Jim Lobe, Lobelog, August 19 2015:… Heinonen has made it a habit to speak about his reservations at events sponsored by just about any group opposed to the deal. For instance, Heinonen has spoken at least twice (see here and here) before front groups of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), the expatriate Iranian group that a lengthy lobbying and legal campaign …
Seventy-Plus Nuclear Non-Proliferation Experts Endorse Deal
As an abundance of nuclear non-proliferation experts rallies behind the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) signed last month by the P5+1 and Iran, the paucity of arms-control specialists who oppose the deal has become increasingly apparent. Indeed, the latter seem as rare as the diminishing number of climate and atmospheric scientists who still question whether human activity is contributing in important ways to global warming.
The Arms Control Association (ACA) released a joint statement on Tuesday endorsed by 75 of the world’s leading nuclear non-proliferation specialists, including a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and former top U.S., UN, and foreign government non-proliferation officials. The statement concludes that the July 14 agreement “is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”
The accord, the statement goes on, “advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community.”
Though all of us could find ways to improve the text, we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement.
We urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the JCPOA.
The statement comes just 10 days after 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists and engineers released a two-page letter to Obama congratulating him and his team on “negotiating a technically sound, stringent and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and provides a basis for further initiatives to raise the barriers to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the globe.”
As noted in The New York Times account, the first signature on that letter was from Richard L. Garwin, “a physicist who helped design the world’s first hydrogen bomb and has long advised Washington on nuclear weapons and arms control. He is among the last living physicists who helped usher in the nuclear age.”
Garwin and five others who signed the August 8 letter—including Frank von Hippel, the former assistant director for national security at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy—also signed ACA’s statement released Tuesday.
Particularly notable among the other 70 are former IAEA Director General Hans Blix, several former UN under-secretaries-general for disarmament affairs, including the current commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Amb. Nobuyasu Abe, Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, and Amb. Sergio Duarte. Signatory Jacqueline Shire served as a member of the UN Panel of Experts for Iran established under a 2010 UN Security Council resolution that, among other things, was set up to tighten restrictions on Iranian financial and shipping enterprises related to “proliferation-sensitive activities.”
Other former senior international officials with responsibility for non-proliferation oversight or enforcement include Tariq Rauf, the IAEA’s former head of the Verification and Security Policy Coordination unit; Laura Rockwood, a nearly 30-year veteran as head of the IAEA’s section for Nonproliferation and Policy making in the Agency’s Office of Legal Affairs; and Thomas Shea, former IAEA Safeguards official and head of its Trilateral Initiative Office.
The signers also included a host of former senior State Department, Pentagon, and White House officials who have had direct responsibility for nuclear proliferation issues, such as Amb. Kenneth Brill, a founding director of the US National Counterproliferation Center (2005-09); Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control (who also participated in the P5+1 negotiations; former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Jan Lodal; and Andy Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs.
Absent from the list of signatories is Gary Samore, who worked as White House coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction during Obama’s first term. He subsequently served as president of the strongly anti-Iran United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) until last week when, as we noted, Sen. Joseph Lieberman replaced him. Samore has decided to support the deal, while UANI’s leadership and donors remain strongly opposed.
Vox’s Max Fisher published an interview on Monday with UANI’s CEO, former Amb. Mark Wallace, that helped illustrate the challenge faced by UANI, AIPAC, and other groups opposed to the JCPOA: the dearth of serious non-proliferation experts who support their position.
Max Fisher: One of UANI’s real assets has been having a leader with Gary Samore’s credentials as a pedigreed arms control expert. Did you guys think about looking for a replacement who could also be seen as firstly an arms control wonk?
Mark Wallace: Well, Olli Heinonen, for example, is on our advisory board. I still have Gary’s arms control expertise; I don’t think that has changed. We have [head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center] Henry Sokolski. Olli Heinonen has been a big player in this. Even David Albright, even though he’s not affiliated with us, has been very useful. I’m trying to label them all arms control wonks, you know what I mean; they’re familiar with the space.
We’ve been doing this now for a long time, and I think that the nature of the deal is quite well-framed. I don’t think there’s a lot of debate about the terms anymore. Certainly that expertise matters, but all of our team, we have a very seasoned team, but there are no secrets to that agreement anymore. Well, actually, there are some parts of the agreement that are secret, but you know what I mean. The terms of the agreement are well-baked, and there’s enormous commentary on all of them.
And you do see skepticism from the very serious people in that community, which I would characterize as Gary Samore, Olli Heinonen, and David Albright. I think their skepticism has been quite loud and clear about the agreement.
Max Fisher: With a couple of exceptions whom you named, the arms control community seems to have generally lined up behind the Iran deal. I think some people see the change in leadership in UANI as a sign that you guys are no longer focusing on trying to persuade the arms control community. Is that fair?
Mark Wallace: I don’t see what you describe. When I think of the real experts who have led in the space, it’s really been Gary [Samore], Olli [Heinonen], Henry [Sokolski], and [David] Albright. Those are leaders in that space. Olli’s statements have been quite concerned about the deal, and even Gary acknowledges that there are some real problems with the deal.
Max Fisher: Okay, still, the fact remains that UANI will transition from being led by an arms control expert to being led by a politician. How should we read that?
Indeed, weighed against the list of signatories compiled by Arms Control Association, and what with Samore explicitly supporting the agreement, the list of non-proliferation experts on the opposition side looks very thin indeed. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither Albright nor Heinonen has come out explicitly against the JCPOA, although Heinonen has made it a habit to speak about his reservations at events sponsored by just about any group opposed to the deal. For instance, Heinonen has spoken at least twice (see here and here) before front groups of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), the expatriate Iranian group that a lengthy lobbying and legal campaign helped get removed from the State Department’s terrorism list in 2012 in exchange for its agreeing to disperse its Iraq-based militants to third countries.
One key signatory of Tuesday’s statement was Leonard “Sandy” Spector, deputy director for nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a former assistant deputy administrator for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the U.S. National Security Administration. In early 2013, Spector co-authored a report with Albright, Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD) president Mark Dubowitz, and two others that called, among other measures, for Washington to “increase Iranian isolation, including through regime change in Syria” and “undertake …overt preparations for the use of warplanes and/or missiles to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities with high explosives.” Only if Tehran provided “meaningful concessions,” it said, should sanctions relief be considered, according to the report.
It appears clear that Spector, presumably like Samore and the expert non-proliferation and arms control community in general, has been persuaded that the Obama administration has indeed obtained “meaningful concessions” from Iran and that the deal should be approved. But it also appears that, as with climate change, Republicans don’t care.
Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group
by Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib, Lobelog, July 22 2015:… Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens …
Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group
When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared war on the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers signed last week in Vienna, it put its money where its mouth is. AIPAC, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby reportedly plans on spending $20 million over the next two months urging Congress to vote against the deal. But its efforts at a full frontal attack on the accord, inked by the P5+1 (the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) and Iran is leading to some politically awkward alliances.
As part of its efforts to kill the deal with a congressional vote, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group called Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran. The group, according to The New York Times, was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.
Now that the campaign is taking shape, the AIPAC spin-off appears to be relying on a typical, if troubling, ally of American groups and individuals opposed to diplomacy with Iran. Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran, the well-financed AIPAC spin-off, as well as on a now-removed news items on the group’s “Press Room” webpage—indicating that Nuclear Free Iran recognized a PR misstep by promoting the group.
MEK Footage in TV Ad
The ad Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran is splashing across television screens the country over—which the group posted to YouTube on Friday—incorporates b-roll footage from a press conference held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which the State Department deemed the MEK’s “political wing” (earning it a corresponding terrorist designation).
The footage in the Nuclear Free Iran ad shows Alireza Jafarzadeh, a longtime Washington-based MEK apparatchik, at the National Press Club using a pointer aimed at a satellite photograph. It’s not clear which press conference the footage is taken from (the MEK frequently holds these sorts of events). As Jafarzadeh gestures at the photograph, the slickly produced ad’s voiceover says, “Military sites can go uninspected” and the words “Over 50 military sites” flash onto the screen.
“We were not aware of this matter, though the statements and b-roll footage are in the public domain,” said Ali Safavi, who works with the NCRI, when asked about the commercial.
The MEK’s most prominent act since the 1981 bombing of Iran’s Islamic Republic Party headquarters—killing 73 party officials—was its 2002 public exposure of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and Arak heavy water production plant for plutonium extraction. Although the MEK claimed its clandestine network in Iran had unearthed the nuclear facilities, The New Yorker reported in 2006 that Israeli intelligence had passed the information about the sites to the MEK.
Since exposing Natanz and Arak, the MEK has periodically drummed up publicity for other purported blockbuster revelations; many turn out to be busts. This winter, as nuclear talks with Iran talks heated up, the MEK released a report they claimed exposed a secret Iranian enrichment facility. The report garnered much credulous press from right-wing media and even a mainstream outlet or two. But a blogger at the liberal site Daily Kos quickly noticed that the photograph the MEK claimed was a steel door to the secret facility had been ripped from the public website of an Iranian company that sells safes.
According to the Sunlight Foundation’s Political Ad Sleuth project, Citizens United for a Nuclear Free Iran has already inked 247 contracts to air the aid, some of which went into effect last Friday.
Promoting MEK’s Leadership Views on Iran Deal
Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran’s dalliance with the MEK, however, didn’t end at drawing footage from one of the opposition group’s press conferences. In the “Press Room” section of Nuclear Free Iran’s website, the group late last week reprinted an item from the right-wing Israeli news organization Arutz Sheva that promoted the MEK’s views on the nuclear deal.
The Arutz Sheva piece is headlined “Iranian Opposition Leader in Exile: Deal Bad for Iranian People”—a headline that carries over to the Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran website—and paraphrases quotes from an interview with Maryam Rajavi, the co-leader of the MEK (her husband, Massoud, the other co-leader, has not been seen publicly in a dozen years). In the interview, according to Arutz Sheva, Rajavi condemned the deal and, in the words of the pro-settler news outlet, “called on the international community to work to replace the Islamic religious regime in Iran.”
On Sunday, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran pulled the Rajavi article from its “Press Room” page. No explanation was given, and a query on the issue to Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran went unanswered.
New Group’s Advisor Backs MEK
Pulling the article from its website may indicate that Nuclear Free Iran realized the potential public relations problems associating the group with the MEK could bring.
With bizarre Islamo-Marxist guerrilla roots, the MEK and its affiliates were listed as terrorists by the US State Department thanks to years of violence, including attacks against Americans and the Shah’s government in Iran in the 1970s and, after falling out of favor with Iran’s revolutionary clerics, the Islamic Republic. But the designation was lifted in 2012 as part of a deal to try to extricate remaining MEK members from peril in Iraq, where the group had fought alongside Saddam Hussein but was disarmed in the 2003 American invasion.
The MEK’s multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to get removed from the terror rolls gave it a newfound prominence in Washington. Its ardent anti-Iranian regime stance, robust lobbying operations and hefty political donations have kept up their favorable relations with many hawks on Capitol Hill—despite the group’s reputation for cult-like behavior and past human rights abuses against its own members. (For more background, see our February feature in The Intercept on the MEK’s history and influence in Washington.) Rajavi and her followers use their contacts in Washington to relentlessly push for overthrowing the Iranian regime—and making this goal official US policy.
Rajavi counts among her supporters one of Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran’s advisory board members: former Democrat and former senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman has made several appearances at MEK events, including this June when he appeared at a MEK confab in Paris. Lieberman told the audience there that the US “should be working closely with your resistance group”—making, in other words, regime change into an official US policy.
A spokesman for Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran did not respond to request for comment about whether it supported an American policy of regime change in Iran.
Photo: Alireza Jafarzadeh
Demonizing Iran To Prevent the Nuclear Agreement
Muhammad Sahimi, Anti War, July 04 2015:… In advancing this narrative, Netanyahu has been helped by the Mujahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MEK, also known as MKO) and its lobby in the United States. The MEK is an Iranian armed opposition cult that sided with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and acted as his internal …
Demonizing Iran To Prevent the Nuclear Agreement
Since April 2 when the Lausanne Accord was signed by Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – the opposition, namely, the neoconservatives, the Republican Party, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their lobbies in the United States has been in high gear to prevent the signing of the comprehensive agreement whose deadline is now July 7, after the two sides could not complete their negotiations by the original deadline of June 30.
Right after the announcement of the Accord, the opposition went to work. Two days after the announcement Bill Kristol, the Godfather and “little Lenin” of the necons, declared that the best way of defeating the efforts of the Obama administration is creating the conditions that would kill the nuclear accord, forcing the President not to sign any agreement. Speaker of the House John Boehner was reported telling a Jewish group that the Republicans do not have the votes to override the President’s vote of Congress’ rejection of the nuclear agreement. Thus, the best way to defeat the administration is to prevent any final agreement in the first place.
The breadth and depth of the campaign against an agreement with Iran are completely unprecedented. When Richard Nixon re-established diplomatic relations with China in 1972 and Bill Clinton did the same with Vietnam in 1995, we did not see the type of backlash against them that we are seeing today against a nuclear agreement with Iran. At the height of the Cold War the enmity toward the Soviet Union was less intense than against Iran now, even though the Soviets were far more powerful than Iran is or will ever be. Compared with Iran, even the reaction to re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba has been relatively mute. And why this is so? It is all because of Israel and its lobby and allies in the United States.
So, what is the best way of killing the final agreement? The usual way: demonizing Iran by lies, exaggerations, half-truths, innuendoes and insinuations.
One way of demonizing Iran is by rebuking the President for wanting to reach an agreement with such a “despicable” state as Iran. Over at the Washington Post, neoconservative and Israel’s agent Jennifer Rubin has been working hard to advance this narrative. After claiming that the President is delusional, and starting with her column of April 6 – Iran framework: not good, not a deal – Rubin has been propagating all types of sheer nonsense about Iran, the administration, and the nuclear negotiations. A few days later Rubin claimed that the Obama administration is prepared to give Iran anything and everything for a deal. This is baseless as one important obstacle to the negotiations has been the U.S. excessive demands, well beyond the international agreements and Iran’s obligations toward them.
In another column on June 21 Rubin claimed that “Democrats, Republicans and neutral experts reject Iran sellout.” Who are these neutral experts? One is Olli Heinonen, former IAEA Deputy Director for Safeguards, who has a strong and deserving reputation for being anti-Iran, and a member of pro-Israel lobby United against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). He is also the man who claimed that Iran is only 2-3 weeks away from a nuclear bomb. Two other such “neutral experts” are Eric Edelman and Dennis Ross. Edelman, a member of the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative, claimed that any nuclear agreement with Iran can be torched by Obama’s successor. As an ardent supporter of Israel, Ross does not need any introduction. The UANI published a page-long warning in the New York Times, talking about the “dangers” of an agreement with Iran that is not tough enough. The funds for these activities are provided by Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel billionaire and the man who called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran.
Another way of demonizing Iran is to insist that Iran continues to have a nuclear weapons research program, and has something very horrendous to hide. Over at New York Times, David Sanger, Michael Gordon – remember his collaboration with the Times’ chief propagandist Judith Miller and her sensational stories about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? – and company continue to publish their agenda and opinion as “facts.” Sanger continues to insist that Iran’s nuclear weapon research program, if it ever existed, has continued sporadically since 2003, despite the fact that the National Intelligence Estimates of 2007, reaffirmed in 2009, 2011 and 2012, concluded that the program was halted in 2003. Sanger also insinuates the same by continuing to claim that “some of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work has been done in its military sites,” despite the fact that even the totally politicized International Atomic Energy Agency under Yukiya Amano, a minion of the West, does not make such a claim. And why Sanger insists on this? By relying on the discredited “laptop of death,” supposedly stolen in Iran and delivered to Western intelligence agencies and the fact that Iran is not willing to go beyond its legal obligations and allow the IAEA to inspect its military sites.
Sanger and the Times still insist on the relevance of the totally discredited “possible military dimensions (PMD)” of Iran’s nuclear program, allegations based on the same laptop. They never interview true experts and at least allow them to voice their opinion. [Julian Pecquet of al-Monitor makes the same type of claims.] Robert Kelly, a former IAEA expert; nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt, and a failed CIA sting operation against Iran’s nuclear program that prompted the IAEA to reassess some of its so-called evidence for the PMD, have completely discredited the allegations about the PMD.
Yet a third way of demonizing Iran is by claiming that if the illegal crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iran are lifted, Iran will have access to billions of dollars of its foreign currency reserves frozen in Western financial institutions, and will spend it all on its allies in the Middle East, hence making that turbulent region more unstable. An article by David Rothkopf, the CEO and Editor of Foreign Policy group is typical of this line of demonizing Iran. In his article Rothkopf claims that after the sanctions are lifted, Iran will have access to $120 billion of its foreign currency reserves. Over a period of 15 years, the apparent duration of the nuclear agreement, Iran will make at least another $300 billion by exporting its oil. Thus, Rothkopf argues that Iran will have made $420 billion by the end of the nuclear agreement, and claims that while Iran will shore up its economy, it will also continue its meddling in the Middle East.
The claim is made while Saudi Arabia, the US staunch ally in the Middle east, has used its approximately $770 billion foreign currency to support terrorist groups in Syria, the military coup in Egypt that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi, has been attacking the defenseless people of Yemen, intervened in Bahrain to suppress the democratic movement there, and provided political cover for the NATO alliance to attack Libya that turned that prosperous nation into a no man’s land populated by some of the worst Sunni terrorist groups, from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.
Iran is besieged by economic problems, caused partly by the crippling economic sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani has promised his nation that after the nuclear agreement is signed and the sanctions are lifted, his administration will be focused on improving the economy. Indeed, if Rouhani cannot deliver on his promises, his government will be toppled by Iran’s hardliners who oppose the many concessions that Iran has made to P5+1 in order to reach the nuclear agreement.
A forth way of demonizing Iran is by claiming that Iran is similar to the Islamic State and “1000 times worse” and “bigger.” Making this absurd claim has been Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s way of preventing the nuclear agreement. This is while Iran has been fighting the IS in Iraq, and in fact many experts believe that only Iran can defeat the IS. At the same time, Israel has been working with Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, in an attempt to defeat the Iran-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In advancing this narrative, Netanyahu has been helped by the Mujahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MEK, also known as MKO) and its lobby in the United States. The MEK is an Iranian armed opposition cult that sided with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and acted as his internal security forces against his regime’s opponents. Up until September 2011 it was on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organization. The MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has made the same claims as Netanyahu’s, calling the Islamic Republic the IS’ “Godfather.” She even testified via satellite before a congressional subcommittee, repeating the same nonsense.
Parallel to Israel, and perhaps even coordinated with it, the MEK lobbyists in the United States have been making the same type of claims, advocating that the US should help the MEK to topple the regime in Tehran, even though the cult is universally despised in Iran. Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and a fellow at the conservative Family Research Council, Clare Lopez, a former CA operative and senior Vice President at CSP, and Raymond Tanter, a cofounder of the defunct Iran Policy Committee that advocated military confrontation with Iran, have been advocating this narrative.
At the same time the same discredited people who sold the American people the idea that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction, and that it was a terrible regime against its own people, are also trying to do the same with Iran. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, one of the leading liars about Iraq and proponents of its illegal invasion, is now telling us that “a nuclear Iran is a nightmare.” Frank Gaffney, director of hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy and a leading Islamophobe, has claimed that the nuclear agreement with Iran is a “fraud” perpetuated by the President on the American people, because “It will not prevent Iran from getting the bomb, period.” He is the man who was “delighted” that the US invaded Iraq.
And, of course, those who have advocated the military option against Iran have not been idle, and have been aided by the media. CNN had a report on how bunker-busting bombs that can supposedly destroy even Iran’s Fordo site deep under a mountain are on standby to attack Iran, if the negotiations fail. At Business Insider Jeremy Bender has been publishing one scary story after another about how the bunker-busting bombs can be used against Iran. Bloomberg has also reported on the possible use of such bombs against Iran. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), an MEK supporter, has claimed that bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities can be done easily in only “a few days.” Cotton has also called on the President not to cooperate with Iran because “it has blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands,” whereas it was in fact the MEK that assassinated American advisers in Iran in the 1970s.
When Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, was Iran’s president, and Rouhani and Iran’s current Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, were his chief diplomat and nuclear negotiator, the George W. Bush administration prevented the three European countries, Britain, France and Germany, from reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran that would have severely limited Iran’s nuclear program. Now that Rouhani and Zarif, two moderate politicians, are leading Iran and its efforts for a nuclear compromise, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their allies in the United States are doing their utmost to prevent the agreement from materializing. Iran has made all the necessary concessions to reach the agreement. If nuclear negotiations fail, it will be either because the Obama administration has excessive demands, or it may buckle and break under the pressure by the War Party in the United States. This time, the world will blame the US and its allies.
Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California, is co-founder and editor of the website, Iran News & Middle East Reports.
Villepinte – the real message behind Maryam Rajavi’s anti-Iran speech
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, June 16 2015:… Rajavis are afraid of the questions even their own MEK members are asking. Their leader is in hiding not because something might happen to him but because, as MEK founding member turned critic Lotfolah Meisami said “we can answer the question ‘where is Rajavi’ with the simple answer …
Villepinte – the real message behind Maryam Rajavi’s anti-Iran speech
The few curious Farsi speakers who bother to look will have noticed that the Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK) has removed all trace of Farsi language from its National Council of Resistance of Iran website. This is an extraordinary move considering that this Council claims to represent Iranians and its leader styles herself the ‘President elect’ of Iran.
So why not speak to this constituency?
The answer is very simple. There is no constituency of Iranians which the MEK or Maryam Rajavi can speak to or on behalf of. Thanks to the work of real Iranian oppositionists and the efforts of former members of this already notorious terrorist group (which sided with Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war against Iran), Iranians inside and outside the country are now fully aware of its true nature and that it operates as a mind control cult; meaning it should be avoided at all costs. As a result, the MEK is no longer able to use deception and lies to recruit or even maintain members from the Iranian community. Iranians, thankfully, have achieved immunity.
The same cannot be said for Western political communities who appear as ready as ever to co-opt or be co-opted by the MEK in pursuit of forcing regime change on Iran. This is interesting because it is this enduring slogan of the MEK – that it will violently overthrow in its entirety the ruling system of Iran – which pitches Iranians living inside and outside Iran on one side and the MEK on the other. Iranians want to be normal oppositionists, not terrorists.
Thirty years ago the MEK hijacked the narrative on Iran with false and misleading propaganda and fed it to a gullible West – as has been described in a peer reviewed paper by Khodabandeh. It used its apparently unlimited finances (provided by Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia and other Western interests) and unpaid labour to wage a self-serving propaganda war against Iran which has resulted in it achieving only total isolation and inevitable disintegration.
Evidence of this can be found in the MEK’s annual rally to celebrate the start of its armed struggle in 1981. The MEK holds this expensive rally every year, but why do they need to do it and why has it become so non-Iranian? Why does Maryam Rajavi persist in this charade?
One obvious explanation is that the rally acts as make-up to disguise a reality she can’t change; the slow demise of the MEK. Throwing a huge party for your creditors is one way to hide the fact you are bankrupt. Then we need only look to the target audience of the rally to find out who Rajavi’s creditors and benefactors are. Rajavi’s speech is littered with so much trite regime change jargon that it might have been lifted from PM Netanyahu’s own speech writer. It so closely matches the extremists’ anti-Iran platform that we could see Villepinte as nothing more than make-up on the face of the Israeli war lobby to make it look like Farsi.
But don’t dismiss the MEK just yet. Closer inspection of other hidden elements will reveal the real state of the Mojahedin Khalq organisation.
Many years ago the MEK held at least three public demonstrations per year across many major European and North American capitals and cities. Its finances allowed it to maintain self-styled ‘safe houses’ in those cities in which MEK members and supporters would gather. Supporters were recruited from the pool of Iranian refugees who were still, in the 1990s, unaware of the MEK’s cult nature. Meals and entertainment were provided in exchange for unpaid work. Using psychological coercion many supporters were transferred to the military bases in Iraq and sent on terrorist missions. Those who could not be brainwashed to this extent were maintained in the west in a state of dependent unemployment by supplementing social security benefits.
Three times a year the MEK spent over six million dollars on these public demonstrations. In comparison the MEK now spends only a tenth of what it used to. Money has become an issue. The MEK’s finances have dwindled to the point that it is now cheaper to bus in rent-a-crowd once a year than maintain its safe houses and subsidise a supporter base all year round. Ironically, because of this the MEK has chosen to shed much of its Iranian base. The reason Villepinte is now held inside a venue rather than on the street is because behind closed doors nobody will see that only a small proportion of the audience is Iranian. The MEK’s latest public picket, which was held in Washington, had a core presence of only five people. Nobody will turn up without being paid.
But this abandonment of pretence over its support base among Iranians is not just about finance. Significantly the MEK has even abandoned using Afghans or Iraqis or any other refugees who look like Iranians. This is to prevent any former members, critics or Iranian journalists getting inside to film and write about the event. Instead the audience is made up of thousands of students bussed in from Eastern Europe and African heritage refugees from France.
Maryam Rajavi is running away from Iranians. The reason is that the Rajavis are afraid of the questions even their own MEK members are asking. Their leader is in hiding not because something might happen to him but because, as MEK founding member turned critic Lotfolah Meisami said “we can answer the question ‘where is Rajavi’ with the simple answer, ‘where he doesn’t have to answer anyone’.
These awkward but natural questions focus on a few key issues. ‘Why can’t we have contact with our families?’ And, ‘why, after three decades, have we made no progress in our struggle to overthrow the Iranian regime?’ And, ‘where is Massoud Rajavi, why is he in hiding?’ And, ‘why aren’t the residents of Camp Liberty being transferred to safe countries rather than remaining in danger in Iraq?’
To circumvent criticism of her evasiveness, Rajavi has drafted in the grownup offspring of MEK members to parade with. For example the Gharari children whose uncle is still a thug with the MEK and whose only claim is that their father was executed thirty years ago. For an all-expenses paid trip from Norway to Paris, they will not be rocking the boat.
It is not only an Iranian audience Rajavi is afraid of. Apart from well-rehearsed MEK stooges slipped in to demonstrate pluralism, she is the only Iranian speaker at Villepinte where non-Iranian paid members of the panel are all happy to conform to MEK prepared scripts. There is no risk of any alternative Iranian voice being heard. No risk of other points of view. This time the cost is political capital. No other Iranian, not even former members of the so-called Council (NCRI) like Karim Ghassim, will risk their reputation by regurgitating the MEK script. Even has-been former MEP Struan Stevenson has tried to salvage his reputation by claiming in a book that he supported the MEK for humanitarian reasons; adding disarmingly that he had been warned to avoid them by the UK government and MI5. Last year the French Foreign Ministry denounced the MEK saying that France knows it inside out and is of the conclusion it is not trustworthy. But the likes of John Bolton and Rudi Giuliani have no such compunction and will happily spout MEK jargon for a fee.
So, if the message of Villepinte is not one any Iranian or right minded person wants to be associated with, what is it?
Essentially the rally is not held to project power as an opposition against Iran but as a CV for Western payers. Since the loss of its military camps in Iraq, the MEK’s terrorist planning headquarters has transferred to Auvers-sur-Oise where Maryam Rajavi had already set up a de facto independent enclave. From here she is able to access western political circles.
For three decades the MEK has tried to win western support by pretending to be an Iranian opposition group. But everyone knows that its only use is for violence. Saddam knew it and Donald Rumsfeld knew it when he kept the MEK intact in post-Saddam Iraq against the constitutional demands of successive governments of a sovereign Iraq. Since then the MEK has tried to hide the fact it is finished. Wearing the mask of political activity it campaigned to be removed from Western terrorism lists. Then it was all ‘nuclear revelations’ – which turned out to be mostly fabricated. And then it was human rights advocacy as a spanner in the works hoping the P5+1 negotiations would grind to a halt. Now that hasn’t happened, Rajavi has latched on to a new crisis – the Daesh carnage – to keep her cult alive. She has lost the ability even to put a mask on it and is straightforwardly advertising her failing cult as a terrorist entity.
It is an interesting advertising campaign. Struan Stevenson’s book plays its part in a way he probably has no knowledge of. It is doubtful he knows the history of the woman featured on the dust jacket. Throughout the 1990s Zohreh Ghaemi commanded terrorist operations, sending MEK members into Iran to perform acts of violence. In the end she perished in controversial circumstances as one of 53 people killed in Camp Ashraf, Iraq in 2013. An official investigation was inconclusive due to lack of cooperation by the MEK, but some evidence pointed to this being an inside job. The MEK killing its own unwanted people? It wouldn’t be the first time. The message of this book therefore is that we can still deliver any act of violence required.
The background to Villepinte 2015 has been a long campaign to get support not only from war mongers but from those waging war. Already in 2012 Maryam Rajavi was begging the Syrian rebels to absorb them into their struggle, and more recently she has visited the Saudi ambassador in France to offer the MEK’s services in Yemen. But the MEK is not an attractive prospect even for them. From past experience they know that Rajavi cannot be trusted.
Now, however, it looks as though there is some hope for the MEK. In Albania.
In 2012, Albania bowed to pressure from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to accept several hundred MEK members from Iraq. This was a way to keep the Iraqis happy by removing these former terrorists, and to keep Rajavi quiet by moving them as a group rather than dispersing them among different countries; a move Rajavi resisted with the blood of his members in order to keep the cult intact. There are now well over four hundred who came from Camp Liberty, and a handful of cult commanders transferred from Europe to take charge of them.
The MEK tried everything in its power to get the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, to speak at the Villepinte rally – to be the first governmental representative to support the MEK in its history except Saddam Hussein. This would act to legitimise this movement of personnel as a humanitarian gesture. Except Albania has done nothing for them except allow them in. The refugees are actually supported by the UNHCR. Furthermore, the MEK has been paying them to remain loyal to the cult, asking only that they keep quiet and don’t talk about what happens inside the MEK, and also to work as keystroke operators in the MEK’s famous cyber-wars.
In spite of every effort to keep the cult intact in Albania – using coercion, blackmail, intimidation and psychological manipulative tactics in addition to the payments – at least half the newly arrived people have separated from the MEK. Some of them have risked the (very real) wrath of the MEK and are in touch with former MEK members in Europe with whom they share information about conditions on the ground. What has been disclosed is revealing. The MEK has bought land and property around Tirana and is building a replica cult camp to replace the one it is slowly but irrevocably losing in Iraq. Several top level cult commanders have been brought from Paris to facilitate this. Troublesome and non-compliant members have actually been forced to leave the MEK’s accommodation. Again, the MEK is not averse to shedding a few people to achieve its aims and this activity gives every indication that Rajavi himself intends to transfer there where he will be safe behind closed doors. This is bad news for the individuals trapped in the cult. But it is also an indication of Rajavi’s plans to rescue the MEK. Certainly it makes sense that a deal was struck with Hillary Clinton to have Camp Liberty residents moved to Albania in exchange for removing the MEK from the US terrorist list in 2012.
But there is more to this than at first appears. While American officials no doubt hoped that the Rajavis would be happy to continue with their delusion of playing at being spiritual leader and president for their own mini-Iran, and allowed that the group would want to be used as part of the anti-Iran phalanx led by Israel, they have shown woeful ignorance as to the depths of perversity and treachery they are capable of. For, while Rajavi and his wife are happy to continue to rule over their cult members, they still need to find the money to finance it.
As part of the advertising campaign to find a new ‘landlord’, Maryam Rajavi has popped up on Fox News and in the Washington Times to repeat the false narrative about Iran. With this kind of publicity she may not even need to spend money on Villepinte next year, and could easily reach her target audience with a few cheap screen appearances. Rajavi’s message of regime change is not her own of course. It belongs to some other interests. She is simply using this message to make the MEK attractive to people with deep pockets who can use her brand of publicity. But even this is not enough to fund a cultic base in Europe.
It is instructive to dissect Maryam Rajavi’s message at Villepinte and to the European Parliament and to Washington to find out what else is going on here. Rajavi repeatedly pitches herself on the same side as the anti-Assad forces in Syria, as Daesh in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Yemen. She is actually saying that America should openly commit to backing Daesh and other terrorist forces alongside the MEK to attack Iran. This is the same message as Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri’s before he died and is what the remnants of Saddam’s regime still say: use our forces against Iran, because whether they are called AQI or insurgents or Sunnis or now Daesh, we are all on the same side against Iran. Rajavi wants the Obama administration to stop sitting on the fence between Daesh and Iran and choose the side of the terrorist forces in Iraq.
With its defunct force and ageing, sick population in Iraq, it is not clear on the surface what contribution Maryam Rajavi is suggesting that the MEK could make in such a scenario. However, the MEK has a long history of training, planning and providing logistics for terrorism which could be exploited as an educational resource. The MEK are expert in the use of the sophisticated mind control and psychological coercive techniques which underpin terrorist activity. This means suppressing a person’s authentic moral, ethical and emotional values, and brainwashing them into acting in ways illegal, immoral and unethical and certainly against their better interests on the whim of the leader; perhaps the definitive definition of terrorism. Massoud Rajavi doesn’t really expect America to arm the group in Iraq, nor does he expect to be able to hold on to many cult members in Albania, let alone recruit any more Iranians. They, as has been previously stated, are immune to deceptive recruitment by the MEK. Instead, while the various routes to Turkey, Syria and Iraq are under scrutiny, terrorist commanders from any mercenary group can slip beneath the radar and seek training and logistical support in Tirana.
What better location to establish a clandestine terrorist training camp than in Albania. It is in Europe, but not in the EU and therefore not so open to scrutiny by the international community. It is a Muslim country but is also notorious for corruption and mafia-like gangs. The Rajavis will fit right in. The real message of Villepinte is this: the MEK have branched out and are open to do business with any terrorist group.
And if this sounds implausible, just think, is it really more plausible to believe that Maryam Rajavi will be president of Iran one day?
By Anne Khodabandeh and Massoud Khodabandeh
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Middle East Strategy Consultants, December 27 2013: … In the past year over 8,000 people have died in violent incidents in Iraq. The problem is not that the MEK are being singled out for attack, the real problem is that nobody is allowed to get inside Camp Liberty to help rescue these people from their enforced captivity. Nobody is allowed to help them or
Holly Dagres, Huffington Post, December 12 2014:… Maryam Rajavi’s marriage to one of the original founders of the MEK symbolized the transformation from an organization to a “cult of personality.” With the money provided by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein–they formed an alliance due to a deep disdain for the Iranian regime–to “construct self-sufficient camps” …
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Foreign Policy Journal, November 08 2014:…In addition to the “Iran experts”, Washington has found itself other sources of ‘intelligence’, foremost; the Mojahedeen Khalg (MEK) terrorist cult. This group feeds Washington information provided them by Israel. Previous to this assignment, the cult was busy fighting alongside Saddam