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Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – 161

++ The MEK have finally been expelled from Iraq. The Iraqi government announced its satisfaction. US Secretary of State John Kerry described the move as a humanitarian success which saved the residents of Camp Liberty. Maryam Rajavi interpreted this as Kerry supporting the MEK. Commentators pointed out that this is not true. Kerry was helping save individuals not a terrorist group. They accused the MEK of hypocrisy. A group which began as anti-American and anti-Israeli now glad that the Americans have rescued them.

++ In Tirana, public pressure has increased as the people ask when will it all end – first Albania accepted Guantanamo Bay prisoners, now the MEK organisation. There is fierce opposition to taking more terrorists. Commentators remind us that the ball is now in the American court. The US and Albania must now de-radicalise and disband these terrorists or be seen as the Godfathers of terrorism.

++ The MEK celebrated the move to Albania. Maryam Rajavi claimed it as a great victory for the MEK, saying ‘we won’. She told her followers ‘by coming out of Iraq, we are now one step nearer to overthrowing the regime’. Commentators ridiculed this. The gist of this ridicule was that the MEK spent thirty years in Iraq and couldn’t do anything against Iran even with the full backing of Saddam Hussein. After his downfall the MEK insisted on remaining in Iraq against all advice and every demand to leave. As a result, since 2003 over two hundred MEK have been needlessly killed in their own bases in clashes with Iraqis. Only months ago, Maryam Rajavi was begging for the MEK to be re-armed in Iraq. How, people ask, is the MEK going to achieve the regime change which they couldn’t do from Iraq. They conclude that this bravado is for internal consumption only.

++ Massoud Khodabandeh was interviewed by BBC Farsi and by the popular and highly respected Bijan Farhoudi for Kayhan London. Both asked Khodabandeh about whether Massoud Rajavi is alive or dead. Khodabandeh reasoned that since Prince Turki refused to respond further to his announcement – through offering Maryam Rajavi his condolences – that he is dead, then we must assume that he really is dead. In fact, it is up to the MEK to confirm the status of Massoud Rajavi, not the Saudi Prince. Since they cannot or do not this, we can only assume that, as a cult, the MEK is afraid to acknowledge the death of its guru. Khodabandeh welcomed the MEK’s transfer to Albania as a good move and acknowledged that Iraq is certainly very happy to be rid of them. He said that in spite of the fact that the MEK was brought to Albania by the UNHCR and America as an intact terrorist group – which is illegal under refugee law – the move is very welcome because they are now safely out of Iraq. The most important step now, said Khodabandeh, is to de-radicalise them as terrorists. In further analysis, Khodabandeh said that as a cult leader, Rajavi ordered the MEK to celebrate as a form of anaesthesia, a painkiller, like taking aspirin because their internal problems as an organisation are so difficult to live with. He also pointed out that, as important as she claims this celebration to be, the fact that Massoud Rajavi gave no message is further evidence he is dead.

++ Several writers talk about the Saudi attempt to gather Iranian opposition groups together – some religious and others like Jundullah in the South – to form an anti-Iran alliance which would include the MEK. (The Kurdish Democratic Party has been paid to resume armed struggle after two decades and allow several of its people to be killed by the Iranian army as an annoyance to Iran. With no clear strategy or endgame, they are simply doing bandit work for the Saudis.) The Saudis invited several of these groups to undertake Haj. This was seen partly as a rebuff against Iran – which refused to send any pilgrims to Haj citing safety issues – but also as an excuse to gather the groups together for meetings. Ironically, some groups claimed before to be secular but their leaders and representatives still went for Haj. Except Maryam Rajavi, who was not invited in spite of boasting in her websites that she had been. Indeed, commentators mention that Saudi support for the MEK has disappeared in the past few weeks although MEK support for the Saudis remains just as strident. The inference is that the Saudis have realised that if the MEK could be made to co-operate with other opposition groups they would have already done so at some time in the past thirty years. But perhaps more significantly, the Saudis clearly no longer consider the benefits of supporting the MEK to outweigh the damage.

++ At the end of this month the government of Australia will review its list of proscribed organisations. Several families and formers have written to encourage the Prime Minister to maintain the MEK on this list. However, others write that the decision will be based on whether the MEK poses a serious security threat to Australia or not. But whether on or off such a list makes little difference to the future of the MEK. The group is dead, and like a dead person, needs no ID card (that of being listed as a terrorist group). So if it is taken away from them it doesn’t matter. In reality, although they are currently living behind closed doors and with curtains firmly shut in their apartment block in Tirana, this does not replicate the isolation of Iraq and sooner or later they will be coming out and the MEK will disband.

In English:

++ There are three main themes for a spate of articles this week. The main subject was the reaction of various parties to the departure of the MEK from Camp Liberty and their arrival in Albania. Iraq, the USA, the UN, Iran, Albania and the media in all these countries all expressed their views. The other issue of interest has been the increasingly fraught relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Saudi’s unfortunate use of the newly deported MEK as a ‘threat’ to Iran. The Australian government’s review of its proscribed organisations list promoted formers to write to the Australian minster of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

September 16, 2016

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