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A Revolutionary Diplomacy; the Costs and Achievements

Nobody could imagine that Massoud Rajavi’s meeting with Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, on 9 January 1983 in France would develop into a strategic alliance entwining the destiny of both Mojahedi Khalq and Saddam together. The meeting opened a new chapter in Mojahedin’s history. The meeting was in fact the product of accepting defeat in urban guerrilla warfare favored by Mojahedin as an effective tactic. Although Mojahedin had anticipated that the meeting would bring about inevitable consequences, but the process of the alliance led them to encounter unanticipated situations and conditions.

At the beginning of their declared armed struggle that resulted in killing of tens of ranking Iranian statesmen, Mojahedin’s claim of toppling the regime in short-term confronted the group with challenges from the side of other opposition and the forces active inside the country. Bijan Nyabati, a left member of NCRI, in respect to this issue states:

The severity and extremity of Mojahedin’s military blows especially struck at the regime’s top put the Iranian political forces as well as many other foreign communities under the illusion of the possible overthrow of Iran’s regime in short-term. Mojahedin were also under the same illusion. [1]

In October 1982, Rajavi in summing up the year-long military phase justified the group’s 20th June uprising as an inevitable event and strategic decision for the group to have been taken. But he alluded to two uncalculated external and internal factors that he claimed to have prevented the regime’s downfall; the Syria’s aid and restraining and disintegrating the terror cells inside Iran.

It was in no way the miscalculations that thwarted “the abrupt downfall”, the initiation of the 20th June uprising in itself was a blind and absurd act:

The strategy of a widespread and national-wide armed struggle was nothing more than declining a massive public uprising into the level of a limited militia struggle with no prospect. [2]

Rajavi claimed that unlooked-for suppression of Mojahedin forces by the regime hampered the downfall but Nyabati, depicting a truer image of the conditions, believes that Mojahedin’s expected response by the “social factor”, people’s general response to Mojahedin’s call for mass uprising, not only disproves to be productive for the organization but also turns to be utilized as a deterring force against Mojahedin. That is to say, the “social factor” turns to be an element of hindering and controlling Mojahedin. Bothe Rajavi and Nyabati say the same words; rajavi says that suppression of Mojahedin by the regime hampered the downfall while Nyabati believes that it was people who thwarted Mojahedin’s supposed threat:

From mid-August 1981 Mojahedin initiated armed rallies to provoke people into the arena. The rallies reaching their climax on 27 September 1981 [Rajavi’s ordered armed march in Tehran to provoke people join Mojahedin to initiate an armed uprising], the “social factor” provides a negative response. [3]

He assumes that even long before, Mojahedin had lost their hope in the utility of the so called “resistance cells”, Mojahedin combatants active inside Iran, and Mojahedin’s strategic tactic had proved to be nothing but a great failure:

The strategic blow on 8 February 1982 [killing of 20 members of Mojahedin including Musa Khyabani, MKO’ commander inside Iran after Rajavi’s escape to France, and Ashraf Rabiee, Rajavi’s first wife] was an end to the accuracy of the urban guerilla warfare. [4]

But it was not the last blow and another crushing blow over the body of Mojahedin in nearly 6 month later absolutely disappointed them coming to believe that they could neither relay on the “resistance cells” nor on the positive response and presence of the masses:

The blow on the first August 1982 [annihilation of another Mojahedin-run team-house, under the command of Syavash Seifi, and a number of other combatants by Iranian security forces] caused urban guerilla warfare that had faced a dead-end on 8 February 1982, reach its climax. [5]

To find a way out of this strategic cul-de-sac, Rajavi eagerly accented to meet Tariq Aziz on 9 January 1983; it was a reaction against people’s retreat from Mojahedin’s violent tactic and gave Mojahedin an opportunity to prepare the background to conduct a struggle from abroad and from a foreign soil and expand it into a global concern. Although Rajavi referred to the meeting as a joint effort to find a solution for a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq to end the devastating war, but it was a de facto recognition of each other’s interests in case of forming a joint alliance:

The Iraqi government was ready to provide Mojahedin with so convenient a facility (Iraqi soil), for the simple cause that Iraq needed to open a new potential front to crush its enemy’s war machine. [6]

However, the meeting had a decisive effect on the National Council of Resistance and its members; a gradual detachment of the old members, each credited as weighty veterans, from the NCRI could speed up depreciating legitimacy of an assumed alternative.

The later consequence of the event was Mojahedin’s ideological transition that aimed at certain ends and could tip the scale in Mojahedin’s favor. The meeting convinced the NCRI’s members that Rajavi was utilizing them as instruments to obtain further legitimacy. Many separated members of MKO and NCRI attributed Rajavi’s ideological revolution to an outcome his negotiation with Tariq Aziz to contrive move into Iraq. Talking of the link between the ideological revolution and move to Iraq, Khan Baba Tehrani, a separated left member of NCRI, states

The ideological revolution was a maneuver masterminded by Rajavi in order to restructure the organization, purge the dissidents, and recruit anew. It was the point where the forces like us had to separate. Because the ideological revolution was a ploy to prepare for the organization and Rajavi’s move to Iraq, to be dependent on Iraq, and play a role in a war that was initiated after Iraq’s aggression against Iran and we saw that the organization fought beside Iraq against Iran. The move to Iraq was the outcome of Mojahedin’s failure in their armed strategy and Rajavi’s jugglery framed as the ideological revolution to arrive a new phase of the revolution worked in no way but transition of the organization into a pseudo-religious closed sect. there are a great number of these religious sect around the world. [7]

Never has Rajavi disclosed the contents of his meeting. To escape further allegations and making excuses, he called it an accidental occurrence. The coming events and incidents proved, however, that what they exchanged in their meeting was much more strategic and fateful than expected. Even the most pessimistic critics could have never anticipated the outcome we broadly witness today. At least we can discern a message that MKO at the present neither relays on people nor on the residue of its potentialities but on a surfing strategy to survive on.


[1]. Nyabati Bijan; “A distinct look at Mojahedin’s internal revolution, slightly from inside, slightly from outside”, pp.13-14.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Ibid, 15.

[6]. Ibid, 62.

[7]. An internal look at the left move in Iran; Hamid Shokat’s interview with Khan Baba Tehrani.


Mojahedin.ws – Bahar Irani – September 12, 2006

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