Gareth Porter, Anti War, February 07 2015:… Nisman asserted that the highest Iranian officials had decided to carry out the bombing at a meeting on 12 or 14 August, 1993, primarily on the testimony of four officials of the Mujahedeen E-Khalq (MEK), the Iranian exile terrorist group that was openly dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian regime. The four …
The Nisman Murder and the AMIA Terror Bombing: A Tangled Thread
The evidence already available about Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death from a gunshot to the head creates a strong presumption that he was murdered. He was about to present publicly his accusation that President Christina Fernández de Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman conspired to absolve Iran of the 1994 AMIA bombing and lift the Interpol red notices on the accused Iranians.
And it was Nisman’s 2006 request for the arrest of six former senior Iranian officials for the bombing that prompted his push for those red notices. In the context of Argentine political culture, with its long experience of impunity for crimes committed by the powerful, the circumstances of his death have led to a general conviction that the government must have been behind his murder.
But there is good reason to be cautious about that assumption. Nisman’s case against Kirchner was problematic. The central accusation in his affidavit, made 96 times, according to press accounts, was that Kirchner and Timerman had sought to revoke the Interpol arrest warrants against the former Iranian officials. But Ronald K. Noble, the secretary general of Interpol for fifteen years until last November, denied Nisman’s accusation. Noble declared, “I can say with 100 percent certainty, not a scintilla of doubt, that Foreign Minister Timerman and the Argentine government have been steadfast, persistent and unwavering that the Interpol’s red notices be issued, remain in effect and not be suspend or removed.”
Noble’s denial raises an obvious question: Why would the Kirchner government, knowing that Nisman’s main claim could be easily refuted, have any reason to kill him on the eve of the presentation of his case? Why give those seeking to discredit the government’s policy on the AMIA bombing the opportunity to shift the issue from the facts of the case to the presumption of officially sponsored assassination?
The Kirchner-Timerman negotiation of an agreement with Iran in January 2013 for an “international truth commission” on the AMIA bombing that would have sent five respected international judicial figures to Iran to question the accused Iranians. That was a way of getting around the Iranian refusal to subject former high-ranking officials to Argentine justice. But Nisman was trying to prove that was an illicit cover-up for a cynical deal with Iran. He considered it “a betrayal of the country and his work”, according to his friend, Gustavo Perednik.
Nisman’s “criminal complaint” against Kirchner and Timerman claimed the government’s negotiations with Iran involved a “sophisticated criminal plan” to make a deal with one of the Iranians the prosecutor accused of the AMIA bombing, former cultural attaché Mohsen Rabbani. It asserted that Argentina promised Iran that it would lift the Interpol notices on the six Iranian in exchange for an “oil for grains” deal.
Nisman’s accusation was based on snippets of transcripts from 5,000 hours of wiretaps of conversations of allies of Kirchner government that have now been made public by a judge. One of the excerpts quotes Rabbani himself, in a conversation with an ally of Fernandez, as saying:
Iran was Argentina’s main buyer and now it’s buying almost nothing. That could change. Here [in Iran] there are some sectors of the government who’ve told me they are willing to sell oil to Argentina … and also to buy weapons.
The statement proves nothing, however, except that that Rabbani knew some Iranian officials who were interested in oil sales to Argentina. No evidence of Rabbani being involved in negotiating on behalf of Iran is suggested in the Nisman document, and the person at the other end of the line was not an Argentine official. So the conversation did not involve anyone who even had direct knowledge of the actual negotiations between the governments of Iran and Argentina.
The same thing applies to the other individuals who have been identified as speaking on the wiretaps in favour of such a deal. Those individuals are friendly with officials of the Kirchner government and friendly with Iran, but the actual negotiations were carried out by senior officials of the foreign ministries of Iran and Argentina, not by private individuals. The distinction between knowledge and hearsay is a fundamental principle in judicial processes for a very good reason.
The presentation of facts or allegations as proof of guilt, even though they proved nothing of the sort, was also a pattern that permeated Nisman’s 2006 “Request for Arrests” in the 1994 AMIA bombing. Contrary to the general reverence in the news media for his indictment of senior Iranian officials for their alleged responsibility for the bombing, his case was built on a massive accumulation of highly dubious and misleading claims, from the “irrefutable evidence” of Rabbani’s participation in planning to the identification of the alleged suicide car bomber. This writer’s investigation of the case over several months, which included interviews with US diplomats who had served in the Embassy in Buenos Aires in the years following the AMIA bombing as well as with the FBI official detailed to work on the case in 1996-97, concluded that the Argentine investigators never found any evidence of Iranian involvement.
Nisman asserted that the highest Iranian officials had decided to carry out the bombing at a meeting on 12 or 14 August, 1993, primarily on the testimony of four officials of the Mujahedeen E-Khalq (MEK), the Iranian exile terrorist group that was openly dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian regime. The four MEK officials claimed to know the precise place, date and time and the three-point agenda of the meeting.
When US Ambassador, Anthony Wayne, meeting with Nisman in November 2006, asked him about Argentine press reports that had criticised the document for using the testimony of “unreliable witnesses,” Nisman responded, according to the Embassy reporting cable, that “several of the witnesses were “former senior Iraqi [sic] officials, e.g. Bani Sadr, with direct knowledge of events surrounding the conception of the attacks.”
Nisman’s suggestion that former Iranian president Abolhassen Banisadr had “direct knowledge” related to the AMIA bombings was a stunningly brazen falsehood. Banisadr had been impeached by the Iranian legislature in June 1981 and had fled to Paris the following month – thirteen years before the bombing.
Nisman also cited the testimony of Abolghassem Mesbahi, who called himself a “defector” from the Iranian intelligence service, that Iranian officials had made such a decision sometime in August 1993. But Mesbahi was known by US intelligence analysts as a “serial fabricator”, who had also told an obviously false story about Iranian involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Nisman failed to mention, moreover, that Mesbahi had given a secret 100-page deposition to Argentine investigators in 2000 in Mexico in which he had claimed the planning for the attack had begun in 1992.
Nisman’s was so convinced of Iran’s guilt that he was ready to see almost any fact as supporting evidence, even when there was an obvious reason for doubting its relevance. For example, he cited Rabbani’s shopping for a van “similar to the one that exploded in front of the AMIA building a few months later.” In fact, however, as I reported in 2008, the Argentine investigation files include the original intelligence report on the surveillance of Rabbani showing that Rabbani’s visit to the car dealer was not “a few months” before the bombing, but a full fifteen months earlier.
Despite the Argentine intelligence following Rabbani’s every move and tapping his telephones for all those months, Nisman cites nothing indicating that Rabbani did anything indicating his involvement in preparations for a terror bombing. The FBI official who assisted the investigation told me in a November 2007 interview that the use of phone metadata to suggest that Rabbani was in touch with an “operational group” nothing but “speculation”, and said that neither he nor officials in Washington had taken it seriously as evidence or Rabbani’s involvement.
The fact that Nisman’s two indictments related to Iran and AMIA were extremely tendentious obviously does not dispose of the question of who killed him. But whatever the reason for his being killed, it wasn’t because he had revealed irrefutable truths about AMIA and Argentine government policy.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Reprinted from the Middle East Eye with the author’s permission.
Indictment of Iran for ’94 Terror Bombing Relied on
MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
Gareth Porter, IPS, August 07 2013: … The primary source is Reza Zakeri Kouchaksaraee, president of the Security and Intelligence Committee of the NCRI. The report quotes Kouchaksaraee as testifying to an Argentine Oral Court in 2003, “The decision was made by the Supreme National Security …
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 2013 (IPS) – Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman based his 2006 warrant for the arrest of top Iranian officials in the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 on the claims of representatives of the armed Iranian opposition Mujahedin E Khalq (MEK), the full text of the document reveals.
The central piece of evidence cited in Nisman’s original 900-page arrest warrant against seven senior Iranian leaders is an alleged Aug. 14, 1993 meeting of top Iranian leaders, including both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then president Hashemi Rafsanjani, at which Nisman claims the official decision was made to go ahead with the planning of the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA).
But the document, recently available in English for the first time, shows that his only sources for the claim were representatives of the MEK or People’s Mujahideen of Iran. The MEK has an unsavoury history of terrorist bombings against civilian targets in Iran, as well as of serving as an Iraq-based mercenary army for Saddam Hussein’s forces during the Iran-Iraq War.
The organisation was removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist groups last year after a campaign by prominent former U.S. officials who had gotten large payments from pro-MEK groups and individuals to call for its “delisting”.
Nisman’s rambling and repetitious report cites statements by four members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is the political arm of the MEK, as the sources for the charge that Iran decided on the AMIA bombing in August 1993.
The primary source is Reza Zakeri Kouchaksaraee, president of the Security and Intelligence Committee of the NCRI. The report quotes Kouchaksaraee as testifying to an Argentine Oral Court in 2003, “The decision was made by the Supreme National Security Council at a meeting that was held on 14 August, 1993. This meeting lasted only two hours from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.”
Nisman also quotes Hadi Roshanravani, a member of the International Affairs Committee of the NCRI, who claimed to know the same exact starting time of the meeting – 4:30 pm – but gave the date as Aug. 12, 1993 rather than Aug. 14.
Roshanravani also claimed to know the precise agenda of the meeting. The NCRI official said that three subjects were discussed: “The progress and assessment of the Palestinian Council; the strategy of exporting fundamentalism throughout the world; and the future of Iraq.” Roshanravani said “the idea for an attack in Argentina” had been discussed “during the dialogue on the second point”.
The NCRI/MEK was claiming that the Rafsanjani government had decided on a terrorist bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina as part of a policy of “exporting fundamentalism throughout the world”.
But that MEK propaganda line about the Iranian regime was contradicted by the U.S. intelligence assessment at the time. In its National Intelligence Estimate 34-91 on Iranian foreign policy, completed on Oct. 17, 1991, U.S. intelligence concluded that Rafsanjani had been “gradually turning away from the revolutionary excesses of the past decade…toward more conventional behavior” since taking over as president in 1989.
Ali Reza Ahmadi and Hamid Reza Eshagi, identified as “defectors” who were affiliated with NCRI, offered further corroboration of the testimony by the leading NCRI officials. Ahmadi was said by Nisman to have worked as an Iranian foreign service officer from 1981 to 1985. Eshagi is not otherwise identified.
Nisman quotes Ahmadi and Eshagi, who made only joint statements, as saying, “It was during a meeting held at 4:30 pm in August 1993 that the Supreme National Security Council decided to carry out activities in Argentina.”
Nisman does not cite any non-MEK source as claiming such a meeting took place. He cites court testimony by Abolghassem Mesbahi, a “defector” who had not worked for the Iranian intelligence agency since 1985, according to his own account, but only to the effect that the Iranian government made the decision on AMIA sometime in 1993. Mesbahi offered no evidence to support the claim.
Nisman repeatedly cites the same four NCRI members to document the alleged participation of each of the seven senior Iranians for whom he requested arrest warrants. A review of the entire document shows that Kouchaksaraee is cited by Nisman 29 times, Roshanravani 16 times and Ahmadi and Eshagi 16 times, always together making the same statement for a total of 61 references to their testimony.
Nisman cited no evidence or reason to believe that any of the MEK members were in a position to have known about such a high-level Iranian meeting. Although MEK propaganda has long claimed access to secrets, their information has been at best from low-level functionaries in the regime.
In using the testimony of the most violent opponents of the Iranian regime to accuse the most senior Iranian officials of having decided on the AMIA terrorist bombing, Nisman sought to deny the obvious political aim of all MEK information output of building support in the United States and Europe for the overthrow of the Iranian regime.
“The fact that the individuals are opponents of the Iranian regime does not detract in the least from the significance of their statements,” Nisman declared.
In an effort to lend the group’s testimony credibility, Nisman described their statements as being made “with honesty and rigor in a manner that respects nuances and details while still maintaining a sense of the larger picture”.
The MEK witnesses, Nisman wrote, could be trusted as “completely truthful”.
The record of MEK officials over the years, however, has been one of putting out one communiqué after another that contained information about alleged covert Iranian work on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, nearly all of which turned out to be false when they were investigated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The only significant exception to the MEK’s overall record of false information on the Iranian nuclear programme was its discovery of Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility and its Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
But even in that case, the MEK official who announced the Natanz discovery, U.S. representative Alireza Jafarzadeh, incorrectly identified it as a “fuel fabrication facility” rather than as an enrichment facility. He also said it was near completion, although it was actually several months from having the equipment necessary to begin enrichment.
Contrary to the MEK claims that it got the information on Natanz from sources in the Iranian government, moreover, the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported, a “senior IAEA official” told him in 2004 that Israeli intelligence had passed their satellite intelligence on Natanz to the MEK.
An adviser to Reza Pahlavi, the heir to the Shah, later told journalist Connie Bruck that the information about Natanz had come from “a friendly government”, which had provided it to both the Pahlavi organisation and the MEK.
Nisman has long been treated in pro-Israel, anti-Iran political circles as the authoritative source on the AMIA bombing case and the broader subject of Iran and terrorism. Last May, Nisman issued a new 500-page report accusing Iran of creating terrorist networks in the Western hemisphere that builds on his indictment of Iran for the 1994 bombing.
But Nisman’s readiness to base the crucial accusation against Iran in the AMIA case solely on MEK sources and his denial of their obvious unreliability highlights the fact that he has been playing a political role on behalf of certain powerful interests rather than uncovering the facts.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) Our Men in Iran?
(Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, April 2012)
… Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding …
Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, April 6 2012
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”
Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”
In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
MEK Pays US Officials, But Where Do The Iranian Exiles Get Their Money?
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult).
… Currently, there are rumors that the Israeli secret service is paying MEK to carry out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Three unnamed U.S. government officials told NBC news last month that Mossad had trained and paid MEK militants to conduct a spate of car bombings against targets like Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a university chemistry professor who doubled as a director of Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment facility, who was killed in Tehran in January after two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his Peugeot 405 …
Daniel Tovrov, IB Times, March 31 2012
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Treasury opened investigations into former government officials who have been paid speaking fees by the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian resistance group officially listed as a terrorist organization.
The subpoenaing of former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh and retired Gen. Hugh Shelton has cast an harsh light on other U.S. officials, including former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, as well as the organization they publicly support.
“They (MEK) are still on the terrorist list. The laws still apply. It is illegal in every sense of the word to finance them right now,” said Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council, a non-partisan community organization based in Washington.
The actual sum being paid to these officials is vague, but judging by the fees handed to certain individuals, the total could be in the millions. For example, Rendell was allegedly paid $150,000 for “seven or eight speeches,” according to reports. Giuliani, who spoke in at a conference in Paris, France on behalf of Iranian resistance figures alongside 18 other international guests, has been known to charge up to $100,000 for a single appearance and sometimes demands private jets to charter him to appearances.
Other former U.S. officials told the New York Times that the American supporters of MEK received between $15,000 and $30,000 per speech, yet others said they made appearances for free.
Where does an organization based in an Iraqi refugee camp for the last 25 years get so much money? While MEK has organized rallies and campaigns to have it delisted as a terrorist group in the past, it has never, by all accounts, spent the amount of money it has over the past year.
Currently, there are rumors that the Israeli secret service is paying MEK to carry out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Three unnamed U.S. government officials told NBC news last month that Mossad had trained and paid MEK militants to conduct a spate of car bombings against targets like Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a university chemistry professor who doubled as a director of Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment facility, who was killed in Tehran in January after two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his Peugeot 405.
MEK called the allegations “outright false,” but Israel has neither denied nor confirmed its own involvement in the attack.
If the NBC report is true, Israel would not be the first government to pay for MEK’s military expertise; from 1980 until the invasion of Iraq in 2003, MEK was funded by Saddam Hussein. Following the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” MEK joined Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War and fought viciously against the Ayatollah’s forces. MEK made Camp Ashraf, which is about 55 miles north of Baghdad, its permanent headquarters in 1986.
Some estimate that Hussein was paying as much as $30 million a month for at least 10 months — some of it allegedly run-off from the UN’s failed Oil-for-Food program — for MEK’s services, which included strikes against Kurdish and Shia rebels in Iraq.
Additionally, during the Iran-Iraq War, MEK leader Masoud Rajavi — whose wife Maryam Rajavi currently runs the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, MEK’s political arm — allegedly took control of all of his members’ assets, possessions and even their passports so they couldn’t leave Camp Ashraf.
“Between 1978, when I became MEK’s supporter, till 1996 when I escaped, through use of different techniques of mind manipulation I was forced to give them whatever they asked me,” explained Masoud Banisadr, MEK’s former U.S. spokesperson and the second cousin of Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic.
“First any capital or material things we had; then any love, attachments or relation we had with our country, our family and friends in Iran; then when they asked all members to divorce their spouses, I lost the love of my life, my dear wife and could not see my children for almost six years; I lost part of my health, and many times were on the edge of dying for them.”
In 2003, before the European Union took MEK off of its terror watch list, Maryam Rajavi and some 160 other Mujahedin were arrested by counter-terrorism police in a small town outside Paris. Authorities confiscated around $8 million in cash, which Trita Parsi believes was some of the last remaining funds of Saddam Hussein. All of the suspects were quickly released and the case was eventually dropped.
Follow the Money
MEK was put on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 1997. MEK supporters suggest this was a failed political move by the Clinton administration to soften relations with Tehran. Regardless, the organization says it is now a peaceful and democratic resistance movement, one allied with the U.S in its distrust of the current Iranian regime and Iran’s nuclear program. A slew of American officials, including Freeh, FBI Director at the time the terror list designation was made, and a number of military officers of the highest rank, have come to the support of MEK and lobbied for its removal from the terrorist list.
A 2004 FBI investigation uncovered a glut of shady fund-raising operations. According to the report, the voracity of which has been called into question, money raised by the Los Angeles and Washington D.C. “cells” was “transferred overseas through a complex international money laundering operation that uses accounts in Turkey, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.”
At one point, MEK was also operating charities called the Committee for Human Rights and Iran Aid, which claimed to raise money for Iranian refugees persecuted by the Islamic regime, but was later revealed to be a front for MEK’s military arm, the National Liberation Army.
All of this could account for some of MEK’s resources but would be unlikely to cover the exorbitant speaker fees recently doled out.
Moreover, MEK supporters would claim that if true, these practices were done during a previous incarnation of the group, the middle ground between being a fully-militant organization and a refugee group under U.S. military protection in Iraq.
Almost all of the former U.S. officials who support delisting were not actually paid by MEK, but by Iranian-American cultural organizations like the Iranian American Community of North Texas and the Iranian American Cultural Association of Missouri. This network of non-profits could be the best way to track MEK’s funding. According to experts, money from benefactors and pledge drives in Europe is sent to individuals in the United States, then onto front groups and finally given to American politicians. It’s complicated, but according to federal law, it’s still illegal.
“It’s much easier to move around money in Europe because MEK is no longer on the watch list,” said Parsi.
None of this may matter soon. MEK has filed a federal suit that would force the State Department, which says it continually evaluates the terrorist organization list anyway, to officially review the organization’s status within 30 days.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that a successful transfer from Camp Ashraf to former U.S. military base Camp Liberty, which is currently underway, will help speed up any potential delisting. If that happens, former politicians like Giuliani, ex-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton will continue to advocate for the MEK despite criticism and possible legal ramifications.
Working With the MEK is Bad Policy
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult).
… Iranians living under the regime’s yoke hate the MEK. That is not regime propaganda; it is fact, one to which any honest analyst who has ever visited Iran can testify. Ordinary Iranians deeply resent the MEK’s terrorism, which has targeted not only regime officials, but also led to the deaths of scores of civilians. During the Iran-Iraq War—a conflict that decimated cities and led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths—the MEK sided with Saddam Hussein. No Iranian will ever forgive that treason. Iranians see the MEK in the same manner that Americans view American Taliban John Walker Lindh …
Michael Rubin, Commentary Magazine, March 23 2012
Alana Goodman is correct to highlight the current battle between Attorney-General Eric Holder and a bipartisan array of prominent former U.S. officials who have accepted hefty honoraria from Mujahedin al-Khalq (MEK) front groups, even though the State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group. While cultivating prominent endorsers is one front in the group’s public relations battle, the largest war – and the reason the MEK has spent millions on former American officials – is for their support in its battle to be delisted as a terrorist entity.
There is no doubt that in the past, the MEK engaged in terrorism against Americans and that it has embraced a fiercely anti-Western ideology. Proponents of delisting the MEK, however, argue that the group has not engaged in terrorism against the United States or its interests for decades. The State Department may eventually be forced by the letter of the law to delist the MEK. That does not mean the group is entitled to any American support. The group’s culpability in recent terrorist attacks in Iran is murkier. Still, it would be a mistake to boil the MEK issue—and the question of U.S. support—down to the terrorism listing, however. Working with the MEK is simply bad policy.
Military action against Iran would delay the program only by a few years. True, the same estimate was made before Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and Saddam Hussein never managed to rebuild his program, but it would be foolish to assume the same would occur. After all, the Iranians will not be stupid enough to invade Kuwait.
The problem in Iran today is not simply the regime’s nuclear ambitions, but rather the regime itself. To use the military to delay Iran’s nuclear program—effectively kicking the can down the road—would be an irresponsible use of the military unless there is a policy in place to take advantage of the time won in any strike.
The problem with those who would embrace the MEK is that it would undercut the chance for regime collapse. To ally the United States with the MEK would be as shameful as President Obama’s moral inaction during the 2009 protests.
Iranians living under the regime’s yoke hate the MEK. That is not regime propaganda; it is fact, one to which any honest analyst who has ever visited Iran can testify. Ordinary Iranians deeply resent the MEK’s terrorism, which has targeted not only regime officials, but also led to the deaths of scores of civilians. During the Iran-Iraq War—a conflict that decimated cities and led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths—the MEK sided with Saddam Hussein. No Iranian will ever forgive that treason. Iranians see the MEK in the same manner that Americans view American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
If the MEK is delisted, let the MEK celebrate. But whether listed as a terrorist group or not, it would be wrong and counterproductive to embrace the group unless, of course, the goal of those for officials on the group’s payroll is simply to aid the current regime in its efforts to rally its subjugated masses around the flag.
Deeper into Terrorism
Assassinations Joint work of Israel and Mojahedin Khalq
(aka;MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult).
… Anyone in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else hoping for a salubrious regime change in Iran would be foolish to have anything to do with the MEK. Even more important than what is foolish is what is immoral. Terrorism denies the high ground to anyone who uses it, including the use of it in disagreements with Iran. It also hastens the slide through mutually reinforcing hostility into what may be a far more destructive form of violence (i.e., a war). Although the United States has not been involved in the assassinations, the nature of its relationship with Israel, both real and perceived means that Israel’s actions suck the United States farther down the slide …
Paul Pillar, The National Interest, Feb 09 2012
Although the assassinations of Iranian scientists have until now been followed by no indication of responsibility other than smug comments of satisfaction from officials of the most likely foreign state perpetrator, now NBC offers something more specific. According to a report by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, the assassinations have been the joint work of Israel and the Iranian cult-cum-terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq. According to the report, the partnership has involved Israel providing financing, training and arms to the MEK to accomplish the hits, as well as to commit other acts of violent sabotage inside Iran. The story tracks with accusations from officials of the Iranian government, who say they base most of what they know on interrogations and captured materials from a failed assassination attempt in 2010. Such accusations by themselves would be easy to dismiss, of course, as more of the regime’s propaganda. But the NBC story cites two senior U.S. officials, speaking anonymously, as confirming the story. A third official said “it hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet,” although like the others he denied any U.S. involvement. The Israeli foreign ministry declined comment; the MEK denied the story.
With or without confirmation of details of this story, the assassinations are terrorism. (The official U.S. government definition of terrorism for reporting and statistic-keeping purposes is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”) The extra twist in this new report is the use by Israel—already widely believed to have been responsible for the murders—of the MEK, a group with a long track record of terrorism that has included American victims. Other parts of that record, including the MEK having been an arm of Saddam Hussein’s security forces, have meant the group has almost no popular support within Iran. Anyone in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else hoping for a salubrious regime change in Iran would be foolish to have anything to do with the MEK.
Even more important than what is foolish is what is immoral. Terrorism denies the high ground to anyone who uses it, including the use of it in disagreements with Iran. It also hastens the slide through mutually reinforcing hostility into what may be a far more destructive form of violence (i.e., a war). Although the United States has not been involved in the assassinations, the nature of its relationship with Israel, both real and perceived (President Obama commented the other day about staying in “lockstep” with Israel on Iran), means that Israel’s actions suck the United States farther down the slide.
Amid all the reasons for dismay and outrage over this, there is also an irony. One of the oft-repeated rationales for the conventional wisdom that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be unacceptable is that it would somehow turn Iran into a regional marauder that would recklessly throw its weight around the Middle East in damaging ways. Well, there is an example of a Middle Eastern state that behaves in such a way, but it isn’t Iran. This state invades neighboring countries, ruthlessly inflicting destruction on civilian populations, and seizes and colonizes territory through military force. It also uses terrorist group proxies as well as its own agents to conduct assassinations in other countries in the region.
Besides terrorism, there also is, as with any prototypical rogue state, a nuclear weapons angle. This state, unlike Iran, has never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or admitted an international inspector to any of its nuclear facilities. Even though it has had a sizable arsenal of nuclear weapons for decades, it has kept its nuclear weapons program completely out of reach of any international scrutiny or arms control regime and does not even acknowledge the program’s existence. It also is so intent on maintaining its regional nuclear weapons monopoly that it is using terrorism to strike at the nuclear program of a country that doesn’t even have one nuclear weapon and probably hasn’t made a decision to make one.
One could almost argue that this record of behavior supports that conventional wisdom about what an Iranian nuke would do to Iran’s behavior. But actually it doesn’t. The behavior of the state in question is made possible not by nuclear weapons but instead by its conventional military superiority over its neighbors and by the cover provided by a subservient, protective great power whose policies it is able to manipulate.
The United States needs to distance itself as much as possible from this ugliness, for the sake of adhering to its own principles as well as trying to avoid sliding any further toward catastrophe. It was good that Secretary of State Clinton quickly disavowed the most recent assassination, but distancing requires something more. Forget the lockstep business. Israel is out of step with American policy because it evidently is out of step with American values and American interests. Washington needs to proclaim loudly and repeatedly that the sort of terrorism that the NBC report describes is the antithesis of how differences with Iran ought to be settled, and that those differences need to be settled through diplomacy. Then negotiate like we really mean it. Two distinguished retired U.S. diplomats, William Luers and Thomas Pickering, have recently provided some excellent instruction on how to do that.
The Group That’s Been Assassinating Iranian Scientists Wants To Be Removed From US Terror List
(Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
… Sources confirm that the Mujahedin-e-Khalq organization, which also is referred to as MEK or MKO, was involved with Israel in the current round of assassinations of two Iranian nuclear scientists and Iran’s top missile designer. To date, some five Iranian nuclear scientists have been targeted.Separately, the British Daily Mail reports that U.S. officials have confirmed that Israel has been funding and training Iranian dissidents to assassinate nuclear scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. officials also confirmed similar information to NBC News but quickly added that the United States isn’t involved in the assassinations …
F. Michael Maloof, Business Insider, February 27, 2012
A virulently anti-Iranian terrorist group has been credited by U.S. intelligence sources for the recent killings of Iranian nuclear scientists and Iran’s major missile developer, even while the organization is promoting a public relations effort – with the support of prominent Americans – to be removed from the U.S. State Department’s terrorist list.
Sources confirm that the Mujahedin-e-Khalq organization, which also is referred to as MEK or MKO, was involved with Israel in the current round of assassinations of two Iranian nuclear scientists and Iran’s top missile designer. To date, some five Iranian nuclear scientists have been targeted.
Separately, the British Daily Mail reports that U.S. officials have confirmed that Israel has been funding and training Iranian dissidents to assassinate nuclear scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear program.
U.S. officials also confirmed similar information to NBC News but quickly added that the United States isn’t involved in the assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists, although it apparently is aware of the alleged connection between the Israeli intelligence service Mossad and the MEK.
The assassinations also have resulted in what G2Bulletin has reported is a tit-for-tat by Iran, which reportedly assassinated a chemical scientist in Israel in reprisal for the killings of the Iranian scientists. Sources say this development constitutes a proxy war between Israel and Iran.
U.S. sources confirm the close relationship between Israel’s Mossad and the MEK. The association hasn’t gone unnoticed by Iranian officials.
“The relation is very intricate and close,” according to Mohammad Javad Larijani, who is a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s current supreme leader. “They (Israelis) are paying the mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents are providing Israel with information. And they recruit and also manage logistical support.
“Israel does not have direct access to our society,” Larijani added. “Mujahedin, being Iranian and being part of Iranian society, they have a good number of places to get in touch with people. So, I think they are working hand-to-hand very close. And we do have very concrete documents.”
Larijani apparently was referring to an interrogation of an MEK member in a failed assassination attempt in 2010 in which such documentation reportedly was found on him. Despite confirmation by U.S. intelligence sources of MEK involvement in continued assassinations, the MEK seeks to be removed from the U.S. terrorism list – a goal which has the backing from notable Americans, several members of Congress and a prominent Washington-based law firm.
The effort to delist the MEK is led by groups on both the left and right of the American political spectrum because of its anti-Iranian position and opposition to the Muslim clerics which lead the Islamic republic.
Yet, the MEK, also referred to as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or PMOI, has a history of having killed American citizens, was allied with the Iraqi regime of President Saddam Hussein and has been closely associated with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida.
In August 1998, for example, the MEK received assistance from the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida to assassinate 11 Iranian diplomats, journalists and innocent civilians in an attack on Shi’a Muslims in Afghanistan.
The MEK was first established in the 1960s by the college-educated children of many Iranian merchants who sought to counter what they viewed as excessive Western influence with the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a closed U.S. ally who reigned from 1941 to 1979 when the Islamic Revolution took place installing the clerics under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
In events leading up to the overthrow of the shah, the MEK staged numerous terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed a number of U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran.
The MEK also backed the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and for a time backed the clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini against nationalists and moderates within the revolution.
However, a power struggle occurred in late 1980 and by mid-1981 the MEK was engaged in street battles against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
The MEK sided with the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The group actually received refuge from Hussein and conducted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory.
U.S. intelligence sources tell G2Bulletin that the MEK was involved in the movement of al-Qaida members into eastern Iran after the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to escape U.S. detection. The eastern portion of Iran is regarded as a lawless Sunni haven of tribes loyal to al-Qaida. The region borders the Baluchistan province in neighboring Pakistan where many members of al-Qaida reside, along with other Sunni Islamist militants.
Iraq’s Hussein provided financial and logistical assistance to the MEK as a counter-balance to Shi’a Tehran.
Yet, the MEK in 2006 claimed that it had renounced violence in 2001 as it was seeking to have funds unfrozen by the European Union, which ultimately occurred.
With deep financial pockets, however, the MEK today has begun a major public relations campaign in the United States to be removed, or “delisted,” from the State Department’s U.S. terrorist list, formally known as the Foreign Terrorist Organization, list.
The MEK has enlisted the help of former U.S. cabinet members and other former American officials from both the left and right of the political spectrum. It also has legal representation for its delisting activities from a highly expensive Washington-based law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
The campaign to get delisted began in earnest last year with a kickoff event at the swanky Williard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Notable Washington insiders who have been tapped to speak on MEK’s behalf include Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean; John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Gen. Wesley Clark, retired former NATO supreme allied commander; Ed Rendell, former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania; Rudolph Giulani, former mayor of New York City; Porter Goss, former director of Central Intelligence; Lee Hamilton, former co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission; retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of Central Intelligence; and Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, among others.
In all, some 33 high-ranking former U.S. officials were listed as “prominent speakers at MEK-related Meetings and Conferences from December 2010-July 2011,” based on a list compiled by the Huffington Post.
In addition to Washington, events for MEK’s delisting efforts have featured these and other prominent speakers in Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris.
Because the MEK still is on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, these speakers cannot be paid directly. While MEK reportedly is spending millions of dollars to obtain these speakers, they are paid indirectly through numerous private Iranian-American booking agents who, in turn, pay the prominent American speakers from $20,000 to $40,000 for just an eight to 10 minute speech on MEK’s behalf.
In that way, the speakers technically aren’t accepting money directly from a terrorist organization, even though in presenting their speeches on behalf of the MEK they know the source of the money.
Now, the MEK is blanketing U.S. television with advertisements nationwide calling for the group’s delisting.
A State Department spokesman refused to comment on ongoing deliberations to consider the MEK’s request to be delisted, a process which formally has been under way for more than a year. However, the State Department has yet to make a decision.
(Ali Safavi, coach witnesses before and during the hearing)
(Ali Safavi as the commander of Saddam’s Private Army in Iraq)
(Daniel Zucker, Maryam Rajavi and ALi Safavi in terror HQ in Paris )
(Alireza Jafarzadeh and Michael Mukasey prior to his testimony)
Jafarzadeh representing terrorist organisation NCRI
(Picture form MKO/ NCRI clandestine television)
Jafarzadeh has already published his suicide bombing note
Press TV, January 25 2015:… The “real move against the government was the prosecutor’s death… They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead. It is that sad and terrible,” the Buenos Aires Herald quoted Kirchner as writing in a letter on Thursday. In July 1994, a car bomb exploded at the building of the Argentine Israelite Mutual …
Iran Interlink, February 04 2015:… A review authored by Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh has been published in Asian Politics and Policy, Media Reviews. The article titled ‘The Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and Its Media Strategy: Methods of Information Manufacture’ looks at the MEK’s historical manipulation of various media over thirty years …
Mazda Parsi, Nejat Bloggers, February 04 2015:… The Argentinean special prosecutor is glorified by Israeli and MKO authorities because he could manage to run a not so credible propaganda against Islamic Republic to give the wrong impression that Iranian official were behind the AMIA terror attack. As Belen Fernandez asserts, “The case against Iran …