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Transmutation of a Supposed People’s Army

The formation of the MKO’s National Liberation Army (NLA) in 1987, that heavily relied on financial, logistic and arms aids of Saddam and Baath Party, definitely constituted a new phase of militarism within MKO that escalated the group’s across the border terrorist operations. The failure of the guerilla warfare inside Iran, the separation of the Kurdistan Democrat Party from the NCR as well as the impossibility of using the soil of Iran’s neighboring countries were the main causes leading to the formation of the so-called NLA. The army was supposed to be an amalgamation of the forces that were unanimous in overthrowing the Iranian ruling system to bring about regime change regardless of their political and ideological incongruities. Although the idea of the very formation of a people’s army was first theoretically criticized by the left parties such as Fadaiyan-e Khalq, after a while, and particularly after the strategic failure of the Operation Eternal Light, it took an absolutely ideological form and consequently turned into a tool for perpetration of terrorist operations inside Iran. Expounding on the features of a people’s army Ashraf Dehqan has said:

In the formation process of a people’s army, the class diversity of the forces as well as the unanimity of the leadership has to be considered. As such, in an anti-imperialist revolution, there should not be but one army. If any organization and group plans to have its own army or childishly call itself an army, it appears that not only it has no true understanding of the army but is also challenging one of the basic concerns of the Iranian revolution. [1]

These position takings before anything highlight the lead of hegemonic and egoistical mannerism in Mojahedin on the one hand and their manipulation of passive and aimless forces of opposition groups on the other hand. Fedaiyan-e Khalq, as an active militia force, disapproved formation of a liberation army; it explicitly implies that Mojahedin had no alliance in tactical form. Still the claimed liberation army was destined to failure since it lacked the required features of a people’s army. The failure of the army in the operation Eternal Light actually ended in the transformation of a supposed people’s army into a predestined apparatus of terrorism since it had to be either dissolved or metamorphosed. As Niyabati states:

The encountered conditions provided Mojahedin with a new option. They had to either continue focusing on the key role of the ‘liberation army’, which was neither prudent nor possible to be called national but ideological, or change their strategy and abandoned the idea of the ‘modern liberation war. [2]

The formation of the liberation army mainly aimed at distancing the organization from the terrorist allegations and winning legitimacy from the West. Today, the organization has changed to pose as a democratic alternative for the same reason. Antoine Gessler in his Autopsy of an ideological drift precisely explains that Mojahedin’s so-called liberation army could in no way convince the west that it was moving on the same strategic line of a real National Liberation Army:

The Mojahedin’s "National Liberation Army" has never really acted as an army in the Western sense of the word. After some stunning defeats during its conventional attacks, its soldiers fell back on the tried and true methods of guerrilla political terrorism. These are techniques which have advantages and disadvantages for the PMOI. On one hand, the organization could loudly and widely claim that it had a military capability. Later, it tried to build its "legitimacy" to the Iranian diaspora -who entertained no illusions about them. Finally, it tried to establish itself as the only possible alternative to the power in place. Most of the actions carried out inside the national borders were followed by a communiqué claiming responsibility. [3]

Rajavi’s insist on the militia and terrorist potentiality of an army that is actually disarmed and fallen short of engagement in any military operation is the unambiguous truth about NLA. It is an undeniable fact that its successive military defeats detached it from the make-up of an army and turned it into an absolute ideological annex that took a paramilitary structure to launch terrorist operations inside the Iranian soil. A supposed people’s army whose main objective was liberation of people was now targeting the same defenseless people through shelling mortars and terrorist ambushes. Elaborating on the tactic adopted by Mojahedin, Gessler says:

But, since the Liberation Army has only limited means and a limited number of recruits, especially compared to the numbers and armaments fielded by the regular Iranian Army, they can only plan small acts of force. Mortar attacks, attacks with explosive charges. Nothing important in itself, but actions that kill. Usually the victims are innocent civilians, if they are not targeted murders. This does not help the PMOI, especially when it hopes for a real popular representation in country. And this they lack completely. It is necessary not to sink into oblivion but the use of bloody mean: attracts harsh criticism on the international stage. There, the decision seems clearly taken to wipe out all extremist groups preaching the use of violence. Since then, Mr Rajavi and his friends gild the lily in grasping at prestigious straws. Many times, he has spoken of General de Gaulle’s legacy ill an attempt to draw self-serving conclusions [4].

The importance of this entirely ideological structure for MKO’s leadership lies not in its military potentialities but in its blind obedience. As Rajavi himself says, he prefers the arms carriers to the arms itself. An obedient veteran, even if disarmed and disguised, is on the alert apparatus, restricted by no place and uniform, to accomplish cult ambitious throughout the world.



1. Niyabati, Bijan; A different look at the ideological revolution within MKO, p.41.

2. ibid, p.68.

3. Gessler, Antoine; Autopsy of an Ideological Drift, chapter 7.

4. ibid.

Bahar Irani,Mojahedin.ws,November 24, 2007

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