with Shiite sympathies that briefly held the government immediately after the 1979 revolution but has been sidelined and not as active since then.
Calling the JCPOA a “model for the peaceful resolution of international conflicts,” the FMI said in the letter, “Rejection of this agreement weakens the value of endeavors in resolving international conflicts peacefully and the role of the United Nations in acting as a safeguarding mechanism for building international peace. The United States’ rejection of this international agreement also negates the significance of efforts in building pathways for peaceful co-existence of nations based on conflict resolution through negotiation and compromise.”
FMI acknowledged that the JCPOA did not address the United States’ concerns about Iran’s missile program and its ambitions in the Middle East, adding that “JCPOA was not initially intended to include the Iranian government’s regional political behavior – or any other issues,” but expressed the view that “these issues could be legitimately addressed in other forums with the consideration of the national security of all nations involved.”
It is not clear why Freedom Movement believes the Islamic Republic has any intention to discuss these issues with Western governments, particularly the United States. Iranian officials categorically reject any such dialogue.
FMI does not advocate the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, but believes in reforms and its members are tolerated to an extent in Iran and not treated as enemies of the regime. Members of the group even participated in the last local elections without any success.
In more than a decade the group has not been very vocal, preferring not to condemn many of the regime’s human rights abuses or its regional adventures. It has also not clearly supported the popular protests by ordinary people against economic hardship and lack of freedoms.
In the letter, the FMI expressed concern over the impact of sanctions on Iran’s middle class, adding that in Iran, “the middle class is exposed to the ravages of sanctions. The Iranian middle class predominately has been in the forefront of the battle for democracy and acted as the engine of change in the country.”
FMI charged that “the United States, with the support of right-wing politicians in Israel and the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, has imposed sanctions on Iran which ultimately benefit those who are for war and conflict with this country,” adding that “sanctions have also strengthened the political position and power of the Iranian ultraconservatives who continue to encourage and support discord and antagonism in Iranian foreign policy.”
FMI also warned that “democratic changes cannot be achieved in Iran by Washington encouraging groups from outside of Iran who have aimed at toppling the Iranian government. With regards to Iran, democracy cannot be achieved through war, but rather obtained upon a period of sustained gradual reforms that are supported by the Iranian people and arise from within the country.”
Although the letter appears to support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s positions, the FMI stressed at the end of it that the “Freedom Movement of Iran has been under pressure both from the old and the new regimes, and its leaders and members have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured.”
The letter by a political organization that has not been overtly active for decades is yet another indication that the Iranian opposition has become more vocal after the nationwide protests in late 2017 and early 2018, which has weakened the regime in Tehran.
During the past year, the two main opposition groups outside Iran, the royalists and the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) have been more active than ever and developments about and around them have been given more prominence in the media.
The royalists have highlighted the symbolic significance of Prince Reza Pahlavi and established at least two networks of young Iranian activists (Farashgard) with the aim of toppling the Islamic Republic, and the newly established network of technocrats and academics named Qoqnous (Sphinx) with the objective of reconstructing Iran. Meanwhile, the MeK has been more politically active than ever, garnering support from among political groups and Western officials.
In the latest developments, 10 political groups active in the Iranian provinces of Kurdistan, Azerbaijan and Sistan-Baluchistan formed an alliance in Hanover, Germany on Saturday 23 February. The alliance “Solidarity for Freedom and Equality in Iran” has announced its objective as “toppling the Islamic Republic.”
The coalition includes five militant Kurdish parties as well as other militant groups from Khuzestan and Azarbaijan, and a few groups including democratic secular republicans and Marxists.
The freedom movement of Iran may have noticed the changing situation and its letter to political parties around the world could be its way of making itself known as a player that once had a role in the government, hoping to secure a place in the country’s future in case dramatic changes take place.
2- ‘Enough Is Enough: Iran Won’t Give US More Concessions’
Iran Front Page, February 25 2019
Link to the source
A senior conservative journalist says Tehran has not gained much from the US in return for the many concessions it has given Washington.
Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing director of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan, has, in an editorial published by the daily, taken a swipe at Tehran’s performance in dealing with the US government. The full text of the analytical piece follows.
In his book titled “The Prince,” Niccolò Machiavelli says sometimes it would be very wise to seem crazy! This recommendation is explained by Herman Kahn in one of his books. He says maybe the best way to impose our policies would be to pretend that we are a little nervous and emotional. In this deterrent game, says Kahn, the side which seems to be determined and has left no path to return would have a better chance of gaining concessions from the other side, which has entered the scene with a modest and calm behaviour. He says this is the same place where unwise wisdom is allowed. According to him, pretending to be abiding by an unwise policy may be the best strategy to adopt in the face of a crisis.
It should be noted that when someone feels they are facing an opponent who complies with no laws and regulations and who may make any crazy move when confronted, they prefer to give in to the opponent’s demands in order to spare themselves of this lunatic!
The United States and its European allies have exactly used this ploy in dealing with Iran, and, unfortunately, they have somehow succeeded in taking advantage of this tactic due to the inaction of some Iranian foreign policy officials!
After resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley said in a speech at Charlotte conference that he always regarded Trump a short-tempered person who was unpredictable during negotiations in order to scare the other side. This was what Trump wanted and the mission assigned to her, she says.
It would be unfair if we do not mention this point. While many politicians across the world and some politicians inside the country have fallen for this ploy by Washington and referred to Trump as a lunatic, the supreme Leader described him as someone who pretends to be mad.
And there are reports that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has extended Iran’s suspension from the FATF’s blacklist for another four months. Why? The only reason for this 4-month suspension would be Iran’s resistance to their humiliating demand with regards to the approval of the four bills related to the FATF, especially the Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) law and the Palermo Convention. The FATF had threatened that Iran would face tough consequences if Iran failed to ratify the bills. However, the ratification of the FATF would mean “suicide for fear of death!”
Despite insistence by the administration and a number of MPs, the Expediency Council was tasked with deciding on whether or not to approve the bills. Fortunately, most members of the council realized the disgraceful and disastrous nature of the FATF and have, so far, refused to give the go-ahead to the ratification of the bills. In other words, when the FATF saw its threats were ineffective, it has suspended Iran on the blacklist in a bid to make the Expediency Council approve the humiliating bills.
Addressing the opponents of the FATF, A pro-government economic analyst says, “Why do you insist that we be regarded as terrorists in the world?”. He claims there are misgivings of treasons when it comes to the opponents of the FATF. In response, we should say, “Why are you insisting on introducing the IRGC, the Quds Force, the Intelligence Ministry, the Defense Ministry, etc., as terrorists? If you are unaware of the contents of the CFT, why are you expressing views on a subject you know nothing about? And if you know about it, then we should ask ‘Isn’t it treason to describe the IRGC, the Quds Force, the Defense Ministry and Intelligence Ministry as terrorists?’ Or ‘Should we [instead] oppose the ratification of bills whose approval would sound the death knell to national security and result in the surrender of Iranian people to Takfiri terrorists? Hasn’t the FATF officially announced that it does not accept Iran’s definition of terrorism, and hasn’t the US Treasury’s website officially described the aforementioned entities as terrorists?’
One should ask those supporting the ratification of the said bills what will happen if Iran does not accept the FATF.
Mr Zarif says, “Neither me, as Foreign Minister, nor Mr Rouhani, as President, can give any guarantees that the ratification of the CFT would solve any of our economic problems! But it can strip the US of some of the pretexts it has!”
Mr Zarif does not explain, first, which pretexts? Isn’t the existence of the Islamic Republic’s establishment the United States’ main pretext? And, second, in return for so many concessions that we have given, what have we gained over the past five years and a few months except the increase of sanctions and the dozens of hostile cases that the White House has opened against us?
Bitten once, no wise person should be bitten again from the same spot. Do we have to be bitten dozens of times before we come to our senses? Just mention one single concession that we have got from them. Go ahead, please!
What is INSTEX, whose implementation has been conditioned by the FATF upon the ratification of the four bills? “Oil for Food and Drugs!” Isn’t this so-called trade channel with Europe anything other than the humiliation of the Iranian nation? We are supposed to transfer to European banks the forex gained from selling oil! In return, we are supposed to purchase goods from European countries, and not any other countries; but what commodities? Only medicines and food! So far, everything is in the Europeans’ interests. Well, what about our share? Will they buy petroleum from us? The answer is “No.” Will European banks lift the sanctions? Again the answer is “No.” Then what is INSTEX and what benefit does it have for us? Practically nothing! Isn’t it so?
And what countries are supposed to monitor its implementation? Read on!
The supervision is based in France, a country which has overtly turned into a safe haven for terrorists. Members of the MKO terrorist group, who, by their own admission, have murdered some 14 thousand Iranians (The true figure is 17,000) are present in France. During the arrest of members of one of the decision-making centres of ISIS terrorists in Iraq, it was revealed that 13 of those apprehended were French officers involved in the terrorist group’s plans.
The project is managed by Germany, a country which wouldn’t allow the plane carrying Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to fuel despite the fact that Zarif was travelling to Germany at the official invitation of that country to attend the Munich conference. Also, Germany has been holding one of Iranian diplomats in detention for months despite his diplomatic immunity.
And the auditing job lies with the government of the UK, a country which, according to Mr., Zarif, does not allow Iran to open even one bank account.
Finally, we hope the recent ploy by the US and its allies will have no bearing on the calculations of the respected members of the Expediency Council and we hope they will keep in mind this part of remarks by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei that “The proposals made by them (hegemonic powers) generally include deception, deceit and lies. Today, the Iranian nation regards a number of European governments along with the United States as deceitful and unreliable. The government of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] should carefully preserve its borders with them, not step back an inch from its revolutionary and national values and not be afraid of their hollow threats.”
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
Ty Joplin, Albawaba, November 18 2018:… Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members. He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside …
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
By Ty Joplin
Before Massoud Khodabandeh settled into his life as a consultant living quietly in the middle of England, he was directing the intelligence operations of a group that’s been labelled as a terrorist cult.
The group is called the Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK), and Khodabandeh had, for decades, witnessed its changing of faces: from radical student group opposed to the rule of the Shah in Iran, to anti-Ayatollah guerrilla group, to pro-Saddam militia, to what it is now, an inward-looking and reclusive group with no clear identity beyond its obedience to its leader, Maryam Rajavi.
Massoud Khodabandeh left the group and granted Al Bawaba an exclusive interview, where he documents his smuggling of radio equipment into Iran, his spying on Iranian leaders and MEK defectors and his eventual departure from the group.
Khodabandeh details to Al Bawaba his founding of an MEK cell in London and his imprisonment for participating in a sit-in of the Iranian embassy during the 1979 Iran revolution. After that, he began operating covertly in Europe, traversing the continent with secret funding and passports, looking over all of the MEK’s cells working in Europe at the time, slowing becoming one of its most senior and trusted members.
After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the MEK’s falling out with the Iranian regime, Khodabandeh began smuggling radio equipment into Iran via Baghdad, taking powerful radio technology into a secluded station in the mountains of Iranian Kurdistan and surviving attacks by Iranian forces in the process.
As well as helping the MEK cement an international presence, Khodabandeh also remembers helping the MEK’s former leader, Massoud Rajavi, with a particular request. Rajavi asked Khodabandeh to send him dozens of books on cults and psychological manipulation; a request Khodabandeh did not hesitate to fulfill. Decades later, he learned that each book he was smuggling to Massoud was being translated into Farsi and used as a guide on how to transform the MEK into a personalist cult dedicated to serving the will of its leader, Massoud.
After leaving the group, Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members.
He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside its confines, doomed to be associated with an opposition group many consider a terrorist cult.
To listen to the full conversation, click here:
Speaking in depth about my experiences with the MEK, from my days as a student up to why I left. Thanks to Ty Joplin of Albawaba for the podcast.
‘The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh’ on #SoundCloud #np https://t.co/IvXGbFdqun
— Massoud khodabandeh (@ma_khodabandeh) November 14, 2018
Open Letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama – Secure the lives of all current and former MEK members
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, November 06 2018:… Please, make sure that the MEK leadership does not lose its mind and commit horrific acts in your country. Enforce the law and impose the authority of your government over the MEK cult and reassure the European public that Albania is a responsible country. Your reply to this letter will be that you ensure the safety and security of all members and former members of MEK in Albania …
Open Letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama – Secure the lives of all current and former MEK members
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, former members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) cult, sent an open letter to Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, to show their concerns of an imminent terrorist atrocity that would take place in Albania.
Here is the full transcript of the letter:
Dear Prime Minister Rama,
This letter is being sent to you by Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh. We are two British citizens living in Leeds, UK. We are both former members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) cult, who now work as deradicalization experts. We follow with great concern the issue of terrorism and radicalisation in Europe, with particular attention to the MEK. We are sending this open letter because of our concerns of an imminent terrorist atrocity that would take place in Albania.
The MEK cult/organization, which your government has hosted in Albania since 2013, is running a campaign to convince the people of Albania that they have distanced from their terrorist past. Efforts to paint a softer image for the group include: taking young people to the Villepinte rally in France in June; inviting Albanian youth to a meeting titled ‘Against Execution’ (and only mentioning Iran, not Saudi Arabia and America and China as examples); contacting members of parliament and party officials to convince them that their terrorist history is not true and has been made up by Iran to demonize the group. This is particularly ridiculous, and any politician or official who believes this in spite of all the evidence to the contrary is being deliberately stupid.
If MEK have changed, why don’t they open up their camp in Manez and allow free access to their secretive camp and their members? Why are they living in paramilitary conditions, with uniforms and gender segregation like in a military garrison? The films of retired German politicians and recruited journalists visiting the camp which were designed to show MEK as ‘ordinary folk’ inadvertently exposed and boasted of these conditions. Why don’t they integrate with the local Albanian community and instead insist having their own city in Albania, their own healthcare and bakery, etc.?
More importantly, since MEK members are working, why don’t they have work permits and pay taxes as Albanian citizens must do? What are they contributing to Albania?
Albanians are waking up to the reality of having a terrorist cult in their midst. The overt behaviour which alarmed citizens of Tirana from 2013 to 2017 has now been hidden behind closed doors. But this does not make the problem go away. Indeed, it makes the group more dangerous since there is no public scrutiny.
The scandal of the Mohammadi family is still fresh in everyone’s minds. What kind of ‘revolutionary’ is the daughter of Mostafa and Mahbubeh Mohammadi, Somayeh who is apparently too afraid to tell her mother face to face not to contact her again. As you already might know, MEK did not allow her any freedom in the matter and she is still subject to constant surveillance and monitoring, she is chaperoned everywhere.
As you are aware, MEK are very vocal that they perceive their group to be the target for death and annihilation from Iran. They claim that agents of Iran’s intelligence services are around every corner and even pose as journalists! That is clearly a matter for Albania’s security and intelligence agencies. The MEK must not be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
However, on a political level it has become clear now that relocating the MEK in Albania and then not de-radicalizing the individuals has attracted the threat of political violence to Albania. No matter which side your government takes – and let us be clear, Albania cannot have good relations with the government of Iran whilst harbouring a terrorist group which is actively working for regime change against Iran, a side must be chosen – the individual members of MEK must be protected.
Your government must take very seriously any threat to the lives of individual MEK members. At this time there is credible evidence of an imminent threat from the MEK leader Maryam Rajavi against members of her own group. Events over the past year – as outlined in this article, and this – indicate that a fatal false flag operation is being planned to advance the agenda of those who wish to destroy the JCPOA and cause a rift in Europe’s relations with Iran. Since the previous alleged plots did not achieve this aim, more drastic action is called for. Experts on the MEK are of the opinion that MEK is planning to kill some of its members, or former members, in Albania, which would then be blamed on Iran. Albania, situated outside the EU and with ongoing problems with crime and corruption, is ideally placed as a scapegoat for violent activity.
The MEK has a long history of setting up scenarios which are used by Iran’s enemies. This latest series of alleged plots in Europe fits into that profile. Your government should not underestimate the capabilities of MEK for such acts. The group’s modus operandi is based on self-sacrifice for the struggle. Over the years, Maryam Rajavi (and her missing husband Massoud) have used the blood of martyrs to keep the group going. The radicalized MEK members who believe in jihad and war are motivated to continue the same path of struggle of these martyrs. Bloodshed also enables MEK to eliminate unwanted members.
The case of Malik Sharai is an example of this activity. Sharai was planning to leave MEK, but as witness to the controversial September 2013 massacre at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, MEK leaders could not allow him to speak publicly about those events.
Your government allowed MEK to evade proper investigation into that death, just as they barred Iraqi investigators from doing their job in Iraq. Malik Sharai was buried without a post mortem examination to establish the cause of death. MEK claimed there were cultural/religious reasons why the Coroner could not do his job. This is not true. No conditions exist that would prevent a full post mortem examination. MEK have thereby flouted Albanian law and regulations to prevent proper investigation into how Sharai died.
The case of Sharai is mentioned because this example must alert you to the danger that MEK members face from their own leader.
What can your government do to stop MEK from committing a terrorist act against their members?
Firstly, MEK must be brought under control. The rule of ALBANIAN law must apply to MEK as it must to every other citizen of Albania. The camp at Manez must be opened up so that proper scrutiny and regulation of MEK’s activities can be conducted by the relevant authorities; Albanian police, tax officers, healthcare providers, anti-slavery activists etc must have full access to MEK and its members. People like Somayeh Mohammadi must be set free to choose their fate.
No matter from where the threat to life originates, every individual MEK member needs protection. To qualify for state protection, MEK members must be issued with identity and residency documents. They should not be left without work permits – a fact that forces many of them to remain radicalized inside MEK.
Security must come from the neutral state not from a private firm in the pay of the MEK. Police must have a presence inside the camp to impose law and order.
Although MEK state that the estranged families of MEK members want to come to Albania to kill them, we know from fifteen years’ experience that the opposite is true and that people whose families are actively campaigning to contact them have not come to harm and have often been able to leave MEK and return to normal life. Your government should issue visas to these families, so they can visit their loved ones in Albania.
Finally, we urge you to increase the vigilance of Albanian security services around the MEK members in Albania, including former members. We have strong indications that a false flag operation against MEK might be planned in your country by a foreign government, which will use this incident against the European Union and its relations with Iran. In order to avoid this, your government must do its utmost to save the lives of MEK members from their leadership, which as in the past, is willing to kill some of its members for its survival agenda. A terrorist act against MEK members by a foreign country on Albanian soil will be a major incident and an embarrassment for your government and the European governments which do not want to see something like this take place in your country.
Please, make sure that the MEK leadership does not lose its mind and commit horrific acts in your country. Enforce the law and impose the authority of your government over the MEK cult and reassure the European public that Albania is a responsible country.
Your reply to this letter will be that you ensure the safety and security of all members and former members of MEK in Albania.
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
Letër e hapur Kryeministrit Edi Rama – siguro jetën e të gjithë anëtarëve dhe dezertorëve të MEK-ut
I dashur Kryeministër Rama,
Këtë letër po ta shkuajmë ne, Massoud dhe Anne Khodabandeh. Ne jemi dy qytetarë britanik që jetojmë në Leeds, Britaninë e Madhe. Jemi ish-anëtarë të kultit të Moxhahedinëve Iranianë (MEK), që tanimë punojnë si ekspertë në fushën e deradikalizimit. Ne ndjekim me shqetësim të madh çështjen e radikalizmit dhe terrorizmit në Evropë, duke i kështuar vëmendje të posaçme MEK-ut. Këtë letër të hapur po ua dërgojmë, pasi jemi të shqetësuar mbi një sulm terrorist i cili mund të ndërmerret në Shqipërisë.
Organizata okulte e MEK-ut, të cilën qeveria juaj strehon që prej vitit 2013, ka ndërmarrë një fushatë nëpërmjet të cilës kërkon ti bindë shqiptarët që ajo është distancuar nga e kaluara e saj terroriste. Pjesë e kësaj përpjekje për përmirësim imazhi janë: dërgimi i shqiptarëve në takimin e Villepinte në Francë në qershor; ftesa e të rinjve shqiptarë në takime sikur ai që u bë “kundër ekzekutimeve” (ku u përmend vetëm Irani, por jo Arabia Saudite, Amerika dhe Kina si shembuj vendesh ku njerëzit dënohen me vdekje); kontaktet që MEK bënë me deputetët e parlamentit dhe zyrtarë partiakë në Shqipëri ku ata mundohen ti bindin ata që historia terroriste e MEK-ut nuk është e vërtetë por është sajuar nga Irani për të baltosur grupin. Kjo e fundit në veçanti është një gjë shumë e ulët, dhe nëse ka politikanë apo zyrtarë shqiptarë që beson këtë rrenë duke injoruar malin me fakte që ekziston, do të thotë që dikush të pranoj të luaj rrolin e idiotit.
Nëse MEK-u sikur ai pretendon, ka ndryshuar, ne pyesim: pse ata nuk e hapin kampin e tyre në MANËZ dhe të lejojnë publikun që të hyjë dhe shohë kampin e tyre sekret dhe anëtarët që ata kanë? Pse anëtarët e MEK-ut vazhdojnë të jetojnë në kushte paramilitariste, me uniforma ku burrat ndahen nga gratë sikur të jenë në një garnizon ushtarak? Filmimi që përpara disa ditësh disa gazetarë të paguar dhe disa politikanë pensionistë gjermanë bënë ndërsa vizituan kampin, ku kërkohej që MEK-sat të tregohen si “njerëz normalë” në fakt tregoi kushtet ku ata jetojnë. Përse muxhahedinët nuk integrohen me komunitetet vendase në Shqipëri, por këmbëngulin që të kenë qytetin e tyre, punishten e tyre, dhe qendrat e tyre shëndetësore etj?
Për më tepër, anëtarët e MEK-ut që punojnë, përse nuk kanë leje pune dhe pse nuk paguajnë taksa sikur qytetarët shqiptarë? Çfarë kontributi po i japin ata shoqërisë shqiptare?
Shqiptarët e kanë kuptuar tashmë që në mesin e tyre qëndron një kult terrorist. Sjellja e tyre e cila alarmoi qytetarët shqiptarë ndërmjet viteve 2013 dhe 2017 tanimë është fshehur në dyert e mbyllura të kampit. Por kjo nuk e zgjidh problemin e tyre. Por në të kundërt, e bën grupin më të rrezikshëm pasi tanimë publiku nuk sheh më se çfarë ata bëjnë.
Skandali i familjes Mohammadi është akoma i freskët në mendjet e qytetarëve. Çfarë ‘revolucionare’ është vajza e Mostafa dhe Mahbubeh Mohammadit, Sommaya e cila sikur edhe është parë ka frikë të takojë mamanë e saj dhe ti thotë në sy që nuk do ta takoj? Sikur edhe ju mund ta dini, MEK-u nuk e la atë të dalë nga kampi dhe ajo vazhdon të mbahet nën survejim nga moxhahedinët, të cilët e shoqërojnë kudo e ngado.
Sikur edhe ju mund ta dini, MEK-u pretendon natë e ditë që grupi i tyre rrezikohet për tu goditur nga Irani. Ata pretendojnë se agjentët e shërbimeve iraniane janë kudo dhe shfaqen edhe si gazetarë! Kuptohet që këtë gjë e vendosin organet e sigurisë shqiptare dhe jo MEK-u. Por shqetësimi ynë është që MEK-u nuk duhet të lejohet që të sillet si polic në Shqipëri.
Sikur edhe ju mund ta keni kuptuar, sjellja e MEK-ut në Shqipëri dhe mos deradikalizimi i tyre ka rritur nivelin e dhunës politike në Shqipëri. Pa marrë parasysh se në cilën anë qeveria juaj qendron – le ta themi hapur, Shqipëria nuk mban dot relata të mira qeverinë e Iranit ndërsa strehon në vend një organizatë terroriste e cila në mënyrë aktive punon që të ndryshoj regjimin në Iran, dhe këtu ju duhet ta ndani mendjen – dhe anëtarët e MEK-ut duhet të mbrohen.
Qeveria juaj duhet të trajtojë me seriozitet çdo kërcënim që i vjen individëve të MEK-ut. Në momentin që ne po u shkruajmë këtë letër, ekzistojnë fakte të mjaftueshme që të bëjnë të besosh për një kërcënim real që ekziston nga udhëheqësja e MEK-ut Maryam Rajavi kundër anëtarëve të organizatës së saj. Në vitin e kaluar – sikur është treguar në këtë shkrim, dhe këtë – MEK-u po planifikon të ndërmarrë një operacion të rremë terrorist [false flag operation] në bashkëpunim me grupe të cilat duan që të shkatërrojnë Marrëveshjen Nukleare të Iranit me Fuqitë Botërore të njohur si JCPOA duke shkaktuar kështu një konflikt ndërmjet Evropës dhe Iranit. Pasi deklaratat bombastike të mëparshme ndaj Iranit nuk janë marrë në konsideratë nga Fuqitë e Evropës të cilat vazhdojnë të mbështesin Marrëveshjen Nukleare me Iranin, tanimë po kërkohet që të ndërmerret një akt edhe më ekstrem. Ekspertët e MEK-ut besojnë që MEK-u po planifikon të vrasë disa nga anëtarët e vetë në Shqipëri, dhe kjo vrasje më pas do ti faturohet Iranit. Shqipëria e cila qëndron jashtë Bashkimit Evropian dhe ka probleme me krimin dhe korrupsionin, është vendi më i përshtatshëm për të kryer një krim të këtillë.
MEK-u ka një histori të gjatë krijimi të skenarëve që më pas përdoren nga armiqtë e Iranit. Pretendimet më të fundme të komploteve terroriste në Evropë i ngjajnë skenarëve të mëhershëm. Dhe për këtë arsye qeveria juaj nuk duhet të nënvleftësojë aftësitë e MEK-ut për të krijuar një incident të këtillë. Mënyra e operimit të grupit bazohet në vetëflijimin për luftën. Në vitet e kaluara, Marjam Rajavi (dhe burri i saj i zhdukur Masudi) kanë përdorur gjakun e martirëve për të motivuar grupin. Anëtarët e radikalizuar të MEK-ut që besojnë në xhihadin dhe luftën kanë mjaft indoktrinim që të martirizohen për luftën e tyre. Vrasjet janë një prej mjeteve që MEK-u përdor për të zhdukur anëtarët e padëshiruar.
Rasti i Malik Sharait është një shembull i asaj që MEK-u mund të bëj. Sharai planifikonte të largohej nga MEK-u, por duke qenë dëshmimtar i masakrës kontraversiale të shtatorit 2013 në Kampin Ashraf në Irak, komanda e MEK-ut nuk mund ta lejonte që të dëshmonte në publik për ato që ndodhën atëherë.
Fatkeqësisht qeveria juaj e lejoi MEK-un që të mos lejoj një hetim të duhur mbi këtë vdekje, në të njëjtën mënyrë sikur MEK-u i ndali edhe hetuesit në Irak që bënin punën e tyre. Malik Sharai u varros pa iu bërë një autopsi për të hetuar shkaqet e vdekjes. MEK-u e evitoi autopsinë me justifikimin se mjeku ligjor nuk mund ta kryente detyrën e tij për shkaqe kulturore / fetare. Por kjo nuk është e vërtetë. Ekzaminimi mjekësor nuk ndalohet dot për asnjëfarë arsyeje. Në këtë mënyrë MEK-u arriti ti shpëtojë ligjit shqiptar dhe rregullave duke i shpëtuar një hetimi të drejtë mbi arsyet e vdekjes së Sharait.
Ua përmendim rastin e Sharait pasi shembulli i tij duhet të shërbejë si shembull për të kuptuar rrezikun që i kanoset anëtarëve të MEK-ut nga udhëheqësja e tyre.
Çfarë duhet të bëj qeveria juaj që të ndaloj MEK-un nga kryerja e akteve terroriste kundër anëtarëve të tyre?
E para, MEK-u duhet vënë nën kontroll. Sundimi i ligjit shqiptar duhet të implementohen mbi MEK-un ashtu sikur edhe mbi çdo qytetar tjetër të Shqipërisë. Kampi i Manzës duhet të hapet kështu që aktivitetet e MEK-ut të mbikqyren nga autoritetet vendore; policia shqiptare, zyra e taksave, organet shëndetësore, aktivistët për të drejtat e njeriut etj duhet të kenë akses të plotë në kampin e MEK-ut dhe anëtarët e tij. Anëtarë sikur Somayeh Mohammadi duhet të lejohen që të vendosin vetë për fatin e tyre.
Pa marrë parasysh se nga u vjen kërcënimi, çdo individ i MEK-ut duhet të mbrohet. Në mënyrë që të gëzojnë mbrojtje të plotë ligjore, anëtarët e MEK-ut duhet të pajisen me karta identiteti dhe rezidencë. Ata nuk duhet të lihen pa leje pune – fakt i cili i detyron shumë prej tyre që të qendrojnë të radikalizuar nga MEK-u.
Siguria e muxhahedinëve duhet të vijë nga organet neutrale të shtetit dhe jo nga firma private që paguhen nga MEK-u. Policia duhet të vendoset brenda kampit të MEK-ut në mënyrë që të vendosi ligjin dhe qetësinë.
Edhe pse MEK-u pretendon se familjet e anëtarëve të MEK-ut duan të vijnë në Shqipëri për ti vrarë, ne e dimë nga eksperienca jonë pesëmbëdhjetë vjeçare se e kundërta është e vertetë. Muxhahedinët që kanë familjet e tyre që duan ti takojnë ata, nuk vijnë që ti lëndojnë por shpesh kanë qenë faktor për lirimin dhe integrimin e tyre në jetën civile. Qeveria juaj duhet të lëshojë viza për këto familje, kështu që ata të vizitojnë të afërmit e tyre në Shqipëri.
Në fund, ne u kërkojmë që të rrisni vigjilencën me organet e sigurisë përreth anëtarëve të MEK-ut në Shqipëri, duke përfshirë këtu edhe dezertorët. Kemi indikacione të forta që na bëjnë të besojmë që një plan për të kryer një operacion të rremë (false flag operation) kundër MEK-ut ndoshta është duke u planifikuar në vendin tuaj nga një qeveri e huaj, e cila kërkon ta përdori këtë incident kundër Bashkimit Evropian dhe marrëdhënieve të tij me Iranin. Në mënyrë që një gjë e këtillë të mos ndodhë, qeveria juaj duhet të marrë masat maksimale për të shpëtuar jetën e muxhahedinëve nga udhëheqja e tyre, e cila në të kaluarën, ka provuar që ka patur dëshirën për të vrarë disa prej anëtarëve të saj për të siguruar mbijetesën. Një akt terrorist kundër anëtarëve të MEK-ut nga një vend i huaj në tokën shqiptare do të jetë një incident i rëndë dhe skandal i madh për qeverinë tuaj dhe qeveritë evropiane të cilat nuk duan që një gjë e këtillë të ndodhë në vendin tuaj.
Lutemi të bëni maksimumin që udhëheqja e MEK-ut të mos humbasë logjikën që të bëjë akte të këtilla të tmerrshme në vendin tuaj. Ushtroni ligjin dhe impononi autoritetin e qeverisë mbi kultin muxhahedin dhe siguroni publikun evropian që Shqipëria është një vend i përgjegjshëm.
Përgjigja juaj më e mirë për këtë letër do të jetë siguria dhe ruajtja e të gjithë anëtarëve dhe dezertorëve të MEK-ut në Shqipëri.
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
MEK in Albania—Potential Implications and Security Concerns for Albania
Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, October 14 2018:… Channel 4, a well-known British news agency, recently traveled to Albania to do the same. The film crew was met by hostile private security who were guarding the highly fortified Manëz camp. Camp members physically attacked Channel 4’s camera crew (Shqiptarja.com, August 19). This was an unprecedented event that raised several questions over the camp’s …
MEK in Albania—Potential Implications and Security Concerns for Albania
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 19
By: Ebi Spahiu
Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Mujahedeen El-Khalq (MEK) was the subject of frequent attacks from Iranian-backed proxies, which overwhelmed their members residing in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq. Before this, MEK, an Iranian dissident group, began living in Iraq in the early 1980s under the protection of Saddam Hussein. As a group in exile, MEK sought refuge in Iraq under the protection of Hussein, who utilized their military capacities and ties to Iran to undermine the Iranian regime. Until 2012, the MEK was identified as a terrorist organization due to its activities inside Iran and against other regional and international powers, including attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and businesses operating in Iran in the 1970s. 
Following a series of lobbying efforts by MEK leadership and supporters, the group pledged to give up their weapons and violent tactics as a means to be delisted as a designated terrorist organization.  As a consequence, in 2013, the U.S. government pleaded to a number of governments to provide refuge to the MEK members, including Romania, which was the preferred destination at the time. Albania—grateful to the United States for its support during the war in Kosovo and advocating for its bid to join NATO and the EU—was the only country that responded positively to the request. Albania initially admitted some 200 members between 2013 and 2014. The United States and Albanian governments have extended the agreement since 2013, increasing the number of asylum seekers to somewhere in the range of 500-2,000 MEK members. During the summer of 2016, Tirana received the largest contingent of about 1,900 people, an operation managed by the UNHCR (Shekulli, March 12, 2016). Part of the agreement with Washington was the development of deradicalization and rehabilitation programs to be offered to members of the group.
Now, the group is residing in the outskirts of Tirana’s capital in a highly fortified camp located in Manëz. From this camp, the group is allegedly intensifying its political activities aimed at bringing down the Iranian regime (Exit.al, March 14). With emerging threats coming from radicalization and violent extremism, due to the rise of the Islamic State and other political Islamist groups in the region, the Albanian government may not be prepared or equipped to respond to the potential implications the group’s presence in Albania may bring.
MEK Activities and Support in Albania
There are a number of opportunities MEK is exploiting in order to restart its political activities against the Iranian regime now that they are residing in Albania. Recent propaganda efforts by the group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, the widow of the founder of MEK, Massoud Rajavi, suggest that she sees herself as a key actor in fostering the opposition in Iran and subsequently bringing down the Khomeini regime (Exit.al, March 14). Much of the group’s propaganda material available online is translated in Albanian and seeks to also reach out to a local audience in their host country (Iran-interlink.org).
Moreover, the group has gathered significant support from important U.S. leaders who do not shy away from expressing their support for MEK’s potential rise as Iran’s future “democratic government” (Exit.al, June 26). This sentiment is frequently expressed on a number of occasions when important figures of the U.S. political landscape have personally visited Albania and spoken at rallies organized by MEK in Tirana (KlanTV, March 21). The most recent gatherings saw figures such as John Bolton (now U.S. National Security Advisor), Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s most trusted advisors and personal lawyer, and late U.S. Senator John McCain, among others. The three seemingly demonstrated their support for MEK to be at the center of regime change in Iran (Exit.al, June 26).
The reasons why the Trump administration is supporting the group’s political objectives are unclear. It is also unclear the level of support MEK still has among the population in Iran, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that MEK is also making some powerful friends in Tirana as well. Over the years, key leaders from the Albanian government and civil society organizations have similarly provided their support during rallies and conferences organized by MEK in Paris as well as in Albania, where its new headquarters are located. In May 2015, Albania’s former Prime Minister during the war in Kosovo and current Minister of Diaspora, Pandeli Majko attended the National Council of Resistance of Iran rally in Paris with a large delegation of parliament representatives, journalists, lawyers and some civil society representatives, reiterating Albania’s support for Iran’s resistance and promising his personal support for regime change. 
In an impassioned speech over a cheering crowd, Majko said “whether you want it or not, you have involved us in your story, in your drama, in your tragedies and we understand you very well…some years ago, an American President was in Berlin and from Berlin, this politician, this great man declared ‘Ich bin a Berliner’. And in the name of my friends and in Albania, I’ve come here to say ‘Men mujahed astam’. I have a dream to come soon to Tehran. Invited by you.”  At the time, Majko’s attendance in the Paris rally was not covered by local media.
Despite the group’s increasing political support, recent media reports and several incidents between MEK members and local communities in Albania expose their continuing secretive activities and ongoing struggles to receive legitimacy as a democratic organization. Over the years, several media agencies have been interested in documenting the lives of MEK members in Albania and their political struggles in Iran. Channel 4, a well-known British news agency, recently traveled to Albania to do the same. The film crew was met by hostile private security who were guarding the highly fortified Manëz camp. Camp members physically attacked Channel 4’s camera crew (Shqiptarja.com, August 19). This was an unprecedented event that raised several questions over the camp’s activities (Lapsi.al, August 19). The event was widely reported by local media, which was also able to obtain a threat assessment on the group by Albania’s Intelligence Agency. According to the report initially made available to Channel 4 and then to other Iranian and local media, the group remains “deeply indoctrinated” and some of their activities, including murders of their members, are similar to the ones in Iraq (The Iranian, August 2018).
Testimonies from dissidents who left the group in recent months speak of similar military trainings, indoctrination and pressure to follow the group’s ideology (Top Channel, February 13). Although in the early years some of their members who relocated to Albania sought opportunities to travel abroad and join family members in the West, some 200 members have fled the group and continue to live in Albania (Top Channel, February 13). There is no clarity of their legal status or the employment opportunities available in a country suffering from high unemployment rates. However, some advocacy initiatives—often seemingly pro-Russian and pro-Iranian—are already fostering opposition against the group. Some of this opposition is often portrayed by the MEK leadership as an operation conducted by Iran’s security agencies (Lapsi.al, August 19; Media e Lire, April 17; Nejat NGO, September 29) Moreover, integrating the rest of the members still in Manëz into Albania’s society does not seem to be in the immediate interest for the MEK.
The MEK’s presence and activities may have serious repercussions for Albania and Albanian policy-makers. Leaders in Tirana may not foresee the long-term consequences of expanding their role on foreign policy issues beyond the small Balkan nation’s traditional reach. The group remains an existential threat to the Iranian regime. Over the years, Tehran has supported significant raids via Hezbollah and other proxy organizations in Iraq to destroy the group and kill key MEK leaders. As a result, Albanian authorities should expect more involvement from Iran in its internal and regional affairs. At the moment, there are no clear signs that Iran’s presence is significant in the region. Authorities in both Kosovo and Macedonia, however, have raised alarm bells over Iranian-linked NGOs having ties to terrorism-related activities in the past (Balkan Insight, June 25, 2015). If no effective responses are undertaken, MEK’s presence and Iran’s attention towards the Western Balkans may inflame sectarian divides in smaller communities and amplify regional rifts. Sectarian division is a latent phenomenon among Albanian Muslims, but they also remain under the pressure of other forms of Islamist radicalization. This is due to the emergence of Islamic State and Turkey’s instrumentalization of political Islam, among others.
Albania continues to struggle with endemic corruption and organized crime and the emergence of religious radicalization as a regional security threat and potential sectarian rifts may add to the list of challenges facing Albania’s political landscape. As a result, the country may not be prepared to inherit a long-standing struggle between a major regional Middle Eastern power and a former terrorist organization. Especially since both may utilize Albania’s internal vulnerabilities for their own political gains.
- See U.S. State Department Press Release (US State Department, September 28, 2012).
- Pandeli Majko’s speech in Paris, May 10, 2015:
Iran: US masters responsible for today terror attack in Ahvaz. (Joint “al-Ahwaz” and “MEK” terror attack)The MEK’s dirty past includes the anti-Imperialist inspired murder of six Americans in pre-revolution Iran which it later celebrated in songs and publications
The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
Borzou Dargahi, THE INDEPENDENT, September 28 2018:… An Iranian exile group that is a darling of Washington conservatives has set up what critics describe as “a state within a state” inside the tiny Balkan nation of Albania. From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation …
The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
In Tirana, Borzou Daragahi meets defectors of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, a controversial group which has found itself the darling of Washington
From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, commonly known by the acronym MEK, has begun handing out mysterious wads of cash, set up its own radio communications network, and launched deceptive information operations to influence debate about the Islamic Republic – its avowed enemy – say defectors of the group, relatives of members, and Albanian journalists, lawyers and a former intelligence official.
In addition, it has been accused of locking up members inside the camp against their will, an allegation that has long dogged the organisation, which is led by Iranian exile couple Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, and described by former members and Iran experts as a political cult.
“We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws,” says Olsi Yazici, an Albanian writer who is part of the legal team attempting to find out more about the group.
“They are behaving in Albania like a mafia – breaking laws, blackmailing, paying people off, beating people, threatening defectors, accusing anyone who questions them of being an Iranian agent and controlling their members in the camp through Stalinist totalitarian methods. And at the end, they claim to be democrats who will save Iran.”
The Independent reached out to several MEK spokespersons and representatives, seeking comment for the story.
As this report was being prepared, the organisation released a five and a half minute video clip that showed drone footage of what it called its “residential compound”, which appears made up of dozens of buildings, and a main entrance flanked by a pair of golden lions, a symbol of the MEK.
The video showed Albanians on construction jobs in the camp, as well as members sipping tea with Albanian neighbours, or making music in a studio, including a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws
Olsi Yazici, Albanian writer
“Terrorist, terrorist,” the men screamed at the elderly couple, their arms locked, as they sought to walk away. Canadian-Iranians Mostafa and Mahboubeh Mohammadi say they have struggled to get their daughter, Somayeh, out of the MEK for 21 years.
They haven’t spoken to her since 2004, when they travelled to central Iraq to make a desperate attempt to get her and her younger brother out of the camp the group then occupied. Once they had been sympathisers and had even raised money for the group.
“We would spread out on the streets and show pictures of Iranians the regime had killed, and say their kids are stuck in refugee camps,” recalls Mostafa Mohammadi.
But eventually the Mohammadis turned against the group, which they claimed tricked their daughter into travelling to Iraq, seized her passport, and pressed her into the organisation. Through tremendous effort involving US and Canadian diplomats, they say they managed to extract their son, who is now living in Canada, but not their daughter.
The MEK says Somayeh is in the organisation of her own free will, and has issued videos of her disowning her parents.
At least one other former member of the group in Tirana says he was able to leave the organisation once he told them he wished to part ways.
“I choose to pursue my own life,” he says, asking that his name not be published. “There was no pressure to stay.”
A lengthy statement by the group on the website of its front group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that that Mostafa Mohammadi had been in Tehran in 2008 – an allegation he denies – and called Mohammadi’s lawyer an “agent” of the Iranian intelligence services.
The five and a half minute video shows footage of Somayeh Mohammadi with a caption reading that she insists the “Iranian regime deployed her father to accuse MEK (of having) kidnapped her”.
When the Mohammadis first came to Albania to find Somayeh, they were given the runaround by authorities in Tirana, who insisted she was not in the country.
But they managed to get confirmation from a sympathetic local refugee resettlement group that she had arrived in Tirana in 2015. Just days before the confrontation with the MEK members, the Mohammadis managed to prompt a police officer to enter the camp and confirm that she was there, possibly the first time an Albanian official wielding a warrant entered the compound.
“This was a big shock for the MEK,” says Yazici, the writer. “This diminished the role of the commanders in the eyes of the members.”
The Mohammadis had heard that she made her way one day a week to a Tirana hospital, serving as a translator for MEK members seeking medical care. They waited nearby to catch a glimpse of her on 27 July. After a few hours they became discouraged, and began heading back to their hotel.
That’s when a group of four men – who later transpired to be MEK enforcers – surrounded the elderly couple and began screaming “terrorist” at them.
Police soon arrived to break up the melee. Startling the officers, the MEK enforcers continued to strike Mohammadi in front of them, screaming that the frail couple were “terrorists”.
The police rounded up the Mohammadis as well as the MEK enforcers and took everyone to a Tirana police station. MEK leaders summoned their lawyer, Margarita Kola, as well as some leaders of the group. Kola, who once worked as a counsel for the US Embassy in Tirana, claimed she was acting on behalf of the Americans.
“She said, ‘You know who I am or not?’” recalls Migena Banna, the lawyer representing the Mohammadis, who was also at the police station. “She said, ‘I am not just a lawyer, I’m a legal representative of the US embassy.’ Then the police changed their behaviour.”
Kola told The Independent that she did not work for the US embassy but declined to answer whether she had originally made the claim.
Under pressure, police let the MEK members go, but held on to the Mohammadis for eight hours. The Tirana prosecutors’ office told The Independent the case remains under investigation.
Mostafa Mohammadi went to a hospital for treatment for his bruises. By then, the video of the pack of MEK enforcers assaulting the couple had gone viral on Albanian social media. Local television stations arrived to meet the couple, and stories about the search for their daughter began to air. Albanians were outraged.
“We have so many other refugees, Syrians, Iraqis. They can do everything. They go shopping. They are out on the streets,” says Yazici. “Where are these MEK people? Why can’t we see them?”
Much of the world was worried when Donald Trump was elected US president in November 2016. The leaders of the MEK celebrated.
“It was like a wedding,” recalls Hassan Heyrani, a former member of the group’s political committee who defected this year. “It was the whole election of Trump that prompted the group to move forward with the new camp. They were so happy. They said, ‘The geopolitical engine of the region is turning.’”
The story of the 50-year-old group is bound up in the wars, uprisings, and political twists of the Middle East. It was founded by leftist students decades ago to fight against the regime of Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, carrying out assassinations of US officials in Iran who were backing him.
It later turned against the clerics who took over in Tehran during the 1979 revolution, staging bomb attacks during the 1980s, when it was granted a camp northeast of Baghdad and joined along Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.
That move destroyed its popularity among the vast majority of Iranians. But with dozens of tanks and thousands of fighters positioned at a sprawling and inhospitable desert compound called Camp Ashraf, in a province adjacent to the Iranian border, it remained a threat to the Islamic Republic.
Its fortunes changed after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein. US forces at first bombed the group as an appendage of the Baghdad regime, pulverising many of its tanks. But Washington conservatives later began to cultivate MEK as a potential way of pressuring Tehran.
The group eventually ran afoul of Iranian-backed politicians of the new Iraqi political elite. Members were pressured to leave Camp Ashraf, which was taken over by the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade militia, and relocate to Camp Liberty, on the same compound as US forces and the Baghdad International Airport.
Under pressure by Baghdad authorities to remove the group, the US managed to convince the government of Albania to take in a couple hundred members of the group as refugees in 2013, in what was described as a humanitarian gesture.
But as they came under attack by Iranian-backed Shia militias, as well as pressure by Isis militants, the plan to move a few hundred to Albania somehow turned into bringing the entire organisation from Iraq to southeastern Europe.
Once they had fully moved to Albania, the group first took up residence in a series of empty apartment buildings scattered around the city, and continued its fade into obscurity and irrelevance.
Leaders tried in vain to keep long-isolated members – curious about the modern world, and barred from sex and dating –from drifting away. They tried to erect barriers around one apartment building, but they were promptly torn down by angry local authorities.
With Mr Trump’s election, everything changed. The MEK had spent years cultivating Washington figures such as John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, who were forces in the new administration in Washington.
In addition, an ambitious and stridently anti-Iran Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman took the reins in Saudi Arabia, and began looking for allies in his aim to roll back and possibly topple the clerical government in Tehran.
Beginning in July 2017, just as Trump began re-imposing sanctions on Iran that Obama had lifted as part of the nuclear deal, the MEK suddenly began buying plots of land in Albania, in a rural stretch of farmland near the town of Manza, between the Albanian capital and the Adriatic Sea.
The Trump administration continues to maintain strong ties with the MEK. At the weekend, the president’s lawyer addressed a gathering of the group at a midtown Manhattan hotel, describing the MEK as an antidote to the brutality and repression of the “outlaws and murderers” in power in Tehran. “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy,” he said.
Albanian investigative journalist Gjergi Thanasi said the group paid $13m (£9.9m) to buy the first 200,000 square metres of the compound, has since bought another 140,000 square metres, and continues buying up property and racking up significant water, electricity, and internet bills.
They pay for everything with huge wads of cash, sometimes piles of local currency that they purchase through street vendors rather than banks or exchange shops, but also with “crisp hundred-dollar bills”, says Thanasi, leaving no bank trail.
“They pay bills on time,” he says. “They pay in cash. They buy small things in shops or even in malls. They always pay in cash. They do not use bank cards. They love not leaving a footprint.”
Thanasi found the group purchased 1,700 Lenovo brand computers and monitors from an Albanian firm. At first he thought it was some scam to evade import duties and resell the computers at a profit. But the MEK paid full price for the devices. They wanted the computers for the camp, and paid for them in cash. “What the hell do you need so many computers for?” he quips.
The group has a number of big-ticket expenses. It has set up a dedicated high-speed internet. It also managed to obtain official permission to set up its own antenna atop Mount Dajti, on the peaks overlooking Tirana, giving it effectively its own communications network.
A private Albanian security firm, called Argon, guard the camp and its entrances, deploying perhaps nine personnel armed with assault rifles and handguns in six-hour shifts around the clock.
It remains unclear why Albania, a small Balkan country struggling to overcome its reputation for corruption and money laundering in order to become a member of the EU, would allow such a shadowy group to operate with so little scrutiny.
“If I want to buy a car for 2,000 or 3,000 euros I have to use a bank in order to pay for the car,” says Thanasi. “I have to circulate the money through the bank and justify that this quantity comes out of my personal savings.”
The organisation appears to have strong connections to senior Albanian officials. Pandeli Majko, a minister in the current Albanian government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, Fatmir Mediu, a former defence minister, and Elona Gjebrea, a former deputy interior minister, were with Giuliani when he visited Tirana earlier this year for Persian New Year festivities hosted by the MEK.
Heyrani, the 38-year-old former member of the MEK’s political section, says he suspected the group’s sudden riches were coming from Saudi Arabia’s coffers, through a channel organised by Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, who over the summer, attended an MEK rally in France, along with Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, and Bolton, the White House National Security Adviser.
Heyrani says he had no evidence of Saudi support for the group other than conversations with members of its political leadership. “I said, ‘What a big camp, with so many buildings,’” Heyrani recalls. “He said, ‘Finally, Faisal laid the golden egg.’”
A spokesperson for the the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. Ali Shihabi, founder of the Riyadh-backed Arabia Foundation think tank, said that Prince Turki has denied serving as a conduit for MEK funds.
Hassan Shahbaz, 50 years old, had joined the MEK shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. But it wasn’t until he got to Tirana that he discovered that his elderly mother, two brothers, and two sisters had risked their lives to travel to Iraq in the midst of that country’s 2006 civil war to visit him. When they arrived they were turned away from the camp entrance. “They told them I wasn’t there, and turned them back,” he says today.
When he confronted MEK superiors about their action, they told him to let it go. “For now, freeze it,” he was told.
A few weeks later, during an outing with other MEK members in April, he quietly slipped away from the group, took a taxi back to Tirana and became one of the growing members of the group to defect.
“Back then when they kept us locked up, they could say it’s for our own protection, that the government of Iraq is in the pocket of Iran,” he says. “What’s the argument here?”
Sheltered inside the camp, which members nickname Ashraf 3, the organisation has recreated what critics call its cult-like structure. Members are told to spy on each other, recount their dreams, and take part in hours-long indoctrination sessions.
Defiant members are punished with days-long isolation, barred from contact with their comrades. After outings to hospitals or shops they are patted down, for fear they have tried to smuggle phones into the camp.
The camp is divided into several sections, with the northernmost end reserved exclusively for France-based Rajavi on her rare visits, and an underclass of mostly male labourers separated from the rest of the elite by fences and checkpoints at the far south of the camp.
Heyrani calls the camp a version of Animal Farm, after the book written by George Orwell about an isolated and authoritarian society. In a statement, the group said MEK members “have been been targets of the Iranian regime’s terrorism,” and needed protection. The statement said the MEK members at the camp “have always welcomed friends, dignitaries and journalists from Albania and other countries, both in their current and previous residences. But they are vigilant and experienced enough not to welcome the Iranian regime’s agents.”
Unable to draw new recruits, the organisation is aging and greying, and many of the members might choose to remain in the camp for fear of the outside world.
“They are very lost people,” says retired Colonel Ylli Zyla, a former Albanian counter-terror and intelligence official. “On average they are more than 50 years old. They are slowly, slowly dying off one by one. They don’t have any useful professional backgrounds. All of them are brainwashed.”
Most days, the cadres seem to be deployed on the social media battleground, in an attempt to give an illusion of the popularity the group lacks on the ground.
They spend long hours engaged in Twitter wars against supporters of the Tehran government or even Islamic Republic opponents who also publicly oppose the MEK. “We are told to attack accounts of people who are opposed to or critical of the MEK,” says Heyrani. “Or we would retweet Maryam Rajavi’s speeches.”
They were also told to pretend to take political identities other than MEK supporters. “They would tell us right now the environment is not good for us,” he recalls, in an allegation that was confirmed by other defectors. “They would say that because of the propaganda against us by the regime, it’s better to pretend we’re monarchists, or just Iranian democracy activists.”
Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the MEK, on Twitter denounced allegations that the group was running a troll factory in Albania as “preposterous”, calling it a narrative “dictated” by Iranian intelligence officers to international media. The video for the group shows a room full of computers, with members collecting video of protests inside Iran.
Zyla has become something of an expert on the group. Though he says it poses no threat to Albanian national security, he says it has begun to challenge the country’s public order. Its members have been known to harass defectors, who mill about in Tirana’s cafes, and attend weekly vocational training sessions organised by the UN. One defector said he’s been threatened six times since he left the group.
“Even the police are not allowed to go inside,” Zyla tells The Independent. “The Ministry of Interior almost has no control over the camp. Police patrols, to my knowledge, are not allowed in the MEK complex. Their camp has turned into a mysterious bunker.”
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
Aljazeera, September 16 2018:… For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory. The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana. the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition …
15 Sep 2018 08:09 GMT
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
For a country that has been on the wrong end of United States foreign policy for nearly four decades, it is no surprise the debate over Iran has been polarising. The US’s decision to withdrawal from the nuclear deal this year has boosted those calling for the hardest stance against the Islamic Republic.
Those pushing back against what many say is an agenda for regime change in Iran are reporting an online backlash the likes of which they have not seen before. However, the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition voices they are made out to be.
For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory.
The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana, Albania.
Trita Parsi – Author, Losing an Enemy – Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy
Azadeh Moaveni – Fellow, New America
Marc Owen Jones – Lecturer in Middle East history, Exeter University
Hassan Heyrani – Former MEK member
Hassan Shahbaz – Former MEK member
Albanian Police Report says Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, Rajavi cult) Kill Their Own Members
Iran Interlink, September 13 2018:… The report acknowledges MEK’s history of killing its own members in Iraq and says police believe this will also happen in Albania. In June 2018, Albanian media reported a possible MEK assassination after one of the camp residents was reported drowned in an irrigation channel. The alarm was raised by some MEK members who gave conflicting accounts …
Albanian Police Report says Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, Rajavi cult) Kill Their Own Members
Following a Channel Four News report on the MEK in Albania, presented by international editor Lindsey Hilsum, there has been widespread interest in this issue in the Albanian media. In particular journalists have focused on a secret report by Albania’s National Police, which was obtained by Channel Four News. The report states that MEK in Albania poses a lethal threat to their own members if they try leave or try to leave.
The report acknowledges MEK’s history of killing its own members in Iraq and says police believe this will also happen in Albania.
In June 2018, Albanian media reported a possible MEK assassination after one of the camp residents was reported drowned in an irrigation channel. The alarm was raised by some MEK members who gave conflicting accounts of Malek Shara’i’s drowning. This indicated that they knew from the start he was dead, even though after extensive searches by expert police and navy divers, no body was found for over two weeks.
Eventually, after the scandal of his disappearance became headline news in Albania, a body was suddenly discovered. Shara’i’s family in Iran made a plea to the authorities to discover how he had died. However, MEK convinced the Coroner that a post mortem investigation would be against Iranian sacred burial traditions! MEK then took away the body. There is now a grave bearing his name in the cemetery in Tirana alongside other MEK who have died in that country. The case was closed.
Shara’i’s next of kin are his immediate family who quickly got in touch with the Albanian authorities. They informed investigators that Shara’i had been a strong swimmer and a lifeguard back in Iran. However, they were not consulted at any stage in the investigation or asked for permission for an autopsy, nor told a cause of death or asked about burial preferences.
Putting aside the possible reason that Shara’i died – former members said he had long wanted to leave but knew sensitive information which MEK wanted to keep secret – the failure of the Coroner to challenge MEK’s ridiculous assertion that a post mortem examination is against ‘their’ culture, leaves an opening now for MEK to kill and bury unwanted members with impunity. Apparently, no Albanian institution has the will or capability to resist MEK corruption.
Nevertheless, as the following reports demonstrate, Albanian citizens as well as their security forces, are seriously questioning the appropriateness of MEK’s presence in their small and vulnerable country.
Police secret report: Mojahedin pose a threat to security in Albania
7 September 2018
Mojahedin pose a danger to Albania’s security, according to the English Channel 4 public broadcaster. The television channel’s main correspondent, Lindsey Hilsum, has broadcast a report on the Mojahedin in Albania, including a secret police file of the State Police.
According to this document, signed by director general of the Albanian State Police, Ardi Veliu, Mojahedin constitute a security risk in Albania, as there are reasonable suspicions that members of the MEK group may kill members who leave or attempt to get out of the group.
Mojahedin “may have implications for internal security, as these individuals are deeply indoctrinated, have been part of military structures, have participated in fighting and acts of terror,” the secret document says.
The Mojahedin cult, otherwise known as MEK, became a terrorist group and was included in the 2012 U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Given the indoctrination of members and their activity in Iraq, State Police suspects that they may repeat their killings of members who leave the group.
“Former members of this organization have been murdered in Iraq after they have appeared publicly in opposition to the organization’s activities … following the indication of the actions and behaviors of the citizens in question who are currently separated from this organization, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that this situation is the same as happened in Iraq, which was followed by murder”, reads the document signed by Ardi Veliu.
Currently the Mojahedin have been accommodated in a large camp at Manez in Durres, where they are under continuous scrutiny by the Albanian authorities to prevent any potential danger they may have for the security of the country.
SECRET POLICE REPORT / Mojahedin ALBANIA, capable of terrorist acts, must be kept under control (documentary CHANNEL 4 NEWS)
10 September 2018
Within Albania, a giant camp is being built for the Mojahedin. Information and some video footage were collected by journalist Lindsey Hilsum, an international editor and presenter of Channel 4 News, who has come to Albania and tried to visit the camp.
She wanted to go to the headquarters of MEK, Iran’s largest opposition group, which has been established for several years in Albania. And one of Iran’s opposition’s friends, is US President Donald Trump.
John Bolton, President Trump’s advisor, spoke to members of the Iranian opposition last year in Albania and how they should take power.
Journalist Lindesy Hilsum has gone to the camp and was not allowed by private guards to enter the camp to conduct interviews.
“I do not understand why the private guards won’t allow us. We are here in Albania”, she says in the documentary, while she says she was accused by the Mojahedin as a spy in the Iranian regime.
But behind the camp’s wire fence the journalist has seen numerous machines working, highlighting the fact that the camp is expanding, though no one will speak.
Even though she has presented her journalist’s identity card, the Albanian private guards have not allowed her to do her job. “Stop the footage”, the private security guard is heard on the camera and then puts his hand on the camera to prevent the footage.
In the Iran-Iraq war, MEK fought on the side of Saddam Hussein, the journalist says, against their country. The Iranian regime at that time executed hundreds of members of the opposition, MEK. They operated from military bases in Iraq and were then classified by the US as a terrorist organization.
When the Americans removed Saddam in 2003, MEK surrendered to US troops. But they were always under attack by pro-Iranian forces. And at that moment the US has revoked MEK’s terrorist status and then dispersed the Mojahedin in four US-backed countries, one of them being Albania.
“In Tirana, I met a couple of Canadian citizens who distributed leaflets to citizens while saying that MEK is not good for their country.
They said they came to Albania to see their daughter, Somayeh, claiming she was kidnapped by MEK 20 years ago and they found her in Albania.”
“I am not against Mojahedin. I have no interest in politics. I want to see my daughter, only for 10 minutes”, says the girl’s father to the Channel4News journalist.
Somayeh Mohammadi told another reporter that her father was an Iranian spy and she would not see him. “He came to Albania to spy on our camp. He has come to Albania to tell people that Mojahedin have abducted me. But this is not true” was the girl’s assertion.
The Mojahedin in the Albanian camp are afraid that former members of the group are spying on them and want to eliminate them.
The journalist also found a former Mojahedin member who shows that life in the MEK camp is not free. He has talked willingly about the division of men and women in the camp and that they should not have any opinion about sex. “During the day, every camp member had to write about sexual thoughts and every evening we should read them in front of others and commanders”, he says.
Plan of Albanian police measures
The journalist has come across the plan of the Albanian police to maintain the Iranian opposition in Albania. The document is titled, “Action Plan for Monitoring and Preventing and Preventing Possible Crime in the Perspective of Iranian Nationals Members of the MEK Organization Hosted in Albania”.
“Currently, in the territory of the Republic of Albania, 2745 Iranian citizens have been sheltered for several years. These citizens are part of the MEK organization, otherwise known as the Iranian opposition. The arrival of Iranian asylum seekers in our country can have implications for internal security, as these individuals are deeply indoctrinated, have been part of military structures, have participated in fighting and acts of terror”, the Albanian police write.
According to the document, Mojahedin Khalq or Iran’s Mojahedin Organization, otherwise known as MEK and PMOI, is a revolutionary Marxist-Islamic group, founded in 1965.
In the secret document of the Albanian police, it is said that three Iranian nationals, separated from the camp and living in Tirana, have had their lives threatened by the MEK. And they have reported this at the police station in Tirana in February 2018.
“With regard to these situations and from the data obtained in the operative, it has been learned that: Previously in Iraq Former members of this organization have been murdered in Iraq after they have appeared publicly in opposition to the organization’s activities with the intent of damaging its cause. As can be seen above, and the statements given by Iranian citizens on the “Fiks Fare” show and the charges made to the police commissariats by these citizens, the time, the way of acting, their behavior is similar to the way in a situation of happened earlier in Iraq.
Along the way, by looking at the indications of the actions and behaviors of the concerned citizens who are currently separated from this organization, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that this situation is the same as happened in Iraq, which was followed by murder.
Assessing the importance of the above information from the state police institution, a maximum assessment of this situation should be carried out and full measures should be planned as follows:
- To undertake a thorough assessment of security measures, to ensure public safety, to prevent any criminal act that may occur between members of the MEK organization and its detained persons.
- Assess any information related to this situation in order to prevent possible criminal incidents.
- Instruct, engage and maximize the capabilities of all state police officers to recognize and engage in the pursuit of these elements. Identification of all settlements and settlements of Iranian nationals in our country and mainly in Tirana and Durres, “reads in the secret police document of the state.
Ylli Zyla, former Chief of Information Service from 2008-2012, also spoke about this organization. “It is strictly strict and if anyone comes out of their criminal framework they are executed by their own members within themselves”, says Ylli Zyla.
Channel4 contacted MEK but was accused of spying for Iran and wanting to break the Iranian opposition. Meanwhile, the journalist shows the support of many politicians from the United States.
“Maybe, according to journalist Lindsey Hilsum, MEK is more threatened by itself than by Iran. In the camp, while they are not allowed to have children, there will be no new generation.
Outside Tirana, we found in the cemetery those who died of a disease, or even age. Everyone has died without seeing their families, and far from their homes.
RAPORTI SEKRET I POLICISË/ MUXHAHEDINËT NË SHQIPËRI, TË AFTË PËR AKTE TERRORISTE, TË MBAHEN NËN KONTROLL (DOKUMENTARI I CHANNEL4NEWS)
Publikuar tek: AKTUALITET, më 13:42 10-09-2018
Brenda Shqipërisë, është duke u ndërtuar një kamp gjigand për muxhahedinët. Të dhënat dhe ato pak filmime janë marrë nga gazetarja Lindsey Hilsum, editore ndërkombëtare e Channel4News, që ka ardhur në Shqipëri dhe ka tentuar të hyjë brenda kampit.
Ka dashur te shkojë te zyrat qendrore te MEK, grupi më i madh opozitar i Iranit, që prej disa vitesh është vendosur në Shqipëri. Dhe një ndër miqtë e opozitës iraniane, është presidenti i SHBA, Donald Trump.
John Bolton, këshilltar i presidentit Trump ishte vitin e kaluar në Shqipëri, ku foli përpara anëtarëve të opozitës Iraniane dhe mënyrës sesi ata duhet të marrin pushtetin.
Gazetarja Lindesy Hilsum, ka shkuar në kamp dhe nuk është lejuar nga rojet private të hyjë brenda kampit për të kryer intervistat.
“Nuk e kuptoj pse nuk na lënë rojet private. Ne ketu jemi në Shqipëri”, thotë ajo në dokumentarin e realizuar, ndërsa thotë se është akuzuar nga muxhahedinët si një spiune e regjimit iranian.
Por gazetarja, prapa telave të kampit, ka parë makineri të shumta që punojnë, duke evidentuar faktin se kampi po zgjerohet, edhe pse askush nuk do të flasë.
Edhe pse ka prezantuar dokumentin e saj si gazetare, rojet private shqiptare nuk e kanë lënë të kryejë detyrën. “Stop filmimeve”, dëgjohet në kamera roja i sigurisë private dhe më pas vendos dorën tek kamera për të mos lejuar filmimet.
Në luftën Iran-Irak, MEK u vendos në krah të Sadam Hyseinit, thotë gazetarja, kundër vendit të tyre. Regjimi iranian në atë kohë, ekzekutoi qindra anëtarë të opozitës, MEK. Ata operonin në baza militare në Irak dhe në atë kohë ishin klasifikuar nga SHBA si organizatë terroriste.
Kur amerikanët rrëzuan Sadamin në 2003, MEK u dorëzuan te trupat amerikane. Por gjithmonë ishin nën sulmin e forcave pro-iraniane. Dhe në këtë moment, SHBA revokoi statusin e terroristëve për MEK. Dhe më pas, shpërndanë muxhahedinët në katër vende që kishin mbëshetjen e SHBA, dhe një prej tyre ishte Shqipëria.
“Në Tiranë takova një cift me shtetësi kanadeze që shpërndanin fletëpalosje për qytetarët ndërsa thoshin se MEK nuk është gjë e mirë për vendin e tyre.
Ata thanë se kanë ardhur në Shqipëri të shohin vajzën e tyre, Samaja, që pretendojnë se është rrëmbyer nga MEK, 20 vjet më parë dhe gjendet në Shqipëri.
“Nuk jam kundër muxhahedinëve. Nuk kam asnjë qëllim për këtë. Unë dua të shoh vajzën time, vetëm për 10 minuta” thotë i ati i vajzës për gazetaren e Channel4News.
Samaja Mohamedy, i tha gazetares së Channel4 se babai i saj ishte një spiun iranian dhe ajo nuk do ta shohë atë. “Ka ardhur në Shqipëri për të spiunuar kampin tonë. Ai ka ardhur në Shqipëri t’u thotë njerëzve se muxhahedinët më kanë rrëmbyer. Por kjo nuk është e vërtetë” ishte pohimi i vajzës.
Muxhahedinët në kampin shqiptar janë të frikësuar se ish komandantët janë duke i vëzhguar dhe duan t’i eleminojnë.
Gazetarja ka gjetur edhe një muxhahedin që i tregon se jeta në kampin e MEK nuk është e lirë. Ai ka treguar me vullnet të lirë ndarjen e burrave dhe grave në kamp dhe se në të, ata nuk duhet të kishin asnjë mendim as për seksin. “Gjatë ditës, çdo anëtar i kampit duhet të shkruante për mendimet seksuale dhe çdo mbrëmje duhet t’i lexonim ato përpara të tjerëve dhe komandantëve” thotë ai.
Plani i masave i policisë shqiptare
Gazetares i ka rënë në dorë plani i masave të policisë shqiptare për të ruajtur opozitën iraniane në Shqipëri. “Plan masash për monitorimin dhe mbajtjen nën kontroll dhe parandalimin e ngjarjeve të mundshme kriminale në drejtim të shtetasve iranianë pjesëtarë të organizatës MEK të strehuar në Shqipëri” është titulli i dokumentit.
“Aktualisht në territorin e RSH janë strehuar 2745 shtetas iranianë të ardhur prej disa vitesh. Këta shtetas janë pjesë e organizatës MEK e njohur ndryshe si opozita iraniane. Ardhja në vendin tonë e azilkërkuesve iranianë, mund të sjellë implikime në sigurinë e brendshme, pasi këta individë, janë të indoktrinuar thellësisht, kanë qenë pjesë e strukturave ushtarake, kanë marrë pjesë në luftime dhe në akte terrori” shkruan dokumenti i policisë shqiptare.
Sipas dokumentit, Mojahedin e Khalq ose Organizata e Muxhahedinëve të Popullit të Iranit, njohur ndryshe si MEK dhe OMPI, është një grup revolucionar marksist-islamik, i themeluar në vitin 1965.
Në dokumentin sekret të policisë shqiptare, thuhet se tre shtetas iranianë, të shkëputur nga kampi dhe që jetojnë në Tiranë, janë kërcënuar me jetë nga MEK. Dhe ata kanë denoncuar në komisariatin e policisë në Tiranë në shkurt 2018.
“Në lidhje me këto situate dhe nga të dhënat e marra në rrugë operative është mësuar se: Më parë në Irak kanë ndodhur vrasje të- ish anëtarëve të kësaj organizate të shkëputur prej saj pasi ata kanë dalë publikisht duke iu kundërvenë veprimtarisë së organizatës me qëllim dëmtimin e kauzës së saj. Nga sa shihet më lart dhe intevistimet e dhëna nga shtetasit iranianë në emisionin “Fiks Fare” si dhe kallzimet e bëra në komisariatet e policisë nga këta shtetas, koha, mënyra e të vepruarit, sjelljes së tyre është e ngjashme si mënyrë me një situatë të ndodhur më parë në Irak.
Në vijimësi, duke parë indikacionet e veprimeve dhe sjelljeve të shtetasve në fjalë të cilët aktualisht janë të shkëputur nga kjo organizatë, ka dyshime të arsyeshme se kjo situatë është e njëjtë me atë të ndodhur më parë në Irak e cila është pasuar me vrasje.
Duke vlerësuar rëndësinë e informacioneve të mësipërme nga strukturat e policisë së shtetit duhet të kryhet vlerësim maksimal për këtë situatë dhe të planifikohen masa të plota si më poshtë vijon:
Të bëhet vlerësimi i lartë i masave të sigurisë, për të garantuar sigurinë publike, parandalimin e ndonjë akti kriminal që mund të ndodhë midis anëtarëve të organizatës MEK dhe personave të shkëputur prej saj.
Të vlerësohet çdo informacion lidhur me këtë situatë me qëllim parandalimin e mundshëm të ngjarjeve kriminale.
Instruktim, angazhim dhe vlerësim maksimal i të gjithë punonjësve të policisë së shtetit që të njihen dhe të angazhohen në ndjekjen e këtyre elementeve. Identifikimin e të gjitha vendbanimeve dhe vendqëndrimeve të shtetasve iranianë në vendin tonë dhe kryesisht në Tiranë dhe në Durrës”, shkruhet në dokumentin sekret të policisë së shtetit.
Ylli Zyla, ish shef i Shërbimit Informativ nga viti 2008-2012 ka folur gjithashtu për këtë organizatë. “Eshtë me rregulla strikte dhe nëse ndokush del nga korniza e tyre kriminale ata ekzekutohen nga vetë anëtarët e tyre brenda vetes” thotë Ylli Zyla.
Channel4 kontaktoi MEK por u akuzuan si spiunë të Iranit dhe se donte të thyente opozitën iraniane. Ndërkohë gazetarja tregon mbështetjen e shumë politikanëve nga SHBA.
“Ndoshta, konstaton gazetarja Lindsey Hilsum, MEK kërcënohet më shumë nga vetja sesa nga Irani. Në kamp, përderisa nuk lejohet që të ketë fëmijë, nuk do të ketë asnjë gjeneratë të re.
Jashtë Tiranës, ne gjetëm edhe varrezat e tyre, për ata që kanë vdekur nga ndonjë sëmundje, apo edhe mosha. Të gjithë kanë vdekur pa parë familjet e tyre, dhe shumë larg nga shtëpitë.