Eldar Mamedov, Lobe Log, November 07 2019:… NCRI is an umbrella for the Mujahedeen-e Khalk, or MEK, also known as MKO, and People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an organization of Iranian dissidents in exile that seeks to overthrow the Islamic Republic. It was on the European Union list of terrorist organizations until 2009 and on the U.S. list until 2012. Its presence in France harks back to 1981. The French government granted asylum to MEK’s then-leader Massoud Rajavi, exiled from Iran after losing a bloody power struggle against Ayatollah Khomeini, his former ally and the leader of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Ever since, the MEK’s presence in France was a source of friction in relations between Paris and Tehran. France Moving Against MEK .
Is France Moving Against The MEK ?
On October 30, a volley of tweets attributed to Alexis Kohler, chief of staff of the French President Emmanuel Macron, announced that France, taking into account the “negative consequences” of the presence of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) on the French soil, will restrict its activities in the country. On November 5, however, the Élysée Palace disowned the tweets as fake, and the Twitter handle supposedly belonging to Kohler was suspended.
The incident raises a number of questions: Who was behind these tweets? What did they seek to achieve? Why did it take almost one week to take Kohler’s fake profile down? And what does it say about the French cyber-warfare capabilities? That aside, the news itself may not necessarily be groundless.
NCRI is an umbrella for the Mujahedeen-e Khalk, or MEK, also known as MKO, and People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an organization of Iranian dissidents in exile that seeks to overthrow the Islamic Republic. It was on the European Union list of terrorist organizations until 2009 and on the U.S. list until 2012. Its presence in France harks back to 1981. The French government granted asylum to MEK’s then-leader Massoud Rajavi, exiled from Iran after losing a bloody power struggle against Ayatollah Khomeini, his former ally and the leader of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Ever since, the MEK’s presence in France was a source of friction in relations between Paris and Tehran.
Every year the group organized rallies in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, attended by a wide array of well-known and reportedly well-paid speakers, mostly former and current officials from the United States, European and Arab states. These speakers included, among others, former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton (before he assumed that position) and former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to President Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani. Their role was to provide legitimacy to the MEK and its “president-elect” Maryam Rajavi as the alternative to the current Islamic regime in Iran.
In July 2018, just as the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was to embark on a trip to Paris to work on saving the faltering nuclear agreement, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, or JCPOA, reports emerged about a bomb plot against the MEK gathering, allegedly hatched by the agents of Iranian intelligence. The case was never conclusively resolved. There remains some possibility that the “plot” was in reality a false flag operation concocted by the MEK and its foreign allies designed to sabotage diplomacy between the EU and Iran at a critical time. Reportedly, French intelligence has not entirely discarded the latter theory. Certainly, such a plot would only benefit those who seek to push the EU to join Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
This helps explain why the French authorities did not allow the annual MEK gathering in summer of 2019, ostensibly for “security concerns.” It is likely that the real motivation behind the decision, however, was the desire of Paris to explore diplomatic opportunities in its relations with Tehran. In the race to save the nuclear agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron emerged as the most energetic of the Western leaders, engaging with both Iran and United States in pursuit of de-escalation and new negotiations. In this context, the last thing Paris needed was some incident involving MEK on French territory.
There is another reason why Paris would want to curtail MEK activities: its efforts to release two French academics currently in Iranian jails – Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal. French sources point to a precedent in 1986, when the French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac struck a deal with Tehran for the release of French hostages held prisoners by the Hezbollah in Lebanon. As a price, the MEK was forced to leave France and relocated to Iraq then. Similar dynamics may be at play now.
If asked to leave, the destination for remaining MEK cadres in France would be Albania, which already hosts around 3,000 members, following the U.S. and U.N.-brokered resettlement from their former base in Iraq. A complete eviction from France would be a serious setback for the MEK. Its continued relevance was fully premised on its ability to visibly project power and connections on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Persian Gulf. Annual public rallies were a medium to build up the lobby for the group. Being forced to trade Paris for Tirana, a capital of an impoverished Balkan nation, geographically far removed from both main Western capitals and Iran itself, is a patent downgrade. To this should be added the waning fortunes of the MEK’s champions in the U.S.: Bolton was fired, Giuliani is too busy dealing with his own legal troubles to continue lobbying for the MEK, and Trump himself is fighting for political survival amid the specter of an impending impeachment.
True, the MEK is still capable of performing such stints as recent gatherings in the French Senate and the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg. The EP in particular is an attractive platform for the MEK, since, unlike national parliaments, it represents MPs from 28 member states. Thus, a bigger diversity of views and sensitivities is present and more outlets for MEK efforts are available. But even there, its influence is on the wane. The MEK’s success to win recruits for its cause hinged on its ability to be all things to all people: for example, women rights defenders to the left, and promoters of better relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia to the right. However, the group committed a major strategic blunder by funding Vox, the Spanish extreme right party. This led some of the MEK’s supporters on the left to sever ties. Moreover, the MEK never managed to gain any foothold in official EP bodies dealing with Iran – its foreign affairs committee and its delegation for relations with Iran. In any case, small acts in parliaments reflect the group’s desperate attempts to remain relevant, and are no match for ambitious rallies the MEK was able to organize in previous years in France.
Throughout its history, the MEK showed remarkable resilience, and due to its chameleonic nature and deep pockets, managed to navigate the turbulent waters of Middle Eastern politics. It may be premature to write an obituary for the MEK just yet. But the French steps to curtail its activities, particularly if and when they’ll eventually lead to the group’s expulsion from France, are definitely contributing to its decline.
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the S&D Group and the European Parliament.
Is France Moving Against The MEK?
Iran: US masters responsible for today terror attack in Ahvaz. (Joint “al-Ahwaz” and “MEK” terror attack)The MEK’s dirty past includes the anti-Imperialist inspired murder of six Americans in pre-revolution Iran which it later celebrated in songs and publications
France holds MEK Mujahedin-e Khalq terrorists
Alexander Azadgan, Sputnik International, May 11 2019:… Let’s be frank here, France holds one of the worst terrorist groups in modern times. They are called MKO or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization). They are based in Paris; they are an anti-Iran terrorist group who have been known to kill American citizens in the 1960s and 1970s in Iran. France has hosted them and to me, it is appalling that Iran is not raising this question during their negotiations. France holds MEK Mujahedin-e Khalq terrorists
“There Is No Room for Wishful Thinking in International Relations” – Prof
On Wednesday, Iran announced its decision to partially discontinue its 2015 nuclear commitments a year after the US unilaterally left the accord. Tehran also threatened to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for the JCPOA.
Sputnik has discussed the latest developments of the JCPOA with Alexander Azadgan, professor of international policitical economy, a senior geopolitical analyst and Editor-at-Large with UWI (United World International).
Sputnik: Iranian state TV announced on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic would be suspending several commitments within the nuclear deal, adding that Iran is not exiting the agreement. What does this mean for the deal?
Alexander Azadgan: The deal for all means and purposes was really finished and over and done with when Mr. Trump reneged and got the United States out of it. What was left was a hodgepodge of European nations, [faithful] states to Washington. And of course, you have China and Russia on the other hand. Let’s go back and just briefly look at the sacrifices that Iran made in this deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In July of 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. Under this JCPOA it was limited to 5,060. And this 5,060 are old and outdated centrifuges. Iran’s uranium stockpile was reduced by 98 percent, 300 kilograms only, from 10 tonnes or 10,000 kilograms. And according to the JCPOA, this figure cannot be exceeded; the 300 kilograms cannot be exceeded until 2031. It must also keep the stockpile’s level of enrichment at only 3.67 percent, low enrichment uranium which has a 3 to 4 percent concentration of Uranium-235. And that cannot be used to fuel the nuclear power plants; the weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched. So basically they are telling the Iranians that you cannot even power your nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which was built by the Russians for Iran.
During this entire time, the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has time after time verified and confirmed to the global community, the international community that Iran abided by all its commitments, in 13 consecutive reports, as a matter of fact. And the IAEA is the only legitimate body for nuclear regulations and inspections, not the US, not Germany, not France, and certainly not the UK.
Sputnik: So, let me get back to the European countries for a while. In your opinion, what agreements would satisfy Iran and prevent a further escalation of the situation?
Alexander Azadgan: After Rouhani got into power, he went to Italy and he went to France. He signed tens of billions dollars of lucrative contracts with the French; they have reneged from all of them. The (deal with) Renault, a strong car company, they reneged out of that. Total, the huge French oil company, reneged out of developing the Iranians’ South Pars natural gas field. They have reneged from everything. So JCPOA has been nothing but just a name, there is no substance to it. And the Europeans are just buying time. They couldn’t even implement their so-called Special [Purpose] Vehicle to bypass Washington’s draconian financial sanctions. They haven’t done a thing, and this was one of the easiest forecasts that my colleagues and I did. The Europeans always, their ships always, cast to the same direction as Washington. Nothing is going to disrupt the transatlantic alliance unless Germany shows more interest in [taking steps] closer to Russia. And we are already seeing that development happen.
Sputnik: You have already mentioned that about France. France has said that there is nothing worse than Iran’s exit from the deal and that the EU wants to keep the deal alive. What steps can we expect from Europe?
Alexander Azadgan: Nothing. We can expect nothing from Europe. And if anything, Europe is going to escalate their rhetoric as France has done during the past couple of days with Iran. Let’s be frank here, France holds one of the worst terrorist groups in modern times. They are called MKO or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization). They are based in Paris; they are an anti-Iran terrorist group who have been known to kill American citizens in the 1960s and 1970s in Iran. France has hosted them and to me, it is appalling that Iran is not raising this question during their negotiations.
One of the things that are very suspicious to the Iranian people at least in the wording of the JCPOA — some phrases –they call it the ‘spirit’ of the JCPOA. I think many of us believe that when they refer to the ‘spirit’ of the JCPOA, they are referring to Iran basically ending its revolution as it is: Iran no longer defending the Palestinian people; Iran no longer playing a real leadership role as it has been playing in defeating the terrorist in Iraq and in Syria. For all means and purposes, just sit back and join the trend of globalisation and become another client state for Washington in the region.
Washington is engaging in economic terrorism and it has taken a toll on the Iranians. And you know, that is how they are trying to foment regime change in Iran. There may not be a war, we are not forecasting a war, but they are going to economically crumble Iran and they are going to expect that. When that happens, the Iranian people will rise and have a regime change, very much similar to what is happening in Venezuela right now.
This is why the Venezuelan case is absolutely crucial. They just pick somebody to become the next president; Washington picks somebody to be the next president. They’ve actually declared him the president. If this precedent is set, the entire world, the entire non-aligned movement world is going to be in danger, because they are going to do the same thing in Iran. They are going to pick some lackey over there, some liberal lackey, they are going to announce: “He is the president”. And they are going to try to foment in Iran, as they did in 2009.
Sputnik: Is it possible to influence the USA to restart the negotiations?
Alexander Azadgan: It depends on who gets into power. The Democrats have openly said if they are back in power in 2020, they would want to rejoin the JCPOA. But I don’t think that the Iranian people and the Iranian militia would ever trust Washington again. How could you have international treaties, how could you be part of a multilateral treaty and then another administration comes in and within a few days does away with 20 years of negotiations between Iran and P5+1, right? And Mr. Obama was on record that “if Iran reneges, we know exactly where the crucial sites are so we can bomb them.” Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama are on record, we can watch these videos on YouTube.
So there was never good faith. And restart what? How can Iran ever trust anybody? Iran is looking around, Iran saw how Trump was wooing the Korean leader. And we saw what happened with that. I mean it is absolutely ridiculous. There is no credibility left in Washington. International law, a big chunk of international law, and international relations per se rely on credibility, on trustability. Washington doesn’t have any of that left. And it is not just the JCPOA they are coming out of. They came out of the Paris Climate Accord and all sorts of other treaties that this man is trying to bring us out of.
Sputnik: What reaction can we expect from the US if the deal between the European countries and Iran is successful?
Alexander Azadgan: The second part of this question, “if the deal between the European countries and Iran is successful”, it is not, it hasn’t been. The UK’s political attitude, populism, is bringing it closer to Washington, which is 3,000 miles away instead of Europe, which is 30 miles away. In France, you have someone – you see what is going on in France with the trend of Mr. Emmanuel Macron. He has that Napoleonic tendency and arrogance. We have known for a long time about Israel’s tremendous influence within French politics. We look at Germany as a neutral power in this case, but they are going to stick with the European Union foreign policy apparatus. Mrs. Mogherini has been constructive in her rhetoric but nothing has come as a result of that rhetoric: nothing but cheap words, no abiding by contracts.
[Many are thinking] that Mr. Trump is surrounded by lunatics. But I think that another mistake, a miscalculation of the liberals in Iran is thinking they can drive a wedge between Mr. Trump and his closest advisors around him. This is another miscalculation that the liberals in Iran are making. Mr Trump cannot do anything right now. It is my personal belief that the neocon (associates) of Mr. Trump are blackmailing him in every which way. If he doesn’t go with war-expanding policies around the world, they are going to reveal even more information about him. And we all know Mr. Trump has quite a lot of skeletons in his closet, many of them of his own making. So he is stuck in this position.
I don’t think he can act independently in this situation. Well, I think the Iranian liberals that are still in power for the next two years I think are miscalculating once again, thinking they can separate Mr. Trump and they can influence the US to restart a negotiation. I don’t think that’s a possibility, I think it’s wishful thinking. And in international relations, there is no room for wishful thinking.
*The views and opinion expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.