Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group, June 12 2017:… But terrorist attacks are not new to Iran. In the early years of revolutionary turmoil, the leftist-Islamist Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) resorted to violence. In the 1980s, up to 120 terrorist attacks occurred in Tehran perpetrated by MEK and other violent groups, killing hundreds of Iranian officials, including the president and prime minister in August 1981. Even the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was targeted …
Iran Unites as Tehran Struck by Middle East’s Proxy Wars
The 7 June attacks in Tehran struck at the symbolic heart of Iran’s revolutionary republic. In this Q&A, Ali Vaez, Senior Analyst for Iran, says the outrages show how the region’s proxy wars are now reaching far beyond the battlefield
How unusual are these attacks for Iran?
If this indeed was, as it claimed, an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it would constitute the first time the organisation has been able to strike Iran inside its borders. But terrorist attacks are not new to Iran. In the early years of revolutionary turmoil, the leftist-Islamist Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) resorted to violence. In the 1980s, up to 120 terrorist attacks occurred in Tehran perpetrated by MEK and other violent groups, killing hundreds of Iranian officials, including the president and prime minister in August 1981. Even the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was targeted. He survived the assassination attempt, but lost full use of his right hand.
Consequently, the Islamic Republic developed a powerful counter-terrorism capacity through intelligence and security forces that, along with its paramilitary Basij militia, turned Iran into one of the most stable countries in the region – at the cost of highly repressive methods. The only exception to Iran’s successful counter-terrorism record was the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists at the height of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. But those were targeted assassinations as opposed to indiscriminate terrorist attacks.
That ISIS had failed to attack Iran up until now wasn’t for lack of trying. There have been multiple reports of foiled attacks in several Iranian cities. According to Iranian officials, Iran’s intelligence agencies detected and dismantled 58 ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups in the past few years. In March 2016, the Iranian army reported killing two alleged ISIS recruits in the western province of Kermanshah. In June 2016, Iranian media reported the arrest of eighteen people who were trying to recruit new members through social media. In August that year, the Iranian intelligence minister said that authorities had prevented 1,500 young Iranians from joining ISIS. In recent months there was an uptick in its propaganda against Tehran as ISIS published a rare video in Persian in March, encouraging Iran’s Sunni minority to wage a religious war against the Shia ruling elite.
The attacks are in all likelihood linked to the extreme sectarianism of the fighting in Iraq and Syria. Iran, a Shiite Muslim power, is heavily involved in both conflicts. Salafi and Sunni Muslim groups like ISIS have long heaped vitriol on the Shiites.
In this sense, it’s not the attacks that are surprising, it’s that Iran was able to avoid one for so long. The attacks were a wake-up call for Iran’s security apparatus, but so too will they probably serve as one for jihadists, who will be encouraged to exploit Iran’s vulnerabilities.
What’s the immediate impact of this attack?
There are different voices coming out of Tehran. Some in the leadership have sought to downplay the attacks. The supreme leader said the “terrorists fumbling with fire crackers” won’t affect Iran, while the speaker of the parliament, where twelve people were killed and many were injured, called them a “trivial incident”. The Revolutionary Guards, however, have vowed revenge, drawing an unsubstantiated link between the attacks and a joint Saudi-U.S. effort to push back against Tehran’s regional policies. The minister of intelligence, however, has said it is too early to blame the Saudis. Nevertheless, the harsh rhetoric on both sides is likely to exacerbate tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and further diminish the already slim chance of any kind of reconciliation anytime soon.
Still, I don’t see any immediate escalation of friction between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Neither the leadership in Tehran nor the one in Riyadh appears keen on a direct confrontation. Still, with increased tensions, there is higher likelihood of miscalculation on both sides. And of course, all of this fuels sectarianism in the region, which is a gift to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
What was the symbolism of the chosen targets?
The targets seem to have been chosen in order to maximise political impact rather than fatalities. The assailants targeted two key symbolic pillars of the Islamic Republic, the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, the founder of Iran’s theocratic system, and the parliament, the centre of the country’s republican tradition. Assuming that ISIS was the perpetrator, it is striking that it claimed responsibility for the attack immediately rather than wait as it usually does. This is probably because it considers the attack a rare success as it rapidly loses ground in Iraq and Syria.
What do you think the domestic impact will be?
Initially at least the attacks are likely to rally Iranians around the flag, but this could change quickly depending on two key questions: first, will anybody in Iran use the event politically, and how? Secondly, how were the perpetrators able to carry out these attacks?
President Rouhani is fresh from an election in which he received a strong mandate to deliver on his promise of de-securitising the domestic sphere. The attacks, however, could better enable the Revolutionary Guards to resist him and crack down on internal dissent. If Rouhani succeeds in quickly creating consensus around a path forward that would rectify security loopholes, while tolerating a higher degree of political pluralism, he might be able to prevent a counterproductive blame game and deeper polarisation. This could be done through the Supreme National Security Council, which comprises key civilian and military leaders and takes all key national security decisions in Iran. Given Rouhani’s extensive experience in the country’s national security establishment, he has the know-how to achieve this goal. But at this stage, it is too early to tell whether he will succeed or not.
The answer to the second question is becoming increasingly clear. According to Iranian officials, the perpetrators appear to be ISIS recruits from Iran’s Sunni majority provinces, who had fought for the group in Mosul and Raqqa. This could be used as a pretext to crack down in the country’s western, south-western, and south-eastern frontier provinces where Iran’s 5-10 per cent Sunni population lives. While there is little support for jihadists among Iran’s Sunni populations, despite their discontent with their treatment by central authorities, a government crackdown – if harsh enough and pursued long enough – is the kind of thing that could change that. The single most relevant factor in the radicalisation of jihadists is harsh government treatment. Interestingly, turnout in recent presidential elections was high in majority Sunni provinces like Sistan-Balouchestan (75 per cent) and Kurdistan (59 per cent). They both overwhelmingly (73 per cent) voted for the more pragmatic candidate, Rouhani.
What has been the reaction in the region?
Some countries like Turkey, Oman and Qatar denounced the attacks, but others like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain had a muted response. Some will see a comeuppance for a country that has freely interfered and stoked sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere, until now without a backlash inside its borders. The recent attacks represent a different sort of backlash as well. Iran – like every state in the region – has pulled its punches with jihadists, including al-Qaeda, so long as their guns were turned against Iran’s enemies. But tactical relations with these groups often entail collateral damage.
What has been the reaction in the rest of the world?
The U.S. State Department condemned the attacks in strong terms; but President Trump added insult to injury by underscoring that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote”. On the same days as the attacks, the U.S. Congress also voted to advance sanctions legislation against Iran, particularly targeting the Revolutionary Guards. Iranian foreign minister retorted on Twitter: “Repugnant [White House] statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by U.S. clients. Iranian people reject such U.S. claims of friendship”.
Following social media in Iran, I was struck by how much Washington’s insensitivity has offended the Iranian public. For years, Iran watchers were baffled by how pro-American the Iranian people remained despite having a highly anti-American government and being exposed to anti-American propaganda for nearly four decades. It appears that the Trump administration, first with its travel ban, then with hostile rhetoric and now with this statement, is succeeding where the Islamic Republic failed in the past 38 years: turning Iranians against the U.S.
For their part, the European and Asian leaders didn’t hesitate to do the right thing and condemned the attacks in Tehran no less strongly than they do attacks anywhere else. The attacks are a reminder that the effects of the region’s ongoing proxy wars are felt far beyond the battlefield. ISIS’s recent losses notwithstanding, so long as those wars and sectarian demonisation continue, we should expect more tragedies of this nature.
Fallout from Iran attacks spells trouble to come in wider Middle East
Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian terrorist group dedicated to violently overthrowing Iran’s government and which had been expelled from the country since the early 1980s. The Obama administration removed it from the US’s list of terror groups after an intense lobbying campaign in Washington DC, but its involvement in violence is well-known in Iran. In 1981, it was blamed for planting a …
Fallout from Iran attacks spells trouble to come in wider Middle East
Doctor in Politics at University of Oxford and Visiting Fellow at the American University of Beirut, University of Oxford
A week after Donald Trump stirred up tensions in the Middle East with his visit to Saudi Arabia, and just after Qatar was ostracised by several other countriesfor its supposed links to terrorism, a brace of terror attacks in Iran have turned up the heat even further.
In Tehran on June 7, four men attacked one of the gates of the Iranian parliament building. After opening fire on a guard, they entered the lobbies and shot a number of visitors and staff. After several hours and exchanges of gunfire, they were killed by Iranian special forces. At the same time, several attackers fired on visitors at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic. All in all, the two events left at least 17 dead and more than 43 injured.
Iran’s Supreme Leader dismissed the attacks as “fireworks … too small to affect the will of the Iranian nation and its officials”. Sure enough, the display of unity inside Iran was immediate and powerful, with social media booming with expressions of solidarity and defiance of terror (#درکنار همیم)
— ehsan (@eh_asgari) June 7, 2017
The so-called Islamic State (IS) soon claimed responsibility for the attack, reiterating that “in the holy month of Ramadan the reward of killing misbelievers” – that is, the Shia Muslims who constitute the majority of Iran’s population – “is multiplied”.
If the claim of responsibility is to be believed, this isn’t the first time IS has invited its followers to exterminate Shia populations, or attacked them. In recent months, it has attacked a Shia neighbourhood in Baghdad, Iraqi Shia pilgrims near Damascus, and a 12th-century Shia mosque in Herat in Afghanistan. It also left a bomb near Shia stronghold al-Dahiyeh in south Beirut, which was found and dismantled.
The day after the attack, Iranian authorities announced that the terrorists were allegedly connected to Wahabi cells operating under the IS network in Mousul and Raqqa, and that they followed Abu Ayesheh, a high-ranking commander of IS, who had tried in August 2016 to carry out terror attacks in Iran’s religious cities. If this account is accurate, these were therefore IS’s first successful attacks in Iran proper.
That said, the attack was also sophisticated enough that it might have been beyond IS’s abilities inside Iran – and according to Iran’s own Ministry of Intelligence, the attackers were themselves Iranians. Given that IS doesn’t have a popular base inside Iran, this might point to the tactical support of the exiled revolutionary group MEK or the Baluchi separatist group Jundullah.
Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian terrorist group dedicated to violently overthrowing Iran’s government and which had been expelled from the country since the early 1980s. The Obama administration removed it from the US’s list of terror groups after an intense lobbying campaign in Washington DC, but its involvement in violence is well-known in Iran. In 1981, it was blamed for planting a powerful bomb in the headquarters of the ruling Islamic Republic Party, killing dozens of leading state officials.
Then there’s the Jundullah group, a violent separatist organisation that’s previously received the backing of both Saudi Arabia and the US in the hope of undermining Iran’s domestic security and stability. In 2009, it killed 42 Revolutionary Guards, including a top general, with an explosive device in a mosque in Baluchistan.
As with many terror attacks, the timing of these incidents is particularly relevant. The Revolutionary Guards’ statement after the attacks overtly connected them with Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East, during which the US president met with his Saudi and Israeli counterparts and decried Iran for supposedly sponsoring terrorism and extremism – basically putting the country back in the George W. Bush-era “Axis of Evil” hall of shame.
This view has gained currency among several Arab countries since Trump’s election. Only a month ago, the Saudi crown prince, while ruling out any possible dialogue with Tehran, statedthat the struggle for regional influence will “take place inside Iran”, implying that regime change and support for armed resistance inside Iran were cards on the table.
When the latest attacks struck, the world’s major players found themselves on two sides. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, condemned the attack and invited everyone to join forces to fight terrorism; the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, expressed solidarity with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and heads of state from all corners sent missives of condolence and support. Similarly, France, Italy, Germany as well as most of the countries in the Global South expressed their condolences to the Iranian authorities. The UK’s Theresa May remained silent, a sign that indicates alignment with the US-Saudi front.
In fact, the Saudi foreign minister declined to address Iran directly, while the Trump White House’s statement was predictably both pointed and tactless: “States that sponsor terrorism risk falling to the evil they promote.” Zarif, for his part, called the statement “repugnant” and claimed it was mounted by IS terrorists with US backing.
The rifts on display here are growing. On the one hand, as Iran-backed military efforts help drive IS back in Iraq and Syria, Tehran is starting to look like a logical strategic partner for the EU in its efforts against radical Islamist terrorism. But on the other hand, this is precisely the sort of cooperation that the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia are keen to curtail.
These hawkish powers look set to keep up sanctions on banking, threaten retaliation against companies willing to invest in Iran, invest in propaganda and intense lobbying, and may yet mount military operations, covert or otherwise.
Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia yielded a proposed but unconfirmed arms deal that the president announced would amount to more than US$110 billion. Whether or not that’s true is highly disputed, but as a statement of intent, it clearly signals where Trump’s sympathies lie as far as the Middle East’s major powers are concerned.
Hence, Tehran finds itself part of the web of terror attacks that had already touched upon London, Manchester, Paris, Kabul and many other cities. But the stakes at play here risk leading to a regional confrontation with dangerous international underpinnings.
Jihad 2.0: the Making of the Next Nightmare (Turning Albania to a centre for ISIS/Mojahedin Khalq)
Pepe Escobar, Sputnik news, June 01 2017:… Albania is being turned into the center of MKO. John Bolton was recently in Tirana, with other international supporters of MKO, and they are attacking Iran and calling for regime change.” The MKO’s wacky Marjam Rajavi has also visited Tirana, developing plans to “topple the Ayatollahs” in Iran. The key issue, as Jazexhi emphasizes, is that “after turning the Balkans into a recruiting centre for ISIS/Daesh during the Syria war, now the Americans are …
Jihad 2.0: the Making of the Next Nightmare
You are about to enter the ultimate minefield.
Let’s start with 28 EU leaders discussing the Western Balkans at a recent summit and blaming – what else – “Russian aggression” in the EU’s backyard.
Cue to a Montenegro prosecutor raging that “Russian state bodies” staged a coup attempt during the October 2016 elections to stop the country from joining NATO.
And cue to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker warning that Donald Trump’s anti-EU rhetoric could lead to war in the Balkans. Juncker, condescending as ever, maintains that, “If we leave them to themselves — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Macedonia, Albania, all of these countries — we will have a war again.”
The Balkans may be about to explode – all over again. Yet with a twist; unlike 1999, NATO won’t get away with bombing a defenseless Belgrade for 78 days. A new generation of Russian missiles would easily prevent it.
The 1999 tragedy in the Balkans was essentially stirred up by fake massacres in Kosovo set up by the BND – German intelligence — using local Albanians and BND agent provocateurs, who shot both sides to stir up a war and break up Yugoslavia.
All Eyes on Albania
What’s evolving at the current geopolitical juncture is even murkier.
The usual suspects do what they usually do; blame Russia, and damn any evidence.
So let a knowledgeable insider, Dr. Olsi Jazexhi, director of the Free Media Institute in Tirana, Albania, be our guide.
As Dr. Jazexhi explains, “after Brennan left Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, a close friend of George Soros, gathered all Albanian political parties in Macedonia and ordered them to support Zoran Zaev against Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski is seen as filo-Russian and anti-NATO, while Zaev is a lapdog of Soros. As a result, Gruevski was boycotted by Albanians and Zaev had their support to form a government. The promise of Zaev to Albanians is that Macedonia will adapt Albanian as an official language and create a third (half) Albanian state in the Balkans. Macedonians are resisting, but Tirana and Edi Rama are orchestrating Albanian political parties against Gruevski. The end game is to make Macedonia a NATO member.”
Jazexhi also details how, “in Albania, we have two major terrorist organizations being protected by the Americans and the Europeans.”
The first is what Ankara describes as the Fetullah Gulen Terror organization (FETO), allegedly instrumentalized by German intelligence; “Turkey is protesting why Albania hosts the FETO group but the Americans host them against Erdogan.”
The second is Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which fights against Tehran; “Albania is being turned into the center of MKO. John Bolton was recently in Tirana, with other international supporters of MKO, and they are attacking Iran and calling for regime change.”
The MKO’s wacky Marjam Rajavi has also visited Tirana, developing plans to “topple the Ayatollahs” in Iran.
The key issue, as Jazexhi emphasizes, is that “after turning the Balkans into a recruiting center for ISIS/Daesh during the Syria war, now the Americans are turning Albania into a jihad 2.0 state.”
Meanwhile, the European Union and the Americans, who want to de-radicalize the Wahhabi Muslims of Europe, keep mum about the Iranian jihadis.”
The “Invisible” Enemy
But then there is the “invisible” enemy that really matters.
In late March, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic went to Beijing in his last official visit before the April 2 elections. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that economic cooperation with Serbia – and the Balkans at large – is a priority for China.
No question. In 2014, Beijing created a fund that will invest 10 billion euros in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, China Everbright bought Tirana’s airport in Albania. China Exim Bank is financing highway construction in both Macedonia and Montenegro.
In Serbia, China Road and Bridge Corporation built the 170 million euro Pupin bridge over the Danube in Belgrade – a.k.a. the “Sino-Serbian Friendship Bridge”, inaugurated in 2014 and 85% financed by a China Exim Bank loan.
And the cherry in the (infrastructure development) cake is the 350 km, $2.89 billion high-speed rail line between Athens and Budapest, via Macedonia and Belgrade.
The EU has set off alarm bells on the flagship $1.8 billion Budapest-Belgrade stretch, investigating whether the Hungarian section violated strict EU laws according to which public tenders are a must for large transportation projects.
Inbuilt is the proverbial Western haughtiness, ruling that the Chinese could not possibly be capable of building high-speed rail infrastructure as well if not better – and for a lower cost – than in Europe.
Budapest-Belgrade happens to be the crucial stretch of the Land Sea Express Route that Beijing pledged to build, way back in 2014, with Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia. That’s the crux of the Southeastern Europe node of the New Silk Roads, now Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); a trade corridor between the container port of Pireus, in the Mediterranean – co-owned by China Ocean Shipping Company since 2010 – all the way to Central Europe.
NATO’s official spin is that it must be planted in the Balkans to fight the “threat of terrorism.” According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “I recently visited Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, and I’m encouraged to see how focused they are on countering the threat of foreign fighters.”
Jihad 2.0 may be directed against Slavs in Macedonia, against Iran and against Turkey. Not to mention against the Russian underbelly. The invisible angle is that they can always be deployed to jeopardize China’s drive to integrate southeast Europe as a key node of the New Silk Roads.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
Albania’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea praises Maryam Rajavi for keeping modern slaves in Tirana
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Huffpost, May 18 2017:… In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National …
Albania’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea praises Maryam Rajavi for keeping modern slaves in Tirana
Co-authored by Anne Khodabandeh
As democratic elections go, Albania’s upcoming parliamentary elections are as bad as it gets. Protests and turmoil have characterised the leadup to the June election. The official opposition is continuing a three-month boycott of parliament and is threatening to boycott the election itself. The protest is rooted in accusations of corruption and bias in the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Ongoing and apparently unsolvable problems with the narco-trade and drug cartels, arms smuggling and people trafficking, add fuel to the corruption charges. Politicians from all sides appear unable to either successfully expose these crimes or escape accusations of collusion with them.
One example of the complexity of Albania’s difficulties can be found by examining the activities of Albania’s deputy Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Dr Elona Gjebrea, who is also the Deputy Minister of the Interior. In March 2017, Gjebrea attended a Conference held by the Welsh Government and the UK Crown Prosecution Service which focused on the problem of Albanian slavery victims in the UK. More victims of modern slavery from Albania end up in the UK than from any other country – 17% of all UK cases. The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 in the UK has greatly enabled anti-slavery groups and campaigners in confronting this problem.
In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea on our shared goal of combatting the global phenomenon of Human Trafficking.”
In December 2016, the United States allocated an additional $3m funding to support Albania’s “criminal justice system in the fight against organized crime and corruption”. Deputy Interior Minister Gjebrea welcomed the agreement and the resources.
So far, so good. Albania is apparently taking a strong stance against modern slavery and the US backs these efforts. But there is another side to this story. On January 16, 2017 Gjebrea, along with some other Albanian personalities, attended a clandestine music concert in Tirana hosted by the Iranian exile Mojahedin Khalq organisation (MEK) which is now based in Albania. Gjebrea claimed the Albanian people were in “solidarity with the Mojahedin”. Then, in March, she attended the MEK’s New Year rally with 3,000 of its members and leader Maryam Rajavi. She again heaped praise on the MEK and its leader.
Gjebrea’s open support for the group is shocking for several reasons. Not least because the MEK is a highly controversial group with a violent background. The entire MEK was forcefully transferred from Iraq to Albania by the Americans to satisfy Iraqi demands to rid their country of the final remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. Even up until 2016 the MEK were linked to insurgents like Al Qaida in Iraq and Daesh. America paid several million dollars to Albania’s government and promised help to de-radicalise the terrorists.
This did not happen. Instead of de-radicalisation, the organisational structure which had operated in Iraq for three decades was allowed to continue in Albania. The 3,000 MEK members were consolidated and isolated behind closed doors and shuttered windows in dedicated apartment blocks. This led to speculation about the future of the group. In rallies, such as the one Gjebrea attended, the MEK continues with its promise of regime change in Iran – which in the past the MEK has pursued through violence and terrorism. When John Bolton or Senator John McCain lobby for the MEK it is clear they are following an anti-Iran political agenda. But does Gjebrea share that agenda toward Iran? Does Albania? Politicians from both government and opposition would benefit from a more informed and thoughtful approach if they are not to antagonise Iran as a potential trading partner for their country.
But the really shocking aspect of Gjebrea’s support for the MEK can only be based either in ignorance or as a result of corruption. It is well known that the MEK operates as a mind control cult. It is organised as a totalitarian system headed by an authoritarian leader who demands total unquestioning obedience from every member at every level. The group operates outside legal, moral or cultural norms. One of the defining characteristics of this cultic state – long exposed byexpert analysis of the evidence– is that the members are held in a state of modern slavery. They endure forced labour and forced military service. In a sense, they are modern day Gladiators, fighting not for the ancient Romans but for their modern masters, those who pay for the MEK as mercenaries.
Let us remind ourselves that Elona Gjebrea is Albania’s deputy anti-trafficking coordinator. Her role is to prevent slavery and trafficking. How then does she explain her support for modern slavery in Albania itself? When she praises Maryam Rajavi is she sincerely unaware that the cheering, flag waving, applauding audience are actually slaves who have no choice but to obey Rajavi’s dictates? Is she genuinely unaware that MEK members who have worked for decades without pay are still denied their individual UNHCR refugee allowance in Albania because it is paid directly to the MEK leader? Maryam Rajavi is no other than a slave gang-master.
Gjebrea is only one of several high-profile personalities who have recently succumbed to the persuasive lure of the MEK. But what huge irony that in her role at the Interior Ministry, she has not only failed to ensure that MEK members are de-radicalised and returned to normal life, she has endorsed and encouraged the continuation of their slavery in her own country. When such a shocking situation so openly exists, it is not hard to see why the parliamentary elections are so fraught with anger and disaffection. For a country so beholden to America for help and support, it is a shame better guidance cannot be proffered to get Albania’s democracy back on track.
GAZETA IMPAKT – May 18, 2017
Ndërsa zgjedhjet demokratike ecin përpara, zgjedhjet e ardhshme parlamentare të Shqipërisë janë aq keq sa s’bëhet. Protestat dhe trazirat kanë karakterizuar rrugën drejt zgjedhjeve të qershorit. Opozita zyrtare po vazhdon një bojkot tre mujor të parlamentit dhe po kërcënon të bojkotojë vetë zgjedhjet. Protesta është e rrënjosur në akuzat për korrupsion dhe njëanshmëri në qeverinë e Kryeministrit Edi Rama.
Problemet e vazhdueshme dhe me sa duket të pazgjidhshme me tregtinë narkotike dhe aleancat e drogës, trafikimin e armëve dhe të njerëzve, i hedhin më shumë benzinë akuzave për korrupsion. Politikanët nga të gjitha anët duken të paaftë për t’i zbuluar me sukses këto krime ose për të shpëtuar nga akuzat për bashkëpunim me to.
Një shembull i kompleksitetit të vështirësive të Shqipërisë mund të gjendet duke shqyrtuar aktivitetet e zv/Koordinatores Shqiptare kundër Trafikimit, Dr. Elona Gjebrea, e cila është gjithashtu zv/Ministre e Brendshme. Në mars të vitit 2017, Gjebrea ndoqi një konferencë të mbajtur nga qeveria e Uellsit dhe Shërbimi i Prokurorisë së Mbretërisë së Bashkuar, e cila u përqendrua në problemin e viktimave të skllavërisë shqiptare në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar. Viktima të skllavërisë moderne përfundojnë në Britani të Madhe nga Shqipëria më shumë sesa nga çdo vend tjetër – 17% e të gjitha rasteve në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar. Futja e Aktit të Skllavërisë Moderne në vitin 2015 në Britani të Madhe u ka mundësuar aktiviteteve dhe grupeve kundër skllavërisë përballimin e këtij problemi.
Në Shqipëri, Elona Gjebrea ka gjithashtu lidhje të ngushta me Shtetet e Bashkuara për çështjen e trafikimit dhe skllavërisë së njerëzve. Ambasada e SHBA-së në Tiranë pranoi raportin vjetor të Trafikimit të Personave të Departamentit të Shtetit në qershor të vitit 2016, që thoshte se “Shtetet e Bashkuara vlerësojnë bashkëpunimin e ngushtë me qeverinë shqiptare, shoqërinë civile dhe veçanërisht me Koordinatoren Kombëtare të Antitrafikimit, Elona Gjebrea, në qëllimin tonë të përbashkët të luftimit të fenomenit global të trafikimit të qenieve njerëzore”.
Në dhjetor të vitit 2016, Shtetet e Bashkuara ndanë një fond shtesë prej 3 milionë dollarësh për të mbështetur “sistemin e drejtësisë penale në Shqipëri në luftën kundër krimit të organizuar dhe korrupsionit”. Zv/ministrja e Brendshme Gjebrea përshëndeti marrëveshjen dhe burimet.
Deri më tani, shumë mirë. Shqipëria duket se po mban një qëndrim të fortë kundër skllavërisë moderne dhe SHBA-ja po i mbështet këto përpjekje. Por ka një anë tjetër në këtë histori. Më 16 janar 2017, Gjebrea, së bashku me disa personalitete të tjera shqiptare, morën pjesë në një koncert muzikor klandestin në Tiranë të organizuar nga organizata iraniane Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), e cila tani është e vendosur në Shqipëri. Gjebrea pretendoi se populli shqiptar ishte në “solidaritet me muxhahedinët”. Pastaj, në mars, ajo mori pjesë në tubimin e Vitit të Ri të MEK-ut me 3.000 anëtarët e tij dhe me udhëheqësen Marjam Raxhavi. Ajo përsëri vërshoi lëvdata për MEK dhe udhëheqësen e tij.
Mbështetja e hapur e Gjebresë për grupin është tronditëse për disa arsye. Jo më pak sepse MEK është një grup shumë i diskutueshëm me një sfond të dhunshëm. I gjithë MEK u transferua me forcë nga Iraku në Shqipëri nga amerikanët për të kënaqur kërkesat e Irakut për të çliruar vendin e tyre nga mbetjet përfundimtare të regjimit të Sadam Huseinit. Deri në vitin 2016, MEK-u ishte i lidhur me kryengritësit si Al Kaeda dhe Daesh. Amerika pagoi disa miliona dollarë për qeverinë e Shqipërisë dhe premtoi ndihmë për de-radikalizimin e terroristëve.
Kjo nuk ndodhi. Në vend të de-radikalizimit, struktura organizative e cila kishte vepruar në Irak për tre dekada u lejua të vazhdonte edhe në Shqipëri. 3,000 anëtarët e MEK-ut u konsoliduan dhe u izoluan mbrapa dyerve dhe dritareve të mbyllura në blloqe banimi të dedikuara. Kjo çoi në spekulime për të ardhmen e grupit. Në tubime, të tilla si ai ku mori pjesë Gjebrea, MEK vazhdon me premtimin e ndryshimit të regjimit në Iran – gjë që në të kaluarën MEK e ka ndjekur përmes dhunës dhe terrorizmit. Kur Xhon Bolton apo Senatori Xhon Mekejn lobojnë për MEK-un, është e qartë se po ndjekin një axhendë politike anti-Iraniane. Por a e ndan edhe Gjebrea këtë axhendë ndaj Iranit? Po Shqipëria? Politikanët nga qeveria dhe opozita do të përfitonin nga një qasje më e informuar dhe e mirëmenduar nëse nuk duan të antagonizojnë Iranin si një partner tregtar potencial për vendin e tyre.
Por aspekti me të vërtetë tronditës i mbështetjes së Gjebresë për MEK-un mund të bazohet vetëm në injorancë ose si rezultat i korrupsionit. Është e ditur mirë se MEK vepron si një kult i kontrollit të mendjes. Ai është i organizuar si një sistem totalitar i udhëhequr nga një udhëheqës autoritar i cili kërkon bindje totale të padiskutueshme nga çdo anëtar në çdo nivel. Grupi vepron jashtë normave ligjore, morale ose kulturore. Një nga karakteristikat përcaktuese të këtij shteti kultik – e ekspozuar gjatë analizës së provave nga ekspertët – është se anëtarët mbahen në një gjendje skllavërie moderne. Ata durojnë punën e detyruar dhe ushtrojnë detyrën ushtarake. Në njëfarë kuptimi, ata janë gladiatorë modernë, që luftojnë jo për romakët e lashtë, por për mjeshtrat e tyre modernë, ata që paguajnë MEK-un si mercenar.
Le të rikujtojmë se Elona Gjebrea është zëvendës koordinatore e anti-trafikimit në Shqipëri. Roli i saj është të parandalojë skllavërinë dhe trafikimin. Si e shpjegon atëherë mbështetjen e saj për skllavërinë moderne në vetë Shqipërinë? Kur ajo lavdëron Marjam Raxhavin, a është sinqerisht e pavetëdijshme se tifozët të cilët tundin flamujt, auditori që duartroket janë në të vërtetë skllevër që nuk kanë zgjidhje tjetër veçse t’i binden diktateve të Raxhavit? A është vërtet e pavetëdijshme se anëtarëve të MEK-ut që kanë punuar për dekada pa pagë, ende u mohohen pagesat individuale të refugjatëve të UNHCR-së në Shqipëri, sepse ato i paguhen drejtpërdrejt udhëheqëses së MEK-ut? Marjam Raxhavi nuk është tjetër veçse mjeshtria e një bande skllevërish.
Gjebrea është vetëm një nga disa personalitetet e profilit të lartë të cilët kohët e fundit i janë nënshtruar magjisë bindëse të MEK-ut. Por ç’ironi e madhe është që në rolin e saj në Ministrinë e Brendshme, ajo jo vetëm që dështoi të siguronte që anëtarët e MEK-ut të de-radikalizoheshin dhe të ktheheshin në jetën normale, por ajo ka miratuar dhe inkurajuar vazhdimin e skllavërisë së tyre në vendin e saj. Kur një situatë e tillë tronditëse ekziston kaq haptazi, nuk është e vështirë të kuptohet pse zgjedhjet parlamentare janë aq të mbushura me zemërim dhe pakënaqësi. Për një vend aq të vëmendshëm ndaj Amerikës për ndihmë dhe përkrahje, është një turp që nuk mund të ofrohet një drejtim më i mirë për të rikthyer demokracinë e Shqipërisë në rrugën e duhur. / © Gazeta Impakt
MEK’s Maryam Rajavi blackmails Albania to become the new ‘Saddam regime’ for them.
Massoud Khodabandeh, Top topic, May 08 2017:… Rajavi then publishes these alongside letters signed by American personalities in support of the MEK. The letters from the Americans are addressed to the Albanian Prime Minister and bear the familiar hallmark of MEK authorship. (One letter published by the MEK is signed in blue ink. We can only speculate how the MEK obtained the original letter which should have been sent directly from the Americans to the Albanian PM!) …
MEK’s Maryam Rajavi blackmails Albania to become the new ‘Saddam regime’ for them.
The forced relocation of the MEK organisation from Iraq to Albania resulted in drastic changes within the group. No longer forced to endure the extremes of heat and cold in Baghdad, living alongside ordinary family neighbours for the first time in two decades and the loss of their leader Massoud Rajavi have all profoundly affected the members. They now have the ‘luxury’ to think and their changed environment and circumstances have led them to challenge the leadership.
Defections started almost immediately and the MEK is now in the grip of a crisis of disaffection. The problem was exacerbated when Sahar Family Foundation moved its operation from Baghdad to Tirana. Sahar was created to offer support and help to families of MEK members who were trying to get in touch with their estranged loved ones in the MEK while they were based in Iraq. The MEK leaders regard families and familial relations as “poison” and have tried every way possible to prevent these families contacting their loved ones in the group.
Now that Sahar has begun its work in Albania, the new MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has panicked. Sahar began by reminding the UNHCR and Albanian authorities of the international laws governing refugees, in particular UN human rights conventions and articles, and how the MEK rejects these norms.
Maryam Rajavi reacted by shooting herself in the foot. https://www.mojahedin.org/news/197420
Maryam’s counter campaign is based on the tactics used by Massoud Rajavi in Iraq – blackmail and coercion – but it is too little and too late and has lost its potency.
Soon after Sahar started its campaign to inform Albanian authorities of the MEK’s illegal and scandalous behaviours, Rajavi announced that three disaffected individuals, Hadi Sanikhani, Gholamreza Shokri and Sarfaraz Rahimi, had made contact with their families in Iran and declared them therefore to be ‘agents of the regime’. For this reason, she said, “we will cut their refugee allowances from now”. The MEK then said that the only way for their UNHCR money to be restored was for these individuals (and others) to write whatever the MEK dictates. In Saddam’s prisons the MEK also used such coercive tactics to force compliance and silence.
The three individuals went to the UNHCR office and explained what had happened. The UNHCR advised them to go the MEK’s HQ and talk to them. There they were threatened and attacked by MEK operatives. Two of them have since published their account of the events, but Sarfaraz Rahimi has given in and accepted to write for them. He writes what they dictate against the other two – who are understandably complaining about having no food or money in Tirana – condemning them as agents of the Iranian regime.
Rajavi then publishes these letters of Rahimi alongside letters signed by American personalities in support of the MEK.
The letters from the Americans are addressed to the Albanian Prime Minister and bear the familiar hallmark of MEK authorship. (One letter published by the MEK is signed in blue ink. We can only speculate how the MEK obtained the original letter which should have been sent directly from the Americans to the Albanian PM!)
This combination of letters (forced confessions alongside Americans letters to the Albanian PM claiming Iran is operating against the MEK in Albania under the guise of cultural centres, etc) had two aims. One was to warn dissidents inside the MEK what will happen if they leave or disobey orders. The other aim was to get the Albanian government to back the MEK and replicate the role played by Saddam Hussein in the group’s survival by punishing dissent, only this time in Albania.
Reactions were not as Rajavi wanted or anticipated. Inside the MEK and among ex-members there has been outrage. It seems to everyone that after three decades of unpaid work for the MEK and Saddam Hussein, the day someone leaves they instantly confess, in their own writing, to being an agent of the Iranian regime. There are only two possibilities: the organisation is lying and takes forced confessions, or the organisation is a training ground for agents of the regime.
Others complain that although the Americans have the right to recruit people as mercenaries, they do not have the right not to pay them and force them to be gladiators in Albania.
Albanians themselves see this MEK presence as yet further evidence that America is using their country for any and every form of corruption and illegal activity. Albania is still notorious as a centre for narcotics, arms smuggling and people trafficking in spite of efforts to clean up the country so it can join the EU. Albanians complain that their country is reportedly being used to smuggle US arms to Syria and other places for so-called ‘moderate’ rebels, that NATO uses Albania to conduct activities it can’t perform in the US or EU and that the CIA and the Pentagon have turned Albania into an extra-judicial base for nefarious activities. And now John Bolton and Senator John McCain alongside others use Albania as a springboard to pursue unclear political agendas which may include training terrorists and providing land and logistic for groups which are to be deployed in other countries.
Along with dumping nuclear waste and Guantanamo Bay prisoners, Albania now has had the MEK dumped on it. Instead of getting advice and support to de-radicalise these fanatics the government is being blackmailed and corrupted into performing the same role as Saddam Hussein undertook to protect and deploy the MEK.
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hook
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hook
They say actions speak louder than words. Looking behind the Twitter storm which creates a smoke and mirrors effect to disguise the Trump administration’s true intents, one fact is blindingly clear; for this government, Iranians are first in the firing line.
This, of itself, is not unexpected. On the campaign trail Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran. So it was already clear he’s no fan of Iranians.
His first act as president has been to issue a direct and belligerent challenge to Iran – he included Iran in the Muslim ban and then declared that Iran is “on notice” after Iran test-fired a ballistic missile which it says is defensive. Iran is clearly in the crosshairs for Trump and his team.
And the evidence stacks up. As a barometer for any individual or even government’s aggressive approach to Iran, support for the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK aka Rajavi cult) is as accurate an indicator as any. The group has advocated violent regime change against Iran for three decades. Its supporters are in doubt that this is a rallying cry for a US-led war.
Even before taking office, revelations about potential Trump administration advisers and officials giving support to the terrorist MEK cult caused concern among foreign policy experts. After all, anti-Iran pundits can choose from literally thousands of civil groups and personalities to act as advisors and partners in challenging Iran. The MEK’s dirty past includes the anti-Imperialistinspired murder of six Americans in pre-revolution Iran which it later celebrated insongs and publications. (The family of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Turner – “We were the first victims of terror before there was ever a war on terror” – is currently seeking redress for his death.) The new president has apparently brushed aside such concerns and has chosen to surround himself with people who have advocated for the MEK.
By not denouncing the MEK Trump has done several things. One is to signal that he is at war not with Iran but with Iranians. The MEK is hated more profoundly than any of Iran’s current political leaders by Iranians inside and outside the country.
He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
But most importantly, this tolerance, even warmth, shown toward the MEK in American foreign policy circles is a message that can be read from afar and by everyone else in the world: the American war box is virtually empty. Aside from a handful of puny sanctions, bringing the MEK into the equation means that not only does the America not have a stick to wave at Iran, it appears foolish enough, befuddled by ideological zeal perhaps, to tie its fate to the most unlucky and doom-laden group there ever was.
Laughably, parasitically, the MEK has consistently tied its fate to whichever it assumed was the winning side. However, the choice of MEK sponsors no longer looks so astute. Ayatollah Khomeini quickly saw through the MEK’s smarmy overtures to share power and promptly exiled them from Iran. The next step was to ally with Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war – a feat of spectacular treachery for which no Iranian will ever forgive them. After Saddam’s fall the MEK believed that the chaos in Iraq which gave rise to the insurrection of Al Qaida in Iraq would somehow carry them forward. The MEK even flirted with support for ISIS and the Syrian Free Army hoping they would find a home in the new Caliphate. Instead, the MEK were evicted from their base and sent into deeper exile in Albania, a country with no axe to grind against Iran. Long term sponsors have included Israel – which tasked MEK operatives with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists – and the anti-Shia Saudi Arabia. Both countries are bogged down with interminable troubles of their own. And now the MEK are hoping to cosy up with the Trump administration.
The Obama administration kept the MEK at arms’ length and never entertained direct support for the group. When the government of Iraq held the US, along with the UN, responsible for removing the MEK from Iraq to a third country, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was forced to agree to remove the MEK from the US terrorism list before any third country would legally be able to accept them on their territory.
Since 2001 Trump’s predecessors have built up strong homeland defences and led counter-terrorism efforts particularly against the threat of ISIS to the US and Europe. It is now likely that this legacy will be squandered by an administration with an overriding hatred of Iran. Instead of understanding the benefit of developing strategic partnerships with countries like Iran and Iraq in the global fight against terrorism, the Trump administration would rather rain down terror on the Iranian people.
But the biggest delusion would be to believe that the MEK could be a reliable or effective partner in any sense. If Donald Trump has any insight into his own modus operandi – the erratic demands and refusal to take criticism – he will have a direct view of how the MEK operates. Aligning America’s foreign policy with the whims of a mind control cult will not secure victory over Iran. Instead, it will diminish America’s standing in the world, and it will certainly not make the world a better or safer place.
Some related documents:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
link to one of the Mojahedin Khalq songs
advocating terror and killing Americans
(In Persian written and distributed after the Iranian Revolution)
National Geographic, March 04 2017:… Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to …
Associated Press, February 16 2017:… The group at one point successfully infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, according to a State Department report. And a series of bombings attributed to the MEK accompanied visits by presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Iran, including one to target an American cultural center. In 1973, MEK assailants wearing motorcycle helmets shot dead U.S. Army Lt. …
Iran Interlink, February 15 2017:… The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites. Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement
Gazeta Impakt, Albania, Translated by Iran Interlink, January 01 2017:… According to Fatos Klosi, former director of the National Intelligence Service, the American CIA chief has warned Albania that Donald Trump will renounce support for the MEK terrorists and it will be the Albanian Government itself which must deal with internal security and must confront a group trained militarily from the time of Saddam Hussein …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, December 24 2016:… That can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues. The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, November 12 2016:… In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation (also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult). It is certain that …
Iran Interlink, October 30 2016:… Local observers in Tirana are reporting that the Mojahedin Khalq cultic terror group (MEK) is buying and creating several sandwich and kebab shops in the city and is using the MEK members to work in these fast-food businesses. On the surface this may look like a positive move. In an article titled ‘Albania: What would a de-radicalization program for the Mojahedin Khalq involve’, it was …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, October 16 2016:… In spite of American promises, no de-radicalisation programme is in place to deal with over 2500 members of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group who have relocated to Tirana from Iraq. The MEK has a long history of violent and criminal activity. This has not stopped now they are in Tirana. Unless the Albanian government introduces its own programme, it must accept …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington post (and Top Topic), October 09 2016:… For the local citizens, mystery surrounds their arrival and their lifestyle. Should these secretive and covert neighbours be treated with suspicion or kindness? At a local level, the first thing neighbouring families need to be aware of is that among all MEK members, sexual relations have been banned for over 25 years. This means there are no marriages or children or young people in the organisation. More troubling …
Massoud & Anne Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 14 2016:… Whether Rajavi is already dead or now killable is not known – only he can answer this – but he and his whole organisation are certainly now, body and soul, in the capable hands of the Saudi Prince. If he is still alive, Rajavi’s only role is to act as go-between to instruct his wife what she must do on behalf of the Saudis. If he is dead
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? Fro
Massoud Khodabandeh, Toptopic, July 03 2016:… So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious report