An official in U.S. President Donald Trump’s cupboard and no less than considered one of his advisers gave paid speeches for an Iranian exile group that killed Individuals earlier than the 1979 Islamic Revolution, ran donation scams and noticed its members set themselves on fireplace over the arrest of their chief.
Elaine Chao, confirmed this week as Trump’s transportation secretary, obtained $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech to the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, beforehand known as a “cult-like” terrorist group by the U.S. State Division.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani additionally was paid an unknown sum to speak to the group, generally known as the MEK.
Greater than two dozen former U.S. officers, each Republican and Democratic, have spoken earlier than the MEK, together with former Home Speaker and Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. Some have publicly acknowledged being paid, however others haven’t.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence seems over at Elaine Chao shortly earlier than her swearing-in as transportation secretary on Jan. 31. Chao obtained $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech to the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, categorised within the U.S. as a terrorist group till 2012. (Susan Walsh/Related Press)
Whereas nothing would have prohibited the paid speeches, they elevate questions on what affect the exiles could have within the new administration.
Already, a gaggle of former U.S. officers, together with Giuliani, wrote a letter to Trump final month encouraging him to “set up a dialogue” with the MEK’s political arm. With Trump’s ban on Iranians getting into the U.S., his administration’s name this week to place Iran “on discover” and the imposition of latest sanctions on Friday, the exile group could discover his administration extra welcoming than any earlier than.
Uncovered particulars of Iran nuclear program
A possible alliance with the MEK would hyperlink the U.S. to a gaggle with a controversial historical past that has gone in opposition to American pursuits up to now by supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. After fleeing Iran, the MEK joined forces with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It later uncovered particulars of the clandestine nuclear program run by Iran, which views the MEK as its sworn enemy.
“The Mujahedeen have backed the profitable horse. They’re going to have some no less than entree into the administration,” mentioned Ervand Abrahamian, a professor on the Metropolis College of New York who wrote a ebook on the MEK. “I believe it weakens the U.S. as a result of the extra they’ve entry to the administration, the extra individuals in Iran are going to be petrified of something the U.S. does.”
The MEK lengthy has cultivated a roster of former U.S. and European officers to attend its occasions opposing Iran’s clerically run authorities. It pays for the looks of many.
Chao, the spouse of Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, spoke earlier than an MEK convention in 2015 in Paris. She additionally had a seat subsequent to Maryam Rajavi, the “president-elect” of the Nationwide Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the MEK.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks at a pro-democracy rally on Sept. 24, 2013 in entrance of portraits of deceased members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. The group blamed Iraqi safety forces for killing 52 of its members on Sept. 1, 2013 in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. (Mariko Tama/Getty Pictures)
Chao obtained a $50,000 honorarium from the MEK-associated Alliance for Public Consciousness, in keeping with a report she filed with the U.S. Workplace of Authorities Ethics. Chao obtained one other $17,500 honorarium for March 2016 speech she gave to the Iranian-American Cultural Affiliation of Missouri, which MEK opponents additionally hyperlink to the exile group.
The Division of Transportation mentioned in a press release that Chao has a “robust document of talking out in help of democracy and girls’s rights within the Center East,” however “has not spoken to MEK occasions.”
It added that her speeches have been delivered alongside bipartisan members of Congress, governors, prime ministers, ambassadors, generals, former FBI Administrators and “many different influential voices.”
Giuliani has acknowledged being paid for his appearances at MEK occasions. Nonetheless, he hasn’t filed a authorities disclosure type since his failed 2008 Republican presidential bid, so it is unclear how a lot the MEK has paid him in whole. Giuliani didn’t reply to an AP request for remark despatched by way of his aides.
Gingrich has additionally spoken to the MEK earlier than, together with at a gala in 2016, though it isn’t clear whether or not or how a lot he was paid. Gingrich couldn’t be reached for remark. The White Home additionally didn’t remark.
‘The core of the coverage that we’re advocating is to be powerful with the Iranian regime, to not ignore its crimes in opposition to the Iranian individuals.’ – Mohammad Mohaddessin of MEK political wing
The MEK welcomes the incoming Trump authorities, as “some individuals inside this administration” plan to alter American insurance policies towards Iran, mentioned Mohammad Mohaddessin, the chairman of the international affairs committee of its political arm.
“The core of the coverage that we’re advocating is to be powerful with the Iranian regime, to not ignore its crimes in opposition to the Iranian individuals,” he mentioned.
The White Home had no remark.
The MEK shaped in 1965. They embraced each Marxism and the concept of an Islamic authorities after the violent overthrow of the American-backed shah who dominated Iran on the time. Their title, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, means “the Folks’s Holy Warriors.”
Marxist splinter faction blamed for U.S. deaths
They carried out a string of focused assassinations hitting Iranian officers, in addition to Individuals. Nonetheless, the MEK at this time blames a Marxist splinter faction of the group for killing the Individuals.
The MEK fled Iran and later discovered refuge from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Closely armed by Saddam, MEK forces launched cross-border raids into Iran throughout its with battle with Iraq, additional alienating the group from common Iranians. The MEK says it renounced violence in 2001.
The U.s. State Division has described the MEK as having “cult-like traits.” When French police arrested Rajavi in 2003 as a part of a terrorism investigation, MEK members responded by lighting themselves. A minimum of two individuals died.
Through the years, the MEK has mentioned their group receives cash from Iranians to fund their operations. Nonetheless, the group has been focused by a collection of investigations around the globe for operating charity scams.
Mohaddessin blames the investigations on a concerted misinformation marketing campaign carried out by Iran.
MEK despatched letter to Trump for dialogue
The MEK’s success in getting former U.S. officers behind them might be seen in a letter dated Jan. 9 despatched to Trump simply earlier than his inauguration.
“We repeat the decision for the U.S. authorities to determine a dialogue with Iran’s exile resistance,” learn the letter signed by Giuliani and others.
Whether or not Trump’s administration kinds nearer ties to the MEK is but to be seen. Nonetheless, exile teams have not at all times been confirmed to be dependable American allies within the Center East. Exiled politician Ahmad Chalabi closely lobbied the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq by pushing false allegations of weapons of mass destruction and hyperlinks to al-Qaeda.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations didn’t reply to a request for remark.
However whereas the MEK continues to pay former U.S. officers for his or her time, the household of the American lieutenant colonel killed in Iran in 1975 has filed a $35-million federal lawsuit in Colorado in opposition to the group and Iran.
The explanation for the lawsuit, Jack Turner’s household says, is easy: “In contrast to the U.S. hostages, our father by no means had the prospect to come back residence.”