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Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – 196

++ Lebanese cleric Allameh Sayed Mohamad Ali El Husseini had acted as the chief advisor to Maryam Rajavi on Islamic and Arabic issues. He participated in many events and meetings with Rajavi and she heaped praise on him for many years. This week he came to Paris to take part in Islamic Scholars Against Terrorism week. While in Paris he met with a group of former MEK members and announced that he is no longer working for Rajavi and the MEK. He explained that as a cleric who believes in peace and harmony throughout the world the MEK deceived him into giving them his support. He said now he has talked with people outside the MEK they have made it clear how he was fooled. “I now see that the way the MEK act is not compatible with human rights or Islam. So, I went back and questioned them. I started with basic beliefs. I asked, ‘if you are Muslim why don’t you pray?’ They said ‘it is not important because the leadership is in charge of our sins’. Then I asked, ‘these things you did against your own members that made them leave you, what explanation do you have?’ They told me ‘they are all agents of the Iranian regime and you shouldn’t have been talking with them’. After this I realised they don’t want to explain themselves and are just evading my questions.” The same day that El Husseini spoke out, the MEK quickly issued a long statement by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Farsi and Arabic (because he didn’t say anything in English), swearing at him and saying, ‘he is an agent of the regime but we already knew that’. At same time, the MEK deleted every trace of his connection to them on their websites. Still they couldn’t erase quotes from him and the MEK in media like Al Arabiya and elsewhere. After this issue was made public, many former MEK, including those in Albania, issued a joint statement of support for him. Some wrote open letters to Rajavi mocking her, saying ‘this trick that everyone is a saint while with you and when they leave they are an agent of regime doesn’t hold water, especially when you claim you already knew. Can you tell us now who the next agent is that you know about before they leave?’

++ Mehdi Hassan’s article ‘Here’s why Washington hawks love this cultish Iranian exile group’ was translated by prominent translator N Nourizadeh. This was published by Iran-Interlink and has since been widely circulated and referenced in Farsi and Arabic articles.

++ On behalf of Nejat Society Ebrahim Khodabandeh, Zahra Mirbagheri and Narges Beheshti attended this week’s Kalkan (Interpol) conference which is held every year to build cooperation between countries to fight crime and terrorism. The conference was attended by 75 high ranking security and anti-terror officials from 29 countries. Khodabandeh talked with Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of Interpol, about the issue of extradition, explaining how his own extradition to Iran was in fact not a bad thing. Nejat Society advocated on behalf of families of MEK members who say they wouldn’t mind if their loved ones were extradited to Iran because the issue is no longer about their crimes for which some have been pardoned. They stressed that nobody in Iran intends to do them harm. What the families want is a way to rescue their loved ones and bring them home. Beheshti talked about her two brothers. One was killed inside Iraq by the MEK for disobedience and the other has been transferred to Albania where she has no access to him and doesn’t know what hardship he is suffering. She said, “I don’t want to lose my other brother. If there is anything the law can do to take him out of the hands of the MEK we would appreciate it”.

In English:

++ In his above-mentioned article published in The Intercept, Mehdi Hassan focuses on what makes the MEK really despicable and dangerous – it is a cult. “Have U.S. political, intelligence, and military elites learned nothing from their Mesopotamian misadventure and the disastrous contribution of Iraqi exiles such as Chalabi? Well, the brainwashed fanatics of the MEK make the INC look like the ANC.

“It is difficult, therefore, to disagree with the verdict of Elizabeth Rubin of the New York Times, who visited the MEK at Camp Ashraf back in 2003 and later ‘spoke to men and women who had escaped from the group’s clutches’ and ‘had to be reprogrammed’. The MEK, warned Rubin in 2011, ‘is not only irrelevant to the cause of Iran’s democratic activists, but a totalitarian cult that will come back to haunt us’.”

++ MEK former Anne Khodabandeh gave a presentation at the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) annual conference in Bordeaux on July 1st. Drawing on her own experience inside the MEK and then as a counter-cult activist and campaigner, Khodabandeh linked the current need for public and professional awareness of how radicalisation takes place to the wider need to criminalise the deceptive and brainwashing behaviours behind all cases of cultic abuse.

++ Jim Lobe in Lobelog examines the latest ‘foreign policy’ trend in relation to Iran. The title ‘New Neocon Mantra: Iran, like Soviet Union, on Verge of Collapse’, is self-explanatory. Lobe deconstructs the argument and finds it devoid of any substance. The article, however, lists a number of anti-Iran pundits who are making this claim and their links to the MEK. Lobe concludes that it “makes me think that the White House is indeed seriously considering supporting the group as at least one part of its Iran policy. I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.”

++ Mazda Parsi for Nejat Society warns ‘Iran hates the MEK even if it buys the support of more retired figures’. Parsi points out that although support for the MEK from Arab figures like Prince Turki al-Faisal who are known for their animosity towards Iran is to be expected, American sponsors are motivated by money. “The Arabia Deserta correspondent [Ghuloum] accurately believes that the MKO’s and its supporters’ propaganda for regime change in Iran is originated in their ‘self-delusion’ about Iran and the Middle East. ‘They all must know it is pure nonsense, but the again money is too good for all participants, and the futile message sounds good to many extreme right-wing US media outlets,’ he states. ‘Besides, the Israeli Lobby and the newly influential Saudi lobby and the sources of oil money in Washington like it’.”

++ In an interview in Tehran Times Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, talks about Iran’s relations with the European Union. He points out that with the increasing economic and trade cooperation, the French government “should have come to an understanding about Mojahedin-e Khalq as an extreme and violent group with a repugnant record heavy with terrorist activities, and should clear up this ambiguous point in mutual relations. Needless to say, the Iranian people know that such a retrogressive and decadent organization with reactionary beliefs, whose history is filled with terror, killings and sectarianism, has died long time ago. Despite the growing relations between the two countries, this is a moot point in the French government’s record because terrorism and violence and anti-terrorism battle is not limited to one specific group or region. Tehran’s protest to Paris is for France’s double standards.”

++ Habilian Association, which represents victims of MEK terrorist violence in Iran, focuses attention on the extremist views of Newt Gingrich the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate who is a vocal advocate of right-wing social policies and a militarist U.S. defence posture. Comments by Gingrich reveal him to be a “sponsor of terrorism” and an Islamophobe. Gingrich left a campaign trail to fly to Paris to attend Maryam Rajavi’s Villepinte show. “The timing of Gingrich’s appearance at the MEK gala was awkward for Trump, since the candidate had spent part of the previous week arguing that the late Iraqi dictator, while being ‘a really bad guy’, deserved some credit because ‘he killed terrorists’.

“’He did that so good’, Trump told supporters in North Carolina on Tuesday. ‘They didn’t read them the rights; they didn’t talk; they were a terrorist, it was over’.

“Four days later, Gingrich reminded the world that Saddam, in fact, had a history of support for terrorist groups like the MEK, whose members helped foment the 1979 revolution, in part by killing American civilians working in Tehran, and then lost a bitter struggle for power to the Islamists.”

++ Genc Milloja writing in the Albanian Daily News points out that the attendance of three Albanian ministers at the MEK Villepinte event is contrary to their government’s foreign policy in relation to Iran. “Albania’s foreign policy has never got involved in other countries’ internal affairs.” Instead, a visit by Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati to Tehran in January this year laid down positive expectations for future trade, tourism and cultural relations in a strengthened legal framework of cooperation. At the same time, the article points out that the presence of 3000 MEK in Albania presents a security threat for Europe which will prevent any moves toward Albania’s accession into the EU.

++ Tasnim News reported President Rouhani’s speech in a cabinet session on Wednesday. Rouhani talked about the recent Daesh terrorist attack in Tehran and the liberation of Mosul. He denounced the savagery of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, saying “the Iranian people are ‘not unfamiliar’ with such savage acts. Iran witnessed ‘slayers’ similar to the Daesh terrorists in the early years after the revolution, the president said, referring to MKO.”

July 14, 2017

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