In northern Iraq, Iran has shown itself as the US's natural ally in any effort to contain ISIS. Iran is the one country with the greatest experience of dealing with this kind of cultic terrorist threat, and could perhaps help formulate a comprehensive plan to bring ISIS under control just as the MEK is now under control.
Anne Khodabandeh, Iranian.com
ISIS or MeK?
President Obama's short speech to the nation on September 10, addressed the urgent need to take action against the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL). The speech began with a description of ISIS and the danger it poses. Of course Obama used his own potent words to talk about ISIS, but the organization which he described has the same characteristics of the MeK:
• Recruits by deception; pretends to embrace religious precepts but in reality pursues an extremist political ideology.
• Holds such simplistic and erroneous beliefs that it can only prevent its members from seeing through them by preventing them from thinking and therefore fills every minute of their day with activity, whether military training or peeling carrots or cleaning latrines.
• Indoctrinates recruits with thought stopping fears and certainties so as to create a stark, unassailable ‘us and them' mentality, a sense of innate superiority which obliges followers to ruthlessly eliminate all enemies.
• Uses cruel, arbitrary punishments, extra-judicial killings, and example killings to warn against disobedience.
• Demonstrates its abilities through terrorising acts, and then boldly advertises that it has killed tens of thousands of people.
• Has a leader who arrogates all rights and knowledge to himself, who dictates the sexual behaviour of his followers and has a hareem of women for his own use; a leader who dictates the minutiae of the followers' lives and operates a strict hierarchy of control with obedience to his whims as the guiding principle for promotion or demotion.
• Is universally hated by ordinary people.
• Has made sophisticated use of the internet to create a massive cyber presence for itself, on its own terms, which then translates into mainstream media coverage becoming part of its recruiting tool. The immediate concern of western governments is that ISIS must be stopped because it poses a threat to their own populations as much as regional ones; a lesson bitterly taught by Al Qaida.
America's approach against the terrorists vs Iran's
The U.S brought the MeK under control during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The militant group were bombed, then disarmed and corralled into a single camp, effectively rendering it impotent as an armed force. The MEK's means of surviving this was to focus on a new identity and present itself under the guise of a political opposition.
Fronting Maryam Rajavi as a democratic, feminist leader the MEK used its apparently unlimited financial resources to court western policy makers with a vague promise of engineering regime change in Iran by acting as the vanguard of a counter revolution.
The MEK's ability to deceptively recruit and manipulate people into doing just about anything is its chief asset; an asset that could not be bombed out of them or confiscated along with their weapons. The fact too that MEK followers are not paid and are effectively enslaved, makes it even better value.
This is also why the IRI is still cautious of the group. Observers express themselves puzzled by the sensitivity shown by successive Iranian governments to this apparently toothless tiger. But Iran has a sophisticated understanding of the dangers posed by cultic terror groups born from experience. Iran also understands that simply waging war on such a group, fighting fire with fire, will not destroy it. Iran has been successful in reducing the MEK to nothing more than a lobbying group because its approach to the MEK is as a cult, not just a terrorist organization. Inside Iran, a country wide attempt is made to educate against the dangers of such cults and controlling groups. It is their way of inoculating the population against deceptive recruitment.
Does the Obama's coalition really want to overthrow ISIS?
As a consequence, President Obama has gathered a coalition of forty countries willing to take on IS militarily. But, for all their bravado, the central, unspoken dilemma for all of them is that ISIS has the potential to do precisely what most of these coalition countries want - oust the Assad regime in Syria and push back Iranian influence in Iraq by strengthening the Sunni tribes in the north. This is why, behind the belligerent threats of bombing, the will to actually destroy the group completely is weak. This is why, instead of negotiating a tough pax with the Syrian government, America proposes to flout international law to launch illegal aerial bombing raids into that sovereign country.
Cooperation with Iran, inevitable
In northern Iraq, Iran has shown itself as the US's natural ally in any effort to contain ISIS. Iran is the one country with the greatest experience of dealing with this kind of cultic terrorist threat, and could perhaps help formulate a comprehensive plan to bring ISIS under control just as the MEK is now under control. Yet Iran remains the US's greatest nemesis.
What is preventing cooperation on this vital issue is the continued enmity between America and Iran. But the stark fact is that an American policy of threats and sanctions has yielded nothing in the way of stopping or reducing Iran's regional standing.