A Cult is Trying to Hijack Our Iran Policy

These fanatics seek to replace Tehran’s religious tyranny with their own.

About 15,000 people, most of them Iranian Americans or exiles, recently flocked to Washington to denounce the fundamentalist Islamic government of Iran. The crowd shouted slogans against Iran’s reviled clerical regime and hoisted placards encouraging President Bush to take whatever action necessary – including preemptive military strikes – to ensure that Iran did not develop nuclear weapons.

By all appearances, the march seemed like a protest by concerned Iranians who supported regime change in Iran. In reality, it was a meticulously orchestrated political rally in support of a violent, pseudo-Marxist Iranian religious cult – the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known as the Mujahedin Khalq (MEK) – an organization that has been on U.S. and European Union terrorist watch lists for years.

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, the MEK (and its Paris-based political front, the National Council of Resistance in Iran) has tried to establish itself as the Iranian equivalent of Ahmad Chalabi’s "government in exile," the Iraqi National Congress – and not without success. Like the INC before the war, the MEK has advocates in the highest levels of government. And like the INC, the MEK has been inundating the U.S. intelligence community with uncorroborated and, according to some intelligence officials, highly suspect information meant to encourage the White House to carry out the same policy of regime change in Iran that it did in Iraq. But the United States will probably discover that the MEK – just like the INC – can’t be trusted.

The MEK, formed in the 1960s as one of several anti-imperialist organizations struggling to overthrow the oppressive and corrupt regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, gained widespread fame by killing dozens of the shah’s political cronies, as well as several U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors who were working in Iran at the time. But after the shah’s expulsion in 1979, the MEK found itself left behind in the ensuing power struggle over who would control the new Iran. Neither the secular democrats who formed the provisional government nor the religious factions who followed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wanted anything to do with the MEK’s Marxist agenda

Reza Aslan is the author of the forthcoming book, "No God but God: The

Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," to be published by Random House

Los Angeles Times    December 14, 2004

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