MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to PropagandaMehrdad Torabi, Medium, September 28 2020:… Iranian forces carried out Defensive Operation Mersad on July 26, 1988, the last major military operation of the Iraqi imposed war in the western province of Kermanshah to successfully counterattack against the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) terrorist group backed by the US and Saddam Hussein.[1] Two days before the operation, MEK, who had gathered their forces on the Iranian-Iraqi border and were equipped with heavy weapons provided by Saddam, began invading Iranian territory. MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda .

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to PropagandaAnniversary Of Mersad Operation By Rajavi And Saddam

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians From Terror to Propaganda

Iranian forces carried out Defensive Operation Mersad on July 26, 1988, the last major military operation of the Iraqi imposed war in the western province of Kermanshah to successfully counterattack against the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) terrorist group backed by the US and Saddam Hussein.[1] Two days before the operation, MEK, who had gathered their forces on the Iranian-Iraqi border and were equipped with heavy weapons provided by Saddam, began invading Iranian territory. The MEK advanced under heavy Iraqi air cover, violating UNSCR 598, accepted by both Iran and Iraq, which would end the war on 8 August 1988.[2] Simultaneously with Operation Forough Javidan by the MEK, the Iraqi army bombed several Iranian villages around Kermanshah with Mustard and Nerve chemical weapons of mass destruction killing hundreds of Iranian civilians and injuring 2,300.[3] Not to mention that during the eight years of Iran-Iraq war more than 350 large-scale gas attacks were reported in the border areas,[4] and there is not even a single United Nation Security Council Resolution to condemn the use of chemical weapons; in fact, there could be one, but the United States vetoed the condemnation. Of course, MEK’s offensive failed, leaving thousands of martyrs. After the war, however, the organization continued its attacks against Iranian civilians and government officials. Out of nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist attacks over the past four decades, about 16,000 have fallen victim to MEK’s acts of terror.[5] The cult, despite its dark history, however, nowadays is being heavily funded by the US regime and Saudis to keep on moving by spreading fake news and propaganda through disinformation campaigns for the sole purpose of manipulating and provoking public opinion.

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda

MEK s troll farm in Albania

In February 2020, the New York Times interviewed 10 ex-MEK members who said that the MEK’s Albania camp had a troll farm.[6] A troll farm is an institutionalized group of internet trolls aimed to interfere in political opinions and decision-making. According to the Cambridge dictionary, a troll is someone who leaves an intentionally annoying or offensive message on the internet, in order to upset someone or to get attention or cause trouble. MEK’s Albania troll factory or troll farm promoted the opinions of MEK supporters under specific guidelines for specific reasons, spread fake news, and devoted itself to manipulate and provoke the public for rebellion and violence. Certain analysts such as Kenneth R. Timmerman and Paul R. Pillar also believe that the group hires protesters to shape public opinion in exile.[7] In an article published by The Intercept on 9 June 2019, two former MEK members claimed that “Heshmat Alavi” is not a real person, and that the articles published under that name were actually written by a team of people at the political wing of the MEK.[8] Alavi contributed to several media outlets including Forbes, The Diplomat, The Hill, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, and the English edition of Al Arabiya’s website. According to The Intercept, one of Alavi’s articles published by Forbes was used by the White House to justify Donald Trump Administration’s sanctions against Iran.

MEK Cult Operatives Undermining American Democracy

“We were always active in making false news stories to spread to the foreign press and in Iran,” Reza Sadeghi — a member of the MEK until 2008, involved in lobbying activities in the United States, as well as operations at the MEK’s former base at Camp Ashraf in Iraq — reveals in the interview. “At Camp Ashraf, there were computers set up to do online information operations. Over the years, this activity got more intense with the introduction of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

That there are dozens, or maybe hundreds, of other networks in step with peremptory demands of some warmongering regime change advocates. Their objectives are to occupy minds and to distort histories, to disturb and to call forth the public, to use people as artillery support under a constant bombardment of provoking and fake news.

Saudi Tail Wagging British Dog – Iran International and Mujahedin-e Khalq Terrorism

[1] Kaveh Farrokh, “Iran at War: 1500–1988,” Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2011.

[2] United Nations, “Search engine for the United Nations Security Council Resolutions,” http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/598

[3] Eric A. Croddy, James J. Wirtz, and Jeffrey A. Larsen, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Encyclopedia of Worldwide Policy, Technology, and History,” 2004. The actual casualties may be much higher, as the latency period is as long as 40 years. See Robin Wright, “Iran Still Haunted and Influenced By Chemical Weapons Attacks,” January 2014.

[4] Ali Karami, “Long Legacy,” cbrneworld, 2012, http://www.cbrneworld.com/_uploads/download_magazines/Long_legacy.pdf

[5] Hamid Reza Qasemi, 2016, “Chapter 12: Iran and Its Policy Against Terrorism” in Alexander R. Dawoody, “Eradicating Terrorism from the Middle East. Policy and Administrative Approaches,” Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

[6] Patrick Kingsley, “Highly Secretive Iranian Rebels Are Holed Up in Albania. They Gave Us a Tour,” The New York Times, 16 February 2020.

[7] Zaid Jilani, “Attendees Bused Into MEK Rally, Some Of Whom Don’t Really Understand What The MEK Is,” ThinkProgress, 26 August 2011.

[8] Murtaza Hussain, “An Iranian Activist Wrote Dozens of Articles for Right-Wing Outlets. But Is He a Real Person?” The Intercept, 9 June 2019.

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MEK From Terrorist Cult To State Dept Partner

MEK, the Most Hated Among Iranians — From Terror to Propaganda

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Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics Paul Brian and Arthur Bloom, The American Conservative, September 03 2020:… “Amir Basiri and Heshmat Alavi are two fake accounts,” Hassan Heyrani, an MEK defector told TAC. “At Camp Liberty, near the BIAP airport in Iraq, I was in the political unit of the organization with some of the persons who grew up in America and Canada. We worked as a team to write the articles analyzing the Iranian regime. The MEK put them in The Washington Post and all the newspapers in Western countries.” Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics  

Ali Safavi NCRI Remember: MEK was an American excuse to invade IraqRemember: MEK was an American excuse to invade Iraq

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

From Terror to Propaganda 

Another Opinion Columnist Pushing War With Iran Who Doesn’t Actually Exist

The MEK’s disinformation primarily targeted right-of-center outlets receptive to a hawkish line against Iran

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) holds a statement signed by 31 U.S. dignitaries and former officials in support of the NCRI and its fight for freedom in Iran on July 17, 2020, in Ashraf-3, Albania. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (LED screen) one of the signatories, presents it to Ms. Rajavi. (Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There is at least one more foreign policy opinion writer from the Mujahideen-eKhalq (MEK) whose existence is dubious, based on a study by a social media analyst and statements from a defector from the group. Amir Basiri, who contributed to Forbes 9 times, the Washington Examiner 52 times, OpenDemocracyAlgemeiner, and The Hill once also appears to be a fabrication.

The MEK is an Iranian exile group for which John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and other foreign policy luminaries have given paid speeches. Dems like Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean have also spoken on their behalf. But the group has American blood on its hands, has been accused of practicing forced sterilization, and their belief system has been described as a mixture of Marxism and Islamism. Its supporters claim they, and their front group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, are a sort of government-in-exile, despite nearly nonexistent support for the group within Iran. They also have waged a substantial disinformation campaign in the Western press, in particular targeting conservative media.

“Amir Basiri and Heshmat Alavi are two fake accounts,” Hassan Heyrani, an MEK defector told TAC. “At Camp Liberty, near the BIAP airport in Iraq, I was in the political unit of the organization with some of the persons who grew up in America and Canada. We worked as a team to write the articles analyzing the Iranian regime. The MEK put them in The Washington Post and all the newspapers in Western countries.”

Basiri’s op-eds focus on the need for regime change in Iran which he claimed is “within reach.” The thrust of Basiri’s writing – last placed at the Examiner in October of 2018 – is to encourage American readers to take an interest and sympathize with the plight of Iranian protesters and dissidents. Basiri consistently argued against the Iran nuclear deal, downplayed terrorism against Iran, called for tougher sanctions as a method of regime change and highlighted the necessity of Trump working with the Iranian opposition.

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

“Amir Basiri and Heshmat Alavi are two fake accounts,” Hassan Heyrani, an MEK defector told TAC. “At Camp Liberty, near the BIAP airport in Iraq, I was in the political unit of the organization with some of the persons who grew up in America and Canada. We worked as a team to write the articles analyzing the Iranian regime. The MEK put them in The Washington Post and all the newspapers in Western countries.”

“We are currently looking into the matter, so I won’t comment on this specific byline,” Philip Klein, Executive Editor and Commentary Editor of the Washington Examiner told TAC. “But I will say that we have recently instituted more rigorous vetting of outside contributors, including but not limited to asking for photo identification if necessary. We are especially on guard when it comes to unsolicited foreign policy commentary.”

A request for comment from OpenDemocracy, a site greatly concerned about disinformation campaigns, has not been returned as of press time. Basiri’s articles on Forbes are no longer online.

The list of MEK disinformation tactics also includes fake online since-deleted sites such as PersiaNow and ArabEye and questionable sites such as Iran Focus whose domain was formerly registered under the name of an NCRI spokesperson and is now anonymously held.

MEK’s recent influence campaign on Facebook spearheaded by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) was recently reported on last year by Lachlan Markey at the Daily Beast. Markey explained how NCRI lobbyist Soheila Aligholi Mayelzadeh has helped place paid ads on Facebook reaching between 500,000 to 1.4 million users as part of the campaign to sway US public opinion in favor of MEK and intervention in Iran.

The list of outright fakes recently in the realm of foreign policy analysis is significant: there is the apparent Emirati fabrication Raphael Badani to MEK sock puppet Alavi, first revealed by The Intercept, to deepfake non-existent anti-Palestinian activist Oliver Taylor, whose work was placed at highly-respected publications in the United States and Israel.

As Adam Rawnsley wrote for the Daily Beast, “Badani is part of a network of at least 19 fake personas that has spent the past year placing more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications. The articles heaped praise on the United Arab Emirates and advocated for a tougher approach to Qatar, Turkey, Iran and its proxy groups in Iraq and Lebanon.”

Geoff Golberg is the founder of Social Forensics, which tracks and monitors online social media networks and disinformation campaigns. Golberg’s run-in and exposure of various pro-MEK personas, sock puppets and boosters came just prior to his Twitter suspension in July of 2019, the official reason for which was calling an account he believed to be fake and interfering in Canada’s elections a “moron.”

“Rather than suspending accounts that blatantly violate Twitter Rules, Dorsey instead opted to silence my voice. Specific to Iranian-focused platform manipulation, along with The Intercept, I helped out ‘Heshmat Alavi’ as a sockpuppet propaganda operation run by the MEK. Remarkably, despite initially suspending the fake account, ‘Heshmat Alavi’ has been reinstated by Twitter and continues to disseminate propaganda,” Golberg said, adding that Basiri – whose account is currently suspended by Twitter – is another fake persona which has been on his radar for some time. He produced the following graphic demonstrating the interconnectedness of the two accounts:

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

See Separate Photos at the end of this article

Golberg said he knows little of geopolitics or political aspects and was led to investigate sock puppet accounts fomenting war with Iran because he noticed many oddities about their networks, followers and tweeting patterns. His further research and analysis led him down a rabbit hole of connections and resulted in death threats, mass reporting of his account and accusations that he sympathized with the Ayatollah’s regime.

Rather than the hype over Russian bots, the real danger on platforms like Twitter is fake accounts and troll farm accounts which amplify hashtags, spread lies and bolster the desired propaganda of their paymaster, Golberg says.

“Despite media coverage that tends to focus on ‘bots,’ which simply means fully-automated accounts, Twitter’s much larger problem is actually fake accounts. There are more than 100K fake accounts that exist solely to create the illusion of widespread sentiment that the US should go to war with Iran,” Golberg told TAC, adding, “Take ‘Sheldon,’ @patrick_jane77, for example, an account that reflects having nearly 120K Followers. Very few of the account’s Followers are authentic accounts, yet given Twitter refuses to enforce their own rules, it is easy to mistake “Sheldon” for being a popular account. Twitter’s entire platform is propped up by misleading or inflated Followers/Following counts. Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, has built a house of cards and continues to commit ad fraud at a massive scale.”

Golberg sued Twitter earlier this year, alleging that the platform engaged in “deceptive practices” and hasn’t stood by its own terms of service.

Accusations from MEK supporter Hanif Jazayeri that The American Conservative itself and senior editor Daniel Larison act as a mouthpiece for the mullahs are part of a broader campaign aimed at maligning the reputation and integrity of anyone who opposes regime change in Iran. Tweets calling for investigations of TAC also came from noted MEK sock puppet Alavi, MEK spokesman Shahin Gobadi and NCRI’s Ali Safavi.

A barrage of accounts retweeted Jazayeri’s accusations, many with only a few followers and which solely tweet boosting the MEK and supporting regime change in Iran.

It’s worth noting that Heshmat Alavi was following Amir Basiri prior to his suspension, as were others closely connected to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies such as Jerusalem Post Iran hawk Seth Frantzman, @sfrantzman, Jazayeri and a number of other pro-MEK shills. It is a hall of mirrors amplifying the case for war with Iran, and the ad money from NCRI and pro-MEK accounts seems to have dampened Twitter’s desire to crack down. A request for comment from Twitter was not returned as of press time.

As a matter of journalistic ethics any organization engaging in systematic dishonesty like this has provided a very good reason to blacklist them. Failing to do so will encourage other foreign interests to do the same in the future, so conservative publishers should decline all content and interviews from the MEK in the future. This is not a matter of foreign policy differences: if you wish to see the U.S. pursue regime change in Iran, the MEK does not help make that case. Any publishers or think tanks who are aware of this dishonesty and still treat them like a legitimate opposition group should be considered part of a campaign not wholly different from the last time we were lied into a Mideast war.

Arthur Bloom is the managing editor of TAC.

Paul Brian is a freelance journalist. He has reported for the BBC, Reuters, and Foreign Policy, and contributed to The Week, The Federalist, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian or visit his website www.paulrbrian.com.v

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From Terror to Propaganda 

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

Lucrative MEK Fake Accounts Interfering In American Politics

From Terror to Propaganda 

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MEK Impunity Undermining Democracy

MEK Impunity Undermining Democracy Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, June 18 2019:… This is the tip of the iceberg. MEK interference in the internal affairs of America goes well beyond online attacks on Iran. In 2016, the Organization of Iranian American Communities in the US—a front for the MEK—announced a “General Elections Mobilization Effort,” publicly urging its members to “fulfill their civic duty through active engagement in the 2016 general elections to help inform candidates of our communities’ policy priorities.” MEK Impunity Undermining America’s Democracy .

MEK Impunity Undermining DemocracyBolton’s Plans For A False Flag Op Involving MEK Are Already Underway

MEK Impunity Undermining Democracy in America

by Massoud Khodabandeh

Even before its inception, the Trump administration was accused of foreign interference and repeated counter allegations that such charges are fake news. Now, even as House Democrats are squeezing whatever advantage they can from the Mueller investigation into Russian influence, a fresh allegation of foreign interference has emerged.

MEK Impunity Undermining Democracy

An investigation by The Intercept revealed that the White House used an article written by “Heshmat Alavi” to justify President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. After probing the propaganda element in Alavi’s other articles, former members of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) have confirmed that the group is linked to the article. According to one such former member, Hassan Heyrani, “Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and has never been a real person.”

Heyrani said the fake persona has been managed by a team of MEK operatives in Albania, where the group has one of its bases, and is used to spread its message online. Heyrani’s account is echoed by Sara Zahiri, a Farsi-language researcher who focuses on the MEK. Zahiri, who has sources among Iranian government cybersecurity officials, said that Alavi is known inside Iran to be a “group account” run by a team of MEK members and that Alavi himself does not exist.

This new scandal—Heshmatgate—involves a wide political and media class that has become so besotted with an unrealistic anti-Iran agenda that it has left the door open to an unchecked, unverified flow of MEK propaganda throughout American politics and the media. Thanks to these regime-change advocates, a foreign group funded by a foreign government has easily manufactured a false narrative aimed at sending American soldiers to die in a war with Iran that is against U.S. national interests.

The MEK’s target audience is not Iran or Iranians. It barely services its Farsi language outlets. The MEK is almost universally hated by Iranians everywhere and has no credibility among them.

After 2003, the MEK’s military strategy in Iraq under benefactor Saddam Hussein gave way to an intelligence-based strategy under the patronage of Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia. The MEK is now based in Albania where, under more favourable conditions facilitated by the Trump administration, it has been allowed to build and equip a troll farm using the infamous slave labour of its hapless members. Its aim is to influence people in the English-speaking world through online activity.

The Intercept revealed just one case of MEK’s deceptive anti-Iran work. But this is the tip of the iceberg. MEK interference in the internal affairs of America goes well beyond online attacks on Iran. In 2016, the Organization of Iranian American Communities in the USa front for the MEK—announced a “General Elections Mobilization Effort,” publicly urging its members to “fulfill their civic duty through active engagement in the 2016 general elections to help inform candidates of our communities’ policy priorities.”

In America, warmongers and regime change pundits, John Bolton and Rudi Giuliani in particular, openly support the MEK. The MEK exploits this impunity to the full. Critics of the MEK are subjected to character assassination and defamation campaigns. Journalist Jason Rezaian writes, “These efforts actively sought to undermine our credibility about the best approach to deal with Iran and resorted to personal attacks in order to do so.”

This revelation comes at the tail end of another scandal, the Iran Disinformation Project.This project, funded by the State Department, was ostensibly launched to expose and counter Iranian government propaganda. It paid for social media accounts to smear and discredit Iranian-American human rights activists, academics and journalists who criticize the Trump administration’s hard-line policies on Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must answer for the actions of the State Department, but who is behind the MEK and the mysterious Heshmat Alavi? How much influence does the MEK wield in Washington? And on whose behalf?

The formula for MEK activity is “the MEK and somebody’s money.” This explains how, back in 2014 just before the European Parliament elections, “somebody’s” money was used to fund the campaign of an Islamophobic far-right party called Vox. Investigations into electoral misconduct revealed that “at least 971,890 euros” was gifted through thousands of contributions ranging from 200 to 5,000 euros from individual MEK members and supporters. The money did not originate with the MEK, but the money laundering was facilitated through the organization by Vox co-founder Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a long-term MEK advocate while he was vice-president of the European Parliament.

In Albania, enjoying the freedom granted by such money and impunity, the MEK is playing out in microcosm what it does in North America and Western Europe. After the MEK arrived in Albania, local journalists were disturbed by its bizarre behavior and filed reports on this activity. In response, the MEK used bribery and corruption to buy publishers and a broadcaster there. They use intimidation tactics to silence journalists. One journalist confessed to me he felt afraid in his own country when the MEK, accompanied by hired armed Albanian security personnel, followed him. In a public space, they photographed him and made verbal threats, demanding that he hand over his phone on which he had earlier filmed activity outside the MEK camp gate.

MEK corruption and deception is insidious and highly dangerous. In America, neoconservatives use the MEK as tool to destroy the Democratic Party. MEK members inside the Albanian troll farms have admitted to me that, in addition to the usual “regime change” and “nuclear” tags they use, more recent additions include the names of various U.S. political candidates and “Virginia” with a view to swaying electoral opinion in the primaries. Since the MEK is not a benign group, it is under heavy surveillance. It would be naïve to believe that the intelligence services do not know the identity of the three individuals behind the Heshmat Alavi persona as well as the others who work in the troll farm.

Saudi money and U.S. political advocacy help the MEK exploit America’s democratic systems to expand its influence. According to The Independent, “MEK articles were picked up by US government funded Voice of America’s Persian-language service.” In 2003, I gave testimony to the UK parliament that the MEK’s cult nature was an even greater threat than its terrorist or violent behavior. The MEK regards its needs superior to any considerations of law, morality, or mortality.

Back in 2001, commentator Elizabeth Rubin warned that the MEK “is not only irrelevant to the cause of Iran’s democratic activists, but a totalitarian cult that will come back to haunt us.”

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.

MEK Impunity Undermining  Democracy in America 

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We lie We cheat We use MEK terrorists” Heshmat Alavi Gate ” , Trump and MEK

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