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Michael Rubin: Why Do Iranians Hate the Mujahedin-e-Khalq So Much?

The senior fellow of the Washington Examiner, has found it vital to warn the US politicians who advocate the MEK despite its violent history and its cult-like nature. This is the third piece written by Rubin in order to inform paid politicians that the MEK is hated by the Iranian people:

I once asked a senior American official about why he accepted honoraria from the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or the MKO, given the group’s cultlike nature and its lack of popularity inside Iran. His response: Even if the group lied about its support, they said the right things about democracy and regime change, and so he saw no harm in collecting the cash. The regime’s fall, he said, would be a moment of truth: Either the MKO would prove itself right, or its political Ponzi scheme would collapse.

Michael Rubin

Michael Rubin

Rubin gives a comprehensive record of how he is so well-informed about the aspirations of the Iranian public in response to critics including the MEK agents who label him as the agent of the Iranian intelligence:

The problem with engaging in the MKO’s endorsement-for-cash scheme is the impact it has on ordinary Iranians. I spent seven months in Iran during the 1990s, during both the administrations of the late President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his successor Mohammad Khatami.

MKO representatives have rejected my calls that they open their books and suggested I must do so first, suggesting that this Jewish neoconservative ex-Bush administration Iran hawk must be, if not a Manchurian candidate, then a “Mashhadian” one supporting the ayatollahs’ regime. This is silly but reflective of MKO diversion. There is no secret about my time in Iran: First Yale University and then the American Institute of Iranian Studies funded my work, which focused on language study and archival research in pursuit of a Ph.D. dissertation about telegraphy in 19th-century Iran. So too was my participation in a Tabriz conference marking the 90th anniversary of the 1909 Constitutional Revolution. I spoke on the telegraph system at the time. It was not riveting. After leaving Iran for the last time, I penned this short monograph on the history of secret societies and vigilante groups in the country.

Over the course of those seven months in the country, I engaged with hundreds if not thousands of ordinary Iranians: shopkeepers, bus drivers and passengers, grocery store clerks, doctors and lawyers; Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and Muslims; and residents from the Azeri northwest to the Baluchi southeast.

His knowledge about the Iranian public opinion is not actually restricted to his trip to Iran:

While the regime banned me from Iran more than two decades ago, I have continued my conversations. I regularly meet Iranian religious pilgrims in Iraq; it is not hard to strike up a conversation in the lounge of Baghdad or Najaf International airports. Whether in 1996 or today, there are commonalities: Iranians do not hesitate talking about their hope for change. Some were curious about the exiled shah’s son. Many just wanted a parliamentary democracy absent the ayatollahs, and to be a normal country.

There were two items, however, on which all Iranians agreed:
First, change must be internal. Iran has suffered its share of foreign interventions over the centuries, and the country has suffered because of them. No Iranian wants to be bombed or invaded. To do so would be counterproductive and, as after the 1980 Iraqi invasion, allow the regime to rally Iranians around the nationalist flag.
Second, Iranians despised the MKO. The group was an early ally of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After Khomeini purged them as rivals, many died in his prisons, but the group’s leadership fled to Iraq.
Rubin gives a brief but accurate answer to the main question of his article, “Why Do Iranians Hate the Mujahedin-e-Khalq So Much?”
There they made two mistakes that few Iranians will forgive: They allied themselves to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as he was lobbing missiles into Iranian cities and killing their conscripted fathers, sons, and brothers. They also launched a wave of terror to destabilize the regime, killing hundreds of innocent bystanders in the process. Put another way, Iranians look at the MKO as Americans see American Taliban John Walker Lindh or deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

And he concludes why US politicians should not advocate the MEK with its entire history of violence, treason and cult-like attitude:

The point is this: Paying lip service to the MKO has a price. It endorses a group Iranians believe worse than the current regime. If John Walker Lindh gave money to aspiring American politicians, it would disqualify them in American eyes. For Iran’s leaders, those five-figure MKO honoraria are a godsend that deflates and delegitimizes the grassroots opposition. Americans should stand with the Iranian people, not sell them out for cash.

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