Last week while the outlines of a historic interim deal were being hashed out between the P5+1 nations and Iran, a last ditch effort to derail diplomacy and garner support for regime change in the Islamic Republic took place on Capitol Hill organized by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known as the the MEK. VOR’s Sean Nevins writes about the event, as well as his one-on-one interview with former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and a discussion with the MEK’s political arm.
The MEK, which according to U.S. Department of State, has been involved in the assassinations of American citizens and committed abuse against its own members, held a congressional briefing about a group of MEK members that were kidnapped following an attack on their compound in Iraq on September 1st of this year.
Prominent US officials, such as John Bolton (Fmr. US Ambassador to the United Nations), Tom Ridge and Brad Sherman (D-CA), attended and spoke on behalf of the MEK.
However, rather than focusing on the legitimately tragic events that took place against the MEK and its compound in Iraq, speakers zeroed in on the Iranian nuclear deal and its potential problems while also supporting regime change in the country.
Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas’s 18th District, said, “I want to see Iran disarmed, totally disarmed” while Randy Weber, a Republican also from Texas, said, “We need regime change. That’s pure and simple.”
None of the speakers over the two-hour time span supported diplomatic efforts taking place in Geneva.
A one-on-one with Tom Ridge (Fmr. Secretary of Homeland Security)
Following the briefing, Voice of Russia, intercepted Tom Ridge and asked him about his support for the MEK, an organization that has killed American citizens in the past. He denied the veracity of the claims, calling them “allegations,” and said that, if true, “the people at Liberty and Ashraf [the camps in Iraq] weren’t involved in those… assassinations back then”. This answer is despite the that fact that the State Department, Human Rights Watch, and the Rand Corporation say that the MEK was involved with those killings.
Additionally, Voice of Russia asked the former Secretary about allegations by the same aforementioned organizations that the MEK has abused its own members in the Iraqi camps. Again, the Secretary challenged the veracity of the claims. He said, “I think the Rand report, I’m not sure about the Human Rights [Watch report], has been discredited for many, many years.” This answer also came despite the fact that the State Department has said, “the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.”
With regards to the talks going on in Geneva at the time, Ridge told Voice of Russia, “I think a bad deal is worse than no deal.” During his presentation, he also emphasized that he did not support negotiations.
My own encounter with the MEK
Following my discussion with Tom Ridge, two people named Ali Safavi and Ben Borhani, from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is a political arm of the MEK, approached me to inquire about my questioning of the Secretary. They claimed that my concerns were part of a massive propaganda campaign targeted against the MEK by the Iranian regime.
I invited Mr. Safavi to come into the Voice of Russia studio on another date to voice his organization’s views, and so I could moderate a debate between himself and, if possible, a member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). I have no idea if a member of NIAC would agree to such a debate but will not have to find out as Mr. Safavi declined the request. He then alleged that Trita Parsi, the president of NIAC, is “acting as a lobby for the [Iranian] regime”, which is laughable as NIAC is stalwart in their criticisms of human rights violations by the Ayatollah and other government officials in Iran. For example, NIAC frequently criticizes the Iranian government’s treatment of Bahais, who are not allowed to attend university in Iran, and are frequently murdered and imprisoned for their beliefs.
However, Mr. Safavi did invite VOR into the NCRI offices to further discuss his organization and its plans, which we will do in the near future.
The 2009 Rand report on the MEK says they are “skilled manipulators of public opinion”. It says that the group has a “long history of deception”. Included in the report is an account of how the MEK has lied to the US government in the past in order to achieve favorable status as detainees at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
Sean Nevins, Voice of Russia (VOR)