The Collapse within NCR (5)

The ever-increasing political and military crises within Mojahedin due to the wrongly adopted policy in the period subsequent to the failed rallies of June 20, 1981 had devastating internal as well as external impacts on MKO relations with other opposition groups in general and the National Council of Resistance (NCR) in particular. The formation of NCR in 1981 at the peak of terrorist perpetrations of MKO, referred to as strategic strokes by Rajavi, expanded the illusion of an abrupt overthrow of the regime among Mojahedin allies. The quantitative growth of such allies implied the fact that the opposition groups, regardless of political, ideological and strategic disparities, were unanimous to wed all their potentials under the leadership of MKO to bring down the regime. The promises made by Rajavi as well as the encouraging supports by some Westerners made the majority of NCR members yield to the hegemony of Mojahedin. As such, all joined parties and factions had to endorse the essentiality of armed warfare as the cornerstone of the struggle to accomplish the cause despite they were critical of the plans and the drafted charter of NCR. In fact, by submitting to the political hegemony of Mojahedin, all members of NCR entrusted the leadership of armed struggle to Mojahedin.

Many believed that repetitive conduction of bloody, terrorist feats was a grand opportunity for MKO to swagger of big achievements since a number of political and religious figures of the Islamic Republic were the victims of these operations. Rejoiced at committing atrocities for which the group hardly faced condemnation, some Westerners began to cultivate hope in MKO as an appropriate alternative for Iranian clerical government. However, soon MKO’s terrorist activities inside Iran were controlled but Mojahedin and their supporters were the sole losers and MKO could not escape the negative consequence of being stigmatizes as a terrorist organization.

Interestingly, even in such critical conditions Mojahedin’s leadership made an attempt not only to keep integrity of his hegemony on the council but also to expand its dimension. Simultaneous with increasing tensions within NCR, the Iranian regime was overcoming the internal crises. Desperate to find a solution, Rajavi met with Tariq Aziz in 1981; it disappointed all NCR allies who had trusted his leadership. Within one year after Rajavi’s meeting with Iraqi officials, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the largest and weighty allies of Mojahedin, left the council. Soon after, the leftist party, led by Mehdi Khanbaba Tehrani, and also Bani-sadr, the ousted Iranian president, detached from NCR. Subsequently, a number of NCR members got separated due to a variety of organizational as well as personal reasons. The heavy avalanche of defectors challenged the legitimacy of NCR to lead the opposition, and above all, Rajavi failed in recruiting new allies. Niyabati, although a left member of the council, well illustrates the critical phase. He elaborates on the internal crises of Mojahedin and the failure of armed warfare and their grave influence on NCR:

It was even worse in political stage.The failure of Mojahedin in the short-time overthrowing of the regime as well as the failure of NCRI, considered as the sole democratic alternative, in recruiting all the anti-Shah and anti-sheikh political forces made Mojahedin subject to intolerable pressure both from inside and outside of NCRI. Evidently, the main target of all pressures in the first place was Massoud Rajavi. (1)

He also analyses the effects of the big claim of the overthrow on Mojahedin’s allies in the council and the process in which the council turned from an ally to a critical opponent that challenged Mojahedin:

Out of the council, an increasing process of antagonism against Mojahedin that had emerged through 1982 and had reached its peak in 1983, formed into an overwhelming confrontation with Mojahedin in 1984. This remarkable skirmish with an organization fully involved in a bloody war against a regime which logically was the basic enemy of all opposition groups has been, if not rare, a unique occurrence in the contemporary history of Iran. (2)

Opposed to such statements aiming at legitimizing the reactions of Mojahedin to their critics, Mehdi KhanbabaTehrani, a former member of NCR, draws a different picture of the relations of Mojahedin leadership with NCR members. He says:

At the end of the year 1983, when [MKO’s] political failure was proved, impatience, lack of self-control, hegemony, and excluding all non-Mojahedin political groups, under the pretext of keeping ideological principles of the organization, replaced the previous policies. From now on, any criticism on the part of anybody is considered as a ‘satanic’ plot and has to be counterplotted completely (3).

The statements made by another ex-member imply that Rajavi, despite his claims negating the influence of Mojahedin on NCR, resorted to the factor of ideology in his relations with dissident members of NCR. In this regard he writes:

MKO addressed all the NCR members and said ‘First, you should not take any position against our ideology. First you confirm our ideology and then we will answer your strategic questions. We will give no answer to those denying our ideology’. And finally due to the lack of democracy and totalitarian nature of relations within Mojahedin, NCR members left it one after another. Consequently, since 1984 NCR was undervalued and became another wing of MKO active in political and diplomatic affairs of Mojahedin. (4)

The critical circumstances necessitated controlling of the escalated internal crises within NCR as well as justifying MKO’s political and military failures. Niyabati in his review of the ideological revolution refers to the double effects of the challenges met by Mojahedin due to the internal crises of MKO as well as that of NCR and justifies the necessity of an ideological revolution to curb them:

To confront such complicated conditions as a prerequisite for the next phases, while the lack of an internal and international equilibrium in favor of armed warfare was apparent, Mojahedin’s leader had to take for a decisive and crucial decision. (5)

And finally, Niyabati focusing on the necessity of the organization’s turn from a pseudo-democratic organization to an ideological one, considers the pyramidal ideological revolution as the sole solution for responding to the challenges of the critics. He acknowledges that the change could strongly influence the relations of Mojahedin and also guarantee the integrity of NCR:

The sum of internal and international pressures and their political impacts on the National Council of Resistance, the strategic failure of armed struggle and its organizational impacts on MKO, the lack of public support in its real concept, and most important of all, an urging need to take advantage of the Iraqi soil followed by a shift from the strategy of micro to macro, which despite the Mojahedin’s claim to be promoting their previous strategy was an acknowledgement of the failure of their old strategy, necessitated MKO to turn into a full pyramidal organization that had to be absolutely ideological. (6)

In a nutshell, beside the factors mentioned as the reasons for the start of the ideological revolution, the internal tensions within NCR played a key role, too. For Rajavi, the situation of NCR due to its external consequences was as important as controlling the internal relations of MKO. Rajavi’s appeal to the quantitative growth of NCR by means of a foolish order, resignation of MKO members and their registration in NCR, implies the awareness of Mojahedin leader and his western sympathizers of the importance of the collapse within NCR. The next significant issue for Rajavi was the fact that he had to initiate the same ideological revolution within NCR in order to control any kind of opposition or dissidence.



1. Niyabati, B. A different look at the internal ideological revolution within MKO, Khavaran publication, p.14

2. ibid, p.18

3. An inside look at the leftist movements in Iran: a collection of some interviews with Mehdi KhanbabaTehrani. (1987). 17th interview.

4. Rezvani, N. Neo-scholastics in Rajavi’s cult. (1966).

5. Niyabati, B. A different look at the internal ideological revolution within MKO, Khavaran publication, p.18

6. ibid, p.19


Bahar Irani,,January 21, 2008

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