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Should the MEK Stay or Should it Go?

This is what Maryam Rajavi – head of the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran (PMOI, or MEK, or MKO) stated in Brussels on January 27, 2009 while standing in front of Should the MEK Stay or Should it Go?her many supporters, right after the decision of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) to put her movement off the list of terrorist groups:

"My fellow compatriots, Friends of the Resistance,

The MEK is still on the list of terrorist groups of the United States, because its fundamental values are anti-western and violentThe obstacle of the terrorist allegation has crumbled. The spell has at last been broken. With perseverance and determination, you courageously rose above the flames of injustice and rendered law and justice victorious…This marks a decisive turning point on the course of democratic change in Iran."

Although, the US State Department’s report on terrorist organizations states the following:

"The MEK advocates the violent overthrow of the Iranian regime and was responsible for the assassination of several U.S. military personnel and civilians in the 1970’s. MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.

The MEK emerged in the 1960s as one of the more violent political movements opposed to the Pahlavi dynasty and its close relationship with the United States. MEK ideology has gone through several iterations and blends elements of Marxism, Islam, and feminism".

Funny, cause if you head your browser toward the official website of Maryam Rajavi, each time you’ll read a sentence like this one: "Our aim is not to attain power at all costs. Our aim is to guarantee freedom and democracy at all costs, even at the cost of sacrificing our own existence." It all sounds much more like a Ghandi’s statement that the one of a terrorist inspired by Marxism, Islamism and Feminism.

Who’s right?

The MEK is still on the list of terrorist groups of the United States, because its fundamental values are anti-western and violent. The group took part in the 1979 revolution against Reza Palahvi’s the pro-western government, helping the present Iranian government to take power in Iran. Although, once the main target has been hit (French revolution anyone?), the winning coalition starts an internal power struggle, with which the real leader will be chosen. This is what happened to MEK, at odds with Islamic Republic. The leadership of the PMOI attempted to overthrow the newly formed IRP (Islamic Republic of Iran) but failed. Ayatollah Khomeini, in response, started a crackdown on the MEK militia and the group was forced to move to France.

In "The Persian Puzzle", Kenneth Pollack describes these events as following:

"…the MEK had made itself a primary target of the IRP. It decided that the best defense was a good offensive and tried to decapitate the IRP leadership in the hope of either toppling the regime or forcing a compromise. On June 28, 1981, a massive explosion inside the IRP headquarters succeeded in killing much of the party’s top leadership. …

…Two days later, a bomb narrowly missed killing Hojjat-ol Islam ‘Ali Khamene’i as he delivered the Friday sermon in Tehran. Sensing that this was their last chance to survive (let alone take power), the Feda’iyan-e Khalq, the Communists, and other leftist groups also joined in the bloody campaign. Thereafter, the MEK and its leftist allies launched a sustained terror campaign that assassinated roughly two hundred government officials by the end of August. Then, on August 30, the MEK pulled off another dramatic coup, smuggling a bomb into the prime minister’s offices and killing President Raja’i (who had succeeded Bani Sadr in blatantly rigged elections), Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar (who had in turn taken Raja’i’s old office), and three other senior officials. 23 Naturally, the regime reacted with concomitant ferocity. …"

Are we talking about holy water or the devil itself? The Council on Foreign Relations has a detailed description of the MEK:

"…Experts say that MEK has increasingly come to resemble a cult that is devoted to Massoud Rajavi’s secular interpretation of the Koran and is prone to sudden, dramatic ideological shifts."

The MEK, in fact, also has a political arm, called The National Council of Resistance of Iran headed by Maryam Rajavi’s husband, Massoud. No one really knows where Massoud Rajavi is living now, but an interview to a former MEK member appeared (briefly) online on February 2, 2009. If you google for the words "mek" + cult the interview will come out.

Only, if you click on it, you’ll be redirected to some other piece of news not related to the subject. The only thing you can read is the title of the article – Ex-member says MEK, ‘is like a cult’ – and a few other words.

Of course, the fact that the EU removed the MEK from the list of terrorist organizations sparked the reaction of Tehran’s government: "The European Union must realize that a political approach to terrorism, which threatens the lives and security of people around the world, is totally unacceptable for the global public opinion." Iran’s permanent envoy to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, wrote to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The EU’s politically motivated decision will not change the terrorist nature of the group. It will not ‘turn the page’ of history on the cult’s terrorist activities and massacre of innocent civilians, nor will it cleanse the terrorist group of its criminal past," he added.

It sounds like a power struggle between the EU and the IRP (of course there’s also a war going on between Teheran and the MEK itself). And it seems as if the MEK is being used as a leverage tool here. But this is just a superficial analysis. The truth is far from being exposed, and this could easily be a question of money. Several well informed sources claimed that the MEK leadership has been paying some major politicians and judges to get the sentence they wanted: their group out of that European black list as soon as possible. Of course this is just an assumption and there is no legal evidence to support the thesis of corruption.

On the contrary, it seems unlikely that the European Union could be so easily corrupted, even though they say that the MEK has a lot of money to spend. The fact that Saddam handed over the money he got from the "Oil for food" program to the PMOI, for example, is common knowledge.

Anyhow, the People Mujaheddin of Iran (this is the extended version of the name) may not be considered a terrorist group in the EU but it is still considered a terrorist organization in the US, should it stay there? According to Paulo Casaca, no: "I think this issue has several angles – he told us – all of them quite important. First: it raises the question of the rules, principles, methods and proceedings of terrorist lists. This is a very important question that I addressed in conferences and books; Second: it shows that only after four strong sentences the Council decided to act ‘better late than never’, but the lack of respect of the Court by the Council is scaring for all of those who believe in a "State of Law"; Third: the EU, as the US, are fully engaged in an appeasement policy that did not and will not work, .."

Casaca is a member of the European Parliament for Portugal’s Socialist Party and a supporter of the MEK. A very well informed journalist (anti-MEK), who has researched and written on the matter, told us that she cannot confirm allegations of corruption that have been made in the media. In her opinion, though, the real problem now is the MKO’s Ashraf camp in Iraq. The camp must be closed in two-three months from now.

"The Iraqi government has every right to send these people [the MKO members that are in the camp Ashraf] out, now the question is, where are they going? It will be easier to return to their country in Europe, now that the ECJ ruled them out from the list of the terrorist groups. They are more or less 2.000 brainwashed people, it will be a humanitarian crisis!"

The Iraqi National Security advisor, Muwafaq al-Rubaie, told the press that "the only choices open to members of this group are to return to Iran or to choose another country… Some of the MKO members have expressed interest to return to Iran and we are making the arrangements for this….We are acting under international humanitarian regulations and international laws. These people will themselves choose where they want to go."

So, someone thinks that the MEK (or MKO or PMOI) is a blood-thirsty terrorist cult that only wants to put its paws on Iran, whatever it takes. Someone else thinks that this group is the only democratic and legal alternative to the radical anti-western and corrupted Islamic Republic of Iran. It is very hard to give an answer here, but there are some good questions at least: what will the Obama administration do about the Ashraf camp and the MEK? Will the US State Department remove the group from the black list? Is the MEK going to play a  role in the future of Iran?

hudsonny.org By Andrea Loquenzi – Italian Journalist and Research Fellow, The Magna Charta Foundation

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