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Iran Focus: The MKO Propaganda Machine

I’ve written several times about my distrust of several news sources by hard-line monarchists or the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organziation (a.k.a MKO, MEK, National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, People’s Mojahedin of Iran, PMOI, etc.) as well as those who rely on these sources as "news". Reading news from one of these agencies isn’t about reflecting on different interpretive accounts of events. This isn’t like choosing between the New York Times and Washington Post where there are different “spins” on the same source of information. Both the Time and the Post believe they are being objective, but in different ways. Relying on news sources by hard line monarchists and the MKO, is about choosing an agency that absolutely lies or exaggerates incidents in order to enhance their own political objective. Let us take Iran Focus as an example. In the past I have noted that Iran Focus is a agency run by the MKO for various reasons:

1) The current executive director of Iran Focus is Mohammad Hanif Jazayeri. Hanif is the son of Hassan Jazayeri. Until three years ago, Hassan Jazayeri was rumored to have died in 1980 as a result of being abandoned by MKO and Iraqi trainers. Later the story was changed to Hassan being executed by the Iranian regime for his membership with the MKO. Given Iran and the MKO’s history of human rights abuses, I won’t argue which is the correct account. Before Iran Focus was ever created, Hanif has time after time advocated his support for the MKO. In fact, earlier this year Hanif was engaged in a campaign to remove the MKO from the UK’s list of terrorist organizations (it is worth noting that the MKO is also included in the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.)

Additionally, in various posts dated in1998 and 1999, Hanif has advocated his support for the MKO as Iran’s only "democratic alternative."

Hanif’s signature also appears on this petition supporting the MKO cause.

2) Iran Focus along with its sister site Iran Terror (look at the website designs and stories as well as the website for the MKO and you can easily see they’re created by the same designer) are registered in London and Paris respectively. In fact both organizations, including the MKO, tried to allege that the Human Rights Watch report illustrating all the human rights abuses committed by the organization was a result of some conspiracy between HRW and agents in the Iranian government. A response to the allegation can be found here. I’d like to add that the "Gulf 2000 list" which Iran Focus and Iran Terror refers to is a listserv with hundreds of academics, politicals, and thinkers on the Persian Gulf with different political viewpoints. Nevertheless, the Iran Terror email refers to emails sent in the listserv as "secret emails" which they had intercepted.

3) The Iran Focus website uses language supporting the MKO cause. There are particular ideological positions and phrases which MKO members and supporters use. By continuously using the MKO as Iran’s "democratic alternative" both the Iran Focus and Iran Terror websites intend to create the misleading image that the group, as well as their political counter-part NCRI, are legitimate proponents of human rights and democracy with a significant backing inside and outside of Iran. Read this article, this article, and this article for an image of the type of propaganda used by the websites.

As I stated before, the purpose of both Iran Focus and Iran Terror is twofold: 1) to disseminate information for political purposes and enhance a movement for external regime change and 2) legitimize the MKO in Western government by removing them from terrorist lists and enhancing their political influence. The sum of these objectives is to persuade Western governments to militarily engage Iran in order to replace with Mullahs with the Mujahedin.

That being said there’s a variety of reasons to view the MKO news agencies and similar modules as instruments of propaganda as opposed to instruments of news.

First, the organization is a terrorist group under both US and European law. The State Department continues to list the MKO as a terrorist group. Although MKO agents have claimed that the inclusion was part of Clinton’s appeal to the reformist government in Iran, the argument is no longer cogent in light of the fact that during Bush’s 5 years in office he has yet to remove the MKO as a terrorist group despite significant political pressure by various neo-conservatives (this includes Daniel Pipes who currently has a chair with the US Institute of Peace) and various Republican Congressmen. (see this article for a summary of US political figures who have been lobbied by MKO representatives and supporters). Not only were the MKO were designated as a terrorist group under executive order on November 2, 2001, but the President used the MKO as an example of Saddam’s support for terrorism during the drive up to the Iraqi war:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

By their very nature as a terrorist organization, information by them should not be trusted. Lets put it that way, would you trust al-Qaeda about news in the US or Lebanon?

Second, the MKO have demonstrated time and time again the extents for which they’ll engage a disinformation campaign for purposes of propaganda. For example, the MKO continuously contend that no Mujahedin member has targeted Americans or Europeans figures during acts of terrorism. These arguments are clearly false in light of the following:

          In 1973, the MKO assassinated Lt. Col. Lewis Hawkins, a U.S. military advisor in Iran.

          In 1975, MKO members shot and killed two U.S. Air force officers in Tehran and attacked a U.S. Embassy van in Tehran resulted in the death of a local employee.

          In 1976, the MKO assassinated three American employees of Rockwell International working in Iran.

          In 1979, the MKO openly supported the holding of US hostages until 1981 when they began directing their attention to Khomeini.

Whether or not the MKO targeted Americans or not is a irrelevant argument anyways. Terrorism anywhere is terrorism everywhere regardless of our relationship with its targets. Evidence of MKO propaganda in Iran Focus is also apparent when we compare their report to a report by the Washington Times concerning a recent MKO event. The Iran Focus report indicates that there were thousands of participants, while the Times only reports 300. See a similar report where Iran Focus reported that over 40,000 participants intended to protest in Berlin. Interesting for an organization that is only reported to have 10,000 members.

Lastly, the MKO are highly disliked and disregarded by Iranians worldwide. During the Iran-Iraq war, the Saddam Hussein financed and utilized the MKO to institute several attacks against Iranians. (Note: the MKO were also responsible for assisting Saddam Hussein suppress Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in 1991.) It is no surprise, therefore, that most Iranians regard the MKO as a cultish organization. There is no statute of limitations against murderers or conspirators to murder, nor is there one for terrorists and those who conspire with terrorists. Similarly, the MKO do not gain immunity for their previous actions simply by refraining from targeting European and American targets for 30 years. Nor have they in the eyes of Iranians.

For all these reasons I note that Iran Focus, Iran Terror, people who rely on the two for information, and all affiliated groups should not be used as a source of "alternative information." There’s nothing alternative about propaganda, regardless of if it addresses the same human rights issues which we are concerned with. "The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted."

I would like to note that often those who do not share the same political sentiments of the MKO or hard-line monarchists are branded as “apologists” as if to place them in the same group as hezbollahis. We are not apologists when we wish freedom Iran based on principles of reconciliation and accountability. To do so would be similar to saying that opponents to the Khmer Rouge were apologists when the Cambodian government was committing human rights abuses in the early 70’s. As Congressman Bob Ney rightfully stated, “Opposition to the Mujahedin is not the same as support for the regime in Iran.”

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