Iranian Diplomacy’ interviews Hossein Alaei, a senior Iranian analyst in political and strategic affairs about the current status of the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) in Iraq and the possibility of their deportation from the country Q: Iraqi troops arrived at Camp Ashraf on Monday and took control of the base. However, the Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh has said the army presence at the camp is only aimed at removing some of the problems of the MKO members in accordance with human rights principles. What is your comment on this? A: Ever since Iraq came under the US occupation, one of the important issues for the Americans has been the way they should treat the Mujahedin Khalq who had been operating as an arm of Saddam Hussein against Iran and against the Intifada as well as the political currents opposed to the Saddam regime in Iraq. From the very beginning of the occupation, the US let the MKO and its forces stay inside their camps the most important of which was Ashraf Camp near Baghdad. It assigned the MKO to manage the affairs inside the camp and took control of the external issues itself. The aim was for the MKO to operate inside Iraq under the US control. After the coming to power of a legitimate government in Iraq, one of the important security topics discussed in the security negotiations between the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq has been to decide the fate of the MKO as an anti-IRI terrorist organization. Iran demands dismantling of the MKO bases in Iraq and handover of their members to Tehran. However, the US has not let this happen. The Americans thought they could use the MKO as an organization for both espionage and intelligence in Iran and as a tool for negotiations with the IRI. For the same reason they let them continue operation; some of the MKO leaders were sent abroad under the US control and some others are still in Iraq and under control of the US policies. Under the status quo, the US wants to solve this issue in a way to take the IRI pressure off its shoulder. For the same reason, it has agreed to apparently delegate administration of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government. But the Americans will continue to decide the policymaking and treatment of the MKO. In fact, the Iraqi army will act as a tool in the hands of the US as far as administration of the camp is concerned. In other words, the MKO is not fully under the control of the Iraqi government. For the same reason, the Iraqi government is trying to gradually expand its authorities concerning the MKO and take control of the region. Naturally, the remarks made by the Iraqi government spokesman (Ali Dabbagh) are in line with this policy. Considering that at the time of Saddam Hussein, the MKO was run with the money of the Iraqi government and later with the financial aid of the US and Europe and in some cases with the support of the (post-Saddam) government in Iraq, those remarks (by Dabbagh) are meant to indicate that the MKO are under the Iraqi control. It seems that changes have taken place in MKO management inside Iraq with the Iraqi government playing a bigger role than the Americans. Q: It is said the MKO has received a deadline until eid-ul fitr (end of Ramadan – early October) to leave Iraq. Is this true and feasible at all? A: The Iraqi government is under pressure both from Iran and Iraqi officials who have received blows from the MKO in the course of the Intifada. Therefore, it is just natural for them to try to solve the problem. Perhaps the best way for them and for the Americans is to move the MKO members and spread them out in various world countries. On this basis, it may be said that the Americans plan to form MKO cells in various European and Arab states and even in America. What they have in mind is formation of new MKO cells which could embark on political activities against IRI and at the same time maintain their organization. The Americans are concerned that the MKO members would be handed over to Iran and this could lead to practical dissolution of the terrorist organization. That is why they are trying to do this through the Iraqi government. The important thing for the Iraqi government is that MKO members would no more stay in their soil. Q: Wouldn’t this be to Iran’s detriment when it could exercise the least control over the MKO (after they are out of Iraq)? A: This may be the case in the long run. But in the short term it may be in Iran’s interest because it would help disorganization of MKO which is regarded an armed paramilitary organization. Their concentration in one place would enable the MKO to launch military operations against IRI. This dispersion would probably encourage many MKO members who are looking for an opportunity to split away from the organization to do so and this would cause the organization not to be able to maintain its former consistency. But at the same time, the IRI must pay attention to the point that the Americans may try to create a new organization for MKO. Washington may put an end to MKO military activities and turn them into political cells opposed to Iran in certain parts of the world, including countries which have issues with Tehran such as Europe and America in the future. Q:It is said that Iran has announced it would allow repentant MKO members to return to their home country. Do you think this is an effective step? A: Iran has always been seeking to return (repentant) MKO members to the bosom of their families here, particularly those who have not committed murders or assassinations. The aim is to lead the terrorist organization towards gradual disintegration by breaking their members away from it. This is a policy that has been executed so far and hundreds of them have returned home and reunited with their families. This has been a successful policy. Perhaps, under the present conditions that the MKO is under growing pressure the same policy could be pursued more seriously. According to information coming out of Camp Ashraf so far, many MKO members are reluctant to continue cooperation with the organization. They believe the way the camp is being administered is very despotic and oppressive. They feel they have been wasting their lives for long years with the MKO and are now looking for a peaceful and trouble-free life. Therefore, giving assurances to such persons that they could return home and live a normal life provided that they would not take their past course again, is probably an effective measure.