The Tehran opposition that financed the Vox campaign also had PSOE and PP politicians as guests in Paris. Two Spanish ex-presidents attended the annual event in Paris.
There are not many issues that could unite Vox, the conservative Alejo Vidal-Quadras, two former presidents, the popular José María Aznar and the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the former vice president and president of the State Council, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega . The Iranian opposition is one of them. Or at least a certain section of that opposition: the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), under the spotlight for having financed the campaign of Vox in the European elections of 2014. This Iranian sect, whose members live confined in a camp in Albania, it also counted on the participation of other former Spanish high-ranking officials in its conferences.
All the mentioned politicians attended an event of the organization called ‘Free Iran’, which is held every summer in Paris. A person who has once attended recalls on the condition of anonymity what those annual NCRI events are like outside the French capital.”That was a huge rally in a pavilion, bigger than a PP or PSOE convention. ‘Speakers’ followed one another.”Among those speakers, were Aznar, Zapatero and María Teresa Fernández de la Vega.
Regardless of the ideological or political reasons that may encourage the speakers, the NCRI is famous in the world for the ‘lobbying’ and for the generous fees it offers its guests. A person who has collaborated in the organization explains that for the Iranians the Spanish speakers were something secondary, that the organization was looking for US heavyweights.”Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York, still charged 150,000 euros or 200,000 more expenses. Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, between 75,000 and 100,000 euros.”The cache of Spanish politicians is lower, perhaps 50,000 euros or less, according to industry sources, for a former president.
For Iranian dissident it was a way to make high-level contacts. They say that they did not supervise the speech and did ask for a previous meeting in Madrid to explain their plans and their movement. The ex-politicians converted into lecturers accepted without asking much about the origin of the funds, which, according to most specialists, come largely from Saudi Arabia, in addition to the donations of their followers and other sources of support.
That was a huge rally in a pavilion, bigger than a PP or PSOE convention. The ‘speakers’ succeeded
Aznar attended an event of this group on June 26, 2010, opening the way for other Spanish politicians. Probably the former president – who has never hidden his opposition to the theocratic regime of Tehran and his support for the adoption of firm measures against it – felt supported by the presence of the American John Bolton, former Ambassador of the United States to the UN and today National Security Adviser of President Donald Trump, despite the fact that his country still officially considered MeK terrorists.
The popular has never been reluctant to admit their participation in this event, and FAES sources say that it did so for political reasons, in line with its position on Iran. Some of his comments on that occasion, in fact, are posted on Aznar’s own website:”I support your struggle for freedom and for democracy, the Iranian people have suffered too much, and demand and deserve a better government that respects dignity of people and ensure their fundamental rights,”reads the selected text, along with a comment lamenting the failure of the Green Movement, the wave of protests that shook Iran in 2009.
In the full transcript of his speech, Aznar is much more forceful:”For me, stopping the nuclear escalation in Iran is essential, but not enough. We must bring a regime change to Iran. The Iranians have shown that despite repression that is what they want, and in my opinion the liberal democracies have an obligation to support freedom in those places where there is none and people seek it.”
A controversial organization
The NCRI is presented as a broad platform of various Iranian dissident groups, but in practice it is the political arm of a controversial armed organization, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (“people’s fighters”or MeK). Both groups are led by the same person, Maryam Rajavi, and the web page of each contains links to the other. According to most specialists, the group is largely a cult led by this activist and, previously, by her husband, Massoud Rajavi. Its members live in a military enclosure provided by the Albanian authorities, and for some countries they are a kind of medium-term investment, with a view to a future regime change in Iran in which they could play a leading role.
Because of its bombing campaign against Iranian institutions in Western countries, especially during the 1990s, the MeK was on the terrorism lists of the US and the European Union for a long time. In 2009, thanks to the efforts of Vidal-Quadras and other MEPs, they were eliminated from the European list, but not from the US list, where they remained until 2012.
In 2014, this organization financed the vast majority of the Vox campaign for the European companies led by Vidal-Quadras. The PP exec exempted did not obtain a seat and although the far-right formation directed by Santiago Abascal has affirmed that it was audited by the Court of Auditors, it has denied it. Among other things, having no parliamentary representation, he was not obliged to submit to this audit.
The PSOE and the PP have criticized Vox for using this foreign financing – the electoral law prohibits the interference of other countries in the electoral contests. The popular have even threatened to take the case to the Senate investigation committee investigating Podemos for receiving money from Venezuela. Vox has been very critical of this financing of Pablo Iglesias’ party, but he claims that his is transparent and was an almost punctual support to Vidal-Quadras.
But there are politicians from the big parties who have also had a relationship with this Iranian group. Four years after Aznar, and already as former president, was the socialist Rodríguez Zapatero who came to Paris.”The whole world expects a completely democratic Iran, a non-nuclear Iran, an Iran committed to peace in the Middle East,”Zapatero said in English amid applause. Attendees were mostly dressed in yellow vests and applauded with artificial plastic hands of the same color, as seen in the video that the NCRI uploaded to YouTube.
During his eight years in Moncloa, Zapatero shied away from English and there are only his words, but as an international lecturer he let go.”No party and no religion can justify discrimination against women.””Dear friends, I want to wish you good luck, and I encourage you to work together for peace, a peace for men and women who respect all beliefs and do not want to impose themselves … This is my wish for Iran and the Middle East”, he closed his speech , less than nine minutes. In the self-styled”annual meeting of the Iranian resistance”, Zapatero shared a table with the French conservative minister Michèlle Alliot-Marie. The socialist returned to attend the following year.
In 2015, the person who attended was Fernández de la Vega, and according to the website of the Iranian Council, he said:”Congratulations for your struggle, you are defending your people and all of humanity, and this is a battle you must win.”One of the main joys I have today is to see a powerful woman leading the NCRI, I see with my eyes that equality is in the first line of action of this organization, we support you, and your movement.”For the former vice-president, who heads the Women for Africa Foundation and who is now president of the Council of State, the question of women’s emancipation in Iran seems to be a genuine concern: barely two years ago, given the impossibility of attending an act on ‘ Iranian women against Islamic fundamentalism ‘, organized by the NCRI in the Albanian capital, sent a video with a message of support for the cause in French.
The communication office of Women for Africa, in any case, categorically denies that the former vice president had received any money for this assistance, and affirms with completeness that the cooperation of Fernández de la Vega in both events took place exclusively within the framework of the support to the fight for women’s rights in Iran.
Speaking to El Confidencial on Monday, Alejo Vidal-Quadras insisted on the legitimacy of the NCRI, underlined by the attendance of these figures of high international profile. Aware of this, the people in charge of the group continue paying astronomical sums to the participants in their acts, before the realization that the long list of illustrious people who have passed through them act in turn as a powerful bait to attract new politicians and power continue, well, feeding the cycle.
Elconfidencial.com translated by Nejat Society