In the latest sign of Western double standards in dealing with the issue of terrorism, a slate of former and current Western officials participated in a gathering held by a widely detested Iranian opposition group that is known for its role in carrying out thousands of targeted assassinations inside Iran in the 1980s.
The group, Mojahedin-e-Khalq, also known by its initials MEK or MKO, began its annual three-day conference online on Saturday with several former and current American and European officials delivering paid speeches via videoconference. The officials mostly launched into worn-out tirades about Iran’s internal and foreign policy.
About 30 members of U.S. Congress are expected to participate in this year’s conference of MEK, including Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as former ministers and officials from Europe, the United States and Canada.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa also delivered a speech at the conference, drawing harsh criticism from Iran and promoting the Iranian Foreign Ministry to summons the Slovenian ambassador to Tehran.
In a statement on Sunday, the ministry called Jansa’s move “unacceptable and undiplomatic.”
“After the presence of Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa in the virtual meeting of Mojahedin-e-Khalq terrorist grouping, the Iranian foreign minister’s assistant and director general of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe department of the Foreign Ministry summoned Slovenia’s ambassador to Tehran Ms. Christina Radi and after conveying Iran’s strong protest against this move and the baseless accusations leveled against the Islamic Republic of Iran, gave her Iran’s official notice of protest against the government of Slovenia,” the ministry said in a statement.
“During the meeting, it was emphasized that Iran condemns the virtual presence of Slovenia’s premier in the gathering of a terrorist group, loathed among the great Iranian nation, as well as the official’s false and nonsensical remarks, which run counter to diplomatic norms and the atmosphere of bilateral relations,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, noting, “This is besides the fact that supporting a terrorist grouping violates the UN charter, recognized international principles and human rights values and is, under no pretext, acceptable.”
The Western officials’ participation in the MKO conference reflects a deeply flawed understanding of Iran on the part of the West. Every year, dozens of these officials flocked to Paris to deliver furious speeches to the cheers of a mostly hired audience. They kept participating, though virtually, in the MEK gatherings even during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, most of these officials do so for the sake of money. At the end of the day, MEK offers irresistible lump sums for short appearances and thus one can make a quick buck within a few minutes by reading an already prepared text or regurgitating what had been said by others all the time.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh pointed to this issue in a tweet on Saturday, saying, “Bought western politicians (incl #LyingCheatingStealing Pompeo) sell themselves cheap for a Europe-hosted circus arranged by a once Saddam-backed terrorist cult with Iranian blood on its hands. Insatiable thirst for $$ & anti-Iran obsession is driving shameful western hypocrisy.”
But some participants appear in MEK gatherings with different goals. It is difficult to imagine that some influential former and current officials show up at these gatherings simply to make money. For Example, former Saudi spy chief Turki al-Faisal is by no means in need of the money of a group facing growing accusations of being on the Saudi payroll.
This type of officials often sees MEK as their last hope of bringing about fundamental political change in Iran while falsely believing that the group is capable of bringing down the Iranian government. But this is wishful thinking simply because MEK has no constituency in Iran and its propaganda of being “the most organized Iranian opposition group” rests only on its ability to pay off hapless refugees and adventurous college students to fill in for real Iranians.
The lack of popularity among ordinary Iranians begs the question of why MEK has been confined to the dustbin of history in Iran. MEK’s unpopularity among the Iranians stems from two things: First, the group had been implicated in many terrorist attacks and assassinations in Iran in the 1980s. Second, while the group was going on a killing spree in Iran its leaders colluded with Iran’s number one nemesis, Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq who gave them many military bases near Baghdad. With the military support of Saddam, MEK mounted a devastating military attack on Iran that led to its forever eradication in the country. Iranians have never forgotten, nor have they forgiven, this act of treason by MEK.
This may explain why the Iranian people feel offended when they see Western officials advocate for “freedom” in Iran to be achieved by a group having the blood of thousands of Iranians on its hands. The main reason why Iran usually accuses the West of sponsoring terrorism is their continued, brazen support for MEK, which has been on the blacklist of the U.S. and the European Union until recently.
Iran has always complained that the West supported terrorism. And Western participation in MEK “circus” gives Iran all the more reason to repeat this complaint. For Iran, the Western support of terrorism represented by MEK is not an exception. Instead, it’s a tradition deeply rooted in Western hypocrisy and is a habit the West finds difficult to kick.