Joshua Keating, The Slate, May 07 2019:… Bolton, who has given paid speeches to the controversial Iranian opposition group M.E.K., has long advocated regime change in Iran. As Dexter Filkins’ recent New Yorker profile of the national security adviser explained, President Donald Trump, a skeptic about military intervention, may be less enthusiastic about that strategy. MEK Iran and John Bolton regime change Noises
John Bolton Makes Loud Noises at Iran
MEK Iran and John Bolton regime change Noises
In an unusual statement for a national security adviser to make, John Bolton announced on Sunday night that an aircraft carrier strike group is being deployed as a warning to Iran:
In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.
This all sounds pretty alarming, but a couple of facts are worth keeping in mind. First, the White House probably did not actually decide to do this over the weekend. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group had already left in early April on what the Navy press release called a “regularly scheduled deployment.” As Rand Corp. analyst Becca Wasser tweets, “chances are this deployment has been long-planned. [White House] message is piggybacking on planned ops to make a point.” (Hopefully the ships are at least headed in the right direction this time.)
Second, it’s not clear what “troubling and escalatory indications” Bolton is referring to. According to the New York Times, citing an American military official, “as of late Friday, military analysts were not tracking any new, imminent or clearly defined Iranian or Iranian-backed threats against Americans in Iraq or the region.”
Update, May 6, 2019: U.S. Officials are now saying, according to CNN, that the move was ordered in response to “serious and credible” intelligence suggesting a threat to U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq, and at sea from Iranian forces and proxies.
So, there’s no sign that anything actually “happened” over the weekend. Iran didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, that we know of, and neither did the United States. But the escalating rhetoric could still be worrisome.
Bolton’s latest rhetorical volley follows a series of moves by the Trump administration to dial up the pressure on Tehran, including designating the regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and ending sanctions waivers for countries importing Iranian oil.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, warned of unspecified “consequences” in response.
Iranian officials have suggested several times in recent weeks that they could retaliate by shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial waterway through which 20 percent of the world’s oil flows, a move that would cause an immediate spike in global oil prices and significantly raise the risk of armed conflict. Iran has threatened to do this several times over the years and has never followed through, but the latest signals from Tehran may have been what prompted Bolton’s missive.
There have also been reports that Iran could announce later this week that it is withdrawing from at least some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. This week will mark one year since the U.S. withdrew from the deal.
Bolton, who has given paid speeches to the controversial Iranian opposition group M.E.K., has long advocated regime change in Iran. As Dexter Filkins’ recent New Yorker profile of the national security adviser explained, President Donald Trump, a skeptic about military intervention, may be less enthusiastic about that strategy. (As one source told Filkins, “Bolton’s worst nightmare is that Khamenei will write Trump a letter saying, ‘Why don’t we get together and talk?’ Because he knows that Trump would jump at that opportunity.”)
Iran’s Zarif surmised this in a recent interview, describing Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed as the “B team” who were looking to provoke Iran into doing something that could provide a pretext for military action, as opposed to Trump, who wanted to pressure Iran into negotiation.
While Trump has often seemed less preoccupied with Iran than some of his advisers have, he clearly sees a hard line as politically advantageous and has been letting Bolton—as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—set the aggressive tone. We may see the consequences very soon.
MEK Iran and John Bolton
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
MEK Iran and John Bolton
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 Zarif MEK Iran)
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
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.
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Are The MEK And Regime Change Finally Running Out Of Road?
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe log, March 09 2019:… Hommerich reported that inside the camp in Albania, MEK militants were still practicing the deadly techniques for combat taught them by Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard—“cutting throats with a knife,” “breaking hands,” “removing eyes with fingers,” and “tearing the mouth open.” In 2017, the Trump administration reversed a 2013 plan by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to establish a De-Radicalisation Institute to disband and rehabilitate the MEK, allowing the dangerous cult to regroup behind closed doors in a de facto extra-territorial enclave and continue its violent practices.
Are The MEK And Regime Change Finally Running Out Of Road?
by Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
The “regime change in Iran” bandwagon—driven by warmongers, fueled by false prophesy, and hurtling pell-mell down the road to Iran—contains various characters, some new and some old.
The bandwagon itself is an ideological construct created 40 years ago in response to the Iranian Revolution. It has taken on various incarnations over the years, but its central purpose has always been to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran and replace it with a compliant pro-American government. What that is hardly matters of course, as was the case with Iraq in 2003.
The drivers of this bandwagon are paid large sums to pursue this agenda at any cost. Others are mere passengers, hoping for a role after the vehicle reaches the destination. Among these passengers is the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), formerly a terrorist group and currently “democratic opposition.” The MEK has been a passenger for all 40 years of the journey, hanging on by paying the drivers. These drivers are public persons such as National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump lawyer Rudi Giuliani, along with a host of other “influential” persons who steer the bandwagon inexorably toward conflict.
But just as the bandwagon appears to be gathering speed and momentum—enough to scare the Trump administration’s opponents—the MEK appears to be running out of road. And that could signal a halt to the whole enterprise.
The first sign of this came in a piece by Eli Clifton, which discussed the provenance of a large payment ($165,000) received by John Bolton in relation to a tweet to “defend a non-governmental anti-Iran pressure group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)…”. Clifton’s own tweet was met by a couple of feeble MEK slave troll posts on his thread spouting the usual “no appeasement” and “terrorist Iran” themes. This indicates that the MEK has been outbid by a new bandwagon passenger UANI, since the MEK only managed $40,000 for one of Bolton’s speeches. Also, the MEK trolls are running out of steam back in their closed camp in Albania.
Even while Bolton and the Trump administration, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are pushing for a war with Iran, they are beginning to realize that the MEK is not the stick needed to strike fear into the enemy. Indeed, a look at the recent behaviour of the MEK in Albania reveals a failing group beset by internal crisis.
After a series of critical investigative articles by reporters from Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Independent, Channel 4 News, NBC, and others, the recent report in Der Spiegel by Luisa Hommerich was apparently the last straw. The MEK issued a Farsi language statement (written and published in Europe) threatening to assassinate her—for just doing her job.
Hommerich reported that inside the camp in Albania, MEK militants were still practicing the deadly techniques for combat taught them by Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard—“cutting throats with a knife,” “breaking hands,” “removing eyes with fingers,” and “tearing the mouth open.” In 2017, the Trump administration reversed a 2013 plan by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to establish a De-Radicalisation Institute to disband and rehabilitate the MEK, allowing the dangerous cult to regroup behind closed doors in a de facto extra-territorial enclave and continue its violent practices.
In spite of this boost, the MEK, beset by exposures and defections, is trying to prevent the total collapse of the group. Around a thousand members have left the group since it relocated to Albania. The front line over which the MEK peers at its enemy, the Islamic Republic, is no longer Iraq but is now represented by a group of 40 former members protesting in Tirana. The MEK claim that these are all “agents of the Iranian regime” who want to kill the remaining cult members. So, instead of orchestrating regime change in Iran, the MEK can’t even deal with 40 destitute former members.
The MEK is engaged in a form of modern slavery by not paying thousands of activists for 30 years or more. Members who leave the group are left destitute because they have nothing but the clothes on their back even after decades of loyal service. The MEK claims that members offer their services as “volunteers.” But the preamble to the UN Declaration of Human Rights states in its opening sentence that human rights are inalienable—that is, they cannot be disowned by anyone for any reason. MEK leader Maryam Rajavi is responsible for such decisions and treatment.
Not only are the defectors that Hommerich profiles impoverished because they have not had financial recompense for their years of devotion, they are also deliberately left stateless. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees brought the MEK to Albania from Iraq on “humanitarian grounds.” But on arrival they were not granted UN refugee status, nor have they been issued Albanian identity documents that would allow them to work or travel. Lack of residency rights also means that they cannot register for a bank account. They have no identity papers whatsoever, except the flimsy piece of paper used to fly them through international airspace from Baghdad to Tirana.
In her pursuit of fame and glory, Maryam Rajavi treats her members as, essentially, cannon fodder. In the idealized future she paints for the members, they will one day march on Tehran, the vanguard of a spontaneous uprising of the Iranian people against their Islamic oppressors, the mullahs. Why would they need money or identity papers?
In the meantime, it suits Rajavi to have her “followers” incarcerated in a closed camp unable to live independent lives, subject to the whims and demands of the struggle that she purports to lead. But that struggle has almost evaporated. Sure, the MEK is still performing propaganda tasks for various Saudis, Israelis, and Americans to advance the anti-Iran push. But even that is becoming more and more irrelevant as the MEK itself begins to fail.
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. Anne Khodabandeh is a UK expert in anti-terrorist activities and a long-standing activist in the field of deradicalization of extremists. She has written several articles and books on this subject, along with her husband, who is of Iranian origin.