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More on “Washington’s Favorite Terrorists,” the MEK

Trita Parsi has a good piece out about how the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian exile group officially declared a terrorist entity both in the United States and Iran, may soon be removed from the US terror list.
Through its front group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the MEK has been publicizing Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, as well as courting US and European government officials who are, shall we say, misguided enough to think that Iranian government could be replaced by them. Other front groups and names for the MEK include the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), the National Liberation Army of Iran and the Muslim Iranian Student’s Society.

Iranian politics are complex and can be as confusing as US foreign policy is on Iran, but of this you can be certain: the MEK and it’s “parliament in-waiting” is considered illegitimate at best by the vast majority of Iranians living inside and outside of Iran. It can’t serve the interests of the US government or normal Iranians either.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, John Bolton and other neoconservatives, far right-wingers and their European counterparts (ever heard of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale?).

As Parsi points out:

…in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented multi-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.

Beginning as an anti-Shah movement in the 1950s, the cult-like group conducted attacks on US officials and civilians in Iran during the 1970s. Its actions resulted in a government crackdown on all opposition movements in Iran at the time.. Afterwards surviving MEK members fled to Paris and Iraq where the group turned into a reactionary movement, embracing the main goal of overthrowing the Islamic government in Iran through any means.

In Iraq the MEK assisted Saddam Hussein’s government in suppressing Shias and Kurds and performed “security services” for the Iraqi government until Hussein’s government was overthrown by the US. The MEK did not resist the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. At present the MEK is mainly supported by pro-Israel advocates and/or those who support destructive forms of regime change in Iran, including US neoconservatives. For some reason the word “opportunism” keeps repeating in my head.

Just some background notes on the MEK for those who are interested in learning more.

According to investigative journalist Connie Bruck, the MEK’s “intelligence” on Iran (cited by some US officials in the past) was likely provided to the MEK by Israel. (Scott Ritter has also argued this):

An Iranian-American political activist told me, however, that the N.C.R.I.’s intelligence had actually come from Israel. This person said that Israel had earlier offered it to a monarchist group, but that that group’s leaders had decided that “outing” the regime’s nuclear program would be viewed negatively by Iranians, so they declined the offer. Shahriar Ahy, Reza Pahlavi’s adviser, confirmed that account-up to a point. “That information came not from the M.E.K. but from a friendly government, and it had come to more than one opposition group, not only the mujahideen,” he said. When I asked him if the “friendly government” was Israel, he smiled. “The friendly government did not want to be the source of it, publicly. If the friendly government gives it to the U.S. publicly, then it would be received differently. Better to come from an opposition group.” Israel is said to have had a relationship with the M.E.K. at least since the late nineties, and to have supplied a satellite signal for N.C.R.I. broadcasts from Paris into Iran. When I asked an Israeli diplomat about Israel’s relationship with the M.E.K., he said, “The M.E.K. is useful,” but declined to elaborate.

While documenting years of similar instances in an investigative report written for IPS News, Gareth Porter argues that the “laptop documents” provided by the MEK as evidence that the Iranian government planned to build a nuclear weapon may have originated from Israel’s Mossad:

Since 2002, new information has emerged indicating that the MEK did not obtain the 2002 data on Natanz itself but received it from the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Yossi Melman and Meier Javadanfar, who co-authored a book on the Iranian nuclear programme last year, write that they were told by “very senior Israeli Intelligence officials” in late 2006 that Israeli intelligence had known about Natanz for a full year before the Iranian group’s press conference. They explained that they had chosen not to reveal it to the public “because of safety concerns for the sources that provided the information”.

Furthermore, as Porter noted in 2008, the MEK was a favorite of neoconservatives in the Pentagon who were proposing in 2003-2004 to use it as part of a policy to destabilize Iran. Just months after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, neoconservative commentator Daniel Pipes declared the MEK a US ally for its potential to provide intelligence on Iran. While Pipes stated that the MEK does not stand a chance of militarily overthrowing the Iranian government, he still recommended that the US government arm them:

Can the MeK be useful? Yes. Western spy agencies are short on “human intelligence” – meaning spies on the ground in Iran, as distinct from eyes in the sky. Coalition military commanders should seek out the MeK for information on Iranian agents in Iraq…

Instead, as the U.S. Army recommends, MEK members should (after giving assurances not to attack Iranian territory) be permitted enough arms to protect themselves from their Iranian opponents. And in November, when the secretary of state next decides whether or not to re-certify the MEK as a terrorist group, he should come to the sensible conclusion that it poses no threat to the security of the United States or its citizens, and remove it from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

There’s a lot more to be said about the MEK’s shady past and present, as well as its front groups and those that are pouring millions into lobbying for them, but for now, read Parsi’s piece.

One last thought: is it naive to hope that the mainstream media which failed so badly in the run up to the Iraq war with figures like Ahmed Chalabi will give this group better investigative coverage?

Jasmin Ramsey –  Lobelog

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