Experts on the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization (MKO) have previously stated that the huge amounts of finance and resources, particularly the cult’s human resources, expended over the past eight years solely on being removed from the various terrorist lists on which it has been named, has shown that the lists have made no material difference to the operation of this terrorist group. As a means to ‘combat terrorism and its funding‘, the terrorist lists have been, at best, irrelevant to the activities of the MKO in western countries. Indeed, in this context, inclusion in the terrorist lists has served one obvious purpose, to artificially increase the ‘threat’ value of this group in negotiation with the IRI.
In real terms the group’s relevance and actual potency as either a so-called ‘democratic’ opposition or a ‘military’ threat to Iran’s governance has dwindled severely since the MKO’s last failed effort to overthrow the regime by force in 1988.
Instead the real struggle conducted by the MKO’s over the past twenty years since this major failure has not been to overthrow the regime itself but has been directed at preserving its value to western powers both through its paramilitary force in Iraq and through its second base in Auvers-sur-Oise from where its financial, recruitment, planning and propaganda activities are directed.
However, the MKO’s value to western backers has been in its potential for armed activity. Armed activity is this group’s USP (unique selling point). This is what it does, what it has always done and what its real value is. The existence of the MKO as a mercenary paramilitary force – whether armed or not – in Iraq has always been the central appeal of the group, whether to Saddam Hussein, or the USA, UK, EU or Israel.
The MKO currently holds its 3000 uniformed militants captive behind the closed doors of Camp Ashraf in the Diyali province of Iraq. Since the forced disarmament of the group by the American military in June 2005, members of the group have been trapped inside the camp by cult leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi as hostages while they negotiate deals with western backers. In this, the Rajavis have been aided by the American military, which under the pretext of ‘protection’ has denied free access to the group by international humanitarian bodies, human rights agencies and even to relatives of the individuals held there.
In order to facilitate this ‘protection’ the Rajavis and the American military have maintained the lie that the MKO terrorist group enjoys UN Fourth Geneva Convention Protected Persons status, even though the competent UN body for awarding this status has stated clearly and repeatedly that the conditions for its application have not existed since 2004 and that in any case Protected Persons status cannot be applied to a paramilitary force. The perpetuation of this lie by the MKO’s western backers has, unfortunately, prevented investigation into worsening conditions inside the camp, particularly investigation into specific allegations of human rights abuses against the people held there. It has also prevented many of the people inside Camp Ashraf from taking the decision to reject violence and terrorism and leave the MKO. The people in Camp Ashraf are essentially hostages.
In this respect, the decision makers of the European Union should not be overly concerned with the freeing or not of the MKO’s assets (while the group apparently has millions of euros to spend on legal fees) but should be concerned instead with freeing its 3000 militants from enforced membership of a paramilitary group.
By analyzing its track record of activity, it is obvious that since the fall of its previous benefactor Saddam Hussein, the MKO and the group’s backers in western countries are happy to sacrifice the people in Camp Ashraf purely for their financial and political benefit in Europe, America and Israel. There is a moral and legal burden on the countries of the EU, the UK, the USA and Israel which have allowed (encouraged even) the Rajavis to take these people hostage and offer them as sacrifice, to provide retirement and immunity after the fall of Saddam and give their mercenary force shelter in their countries. They should not be left in Iraq or the Middle East but should be returned to France and the other countries which originally sponsored Rajavi and which then sold the MKO to Saddam’s regime.
Any form of legal and/or political action which will facilitate the return of this group to Europe, including de-proscription of the MKO in the EU, the USA and Israel, must be welcomed.
After five years it must be accepted that responsibility for the total membership of the MKO is no longer with Saddam Hussein, but is with the forces which invaded Iraq and removed him from power, and which now still benefit from preservation of the MKO as a paramilitary force. It is an overriding fact that the MKO’s value lies in its capacity for violence. Indeed, aside from its well-funded, propaganda activity aimed at perverting western political opinion, its only function and value is as an armed terrorist force.
Taking responsibility for the MKO it is expected that the Multi-national force (MNF) in Iraq:
1. Replace the TIPF which was closed in January 2008 with a new, separate camp in which individuals can freely seek asylum and take refuge from a terrorist organization;
2. Unlock the gates of Camp Ashraf so that human rights and humanitarian agencies, and families can have free and unfettered access to these hostages;
3. As a matter of urgency, de-proscribe the organization – the so-called ‘good-terrorists’ – from western terrorist lists so the victims of the cult can be moved to those western countries for which they have worked so hard and sacrificed so much.
Unfortunately, although the UK removed the MKO from its terrorist list, the UK has not met its obligation to accept their mercenaries in the country and provide asylum for them. This is in spite of the Iraqi government’s repeated demand that this and all the foreign terrorist groups be removed from its territory. This failure encourages the suspicion that the 3000 uniformed militants are to continue to be victimized and made to fight against the Iraqi people – just as Saddam Hussein used the MKO to suppress the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in Iraq in 1991. (It is no secret that Saddamists and other anti-Iraq groups which maintain connection with the west continue to use Camp Ashraf for meetings.)
De-proscription can be for two reasons. If the MKO’s 3000 strong paramilitary force remains in Iraq it has no other use except as an armed force and de-proscription is a political ruse. The only other interpretation of de-proscription is that all 3000 members have renounced violence. In this case, these people must be re-habilitated as non-terrorists by bringing them back to western countries to live. This will provide the best possible outcome for the Iraqi government and for western countries which are genuine in their wish to combat terrorism and its funding.