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.
Tectonic Shift In World Order After Unforced Error By Trump
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”.
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
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
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
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