Massoud Khodabandeh, MidEast Discourse, February 19 2022:… The KSA has of course been backing the enemies of Iran for years (for example, Saddam Hussain during the 8 years of war and financing and supporting anti-Iranian terrorist groups like the Mujahedin Khalq and others) to balance regional power. Even though Iran has not been the cause of imbalance or at least not as persistently. Confronting Iranian interests in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (the axes of resistance if you will) and confronting Iran in Yemen have always been on the Saudi agenda. But although there has been push and pull, it is clear that Iran is not the loser in this confrontation on either front, and the KSA is not getting the Western backing she hoped for. interview with Massoud Khodabandeh
Axis of resistance and the West. Interview with Massoud Khodabandeh
Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
Negotiations between the western powers and Iran are continuing concerning a new nuclear deal. Steven
Sahiounie of MidEastDiscourse interviewed Massoud Khodabandeh to gain insight not only about the negotiation, but a wide array of topics connected to Iran and the Middle East. Khodabandeh is a regular writer and contributor on Middle East issues in print, broadcast and documentaries. He co-authored the book ‘The Life of Camp Ashraf – Victims of Many Masters” with his wife Anne Singleton.
1. Steven Sahiounie (SS): We have seen the Houthis launching several attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In your opinion, are these attacks in reply to the Saudi-led coalition massacres, or is it political pressure by Iran against Saudi Arabia and the USA to change the conditions of negotiations?
Massoud Khodabandeh (MK): If we look at history, we can see that there is consensus among all parties that the Houthis started fighting for the things that all Yemenis crave: government accountability, an end to corruption, regular utilities, fair prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis. It is also true that they wanted an end to Western influence which to their view was the main cause of all the above problems.
In 2015 a Saudi-led coalition – backed by the United States – intervened militarily in Yemen in a bid to fight the Houthis and restore their favorite President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, who, facing the uprising of Yemeni citizens, had to run away and hide in Riyadh. The UAE is also officially part of this hostile coalition. It is important to observe that the UAE is both under Western pressure to do her bit to help the invading coalition but also vulnerable to any disturbances in the country’s position as both a trade and military base for the US, UK and nowadays increasingly Israel.
After nearly 7 years of resistance against these invaders, the Houthis – rather say the Yemenis – are now in a position to effectively push back against one of the most brutal bombing and siege campaigns in the recent history of the region. This is of course not without the help of Iran, but Iran also has legitimate interests in the region, not least the security of oil exports and the security of the Persian Gulf.
Let me explain.
If Yemen becomes a subsidiary of a US/Saudi coalition, if pipelines and roads are put in place to export Saudi (and UAE, also perhaps Kuwaiti, Iraqi and Qatari) oil from Yemeni ports and if the Gulf of Aden (and the Red Sea) is secured for western tankers but not for Iranian tankers, then not only will Iran have a strategic problem, it is more than likely that the historic desire of western powers to start a war in the Persian Gulf (involving the separation of southern parts of Iran from the mainland) would certainly be on the table. This scheme has always been left on a back burner as any disturbances in the Persian Gulf would result in disruption to over 1/3 of the world’s oil supply.
Hence Iran has legitimate security issues. Other non-western countries are also looking at this geopolitical phenomenon with interest; just remember last year and how a simple accident in the Suez Canal disrupted the flow of Chinese (and other) goods to Europe and beyond. The Gulf of Adan, Yemen, Djibouti, and the Red Sea are not somewhere you can just invade to change its fabric without huge consequences.
2. SS: We have seen attempts to have a peace deal between Riyadh and Tehran. In your opinion, will these peace talks between the two regional powers, Tehran and Riyadh, go through and if so will this end the war on Yemen?
MK: First of all, Iran and the KSA are not at war (let’s hope they never will be), therefore there is no need to negotiate peace. Although the leaders of the KSA have historically always been conservative as well as pragmatic, in recent years the kingdom has been invited (or pushed) to play a more hostile role against Iran. The KSA has of course been backing the enemies of Iran for years (for example, Saddam Hussain during the 8 years of war and financing and supporting anti-Iranian terrorist groups like the Mujahedin Khalq and others) to balance regional power. Even though Iran has not been the cause of imbalance or at least not as persistently. Confronting Iranian interests in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (the axes of resistance if you will) and confronting Iran in Yemen have always been on the Saudi agenda. But although there has been push and pull, it is clear that Iran is not the loser in this confrontation on either front, and the KSA is not getting the Western backing she hoped for.
There are clear indications that the KSA and her Persian Gulf allies are coming to the conclusion that a new treaty or at least a new approach (i.e. diplomacy based on mutual understanding and addressing the needs of both sides) with Iran and her allies like China, Russia, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, would perhaps be more effective than confrontation. The KSA’s leaders have also seen that the Iranians are more inclined to respond positively and negotiate when their neighbors are working with them directly rather than bringing outside powers into the region. Iran’s policy is based on independence rather than ‘who has got the bigger backer’ and as time progresses, the other regional powers are seeing the benefit of this line of action for their own stability and prosperity.
The KSA and Iran certainly have the potential to work very closely together. Their hostility is a concept imported into the region, and both Iranian and Saudi officials know this well. As they move forward – a first negotiation step was started recently in Baghdad – they will certainly get closer together on a variety of subjects. The interests of Saudis and Iranians in the region are in many aspects the same – security and the stability of governments – and many of their differences have simply been brought in from other parts of the world and imposed on them.
The legitimate concerns of both Iranians and Saudis (and the UAE) in Yemen are not separate from their concerns about the wider Persian Gulf, Gulf of Adan and Red Sea areas. These can easily be addressed and resolved. In fact, the immediate result of such an understanding should be both Iran and the KSA getting together to help the Yemenis build a democratic process of governance as well as rebuilding the war-torn country. That is true in both Iraq and Syria and in much-needed cooperation between neighboring countries that has unfortunately not been achieved, perhaps due to foreign interference.
3-. SS: The Israeli occupation is escalating politically and military against Iran and its allies like Syria, Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance, and others. Does Israel want a war with Iran, or are they just trying to put pressure on Washington to not make a new Iranian nuclear deal?
MK: There is a theory within the Israeli elite that we (i.e. Israel) have to be at least 50 years ahead of any other country in the Middle East. If we (Israel) cannot advance as rapidly as we need, then the only way is to send the other back 50 years. That happened – or at least was tried – in Iraq, Syria, Libya etc. If you recall history, what George W Bush was intending to do was to start with Iran as part of his Axis of Evil, but he was persuaded at the time that this would be too risky. Better to start with Iraq and Afghanistan and then surround Iran. Even then many Israeli officials were not happy and wanted him to attack Iran; essentially to fulfill their need to have Iran sent back fifty years.
Now, after all these years, Iran is not a country that either Israel, or the USA and her allies, could attack without dire consequences. Israel’s population – if we count every Israeli passport holder as part of the population – is less than half Iran’s capital, Tehran city. It is not feasible for them to even provoke Iran to war. Remember that Iran hit the American Base ‘ein Al-Assad’ in Iraq in retaliation against the assassination of their general Qassem Soleimani. This demonstrated very clearly that Iran will not hesitate to hit back against any attack on its territory. It is however true that the Israelis, through their powerful lobbies in the US and UK, are doing their best to stop any rapprochement between Iran and Western countries.
What is more important now is that the existence of Israel – in its current manifestation as an apartheid occupation force in the region – will be under serious threat if Iran and the KSA become partners rather than rivals.
As they say Israel is adamant to fight the Iranians, and others in the Middle East, to the last American soldier. Israel by itself however does not have a passion for doing anything themselves. Their provocative incursions into Syria and Lebanon are nothing more than an effort to engage the US and UK. It is simply not going to happen.
The only exit strategy for the people in Israel is to accept to submit to internationally recognized laws and norms: put pressure on their rulers to end the apartheid, have a fair and meaningful democratic process of Governance (to start with accept the system of one person one vote) and join the rest of the international community.
4. SS: The Iranian nuclear deal meetings have got to a crucial point. In your opinion, is it possible to get to a new nuclear deal, and if not, will this lead to war, or more regional tension between Iran and its alliances and the West?
MK: Let’s start from beginning. It was the USG which tore up the JCPOA agreement and spat at their own signature on camera (demonstrated in a performance by Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, in a rally organized by the anti-Iranian Mujahedin Khalq Terrorist Organization, which was deported from Iraq and is now based in Albania). The door has always been left open by the rest of the signatories to allow the Americans to come back to their obligations and they are on the cusp of an agreement in Vienna. However, if they don’t come back the agreement will continue, under United Nations scrutiny and observations, with or without the US. There is no “new nuclear deal” as such and what is being discussed is how the west can get back to lifting sanctions against Iran and how Iran can go back to the original nuclear restrictions. I believe there will be an agreement; although Israel is determined to torpedo the negotiations, America’s benefits will outweigh Israeli pressure.
Whether or not the US and Iran come to an agreement in Vienna, the JCPOA will come to an end in less than 2 years. Iran is not holding back on advancements because of this deal and the West will not stop their sanctions but will continue them under other pretexts and labels – human rights, missiles, defense, terrorism, etc., you name it. The only time sanctions will actually be lifted is when Western countries realize that sanctions are hurting their own economies more than hurting Iran’s economy. I believe that with Iran joining the Shanghai treaty and the fading of the US dollar as dominant international currency this is not going to be too far off. Iran’s currency has stabilized in the last couple of years thanks to a variety of reasons. These include the opening of Iranian trade routes to Mediterranean ports as well as trade through Tajikistan and other neighboring countries. Only a few years ago, Iran’s import/export trade was at the mercy of the UAE from where Iran’s currency could be manipulated easily. Now, bilateral pacts with Russia, China, India, South Africa etc. are helping this stabilization.
I would conclude by pointing out that there has been a shift of power in the Middle East – as there has been a global shift. The dust is settling, and a new world and Middle Eastern order is on the horizon. Both the winners and losers of this change – if we can call it losing or winning as it is not as black and white as that – are coming round to the reality that accepting the new order is much better for everyone than trying to disrupt and disturb and try to bring back what is not deliverable.
I firmly believe that the tension between the axes of resistance and the West is coming to its end. The West is no longer in a position to dictate to these countries and frankly they really don’t need to be dictated to either. In the post neo-colonial world and in particular due to recent rapid changes in the world of business and technology, the interests of all parties can be negotiated and protected over negotiation tables not the field of battle. I am not downplaying this – it will not be easy. It will not happen overnight, but it is certainly both a possible and desirable way forward for all parties.
5. SS: In your opinion, could the new Iran nuclear deal, if successful, lead to the lifting of Syrian sanctions as well? Is the situation in Syria tied into the Iran negotiations at all?
MK: Remember, the sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussain’s Iraq are still in place and have not been lifted. New Western sanctions are being imposed on Russia and China every day. It is important to acknowledge that:
1- Unilateral sanctions, especially US ones, are imposed because the military option is either not possible or has been tried and failed.
2- Sanctions are only effective as long as they can be implemented and maintained. The days of effective unilateral sanctions are numbered. Monopolies are being replaced by alternative means. The use of non-dollar currencies, alternative financial transfer mechanisms and treaties that do not involve either US or EU are being introduced.
3- Sanctions will only be lifted when they are more harmful to the Western countries than the ones imposed on.
Having said that, the Iran nuclear deal has a great message. It is a success story of moving forward in a direction that preserves everyone’s interests. History shows us that every war ends. Every conflict is resolved with a treaty signed by diplomats. The Syrian situation is no different. The people of Syria may have lost a lot in lives and livelihoods, but they have gained a lot as well. The self-esteem, the confidence, the new examination of the world and their place in it has most definitely created the springboard Syrians need to accelerate into a better future. This time more and more standing on their own feet and relying on their own powers. Syrians certainly don’t lack the drive, the history or the knowledge needed for this.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist
Axis of resistance and the West. Interview with Massoud Khodabandeh
Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, January 18 2021:… President Joe Biden will only have months to make a difference if he wants to pursue a diplomatic route. He must demonstrate through policies and actions that Trump was a hiccup, not the way things will be. Trump was not America. If Biden wants to start talking with Iran he must accept where Iran is now, not what it used to be. Confrontation and containment cannot be the starting point for negotiations; there will have to be more carrots. Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
By Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
After enduring four years of President Trump’s hostile and belligerent policies and actions – the Muslim travel ban, extreme sanctions, incitement to violence, support for terrorist groups, assassinations of nuclear scientists and of general Qasem Soleimani – the Iranian people are entitled to conclude that America is waging a war against them. And Iran has responded; maximum pressure resulted only in maximum resistance. The sanctions, unfortunate as they have been for Iran’s economy, have not destroyed it. Indeed, evidence is emerging that Iran’s resistance culture itself has led to an entrepreneurial response to overcome the restrictions. Iran’s military opened a trade and security corridor through Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean coast. A dedicated port is under construction. The U.S. can no longer control Iran’s finances since it is no longer limited to trading through Dubai. The only way to stop that is using bombs; an actual declaration of war, which puts Israel at risk.
Trump and his allies spent four years trying to crush Iran, to force regime change and failing that, threats to bomb the country back fifty years. They failed. The unintended consequence of that failure has been the militarisation of Iran. The Revolutionary Guards have become stronger and their power embedded in the wider region with allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Commemorations to mark the January 3rd anniversary of the assassinations of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were titled ‘Martyrs Without Borders’ signifying their wider relevance. Although Iraq is in step with Iran to eject American forces from the region, the Trump administration failed to understand that Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘harsh revenge’ could be achieved as much through regional soft power and international law as military strikes.
Furthermore, the assassination of Soleimani unified Iran in a way that no internal politics could have hoped to achieve as Iranians rallied round their flag. Back in 2016, Iran’s leaders were almost equally divided between western leaning moderates and revolutionary hardliners. Now we hear president Rohani echoing the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei, and foreign minister Javad Zarif amplifying the role of the Quds Force in Iran’s foreign policy. National unity against the perceived external threat of America has now created grounds for military officials to be allowed to run for president in June’s elections. If the military prevail, it will make conflict more likely, not less. Iran says its missile program is defensive, that it does not want war, but with missiles in Iran and Lebanon trained on U.S. interests in the region, Israel is clearly less safe than before.
President Joe Biden will only have months to make a difference if he wants to pursue a diplomatic route. He must demonstrate through policies and actions that Trump was a hiccup, not the way things will be. Trump was not America. If Biden wants to start talking with Iran he must accept where Iran is now, not what it used to be. Confrontation and containment cannot be the starting point for negotiations; there will have to be more carrots.
Iran experts are focused on re-joining the JCPOA. But this will not be enough on its own to recalibrate relations between the two countries. Not only will Iran expect sanctions to be lifted but will feel entitled to demand compensation for the financial losses suffered under extreme sanctions. People were denied medicine. Iranians saw Trump as a mad man, but they blame America for their woes. The damage done by Trump will take years to redress, but there is no reason why trust building cannot begin straight away. To start with Biden must treat Iran with respect. Acknowledge that assassinations and incitement to violence and terrorism are not how civilized countries behave.
Of course, the new presidency will be hampered by America’s internal problems. Biden inherits a deeply divided country. Yet, the decades long problem of Iran could very well offer a route to a new bipartisan consensus on a way forward. Although Trump has gone, the Adelson family, Neocons and Fox News will still be there; war is still on the agenda. Theirs is not a battle between Democrats and Republicans, but between warmongers and peacemakers. Their agenda doesn’t depend on who is the president. They want to defeat Iran. If Trump couldn’t do it, they will force the Democrats to do it. They want a war at any price. If Biden cannot prevent war, they will have won.
In this respect, this expert would advocate a much easier, cheaper and effective course of action to start with. Biden should immediately restore the Obama administration’s plan to deradicalize the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist cult in Albania. The MEK are, of course, the darlings of both the anti-Iran cabal in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the hardliners in Iran. Both sides have used the MEK to destroy Iran’s indigenous opposition movement and to control the prevailing narrative on Iran in international politics.
By dismantling and deradicalizing the MEK, Biden can score easy wins in a variety of arenas. In Albania it would free around two thousand members from conditions of modern slavery, allowing them to reintegrate into normal society and be reunited with their families. It would relieve the Albanian government and security services of the headache caused by MEK crime, corruption and impunity in their country. For Iranians who universally regard the MEK with loathing as traitors and cultists, it would send a clear message that America will not tolerate terrorism or human rights abuses in pursuit of its foreign policy aims. Iran’s people would view dismantling this terrorist group as a goodwill gesture; building a modicum of trust that may sway some voters in June to have faith in the efficacy of diplomacy with the west.
But the most significant win for Biden would be to start tackling the corruption inside America which facilitated Trump’s belligerent agenda and that of his backers. Dismantling the MEK would stem one of the hidden conduits for the flow of foreign money and false narratives into America.
The MEK paid thousands of dollars for the likes of Rudi Giuliani and John Bolton to attend their rallies in Paris and Tirana to peddle the false narrative that the only way to deal with Iran is confrontation, regime change and war. The Heshmat Alavi scandal which exposed an industry of fake social media messages and accounts and a click farm in Albania, revealed that what had previously been covert activity had, under Trump, become mainstream.
In America, Professor Raymond Tanter has been tasked with creating a bi-partisan group to undermine the work of the new Biden administration. Funding for this project relies on the kind of corruption that has become embedded in the body politic. The example of MEK funding for the extreme right Vox Party in Spain reveals how the MEK use individual and fake association accounts to channel foreign funds into anti-Iran projects.
It is incumbent on the Biden administration to approach relations with Iran on a new page. Purging the old regime need not be as difficult as it first appears. The costs of erasing any traces of the MEK from that page are low, the benefits are great and many.
Interview with Massoud Khodabandeh
Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
Massoud Khodanbandeh, Responsible Statecraft, January 09 2020:… In another reckless act of overturning Obama’s legacy, the new Trump administration halted Hillary Clinton’s plan to de-radicalise the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Albania. Since then, American anti-Iran politicians have stuffed the MEK down the throats of the international community as the regime change opposition that will bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Since Iranians hate the MEK more than the current Islamic Republic, this has been a gift to the hard-liners in Iran. To quell every protest or demonstration since then, Iran’s security forces have only to claim that MEK are involved in inciting violence for the ordinary people to go home and announce their abhorrence of the MEK. Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
After Soleimani’s Assassination, There Will Be No Regime Change in Tehran
Anyone who believes that President Trump’s order to illegally assassinate Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani, Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and several more Iraqis, was an act of strength has not been properly paying attention. This is the latest in a series of stupid policy errors by this administration which have not only strengthened the hand of America’s enemies but have also now ensured that the rest of the world, with the exceptions of Israel and Saudi Arabia, now at best views the U.S. with mistrust, or at the very worst hate America more than any other country on earth. This is a remarkable achievement for a man who promised to end the “endless wars” and “drain the swamp.”
Trump started his presidency with the ambition of overturning the Obama administration’s achievements. However, he inherited a foreign policy already predicated on waging war and which was soon re-staffed and promoted by Republican warmongers. In this context, withdrawing unilaterally from the Iran nuclear deal might have appeared to be a strong-arm tactic to Trump, but to America’s allies in Europe it looked like a betrayal, and a slap in the face. Still, none were willing to come out on the side of Iran at that time. Even Russia and China were holding back at that stage. So, what were the steps in between which culminated in late December in an unprecedented four days of joint naval manoeuvres between Iran, China, and Russia in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman? What happened to embolden this trio to flex military muscle in the Middle East?
A review of these steps reveals that the blinkered aim of the Trump administration’s foreign policy to manufacture regime change against Iran by any means possible including all-out war has in fact resulted in the opposite result. Regime change is now in its coffin and the assassination of Soleimani is the last nail hammered in.
Instead of promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East, American interference is destroying every possibility of ordinary people rising up and demanding change from their own governments. In Syria, the people rose up against President Bashar al-Assad because of genuine grievances against that regime. The outcome of U.S. support for Sunni extremists in Syria has been a swing from people supporting the American aim of ousting Assad to rallying behind their own terrible government to save them from the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. With an irony that can be lost on no one, authoritarian Russia and the theocracy in Iran are now allies of Syria in that struggle.
In another reckless act of overturning Obama’s legacy, the new Trump administration halted Hillary Clinton’s plan to de-radicalise the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Albania. Since then, American anti-Iran politicians have stuffed the MEK down the throats of the international community as the regime change opposition that will bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Since Iranians hate the MEK more than the current Islamic Republic, this has been a gift to the hard-liners in Iran. To quell every protest or demonstration since then, Iran’s security forces have only to claim that MEK are involved in inciting violence for the ordinary people to go home and announce their abhorrence of the MEK.
American actions are consolidating people around their own hated governments instead of helping them express their legitimate demands. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s response to the anti-government protests in Iran in November was to repeat false information published by the MEK about the death toll. When Pompeo retweets MEK propaganda it destroys any trust among Iranians that the U.S. has their interests in mind.
In another remarkable example of how Pompeo has frittered away American power and influence, just weeks ago, disgruntled Iraqi citizens were in the streets demonstrating against Iranian interference in their country. Instead of supporting them, Pompeo oversaw the U.S. bombing of Iraqi militia forces that were fighting against ISIS. The Iraqi people cannot take the U.S. side over this no matter how anti-Iran they are. If America had done nothing, said nothing, Iraqi people would still be in the street demonstrating against their own government. Instead, different Iraqis attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Now, in a pivotal act of hubris, the illegal assassination of Soleimani and Iraqi militia leaders at an international airport not only allows Iran to describe the U.S. as a terrorist state, but has brought Iranians of every belief together to rally together to mourn a national hero, the man who saved Iran from ISIS.
But it would be a mistake to believe that the U.S.’s Middle East foreign policy mistakes only impacted that region. In 1981, France gifted the CIA some land to host the MEK outside Paris from where they could plan their armed resistance to the new regime. Although France did not use the MEK politically as America did, their presence was tolerated. Until, that is, MEK activities began to impact European security and democracy.
In 2017, John Bolton, just before he became Trump’s National Security Advisor, promised the MEK they would celebrate in Tehran before the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in February 2019. That did not happen, of course. But events subsequent to this promise certainly indicated there were already plans afoot to use the MEK to undermine European policy toward Iran. A bomb plot against the MEK in France was discovered by security forces in France and Belgium to have been a false-flag operation by the MEK used to blame and demonize Iran. After numerous acts of violence and confirmation that the MEK had funded Spain’s far-right Vox party in its EU election bid, several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands as well as France and Belgium moved to expel MEK leaders, including leader Maryam Rajavi, to Albania.
In Albania, the MEK have caused multiple headaches for the government and the opposition there. The worst result of which has been the EU’s refusal to allow Albania to join the union. After kicking out the MEK, no European country would allow them to enter through the back door again.
Significantly, what these policy steps over time have revealed to America’s foes and her friends alike is that the U.S. cannot be trusted. The Trump administration has shown a reckless disregard for normal behavior in the international scene. It acts with callous cruelty and indifference against enemies and allies alike.
The unwanted assassination of Soleimani will result in tectonic shifts in the world order. No matter how hard mainstream media in the West works to normalize America’s actions, security and military experts the world over will have their own ideas about what the future holds.
Interview with Massoud Khodabandeh
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, August 23 2019:… So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”. Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
By: Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh (Middle East Strategy Conslultants)
In 2017, John Bolton promised the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—wrongly, it turned out—that they would be celebrating in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution’s 40th anniversary in February 2019. This July, at the MEK’s five-day conference in Albania, keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani still insisted the MEK is a “government in exile” and claimed the MEK is “a group that should make us comfortable having regime change”.
For context, promoting a group which is universally despised by Iranians inside and outside the country as traitors already stretches credulity. There is no evidence that Iranians are calling for severe sanctions against themselves. Nor are they calling for regime change. The MEK’s only audience in this respect are a warmongering cabal of Americans, Saudis, Israelis, and British, who like to hear what they want to hear. The rest of the world just isn’t that comfortable with this bizarre, terrorist cult.
Lately, even Europe has distanced itself from lending succour to the group. The MEK no longer has free access to the European Parliament where its activists would harass the MEPs and their staff. This year the MEK was barred from holding its annual Villepinte rally in France and was also banned from rallying by Germany. As a result of this, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has decamped from Paris to Albania and the MEK announced that Albania is the group’s new headquarters.
The move from Iraq to Albania ought to have allowed unprecedented access to Western journalists keen to investigate the honey pot around which the anti-Iran cabal buzz with excitement. They were soon disappointed, as the MEK built a de facto extra-territorial enclave in Manëz and posted armed guards to keep out unwanted attention. But although the group were physically hidden from view, they were very exposed through their cyber activities.
Although it had been known for some time that the MEK operates a click farm from Albania, it was Murteza Hussain in The Intercept who revealed how the MEK uses fake social media accounts to curate a false narrative about Iran to influence US policy. The Heshmat Alavi scandal focused media attention on what is really happening inside the MEK behind the slickly marketed brand image that Giuliani so admires. This endeavour to scrutinise the MEK has been aided by a series of photographs which were leaked from inside the MEK’s camp in Albania and published in Iran. The photos are very revealing, but in ways that the MEK probably didn’t intend or realise when they were taken. Since the MEK so zealously hides its inner world from public scrutiny, these photos offer us an unguarded glimpse into the operational and organisational life of the cult.
The fact that the photos were taken at all is significant. At first glance they could be showing a session for seniors at the local library or community centre. But we see the women are wearing military uniforms and the men are all wearing similar shirts. Some are wearing ties. This is something the MEK don’t ever do unless in a public facing role. This indicates the images have been deliberately staged for a particular external audience. Certainly they were not meant for internal consumption, but neither is this for the wider public or else they would be on the MEK’s own websites. Based on information about the MEK already in the public domain, we can assume these photos were commissioned by Maryam Rajavi as a marketing ploy to ‘sell’ the MEK brand to financiers and backers.
There is clearly a deliberate effort to show that the MEK are “professional” workers in this computer room. Everyone is posed looking intently at a screen. Nobody is “off duty” in the pictures; yawning, stretching, drinking coffee, the normal activities of any workers. There is no evidence of relaxed, friendly chat between co-workers, everyone looks very serious. There are no cups of coffee or snacks on the desks. No pictures of family, husbands, wives, children, pets even. No plants or flowers. In spite of the rows of desks being squashed together closely, everyone looks very isolated.
There might be nothing wrong with that. After all, employers want to see their workers busy. But organisational photographs are also about marketing a brand, which includes marketing the core values of an entity. A group which claims, as the MEK does, that it is funded by public donations to struggle for democracy and human rights would surely want to create an image in the mind of the public about transparency, effectiveness, and positivity. By way of contrast, see how Human Rights Watch advertises its work culture. Even a quick Google image search on ‘call center worker’ reveals pictures of relaxed and smiling workers rather than people who look like battery hens. This is not the image any normal company or government office would use to promote their workplace.
In the MEK’s advertising photos the workers are gender segregated. Men sit in one room, women in another. The women all wear hijab. There is no pluralism here. The use of garden chairs and workers using glasses unsuited to screen work reveals that this management doesn’t care at all about the safety, comfort or wellbeing of the workers. They are using a mixture of outdated monitors and laptops. The cables are frayed and tangled.
There is no indication that the workers are happy at their workstations or enjoying their work. Why would they be with the picture of their leader bearing down on them, as in all dictatorships, lest they forget why they are there and who is in charge? (The picture of a solitary Maryam Rajavi is a clear acknowledgement that her husband Massoud Rajavi is dead.)
The MEK’s cultic system means that decisions are imposed from the top down. This means that those decisions are only as intelligent as the leadership. What Rajavi doesn’t understand is that these photos show beyond any words that the MEK doesn’t share our values. The leader is selling unthinking, unquestioning, obedient slaves, people who won’t act or speak unless ordered to do so. And that would only be ordered if it were productive for the MEK, regardless of the needs or desires of the worker.
What these images portray are conditions of modern slavery. These are elderly people who are unable to escape this cult and are coerced into performing work for which they receive no recompense. They exist on cruelly basic accommodation and sustenance, whereby even asking for new underwear puts the petitioner under question about their loyalty to the leader and the cause. They cannot leave because in Albania they have nowhere to go, no identity documents or work permits, no money, and they do not speak the local language. And also because the Trump administration wants the MEK to be there.
So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”.
Biden Dilemma . Iranian blmae America
The Many Faces of the MEK,
Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, May 03 2019:… Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests. Bolton’s False Flag Op Involving MEK
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh (Middle East Strategy Conslultants)
Hillary Cinton and John Bolton
When Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to the airwaves during his visit to the UN in New York, particularly for an interview with Fox News, a frisson of surprised anticipation swept the American political polity. How was it possible that Iran, the pariah nation, not only had the audacity to enter the lion’s den, but from there to lecture the lion on its dirty behavior!
Of course, this is a spat that Iran cannot easily win. What mattered most was that Zarif did not go for the throat of the lion but instead those who are pulling its chain. In short, he accused a “B team” of actively working to wage war on his country. And he singled out National Security Advisor John Bolton for supporting the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group that believes in fomenting violent regime change in Iran.
A goaded Bolton went on Fox News to reply. But instead of answering Zarif’s accusations, Bolton merely blamed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for taking the MEK off the U.S. terrorism list in 2012. This was fantastic hubris. Bolton himself supported the MEK all the time it was on the list, attending rallies and taking speakers’ fees worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Bolton’s accusations against Clinton do not hold water. He, along with then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, started the war with Iraq partly on the pretext that Saddam Hussein supported terrorist groups, including the MEK, as an instrument of his foreign policy. Bolton was also on board with Rumsfeld when the United States unilaterally granted Protected Persons status to the MEK even while it was recognized a terrorist entity—in direct violation of international law.
With the election of President Obama in 2009, newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was left to clear up the mess Bolton and the cabal of neoconservatives created in Iraq. One of those problems was continued U.S. support for the MEK (which the United States designated a terrorist entity in 1997). With the help of a new tough negotiator in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Clinton set about finding a peaceful resolution to the standoff between the sovereign Iraqi government and the unwanted and parasitic MEK.
Clinton searched for third countries to absorb the MEK. But the MEK, enjoying the backing of anti-Iran regime change pundits in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States (including Bolton), dug in its heels and refused to be disbanded. In the end, only the dependent NATO ally Albania agreed to take the group’s members. Clinton authorized $10 million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to transfer the MEK to Albania. She paid another $10 million for the establishment of a de-radicalization institute in Tirana to first deal with the MEK as preparation for handling returning Islamic State families. Another $10 million languishes in the account of the U.S. embassy in Tirana, money to rehabilitate the MEK members into normal society that Bolton and his cabal blocked.
All this was written into an agreement between the governments of Iraq, the United States, and Albania along with the UNHCR and the MEK. At that time this author was working as a consultant to the Iraqi government on security issues, including the safe containment and deportation of the MEK. I was relieved when the Obama administration found a safe and above all a peaceful solution to the threat posed by the MEK to the security of Iraq. I was pleased to find in this agreement specific steps toward humanizing individual MEK members and restoring them to normal life and their families.
As someone familiar with the MEK, John Bolton must then and is certainly now fully cognizant of the beneficial elements of this agreement. Yet, almost as soon as President Trump was elected, the de-radicalization project was put on hold, allowing the MEK over the next year to regroup and reactivate its anti-Iran activities. With the support of Bolton, former Senator John McCain, Rudi Giuliani, and a whole cast of minor cheerleading warmongers, the MEK has constructed a purpose-built closed training camp in Albania in which the members are kept as modern slaves to serve the MEK’s propaganda and terrorist agenda.
For all her faults, Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests.
Before 2016, Iran did not have a diplomatic presence in Albania. Its embassy there dealt primarily with economic and cultural relations. But in 2018, the Albanian government of Edi Rama expelled two newly arrived Iranian diplomats at the behest of the Trump administration. John Bolton boasted about the achievement. Due to overt US support for the MEK, Iran drew its front line not in the Middle East but on the edge of the EU.
Now, with the Iranian foreign minister boldly speaking to the media inside the United States, Bolton has been reduced to deflecting rather than rebutting his accusations. Bolton’s master plan for a war against Iran has not only backfired but prompted Tehran to redraw its front line once again, this time in Washington, DC itself.
Massoud Khodabandeh is the director of Middle East Strategy Consultants and has worked long-term with the authorities in Iraq to bring about a peaceful solution to the impasse at Camp Liberty and help rescue other victims of the Mojahedin-e Khalq cult. Among other publications, he co-authored the book “The Life of Camp Ashraf: Victims of Many Masters” with his wife Anne Singleton. They also published an academic paper on the MEK’s use of the Internet.
Bolton’s False Flag Op Involving MEK