Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, September 20 2021:… Maryam Rajavi has performed a coup to take over control of the MEK and completely eliminate every trace of Massoud. The nature of this coup became clear when Zahra Merikhi, who was re-appointed for two more years as Secretary General of the MEK, named three women as co-leaders with herself – Mahnaz Meimanat (62), Narges Azdanlou (40) and Rabiah Mofidi (39). Narges Azdanlou is Maryam Rajavi’s niece. Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty – Maryam Rajavi Announces Third Ideological Revolution
Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty – Maryam Rajavi Announces Third Ideological Revolution
The worst sin that an MEK member can commit is to ask questions about Massoud Rajavi. Rajavi disappeared in March 2003 when the US invaded Iraq. It was assumed he was still holed up in Camp Ashraf – perhaps in the nuclear bunker – surrounded and protected by a hundred loyal followers. After 2011, when Camp Ashraf was emptied, his disappearance became the subject of intense speculation for many. But when Prince Turki bin Faisal delivered the coup de grace on Rajavi’s political life by offering condolences to Maryam Rajavi on his death, the question almost became irrelevant. Whether alive or dead, Rajavi’s public leadership of the MEK ended. Maryam became the de facto leader. But the dismay she showed at this announcement revealed that she wasn’t prepared for this change to be made public at this time.
Now, five years later, we can understand why. Maryam Rajavi has performed a coup to take over control of the MEK and completely eliminate every trace of Massoud. The nature of this coup became clear when Zahra Merikhi, who was re-appointed for two more years as Secretary General of the MEK, named three women as co-leaders with herself – Mahnaz Meimanat (62), Narges Azdanlou (40) and Rabiah Mofidi (39). Narges Azdanlou is Maryam Rajavi’s niece.
In addition, Merikhi named six deputy leaders – Sepideh Pourtaqi (40), Azar Akbarzadegan (39), Ashraf Abrishamchi (39), Shiva Mameqani (40), Maryam Rezaei (30) and Vahideh Nabavi (34). Ashraf Abrishamchi is Maryam Rajavi’s daughter, Azar Akbarzadegan is the daughter of Jamileh Abrishamchi, her former husband Mehdi Abrishamchi’s sister. The other women are from families loyal to Maryam and Mehdi. The ages of nearly all these women reveal that Maryam is handing over control of the MEK to a younger generation of women groomed specifically for this purpose. Individually none of them have any qualification to lead the MEK other than being appointed by Maryam Rajavi. Of course, Maryam will remain in control of the whole membership of the organisation.
The fact that Maryam has appointed members of her own family and trusted women to take over leadership of the MEK can only be because she is confident of controlling the finances of the MEK and because she is confident there will be no threat or challenge from any family, friend, associate or ally of Massoud. Looking at events from this perspective it is clear that Maryam, her former husband Mehdi Abrishamchi and her brother Mahmoud Qajar-Azodanlu have spent the past four decades plotting and building up to this moment. The moment when the Qajar Dynasty led by Maryam Qajar-Azodanlu replaced the Rajavi Dynasty led by Massoud Rajavi in the MEK.
What I hope to reveal in this piece is the slow – perhaps surprisingly slow – but relentless process which inevitably led the MEK to this point.
When, after a failed coup, Massoud Rajavi fled to Paris in 1981, he could not have anticipated this ultimate betrayal. At that time, he was confidently gathering together a National Council of Resistance, led and controlled by himself, in anticipation of returning to Iran and forming a government. At this time it was clear Rajavi had support from the CIA. The MEK was still led by a polit bureau of leading members, with Massoud as the spokesman. Mousa Khiabani, member of the polit bureau, later described as Rajavi’s ‘right-hand-man’, remained in Iran to lead the internal resistance. Although there was speculation that Rajavi wanted Khiabani dead, this is countered by the fact he also left his wife Ashraf Rabbii, his soulmate, and their infant son Mohammad (aka Mustafa) in Iran. On February 8, 1982, they were killed in a shoot-out with government forces in their safe house. It was later discovered that somebody had tipped off the officials. By chance, baby Mohammad survived and was sent to live with his grandparents, and later allowed to join his father in Paris.
At that time, I was operating from our base in Iranian Kurdistan. Less than a month after Mousa Khiabani was killed, Mehdi Abrishamchi – described by the MEK as Massoud’s ‘right-hand-man’ – left Iran. I was told to pick him up on the road between the cities of Baneh to Sardasht and bring him to our base. From there I passed him through Jordan to Paris. A few months later, his wife, Maryam, was brought to Kurdistan and passed via Turkey to Paris in 1982. Once in Paris, Maryam and Mehdi had a daughter, named Ashraf after Massoud’s dead wife.
Months after his wife’s death, Massoud Rajavi had married Firouzeh Bani Sadr – daughter of former president Abolhassan Bani Sadr who fled with Rajavi to Paris in 1981 – in what was assumed to be a political alliance. Firouzeh was very young and studying medicine at university in Paris. A year later, I was re-called to Paris. When I arrived, I found that Maryam Abrishamchi had rapidly installed herself as head of Massoud Rajavi’s office and had brought two other people in with her. One of these was Sharzad Sadr Haj Seyed Javadi who was the wife of her brother Mahmoud Azadonlou; they had a child Narges Azadonlou. And Hussain Rahimi, brother of Bijan, friend of the Abrishamchi family who died of cancer. I joined this team. It was also immediately obvious to me that Maryam was not going home at all and was staying with Massoud in the same room, pretending to be the housekeeper for Massoud and Firouzeh.
Maryam asked me to be responsible for Firouzeh’s security and to report all her actions. I was brought back to Paris for this task on the advice of Ebrahim Zakeri. (In Iran Zakeri had been responsible for the MEK’s intelligence work. He recruited Mohammad-Reza Kolahi and Masoud Keshmiri.) Eventually, Maryam manipulated and interfered in Firouzeh’s life to the point that she was forced to run away and in 1984 get divorced.
Meanwhile, while I was in Rajavi’s inner circle, Maryam got pregnant and with the help of Massoud’s brother, Saleh Rajavi a GP, we took her for an abortion. Soon after this, in 1985, Massoud announced the first Ideological Revolution. Maryam divorced Mehdi and married Massoud and adopted the name Rajavi to become the joint leader of the MEK. The same day, Massoud arranged for Mehdi to marry Mina (aka Azar) Khiabani, sister of Mousa, who was under his protection. She was under 18 and Abrishamchi was 38 years old.
Thus began promotion of the Rajavi brand. The chant ‘Iran Rajavi, Rajavi Iran’ was used in all gatherings, public or behind closed doors. The name Rajavi became etched into every member’s consciousness. The polit bureau was no more. To establish his leadership, Massoud began to eliminate anyone who he judged to be a threat or rival. He instigated internal court cases in which he was both prosecutor and judge. Members who did not accept his Ideological Revolution and Maryam’s position as his ideological equal were put on trial. Those who still refused to submit were denounced as traitors and condemned to execution. However, because they were in France, this could not be done. Instead, such ‘traitors’ were excommunicated and shunned, sent out of the organisation with nothing, to survive as best they could. One famous example was Parviz Yaghoubi who was one of the original members of the MEK. He was married to Ashraf Rabbii’s sister. Both were thrown out of the organisation and became destitute in Paris, even living in a park for a while. Others who resisted Massoud and Maryam’s leadership were demoted to basic tasks. For example, Mohammad Tohidi and Mohammad Ali Jaberzadeh Ansari, who were top theoreticians in MEK ideology, were demoted to write articles and papers. The only people who were trusted to stay in the leadership cadre were those chosen by Maryam not Massoud. Her former husband Abrishamchi of course, and Mohammad Mohaddessin because he proved himself loyal by spying on other members, particularly Tohidi who was head of the political section before Mohaddessin took over. Also, Ebrahim Zakeri as a trusted person. For Maryam this was not an issue of men or women, she surrounded herself with people she could trust and rely on.
In the meantime, Massoud was intent on eliminating male rivals. Ali Zarkesh, second in command of the MEK at this time, was brought from Tehran to Paris and asked to accept the marriage and leadership of Maryam. He refused and was placed under house arrest until he was sent – demoted to the rank of ordinary soldier – to the Forough Javidan operation in which he was killed. Later, the driver of Ebrahim Zakeri in that operation confessed that Zakeri had ordered him to shoot Zarkesh whenever possible. And he did. Zarkesh was not killed by Iranians but by the MEK. During the Forough Javidan operation, I was in the war room as the communications officer, passing messages between Massoud, the Iraqi command and the field. Maryam was also there and constantly talking privately to Massoud. Eventually, I passed the order to have Ebrahim Zakeri, Mehdi Abrishamchi and two other higher ranking MEK members brought back to the camp. All the others were left to be killed.
After the failed Forough Javidan operation, Massoud instigated the second Ideological Revolution. This involved married members divorcing from their spouse and every member swearing to celibacy in order to devote themselves fully to ‘the struggle’. It also involved Maryam explaining the fiction that Massoud was so far advanced in his ideology that no one in the organisation could understand him but had to go through her to reach him. What this meant in reality was to totally obey all Maryam’s orders. This also began the isolation of Massoud from the organisation. He was untouchable and unreachable. Maryam was the one the members should admire and emulate. This was compounded when Massoud and Maryam appointed Fahimeh Arvani as Secretary General of the MEK. This elevated Maryam even further.
A further phase of Maryam’s creeping control was the introduction of an all-female Leadership Council of six women and six deputies, effectively eliminating all Massoud’s friends and top MEK members by default. Members were told they must ideologically connect to one of these to reach Maryam. Again, this was about submission and obedience. There was no ‘ideology’ as such. Maryam established a regime of rewards and shunning. She gathered women members around her who were totally obedient. It didn’t matter if they were illiterate or had no skills, as long as they were willing to kill or die for her. If they didn’t obey, she would change them immediately. Although there were strong, capable and educated women such as Ozra Taleghani, Soraya Shahri, Fatemeh Tahouri, Fatemeh Ramezani and more in the MEK, Maryam ignored them and chose uneducated rough necks. Among Beheshteh Shadrou, Sedighe Hosseini, Mahvash Sepheri, Fahmeh Arvani, Mojgan Parsaii and Zahra Merikhi, only Parsaii could read or write properly.
Maryam dispensed rewards to these obedient devotees; physical, emotional and material advantages such as having a driver or cleaner; some were awarded with a male member of Maryam’s cortege like toyboys. Maryam began to groom obedient, good-looking women for Massoud to sleep with, instigating the forced hysterectomies to prevent pregnancies. The women Maryam manipulated were so deranged by her treatment that some ended up as actual torturers against dissenting members.
It is significant that although structurally the MEK was led by these women, Maryam kept several male members very close. Primarily her former husband Mehdi who has not left her side since their divorce. It is also interesting that none of Massoud Rajavi’s family were able to stay close to him and the organisation.
In addition to his son, Massoud Rajavi had several siblings who were all sympathetic to the cause. His sister in Iran was executed. His brother Kazem Rajavi, a diplomat for the Shah, had saved Massoud from execution after his arrest in 1971. Two decades later he was assassinated at his home in Switzerland in spite of tight security around him. Nobody claimed responsibility, but indications are that inside information about Kazem was used. Another brother, Ahmad was a doctor in the UK. The MEK annoyed him so much that he left without selling his house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, escaping with his wife and kids to America. He couldn’t understand why he was subjected to such pressure and harassment. Mahmoud Rajavi, a mechanical engineer in Isfahan, came to live in Belgium. He tried to stay with the MEK but again they did enough to make him vanish and go quiet, never to be seen again. The last time I saw him, he said, ‘I wish my brother luck. Nobody in their right mind would want to be leader of the Mojahedin’.
The brother who stayed closest was Saleh, a doctor in France. Because Saleh was established in Paris with friends and colleagues, he could not be manipulated in the same way as the other brothers. At first, he gave his house and land in Auvers-sur-Oise to make the MEK compound. Then he bought the house beside that. This wooden building burned down, and the insurance paid for a concrete house with anti-bullet windows and glass etc specifically for Massoud and Maryam. Saleh then bought the next neighbour’s house. Later they forced him to give half of this to the MEK as well. By this time his French wife refused to continue to stay with them and left. His son, uncharacteristically, became an addict. After this Saleh became deflated and more obedient. In the early years in France, I remember while building this concrete house we bought a jacuzzi to install for Maryam. But when she came to inspect it she got angry saying, ‘The house is in the name of Saleh Rajavi and after the revolution, when we go back to Iran, this will be his. He has milked us enough all these years. So, I don’t want him to have a jacuzzi.’ So, we had to rip it out and sell it half price. Her jealousy was so obvious she couldn’t hide it from me. At this point Saleh was eliminated, not in person, but was certainly side-lined as a close confidant. If that failed, she would certainly have had incriminating information to use against him as well.
Maryam’s family is from the Qajar dynasty which ruled Iran before the Pahlavi family. While she was in Paris, Maryam was visited from time to time by her extended family. One of these which I remember was Ali Mirza Khan, a Qajar price married to Mihandokht Ghotbi. The family lived in Germany, but he was regarded as the Qajar prince. He visited Maryam and chatted about the return of the Qajar dynasty. He said, ‘We were robbed of our rights twice. Once by Pahlavi and once by Khomeini’. After he died his son Babak, with the backing of Turkic and Azari groups and the support of the west, claimed he was the rightful king and would be taking over Iran. Babak went straight to the source of the money. He is now living in luxury in Germany, trying to annoy Iran. This is the background of Maryam and her tribe.
Perhaps the most significant indication as to Maryam and perhaps Mehdi’s intentions and ambitions can be found in the way the children were brought up. Mohammad Rajavi and Ashraf Abrishamchi were brought up by Maryam’s brother Mahmoud and his wife Shahrzad alongside their daughter Narges Azodanlou. They lived in a big mansion a ten-minute drive from Auvers. They had servants, a cook and two drivers. Whatever was needed, Mahmoud would contact me to provide it as head of security.
After Massoud and Maryam went to Iraq the children stayed in Paris and went to school there. As they were growing up they were regularly taken to Baghdad to visit their parents and then back to Paris. Once they reached their teens, the girls wouldn’t stay, but they insisted on keeping Massoud’s son in the barracks in Camp Ashraf with the ordinary rank and file. Among the rank and file were a lot of low life characters, criminals and perverts who had joined the MEK to escape justice in Iran and elsewhere. Among these Mohammad witnessed a lot of things that shocked and traumatised him. For example, the rape of underaged kids, violent fights and abuses, etc. Clearly it was planned to expose him to these horrors which the girls were spared. They said they were toughening him up but in fact they broke him.
With Mohammad living in Iraq in these conditions, Maryam brought Massoud Rajavi to accept that he’s gone mad, and something must be done with him. They isolated him in such a way he couldn’t contact his father until 2003 when they had to leave Iraq. When they brought him back with them to Paris, now a young man, he refused to stay with them and ran away. He went to Norway with the ‘help’ of supporters who are known to be in contact with Maryam. They effectively contained and suppressed him so that even though he began to write against the MEK, they managed to brand him as a ‘useless person’.
The different treatment of these children reflects the different agendas and ambitions of the adults around them. Maryam Rajavi gave responsibility for their upbringing to her brother and his wife, her close associate and sister-in-law, Shahrzad. (The luxury in which they were living reflects Maryam’s own propensity for luxury. Very few people in the MEK knew that Maryam insisted on going on holiday in Europe every year for a few weeks. Each summer I took her to the south of France and Spain with a small entourage of trusted people to look after her, such as Alireza Babakhani, Shahrzad and Mohammad Ali Tashayod. Tashayod was famous in Iran as head of the MEK’s militia after the revolution. He left Iran with Massoud. He had no particular skills but was totally trustworthy, so he was used for cleaning and cooking, etc.)
Now, four decades after the revolution, the older generation of MEK members is dying, ill and ailing. It was only a matter of time before a new generation of MEK members would need to be assigned leadership roles. In retrospect we can now see how, over time, Maryam and her inner circle have not only eliminated Massoud’s family, but they have also purged the younger generation of anyone else who might present a challenge. The sons and daughters of MEK members who were brought back into the organisation after being evacuated during the 1991 Gulf War, have been manipulated and selected for their suitability to serve Maryam’s agenda. She made sure second-generation members lose sympathy or loyalty to Massoud and his family. His picture no longer appears next to Maryam’s but has been put on a billboard along with a series of Iranian martyrs like Mohammad Mossadegh in the new camp in Albania.
Looking back over MEK history after this recent leadership announcement, it is clear that there was a deliberate attempt by Maryam Rajavi to protect and promote her family and friends in the organisation. Whether motivated by jealousy or ambition, she pushed the Rajavi family out. Her control over the MEK became almost inevitable after Massoud disappeared in 2003. The Massoud-Saddam combination became the Maryam-Faisal combination. But when Faisal announced five years ago that Massoud Rajavi was dead, it was clear she was not ready to show her hand. Whether she had not fully groomed her daughter and the other women for this role, or she had not assumed full control over the money, the time has now arrived. In effect, Maryam Rajavi has instigated a third Ideological Revolution – the Qajar Dynasty’s leadership of the MEK.
Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty – Maryam Rajavi Announces Third Ideological Revolution
Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, January 18 2021:… President Joe Biden will only have months to make a difference if he wants to pursue a diplomatic route. He must demonstrate through policies and actions that Trump was a hiccup, not the way things will be. Trump was not America. If Biden wants to start talking with Iran he must accept where Iran is now, not what it used to be. Confrontation and containment cannot be the starting point for negotiations; there will have to be more carrots. Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
By Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh
After enduring four years of President Trump’s hostile and belligerent policies and actions – the Muslim travel ban, extreme sanctions, incitement to violence, support for terrorist groups, assassinations of nuclear scientists and of general Qasem Soleimani – the Iranian people are entitled to conclude that America is waging a war against them. And Iran has responded; maximum pressure resulted only in maximum resistance. The sanctions, unfortunate as they have been for Iran’s economy, have not destroyed it. Indeed, evidence is emerging that Iran’s resistance culture itself has led to an entrepreneurial response to overcome the restrictions. Iran’s military opened a trade and security corridor through Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean coast. A dedicated port is under construction. The U.S. can no longer control Iran’s finances since it is no longer limited to trading through Dubai. The only way to stop that is using bombs; an actual declaration of war, which puts Israel at risk.
Trump and his allies spent four years trying to crush Iran, to force regime change and failing that, threats to bomb the country back fifty years. They failed. The unintended consequence of that failure has been the militarisation of Iran. The Revolutionary Guards have become stronger and their power embedded in the wider region with allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Commemorations to mark the January 3rd anniversary of the assassinations of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were titled ‘Martyrs Without Borders’ signifying their wider relevance. Although Iraq is in step with Iran to eject American forces from the region, the Trump administration failed to understand that Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘harsh revenge’ could be achieved as much through regional soft power and international law as military strikes.
Furthermore, the assassination of Soleimani unified Iran in a way that no internal politics could have hoped to achieve as Iranians rallied round their flag. Back in 2016, Iran’s leaders were almost equally divided between western leaning moderates and revolutionary hardliners. Now we hear president Rohani echoing the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei, and foreign minister Javad Zarif amplifying the role of the Quds Force in Iran’s foreign policy. National unity against the perceived external threat of America has now created grounds for military officials to be allowed to run for president in June’s elections. If the military prevail, it will make conflict more likely, not less. Iran says its missile program is defensive, that it does not want war, but with missiles in Iran and Lebanon trained on U.S. interests in the region, Israel is clearly less safe than before.
President Joe Biden will only have months to make a difference if he wants to pursue a diplomatic route. He must demonstrate through policies and actions that Trump was a hiccup, not the way things will be. Trump was not America. If Biden wants to start talking with Iran he must accept where Iran is now, not what it used to be. Confrontation and containment cannot be the starting point for negotiations; there will have to be more carrots.
Iran experts are focused on re-joining the JCPOA. But this will not be enough on its own to recalibrate relations between the two countries. Not only will Iran expect sanctions to be lifted but will feel entitled to demand compensation for the financial losses suffered under extreme sanctions. People were denied medicine. Iranians saw Trump as a mad man, but they blame America for their woes. The damage done by Trump will take years to redress, but there is no reason why trust building cannot begin straight away. To start with Biden must treat Iran with respect. Acknowledge that assassinations and incitement to violence and terrorism are not how civilized countries behave.
Of course, the new presidency will be hampered by America’s internal problems. Biden inherits a deeply divided country. Yet, the decades long problem of Iran could very well offer a route to a new bipartisan consensus on a way forward. Although Trump has gone, the Adelson family, Neocons and Fox News will still be there; war is still on the agenda. Theirs is not a battle between Democrats and Republicans, but between warmongers and peacemakers. Their agenda doesn’t depend on who is the president. They want to defeat Iran. If Trump couldn’t do it, they will force the Democrats to do it. They want a war at any price. If Biden cannot prevent war, they will have won.
In this respect, this expert would advocate a much easier, cheaper and effective course of action to start with. Biden should immediately restore the Obama administration’s plan to deradicalize the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist cult in Albania. The MEK are, of course, the darlings of both the anti-Iran cabal in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the hardliners in Iran. Both sides have used the MEK to destroy Iran’s indigenous opposition movement and to control the prevailing narrative on Iran in international politics.
By dismantling and deradicalizing the MEK, Biden can score easy wins in a variety of arenas. In Albania it would free around two thousand members from conditions of modern slavery, allowing them to reintegrate into normal society and be reunited with their families. It would relieve the Albanian government and security services of the headache caused by MEK crime, corruption and impunity in their country. For Iranians who universally regard the MEK with loathing as traitors and cultists, it would send a clear message that America will not tolerate terrorism or human rights abuses in pursuit of its foreign policy aims. Iran’s people would view dismantling this terrorist group as a goodwill gesture; building a modicum of trust that may sway some voters in June to have faith in the efficacy of diplomacy with the west.
But the most significant win for Biden would be to start tackling the corruption inside America which facilitated Trump’s belligerent agenda and that of his backers. Dismantling the MEK would stem one of the hidden conduits for the flow of foreign money and false narratives into America.
The MEK paid thousands of dollars for the likes of Rudi Giuliani and John Bolton to attend their rallies in Paris and Tirana to peddle the false narrative that the only way to deal with Iran is confrontation, regime change and war. The Heshmat Alavi scandal which exposed an industry of fake social media messages and accounts and a click farm in Albania, revealed that what had previously been covert activity had, under Trump, become mainstream.
In America, Professor Raymond Tanter has been tasked with creating a bi-partisan group to undermine the work of the new Biden administration. Funding for this project relies on the kind of corruption that has become embedded in the body politic. The example of MEK funding for the extreme right Vox Party in Spain reveals how the MEK use individual and fake association accounts to channel foreign funds into anti-Iran projects.
It is incumbent on the Biden administration to approach relations with Iran on a new page. Purging the old regime need not be as difficult as it first appears. The costs of erasing any traces of the MEK from that page are low, the benefits are great and many.
Biden Dilemma : Iranians Saw Trump As A Mad Man But Blame America For Their Woes
Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty
Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
Massoud Khodanbandeh, Responsible Statecraft, January 09 2020:… In another reckless act of overturning Obama’s legacy, the new Trump administration halted Hillary Clinton’s plan to de-radicalise the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Albania. Since then, American anti-Iran politicians have stuffed the MEK down the throats of the international community as the regime change opposition that will bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Since Iranians hate the MEK more than the current Islamic Republic, this has been a gift to the hard-liners in Iran. To quell every protest or demonstration since then, Iran’s security forces have only to claim that MEK are involved in inciting violence for the ordinary people to go home and announce their abhorrence of the MEK. Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
After Soleimani’s Assassination, There Will Be No Regime Change in Tehran
Anyone who believes that President Trump’s order to illegally assassinate Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani, Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and several more Iraqis, was an act of strength has not been properly paying attention. This is the latest in a series of stupid policy errors by this administration which have not only strengthened the hand of America’s enemies but have also now ensured that the rest of the world, with the exceptions of Israel and Saudi Arabia, now at best views the U.S. with mistrust, or at the very worst hate America more than any other country on earth. This is a remarkable achievement for a man who promised to end the “endless wars” and “drain the swamp.”
Trump started his presidency with the ambition of overturning the Obama administration’s achievements. However, he inherited a foreign policy already predicated on waging war and which was soon re-staffed and promoted by Republican warmongers. In this context, withdrawing unilaterally from the Iran nuclear deal might have appeared to be a strong-arm tactic to Trump, but to America’s allies in Europe it looked like a betrayal, and a slap in the face. Still, none were willing to come out on the side of Iran at that time. Even Russia and China were holding back at that stage. So, what were the steps in between which culminated in late December in an unprecedented four days of joint naval manoeuvres between Iran, China, and Russia in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman? What happened to embolden this trio to flex military muscle in the Middle East?
A review of these steps reveals that the blinkered aim of the Trump administration’s foreign policy to manufacture regime change against Iran by any means possible including all-out war has in fact resulted in the opposite result. Regime change is now in its coffin and the assassination of Soleimani is the last nail hammered in.
Instead of promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East, American interference is destroying every possibility of ordinary people rising up and demanding change from their own governments. In Syria, the people rose up against President Bashar al-Assad because of genuine grievances against that regime. The outcome of U.S. support for Sunni extremists in Syria has been a swing from people supporting the American aim of ousting Assad to rallying behind their own terrible government to save them from the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. With an irony that can be lost on no one, authoritarian Russia and the theocracy in Iran are now allies of Syria in that struggle.
In another reckless act of overturning Obama’s legacy, the new Trump administration halted Hillary Clinton’s plan to de-radicalise the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Albania. Since then, American anti-Iran politicians have stuffed the MEK down the throats of the international community as the regime change opposition that will bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Since Iranians hate the MEK more than the current Islamic Republic, this has been a gift to the hard-liners in Iran. To quell every protest or demonstration since then, Iran’s security forces have only to claim that MEK are involved in inciting violence for the ordinary people to go home and announce their abhorrence of the MEK.
American actions are consolidating people around their own hated governments instead of helping them express their legitimate demands. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s response to the anti-government protests in Iran in November was to repeat false information published by the MEK about the death toll. When Pompeo retweets MEK propaganda it destroys any trust among Iranians that the U.S. has their interests in mind.
In another remarkable example of how Pompeo has frittered away American power and influence, just weeks ago, disgruntled Iraqi citizens were in the streets demonstrating against Iranian interference in their country. Instead of supporting them, Pompeo oversaw the U.S. bombing of Iraqi militia forces that were fighting against ISIS. The Iraqi people cannot take the U.S. side over this no matter how anti-Iran they are. If America had done nothing, said nothing, Iraqi people would still be in the street demonstrating against their own government. Instead, different Iraqis attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Now, in a pivotal act of hubris, the illegal assassination of Soleimani and Iraqi militia leaders at an international airport not only allows Iran to describe the U.S. as a terrorist state, but has brought Iranians of every belief together to rally together to mourn a national hero, the man who saved Iran from ISIS.
But it would be a mistake to believe that the U.S.’s Middle East foreign policy mistakes only impacted that region. In 1981, France gifted the CIA some land to host the MEK outside Paris from where they could plan their armed resistance to the new regime. Although France did not use the MEK politically as America did, their presence was tolerated. Until, that is, MEK activities began to impact European security and democracy.
In 2017, John Bolton, just before he became Trump’s National Security Advisor, promised the MEK they would celebrate in Tehran before the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in February 2019. That did not happen, of course. But events subsequent to this promise certainly indicated there were already plans afoot to use the MEK to undermine European policy toward Iran. A bomb plot against the MEK in France was discovered by security forces in France and Belgium to have been a false-flag operation by the MEK used to blame and demonize Iran. After numerous acts of violence and confirmation that the MEK had funded Spain’s far-right Vox party in its EU election bid, several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands as well as France and Belgium moved to expel MEK leaders, including leader Maryam Rajavi, to Albania.
In Albania, the MEK have caused multiple headaches for the government and the opposition there. The worst result of which has been the EU’s refusal to allow Albania to join the union. After kicking out the MEK, no European country would allow them to enter through the back door again.
Significantly, what these policy steps over time have revealed to America’s foes and her friends alike is that the U.S. cannot be trusted. The Trump administration has shown a reckless disregard for normal behavior in the international scene. It acts with callous cruelty and indifference against enemies and allies alike.
The unwanted assassination of Soleimani will result in tectonic shifts in the world order. No matter how hard mainstream media in the West works to normalize America’s actions, security and military experts the world over will have their own ideas about what the future holds.
Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, August 23 2019:… So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”. Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
In 2017, John Bolton promised the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—wrongly, it turned out—that they would be celebrating in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution’s 40th anniversary in February 2019. This July, at the MEK’s five-day conference in Albania, keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani still insisted the MEK is a “government in exile” and claimed the MEK is “a group that should make us comfortable having regime change”.
For context, promoting a group which is universally despised by Iranians inside and outside the country as traitors already stretches credulity. There is no evidence that Iranians are calling for severe sanctions against themselves. Nor are they calling for regime change. The MEK’s only audience in this respect are a warmongering cabal of Americans, Saudis, Israelis, and British, who like to hear what they want to hear. The rest of the world just isn’t that comfortable with this bizarre, terrorist cult.
Lately, even Europe has distanced itself from lending succour to the group. The MEK no longer has free access to the European Parliament where its activists would harass the MEPs and their staff. This year the MEK was barred from holding its annual Villepinte rally in France and was also banned from rallying by Germany. As a result of this, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has decamped from Paris to Albania and the MEK announced that Albania is the group’s new headquarters.
The move from Iraq to Albania ought to have allowed unprecedented access to Western journalists keen to investigate the honey pot around which the anti-Iran cabal buzz with excitement. They were soon disappointed, as the MEK built a de facto extra-territorial enclave in Manëz and posted armed guards to keep out unwanted attention. But although the group were physically hidden from view, they were very exposed through their cyber activities.
Although it had been known for some time that the MEK operates a click farm from Albania, it was Murteza Hussain in The Intercept who revealed how the MEK uses fake social media accounts to curate a false narrative about Iran to influence US policy. The Heshmat Alavi scandal focused media attention on what is really happening inside the MEK behind the slickly marketed brand image that Giuliani so admires. This endeavour to scrutinise the MEK has been aided by a series of photographs which were leaked from inside the MEK’s camp in Albania and published in Iran. The photos are very revealing, but in ways that the MEK probably didn’t intend or realise when they were taken. Since the MEK so zealously hides its inner world from public scrutiny, these photos offer us an unguarded glimpse into the operational and organisational life of the cult.
The fact that the photos were taken at all is significant. At first glance they could be showing a session for seniors at the local library or community centre. But we see the women are wearing military uniforms and the men are all wearing similar shirts. Some are wearing ties. This is something the MEK don’t ever do unless in a public facing role. This indicates the images have been deliberately staged for a particular external audience. Certainly they were not meant for internal consumption, but neither is this for the wider public or else they would be on the MEK’s own websites. Based on information about the MEK already in the public domain, we can assume these photos were commissioned by Maryam Rajavi as a marketing ploy to ‘sell’ the MEK brand to financiers and backers.
There is clearly a deliberate effort to show that the MEK are “professional” workers in this computer room. Everyone is posed looking intently at a screen. Nobody is “off duty” in the pictures; yawning, stretching, drinking coffee, the normal activities of any workers. There is no evidence of relaxed, friendly chat between co-workers, everyone looks very serious. There are no cups of coffee or snacks on the desks. No pictures of family, husbands, wives, children, pets even. No plants or flowers. In spite of the rows of desks being squashed together closely, everyone looks very isolated.
There might be nothing wrong with that. After all, employers want to see their workers busy. But organisational photographs are also about marketing a brand, which includes marketing the core values of an entity. A group which claims, as the MEK does, that it is funded by public donations to struggle for democracy and human rights would surely want to create an image in the mind of the public about transparency, effectiveness, and positivity. By way of contrast, see how Human Rights Watch advertises its work culture. Even a quick Google image search on ‘call center worker’ reveals pictures of relaxed and smiling workers rather than people who look like battery hens. This is not the image any normal company or government office would use to promote their workplace.
In the MEK’s advertising photos the workers are gender segregated. Men sit in one room, women in another. The women all wear hijab. There is no pluralism here. The use of garden chairs and workers using glasses unsuited to screen work reveals that this management doesn’t care at all about the safety, comfort or wellbeing of the workers. They are using a mixture of outdated monitors and laptops. The cables are frayed and tangled.
There is no indication that the workers are happy at their workstations or enjoying their work. Why would they be with the picture of their leader bearing down on them, as in all dictatorships, lest they forget why they are there and who is in charge? (The picture of a solitary Maryam Rajavi is a clear acknowledgement that her husband Massoud Rajavi is dead.)
The MEK’s cultic system means that decisions are imposed from the top down. This means that those decisions are only as intelligent as the leadership. What Rajavi doesn’t understand is that these photos show beyond any words that the MEK doesn’t share our values. The leader is selling unthinking, unquestioning, obedient slaves, people who won’t act or speak unless ordered to do so. And that would only be ordered if it were productive for the MEK, regardless of the needs or desires of the worker.
What these images portray are conditions of modern slavery. These are elderly people who are unable to escape this cult and are coerced into performing work for which they receive no recompense. They exist on cruelly basic accommodation and sustenance, whereby even asking for new underwear puts the petitioner under question about their loyalty to the leader and the cause. They cannot leave because in Albania they have nowhere to go, no identity documents or work permits, no money, and they do not speak the local language. And also because the Trump administration wants the MEK to be there.
So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”.
Qajar Replaces Rajavi Dynasty