Analysis and background on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
CHAPTER 12 /The price of alliance
The PMOI’s leader confesses that he would even make an alliance with the Devil.
“One day, I asked him about his alliance with the Iraqis, who were at war with his country. Without batting an eye, he answered:
‘Lenin allied with the Germans while they were at war with his country, Russia’,” recalls Jean Gueyras, reporter for Le Monde.
The People’s Mojahedin of Iran would go even further in their Iraqi commitment since they would act as traitors to Iran and provide support troops to Saddam.
The ties that bound the PMOI to Saddam are an open secret. Yet, Rajavi and his followers minimize it when they are not trying to deny it:
‘The Mojahedin only sought what Iraq offered from a geographical perspective: a territory with access to their country from which they could train and prepare the rising of the Iranian people and bring about the downfall of the most sinister dictatorship in history”. (104)
Always, when faced with a troubling question, the Mojahedin fall back on one of their habitual tactics. Either they claim bias, declaring that putting them in question is playing the game of the Iranian regime, or they use a jargon which we will look at more closely later on.
In spite of everything, today they no longer fool anyone. Since the fall of their protector, more information is being uncovered, all of it supporting this reaction.
“The movement is tied to Saddam Hussein’s regime — for whom he, Rajavi, has done the dirty work to get his ‘residency permit’,” concludes Liberation. (105)
The issue of opportunity
The atrocious war between Iraq and Iran lasted eight years, from 1980 to 1988. The People’s Mojahedin thought it would help them toward the conquest of power. Yet, careful to appear as their country’s saviors, they tried to hide the truth about their military and political commitments.
Playing both sides at the same time, on 13 March 1983, they presented a peace plan in their own name. Of course, the NRC had no mandate except the one it had given itself.
“The National Resistance Council declares that it considers the Treaty of1975 (the Algiers Accords) as well as the river and land borders stipulated in it as the basis for a just and lasting peace between the two countries,” wrote the PMOI. It did not, however, explain where it had obtained the authority to take such a decision. (106)
It is clear that they have and had no legitimacy. Remember, After all, that the war had become a dangerous burden for Saddam Hussein, one which he wanted to lay down as soon as lie could. The tyrant of Baghdad also tried every means to end the hostilities, calling for peace, but using his debtors to cause trouble for the Iranian enemy.
For, as the weekly Jeune Afrique emphasised: “Saddam Hussein has, in the first place, officially changed his ‘war aims’. The aim of annexing the Shaft-el-Arab (even if it hides other ambitions) may once have justified a victorious blitzkrieg.
For the war to go on indefinitely, much broader objectives must be proclaimed: the Iraqi Chief of State has therefore announced that he seeks to overthrow the Teheran regime, even to dismantle the Iranian State into its different nationality groups”. (107)
In this optic, the PMOI’s participation would go far beyond serving as window dressing. Massoud Rajavi and his National Liberation Army would fight against their own nation, forcing Teheran to confront this distraction and reduce the troops essential to its main offensive drives. These soldiers could have made the difference between victory and defeat.
“It is true that ten thousand Peshmergas of the PDKI (Iran) of Abdulrahman Ghassemlou, two thousand Marxist-Leninists of Komala and thousands of People’s Mojahedin guerrillas succeeded, since the conflict began, in immobilising 150,000 Iranian soldiers,” concluded Paul Balta. (108)
Traitors to their own people
In the midst of all this, the Mojahedin signed —again only in their own name — a peace agreement with Baghdad and, in a press release dated 1 April 1984, they issued an “appeal to the soldiers to disobey the agents of the war mongering Khomeini, to stop the war and join the resistance forces “. (109)
This was a clear call for desertion while the Iranian nation was mobilising all elements of society and fighting with all its forces to throw back the invader. For them, it was no longer a question of saving a given regime, but of a sacrifice given for the survival of millennia of Persian culture. If many young people saw it as a way to express their religious faith, even more saw it as a fight for the survival of Persia against Arabia. This was a conflict that had gone on at regular intervals throughout history.
This low blow to the Iranian people, whom they claimed to embody, would be violently brought to bear against the People’s Mojahedin. They had no easy justification. This was all the more the case since the PMOI opened a new theatre of operations in the heart of Iran, with risk of seeming like the enemy’s Fifth Column.
Clearly playing the role given them by the Iraqi General Staff, the Mojahedin did their best to provoke a dangerous instability in their own country. They worked to create a climate of fear and anxiety in order to shake the adversary’s regime. De facto, it was a strategy to help the enemy country defeat their own people. It was Lranians like themselves whom they betrayed while dying to defend their country.
“Far from the Shaft-el-Arab, another front —just as dangerous for the regime — is immobilising a large part of the fighting forces: the urban guerrilla war. In the front rank of this battle are the Mojahedin-e-Khalq,” noted L’Express. (110)
In the framework of the war, as always, innocent civilians paid with their lives. In the rear areas, daily life became difficult for the non-combatants.
“5 March 1985. The ‘war for the cities’ begins. Attacks against urban centres have, of course, taken place before, but sporadically. The difference this time is in the intensity and extent of the raids, their systematic character and their duration. In taking the initiative in these bombings, Iraq wants once again to force Teheran to negotiate. It is striking deeply at civilian targets to incite the population to put pressure on their leaders,” writes Paul Balta in what is surely one of the best documented works on the issue. (111)
But Iran struck back, Baghdad was soon bombarded with ground to ground rockets. Once again, Saddam Hussein faced a costly loss.
He tried to stop the maneuver without losing face. Rajavi rescued him by trying to improve his image within a nation that had, for a long time, stopped believing in him. He claims that on three occasions, Saddam Hussein tried to arrive at a truce. The PMOI thus presents as a victory of its own leader the momentary halt in missile strikes on Iranian cities.
“The city war had become intolerable for the Iranian population. Rajavi ‘s intervention led to a temporary halt in Iraqi attacks. This saved thousands of Iranian lives and brought many expressions of thanks for the Chef of the Resistance,” the Mojahedin persuade themselves. (112)
But the situation was actually more intolerable for Saddam Hussein. His strategy was turning against him. Iraq denounced widely the offensive which Saddam himself had launched.
Moreover, the dictator of Baghdad easily granted ceasefires in the hopes of gaining time. He, therefore, responded favourably to a request from Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister. On 18 May 1985, he had called for a suspension of the attacks. It was very brief indeed: on 25 May the rockets again flew on their deadly mission.
Saddam Hussein did not accept the failure to make peace with Ayatollah Khomeini. He needed it too much. At the end of March 1985, according to Paul Balta, “The Iraqi representative to the U.N., Ryad al-Qaisi, denied the use of chemical weapons by his own country but went to declare: we will carry out total war to arrive at peace’. “Khomeini, who continually denounced “the imposed war” now rejected “the imposed peace”. “Such a peace would be worse than the war,” he explained. (112)
In fact Iran accepted the request of the Security Council inviting the two belligerents to stop the fighting. On 18 July 1988, the Imam accepted Resolution 598 which created a ceasefire.
The People’s Mojahedin showed its flag when it supported the Iraqi regime: ‘forced to drink the poisoned chalice of a ceasefire “. (113)
Teheran now won at least a moral victory in the international community when the U.N. Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar concluded, in a report of 10 December 1990, that “Baghdad is responsible for the start of the Iraq-Iran War in 1980”. (114)
Abroad as well
On the international scene, the People’s Mojahedin were also working against their country. Discrediting Teheran’s policies, they accused Iran of needlessly prolonging the war. As always, they tried to take credit for the return of peace. In this, they were claiming a role in affairs over which they had no control. This did not keep them from sounding triumphant.
“The huge effort of the Iranian resistance against the warmonger, Khomeini, has borne fruit, “they declared categorically.
On the level of military operations, they won no major successes. They were an irritant to their enemies. Indeed, the Mojahedin had no influence at all on the course of events.
On the other hand, they profited from the moment in obtaining financial, infrastructural and material support from Baghdad. From the start, Saddam Hussein had decided their framework of action and he must have been let down when he saw his protégés fail to attain the goals he had fixed for them.
“We give all our aid to all the nationalities and nationalist movements to overthrow the reactionary and untrustworthy regime in Iran”. This extract of one of Saddam’s speeches, published in La Suisse of 12 April 1981 has the virtue of showing unambiguously the goals and means used by the Baathists in Baghdad.
Using their structures abroad, as well as their members who were refugees throughout the world, the People’s Mojahedin put their propaganda machine into high gear. Since they had real lobbying experience, they achieved some success. Faithful to their technique of harassment of “decision-makers”, they brandished lists of names of those said to support them.
Pressuring legislators with their self-seeking attentions, they willfully took ordinary gestures of sympathy — which elected politicians provide several times a week to different causes — as a real commitment by the signatories to support them. Clearly, these politicians would never risk their careers on a PMOI that they only understood vaguely. It is therefore not at all surprising to note that, outside the political circles of the ultra Left, no one really knows of the “Iranian resistance”.
This does not keep the Mojahedin from believing their own documents. They adore producing them to provide support for their legitimacy.
During the Iraq-Iran war, the People’s Mojahedin, according to themselves, mobilised themselves to lead crowds of protestors against Teheran.
To cite the “condemnation” of Khomeini — to the benefit of Saddam Hussein — they made him the guilty party for the war on Iran. The PMOI was only following the instructions of their host. They wrote in their manifesto that ““221 parties, trades unions, associations and assemblies in 57 countries have signed a universal declaration to the entire world condemning ‘the warlike policies’ of Khomeini’s medieval regime “. (115)
These were the coercive methods used to fake petitions, a technique fully mastered by the leadership in its manipulation of elites. These classic methods of the ultra Left will be examined in a later chapter.
The curtain falls
Today’s reality must seem less glorious to the 5000 or so soldiers of the PMOI’s National Liberation Army. They were reduced to surrendering to the American troops who entered Iraq and ended Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.
“Encircled by American forces, the People’s Mojahedin, an opposition group to the Iranian regime, operating out of Iraq, agreed on Saturday to turn in its arms, announced the American Army. The agreement was reached at Baqubah, 70 km northeast of the Iraqi capital. The surrender was reported by the US Army’s Fifth Corps in Baghdad... For years the Iranians of the People’s Mojahedin launched attacks against the Islamist regime in Teheran, with Saddam Hussein’s support, from Iraqi territory,” announced the Associated Press on Sunday ii May 2003. (116)
But if the American attitude is sometimes blurred and even contradictory, the declarations of the Republican Administration of President George W. Bush leave no space for misinterpretation. We can see this in the reports of the international press.
“We intend to put an end to the terrorist and military activities of the People’s Mojahedin in Iraq,” declared the State Department spokesman, Paul Boucher. Washington wants Iraq, which supported and armed this very active formation against the Teheran regime in the time of Saddam Hussein, ‘no longer to be a source of terrorism’,” he added. (117)
The curtain has fallen, as Le Monde’s special correspondent, who witnessed the surrender of the Al-Ashraf Camp, reported:
“An infantry battalion, with thirty tanks, is positioned at the entrance of this huge military base which was the Mojahedin Headquarters. On Sunday 11 May, their Iraqi based troops no longer exist as fighting forces. With their Soviet machine guns, the camp guards looked like actors who had not read the script of the blockbuster being filmed...
They will not be considered prisoners of war, but as detainees.
It is the end of an arsenal which made it possible for the Mojahedin — who claimed to have an army of 50,000 — to carry out attacks on Iran from the frontier, as well as in Iranian cities”. (118)
The defeat was severe and the collapse seems irreparable. “Without an organised military force, the resistance will have little weight,” admitted the Mojahedin themselves. But this was without imagining that ten years after writing these words, their own militia would be disarmed and cease to exist. (119)
The PMOI has lost its striking force. This is really a debacle since, without their military wing, they are restricted to the political sphere. They will try to convince themselves that better days will come. After all, the historical inevitably they represent will, according to them, lead to a victorious future.
Having based their struggle and doctrine on the National Liberation Army, even if it could only carry out terrorist attacks rather than a final assault, the Mojahedin must suddenly give up any seizure of power in Teheran.
The fact is that even if luck had given them the chance to take power, they would have had to keep it. That would have required the means of protecting their victory.
“The People’s Liberation Army will always be a fighting force. Even after victory on the national scale, during the historical period when classes have not been suppressed in our country and while the imperialist system continues to exist in the world, our Army will remain a fighting force. There must be no misunderstanding or flinching on this point,” affirmed Chairman Mao. (120)
From its perspective, the PMOI is totally identified with its armed action, even considering that:
“Maintaining an armed, organised military force, is a fundamental precondition for all serious resistance movements. Consequently, to criticise the Iranian resistance for having an Army on the Iran-Iraq frontier is, in fact, an attempt to discredit the resistance itself”. (121)
Returning to reality will be very hard indeed.
On the military level, the eradication of PMOI’s commando groups that perpetrated attacks in Iran constitutes, along with the end of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the second victory of the international coalition against terrorism. Yet, with their seasoned knowledge of revolutionary warfare, their habits of working in clandestinity, their numerous well-trained militants under orders in the West (themselves seasoned in fighting from the shadows), as well as its networks of complicities in a complacent ultra Left, the Mojahedin will not yet admit they are beaten.
They still have among the most fearsome weapons of all in their attempt to baptise their Islamic Democratic Republic of Iran: subversion. This continual sapping of mentalities and opinions, usually discovered too late, needs to be identified much earlier by diagnosing the sinister aims it serves.
104.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
105.- Christophe Ayad, op. cit.
106.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
107.- “Iraq-Iran — Un seul gagnant: Israel” — by Marcel Péju — Jeune Afrique, 26 November 1980
108.- Paul Balta, op. cit., Paris, 1987
109.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
110.- Jacques Buob and Christian 1-loche, L ‘Express, 22 January 1982.
111.- Paul Balta, op. cit., Paris, 1987
112.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
113.- Paul Balta, Paris, 1987
114.- “L’lran a Ia croisée des chemins” — Analysis published on the Website of Institut de stratégie comparée, 2002
115.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
116.- “Iraq: les opposants iraniens des Moudjahidin du peuple déposent les armes” Associated Press (AP), 11 May 2003
117.- “Washington veut neutraliser les Moudjahidin dii peuple en Irak” — I’Agence Télégraphique Suisse (ATS), 11 May 2003
118.- “Les Moudjahidin du peuple iraniens déposent les armes en vertu d’un “accord” avec les Américains” — by Erich Inciyan — LeMonde, 13 May 2003
119.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
120.- “Report of the .Second Plenum of the Central Committee elected by the VIIth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party”, Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung, vol. IV
121.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
Dr. Raz Zimmt investigates Iranian social media responses to the annual conference of Mojahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group whose support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War remains a searing...
For decades, Western empires have waged a silent war against Iran, using tactics ranging from supporting known terrorist groups to deposing the country’s leaders and leveraging regional rivalries. The war...