Jonathan Swan, Axios, April 22 2019:… Pompeo also distanced the administration from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq), an anti-regime group that the U.S. once designated as a foreign terrorist organization. He acknowledged that John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani had connections or ties, whatever you want to call it … with the MEK, but he did say that he and the president did not,” confirmed another person in the room, Texas attorney Michael Payma.
Scoop: Trump administration opposes military intervention in Iran
(Pompeo opposes military intervention, rejects Mujahedin-e Khalq MEK)
In a closed-door meeting with Iranian-American community leaders last Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is “not going to do a military exercise inside Iran” to expedite a regime change, according to three sources who were in the room, including one who took detailed contemporaneous notes and shared them with me. Pompeo also sought to distance the Trump administration from a controversial Iranian resistance group that has welcomed John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani as speakers in a private capacity.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
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.
Anne Khodabandeh, Open Minds, De-Radicalisation Consultant, PHOTO-EXHIBITION in Bruxelles
(International Terrorism Mojahedin Khalq, MEK, NCRI, Rajavi cult)
Maryam Rajavi’s MEK is a defunct force in Iran foreign policy
Massoud Khodabandeh, Middle East Strategy Consultants, February 25 2019:… As the following articles show, the complex issue of ‘dealing’ with Iran cannot be solved by the Trump administration or the European Union using the defunct Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) to shake a stick at the country. Iran’s government and ruling system is proving far too sophisticated for this stupid ‘regime change’ narrative. Iranians – inside and outside – don’t want that. Time for a new policy maybe; one that acknowledges facts on the ground rather than the delusion of empire.
Maryam Rajavi’s MEK is a defunct force in Iran foreign policy
As the following articles show, the complex issue of ‘dealing’ with Iran cannot be solved by the Trump administration or the European Union using the defunct Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) to shake a stick at the country. Iran’s government and ruling system is proving far too sophisticated for this stupid ‘regime change’ narrative. Iranians – inside and outside – don’t want that. Time for a new policy maybe; one that acknowledges facts on the ground rather than the delusion of empire.
1- Pro-Reform Group Condemns U.S. Sanctions As Iranian Opposition Becomes More Vocal
Radio Farda, February 25 2019
Link to the source
In a letter to political parties around the world, Iran’s Freedom Movement (Nehzate Azadi) has called for international condemnation of the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), adding that U.S. sanctions will give Iranian hardliners the upper hand in the country’s domestic politics.
The Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) is a pro-reform group with Shiite sympathies that briefly held the government immediately after the 1979 revolution but has been sidelined and not as active since then.
Calling the JCPOA a “model for the peaceful resolution of international conflicts,” the FMI said in the letter, “Rejection of this agreement weakens the value of endeavors in resolving international conflicts peacefully and the role of the United Nations in acting as a safeguarding mechanism for building international peace. The United States’ rejection of this international agreement also negates the significance of efforts in building pathways for peaceful co-existence of nations based on conflict resolution through negotiation and compromise.”
FMI acknowledged that the JCPOA did not address the United States’ concerns about Iran’s missile program and its ambitions in the Middle East, adding that “JCPOA was not initially intended to include the Iranian government’s regional political behavior – or any other issues,” but expressed the view that “these issues could be legitimately addressed in other forums with the consideration of the national security of all nations involved.”
It is not clear why Freedom Movement believes the Islamic Republic has any intention to discuss these issues with Western governments, particularly the United States. Iranian officials categorically reject any such dialogue.
FMI does not advocate the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, but believes in reforms and its members are tolerated to an extent in Iran and not treated as enemies of the regime. Members of the group even participated in the last local elections without any success.
In more than a decade the group has not been very vocal, preferring not to condemn many of the regime’s human rights abuses or its regional adventures. It has also not clearly supported the popular protests by ordinary people against economic hardship and lack of freedoms.
In the letter, the FMI expressed concern over the impact of sanctions on Iran’s middle class, adding that in Iran, “the middle class is exposed to the ravages of sanctions. The Iranian middle class predominately has been in the forefront of the battle for democracy and acted as the engine of change in the country.”
FMI charged that “the United States, with the support of right-wing politicians in Israel and the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, has imposed sanctions on Iran which ultimately benefit those who are for war and conflict with this country,” adding that “sanctions have also strengthened the political position and power of the Iranian ultraconservatives who continue to encourage and support discord and antagonism in Iranian foreign policy.”
FMI also warned that “democratic changes cannot be achieved in Iran by Washington encouraging groups from outside of Iran who have aimed at toppling the Iranian government. With regards to Iran, democracy cannot be achieved through war, but rather obtained upon a period of sustained gradual reforms that are supported by the Iranian people and arise from within the country.”
Although the letter appears to support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s positions, the FMI stressed at the end of it that the “Freedom Movement of Iran has been under pressure both from the old and the new regimes, and its leaders and members have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured.”
The letter by a political organization that has not been overtly active for decades is yet another indication that the Iranian opposition has become more vocal after the nationwide protests in late 2017 and early 2018, which has weakened the regime in Tehran.
During the past year, the two main opposition groups outside Iran, the royalists and the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) have been more active than ever and developments about and around them have been given more prominence in the media.
The royalists have highlighted the symbolic significance of Prince Reza Pahlavi and established at least two networks of young Iranian activists (Farashgard) with the aim of toppling the Islamic Republic, and the newly established network of technocrats and academics named Qoqnous (Sphinx) with the objective of reconstructing Iran. Meanwhile, the MeK has been more politically active than ever, garnering support from among political groups and Western officials.
In the latest developments, 10 political groups active in the Iranian provinces of Kurdistan, Azerbaijan and Sistan-Baluchistan formed an alliance in Hanover, Germany on Saturday 23 February. The alliance “Solidarity for Freedom and Equality in Iran” has announced its objective as “toppling the Islamic Republic.”
The coalition includes five militant Kurdish parties as well as other militant groups from Khuzestan and Azarbaijan, and a few groups including democratic secular republicans and Marxists.
The freedom movement of Iran may have noticed the changing situation and its letter to political parties around the world could be its way of making itself known as a player that once had a role in the government, hoping to secure a place in the country’s future in case dramatic changes take place.
2- ‘Enough Is Enough: Iran Won’t Give US More Concessions’
Iran Front Page, February 25 2019
Link to the source
A senior conservative journalist says Tehran has not gained much from the US in return for the many concessions it has given Washington.
Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing director of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan, has, in an editorial published by the daily, taken a swipe at Tehran’s performance in dealing with the US government. The full text of the analytical piece follows.
In his book titled “The Prince,” Niccolò Machiavelli says sometimes it would be very wise to seem crazy! This recommendation is explained by Herman Kahn in one of his books. He says maybe the best way to impose our policies would be to pretend that we are a little nervous and emotional. In this deterrent game, says Kahn, the side which seems to be determined and has left no path to return would have a better chance of gaining concessions from the other side, which has entered the scene with a modest and calm behaviour. He says this is the same place where unwise wisdom is allowed. According to him, pretending to be abiding by an unwise policy may be the best strategy to adopt in the face of a crisis.
It should be noted that when someone feels they are facing an opponent who complies with no laws and regulations and who may make any crazy move when confronted, they prefer to give in to the opponent’s demands in order to spare themselves of this lunatic!
The United States and its European allies have exactly used this ploy in dealing with Iran, and, unfortunately, they have somehow succeeded in taking advantage of this tactic due to the inaction of some Iranian foreign policy officials!
After resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley said in a speech at Charlotte conference that he always regarded Trump a short-tempered person who was unpredictable during negotiations in order to scare the other side. This was what Trump wanted and the mission assigned to her, she says.
It would be unfair if we do not mention this point. While many politicians across the world and some politicians inside the country have fallen for this ploy by Washington and referred to Trump as a lunatic, the supreme Leader described him as someone who pretends to be mad.
And there are reports that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has extended Iran’s suspension from the FATF’s blacklist for another four months. Why? The only reason for this 4-month suspension would be Iran’s resistance to their humiliating demand with regards to the approval of the four bills related to the FATF, especially the Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) law and the Palermo Convention. The FATF had threatened that Iran would face tough consequences if Iran failed to ratify the bills. However, the ratification of the FATF would mean “suicide for fear of death!”
Despite insistence by the administration and a number of MPs, the Expediency Council was tasked with deciding on whether or not to approve the bills. Fortunately, most members of the council realized the disgraceful and disastrous nature of the FATF and have, so far, refused to give the go-ahead to the ratification of the bills. In other words, when the FATF saw its threats were ineffective, it has suspended Iran on the blacklist in a bid to make the Expediency Council approve the humiliating bills.
Addressing the opponents of the FATF, A pro-government economic analyst says, “Why do you insist that we be regarded as terrorists in the world?”. He claims there are misgivings of treasons when it comes to the opponents of the FATF. In response, we should say, “Why are you insisting on introducing the IRGC, the Quds Force, the Intelligence Ministry, the Defense Ministry, etc., as terrorists? If you are unaware of the contents of the CFT, why are you expressing views on a subject you know nothing about? And if you know about it, then we should ask ‘Isn’t it treason to describe the IRGC, the Quds Force, the Defense Ministry and Intelligence Ministry as terrorists?’ Or ‘Should we [instead] oppose the ratification of bills whose approval would sound the death knell to national security and result in the surrender of Iranian people to Takfiri terrorists? Hasn’t the FATF officially announced that it does not accept Iran’s definition of terrorism, and hasn’t the US Treasury’s website officially described the aforementioned entities as terrorists?’
One should ask those supporting the ratification of the said bills what will happen if Iran does not accept the FATF.
Mr Zarif says, “Neither me, as Foreign Minister, nor Mr Rouhani, as President, can give any guarantees that the ratification of the CFT would solve any of our economic problems! But it can strip the US of some of the pretexts it has!”
Mr Zarif does not explain, first, which pretexts? Isn’t the existence of the Islamic Republic’s establishment the United States’ main pretext? And, second, in return for so many concessions that we have given, what have we gained over the past five years and a few months except the increase of sanctions and the dozens of hostile cases that the White House has opened against us?
Bitten once, no wise person should be bitten again from the same spot. Do we have to be bitten dozens of times before we come to our senses? Just mention one single concession that we have got from them. Go ahead, please!
What is INSTEX, whose implementation has been conditioned by the FATF upon the ratification of the four bills? “Oil for Food and Drugs!” Isn’t this so-called trade channel with Europe anything other than the humiliation of the Iranian nation? We are supposed to transfer to European banks the forex gained from selling oil! In return, we are supposed to purchase goods from European countries, and not any other countries; but what commodities? Only medicines and food! So far, everything is in the Europeans’ interests. Well, what about our share? Will they buy petroleum from us? The answer is “No.” Will European banks lift the sanctions? Again the answer is “No.” Then what is INSTEX and what benefit does it have for us? Practically nothing! Isn’t it so?
And what countries are supposed to monitor its implementation? Read on!
The supervision is based in France, a country which has overtly turned into a safe haven for terrorists. Members of the MKO terrorist group, who, by their own admission, have murdered some 14 thousand Iranians (The true figure is 17,000) are present in France. During the arrest of members of one of the decision-making centres of ISIS terrorists in Iraq, it was revealed that 13 of those apprehended were French officers involved in the terrorist group’s plans.
The project is managed by Germany, a country which wouldn’t allow the plane carrying Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to fuel despite the fact that Zarif was travelling to Germany at the official invitation of that country to attend the Munich conference. Also, Germany has been holding one of Iranian diplomats in detention for months despite his diplomatic immunity.
And the auditing job lies with the government of the UK, a country which, according to Mr., Zarif, does not allow Iran to open even one bank account.
Finally, we hope the recent ploy by the US and its allies will have no bearing on the calculations of the respected members of the Expediency Council and we hope they will keep in mind this part of remarks by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei that “The proposals made by them (hegemonic powers) generally include deception, deceit and lies. Today, the Iranian nation regards a number of European governments along with the United States as deceitful and unreliable. The government of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] should carefully preserve its borders with them, not step back an inch from its revolutionary and national values and not be afraid of their hollow threats.”
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
Ty Joplin, Albawaba, November 18 2018:… Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members. He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside …
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
By Ty Joplin
Before Massoud Khodabandeh settled into his life as a consultant living quietly in the middle of England, he was directing the intelligence operations of a group that’s been labelled as a terrorist cult.
The group is called the Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK), and Khodabandeh had, for decades, witnessed its changing of faces: from radical student group opposed to the rule of the Shah in Iran, to anti-Ayatollah guerrilla group, to pro-Saddam militia, to what it is now, an inward-looking and reclusive group with no clear identity beyond its obedience to its leader, Maryam Rajavi.
Massoud Khodabandeh left the group and granted Al Bawaba an exclusive interview, where he documents his smuggling of radio equipment into Iran, his spying on Iranian leaders and MEK defectors and his eventual departure from the group.
Khodabandeh details to Al Bawaba his founding of an MEK cell in London and his imprisonment for participating in a sit-in of the Iranian embassy during the 1979 Iran revolution. After that, he began operating covertly in Europe, traversing the continent with secret funding and passports, looking over all of the MEK’s cells working in Europe at the time, slowing becoming one of its most senior and trusted members.
After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the MEK’s falling out with the Iranian regime, Khodabandeh began smuggling radio equipment into Iran via Baghdad, taking powerful radio technology into a secluded station in the mountains of Iranian Kurdistan and surviving attacks by Iranian forces in the process.
As well as helping the MEK cement an international presence, Khodabandeh also remembers helping the MEK’s former leader, Massoud Rajavi, with a particular request. Rajavi asked Khodabandeh to send him dozens of books on cults and psychological manipulation; a request Khodabandeh did not hesitate to fulfill. Decades later, he learned that each book he was smuggling to Massoud was being translated into Farsi and used as a guide on how to transform the MEK into a personalist cult dedicated to serving the will of its leader, Massoud.
After leaving the group, Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members.
He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside its confines, doomed to be associated with an opposition group many consider a terrorist cult.
To listen to the full conversation, click here:
Speaking in depth about my experiences with the MEK, from my days as a student up to why I left. Thanks to Ty Joplin of Albawaba for the podcast.
‘The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh’ on #SoundCloud #np https://t.co/IvXGbFdqun
— Massoud khodabandeh (@ma_khodabandeh) November 14, 2018
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
Albania: MEK rebrands by assassinating unwanted members
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, June 22 2018:… The mysterious disappearance of a member of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) terrorist group in Albania has once again drawn attention to this controversial group. Malek Sharaee, 47, originally from Khuzestan Province in Iran, was reportedly drowned in the Rrotull village irrigation water reservoir. After three days, divers have not found his body even though the …
Albania: MEK rebrands by assassinating unwanted members
Massoud Keshmiri: Killed Iran’s PM and President – last seen in Germany after escaping MEK
The mysterious disappearance of a member of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) terrorist group in Albania has once again drawn attention to this controversial group. Malek Sharaee, 47, originally from Khuzestan Province in Iran, was reportedly drowned in the Rrotull village irrigation water reservoir. After three days, divers have not found his body even though the water channel is only 3.5 meters deep. However, a MEK representative and three MEK witnesses say his clothes were found at the water’s edge. Police are now investigating this as a possible criminal offense. Even so, unless they gain access to Camp Ashraf Three, the MEK’s purpose-built training camp in Manez, they are unlikely to unearth the truth – MEK impunity is far greater than this small country can deal with or penetrate.
MEK (aka Saddam’s Private Army) was unknown in Albania until they arrived after 2013. Their bizarre behavior and controversial activitiessoon became the focus of media attention.
But the MEK’s dark history began long before this. Along with well-publicised military-style terrorist attacks on Iran since the 1980s, the MEK was also trained by Saddam Hussein’s Mukhaberat (Secret Services) and later by Israel’s MOSSAD, in intelligence gathering and secret operations. As a result, MEK has also conducted many covert terror acts and assassinations over the years. Several of these were deliberately staged to make it look like Iran was involved. Such as the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In spite of extensive investigation, the primary evidence linking Iran came from four high ranking intelligence officers from MEK. In 2011, a man connected to Mexican drug dealers was arrested for the attempted murder of the Saudi Ambassadorto America. The US quickly accused Iran, but after two weeks the perpetrator was linked to MEK. In 2013, Israel arrested a Swedish Iranian man, Ali Mansouri, who ‘confessed’ to be spying for Iran in Tel Aviv. He turned out to be a MEK member.
The underlying pattern behind these events is of deception and callous, cynical murder. These examples are not unique. MEK has a long history of highly sophisticated and brutal undercover activity. However, the reported death of Malek Sharaee in Albania this week also points to a new phase in MEK covert activity. This time individual MEK members who were previously involved in known acts of violence are now themselves becoming victims of their own organization.
Internal assassinations are not new – Commander Ali Zarkesh was deliberately killedduring a military operation in 1988 because he had become critical of the leadership. There have been hundreds of reports of suspicious deaths and actual murders over the last three decades committed against critics and rivals.
In 2013, former MEK member Massoud Dalili was identified as the 53rd victim of a massacre at Camp Ashraf in Iraq. MEK only acknowledged his death when the Iraqi authorities formally identified him via his DNA. Dalili’s body had been deliberately disfigured (his face and hands burned) to hide his identity. Massoud Dalili had been one of the personal security personnel for leader Massoud Rajavi. He had undergone training with Saddam’s Republican Guards and the MEK’s own specialist training. Before coming to Iraq, Dalili had headed a small MEK team in Gilan Province where he was responsible for scores of deaths, including civilians.
Another victim killed during the same attack was Zohreh Ghaemi, She had commanded the assassination of General Sayad Shirazi in 1999. Of the other victims that day, at least ten are known to have participated in known acts of violence for MEK. No one claimed responsibility for the attack on Camp Ashraf.
In 2015, in the Netherlands, Mohamad Reza Kolahi was killed by a criminal gang on the order of MEK. Investigators confirmed that Kolahi was responsible for the 1981 bombing of the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party in Tehran in which 72 high-ranking politicians and party members were killed.
Another MEK member, Massoud Keshmiri, responsible for the bombing which killed PM Bahonar and President Rajai in 1981, was last seen with MEK in Germany some years ago. He has since vanished and could be dead. Although these deaths cannot be said to be directly linked, there is a common thread whose purpose becomes clear when we remember 2016 when Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi Intelligence chief, announced the death of MEK leader Massoud Rajavi. It is clear from this that MEK is being purged from top to bottom of all the individuals who have had involvement or are associated with its violent past – rebranding by assassination to make the group legally acceptable.
MEK has become the pattern for how other defeated terrorist groupings can be reinvigorated, rebranded and reused. The controversy following the Bulgarian PM’s announcement that “Albania will become a coordination center for fighters returning from ISIS to the Balkans” may die down soon – Prime Minister Rama later dismissed this as fantasy, but he is not convincing.Instead, the history of the MEK in Albania indicates that the same scenario will be repeated. As ISIS fighters arrive and settle, the process will start just as it did with MEK. Expect more mysterious murders, suicides, disappearances, bizarre interventions to prevent investigations. And, of course, the involvement of Albanian citizens, politicians, and personalities for and against. Plus, not only abandoning any hope of joining the EU, but suffering more restrictions on the borders with the EU and Balkan countries.