Massoud Rajavi is in danger of losing everything he ever had. The devastating significance for him of losing Camp Ashraf should not be underestimated. A 40km square piece of land containing a nuclear bunker, arms caches, a satellite communications system, its own water and power supplies, dormitories, refectories, meeting rooms and leisure facilities, has been replaced for the residents by a 1km square area with prefab huts for living quarters. And their marching orders to leave Iraq ASAP.
Worst of all is that Rajavi has lost the ability to completely isolate his people from the outside world. As hard as the MEK leaders try to keep it closed, Camp Liberty is porous to external access as Camp Ashraf never was. It is regularly visited by representatives from the UN, EU, US and various NGOs and security at the camp is taken care of by Iraq’s security forces. The Iraqi authorities have even kept open a hotel in Baghdad, hired during the transfer process, to house any residents who do not wish to live in the basic conditions of Camp Liberty.
All this has made it possible for people to leave the MEK. It is a slow and difficult process of attrition because the cult maintains an iron grip on the residents through its psychologically coercive, high-pressure indoctrination process which is characterised by a daily confession and punishment regime for every single person from rank and file to leadership. The danger that is absolutely paramount in Rajavi’s mind is that sooner or later the cult will be dismantled, its membership dispersed and he will be left alone.
It is in this context that the controversial US Library of Congress report which asserts that Iran’s Intelligence agency has 30,000 employees should be placed for meaningful analysis and assessment.
The leaked report has been quickly and decisively exposed as a sham. And it should be clear to careful readers that the (privately commissioned and paid) report hasn’t been written for the MEK but has been written by the MEK; it contains much MEK cult jargon and many second language-user errors. Beyond this, the sources for much of the content can be traced directly to MEK websites which are, unsurprisingly, no longer functioning.
Why would the MEK risk publicising this easily refuted piece of nonsense?
Educated observation of its behaviours and statements will reveal that the MEK is not an actual player in the political scene, and that much of what the cult does publicly is really designed for internal consumption rather than as part of a policy platform to confront Iran. (Anyone who has direct dealings with MEK members will know that expecting transparency or consistency from them is like asking a drunk to walk in a straight line.
By commissioning this report Rajavi has created a fraudulent narrative with which to deceive his followers. His intention is to persuade as many as possible to remain in Camp Liberty, rather than be transferred to third countries by the UNHCR, by giving them false hope and expectations for the future of the MEK.
What Rajavi is saying through this report is that in spite of being incarcerated in Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty for ten years doing nothing, the MEK is in fact engaged in a serious head to head fight with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the shape of the Khodabandeh family. The Khodabandehs are libellously depicted in the report as “agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence”. According to Rajavi’s narrative the Khodabandehs are at the forefront of a massive spy network spread throughout the world and tasked to destroy the MEK. He has chosen to ‘promote’ the Khodabandeh family to this position because they are the most prolific and effective English language critics of his cult. He can motivate the residents of Camp Liberty to stay on in order to fight this enemy.
Rajavi has bigged up the Khodabandeh family and the hundreds of former MEK members who are vociferous in their criticisms because he is being defeated by their exposures. He has created the excuse that they are the face of the Iranian regime and extremely powerful and that is why it is so difficult to defeat them. (Interestingly only days ago Rajavi told the residents inside the camp that if they hear anything bad about him -he means the allegations of sexual abuse against women members -they should ignore such talk. Their only task is to accept his leadership and be confident that, in good time, he will answer his enemies. In other words he is instructing the MEK not to think, only to unquestioningly obey.)
But Rajavi’s deceptive narrative continues: do not be concerned about this fight with the regime, do not run away from it, because the MEK has the backing of the most powerful people in the American political establishment, the Israeli lobby and the Neoconservatives. Rajavi promised that the report would receive massive coverage in the American media and be supported at the highest levels in the American establishment as evidence that the only way to confront Iran is military action; that is, war.
His intention is to convince the MEK that he has found a replacement for Saddam’s regime in the Israeli lobby and Neoconservatives in Europe and the US. (In other times he has been prepared to fake mercenary status for the MEK to imply such support.)
The problem for Rajavi is that this didn’t happen. The report was leaked to the press as planned, but there was no media fest. Instead the report was pulled back "for revision" when the Library of Congress realised the shoddy piece of work was ripe for investigation: how was it possible for a group like the MEK to infiltrate its disinformation into the ‘Irregular Warfare Support’ office of the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office in the Pentagon? The investigation has even gone as far as Brussels where Members of the European Parliament are now being questioned about their use of this unpublished, un-attributed report to interfere in the asylum process for Iranian refugees.
Rajavi has exposed his weakness not only in Iraq where the residents of Camp Liberty are drifting away from his control, but in the heart of Washington. Exposure of the lies and distortions in the report mean that Rajavi is not being protected and promoted as he has said by powerful people in the capital. Not only that, the defeat he is facing really is at the hands of former members and not the powerful Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.
Perhaps now a line can be drawn under this issue and the focus of attention placed back where it belongs; Camp Liberty and the 3000+ cult hostages – and their families – whose future still remains uncertain.
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Middle East Strategy Consultants