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MKO and Dwindling of Alien Support

It goes without saying that Rajavi resorted to armed struggle expecting the support of international and foreign powers. Rajavi’s visit to France in early 1981, where he was given a glad hand winning propaganda support and facilities for settlement, was followed with declaration of military phase. It is evident that all such activities on the part of France aimed at exploiting Mojahedin in order to make due political changes in Iran. According to some MKO ex-members (e.g. Lotfollah Meisami), Rajavi was well aware of global transitions and even before initiating the armed phase was willing to make use of leftist parties and USSR-oriented groups whenever necessary. In this regard, Meisami writes:

Rajavi knows that world is divided into the West and the East and for sure is aware of their reciprocal understanding due to his political awareness. When released from prison, he got a formula according to which he had to make the West and the East satisfied to assume power. On the one hand, he makes secret contacts with the Soviets Union to make them convinced to rely on Mojahedin rather than Tudeh party pretending to be the greatest opposition group in Iran, and on the other hand, invited Western-oriented groups and parties for dialogue and negotiation. In fact he had relations with both the U.S. and the USSR. (1)

As such, he tried to recruit some Liberal intelligentsia with capitalism tendency including Hedayatollah Matindaftari, Ali-Asqar Haj Seyyed Javadi, Manuchehr Hezarkhani, Abdolkarim Lahiji, Fereydun Gilani, and later on Jamshid Peyman, some SAVAK members and Moezzi, Shah’s private pilot. An interesting point is that after the annihilation of Socialism camp, Rajavi turned to Western-oriented liberals, some of whom are already in NCR, and Rajavi makes use of their international reputation for attracting the attention and gaining the legitimacy regarding his liberalist mottos. Another instance of such an opportunistic policy is the case of Sa’adatti and delivering the case of General Moqarrabi, former member of Tudeh party, to Russians which had great consequences on armed phase for the organization. In fact, all these actions might be justified under the pretext of the world being divided into two camps of capitalism and socialism with Mojahedin’s pretentious strategic tendency towards the latter at the time. As implicitly stated by Saeed Shahsavandi, MKO made efforts preferably in winning the supports of USSR to assume political power:

In fact the purpose of organization’s contact with the USSR is gaining facilities and being armed as an authorized group. (2)

However, these facts reveal the major policy of MKO regarding the strategic role of the either camps in achieving the political power. But soon after the fall of socialism, the organization made an immediate shift toward the opposite camp.

We are to emphasize the fact that Rajavi’s opportunistic orientation in winning the political power and support of influential figures in international relations as well as world powers has been one of his goals in which his success depended upon the political status of NCR, MKO and also Rajavi’s talent in convincing them of the possibility of overthrowing the Iranian regime with regard to the potentiality of Mojahedin. In fact, the organization recruited members from both leftist parties and liberals as a means for achieving its objectives in due time. The fact that West in general and Europeans in particular, in spite of being aware of the terrorist actions of Mojahedin, supported the organization implies their fostered hope in fulfillment of the promise by Mojahedin to overthrow the Iranian government.

The countries attitude, however, ceased once they realized that the second revolution was not at hand. For instance, the France government, as the main supporter of Mojahedin, changed its stance concerning Mojahedin. It has to be pointed out that Mojahedin’s freedom for political and propaganda activities in France exceeded the supposed rights of refugees in international conventions which resulted in quantitative and qualitative growth of the National Council of Resistance to posture as a liable main opposition. However, the NCR soon proved to be incapable of winning the slightest significant victory and its advocates resolved to look at it with a more realistic and cautious eye and began to withdraw their support. Referring to Mojahedin’s strategies and tactics in the Europe for winning propaganda support Antoine Gessler observes:

The People’s Mojahedin of Iran, as we have seen, are past masters in the manipulative arts. Like many far Left organisations, they know the gears that run the media. And they are very gifted at”smoke screening”reporters. (3)

Additionally, he refers to opportunistic, dualistic and pragmatist features of Mojahedin seeking legitimacy and attention of outsiders and writes:

In addition, the Mojahedin are superb lobbyists,”tracking”down political officials, deputies, senators, etc., to get a signature which is supposed to support the PMOI’s fight and provide recognition to it as the only legitimate opposition. (4)

Bijan Niyabati, a leftist member of NCR, illustrates such a condition affected by the illusionary promise of overthrow and says explicitly:

The strength of military strokes of Mojahedin against top Iranian officials spread the false picture of short-term overthrow of Iranian regime not only among Iranian political activists but also foreign parties. (5)

Therefore, the political supports given to Mojahedin and their militancy were replaced by a logical withdrawal and all those governments that had neglected illegal plots of Mojahedin in their countries, and in France in particular, in the hope of establishing relationship with the so-called alternative of the Iranian government had to limit the group’s freedom. Rajavi’s hopes dashed, he had to seek new approaches to strengthen inter-organizational constancy and adopt a defensive mechanism before reaching unavoidably consequent crises.

Niyabati acknowledges the fact that the pressure of foreign forces exerted on Mojahedin made them make some new decisions, change their external relations and internal structure. According to him, the main changes occurred in the geometrical form of internal structure of both MKO and NCR. Before the change, Mojahedin claimed to be the hegemonic lead of a united front of oppositions through a council leadership, but after being in disgrace with western supporters, they were forced to demonstrate their real anti-democratic nature which Rajavi and his sympathizers tried to conceal under a variety of theoretical justifications:

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)

As Niyabati justifies, the ideological revolution was, in some respect, an inevitable consequent of dwindled foreign supports and its impacts on MKO and NCR. France ventured to assist Mojahedin at a time when it had taken a hostile stance toward Iran and broadly contributed military and logistic aids to Saddam in his war against Iranian aiming at overthrowing the Iranian government. After a while and due to new circumstances, France had to make a revision in its policy toward Iran. Although Mojahedin had earlier made the grounds for moving to Iraq by inviting Tareq Aziz, then Vice Prime Minister to Saddam, but their destabilized conditions in France and the internal conflicts in NCR were the best justification for such a transfer. In a nutshell, their policy in moving to Iraq may be considered as a result of the loss of support of western governments and France in particular. Moreover, the initiation of the ideological revolution was a precautionary defensive measure aiming at controlling the forthcoming challenges.


1. Meisami, L.; The moral decline of a Mojahed. Raah-e Mojahed journal, (32), 1985.

2. Saeed Shahsavandi interview with the voice of Iran. Part 50.

3. Antoine Gessler; Autopsy of an Ideological Drift, 163.

4. ibid.

5. Niyabati, B. A different look at the internal ideological revolution of Mojahedin. p.12.

6. ibid, p.20.

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