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Israel’s Secret Relationship with MKO

In the 1960’s when the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) was founded by a handful of Iranian university students, its ideology encompassed a classless, monotheist society which blankdenied all symbols of Western capitalism and Jewish Zionism. With this denial came a penchant for violence and systematic killing—killing which the State Department recognizes as terrorism. Michael Rubin, an independent scholar who in 2009, led a workshop at the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee—America’s pro-Israeli lobby) conference in Washington DC, wrote an article in 2006 titled “Monsters of the Left” in which he declares that the “MKO launched a wave of bomb attacks which targeted the Iran-American Society, the US Information office, the Hotel International, Pepsi Cola, General Motors, and the Marine Oil Company […] In a wave of bombings that continued into 1975, the MKO group attacked clubs, stores, police facilities, minority-owned businesses, factories it accused of having ‘Israeli connections,’ and symbols of state and capitalism.” [1] While carrying out these attacks, the MKO not only denounced Israel, but it supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and in fact, during the 1970’s, some of the MKO’s core members went to train in PLO military camps. [2] The MKO’s hostility towards Israel and Zionism was so strong that it led them to bomb the Jordanian Embassy in Tehran, “to revenge King Hussein’s September 1970 crackdown on their PLO patrons,”admits Rubin. [3] Israel may have been an enemy of the MKO at one time, but now they have warmed to them—because the ideology of the MKO has shifted, and Israel may be able to use them.

Now, the MKO could use a helping hand too because since the US-led invasion of Iraq, in the enclave of Camp Ashraf, a place the MKO has called home for over two decades, there is impending precariousness. The MKO fears for its future because they are no longer under the protection of Saddam Hussein, and there’s no telling what the shaky new Iraqi government will do. What’s more, the U.S. government no longer considers MKO members in Iraq to have the “protected-persons” status the U.S. gave them in 2003, and is privately supportive of Iraqi government efforts to encourage the residents to leave. [4] At present, the MKO’s biggest fear is Iranian reprisal. Even though they helped bring about the 1979 Islamic Revolution, killing Americans and ousting the Shah, in the years following, they simply proved to be too power hungry for the Iranian regime. In a move which was designed to distance them from the regime, and gain support, they changed their ideology, and in the 1980’s joined Saddam Hussein and moved to Camp Ashraf in Iraq (where many of them still remain). During the time in Iraq, they killed Kurds in exchange for arms, and then turned against the government they helped bring to power—killing Iranian officials and civilians. Support they needed from Iran shriveled, and the people of Iran now hold the MKO accountable for their deadly attacks on citizens and officials throughout the last four decades. For the MKO leaders, Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, a worst case scenario would be deportation back to Iran because they are viewed as fascist cultists, and worse, traitors. With this kind of track record, a relationship between the MKO and Israel is weirdly devious—and secret.

The MKO sees the West’s support as their only hope for continued existence. In order to formulate opportunity within the framework of hope, they no longer denounce imperialism and Zionism. And in a last ditch move to maintain their dying support among a small minority of Iranians, they have turned to President Ahmadinejad’s “Zionist” foes—credulous Western politicians and, yes, Israel. Despite the MKO’s past admonition of Zionism, Israel has been obliging, secretly working with the MKO in opposition to Iran. In order publicly unite with the West, the MKO came to the media in 2003 and announced that Iran had nuclear warheads—which according to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), turned out to be wrong. Not only was the information incorrect, but it was fabricated by the Israeli government. In June 2009, Gareth Porter, an expert on U.S. national security policy, published an article on IPS, titled”Report Ties Dubious Iran Nuclear Docs to Israel Analysis.”Porter reveals that”Israeli intelligence was the source of the collection of intelligence documents which have been used to accuse Iran of hiding nuclear weapons research.” [5] Referring to various sources, Porter asserts that”the documents collection which the IAEA has called ‘alleged studies’ actually originated in Israel and in fact Israel intelligence assembled the documents.”[6] According to Porter, “German officials have said that the Mujahedin E Khalq or MEK, the Iranian resistance organization, brought the laptop documents collection to the attention of U.S. intelligence, as reported by IPS in February 2008.

Israeli ties with the political arm of the MEK, the National Committee of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), go back to the early 1990’s and include assistance to the organization in broadcasting into Iran from Paris.” [7] The Germans have long been wary of the MKO and Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution has noted that the MKO’s propaganda campaigns often include attempts to contact members of parliament to inform them of the MKO’s alleged goals, encourage political support, and influence parliamentary debate about Iran.

MKO’s secret ties with Israel do not begin or end with Iranian nuclear documents. They also unabashedly attend AIPAC functions. In fact, the MKO has intensive and very direct cooperation with the Iran Policy Committee, a spinoff of AIPAC. Mahan Abedin, a journalist for the Asia Times, reports that there are regular media reports which allude to direct Israel-MKO ties. [9] In an article that Abedin wrote in which he interviewed a former MKO member, Massoud Bani Sadr, BaniSadr disclosed that”the [MKO] is exclusively motivated by the interests of the cult, and as such it will cooperate with any constituency. If there is any hesitation in collaboration it stems from Israeli reluctance, since the Mujahedin because of its close relationship with the PLO, is not fully trusted by Israelis. On the other hand from an Israeli perspective, the [MKO] is the only viable tool against Iran.”[10] In 2006, Connie Bruck, a writer for New Yorker, spoke with an Israeli diplomat who declined to elaborate on the MKO-Israel relationship, but did at least say to Bruck that “Israel had found the [MKO] useful.”[11]

Richard Silverstein points out that the Israeli lobby in Washington advocates tougher U.S. policy against the Islamic Republic. [12] And the MKO is all for it. In their efforts for starting a war with Iran, or impose crippling sanctions on it, the Israel lobby and the neocons have been aided by two groups of Iranian exiles: the monarchists, and members and supporters of the MKO. [13] Silverstein notes that “Israel is in the midst of a massive diplomatic, political and intelligence campaign, both public and covert, that could lead – if those officials behind it have their way – towards a military strike on Iran. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Or you might call it the war before the war. In intelligence circles, this Israeli project is known as perception management and defined by the department of defense as:

Actions to convey and/or deny information … to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders … ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to [US] objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception and psychological operations.” This is a parallel policy which is consistently held by the MKO, and its political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). In hope that Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the MKO, will become the puppet of the United States—a shoe in the door in Iran, the NCRI’s website maintains a canopy of praise for the U.S. for anything which is against Iran and the Iranian people. (Recently the NCRI’s website ran a headline that states, “Maryam Rajavi, President elect of the Iranian Resistance, welcomed the imposition of new sanctions against the mullahs’ regime by the US and the European Union”) [14]. The relationship with the US, the sanctions, and the underlying reasons and ramifications for pressing sanctions should be seen as more complex for the Rajavi’s, as they deem themselves Iranians—because Iranians are simply too savvy, and they know that sanctions are just a simplistic reprisal. The Rajavi’s attitude and blind devotion to U.S. policy, along with their support for the Israeli lobby shows that they are out of touch with Iranian sentiment. Iran doesn’t like Israel’s attitude and blind devotion to itself and its expansion. For Iranians, Israel demonstrates a haughtiness that doesn’t chronicle nicely with the rest of the Middle East, and Israel’s policy towards Iran is to pressure the U.S. to do what Israel wants. After 9/11 Iran held sympathy for the U.S. and offered to exchange al-Qaida terrorists for MKO terrorists [15]. But the Bush administration neoconservatives declined after Israelis met with Manuchehr Ghorbanifar (an unreliable intelligence source for the U.S. who was involved in the Iran Contra scandal). The Jerusalem Post reveals that at least one of the meetings was quite specific with regard to an attempt to torpedo better US/Iran relations:

“The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaeda operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.”[16]

According to Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East, “The neoconservatives have some sort of shadowy relationship with the Mujahadeen-e Khalq Organization, or MEK [MKO]. Presumably its leaders have secretly promised to recognize Israel if they ever succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs in Iran. When the U.S. recently categorized the MEK as a terrorist organization, there were howls of outrage from ‘scholars’ associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, such as ex-Trotskyite Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes.”[17]
MKO ties with US and Israel officials might offer short-term benefits to the group. But they will harm the fame of those who currently support them. Despite all effort made by the MKO propaganda campaign to win the support of AIPAC which “has a lot of weight” in U.S. congress according to Massoud Bani Sadr, the MKO”have not been able to pass a single substantial resolution in support of the organization in congress. Note also that the US government regards the Mujahedin as a terrorist organization and does not want to create another Al-Qaeda.”[18] For now these strange bedfellows must remain a secret.

[1] Rubin, Michael.”Monsters of the Left.”Frontpagemagazine.com 13 January 2006: Web. 30 Jul 2010.
[2] Abrahamian, Ervand. The Iranian Mojahedin. London, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. p 127.
[3] Rubin, Michael. Ibid
[4] McNaught, Anita.”Iranian Militant MeK Group Losing Fight to Stay in Iraq.”Fox News” 12 January 2009: Web. 30 Jul 2010.
<http://www.foxnews.com/story/0, 2933, 479404, 00.html>.
[5] Porter, Gareth.”Report Ties Dubious Iran Nuclear Docs to Israel.”IPS 3 June 2009: Web. 31 Jul 2010.
[6]Porter, Gareth. Ibid
[7]Porter, Gareth. Ibid
[8] According to Mahan Abedin, an Independent Iranian journalist for the Asia Times and an expert on Iran, Iraq, and Islamic movements and ideologies.
See Abedin, Mahan.”Dissent and Defection: An Iranian Confession.”Asia Times Online (18 may 2006): Web. 31 Jul 2010.
[9] Abedin, Mahan.”Dissent and Defection: An Iranian Confession.”Asia Times Online (18 may 2006): Web. 31 Jul 2010.
[10] Bruck, Connie.”A Reporter at Large: Exiles.”New Yorker 6 March 2006: 48.
[11] Silverstein, Richard.”AIPAC’s Hidden Persuaders.”Guardian 15 May 2009
[12] Sahimi, Muhammad.”The Israel Lobby, the Neocons, and the Iranian-American Community.”Antiwar.com 21 November 2009: Web. 2 Aug 2010.
[13] NCRI website
[14] Windrem, Robert.”Al-Qaida Finds Safe Haven in Iran.”MSNBC.com 24 June 2005: 2 Aug 2010.
[15] Cole, Juan.”AIPAC’s Overt and Covert Ops.”Antiwar.com 30 August 2004: 2 Aug 2010.
The article Juan Cole cites, which is no longer available online, originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.
[16] Cole, Juan. Ibid
[17] Sherwell, Philip.”Israel Launches Covert War Against Iran.”Telegraph 16 February 2009.
[18] Bruck, Connie. Ibid

By: Mazda Parsi

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