Like flies to honey, each year, a bipartisan array of senior American politicians and former officials flock to France, Albania, or, in the age of COVID-19, Zoom in order to speak to the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s annual conference and rally. It is a lucrative gig, even by the standards of Washington A-listers: Five and six-figure honoraria and speakers’ fees are common for retired officials — not a bad deal for a three- or four-minute speech. Sitting officials expect to receive lucrative campaign contributions.
Former New York City mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is a repeat speaker, as is former senator and United Against Nuclear Iran Chairman Joe Lieberman. Former national security adviser John Bolton is also a frequent speaker. Earlier this week, Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense and perennial hopeful for the Pentagon’s top spot, made her debut, as did Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The retired four-star U.S. Army general and Fox News contributor Jack Keane also spoke.
But this isn’t just any summit. The group is the political front for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, an organization whose roots rest in 1960s-era opposition to the Shah. A short history of the group’s evolution through different from Marxist-infused Islamism to its current rhetorical embrace of democracy is here.
In reality, its leaders Masoud and Maryam Rajavi rule with an iron fist. It runs as a cult with its rank-and-file cut off from their families and the broader society. Its literature reads like a Lyndon LaRouche diatribe. Footnotes may look legitimate but pull readers down a rabbit hole of nonexistent sourcing, irrelevancies that do not substantiate their points, and dead links.
Claims about high support inside Iran are fiction.
Ordinary Iranians despise their regime but see the MKO as worse. Many resent the MKO’s terrorism that as often killed innocent Iranians as the regime officials they targeted. More despise the group for siding with Iraq during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In effect, ordinary Iranians see the MKO as people in the United States see John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. While this does not excuse the regime’s torture and its execution of MKO members, it is not clear that those who died in 1988 would recognize the group today.[..]
I have spoken with some Washington luminaries who attend the MKO events. Their approach is cynical. To paraphrase one: If the regime falls, ordinary Iranians will sort it out, so who cares if we get an honorarium for a conference? Certainly, the Rajavis know this, so then, the question is: Why do they persist in arranging such a high honorarium? What is in it for them?
Perhaps, as with many cult leaders, they live in an alternate reality, or perhaps they believe the price of legitimacy that comes from rubbing elbows with top officials is worth it. The tragedy, however, is that the appearance of supporting a group so despised by Iranians actually benefits the existing regime. [..]
As important, it serves as a barometer of corruption in Washington. Iranians put their lives on the line every day. They do not want direct interference, but they want to know they have allies in pursuit of liberty. To cash out their aspirations and side with those opposing liberty and democracy for a $40,000 check represents the worst aspects of Washington culture.
It may not be illegal to participate in a Rajavi rally or to attach one’s name to a ghostwritten Mujahedin-e-Khalq piece in the same way that Gen. Mike Flynn did with Erdoganists, but it does signal an embrace of greed above principle and a willingness to sell out the freedom agenda.
Giuliani’s transformation of himself from America’s mayor to a figure of ridicule is an extreme example, but his embrace of a wacky cult was an early warning sign of his true character. People of both parties should view attendance at future Mujahedin-e-Khalq rallies in the same way — as a barometer of corruption that neither Republicans nor Democrats should accept in their leadership.
By Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner,