The turn of events in recent weeks, from Albania to France, bear testimony to what was clear from the very beginning – the multi-billion dollar investments from Western powers in the anti-Iran terror cult have been an exercise in futility.
The ambitious project, by all accounts and based on available evidence, has failed disastrously.
Many political pundits in the West were taken by surprise after the Albanian police announced a search operation at the Ashraf-3 camp late last month, which eventually ended the clandestine nine-year relationship between the Albanian government and Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO).
All these years, Albanian authorities sought to justify the presence of the MKO camp in Tirana, fulfilled all their demands, rejected Iranian criticism, and even persecuted Iranian defectors from the camp.
On June 20, the situation changed dramatically. Dozens of Albanian police officers arrived at the MKO camp on the order of the country’s judiciary, confiscated 150 computers and sealed 17 buildings while prohibiting future illegal political activities of the notorious terror cult.
Residents of the terror camp responded violently, trying to block the passage of police vehicles and physically attacking the policemen. At least 15 officers and 100 residents were injured in ensuing clashes, and one notorious MKO commander was killed under mysterious circumstances.
More than a week later, Albanian police entered the Ashraf-3 again and security forces were deployed at the camp’s entrance, controlling all vehicles entering and leaving the site.
After the police operations, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said the group must leave the country if it wants to use Albanian soil as a platform for its illegal political operations against Iran, adding that his country has no intention of being at war with the Islamic Republic.
Iranian officials welcomed the operations against the terror cult, with foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani insisting that the MKO will always remain a threat to the security of its host countries and expressing hope that Albania would make up for its mistake of hosting the group.
Iran’s intelligence ministry described the anti-MKO operations in Albania as a step forward in bilateral relations between the two countries, adding that it is seriously pursuing terrorists beyond Iran’s borders, following a string of successful operations that led to the arrest of MKO-affiliated terrorists.
The statement also noted that the intelligence ministry has repeatedly warned Albanian and European security services about the MKO’s terrorist activities, particularly from its Ashraf-3 base in Tirana.
World’s largest troll factory
The notorious MKO terrorist camp was established in 2013 near Manze, a town some 30 km northwest of Albania’s capital Tirana, at the request of the US government.
Before moving to Albania, thousands of MKO members stayed in two camps in Iraq for decades, starting in the 1980s when they were welcomed by then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The two allies fought together in the imposed eight-year war on Iran and genocidal campaigns against Iraqi minorities. In the war, as well as during the Islamic Revolution, the MKO used terrorism as a tool against the Iranian nation and was responsible for the death of at least 17,000 Iranians.
Although the post-2003 Iraqi government designated the MKO as a terrorist group, its camps enjoyed US military protection during the occupation of the Arab country, since Washington saw MKO terrorists as an asset for various proxy anti-Iranian activities.
Thousands of indoctrinated MKO members may sound like a valuable asset against Iran, but MKO watchers argue that they are all veterans, mostly born in the 1950s, and practically unfit for military and intelligence field operations in today’s time.
On the other hand, knowledge of the Persian language, indoctrination and lifelong commitment to the cult makes them ideal tools for psychological warfare in cyberspace.
Camp Ashraf-3 was installed in 2013 for such activities, according to those who have followed the group.
With an infrastructure twice the size of the US Pentagon and an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 employees, Ashraf-3 is without a doubt the largest troll factory ever. In other words, a troll mega-factory.
As evidenced by defectors’ statements and previous media investigations, the main function of this secret camp is to harm Iran’s reputation in the eyes of the international audience, portraying it as an unstable or even failed state, with huge disaffected masses.
The Die Zeit investigation revealed that at least 40 children and young people, who had come to Germany
Influencing public opinion is carried out primarily on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other widely used social networks, on popular newspaper comment sections, and elsewhere.
The cult also operates several media outlets, either openly pro-MKO or disguised as human rights activism, which distribute misinformation and distorted interpretations of various daily events in Iran.
Close dalliance with anti-Iranian propaganda outlets such as Iran International or other Persian-language media is well-documented, with both sides frequently using each other as a source for fake news.
Also, non-media activities are focused mostly on the online recruitment of operatives inside Iran who would assist them in field terrorist activities, in exchange for promised rich monetary rewards and subsequent transfer to Western countries.
Social media activities
MKO’s propaganda activities go far beyond politics, with thousands of trolls on duty round-the-clock, closely following popular Iran-related keywords and plaguing all political and apolitical posts.
One notable case that illustrates their activities is the attack on Raffaele Mauriello, an Italian professor living in Iran, only because he posted a series of nice-looking photos from Tehran cafes on Twitter to show the interesting lives of his compatriots in Iran.
Within only a few minutes, a gang of aggressive trolls appeared, obviously attracted by the keyword “Tehran,” heaping attacks, insults, threats and accusations that he is a government mercenary.
Their goal was to show the global audience that nothing related to Iran, from politics and religion to ordinary life and public space, can be clean, beautiful or normal, nor any way different from the negative images forced by the Western mass media.
Regardless of all the sophistication of the propaganda methods and the denial of using them in the MKO official statements, their campaign did not pass without problems and multiple exposures.
MKO defectors from Ashraf-3 revealed in 2019 that Heshmat Alavi, a self-proclaimed human rights activist who has given interviews to several popular Western outlets and is active on Twitter with a blue tick, is actually a non-existent person whose Twitter account is maintained by MKO members.
Malicious activities have also been confirmed by social networks themselves, such as Facebook, which shut down hundreds of fake accounts in 2021 and confirmed that it was a troll factory from the same location in Albania. In other words, from camp Ashraf-3.
In October 2021, the German weekly Die Zeit published an investigative report on the MKO.
Failures are also recorded outside social media networks, e.g. on popular websites like Wikipedia, where technical staff in June blocked multiple accounts (nicknamed Fad Ariff, Iraniangal777, etc.) due to years of coordinated and sophisticated abuse, as per an investigation carried out by the Press TV website.
Although the terrorist cult was not mentioned by name in the technical analysis, in the editing history of those accounts it is clearly evident that their sole purpose was to whitewash the MKO terror cult’s crimes, as well as to inflame topics related to the recent foreign-backed riots in Iran.
This was done by a swarm of reverts and harassment of other editors, by removing Iranian and scholarly sources, and by forcing anti-Iran media and MKO-paid Western politicians’ statements for references.
The openly available page statistics of the main article about the MKO terror cult testify that the three problematic accounts are among the top ten most active in the page’s editorial history.
It also reveals that the article has been opened over a quarter of a million times, which makes it probably the most visited online info page on the subject.
Thematic focus, technical evidence, familiarity with the Persian language and editorial habits such as increased activity in the mornings in Central European Time (a pattern already exposed by Facebook), strongly suggest that it is again the MKO troll factory.
MKO’s Paris rally
At the beginning of July, when mass protests against the Emmanuel Macron government were raging in France, the annual MKO rally was held in Paris, another manifestation of their manipulative activities.
This event included hall speeches by the MKO leadership, anti-Iranian politicians from the Neocon-Zionist milieu, paid speakers from various countries, as well as a final group photographed in front of a crowd of MKO flag-waving people on the street.
The purpose of the event was to create the false illusion of massive international and popular support for the MKO terror cult, although most of the speakers were actually paid former politicians without any current roles, while the audience also consisted mainly of rent-a-crowd non-Iranians.
The official audience scenes were filmed in a truly totalitarian fashion, with a handful of real MKO members seated in the front rows and on the two sides, and the non-Iranian majority seated in the middle, thus creating a false impression of “all-Iranian” support for the rally.
Iran condemns France for hosting a meeting of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) terror group.
The rally was useful in reminding real Iranians worldwide of how enduring the Neocon-Zionist hatred is, how cheap European politicians are, and that the moral values of both groups of people are at the level of an ordinary terrorist, according to MKO watchers.
Among the speakers were notorious American warmongers John Bolton, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Joseph Lieberman, former Canadian ministers John Baird and Stephen Harper, former British PM Elizabeth Truss, and former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, among others.
Some new faces from countries that did not participate before were also seen at the meeting, namely Kira Rudyk and Alyona Shkrum from the Parliament of Ukraine, as well as Nagif Hamzayev and Razi Nurullayev from the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The presence of two Azerbaijani lawmakers sends a message that representatives of the highest political bodies in Baku are ready to openly participate in pro-terrorist activities against neighboring Iran.
At the same time, one key detail missing in the media coverage is that this year there was no one from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and that this event was completely ignored in their media.
This year’s rally in the French capital, therefore, differed from the previous ones, when individuals from Arab countries would engage in anti-Iran rhetoric, and their media would report about it.
Neighboring Arab governments have never officially endorsed the MKO, but there are reports that radical wealthy figures were involved in the financing of the anti-Iran terror group.
This year, amid the regional diplomacy drive, those investors seem to have changed the course.
Already dead, but unburied
The raid on the Ashraf-3 camp in Tirana caused an irreversible mutual distrust between the MKO and the Albanian authorities, with Tirana forcibly restricting their activities and publicly announcing it to the whole world, including the group’s Western sponsors.
Albania knows the difference between simple trolling and hacking attacks and is aware that using its internet infrastructure for cyber attacks is tantamount to using its soil for an unprovoked military attack.
Top Iranian general says the fate of the MKO terrorist group should serve as a lesson to those enjoying the backing of the Iran’s enemies.
Allowing a cyber attack to be carried out implies embarking on an adventure against a country that is among the top five cyber powers, and such potential conflict is something that its vulnerable tech infrastructure and modest economic capabilities are ill-equipped to handle.
By acknowledging the MKO terror cult’s dangerous plans and exposing its violent resistance to the Albanian police, Tirana also indirectly confirmed Iran’s long-standing warnings that the terrorist cult poses a threat to their national security as well.
By hosting the MKO camp on its soil, Albania expected US political and financial benefits, along with Iranian verbal condemnations, but apparently is not willing to suffer losses for such a concession.
The hysterical reaction to the police operation points to the state of despair in the camp. The previous feeling of invincibility, with unlimited US protection and opulent funding, has been shattered to pieces.
The former sponsors of the cult, evident from the absence of representatives of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf at the Paris rally, no longer see optimism and are turning their backs on the failed project.
The construction and maintenance of the town-like camp Ashraf 3, with 34 hectares of infrastructure, expensive technology and thousands of residents, was a very expensive project with poor results.
Although the largest, it is also the most unsuccessful troll factory ever, with zero success in desired political changes. Terrorist recruitment in Iran has also had poor results.
The average age in the camp of around 70 years does not inspire optimism for the future either, since there is no possibility of replacing already expiring members with new ones.
While all other worldwide troll factories resemble typical office jobs, Ashraf-3 is a gulag-like place that requires self-isolation from family and the entire outside world, as well as a lifelong commitment.
As revealed by those who lived and survived the cult, there are no employment contracts, bank accounts, savings, vacations, advancements, or quits, so no interested new employees either.
Based on witness testimonies and a recent turn of events, the Ashraf-3 megaproject will soon become a mega-cemetery and a mega-monument to failed anti-Iranian policies of the West.
By Ivan Kesic