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MKO: Sophisticated Extremists who Lack Legitimacy

In order for any political group to be successful in achieving a political agenda, the group must have national, public support. And yet, in order to gain public support, the group must—in the The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) aka MKO,PMOI is such a group that has little national, public support, and in turn lacks legitimacypublic’s view—be legitimate. The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) aka MKO,PMOI is such a group that has little national, public support, and in turn lacks legitimacy. By and far, most Iranians will assert that the group is neither an authentic nor viable opposition group and it must be examined more closely by foreign nations, particularly Western foreign nations.

Political figures, particularly in the US and Europe, are largely uninformed of the MKO’s enduring and ugly strategy due to heavy and sneaky lobbying by MKO officials who have scarily managed to gain an ear among some politicians and neoconservative think-tank activists. Journalist, Abigail Hauslohner, who writes for Time asserts that, “despite its position on the U.S. terrorist list since 1997, and reports by former members of abusive and cult-like practices at Ashraf, the MEK has gathered support from some surprising places abroad — especially since the U.S. invasion — by pitching itself as a viable opposition to the mullahs in Tehran.” Hauslohner interviewed Gary Sick, a Persian Gulf expert at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and the author of All Fall Down: America’s Tragic Encounter With Iran. Sick describes that “the MKO have been extremely clever and very, very effective in their propaganda and lobbying of members of Congress." Sick says, "They get all sorts of people to sign their petitions. Many times the Congressmen don’t know what they’re signing." [1]

Raymond Tanter, a professor at Georgetown University is among those who have “sided” with the MKO, but his pledge to them involves a lot more than just a careless signatures. The Georgetown Voice, Georgetown University’s weekly news magazine since 1969, published an article by Will Sommer, on Tanter’s ties to the MKO which among other findings, exposes Tanter’s influence among congress members in the U.S. and parliament members in Europe. Sommer points out that Tanter uses his own pro-MKO books in class, and many students wonder what makes him loyal to the MKO. One student he interviewed concluded that Tanter sounded like he was “a lobbyist for the MEK.” [2]

Sommer furthers that “as the president of the Iran Policy Committee, a non-profit organization that promotes using Iranian oppositionists against Iran, Tanter is a tireless booster for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK/[MKO]), an armed group of Iranian exiles that seeks to overthrow the Iranian government. Its efforts are hampered by its placement on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, a classification Tanter says should be reversed so the MEK can counter Iran […] Tanter does not consider himself a lobbyist—because the MEK is considered a terrorist group, advocacy on their behalf is illegal.” [3] And yet, as of 7/12/2010, the MKO shows a photograph of Raymond Tanter at its “Grand Gathering” in Paris.

Since 1979, the Iranian government has had little or limited and fragile support from Western nations; it struggles diplomatically as it tries to establish respect among its own population. Meanwhile, the leaders of the MKO have a lofty plan to save Iran, while peddling the idea that the situation Iran will improve if they themselves replace the Iranian government. While this is a noble and exciting cause, and may appear to naive Westerners to be the solution to the “Iran problem”, in fact it is not. The reason why is because, even in the name of peace and democracy, they lack legitimacy and support both abroad and at home—from which they have been exiled.

The MKO evolved from radical beginnings in 1963 to a full blown cult by 1987. By 2006 in order to boost its image and divert the public from its affinity as a cult, (on behalf of the Israeli government) provided dubious information to U.S. officials regarding Iran’s nuclear program. [4] Currently they are focusing on hard lobbying and a massive propaganda campaign which aims to wipe out its cult-image and ugly terrorist activities, with their main goal of being removed from the U.S. State Department’s terrorist list. In order to do this they broadcast their own cable TV program. They publish their own news magazines. Their website epitomizes their effort to glorify themselves while selling the idea that they are the only option for a “free” Iran despite their brutal and dubious past—a past which includes numerous bloody incidents. The Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank which publishes Foreign Affairs, defines the MEK/MKO as having “targeted Iranian government officials and government facilities in Iran and abroad, and during the 1970s, it attacked Americans in Iran. While the group says it does not intentionally target civilians, it has often risked civilian casualties. It routinely aims its attacks at government buildings in crowded cities. MEK terrorism has declined since late 2001. [Some specific] incidents linked to the group include:

– The series of mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids during 2000 and 2001 against Iranian government buildings; one of these killed Iran’s chief of staff;
– The 2000 mortar attack on President Mohammed Khatami’s palace in Tehran;
– The February 2000 “Operation Great Bahman,” during which MEK launched twelve attacks against Iran;
– The 1999 assassination of the deputy chief of Iran’s armed forces general staff, Ali Sayyad Shirazi;
– The 1998 assassination of the director of Iran’s prison system, Asadollah Lajevardi;
– The 1992 near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and institutions in thirteen countries;
– Saddam Hussein’s suppression of the 1991 Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish uprisings;
– The 1981 bombing of the offices of the Islamic Republic Party and of Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar, which killed some seventy high-ranking Iranian officials, including
President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei and Bahonar;
– The 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries;
– The killings of U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran in the 1970’s. "[5]

For years MKO operatives inside and outside Iran have committed premeditated murder against civilians and government officials, and the murders stem from a terrorist substance, taking place boldly and randomly. The MKO and its supporters call these attacks acts "resistance against the regime," writes Washington Times journalist Kenneth Timmerman. [6]
After the Rajavis’ fled from Iran to France in 1985, France became their sponsor. And then following the rapprochement between France and Iran, the leaders were expelled to Iraq where they became Saddam Hussein’s proxy force against Iranians, Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Shiites. Following the collapse of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wanted them to be expelled from Iraq. In 2009, Abigail Hauslohner documented for Time that, al-Maliki “warned that an Iranian resistance group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), would no longer be able to have a base on Iraqi territory.” [7]

Recently, as the MKO focuses on cleaning up their image, their violence against civilians has dwindled—and so has their ability to influence Western politicians and intellectuals, especially the U.S. figures who view MKO’s terrorist acts against their fellowmen unpardonable. In his June article, Timmerman, with a sense of urgency, addresses American readers, that “the MEK has a long record of carrying out violent attacks inside Iran. During the period leading up to the 1979 revolution, the group proudly murdered U.S. military officers and civilians working in Iran. And while the group’s current leadership and its apologists claim that those attacks were carried out by a splinter group no longer associated with the MEK, eyewitnesses tell me that the MEK continued to celebrate the anniversary of those murders in ceremonies and song in their training camps inside Iraq all through the 1980s.” [8]

As Timmerman and other journalists continue to outline the MKO’s history of aggression and eccentricity, perhaps Westerners will become aware that the MKO is counting on the West’s gullibility. In their homeland however, support from foreign aggressors—particularly Iraq and the United States—works against them. Daniel Byman, the author of Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism theorizes that “many terrorist groups fight in the name of liberation, whether national or religious. If a group is perceived as being controlled by a foreign power, however its credibility as a liberation force diminishes […] The Mujahedin-e-Kalq (MEK), a terrorist group that opposes the clerical regime in Tehran, lost any legitimacy it had when it began to conduct operations out of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.” [9]

The MKO should never replace any form of government in Iran simply because they are not a legitimate group. They are terrorists.

[1] Hauslohner, Abigail. "Iranian Group a Source of Contention in Iraq." Time 5 January 2009: Web. 13 Jul 2010.
[2] Sommer, Will. "Foreign Policy Maverick." Georgetown Voice 28 February 2008: Web. 13 Jul 2010.
[3] Ibid
[4] Porter, Gareth. "Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group." Anitwar.com 1 March 2008: Web. 14 Jul 2010.
[5] Fletcher, Holly. "Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) (aka People’s Mujahedin of Iran or PMOI)." Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 18 April 2008. Web. 14 Jul 2010.
[6] Timmerman, Kenneth R. "IRANIAN OPPOSITION: Who are the terrorists? PJAK is a danger only to the Islamic regime.”Washington Times 22 June 2010. Web. 14 Jul 2010.
[7] Hauslohner, Abigail. "Iranian Group a Source of Contention in Iraq." Time 5 January 2009: Web. 13 Jul 2010.
[8] Timmerman, Kenneth R. "IRANIAN OPPOSITION: Who are the terrorists? PJAK is a danger only to the Islamic regime.”Washington Times 22 June 2010. Web. 14 Jul 2010.
[9] Byman, Daniel. Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 76. Print.

By Mazda Parsi

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