Analysis and Background on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
CHAPTER 16/ A Major Defeat
The fall of the House of Saddarn was a major defeat for the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran. It began its descent into Hell. As its Leader, Massoud Rajavi, declared in reference to the Iraqi Government:
“If this ever fell, we would sink into oblivion. Our survival depends on our support from President Saddam Hussein ‘s regime “. (142)
On Wednesday, 16 April 2003, Jean-Claude Chapon, the special correspondent of Agence France Presse covering the American assault on Iraq, filed this story on the collapse of the PMOI.
“In Falluja, the enormous camp of the People’s Mojahedin, the armed Iranian opposition supported by Saddarn Hussein, was left to pillagers and stray dogs since the fighters had fled on the first day of war in Iraq. Their destination is unknown.
Wednesday, on the 28th day of the American-British invasion, a group of marauders, usually armed with Kalashnikovs, or with pistols hidden in their shirts, still patrolled the huge complex, which must have supported a self-sustaining base for its occupants only 40 kilometres from Baghdad.
Surrounded by a high wall several kilometers in length, topped with barbed wire rolls, a small antennae sprouting village had been Constructed. The houses, warehouses, garages, and offices are spread out through the centre of the camp, in the midst of lush vegetation which is most dramatic against the backdrop of this desert region.
Around the camp’s centre are cultivated fields designed, no doubt, to feed the camp’s personnel. An irrigation system is still working, as the dark brown colour of the soil shows, as well as the gushing water here and there into well maintained irrigation ditches.
At the entrance to the complex, on the side of the highway that leads to Jordan, two men are taking down an electric pole in order to take away the grid’s wires. They become quite nervous and aggressive with the intrusion of reporters. They are from the neighbouring area and finally agree to tell us what they know of the camp.
According to them, hundreds of fighters from the movement lived there, often with their families. These Iranians, according to the two men who did not give their names, kept to themselves and never came out.
Only Iraqi trucks, generally military lorries, but sometimes unidentifiable, came and went from the camp. It had a heavily fortified, double gateway.
On the first day of the war, all of these soldiers moved out, they say. Where to? The two men know very little for certain, but they guess that they went to the Diyala region on the Iranian border...
Coalition forces bombed their bases several times, since their forces were considered part of the Iraqi Army. According to a British diplomat, they represented an ‘obstacle to our operations’.
In fact, several buildings, especially in the centre of the Falluja camp were destroyed by American bombing. Yet, people in the stir- rounding area could not give an exact date for these air raids”. (143)
The special correspondent of Liberation reported in May 2003 on the Ashraf Camp, main base of the PMOI. He confirms their route:
“The main base of the People’s Mojahedin is about 100 kilo- metres northeast of Baghdad on the Kirkuk road. It is situated just before the village of Khaliss. The movement is tied to Saddam Hussein, for whom it carried out the dirty work to keep its ‘residency rights’...
Their main office, in downtown Baghdad, was one of the first buildings pillaged and sacked by the population. The people hate them. It is now occupied by squatters.
But, at the Al-Ashraf camp, nothing seems to have changed.
Two guards watch the entrance. Further on, visitors must go through a chicane and then wait at a control point for inspection.
The movement’s flag, white with a lion and the sun, is next to the Iranian flag...
The war stopped at the gates of Camp Al-Ashraf, or so it seems. Life seems peaceful. It is a small town in the middle of the desert with its own mini electrical station, and a field hospital. ‘We are prepared to govern our country. A small base like this is child’s play to manage’. In all, it covers 36 square kilometres. Barbed wire separates the camp from the huge, surrounding desert. Iran is about sixty kilornetres away to the East. The movement is no longer young and the victory over the mullahs’ regime’ still awaits. So what! The discipline is still iron and the mouth is full of jargon...
On 8 April, an air raid killed seven Mojahedin and wounded ten others. The desert around the camp is full of lorries destroyed by the American bombers,” reported Christophe Ayad.
The future of Massoud Rajavi’s fighters now depends on American goodwill After discussions that were seerely critiused in Teheran, some 5000 People’s Mojahedin had to empty their arsenal. Having tanks, armoured personnel carriers, light vehicles, equipped with Kalashnikov light weapons, the troops of the National Liberation Army gave up their materiel as reported by Assoelated Press:
“The People’s Mojahedin, an Iranian opposition group opera tin from Iraq, started to lay down their arms on Sunday, within the framework of an agreement reached with the encircling force of American troops.
After the agreement reached Saturday evening, after two days of talks in Baqubah, 70 kms Northeast of the Iraqi capital, the Iranian opposition can keep their uniforms and have seven days to assemble all their troops in a specific place and turn in their weapons.
‘In effect, they are placing their equipment under Coalition control,” declared General Ray Odierno, commanding the 4th Infantry Division of the US Army. ‘They have been very cooperative,’ he added.
The People’s Mojahedin are part of the military wing of the National Resistance Council of Iran (NC RI), under Massoud Rajavi. It is headquartered in the Paris suburbs ... During the Seventies, the group killed several American soldiers and civilians working on military projects in Iran. They also supported the 1979 taking of the US Embassy in Teheran. Later, they broke with the Iranian Government and undertook attacks on the Teheran regime from Iraqi territory, with the support of Saddarn Hussein.
American officials added that they will not be considered as POWs, but placed in a status ‘as yet to be determined’.” (145)
From Disaster to Disaster
On the strictly military level, the PMOI and its National Liberation Army have only met with stunning defeats in their attempts to take control of any Iranian territory. The Mojahedin troops were only effective on Iraqi soil, when they had the support of Saddam Hussein’s Divisions. But they are not tin soldiers. They know how to use their weaponry and they kill. Faced with unarmed peasants, they have been ferocious.
However in 1984, Massoud Rajavi stated: “The Islam we preach does not excuse blood letting. We have never sought nor welcomed confrontation and violence “. (146)
These are hollow statements. It was never true, neither in the past nor in the years after. The PMOI’s ideology, as we have seen, is built on the works of former Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse Tung. He was a fully tempered theoretician and practitioner of revolutionary struggle.
Very much a fringe movement on the Iranian political scene, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran have always demonstrated their incapacity to take power by classical democratic means (votes, electoral campaigns, etc,). In their political logic, there is no other way to achieve their goal but by revolution, just as Mao foresaw:
“The central task and the supreme form of the revolution is the conquest of power by armed struggle. That is resolving the issue by war. This revolutionary principle of Marxism-Leninism is true everywhere, in China as in other countries”. (147)
This was to be a principle followed literally. Yet, worried about the eventual repercussions of their activities on their image in the West, the Mojahedin sought smokescreens. They tried to identify themselves as patriots. After all, in Western public opinion, the times are no longer those of the Sixties and Seventies: romantic glorification of guerrilla war. Since then, countries have learned to fear terrorism, wherever it comes from and whatever its justification.
The PMOI is trying to play the card of nationalist independence movements, as if Iran was subjected to some kind of foreign occupation. The Mojahedin say:
“It is interesting to note that the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva decided in 1949 to stipulate: ‘It is possible sometimes in a civil war that those considered as rebels are, in reality, patriots fighting for freedom, independence and the dignity of their country. It is not possible to speak of ‘terrorism’, ‘anarchy or ‘disorder’ in the case of rebels who accept humanitarian principles “. (148)
In reality, since the turning point that was marked by the defeat of “Operation Eternal Light” in 1988, the PMOI has been reduced to sporadic attacks inside Iran: outright terrorism.
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