Failure in overthrowing the regime
The short-term plan to overthrow the Iranian regime announced by Rajavi at the peak of MKO’s wave of internal terrorist actions, such as the explosions in the central office of the Islamic Republican Party and the Prime Ministry Building, constituted the most controversial issue that challenged the Mojahedin’s leadership. Believing that these bloody terrorist deeds would lead to destabilization of the regime, Rajavi declared that it ultimately took six months to finalize the collapse.
The prime aftermath of the declared phases of armed warfare following Khordad 30th (20 June 1981) was that Rajavi’s promise proved to be a chimera. Although insignificant at the beginning, after a while and following the military failures and stalemates, the challenge turned into serious crises within MKO.
Again and again Rajavi, overconfident of terrorist actions that he referred to as ‘great operations’, predicted a short time overthrow in his press interviews. He even classified the definite time of overthrow into three periods: short, mid, and long and finally fixed the exact date in a 5 year span. A review of Rajavi’s position taking reveals the fact that after 20 June, he began to evade determining an exact date for the overthrow. Finally he postponed his promise until the death of the leader of Islamic Republic.
From the phase of 20 June on, followed by the formation of NCR, Rajavi promoted himself atop of both MKO and NCRI as the egocentric decision-maker. Although everybody was aware that he was the one to say the last word, later on, and in the course of ideological revolution, Mehdi Abrishamchi referred to the decisive role of Rajavi in critical decisions such as that which initiated the armed phase. Even the Western media were interested in his hegemonic leadership atop of the organization in those years. Many of them asserted that he cleverly dodged the reporters’question and in one case, Jean Gueyras tells the story of Rajavi and his misuse of power for his personal ambitions:
Hidden away in his country bunker in Auvers-sur-Oise, Mr. Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) has mastered the art of allying the useful with the pleasurable. He sugar coats his decisions, even those about his private life, with politico-ideological statements of considerable grandiloquence. Thus, in October 1982, to justify his marriage to Firouzeh Bani Sadr, daughter of the former President of the Islamic Republic only eight months after the tragic death of his first wife, Ashraf Rab’i (killed on 8 February 1982 by the Pasdaran); he published a joint bulletin of the PMOI’s Politburo and Central Committee in which his marriage was presented as ‘one of the most important revolutionary decisions ever taken by the Mojahedin’ and as an initiative which would help consolidate the unity of the Iranian nation’. (1)
Antoine Gessler’s Autopsy of an Ideological Drift well explains that Rajavi and his organization are badly in need of being at the center of the world’s attention and are very afraid of being sunk into oblivion. Rajavi’s promises of victory to motivate his forces have never come true:
It involves an organization in permanent panic of being forgotten, a threat that grows day by day, and must, therefore, motivate its militants who have never witnessed the victory announced thousands of times in the past (2).
Such evidences prove the fact that even years before the ideological revolution and his promotion as the ideological leader, Rajavi had succeeded to maintain his unbeatable authority over the organization. After a while, the internal crises were well controlled but unsolved question of overthrow, in spite of the heavy responsibility of rampant terrorist operations, remained as an internal challenge that negatively affected Mojahedinâ€™s relations. Then the circumstances lead to a condition in which Mojahedin were forced to deny the possibility of short- and mid-term overthrow. The critical situation of Mojahedin on the one hand and Iran’s prevailing over internal crises on the other hand corroborated fallacy of MKO’s promise of short-term overthrow. Although the leadership never acknowledged the fact openly, the analysis of the ideological development confirmed it. Niyabati’s outspoken fashion leaves no doubt that the leadership was convinced of the fact that the organization was structurally no match to cause regime’s downfall:
A summary of the political, military, organizational, and ideological aspects in fall 1984 made one point clear to Mojahedin, that was, the short-term overthrow of the regime was impossible due to the ideological-organizational structure on the one hand and outer-organizational political relations with various political trends active inside and outside of the country. (3)
According to Niyabati, such a particular phase was in fact the turning point of internal challenges Mojahedin had encountered. He refers to two years earlier when Mojahedin took the wrong path of the so-called phase of armed struggle that founded the background to such challenges. He further elaborates on two strategic solutions of Mojahedin in this regard and writes:
The year 1984 was a determining phase to reach a final settlement in political, military, strategic, and ideological scenes. The political and military impasse of armed resistance as well as the failure in short-term overthrow of the regime that came to light at the end of 1982 and became a proven fact at the beginning of 1983, led Mojahedin into a dilemma. (4)
Mehdi Khanbaba-Tehrani, an NCRI ex-member, in his review of the phase refers to failures and their aftermath within MKO and NCRI and concludes that the ideological revolution worked as the decisive solution to the desperate question of overthrow that was pressing hard on Rajavi and NCRI:
In my opinion, MKO has met serious crises due to the failure of the short-term plan of overthrow and its aftermath that has gravely questioned the organization’s leadership. Actually, the ideological revolution was the manifestation of such internal conflicts. To keep the integrity and life of the organization, Mojahedin’s leadership arrived at a compromise that resulted in pluralizing the leadership by means of adding a woman atop who had to change her name and get married to Rajavi. (5)
Hadi Shams-Haeri, another former member, considers the strategic stalemates and failures of MKO to be a result of Rajavi’s ineptitude, having no realistic appraisal of the situation inside Iran, and finally continuation of keeping the insiders in dark about the realities and insisting on the futile tactic of overthrow:
Of the Rajavi’s betrayals was advertising the overthrow of the Islamic republic as a possibly easy and quick task. In this regard, Rajavi never referred to the real problems and shortcomings that would be encountered on the route. (6)
Haeri also has the opinion that Rajavi is the sole responsible for the wrong decision of overthrow and the move on 20 June. He writes:
In fact, the armed warfare that initially aimed at overthrowing the regime in short-term and assuming the political power lasted not more than 1.5 years and ended in a complete strategic failure. The pioneer forces not only lost the ground but were strangled due to adverse circumstances. It happened as a result of inadequate and incorrect appraisal of forces’capacity on 20 June. (7)
As such, the issue of overthrow which acted as a motivator for winning the support of opposition groups, as well as some states standing in shadow, gradually turned into a factor arousing opposing reactions within MKO and NCRI.
1. Gessler, Antoine; Autopsy of an Ideological Drift, Chapter 22.
2. ibid, chapter 19.
3. Niyabati, B. A different look at the ideological revolution within MKO. Khavaran publication, p.16.
4. ibid, p.16.
5. An inside look at left movements in Iran, some interviews with Mehdi Khanbaba-Tehrani, the interview 17.
6. Shams-Haeri, H. The swamp, Khavaran publication, p.35.
Bahar Irani,Mojahedin.ws,December 6, 2007