Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, January 13 20201:… the U.S. government doesn’t understand the countries in question, it relies on bad information that is frequently offered to them by self-serving exiles and activists, and it doesn’t know how to do state-and-institution-building on such a large scale in any case. The U.S. has expended vast resources for decades on some of these policies with remarkably little to show for it, so it is laughable to think that the problem is insufficient resources. There are things that are simply beyond our government’s power. The answer is not to do regime change on the cheap, as the U.S. tried in Libya, but to reject regime change. Rejecting Regime Change For Good
After Soleimani’s Assassination, There Will Be No Regime Change in Tehran
Rejecting Regime Change For Good
Regime changers and MEK
A new book by a former Obama official condemns the war in Libya and takes the fight to the interventionists.
Regime change leads to long-term costly failure even when it initially “works” at bringing down another government. Toppling a foreign government always causes more instability and costs more than its advocates expect. Both the U.S. and the affected country end up being worse off than if the old government had been left in place, and any ephemeral benefits that might come from overthrowing the government are soon far outweighed by the losses that follow. That is the main argument of Philip Gordon’s engaging Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East. Gordon’s thesis echoes many familiar non-interventionist and realist criticisms of regime change policies. TAC readers will find themselves nodding in agreement with many of his observations and conclusions.
Losing the long game. The false promise of regime change in the Middle East – Philip H. Gordon
The book is a useful survey of the U.S. record of regime change policies in the Middle East spanning from the 1953 U.S./U.K.-backed coup in Iran to the most recent unsuccessful effort to remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria. Because Gordon’s focus is on the impracticality of regime change, it leaves a few blind spots in his treatment of these policies. The illegality of these operations is never seriously discussed, nor is there an explicit acknowledgement that the U.S. has no right to decide the political futures of other countries. The audience Gordon wants to persuade are would-be regime changers by showing them that they cannot get what they want from toppling foreign leaders. Sometimes that leads him to concede too much.
Assassination of Qassem Soleimani Spells End of Regime Change
Gordon devotes one chapter to each major U.S. regime change policy in the “greater” Middle East, including two chapters on efforts in Afghanistan in the 1980s and then the war that began after 9/11. The book proceeds in chronological order, and Gordon recounts how each policy was formulated, debated, and then carried out. There is also a chapter on Egypt in 2011 on Mubarak’s removal from power, which fits oddly with the rest because the Obama administration never really sought the end of the Egyptian military regime as a whole. However, the Egyptian example does illustrate the limitations of shaping political developments in other countries, even when their government is aligned with ours. In the chapters on Iraq and Libya in particular, Gordon quotes extensively from the arguments that regime changers made at the time to show how incredibly arrogant and wrong they were in their predictions, before detailing all the problems they failed to anticipate.
Re-reading the smug and overconfident interventionist claims from previous debates was frustrating because it reminded me that policymakers and pundits typically learn nothing from previous regime change failures and go on to make almost all of the same errors the next time. In that sense, Gordon’s attempt to educate would-be regime changers seems somewhat hopeless. Ideologues that seek regime change in this or that country will continue to seek it no matter what the evidence says. They will always insist that “this time is different” because they want it to be, and because they don’t really care what happens to the people in the countries where they want to meddle. The complete lack of accountability in our system ensures that those who have been wrong in every previous debate will never go away.
Gordon is a former Obama administration official, and he served as White House coordinator for the Middle East from 2013 to 2015. This gives his criticisms of Obama administration mistakes in Egypt, Libya, and Syria added weight. His purpose in criticizing the administration’s policies is not to pin blame on particular officials, but to illustrate that no administration has pursued these policies without doing far more harm than good. Having followed and written about most of these policies as they were unfolding, I found Gordon’s accounts to be accurate. He doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the Obama administration’s errors, and his dissection of the failure of the Libyan intervention is particularly damning. He is one of a very few former officials to admit to the destabilizing effects of the Libyan war on the surrounding region. Gordon’s book stands in sharp contrast to some of the memoirs of other former administration officials that pass over these failures in silence or seek to duck responsibility.
One flaw in the discussion of many of these cases is Gordon’s repeated descriptions of some of the countries as “artificial.” He seeks to explain why the U.S. can’t replicate the relatively successful cases of replacing the Japanese and German governments after World War II by stressing these countries’ advanced economies and homogeneity and noting that they were not “artificial entities fractured along the sectarian, religious and national lines that make it so hard to develop and maintain democratic institutions and internal peace.” While Gordon’s points about national institutions and previous experience with representative government are well-taken, it is a mistake to think of these states as being “artificial” after they have been in existence for generations.
All of the countries covered in the book have existed for at least a century, so they aren’t really more “artificial” than any other. Indeed, one of the recurring mistakes that regime changers tend to make is to assume that the U.S. will face little resistance because the countries they want to meddle in aren’t “real” nations. An emphasis on the “artificial” nature of a country can cut both ways, since it suggests to interventionists that it can be remade and altered to their preferences. If we make the mistake of thinking of these countries as “artificial,” we may be laying the groundwork for reckless proposals for partition as the “solution” to the country’s internal divisions. We can also end up encouraging policymakers to endorse U.S. support for an authoritarian ruler on the assumption that only a strongman can keep the “artificial” country together. The “artificial country” description is a pernicious idea that interventionists can exploit quite easily for their own purposes.
Gordon anticipates and answers defenses of these policies by attacking the “if only” logic that many interventionists use to explain away the failures of regime change. He recounts the errors that each administration made, but he doesn’t accept that these policies produced bad long-term outcomes because of flawed execution or insufficient resources. He turns the argument around on the interventionists and asks why greater U.S. involvement in Libya and Syria would have produced better outcomes rather than costlier versions of the same debacles. So far, interventionists have never provided a credible answer.
The core problems with all regime change policies are the same in virtually every case: the U.S. government doesn’t understand the countries in question, it relies on bad information that is frequently offered to them by self-serving exiles and activists, and it doesn’t know how to do state-and-institution-building on such a large scale in any case. The U.S. has expended vast resources for decades on some of these policies with remarkably little to show for it, so it is laughable to think that the problem is insufficient resources. There are things that are simply beyond our government’s power. The answer is not to do regime change on the cheap, as the U.S. tried in Libya, but to reject regime change.
While Gordon makes an overwhelming case that regime change is not worth doing because of its long-term deleterious consequences, he does not rule out the option entirely. He allows that there might be occasions when a government is sufficiently dangerous or atrocious in its treatment of its own people that regime change is worth considering, but he qualifies this immediately by saying “such cases will be rare to non-existent.” That being the case, it isn’t clear why Gordon feels the need to leave the door to regime change open even a little bit. Just as there are certain tactics that the U.S. refuses to employ because they are inherently illegitimate and wrong, we should be able to rule out regime change for good.
Link to the source
Rejecting Regime Change For Good
Regime changers and MEK
Secret MEK troll factory in Albania uses modern slaves (aka Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, NCRI ,Rajavi cult)
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
By: Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh (Middle East Strategy Conslultants)
Leaked photo of MEK’s Albanian headquarters
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.
Leaked photos showing MEK members at work
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”.
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Link to the source
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, May 03 2019:… Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests. Bolton’s False Flag Op Involving MEK
Secret MEK troll factory in Albania uses modern slaves (aka Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, NCRI ,Rajavi cult)
Link to the source
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
By: Massoud Khodabandeh (Middle East Strategy Conslultants)
Hillary Cinton and John Bolton
When Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to the airwaves during his visit to the UN in New York, particularly for an interview with Fox News, a frisson of surprised anticipation swept the American political polity. How was it possible that Iran, the pariah nation, not only had the audacity to enter the lion’s den, but from there to lecture the lion on its dirty behavior!
Of course, this is a spat that Iran cannot easily win. What mattered most was that Zarif did not go for the throat of the lion but instead those who are pulling its chain. In short, he accused a “B team” of actively working to wage war on his country. And he singled out National Security Advisor John Bolton for supporting the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group that believes in fomenting violent regime change in Iran.
A goaded Bolton went on Fox News to reply. But instead of answering Zarif’s accusations, Bolton merely blamed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for taking the MEK off the U.S. terrorism list in 2012. This was fantastic hubris. Bolton himself supported the MEK all the time it was on the list, attending rallies and taking speakers’ fees worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Bolton’s accusations against Clinton do not hold water. He, along with then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, started the war with Iraq partly on the pretext that Saddam Hussein supported terrorist groups, including the MEK, as an instrument of his foreign policy. Bolton was also on board with Rumsfeld when the United States unilaterally granted Protected Persons status to the MEK even while it was recognized a terrorist entity—in direct violation of international law.
With the election of President Obama in 2009, newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was left to clear up the mess Bolton and the cabal of neoconservatives created in Iraq. One of those problems was continued U.S. support for the MEK (which the United States designated a terrorist entity in 1997). With the help of a new tough negotiator in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Clinton set about finding a peaceful resolution to the standoff between the sovereign Iraqi government and the unwanted and parasitic MEK.
Clinton searched for third countries to absorb the MEK. But the MEK, enjoying the backing of anti-Iran regime change pundits in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States (including Bolton), dug in its heels and refused to be disbanded. In the end, only the dependent NATO ally Albania agreed to take the group’s members. Clinton authorized $10 million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to transfer the MEK to Albania. She paid another $10 million for the establishment of a de-radicalization institute in Tirana to first deal with the MEK as preparation for handling returning Islamic State families. Another $10 million languishes in the account of the U.S. embassy in Tirana, money to rehabilitate the MEK members into normal society that Bolton and his cabal blocked.
All this was written into an agreement between the governments of Iraq, the United States, and Albania along with the UNHCR and the MEK. At that time this author was working as a consultant to the Iraqi government on security issues, including the safe containment and deportation of the MEK. I was relieved when the Obama administration found a safe and above all a peaceful solution to the threat posed by the MEK to the security of Iraq. I was pleased to find in this agreement specific steps toward humanizing individual MEK members and restoring them to normal life and their families.
As someone familiar with the MEK, John Bolton must then and is certainly now fully cognizant of the beneficial elements of this agreement. Yet, almost as soon as President Trump was elected, the de-radicalization project was put on hold, allowing the MEK over the next year to regroup and reactivate its anti-Iran activities. With the support of Bolton, former Senator John McCain, Rudi Giuliani, and a whole cast of minor cheerleading warmongers, the MEK has constructed a purpose-built closed training camp in Albania in which the members are kept as modern slaves to serve the MEK’s propaganda and terrorist agenda.
For all her faults, Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests.
Before 2016, Iran did not have a diplomatic presence in Albania. Its embassy there dealt primarily with economic and cultural relations. But in 2018, the Albanian government of Edi Rama expelled two newly arrived Iranian diplomats at the behest of the Trump administration. John Bolton boasted about the achievement. Due to overt US support for the MEK, Iran drew its front line not in the Middle East but on the edge of the EU.
Now, with the Iranian foreign minister boldly speaking to the media inside the United States, Bolton has been reduced to deflecting rather than rebutting his accusations. Bolton’s master plan for a war against Iran has not only backfired but prompted Tehran to redraw its front line once again, this time in Washington, DC itself.
Massoud Khodabandeh is the director of Middle East Strategy Consultants and has worked long-term with the authorities in Iraq to bring about a peaceful solution to the impasse at Camp Liberty and help rescue other victims of the Mojahedin-e Khalq cult. Among other publications, he co-authored the book “The Life of Camp Ashraf: Victims of Many Masters” with his wife Anne Singleton. They also published an academic paper on the MEK’s use of the Internet.
Bolton’s False Flag Op Involving MEK
Tasnim News, Tehran, January 23 2021:… The US officials have, furthermore, supported suppressive regimes in the region and their crimes against humanity and war crimes in Yemen, maintained active and full connection with the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group and provided it with political and cultural support, paving the way for several terrorist measures against the interests of the Iranian… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, January 13 20201:… the U.S. government doesn’t understand the countries in question, it relies on bad information that is frequently offered to them by self-serving exiles and activists, and it doesn’t know how to do state-and-institution-building on such a large scale in any case. The U.S. has expended vast resources for decades on some of… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Ashraf News, December 14 2020:… The document is signed by the so-called Hassan Nayeb Agha, representative of Ashraf 3 residents in Albania, and issued on December 2, 2020, it affirms that “Reza Maji, a prisoner of war (Iraqi-Iranian) joined the Liberation Army of the PMOI. He was transferred to Albania in 2016, and in 2017 he announced his dissent from… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, October 28 2020:… leading up to the U.S. Presidential election, Iranian-American journalists and other commentators and campaigners are suffering an onslaught of online attacks. Some of these relentless Tweets include death threats. Targeting critics of Trump and his legacy like Jamal Abdi (Head of National Iranian American Council), Negar Mortazavi (prominent Journalist for The Independent and… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Juan Cole, Common Dreams, October 22 2020:… The People’s Jihadis (Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK, MKO), sometimes listed as a terrorist group by the US State Department, wants to overthrow the Islamic Republic, is active inside Iran and could easily set the government up in this way. Or I’m sure that Saudi or other anti-Iran government hackers could route the emails… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Paul Sonne and Yeganeh Torbati, Washington Post, September 30 2020:… “With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992,” the State Department said upon delisting the group. “The Department also has… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Iran Interlink, August 22 2020:… Former MEK member Ehsan Bidi defied a plot by Maryam Rajavi to have him illegally deported. He is now enjoying a free life in Tirana with his friends and supporters. Meanwhile, Maryam Rajavi and her MEK lieutenants are in hiding. Rajavi has tried to deflect attention away from this by mobilizing the cohort of non-member,… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Stephen Lendman, stephenlendman.org, July 23 2020:… During Friday’s conference, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi said its “mission…is to overthrow the mullahs.” The NCRI is an MEK front group. During Friday’s online session, Giuliani promoted regime change in Iran, saying the following: “(T)he mullahs are like the people who ran the mafia, the people I prosecuted who ran the mafia and extorted… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Robert Fantina, American Herald Tribune, June 29 2020:… Regime changers and MEK One group, the MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq, or the People’s Muhajedin Organization of Iran), is one such opposition organization. It is a violent terrorist group that is currently supported by the U.S. government. Members of the MEK have never accepted the revolution, and on June 28, 1981, three years after the revolution, they… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Tehran Times, June 27 2020:… Regime changers and MEK Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi has marked the 39th anniversary of an act of terror that killed over 70 senior figures by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist group, saying the MEK has since remained under the auspices of the U.S. and Europe. “39yrs ago, today, Iran Chief Justice Ayatollah Beheshti & 72senior figures were assassinated… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Mehr News and Press TV, June 26 2020:… Regime changers and MEK Refuting brazen claims leveled against Iran in the US “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019,” Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday, “The Islamic Republic of Iran totally rejects and dismisses the US annual report on terrorism due to its clear dishonesty and the double standards applied by this regime to fighting terrorism.” “Iranians have… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse
Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, Press TV, May 30 2020:… Regime changers and MEK But Iran placed UANI on its own list of terrorist groups in 2019 after Mark Wallace and UANI hosted a meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York that was mainly attended by supporters of the Mujahedin-e-Kalqh (MEK). The MEK is a group that the US government itself… Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the brink of collapse