An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – a précis of parts 31-32
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, it is of great significance that the organization stresses on defending Camp Ashraf to impede its fall even through a mass suicide or an organized human tragedy. Regardless of the camp’s magnitude in preserving the whole structure of the organization, there must be other strategic factors that necessitate preservation of Ashraf. I think your elucidations can help reach alertness to hamper a human tragedy.
Batool Soltani: it can be observed from a variety of angles, but I believe that the organization is entirely depended on Ashraf for a range of pivotal political, strategic, social, propaganda and even fundraising concerns. For the insiders, Ashraf would be depicted as a strategic bastion where resistance could be fully interpreted, not because it below life into the organization but as it was located in the proximity of Iran’s soil.
SFF: Or to restate it, to continue the very same strategy of liberation war to topple Iranian regime.
BS: Exactly. What they meant at the end was that the fall of Ashraf presaged demise of the liberation army, that meant backsliding to a beginning stage when the organization was desperate what to do and where to begin from. It would cost a lot and could even lead to a crisis that could seriously challenge the permanence of the organization. The stability of Ashraf meant that the liberation army was still alive with a spirit of fighting that legitimized its existence.
So the organization needed a stronghold in the vicinity of Iran’s soil for other reasons as well. It could help fundraising. The organization would say Ashraf had been the cause for many sympathizers abroad to donate. Ashraf denoted that the organization was still alive and active and needed support of the sympathizers to live on. No sooner had the organization suffered its disgraceful defeat in the operation Eternal Light than it plotted the assassination of Sayyad Shirazi and Lajevardi and launched a series of mortar attacks just to advertize and display its military potentiality. It could help drawing sums of money and recruiting new forces from among the sympathizers in abroad. And all these came out of Ashraf, so it was vital both for the organization and the sympathizers and advocates to help reinforce Ashraf and its fighters to keep the military strength going.
The organization was also counting on the regional fluctuations and calculating that a disturbed region could grant it the opportunity of plotting assaults against Iranian borders to lead Iran into a real crisis, or it could collaborate with the US forces if they had any military plans against Iran. It all depended on the existence of Ashraf and its military dynamic.
The significance of Ashraf can be looked from a different angle, too; it is its very context and the fabric of its structure. Natural enough, those who have not seen Ashraf from the close can hardly perceive what I say. But for me who have been there for years it is easy to realize its vitality for the organization. It had long strived and spent money to revive a piece of dead desert and to establish many facilities of a city there; relocation of Ashraf means forcing the people of a city to evacuate their home.
Suppose Iraq has no intention of evicting Mojahedin from Camp Ashraf and they have to be relocated for certain protective measures. Do you think it is easy to abandon a piece of land that it has revived and had helped it recuperate many of its losses? It will cost the organization a lot to reestablish a similar bastion anywhere with all facilities designed for short and long term ends as it has set up in Ahraf. Now you may fathom the preciousness of Ashraf for the organization to safeguard it even through persuaded mass suicides and human tragedies. Of course, evacuation of Ashraf may not be considered the total demise of the organization but, for sure, it will burden it with heavy costs and weigh down the scope of its activity for some time. So, as the most worthless thing for the organization is the life of its members, it costs the organization much less if it could keep Ashraf by sacrificing the prepared, ready scapegoats. However, it is not all the thing said concerning the significance of preserving Ashraf.
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, you have already elucidated on the strategic significance of Ashraf for the organization, I mean, its need to preserve a spot on Iraqi soil because of its strategic vitality to confront Iran. But you know best that it was all founded on the patronage of Saddam that had helped the organization to make a shift in its strategy of struggle to open a new war front vis-à-vis Iran and to start a new phase of collaboration with him that tied their destiny together. But now it is different and for a variety of reasons Iraqis cannot tolerate the presence of the organization on their soil or even accepting them as refugees. Now, the question is why the organization insists to safeguard a bastion that deprives it of any chance of utilizing it as a strategic opportunity?
Batool Soltani: It is true from your point of view, meaning that it is better for the organization to leave Iraq today rather than tomorrow. As you pointed, the fall of Saddam blurred the role of Ashraf as a pivotal strategic bastion to a great degree. But immediately, the organization began to calculate how it could both stay and to maintain its already bolstered potentiality. That is true that leaving Iraq benefits the organization in accelerating the accomplishment of the ends sparked within Ashraf, but where can it go? None of the neighbors bordering Iran, regardless of any existing tense of relations with Iran, have problems with Mojahedin themselves and are aware of the consequences of accepting them in. As a result, the organization, also knowing the truth, prefers to accept the risk of staying in Iraq at any price.
SFF: Sorry, why, then, the organization insists to stay in Iraq knowing the very consequences of staying or leaving?
BS: I have already underlined that its existence is tied to the survival of Ashraf. The prospect you pointed to is all guaranteed by the permanence of Ashraf. Consequently, the organization has no other choice but to move alongside the tactic of preserving the camp where its future destiny may shape. To tell you the last word, it is not at all an issue of strategic importance but to survive and it is possible only through the resistance of Ashraf. Then, where can it go when it lacks the needed political footstep all invested within its bastion? The one who is drowning grabs at any stick to survive rather than thinking about his future. That is the case with the organization and it is thinking of the present than the future.
To survive, it appeals to anybody, even to the adversaries. To get the least results, the organization pays the highest prices, that is the life of members through mass suicides. It still believes that the hope to topple the regime originates from Ashraf; the only thing it follows is to be permitted to stay disarmed on Iraqi soil close to Iranian borders. If the circumstance fails to be ripe to overthrow the regime, no problem, maybe future grants it the opportunity it has been after. So long it has been promising its members and fostering hope in them to victoriously assume the power, let them wait some more time! Surprisingly enough, the organization reckons on and hopes for unexpected circumstances that can change the course of events it can well exploit.
Unlike its claims, the unexpected have always worked as parameters that have hampered the materialization of the overthrow and have worked as excuses that the organization manipulates to justify its strategic defeats. It is out of these unexpected factors that the future is determined and the organization takes the next step. Its forward motion relies on a chain of events that keeps each ring waiting to connect it to an unpredicted one. Once, for instance, it deployed its forces to Iranian western borders of Kurdistan province after suffering failure in its announced tactic of armed struggle. But it soon fell out with the Kurdish Democrat Party and had to move to Europe where it was offered to unite with Saddam and to establish its bastion on Iraqi soil. None of these events were already calculated and expected for and the organization encountered the opportunities as it moved forward. Thus, the organization draws on its past experiences of coming across opportunities to pass over the crises.
To be continued