MKO Has No Base Amongst Iranians

As President Ahmadinejad addressed the UN’s General Assembly in September, New York witnessed a bizarre atmosphere of MKO protestors. The protestors ran a high budget rally, and were addressed by some right wing political figures including Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York, and John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN and a promoter of a second war project against Iran. [1] The protest also included a fresh faced 22-year old speaker, Sahand Khoshbaten, who calls himself a “human rights activist,” and “Iranian freedom fighter.” No Iranian would agree with the MKO’s motto

Khoshbaten organizes the “No to Ahmadinejad Committee,” a group which sends protestors to push for human rights when the President of Iran appears at the UN. But during the protest speeches it is clear that Khoshbaten is really a messenger from the terrorist cult, Mujahedin eh Khalq Organization. What many Americans don’t know is that the MKO, has no base among Iranians. And it should have no base among the few Americans supporting them anyway because the MKO committed murderous acts of terror against Americans, and are currently listed on the US Department of State Foreign Terrorist Organization List, a fact that most Americans don’t know. This rally was using human rights as a guise to target sentimental Americans—Iranian-born or not.

Cyrus Safdari of *Iran Affairs* suggests the irony that comes out of such American support for a terrorist designated organization like the MKO. He reminds us of a controversial fact that "of various bullshit reasons given for the US invasion of Iraq, the US accused Saddam of aiding foreign terrorist organizations. But the only organization they could tie him to was …..wait for it ….the MEK!"[2]. In another article published by *Newsweek *which highlights Safdari’s punch line, former Clinton administration official Martin Indyk, who served as assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs in 1997, said that “one of the reasons the group was put on the terrorism list in the first place was part of a ‘two-pronged’ strategy that included ratcheting up pressure on Saddam. Like the Bush White House, the Clinton administration was eager to highlight Iraqi ties to terrorism and had collected extensive evidence of Saddam providing logistical support to the MKO in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War. (The MKO’s headquarters are located on a heavily guarded street in central Baghdad.) But the United States could find no other hard evidence linking Saddam to terror groups, Indyk said. ‘That was about all we had on [Saddam] when it came to terrorism,’ Indyk told *Newsweek*.” [3]

Even with some American support and Iranian-American support, the MKO is simply not a viable alternative to the current regime. No Iranian would agree with the MKO’s motto that they are “The Voice of Change for a New Iran.” Which Iran is the MKO referring to? The one that has few, if any, supporters? The one full of MKO defectors? One MKO defector, Mr. Dashtestani, who now lives back in his home country of Iran, recently escaped Camp Ashraf, the MKO headquarters, which members operated out of in the war against their home country. Dashtestani explained about the control the MKO cult group has over its members. He recalls, "During the past six months I travelled through half of Iranian territory, [and] I was never asked a question, but in Camp Ashraf if you want to go outside you have to ask at least three people."[4]

The US State Department report on the MKO in 1994 is a clear guideline to those who hesitate about the legitimacy of the group in both Iran and the United States:

"Exploiting Western opprobrium of the behavior of the current government of Iran, the Mojahedin posit themselves as the alternative. To achieve that goal they claim they have the support of a majority of Iranians. This claim is much disputed by academics and other specialists on Iran, who assert that in fact the Mojahedin –e- Khalq have little support among Iranians. They argue that the Mojahedin’s activities since the group’s leadership fled from Iran in 1981 particularly their alliance with Iraq and the group’s internal oppression have discredited them among the Iranian polity." [5]

Patrick Disney of *Foreign Policy* pushes a more sensational description of the MKO—a description that might hit home with Americans who seek to understand just who the MKO are. Disney asserts that "the MEK organization has literally zero support among the Iranian people.

The closest thing to how Iranians feel about the MEK is how Americans feel about Al-Qaeda. It’s not even a subject of debate. Which is why it’s bizarre that members of congress would want to lend US credibility to such an organization."[6]

Mahan Abedin, Director of Research at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism, believes that "both sides in the US debate readily admit the Mojahedin’s isolation both in Iran and amongst the Iranian Diaspora in the West is not fully appreciated.” Abedin contends that this isolation is originated from two reasons, the group’s alliance with Saddam Hussein and its communist philosophy. He writes that, "The organization’s radical and near-communist origins have always alienated large swathes of Iran’s modern middle and upper classes. The MKO’s alliance with Iraq’s former Baathist regime during the Iran-Iraq war was a huge strategic blunder from which they could never hope to recover. The sight of MKO forces aiding the Iraqi turned them into perennial traitors in the eyes of Iranians. This perception of the Mujahedin still persists, more than 15 years after the ending of the war". [7] It seems ridiculous to count on an opposition group with unsubstantiated support among Iranians living in Iran. Western sponsors such as John Bolton, and Rudi Giuliani are on the wrong track by supporting the MKO—who because of their terrorist label, and because they know they have almost no support amongst Iranians—consistently hide behind front organizations such as Khoshbaten’s “No to Ahmadinejad Committee.”

Who are these American supporters who think they know what is best for Iran? By allowing and supporting a known terrorist group (and its front groups) to protest in front of the UN, the Americans are simply perpetuating hypocrisy and bad relations between the two countries. Perhaps the Americans have forgotten the last time they went against the hearts and minds of Iranians when the CIA carried out a coup d’état in 1953 and placed the unpopular Shah in power, only to have it blow back with hatred and distrust towards American foreign policy in the region. Iranians have not forgotten, and Iranians don’t want the MKO. Americans need to know that.

References:

[1] Anti-Ahmadinejad demonstration in New York addressed by dignitaries." *CNN
ireport* 27 September 2010: Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-496415?ref=feeds%2Flatest>.
[2] Disney, Patrick. "Disney on the MEK-MKO-PMOI-NCRI-whatever." *Iran
Affairs* (24 September 2010): Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
http://www.iranaffairs.com/iran_affairs/2010/09/
disney-on-the-mek-mko-pmoi-ncri-whatever-.html>.
[3] Iskoff, Michael. "Ashcroft’s Baghdad Connection." *Newsweek* 26
September 2002:. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
http://www.newsweek.com/2002/09/25/ashcroft-s-baghdad-connection.html>.
[4] Dashtestani, Mahmoud. *Nejat Society*. Interview by Habilian
Association. 09 October 2010. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
https://www.nejatngo.org/en/post.aspx?id=3311>.
[5]Katzman, Kenneth. US State Department Report, Library of Congress.
Congressional Research Service. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
Washington, Nov 1992. Doc. call no.: M-U 42953-1 no.92-824F as posted on the
Iran-interlink.org website:
http://www.iran-interlink.org/files/child%20pages/USstatedept.htm
See also: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
website: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/4ac9c2c52.pdf.
See also: CORI (Country of Origin Research and Information) website:
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/4ac9c2c52.pdf
[6] Disney, Patrick. "The Middle East Channel." *Foreign Policy*. The Slate
Group, 22 September 2010. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/22/
congressional_backers_look_to_exiled_iranian_group_for_regime_change
[7] Abedin, Mahan. “Mojahedin-e-Khalq: Saddam’s Iranian Allies”
Terrorism Monitor. The Jamestown Foundation, 05 May 2005. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <
http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=433>.

By Mazda Parsi

Service

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