Analysis and Background on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
CHAPTER 15/The political face
Since their dramatic split with the heirs of the Revolution, the people’s Mojahedin of Iran set up the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). At first it was an effort to federate the whole opposition in exile under the umbrella of the PMOI. It was also meant to seem as part of a much larger strategy. Many still remembered that Mr Massoud Rajavi and his friends were pure and simple terrorists under the Shah. Worse, they were the terrorists aiming at the wrong targets. They were unacceptable to monarchists, even in their most desperate moments.
By hiding behind a broader front, the Mojahedin could manipulate Western public opinion as they wished. They had found the legitimacy that had eluded them for so many years.
This was why the NCRI published its lengthy defense against the US State Department’s charges.
It is difficult, indeed, to see in the NCRI’s summation any of the ultra Leftism that characterize the PMOI: not even their hopes to destroy international capitalism:
“The National Resistance Council of Iran (‘NCRi, was founded in 1981. The Council is a democratic coalition of Iranian groups and personalities who come from many different political camps. There are 570 members, including ethnic and religious representatives of Iran s minority communities: Kurds, Baluchis, Christians and Jews.
The Council acts as the Parliament of the resistance in exile and its aim is the establishment of a pluralist, democratic and secular system in Iran. Women account for more than half the Council members.
The National Resistance Council of Iran (‘NCRI,) adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and accepts international conventions. The Council believes in the separation of Church and State. Concerning national minorities, the National Resistance Council of Iran (NCRI) recognises their rights.
The economic policies of the National Resistance Council of Iran are based on free market principles, on recognition of our nation‘s capitalism, on the Bazaar and on private and personal property. The Council’s foreign policy is based on independence, on respect for the UN Charter and of international conventions and treaties.
On the issue of women ‘s rights, the Council recognises free choice for everyone in electoral rights, in access to work and the free choice of profession, as well as the right to use all the resources in the fields of education, art and sport. “. (131)
The illusion seems total. The “Russian doll” system (in which one doll after another is hidden within the biggest) seems to be in full use. Rajavi is in full acceleration. He is in one place and his wife in another, but both, in reality, head the same organization: the Mojahedin. Machiavelli is here, incarnate.
The makeover looks complete: the wolf has put on sheep’s clothing. Yet, in the end, the truth broke through:
“The Mojahedin are the only component of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main armed opposition movement. Its European office is in Auvers-sur-Seine, in the Parisian suburbs.
The head of the NCRI in France is Saleh Rajavi, one of Massoud Rajavi’s two brothers. The latter is the leader of the NCRI. Saleh Rajavi was questioned by the French Police in October 1999, during a sweep through Iranian opposition circles. This took place at the time of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s visit to Paris”. (132)
A Snake’s Progress
How did this situation develop and how did the PMOI fail to win control of all the Iranian opposition in exile’? Le Monde’s reporter Jean Gueyras published an excellent essay on these mistakes:
“When Mr Massoud Rajavi, the Chief of the People’s Mojahedin, sought refuge in France along with former President Bani Sadr he was convinced that his stay would be brief. To him, the Teheran regime was out of breath and that the bend of the bloody dictatorship was near’. When he was asked why he chose France as his home in exile, he continuously cited Iman Khomeini’s precedent. He [Khomeini] had the skill to turn Neauphle-le-Chateau into the ‘ideal International Court’. Rajavi, therefore, hopes to turn Auvers-sur-Oise into a ‘counter Neauphle-le-Chateau’. This will be his rostrum from which to inform the whole world about the size and reach of the resistance to the savage dictatorship prevailing in Iran, as well as denouncing Khomeini’s lies”.
Paris had required that the Iranian refugee leaders sign a written statement, containing the routine text promising to avoid all political activity on French soil. This would be respected for exactly two weeks.
From mid-August, the strict measures taken by the French authorities at the beginning of the month to bar all contact between the press and the Iranian leaders disappeared, as if by magic. ‘The situation is now normalized’, declared Mr Rajavi, who never thought that the French authorities could effectively prevent him from continuing the fight against the Teheran regime.
Once reassured of the authorities’ real intentions, the new exiles redoubled their efforts to create a ‘counter Power’ at Auvers-surOise, one designed to bring down the Teheran regime.
On 1 October 1981, former President Bani Sadr, using his international standing, nominated Mr Rajavi to the post of President of the National Resistance Council and tasked him with forming a “Provisional Iranian Government”. The first set back: this decision was never carried out, probably because of the disagreements which already began to surface”.
Jean Gueyras goes on: “Worse, this institution, whose aim was to unify the entire opposition in exile, slowly became an organisation totally dominated by the Mojahedin.
In Iranian opposition exile circles, people already began to talk about the ‘Massoud Rajavi’s sectarian and doctrinal rigidity’ and of his repetitive jargons and sloganeering. These were the barriers to all freedom of opinion. They kept the NCRI from becoming a viable solution to Khomeini’s regime.
As the years went by, the belief in having a monopoly on the ‘truth’ only increased the Mojahedin’s sectarianism. They were still the main opposition force in Teheran, even if they no longer constituted an immediate threat to the regime. The Iranian authorities had put down sufficiently solid roots and developed working structures to resist the impact of even the Imam’s death.
Parallel to the intensification of repression, the power in place had, by the beginning of 1983, finished developing State institutions and the reorganization of its intelligence and security services. These latter had been brought up to a remarkably effective level.
The sense of impotence and despair which was rife among the representatives of the resistance in exile did not spare the opponents in Auvers-sur-Oise. The Mojahedin, of course, continued to put out triumphant statements. Yet they seemed less and less believable and slowly sapped the organization’s and its leader’s credibility. The whole opposition’s sense of having turned into a cul de sac is partly the root of the divorce between Rajavi and his father-in-law, Bani Sadr in April 1984”.
The Break With Bani Sadr
Jean Gueyras adds: “The former President of the Republic began to speak privately of the ‘hegemonistic tendencies’ of his son in law. He, who had been the Commander in Chief of the Army during the first two years of the Gulf War, could hardly applaud the alliance Mr Rajavi had made with the Iraqis. This happened during Mr Rajavi’s famous Auvers-sur-Oise meeting with Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s Vice Prime Minister and head of Foreign Affairs. Rajavi and Bani Sadr continue their ‘cohabitation’, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Mr Rajavi’s proposal (as early as) December 1983 to move the NCRI to Iraq in ‘a part of defensible territory’ near the Iranian border. He laid out his plan to create a National Liberation Army recruited from the Mojahedin, the Kurdish Peshmergas and Iranian POWs in Iraqi camps. Mr Bani Sadr described Rajavi’s plan as suicidal and warned the NCRI against all ‘collaboration’ with Iraq. It would turn the organisation into ‘a pawn that Saddam Hussein would not hesitate to sacrifice at the right moment to get the peace he is calling for’.
Sensing the possibility of counter measures that finally happened just this last year in France, Bani Sadr warned his followers to never put themselves yonder the control of any foreign power. To avoid the shattering of the NCRI, Rajavi and Bani Sadr decided, by mutual agreement, to end their alliance, which had lasted two years and nine months, and agreed to avoid ‘sterile polemics in order to keep future options open’. The departure of Bani Sadr from Auvers-sur-Oise destroyed the foundations of the NCRI, of which he was one of the pillars, even if he was never officially a member. The truce was brief. The differences were too deep to be avoided.
For Mr Rajavi, more sectarian than ever, the former President of the Republic has returned to his Khomeinist origins’ and had become ‘a relic of the Teheran regime’. This ostracism of Bani Sadr was, in truth, a warning to all those who believed that resistance from outside the country was doomed and had kept their internal contacts for the inevitable ‘post-Khomeini era’. Such behavior, to Mr Rajavi, was worse ‘than a mistake. It is treason’. (133)
It was now crucial for Massoud Rajavi to bring order within his ranks. Every discordant voice called down lightning bolts from the Chief. Faithful to Mao’s ideas, behind the democratic principles he trumpeted, he imposed an iron discipline within the PMOI.
The Great Helmsman had foreseen: “Liberalism is extremely dangerous to revolutionary collectives. It is a corrosive that eats away unity, weakens the bonds of solidarity, creates passivity and leads to divergences of views. It deprives the revolution’s ranks of a solid organization and rigorous discipline, prevents the application of an integral policy and cuts the Party organizations from the popular masses under their direction. It is one of the most pernicious tendencies”. (134)
After Bani Sadr was mercilessly put out of the movement, it was now the turn of the Kurds to learn the PMOI’s version of “democratic” collaboration inside the National Resistance Council of Iran.
About the Kurds
Soon it would the turn of Mr Abdel Rahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK). Mr Rajavi criticized him for “having accepted talks with Khomeini, thus recognizing his legitimacy” and asked him to leave the NCRI.
In fact, the DPIK, the only organization (with its Kurdish competitor, Komaleh) to lead an armed struggle against the Iranian regime, had met with the central government. This was “to explore the possibilities of a local cease fire.” Heartbroken, Mr Ghassemlou soon left the NCRI.
From this point on, the NCR! would have no independent existence from the Mojahedin.
It was only one of the “brand names” that Rajavi uses to abuse the confidence of those who sign his petitions: from Papua New Guinea to France. Their names are packed in under manifestos condemning the “war mongering, medieval regime of Khomeini” and praising the “peace plan put forward by Mr Rajavi, Chairman of the National Resistance Council,” Jean Gueyras concludes. (135)
The Kurdish issue was far from being settled for the PMOI. In spite of its regular denials, the National Liberation Army of Iran, under Rajavi’s control, carried out bloody attacks on the Kurds.
However, there was worry within the ranks of the PMOI. Some at the base began asking questions. This was not taken well at all:
they were immediately treated as outcasts and as traitors to the cause. Inside the organization, discussion had only one purpose:
strong and loud approval of the Chief, who is always right! And there would be many opportunities for this.
At this point in the PMOI’s evolution, we must again look to Mao Tse Tung to find the most useful solution that the leadership would use to muzzle all differences of opinion:
“It is necessary to reinforce Party discipline, including: I) submission of the individual to the organization; 2) submission of the minority to the majority; 3) submission of the lower echelon to the higher echelon; 4) submission of the entire Party to the Central Committee. Whoever violates these rules undercuts Party unity”. (136)
One could not be clearer! And, when “revolutionary divorce” became a rule, more and more spoke out to demand at least an explanation for this measure. No answer was ever given. It is necessary to silence all dissent: the Chief cannot make mistakes, the Chief is the Chief!
Jean Gueyras understands the PMOI’s double talk:
“The ‘political remarriage’ of Mr Rajavi with Mrs Maryam Azdanlou, wife of one of his closest staff members who was forced to leave her publicly, is presented as ‘one of the most important revolutionary and ideological decisions ever taken by the Mojahedin’.”
This attitude was too much for the few independent personalities who had continued to express their confidence in Mr Rajavi. The new groom succeeded in creating an almost unanimous wave of rejection within the Iranian exile community in France. He nonetheless welded his own troops in their blind and unconditional loyalty to him. Only a few dissidents fled what they now saw as a religious sect.
Yet, it the organisation’s ‘sympathisers’ make up one big family, they have to fall back on the jargon of the ‘Great Master’ and accept all his explanations, including the most unlikely ones.
During their lengthy exile in Auvers-sur-Oise, Mr Rajavi and his friends have become masters in turning their failures and embarrassments into stunning victories, for their public relations. This is the way Massoud Rajavi’s departure to Baghdad was explained by the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran: “the residence of Mr Massoud Rajavi has changed in order to neutralize, on the one hand, the plots of the Khomeini regime and, on the other hand, to meet the needs of the resistance’s new phase”.
The press release concludes: ‘The NCR! considers this move as indispensable to our deployment and organisation of the revolution’s armed forces. It is the last step toward our return to our country’s soil”. (137)
The Terrorist NCRI
In the beginning of March 2003, the news hit the PMOI like a bombshell. Its legal front had suffered a terrible blow. The news spread through the press agencies:
“The Unites States has outlawed the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCR!), political front of the People’s Mojahedin, the
State Department announced. The main armed opposition movement to the Iranian regime had its assets frozen.
The decision was published in the American ‘official journal’, the Federal Register, and puts the NCRI on the Black List of terrorist organisations. The representational offices of the organisation in the United States and around the world are targets of this decree, signed by Secretary of State Cohn Powell.
The People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, the main element of the NCRI, was already placed on the official American list of terrorist organisations by the Democratic Administration of Bill Clinton.
The NCRI kept its offices in Washington at that time, situated just a few blocks from the White I-louse. It also had offices in several major American cities where it organised frequent press conferences to denounce the Iranian Government.
Since Friday morning, Federal agents closed their Washington offices and placed notices on the doors stating that the movement was banned.
No one was in the offices at the time of their intervention; It is now illegal to be a member of this group in the United States.
In the past, the United States used intelligence from this NCRI to justify their concerns about the existence of Iran’s secret nuclear programme...
In recent years, the Iranian Mojahedin have focused their armed actions on Iran. They have claimed responsibility for assassinations of several key figures in the regime: the former Director of Evin Prison, Assadollah Ladjevari (August 1998), and the former Army Commander during the Iraq War, General Ali Sayad Shirazi (April
Money, the Muscle of Warfare
One of the big unknowns remains the PMOI’s financing. Must we believe Maryam Rajavi when she flatly claims that the money all comes from fundraising among the Mojahedin and their supporters? This was notably the case in explaining the millions of dollars uncovered during “Operation Théo”. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The PMOI has a lot more at its disposal:
“... Maryam Rajavi rejoiced Thursday when she was freed thanks to the payment of 80,000 euros fixed by the Paris Court of Appeals.
The bail was paid as of Thursday morning at the Paris Appeals Court’s administrative offices. Maryam Rajavi has been jailed since 21 June...
As to the 8 million dollars (7 million euros) found in the different homes of Iranian opposition members in Auvers-sur-Oise, Mrs Rajavi insisted that these funds belonged to the Iranian resistance: ‘Not a euro, not a dollar comes from any government or any country,’ she guaranteed, ‘Even if I am not informed of the details, I am sure that the movement can account to the judicial system for each cent’. (139)
This statement is in serious contradiction with the police investigators who all note that large amounts of PMOI money circulate around the world through “dirty” networks:
“It is now up to the policemen of the DSR and the Central Office for the Repression of Major Financial Crime to untangle the threads of cash that came in directly from Iraq. Deposits in Yemen interest them especially.
This is not the first time that a country of the Arabian Peninsula has shown up in the investigation of the PMOI’s finances. On 27 February 2001, after four years of FBI investigation, seven individuals of Iranian origin were arrested in California. They are suspected of having collected more than a million dollars through a ‘Committee for Human Rights in Iran’. A large amount of this money ended up in Turkish accounts controlled by the PMOI, according to the FBI. More than $ 400,000 may have been used to buy arms in the United Arab Emirates. The investigation, never followed up, was begun after a message was received by the FBI office in Bonn reporting that the German Criminal Police were looking into the transfer of money into Germany from Mojahedin based in the United States”. (140)
Answers From Baghdad
Once again it is necessary to look to Baghdad to find the beginnings of an answer. There, we find confirmation that the main funder of the PMOI was no other than the fallen Boss of Iraq.
One man knows the People’s Mojahedin of Iran and Massoud Rajavi particularly well. He is a very visible personality, very influential in Saddam Hussein’s regime until his defection. Brigadier General in the Iraqi Army General Staff, in charge of the secret services until 1994, Vafigh al-Sameraee, was in regular, personal contact with Saddam Hussein. Then, he broke with the Rais.
The retired General, now a refugee in London, held a job which made him extremely knowledgeable of the PMOI’s workings:
“How far back did the contacts begin between the People’s Mojahedin and Saddam Hussein?
— The regime began its relationship with them in the mid- Eighties. The People’s Mojahedin carried out several attacks on their own country during the Iraq-Iran War...
It is important to recall that the People’s Mojahedin began their activities at the time of Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, Shah of Iran. In particular, they claimed responsibility for the assassination of a group of Americans.
In fact, the mental structure of the people under Rajavi’s command was perfectly in line with that of the Iraqi regime. They used the same underground methods. Even inside their own infrastructure, the Mojahedin applied the same Stalinist principles. Members of the organisation used false passports to travel to European countries and raise funds to buy arms and pay for their propaganda. The organisation even had a satellite television station broadcasting programmes to Europe.
The People’s Mojahedin had their own specialised prisons for their dissidents. These were detention centres at Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad, as well as at Al-Mansourieh and at Shahrban near Jabal Hamrin.
There was also a prison shared with the Iraqi services in the Al Ramadi desert. Many members of the organisation who no longer could follow its line were locked up there. In the cells, there were cases of rape and death.
What was Iraq’s aid?
I especially remember a sum of 20 million Iraqi dinars received by Massoud Rajavi (I dollar was then worth three dinars). This was before the occupation of Kuwait in 1991. At that time he had received at least 8 million dollars. He also received various sums in foreign currency to cover his propaganda expenses in Europe. Massoud Rajavi also had other sources of income, including money given by his supporters. All of this money complemented the deliveries of military equipment. After all, the Iraqi regime supported the People’s Mojahedin with arms, mobile cannon, tanks, heavy artillery and even combat helicopters.
The group used the logistical support of the Iraqi intelligence services to cross the border and to send commando groups into Iran to carry out terrorist attacks.
The People’s Mojahedin brutally assaulted the Kurdish towns of Jelola and Khaneghein and took an active role in the repression of the popular uprisings in Southern Iraq in 1991. They provided Iraqi intelligence with all kinds of information on what was happening inside Iran”. (141)
Thus, contrary to all their propaganda, the PMOI most certainly collaborated closely with the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, right up to the fall of the Baath Party from power in Iraq.
131.- Presentation du Conseil national de Ia résistance iranienne (CNRI): website hftp://voiceofiran.com/abouthtrni, controled by Massoud Rajavi
132.- “Coup de filet contre les Moudjahidin du Peuple d’lran” — AFP, 17 June 2003
133.- Jean Gueyras, op. cit.
134.- “Against liberation” — 7 september 1937 — Selected texts of Mao Tse Twig—volume II
135.- Jean Gueyras, op. cit.
136.- “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National Work, October 1938, Selected Texts of Mao Tse Tung, Vol. II 137.- Jean Gueyras, op. cit.
138.- “Les Etats-Unis interdisent le CNRI classé organisation terroriste” — AFP, 15 August 2003
139.- “Maryam Rajavi: les fonds de l’OMPI proviennent exclusivement de Ia résistance iranienne” — Associated Press, 3 July 2003
140.- “En France, les comptes bancaires restent au coeur de l’enquête” — by Jean Chichizola — Le Figaro, 23 June 2003
141.- “Comprendre le système Saddam” — by Antoine Gessler — interview of Iraqi General, Vafigh al-Sainraee — Le Nouvelliste, 10 october 2001
Spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Council said that Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) that has received asylum from France is today supported by the upholders of human rights though...