In a part of a rather long article related to the US open meddling in Iran affairs published under the title of The New York Crimes: All The Lies That Fit to Print, the author, Nima Shirazi, directs attention to the Bush administration’s attempts to exploit MKO in its belligerent gesture against the Iranian regime. The argument starts by quoting The Sunday Telegraph when it corroborated the information that Mr. Bush had signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the Iranian regime.
It is also well-known that, a year later, the Bush administration was granted $400 million with which to further destabilize Iran via, as the Washington Post reported at the time "activities ranging from spying on Iran’s nuclear program to supporting rebel groups opposed to the country’s ruling clerics…" The rebel groups supported by such funding and training include, according to both Counterpunch’s Andrew Cockburn and the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, the militant Sunni group Jundullah, or "army of god," and the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK or PMOI), which maintains an "enduring position on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups."
"U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight. The money for Jundullah was funneled to its leader, Abdelmalek Rigi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states."
These connected Iranian exiles are members of the MEK, the Iranian opposition network that, in 1981, assassinated about 70 high ranking Iranian officials including cabinet members, elected parliamentarians, and the new Chief Justice when it bombed state headquarters. After the Iranian Revolution, the group moved its headquarters to Iraq and was supported by Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that claimed the lives of over a million people. The MEK also claims responsibility for informing the United States and its allies about Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program, for which no verifiable evidence has ever been found.
On December 15, 2009, Texas Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee addressed Congress regarding that fate of MEK exiles currently living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. The Congresswoman pleaded for the Obama administration to "save" the "Iranian dissidents [who] are now huddled [at Camp Ashraf], fearful for their lives." She claimed that the Iraqi government, which is now tasked with guarding the camp after US forces recently handed over control, had put the exiles "at risk of arbitrary arrest, torture or other forms of ill treatment and unlawful killing," and described the MEK – which, again, is designated as a terrorist group by the US State Department – as "dissidents who simply want to live in peace and alone." Apparently, Ms. Jackson-Lee saw nothing wrong with begging the United States to support terrorists, as long as those terrorists have the goal of toppling the Iranian government.
Plus, just last week, Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that a number of MEK members have been arrested for violent activity and destruction of public and private property at recent anti-government protests in Tehran.
But the question concerning MKO seems to have vexed a Mr. Alex George who in response to Mr. Shirazi’s comments on the terrorist group tries to contradict Mr. Shirazi who does not hesitate to give due responses to him. The followings are the responses in order.
1. alex george on December 30th, 2009 at 6:46:
It is strange indeed that when it comes to the main Iranian opposition group, the MEK, the writer is parroting the misinformation put out by the notorious Iranian ministry of intelligence and security. Whose side are you on Mr. Shirazi, any way?
It is common knowledge that the terror label on the MEK was a failed attempt by the Clinton Administration to placate the real terrorists, the turbaned tyrants of Iran. While the top counterterrorism official in the State Department pushed for the MEK’s removal from the list in November 2009, Condoleezza Rice overruled him because she was more interested in opening up an interest section in Iran on the advise of discredited Iran appeasers in Washington, DC.
There is absolutely no factual, legal and moral justification for keeping the ban on the MEK, which acts as the catalyst for change in Iran. Whether the author and his likeminded apologists for Tehran like it or not, the slogans chanted in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities today are the ones espoused and disseminated for three decades by the MEK.
Indeed, the millions in Iran want to see this regime go, as does the MEK. In a free Iran, Mr. Shirazi and those who for 30 years did the mullahs’ bidding have a lot to answer for. The Iranian people do not forget their friends, nor do they forget their enemies.
2. Nima Shirazi on December 30th, 2009 at 17:46:
Thank you for your close reading of my article, Mr. George, and for your response.
I do, however, beg to differ with you about the MEK’s noble aspirations. I too have a big problem with the US State Department’s determination of what and what is not a "terrorist organization" and it is obvious that most designations are made for political reasons. Just look at Hamas and Hezbollah, for example. Clearly, the fact that Nelson Mandela and other former ANC members were only removed from the US terrorism watch list in July of 2008 speaks volumes as to how absurd the whole thing is in general. That said, the point I make in my article is that the MEK, which is designated as a terrorist group (a label the EU dropped a year ago) and funded by the US – in part by the US government via covert channels and also by the large and wealthy Iran monarchist contingent in Los Angeles and elsewhere – is treated by members of Congress when it suits their agenda as simply a "dissident group" that stands in opposition to the Iranian government. It seems that certain "terrorist groups" are better than others, according to Washington DC…the groups that fight against US and Israeli hegemony and occupation in their own countries are evil monsters, but the groups that fight to overthrow governments that don’t bow down to US domination are to be supported.
You say that there is "absolutely no factual, legal, and moral justification for the ban on the MEK, which acts as the catalyst for change in Iran." I, too, hope for change in Iran. I am no fan of any sort of theocracy – even one with strong republican elements – and I would very much like to see Iran’s human rights record improve, just as I have hopes for the United States government to improve its own. But I wonder how your claims square with the evidence of MEK responsibility for the 1992 near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and institutions in thirteen countries, the 1998 assassination of the director of Iran’s prison system, Asadollah Lajevardi, the 1999 assassination of the deputy chief of Iran’s armed forces general staff, Ali Sayyad Shirazi, the February 2000 “Operation Great Bahman,” during which MEK launched twelve attacks against Iran, the 2000 mortar attack on President Mohammed Khatami’s palace in Tehran, and the series of mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids during 2000 and 2001 against Iranian government buildings, one of which killed Iran’s chief of staff. Human Rights Watch has also accused the group of perpetrating serious human rights abuses, including torture, at a number of secret prison camps.
Furthermore, the MEK’s funding by and support of Saddam Hussein during the eight-year war against Iran is unconscionable. During the war, the MEK launched suicidal, mass wave attacks against Iranian forces. The MEK’s siding with the Iraqi regime is widely seen as undermining their credibility among the Iranian public and, as Newsweek reported just days after the June election, the MEK "enjoy[s] very little popular support inside Iran, yet in their propaganda they have been claiming that the protestors are out in the streets in support of their cause."
It appears you have bought into this very propaganda yourself when you state that "the slogans chanted in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities today are the ones espoused and disseminated for three decades by the MEK." You seem to forget that the Iranian opposition movement chants include "Allah O Akbar!" – God is Great – along with "Peace be upon the prophet Mohammad and his family!" and "Ya Hossein!," all deeply religious phrases which prove that the dissident movement in Iran is not a "secular revolution," as you and the MEK perhaps hope, but rather has strong undercurrent of religiosity like most aspects of Iranian culture.
Are you unaware that the color green, which has been appropriated by the opposition movement and seen by Western commentators and casual observers as the bucolic color of progress, environmentalism, clean energy, rebirth, and renewal, is also the color of Islam? Iranians are well aware of the symbolism of wearing green. Green is one of Iran’s national colors, not some chromatic infiltration of kaleidoscopic revolt.
Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi has written to his supporters, "Let’s not abandon the green color which is a symbol of spirituality, freedom and religious mentality and moderateness and the Allah O Akbar slogan that tells us of revolutionary roots…This is the color and slogan that is still unifying our nation and will be the best measure to connect our hearts and needs." Mousavi has also declared that "We, as those who are loyal to the Islamic Republic and its constitutional laws, consider the Holy Jurisdiction one of the fundamentals of this regime and follow the political movements within legal frameworks." Even Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a highly-regarded champion of women’s rights in Iran, has felt the need to remind a group of students that she and her husband still believe strongly in the ideals of the revolution and don’t regard anti-Islamic Revolution elements as their allies.
This all hardly sounds like a movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian government, as the MEK would like. You say that "millions in Iran want to see this regime go," and this may be true, but in a country of 70 million people, you’d need many many millions of Iranians to back any sort of regime change movement for it to actually work. Meanwhile, a September poll taken by WorldPublicOpinion (WPO), a project of the highly respected Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, showed that about 80% of Iranians consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the legitimately elected president of Iran and that nearly three out of four respondents expressed either "a lot" (38%) or "some confidence" (34%) in the Ministry of Interior, which ran the election. Additionally, 85% expressed either "a lot" (64%) or "some" (21%) confidence" in Ahmadinejad himself, 83% expressed "a lot" (52%) or "some" (31%) confidence in the police. 60% of those polled said they were comfortable with the extent of Ayatollah Khamenei’s power.
Now, I’m sure you will claim that these numbers can’t be trusted and that they are due to governmental intimidation. And yet, we’ve seen tens and hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Iran who seem not to be intimidated or deterred by the government.
Also, for me to hear what the Iranian people want and what they "do not forget" from someone like you is pretty hilarious. Perhaps next time I speak to or visit my hundreds of family members (some of whom are staunch supporters of the opposition while some are not) in Tehran, Varamin, and Karaj, I’ll pass along what Alex George has told them they want and see how they respond. My guess is it’ll be something like, "Allah O Akbar!"
Thanks again for your comment and insight.
3. alex george on December 30th, 2009 at 18:52:
Thank you for your measured response.
Re the list of "terrorist" activities you have mentioned, several points are to be made:
1. The MEK has made no bones about the fact prior to 2001 it did carry out operations against ligitimate military targets, including for example a criminal like Gen. Ali Sayyad Shirazi, who publicly boasted of killing hundreds of MEK members during the group’s military incursion deep inside Iran in 1988 as well as the massacre of innocent people of Iranian Kurdistan in the early days after the Iranian revolution in 1979.
As for the "simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and institutions in thirteen countries," I refer you to the book, which I found quite persuasive and well-documented, "Democracy Betrayed." It is strange that in your mind, and of course, the State Department (since this allegation seems to be have been taken right out of its reports on the MEK). As for Asadollah Lajevardi, I assume you agree that he was notoriously known as Eichmann of Iran for personally murdering thousands of prisoners of conscience and raping or ordering the rape of many innocent girls because he and his likeminded mullahs did want to send virgins to heaven.
In your logic, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Col. Claus von Stauffenberg and the French patriots would all be terrorists. I am only reminded of the great American Statesman Thomas Jefferson, who said, ‘The tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.’ And I guess, for you as an Iranian, and a Muslim, I presume, there is no shortage of historical legends, such as Imam Hussein and the revolutionaries of the 1906 Constitutional Movement, the Jungle movement, etc.
But all of this is academic. The MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and voluntarily handed over its weapons, all 20,000 pieces of them, to the U.S. military. Its leadership announced its commitment to a UN-sponsored referendum of election on regime change. Moreover, after a thorough and exhaustive review of 15 volumes of evidence, the UK specialist Tribunal, POAC, and the English Court of Appeal said the terrorist desingation of the MEK was "perverse" because not only the open evidence, but also the classified evidence reinforced their view that the MEK is not engaged in terrorism and does not have the intent and the capacity to do so in the future.
Frankly, I do not ascribe to the mindset that once labeled a terrorist, always a terrorist.
As for the discredited HRW report, I refer you to a book by a European Parliamentary delegation that visited Camp Ashraf and investigated every single one of those allegations, which were hatched by Iranian intelligences services and rehashed by 12 people who had sold their services to Tehran.
Moreover, a 16-month investigation by seven different US agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, and the State Department into every single member of the MEK at Ashraf found nothing of the sort that HRW claimed. Last but not least, the author of that report was a board member of an ostensibly Iranian-American group that is well-known inside the beltway to be a lobby and a front for the Iranian regime.
Re the Green movement, I do not believe it would be worth my and your while to argue over its message or the significance of the color. During the Ashura uprising, it was clear that those who chanted "death to the principle of the velayat-e faqih" had gone far beyond Mr. Mousavi. And I suggest you watch Iranian state media in the past three days for they are lamenting that the millions in the streets of Iran were chanting the slogans of the MEK.
I could not agree with you more when you talk about the need for many millions to overturn this regime, Obviously, if the international community, the Europeans and the US, toughen up their stance against the regime, the Iranian people may feel heartened to become engaged even more than they have. I must admit, having been witness to the 1979 revolution as an undergraduate student at UCLA, that the scenes in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities last Sunday had more than the markings of what happened 30 years ago.
The MEK is not after a theocracy. It has said it wants a republic based on the seperation of church and state. As for the "republican" support for the MEK, FYI, in a resolution currently in the House of Representatives, there are actually more democrats than republican signatories. And Ms. Jackson-Lee is considered a far-left representative.
Finally, I really believe that if the Iranian people had one reason to hate the Shah, they have a thousand reason to hate Khomeini and his disciples, including Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Let us not kid ourselves with poll numbers. They only tell you what you want them to tell you.
4. Nima Shirazi on December 30th, 2009 at 19:07:
Thanks for your response. I must clarify that when I spoke of "republicanism," I was referring to the political ideology of representative government, not about the Republican party. Your references are duly noted and I thank you for them. I thought I made clear that the MEK is a secular organization; I never suggested they wanted at theocracy, quite the contrary. Also, I made the point that a "terrorist" watch list is a silly thing in general, as evidenced by Nelson Mandela’s designation.
I also am not a Muslim. I am an atheist.
If the Iranian people wish to change their government, I hope they do. But that is not the same as supporting regime change from outside sources, especially those aligned heavily with both the US government (which has a grudge to settle) and pro-Shah monarchists. Iranians of all political affiliations have no affinity for foreign infiltration or manipulation. The people of Iran will decide their own fate and we don’t need to cultishly support the Rajavis for that to happen.