The start of a terrorist strategy
Despite its recent widespread campaign and arranged rallies even in subfreezing temperatures of some European countries calling to be removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO, MEK, PMOI, NCRI, NLA) can never abandon the extremely violent strategy of armed struggle that is intermingled with its ideology. In fact, the militant infrastructure constituted the group’s started struggle against the Pahlavis monarch.
MKO started its first armed activities in August 1971; the first was a plan to blow up a main high-power electrical tower located in Sologhan, Tehran; the second was to prepare a blacklist of SAVAK agents, the ousted Shah’s notorious security system. In August 1971 the regime was preparing to celebrate the Festivities of 2500 years of Iranian Monarchy. Not following the line of the main Iranian cleric leaders, particularly Ayatollah Khomeini, MKO were inspired by their opposition moves and position takings against some decisions made by the regime. In respect to the Festivities, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a statement to boycott the regime’s glorification of monarchy. It gave MKO an opportunity to think of its first daring armed action that could really shock the regime. As Hanifnezhad stated at the time; “Now that an eminent clergy has boycotted the festivities, it would be too bad to sit immobilized. We do have to do something. If God willing, we torch the celebration. (1)
Had the group succeeded, it could have been a great achievement because the damage would cause outages in gusts’ residence as well as in the performance of the celebration itself. However, SAVAK agents were already waiting for the saboteurs at the place and arrested four Mojahedin members before they could realize what was happening. It was more because a second armed party had tried the same plan the previous night and the regime had kept the report censored to avoid expansion of panic and disturbance:
The team was aware not in the least that the Fedayan (Devoted) Militant had sabotaged the high-power tower on the previous night causing it to slant a little. The security forces had swarmed all over the religion and trapped the team that was arriving in a car; the engineer Samavati, Alireza Tashayyod, Mohammad Seyyedi Kashani, and Nabi Moazemi were all captured. (2)
The organization’s next the so-called spectacular feat, although lacking a military nature, was to prepare a blacklist of SAVAK agents. The importance lies in the fact that the regime tried to withhold the identity of its security forces from the public while it was curtail for the dissident groups to keep a watchful eye on the agents in their vicinity if they were to accomplish their armed activities. Having no access to SAVAK’s authentic information files, Mojahedin gathered the needed information from any possible source such as the media. An information team had the responsibility to obtain the needed information to synthesize them into a whole complete body.
Despite all its maneuvering feats and attempts, no sooner had Mojahedin Khalq started their armed action than the SAVAK struck the great blow that shattered the organization and eliminated more than half of its cadres. After the mass arrests, some free members, who had escaped arrest, planned to kidnap Prince Shahram, Shah’s nephew, with the hope of exchanging him for the arrested cadre awaiting their execution. They had decided to take Prince Shahram to the airport and fly to Libya along with the released prisoners where they would set the Prince free.
The kidnapping operation, however, failed and the kidnappers fled, notwithstanding the precisely made calculations. Later on, the kidnapper team was arrested and the plotters revealed to be Hanifnezhad, Ali-asghar Badizadegan, and Rasoul Meshkinfam. Thus, MKO’s first activities of violence and terror turned out to be complete failure that caused the arrest and execution of all its leaders but Rajavi who closely aligned himself with SAVAK.
When SAVAK arrested the cadres and seized their safe-houses, it issued an analytical report pointing to a number MKO’s weaknesses that led to its breakdown, including:
– The hierarchical order of the relation between the ranks was not yet fully developed. In general, the organization did not benefit from a well-developed echelon.
– The members did not live in secret and performed their organizational orders under their ordinary tasks.
– The members identity was not kept secrete from the others.
– The documents and the arms were not kept and stored with extreme caution.
– The arms were not distributed among the members and, expect in some cases, they were not trained for sabotage operations. (3)
The Islamic Revolution, however, set the remnants of MKO free from prison. Now they had free access to SAVAK’s secrete files to learn about their past mistakes and correct them. They learned how to reorganize violent and terrorist plots rather than reviewing their ideology to clean it of malignancies. Just when they found the opportunity to carry out their first terrorist operation, they proved to be talented trainees that had outstripped their trainers.
1. Maysami, lotfullah; from the Movement to Mojahedin, p. 387.
2. Maysami, lotfullah; those who have gone, p. 41.
3. Ruhani, Hamid; Khomeini’s Movement, vol. 3, p. 635.