Since receiving EU candidate status in 2014, Albania has muddled along keeping up the pretence that, with whichever government is in power, it is capable of completing the internal reforms needed for EU membership. After troubled elections in June 2017, governing Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition party leader Lulzim Basha pledged to work for the benefit of Albania. Ordinary Albanians, however, concerned about unemployment and low wages, alongside other domestic problems, are still leaving the country rather than wait for better times. But Albania’s problems are much bigger than this.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Albania’s relationship with the Trump administration in its current manifestation. A speech last week by Trump’s legal advisor Rudy Giuliani in Washington demonstrates fully that he, John Bolton, John McCain and the Trump administration hawks are able, without reservation, to exploit Albania as a failed nation state.
Yes, Albania is a failed state. How else is it possible for it to host a terrorist organisation – the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) – which calls for violent regime change against Iran and has brought the enmity between Israel and Iran to Tirana, yet its government has failed object or even take any position on this scandal?
In November 2013, Prime Minister Edi Rama rejected the US’s request to allow chemical weapons from Syria to be destroyed on Albanian territory due to popular protests. But after the Americans dumped 3000 terrorists and subsequently reneged on their agreement to establish a de-radicalisation institute to rehabilitate them, Prime Minister Rama has remained mute. Perhaps due to the MEK’s ability to manipulate the Albanian media; paying outlets to publish article portraying the group as victims.
There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind. The MEK is a terrorist group. Albania cannot host a terrorist group without consequences. This is not Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria in which groups hide in the chaos and violence. This is a peaceful, democratic country which wishes to join the European Union.
Rudy Giuliani says “they are building a beautiful city right on the outskirts of Tirana” from which they will launch a campaign for regime change in Iran. The MEK’s Camp Ashraf Three is a closed and isolated military training camp, not a “beautiful city”. The MEK is a cult and just over 2,000 members live there in a state of modern slavery, not “freedom”. Giuliani does let slip, however, why this mercenary group is useful to America when he enthuses over “how much information they can get for us”. Essentially, MEK is a spy organisation.
Giuliani is not alone in his claims that supporting the MEK has “speeded up dramatically our ability to bring freedom to Iran”. Donald Trump’s recent appointment of John Bolton was controversial exactly because he also supports this group and has spent much of the past decade advocating bombing Iran and calling on the US government to help overthrow the Iranian government and install the MEK as a puppet regime instead.
The US (and Israeli) position toward Iran is known. Hatred toward Iran is endemic and institutionalised throughout the US political establishment. But what has this got to do with Albania? Before the MEK were foisted on the country by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Albania’s relations with Iran were friendly and peaceful, focused on close cultural and traditional ties rather than scant economic or political benefits.
Now, suddenly, due to the complete apathy of Prime Minister Rama and his ‘head in the sand’ approach to the European Union accession process, Albania has been plunged into a war footing with Iran.
Giuliani did not take MEK leader Maryam Rajavi to Washington to make his announcement because he and his cohort of warmongers know the consequences. They don’t even trust her enough to arrange a two-day visit to London, Washington or Tel Aviv because she would claim asylum there. They want the toxic effect of the MEK but not in their own land.
That toxic effect was revealed in a round table debate in the European Parliament last month. Experts gathered with political representatives to give evidence about the MEK’s unwanted influence on parliamentary relations in whichever country they are based. Delegates agreed that the fundamental problem with the MEK is that the group is not accountable to anybody, not even its American supporters. Consequently, it acts with impunity in Albania as though it were above the law.
When Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn next consider Albania’s status as an EU candidate country, will they see evidence of reforms and progress or the sad reality that Albania has become a failed state exploited by America, Israel and the MEK for warmongering against Iran.
Anne Khodabandeh, is an expert in anti-terrorist activities and a long-standing activist in the field of deradicalization of extremists. She has written several articles and books on this subject, along with her husband, who is of Iranian origin.