Iran Interlink, August 02 2019:… A few Iranian outlets have referred to the MEK cyber group and troll farm and the photos of them that were leaked and spread on social media. MEK’s internal propaganda shows them as loyal workers. Commentators point out that MEK might have started out as something to be paid for, but the reality is that since going to Albania over 400 people have left them. Some talk publicly, some don’t. Many of those who talk say that ‘In Iraq we didn’t have access to the internet. Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – August 02, 2019
Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – August 02, 2019 by Anne Khodabandeh, Singleton
++ This week marks the anniversary of the failed Mersad or Forough Javidan (Eternal Light) operation in 1988. MEK had nothing to say except to repeat archive material from people who don’t want to say these things anymore. For example, an article from many years ago written by Manouchehr Hezarkhaneh, an elderly man, trapped by poverty and isolation in the MEK system with nowhere else to go. Some commentators say, ‘never mind that they don’t want to say anything because it was a disaster, now they themselves are trying to water it down as if it didn’t happen’. Mehr News in Tehran conducted a long interview with Ebrahim Khodabandeh , who went into detail about how the operation came about, that it was the last military opportunity before the peace. Khodabandeh explained how MEK prepared and executed the operation and that Massoud Rajavi knew he was sending around 4000 people to their possible deaths. 2500 died and only around 1500 came back. It was Rajavi’s last gift to Saddam (which didn’t work out) and it was a present to himself to bank the blood of these people so as to keep the feelings of revenge alive in the members. Khodabandeh said, ‘from whatever angle you look at it, it is nothing except a deliberate war crime and crime against humanity to kill thousands of people from your own side for political and financial gain’.
++ There were various reactions to Rajavi’s MEK rally in London. Reports from inside the rally sent to Iran-Interlink explained that 33 paid rent-a-crowd young people had been given 11 green, 11 white and 11 red t-shirts (as the Iranian flag) to stand at the front and pretend MEK has the support of the youth. Behind them there were about 150 people mostly in their 50s and 60s. Around 100 had been flown into London from European countries and 50 were from the UK. The rest of the crowd was photoshopped in online to make the rally appear bigger. The usual speakers – long term Zionist supporters – didn’t attend. Ironically even David Ames their head lobbyist in London couldn’t bring himself to attend the rally. The result was that in a televised message, Maryam Rajavi had to mention the names of three deceased lobbyists who died some time ago, including Lord Corbett, and then ask the newly appointed UK Prime Minister to join the Americans to send ships to the Persian Gulf and attack Iran. Many commentators pointed out the irony that consecutive British governments and US governments have come and gone and they all totally refuse to give her a visa even for a day visit, even though she has spent millions in legal challenges which have all come to a dead end. The last one was in the UK a few years ago. The court rejected Lord Carlisle’s best attempts to get her a visa. This is the outcast who is demanding the UK and US attack Iran.
++ A few Iranian outlets have referred to the MEK cyber group and troll farm and the photos of them that were leaked and spread on social media. MEK’s internal propaganda shows them as loyal workers. Commentators point out that MEK might have started out as something to be paid for, but the reality is that since going to Albania over 400 people have left them. Some talk publicly, some don’t. Many of those who talk say that ‘In Iraq we didn’t have access to the internet. But here, even though we were being watched we managed to see the news about Iran and the rest of the world, and we have woken up to reality. The MEK have only told us lies.’
++ Iran-Interlink wrote a short comment on a report in Middle East Eye about the MEK rally in London criticising the lack of due diligence and fact checking by politicians and journalists alike. Such that “The most important of these facts is that the MEK is a cult which keeps its members in Albania in conditions of modern slavery. If the MEK’s supporters want to believe that after not being paid for three decades, they are just ‘volunteers’, then there is not much else they won’t believe”.
++ Tehran Times quotes several officials, military and political, who say that while they do not underestimate the threat posed by MEK’s phone led espionage activities into Iran, there is no evidence that the group has any support inside the country.
++ Not a week goes by without one or more media outlet in America wringing its hands over the meaning of MEK’s relationship with John Bolton and Rudi Giuliani, and their relationship with President Trump and Mike Pompeo. This time Melissa Etehad in the Los Angeles Times had a go at solving the conundrum – will there, wont’ there, be a war with Iran. Right away MEK spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh shoots himself in the foot by admitting that year after year, administration after administration, its demand (violent regime change) has essentially been ignored. With good reason according to several commentators. “The MEK has American blood on its hands” says Daniel Benjamin, the State Department counter-terrorism coordinator under President Obama. Unfortunately, the article falls foul of the misinformation (“Two Iranian suspected of surveilling the Mujahedin Khalq were arrested in Albania in 2018, and an Iranian diplomat in Vienna was arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb a Mujahedin Khalq rally outside Paris.”) which skews accurate reporting on MEK and Iran, and this leads to a nonsensical conclusion: That Iran is worried about close relations between MEK and the Trump administration.
++ On the principal that ‘reality intervenes’, Ted Snider’s Counter Punch article is spot on. Snider explains how government and media ‘perception shapers’ shape public opinion by isolating events from the causal contexts which explain and make sense of them. He gives examples of Brazil and Iran, which, for context, has been subjected to economic warfare, cyber warfare and assassinations by America and Israel. This latter activity of course, carried out by the MEK. Without this context, Iran’s shooting down of a US drone can be spun as “an unprovoked attack”.
++ With respect to the failed Eternal Light (Mersad) operation of 1988, Mehr News and the Tehran Times published statements by military and political leaders. Essentially, they see MEK now as “US soldiers without uniforms”, who now click instead of shoot guns.
++ Saudi reporting on an Israeli attack on the MEK’s former garrison Camp Ashraf can only be interpreted as rewarding MEK for something, some service rendered perhaps. This is something touched on in an analytical piece in Iran Front Page which links recent developments involving Iraq, Israel, Rajavi and the US. “It seems that a visit [to Israel] by Maryam Rajavi, leader of the MKO terrorist group, and the launch of the recent attack was not a coincidence. Above all, the MKO’s perfect familiarity with the region after 30 years of presence there could have been taken advantage of by Israel for carrying out the attack.”
++ Eli Lake in Bloomberg is also troubled by perceived cosying up between MEK and the Trump administration. Citing Abbas Milani, director of Iran studies at Stanford University, the article argues for supporting Iran’s indigenous opposition groups rather than maximum pressure. But he makes it very clear “Milani recommends for example that Trump make clear that the relationship between his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and the People’s Mujahedin, or the MEK, does not reflect U.S. government policy. This exiled opposition was once designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is largely reviled by Iranians because it sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.”
++ Robert Fantina for Counter Punch exposes elements of the MEK’s cyber warfare against Iran, saying that in addition to spreading misinformation, MEK uses false accounts to give the impression it has widespread support among Iranians. One of these false accounts is Heshmat Alavi which the MEK has unashamedly resurrected since it was outed by The Intercept. Which goes to show, it’s all just a game. Certainly, Fantina is not convinced by MEK’s cause. “When this writer visited Iran in the summer of 2017, he found a modern, vital and exciting nation. Illegal and immoral U.S. sanctions have certainly taken a toll on the economy, but as a friend of his from Iran commented, Iranians are accustomed to sanctions, and manage fine anyway. The MEK and its criminal members and leaders will not prevail; the Iranian people are proud of what they have accomplished, and will not allow a few disillusioned people, even those who have the support of the United States, to defeat them.”
Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – August 02, 2019
Trump Should Publicly Reject Giuliani and Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism
Eli Lake, Bloomberg, August 01 2019:… Milani recommends for example that Trump make clear that the relationship between his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and the People’s Mujahedin, or the MEK, does not reflect U.S. government policy. This exiled opposition was once designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is largely reviled by Iranians because it sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. Giuliani has called it a “government in exile.” Milani says that sort of talk is risky: “The U.S. has to declare that it is not in the business of picking Iranian leaders.” Trump Should Publicly Reject Giuliani and Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism .
Trump Should Publicly Distance Himself from Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism
Iran’s Resistance Needs a Light Touch, Not ‘Maximum Pressure’
Trump could help the democracy movement while hurting the regime.
Opposing the Iranian regime doesn’t have to mean sanctioning its banks and oil
Just ask Abbas Milani. The director of Stanford University’s Iran studies program cannot be called a squish when it comes to Iran; he has devoted much of his scholarship to the regime’s struggle against modernity and to understanding the country’s democracy movement. As Milani told a small group of reporters this week in Washington, he believes the best U.S. policy today is to encourage a democratic transition.
One might think Milani would appreciate the Trump administration’s approach to Iran, sometimes known as maximum pressure. After all, the Trump administration has re-imposed crippling sanctions on the regime and taken a public diplomacy line at times that highlights the corruption of Iran’s rulers and the plight of its people.
But Milani is no fan of maximum pressure. He says it undermines Iran’s democracy movement and strengthens Iran’s ties with Russia and China.
On this second point, Milani pointed to this week’s announcement that Iran and Russia would be conducting joint military exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Milani said that even a few years ago this would have been unthinkable. In 2016, when it leaked out that Russian planes were flying missions for Syria from a base in Iran, the regime was embarrassed and disavowed the story. Iran’s constitution bars foreign forces on its soil.
More important though, Milani sees a danger that U.S. efforts to punish nations and banks that do business with Iran have given a discredited regime a useful foil. “The sanctions have exacerbated but not created Iran’s economic crisis,” he said. “They have also given the regime an excuse to say all of this is because of the sanctions.”
Here Milani has a valid point. Before Trump re-imposed the sanctions in 2018, Iran’s economy was already in trouble. Its banks were failing. A new round of protests that started at the end of 2017 blamed the regime’s leaders for lavishly spending on a war to save Syria’s dictator while neglecting domestic priorities. Ecological mismanagement had led to drinking water shortages. Add to this a growing movement among former reformers and activists demanding changes to the constitution to limit or eliminate altogether the office of the Supreme Leader. All of this is evidence that Iran’s leaders lacked popular legitimacy before Trump re-imposed crippling sanctions.
There is still popular unrest. In March, for example, Iranian teachers conducted a nationwide strike for better pay. Iranian rail workers and bus drivers have conducted strikes in the last year as well.
That movement is worth supporting, but the U.S. must use a careful light touch.
Milani recommends for example that Trump make clear that the relationship between his personal lawyer,Rudolph Giuliani, and the People’s Mujahedin, or the MEK, does not reflect U.S. government policy. This exiled opposition was once designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is largely reviled by Iranians because it sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. Giuliani has called it a “government in exile.” Milani says that sort of talk is risky: “The U.S. has to declare that it is not in the business of picking Iranian leaders.”
Milani suggests that Trump ease some of the immigration restrictions on Iranian citizens to make it easier for dissidents to travel to the U.S. He said Stanford has not been able to bring Iranian dissidents or scholars to the university for two years. The current immigration policy is particularly cruel, Milani said, because it allows the children of regime elites to attend U.S. universities but has barred the victims of the regime from visiting.
He also recommends that the U.S. modify the current sanctions to allow Western financial institutions to process transactions for medicine.
In the grand scheme of things, these are small policy fixes. That’s the point though. Most Iranians blame their leaders for their country’s isolation and poverty. The best outcome America’s economic war offers is a new deal with a despised regime. At worst, the crippling sanctions allow that regime to blame the U.S. for the misery of its people. Why not get out of the way and support Iranians who want to take their country back?
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trump Should Publicly Reject Giuliani and Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism