As hundreds of thousands of Iranians take to the streets in support of their government and against recent violent demonstrations in the country, the chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) reports that the rioting seen in several Iranian cities over the last week is now under control. Claiming that “the Iranian nation has been targeted due to its resistance against the US and its lackeys and for its support for oppressed nations worldwide,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari also reported that “a large number of the arrested trouble-makers at the center of the sedition had received training from counter-revolutionaries and the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization [MKO/MEK – People’s Mujahedin of Iran, aka National Council of Resistance of Iran].”
When President Rouhani spoke with French President Macron yesterday, he urged France to stop hosting the MEK, which has been based in Paris since its leaders fled Iran after the 1979 revolution. Macron didn’t acknowledge his country’s support for the MEK, but he did call on the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel to cool their aggressive rhetoric. Much as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights spoon-feeds Western media with fake intel about what is going on there, and just as Turkey has to worry about the US-based fifth columnist Gulen network, Iran has to contend with a dodgy expatriate organization that Hillary Clinton got de-listed from the US List of Terror Organizations in 2012.
Undeterred by the sheer fantasy that a ‘democratic revolution’ could occur in a country that holds regular elections, it’s all-systems go for the US media in its effort to ‘catapult the propaganda’ against the Iranian ‘Islamic regime’. Fox News yesterday gave a platform to Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the Washington office of the MEK, in which he urged the Trump government to impose crippling sanctions (additional, presumably, to the existing ones) and to recognize his organization as the new government of Iran.
The heroic story of a righteous underdog fighting for noble ideals against a tyrannical regime has galvanized the US polity – right and left, including some among the ostensibly anti-globalist ‘alt-media’ – to proclaim their impassioned support for ‘the Iranian opposition’, whom they portray as democratic white knights against the theocratic despots ruling Iran. But a closer look at the ‘better option’ certain Westerners have deigned the ‘saviors’ of Iran reveals quite a different tale.
What is the MEK?
The MEK has an unusual and bloody history. Like all revolutionary movements, it began with noble intentions to free a people from the yoke of imperialism, but underwent a series of metamorphoses. Today it is dominated by the cult of personality surrounding its leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, who have overseen its transition from an anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist, pseudo-Islamic, Marxist revolutionary movement to a bizarre terrorist suicide cult whose members believe its leaders are the divine rulers-of-Iran-in-waiting, a belief its leaders have successfully inculcated in Western policy-making circles. (Massoud Rajavi may in fact no longer be alive, but his wife still publicly leads the organization.)
The MEK partnered with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the Shah but fell out out of favour with the Iranian clergy when the dust settled in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. [Ayatollah ]Khomeini blocked MEK leaders from running in the first post-revolution presidential elections. The MEK responded by staging anti-[ Ayatollah ]Khomeini demonstrations, which provoked a violent backlash from the new government and ignited a vicious cycle of attacks and reprisal that led to the imprisonment, torture and death of thousands of Iranians in the early 1980s, predominantly anyone of left-leaning persuasion.
All told, some 10,000 Iranians have been killed by the MEK in its war against the Mullahs. Among their high-profile victims in devastating bombings were top Iranian officials, including President Rajai and Premier Mohammad Javad Bahonar in 1981. A number of MEK leaders were arrested and executed. Rajavi and his supporters then fled into exile in France. While reconstituting the organization in Paris, Massoud Rajavi decided that he needed a partner to run things jointly with him. The story goes that Mayriam Rajavi became his wife when a deputy within the organization ‘voluntarily’ divorced her so that she could marry Massoud.
This bizarre move was echoed a series of extreme measures that transformed the organization into the cult it has become today. All married couples were told they must divorce. Their children were sent into foster care with MEK members in cells abroad. The sexes were physically kept apart, both in Iraq and in France, including all the children from birth. Eye contact between the sexes was forbidden. Daily and weekly sessions were organized at which members would confess their most intimate thoughts, including their feelings towards other members. All emotions were to be channelled towards adoration of their leaders, the Rajavis, and “the revolutionary struggle to free Iran.” Basically, Scientology for Muslims.
The MEK is vilified by most in Iran because of its collaboration with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, which cost Iran about 1 million deaths. Iranian officials refer to the movement as Munafiqeen, ‘hypocrites’, a pun on Mujahideen. The MEK has been positioning itself as the Opposition to the Iranian government, and Maryam Rajavi likes being referred to as The President of Iran. Yet even the Green Movement (an Iranian ‘color revolution’ outfit), which amassed significant support in Iran in the run-up to the 2009 presidential elections (albeit with the dubious support of Western intelligence agencies), has distanced itself from the cult. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has stated categorically that “Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Khatami, Mr. Karroubi and all of us within the Green Movement do not consider the MEK a part of the Green Movement.”
By the late 1980s, the Rajavis had amassed a heavily-armed force, some 14,000 strong, which conducted raids into Iran. Towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, on 26 July 1988, six days after Ayatollah Khomeini announced his acceptance of a UN-brokered ceasefire resolution, Massoud Rajavi ordered his forces to cross the border on a suicide mission they called Operation Eternal Light. Their convoy of tanks got as far as the Iranian town of Islamabad-e Gharb, which they razed to the ground, before being beaten back to Iraq by overwhelming Iranian firepower. The MEK’s last major offensive was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991, when it joined Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion. Maryam Rajavi reportedly told her loyal subjects to, “Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”
With Saddam Hussein falling out of favor with the West in the First Gulf War, the Rajavis reconfigured their organization. They began to present a more benign image to the West, focusing their energy on the dissemination of propaganda and lobbying Western officials. At the same time, their military wing carried out violent attacks against Iranian targets in the West, the most spectacular of which was a wave of coordinated attacks on 5 April 1992 when MEK true-believers stormed Iranian diplomatic missions, took hostages and heavily vandalized premises in New York City, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Australia.
Shortly after the US State Department placed MEK on its list of terrorist organizations in 1997, an illuminating report appeared in The Iran Brief, a private monthly publication read in Washington circles. The report describes some of the findings of Operation Suture, an FBI investigation of MEK activities in the US, which found that the organization had set up hundreds of front companies in the US through which it, among other things, was actively buying political favors.
photo: Maryam Rajavi with Rudolf Giuliani, who has said on numerous occasions: “The MEK is the only way to stop Iran.”
That US Congressmen were taking bribes isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but taking campaign contributions in cash from an officially-recognized terrorist organization that was extremely cosy with, and funded by, Saddam Hussein at a time when US media was painting Saddam as ‘The New Hitler’ is pretty extraordinary. Congressmen were apparently taken in by the Rajavis’ slick efforts to distance their bloody war against Iran from their ‘new-found mission’ to raise awareness of human rights violations in Iran. But not everyone was fooled.
According to an August 2002 FBI report sent to Francis Taylor, Coordinator for Counter-terrorism at the US State Dept, the FBI executed a warrant to search the premises of MEK’s converted offices in Falls Church, Virginia, 5 miles from the CIA’s Langley HQ. The FBI was investigating how the various fronts (MEK, PMOI, MKO, NLA, NCRI, etc) all linked together. The FBI report named the organization’s HQ as Rue des Gords 17, Auvers-sur-Oise, on the northwest outskirts of Paris, France. Among the interesting tidbits they unearthed was that all calls to the MEK’s office at the National Press Club in Washington, DC were forwarded to the Falls Church address and that the organization’s official newspaper (the Mojahed Weekly) was prepared there. The FBI also seized publications containing details of NLA military activities, training manuals, operations maps and signed blank cheques used to pay their representatives’ expenses and fund their activities. Contrary to what the MEK leadership was telling its gullible recruits and Washington dignitaries, the FBI concluded unequivocally that “the NRCI operates as an alias of the PMOI/MEK, despite whatever claims these entities make publicly that may fool outsiders and even some of those inside the entities.”
This mattered to the FBI because, 5 years previously, in 1997, despite having bribed then Vice-President Al Gore while he was on the campaign trail with the Clintons back in 1992, the MEK was officially listed as an ‘FTO’ (Foreign Terrorist Organization) by the US State Department because it had assassinated three US military officers and three defence contractors in Iran in the 1970s, was suspected of numerous other assassination attempts on American citizens and was attacking Iranian targets in the US and Europe. This prompted the FBI in 2004 to launch a criminal investigation (Operation Eastern Approach) into MEK activities in the US.
Through wiretaps, the FBI’s LA offices discovered that the MEK was planning bombing attacks from their Paris headquarters and that its fundraising activity had actually increased since being outlawed in 1997. Money coerced from wealthy Iranian expatriates in the US and through drug trafficking into the US was being “transferred overseas through a complex international money laundering operation that uses accounts in Turkey, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Jordan and the UAE.” Although just one MEK affiliate was sentenced in the case of US v. Tabatabai, hundreds of MEK members were arrested or questioned by the FBI in joint operations with German and French intelligence. The FBI concluded that “this organization [MEK] routinely lobbies unwitting members of Congress under the pretext of human rights issues in Iran.”
The FBI further found that the organization was procuring equipment and false passports throughout the US and Europe for fellow members to commit acts of terrorism in Iran. The organization designates military-style ranks to members based on their loyalty, uses complex communication methods designed to hide their traces and operates very much as elements of the US intelligence community claim Hezbollah does, with cells within cells and the resources to get things done. But unlike the substantially contrived ‘al Qaeda’ or ‘ISIS’ networks – which are largely entrapment schemes whereby the FBI infiltrates groups of unemployed Muslims, pays them large sums of money, gives them bomb-making equipment, then entraps them by suggesting they blow up public landmarks – the MEK terrorist network is real.
The MEK’s Parisian camp is essentially a series of buildings knocked into one complex, which is heavily guarded with armed security checkpoints. This is ostensibly to protect its members from ‘the Iranian threat’, but one suspects that it is in fact required to keep cult members from escaping. In an interview Massoud Rajavi gave to Corriere della Sera in 2002, the journalist described the level of security he witnessed there:
His [Rajavi’s] dwelling in Auver-sur-Oise, in the Parisian suburbs, is much like a fortress. There is a high wall keeping it concealed from suspicious eyes. There are high voltage barbed wires around as well as searchlights on the walls illuminating the surroundings. The road to Massoud Rajavi’s villa (leadership centre) is controlled by two French check-points equipped with machine guns. The only entrance to the villa is guarded by Mojahedin forces themselves.
In June 2003, when a French court ruled that the MEK and its numerous front groups constituted a terrorist organization, French anti-terrorist police raided various MEK offices in and around Paris, including its garrison at Auvers-sur-Oise, arresting 160 of its members and confiscating millions of euros. Nicolas Sarkozy, Interior Minister at the time, expressed concern that the MEK “wanted to make France its support base, notably after the intervention in Iraq,” while Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, head of France’s domestic intelligence service, warned that the group was “transforming its Val d’Oise centre into an international terrorist base.” (Their concerns were of course disingenuous given that this had already been the case for over a decade, but they speak to the mixed feelings of Western leaders about sheltering such a dangerous organization.)
MEK cells across North America and Europe whirled into action, busing their devotees to coordinated protests. 40 cult members went on hunger strike. Assisted by fellow devotees, another 16 set themselves on fire, two of them fatally. Maryam Rajavi and the rest of the French MEK leadership were immediately released. Whatever was said to French president Jacques Chirac, he backed down immediately. The MEK has since been left alone by successive French governments.
How the Myth of Iran’s Nukes Began
You get an idea of how instrumental the MEK is when you see its role in propagating Western narratives about Iran. Three months prior to the French court ruling and police raids, in March 2003, the US launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. While Bush was prancing around the USS Lincoln in a codpiece declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Iraq, something very interesting was taking place in the background, something which was only revealed four years later in 2007, on a BBC Newsnight program. Let’s call it ‘the original Iran deal’.
Realizing that it was in its interest to prevent Iraq from sliding into all-out civil war, the Iranian government sent a letter to the White House offering the following:
- Iran would use its influence to support stabilization in Iraq
- Iran would open its civilian nuclear energy program to full international inspections
- Iran would end its support of Hamas and Hezbollah
In return, Iran requested the following:
- A halt to US hostile behavior
- Abolition of all economic sanctions
- Most specifically, the pursuit of the MEK leadership and the repatriation of their members
Then US Vice-President Dick Cheney turned down the offer.
It was all there; Iran was prepared to cooperate with the US in Iraq, cooperate with Israel and the US in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, and allow full transparency of its nuclear program… if only the US would desist from harboring MEK terrorists. The US State Department apparently wanted to pursue it, but certain Neocons torpedoed the deal.
photo: Mohammad Mohaddessin, now Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI (MEK), presenting ‘intelligence’ on Iran at one of hundreds of press conferences he has held in Brussels and Washington, DC.
Just think of the ramifications of this US refusal to accept what amounted to an extraordinary olive branch. America’s ‘mission accomplished’ devolved into a decade-long slaughterfest that spawned ISIS. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon would never have happened because Hezbollah would have been finished as a fighting force. And Operation Cast Lead would never have happened because Hamas would never have come to power in Gaza.
Then again, we cannot forget just how profitable war is for warmongers, how much Israel needs to be surrounded by hostile foes, and the lengths Saudi Arabia is willing to go to hold its undeserved position in the Middle East by sabotaging peaceable Iranian economic development.
But what is really twisted here is that the three specific offers made by Iran in 2003 later became the very same conditions the US said Iran must meet if it was to avoid increased sanctions and the threat of airstrikes on its nuclear installations by the US and allies, followed by certain all-out war.
So why didn’t the Iranians and Americans just revisit the original offer and shake on it?
Because since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the duplicitous MEK has been busy selling the world the Iranian equivalent of the Big WMD Lie. It was the MEK who told the Bush White House that Iran was secretly building nuclear weapons. In fact, at least 20 “startling revelations about Iran’s nuclear weapons program” all came from the MEK. That’s right, the incessant barrage of propaganda about Iran’s intentions vis a vis its nuclear program stems from false information provided to US administrations by a nutty personality cult that lobbies every US administration – Trump’s is just the latest – to overthrow the Iranian government on its behalf.
Our Kind of Terrorists
Former MEK member Anne Singleton has reported that when it became obvious to Massoud Rajavi that Saddam was history, he reached out to the Americans and promised full cooperation in exchange for protection. In April 2003, the US publicly announced that it had brokered an agreement with the Rajavis whereby the MEK switched allegiances from Saddam Hussein to the US government.
The US State Department apparently understood that cooperation with the MEK was bad news and wanted to dismantle its camps, but the Pentagon wanted to keep them operational because the CIA realized they would be useful as leverage over Iran. This schism was apparent in a 2007 Sunday Telegraph article which reported that “a faction in the US Defense Department wants to unleash the MEK.” This “faction” has kept the MEK alive since Saddam was removed from power. When a $400 million budget was passed by the US Congress in 2007 to orchestrate regime change in Iran, the “faction” made sure the MEK was the largest recipient of funds.
Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker in 2012 that from 2005 to 2008 US Joint Special Operations Command conducted training for cult members of this then-designated FTO at a ‘counterintelligence training facility’ in the desert north of Las Vegas. Hersh’s source told him the purpose of disrupting Iran’s nuclear energy program was not to “take out Einsteins” but to “affect Iranian psychology and morale” by “demoralizing the whole system.” This extended to attacking oil and gas pipelines, oil refineries, transport infrastructure and targeting civilians through indiscriminate bombings. The operations were “primarily being done by MEK through liaison with the Israelis.” Even the Israeli Stuxnet virus which crippled Iranian IT systems was delivered by an MEK agent.
Now we can begin to understand how this relatively small player came to be the organization that broke the news that Iran had been ‘secretly hiding’ uranium enrichment facilities from the IAEA for two decades. Capitalizing on the issue of Iran’s purported nuclear weapons, the MEK network focused on telling the Necocon chicken-hawks in Washington exactly what the Israelis wanted them to hear. Taking outward form as either the NCRI or the PMOI, the cult has been freely holding press conferences at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in London, New York, Paris and Brussels, where they cite their ‘unnamed sources’ (probably Mossad) and dish out the latest ‘intelligence’ on Iran.
Post-war Iraqi governments repeatedly stressed that they wanted the cult out of the country as soon as possible. Families of its remaining 3,000 or so brainwashed members in Iraq held daily vigils at the gates of the sprawling Camp Ashraf desert complex until their eventual removal from Iraq in 2016, when Reuters reported that the last batch of 280 MEK terrorists were relocated to Albania, in a move brokered by the US via the UN Refugee Agency. Another 2,000 or so had previously been disbursed to a dozen unnamed countries in the EU.
In August last year, a delegation of senior US Senators met with Maryam Rajavi and other MEK leaders in Tirana, Albania. What could they possibly have been planning?
MEK presents an interesting case study in how proxy forces – mercenaries, effectively – can be moved around on the global chessboard. In May 2013 Le Figaro reported that two members of the organization were found dead in Idlib, Syria, citing a “European parliamentarian in contact with the anti-government rebels.” In August that year, Qassem Al-Araji, a member of the Security Commission in the Iraqi Parliament, confirmed that MEK was engaged in the war to unseat Assad in Syria. While generally careful to adjust their propaganda to suit Western narratives, The Nation reported that when ISIS took Mosul in 2015, “one MEK website gave a triumphalist account of the conquest, referring to ISIS as ‘revolutionary forces.”
Maryam Rajavi has become the public face of the organization in the West, where for over a decade she has been hosting marathon conferences in Washington, Paris, Brussels and elsewhere. The MEK’s initial aim was to get itself ‘de-listed’ from the US terror list – which Hillary Clinton did for them in 2012. But now it is seeking nothing less than its triumphal return to Tehran as the new regime. Former CIA Director Porter Goss, while bemoaning the MEK’s predicament at a high-level conference in Paris in 2012, told a large crowd of flag-waving MEK supporters that “once we get through the Republican primaries, I think it’s a certainty that this issue [the MEK] will become a front and center issue because it symbolises all of the values that we want to address in this election on national security and human rights.”
Others who gave rousing speeches on the MEK’s behalf at that Paris conference in 2012 included former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; François Colcombet, a senior French judge and founder of the French Committee for a Democratic Iran; Philippe Douste-Blazy, UN Deputy Secretary-General and former French Foreign Minister; US General Hugh Shelton, former chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff; Judge Michael Mukasey, former US Attorney General; Ingrid Betancourt, Columbian presidential candidate; Yves Bonnet, former head of French Counter-terrorism; John Sano, former CIA National Clandestine Service’s Deputy Director; General David Phillips, former Commander of US Military Police; Geir Haarde, former Icelandic Prime Minister; Aiham Samarrae, former Iraqi cabinet minister; Carlo Ciccioli, member of Italian parliament; Lord Ken Maginnis, member of UK House of Lords; André Glucksmann, member of New France Philosophers; and William Bourdon, a prominent French jurist.
That’s the list of speakers I found at just one conference; there have been many other rallies and conferences, year after year, countless videos of which are posted on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, the MEK has been paying each of these speakers huge speaking fees, with the money apparently coming through Saudi Arabia and Israel.
If the MEK represents the ‘democratic opposition’ the US and Israel would like to see take power in Iran, and assuming this organization and its powerful patrons are indeed currently involved in capitalizing on dissent within the country, then you will forgive me for not cheering on the demise of yet another Middle Eastern government in the face of deranged fanatics who would do literally anything to attain power.
Comment: For the inside scoop on the MEK and its activities in France, see this excellent Press TV documentary. https://vimeo.com/193506150
Niall Bradley, Sott.net
Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at SOTT.net for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, NiallBradley.net. Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.