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The MEK and its supporters, however, will encounter a rare ferociousness because the group presents the kind of common enemy against whom the reformists, the conservatives, the students and common people will all rally against - something that has not happened since the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War.
In recent months, the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) and its attempts to prove that the Islamic Republic of Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons garnered widespread media coverage and speculation. While bringing forth a modicum of new information, the attention fails to illuminate just how dangerous the MEK could be to the United States. Grappling in Iraq, the Bush administration now faces an analogous yet graver situation in the Islamic Republic. In the years leading up to the Iraq war, Ahmad Chalabi led the exiled Iraqi National Congress. In courting Bush officials like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz to stoke the war flames in Iraq, Chalabi materialized defectors who affirmed suspicions about Saddam Hussein's ethereal weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi then secured administration support by seducing it with visions of Iraqis showering American liberators with flowers and a quick handover of a well-ordered Iraq from US troops to his Free Iraqi Fighters. Today, Maryam Rajavi, the so-called president-elect of the MEK's National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), conjures up the same desert visions for Iran. Like the case of Chalabi, who offered information on the seemingly impenetrable Iraq, reliance on Rajavi and her supporters superficially makes sense. Given the US's lack of human intelligence inside the Islamic Republic's government, supporting the MEK would naturally appeal to the US administration as a means to quickly develop and install agents who can provide reliable information regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear advancements. The MEK now finds support within parts of the American government as a "third option". Such support is built on the fallacy that the MEK can not only provide information, but also enjoys enough popular support so that diplomacy and direct military action can be skirted. By lobbying to remove the MEK from the US's list of foreign terrorist organizations and considering the group as leverage to destabilize, overthrow, and/or replace Tehran's clerical government, supporters ignore the unsavory history of the MEK. And that puts the United States, its citizens and its interests in grave danger. Under the Bill Clinton administration, the State Department placed the MEK on its terrorist organization list in 1997 as a conciliatory gesture to the then newly elected Mohammed Khatami moderates. In justifying its decision, the State Department used several acts of violence committed against Americans to justify its actions. These acts included the November 1971 attempt to kidnap the American ambassador, as well as the 1972 bombings of the offices belonging to Pepsi-Cola, General Motors, the Hotel International, the Marin Oil Company, the Iranian-American Society and the US Information Office. Over the next three years, the MEK robbed six banks, assassinated the deputy chief of the US Military Mission (Colonel Lewis Hawkins), killed the chief of the Tehran police, killed five American civilians and/or military advisers, attempted to assassinate the chief of the US Military Mission in Iran (General Harold Price), and bombed the offices of Pan-American Airlines, Shell Oil Company, British Petroleum, El Al and British Airways. [1] In a military tribunal in 1972, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi explained such acts of violence by premising that the future of Iran depended on armed resistance. Blaming most of the world's problems on imperialism, Rajavi insisted that "American imperialism" was the main enemy of Iran because the United States conducted the 1953 coup d'etat that overthrew the then prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. [2] In retaliation, the Shah attempted to discredit the group by labeling the mujahideen as "Islamic Marxists" and by claiming that Islam merely served as a cover to hide the group's Marxist ideology. In response, the MEK declared its respect for Marxism "as a progressive social philosophy" but stated that "their true culture, inspiration, attachment and ideology was Islam". [3] Attempting to clarify its position, the MEK later published an article declaring that [T]he regime is trying to place a wedge between Muslims and Marxists ... Of course, Marxism and Islam are not identical. Nevertheless, Islam is definitely closer to Marxism than to Pahlavism. Islam and Marxism contain the same message for they inspire martyrdom, struggle, and self-sacrifice. Who is closer to Islam: the Vietnamese who fight against American imperialism or the Shah who helps Zionism? Since Islam fights oppression it will work together with Marxism which also fights oppression. They have the same enemy: reactionary imperialism. [4] With this history, news that the MEK engaged coalition forces during Operation Enduring Freedom should not be surprising. [5] With their obvious ideological differences, the US and MEK have been separately battling the Islamic Republic of Iran for about the past 25 years. Now, however, the MEK and its supporters within the American government want to temporarily put aside such differences to bring about regime change. Intelligence sources, though, are quick to note that the information the MEK/NCRI provides is only sometimes correct. For example, on September 16, the group's "spokesman", Alireza Jafarzadeh of Strategic Policy Consulting, a corporation viewed as established to circumvent US laws prohibiting the MEK/NCRI's existence on American soil, proffered that the Islamic Republic had secretly built an underground tunnel-like facility deep in the mountains of the Parchin military complex, in order to transfer secret nuclear components and conduct other activities related to a supposedly vibrant nuclear weapons program. The tunnels allegedly house secret "military-nuclear factories" and serve as storage space. Diagrams that were produced appear to show that the tunnels are supplied with water, electricity and ventilation, providing a suitable and seemingly extensive working space deep underground. Jafarzadeh claims that Iranian officials decided to construct the tunnels in response to continuing leaks regarding the country's nuclear activities, and that they serve to prevent the easy destruction of essential facilities by US "bunker-busting" munitions. Yet neither a direct inquiry into the credibility of the statement nor confirmation from reliable sources seems to exist. Given that American satellites would be able to detect the mass movement and transit required to perform the alleged tunneling activities, and with access given again to international nuclear inspectors, additional skepticism is in order. In much the same manner that the American intelligence community questioned the credibility of Chalabi over his allegations regarding Iraq, it is rightfully wary of the MEK. Unlike Chalabi, though, the MEK's disdain for democracy is clear. In the years following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the MEK arguably reached its height both in popular domestic support and sheer strength, the mujahideen avoided legitimate elections for its top leadership positions and any democratic formulation for an official strategy. Instead, Massoud Rajavi assumed the chairmanship of the NCRI, with the result that as other Iranian dissident groups joined the MEK in the 1980s, most quickly left the national council because the MEK insisted on full control over all important decisions, including who could join the NCRI, who would receive full voting rights within the NCRI and who could represent the NCRI at international meetings. Although in recent years the MEK has recast itself as a pro-democratic, pro-capitalist organization that provides equal opportunities to minorities and women, the group continues to exert authoritarian control over its members. Having essentially declared himself the leader for life of the Iranian people, Massoud Rajavi appointed his wife, Maryam, as so-called president-elect. The MEK has its own interpretation of Islam that includes mandatory Islamic dress for women. Moreover, supporting the MEK will irrevocably alienate all classes because Iranians do not consider the group a legitimate source of resistance. Multiplying their grievances against the group, Iranians say that the MEK used assassinations and terrorism in an attempt to destabilize the regime. Once beloved by the masses, "the hypocrites" turned and fought for Saddam Hussein during the grizzly Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s - an act that continues to outrage Iranians. At the war's end, Saddam attempted to use the MEK as a fifth column, but the Islamic Republic set a trap and massacred thousands of MEK paramilitary fighters and prisoners. No Iranian publicly objected at the time. Thus, despite arguments that empowering the MEK would "support President [George W] Bush's assertion that America stands with the people of Iran in their struggle to liberate themselves", Iranians with their long and collective history will neither forgive nor forget the "traitors" who attacked their own country and people. As such, the MEK cannot be an asset to the US because the group carries a deadly legacy from the Iran-Iraq War that only stokes the embers of Iranian nationalism. Such nationalism brought about much in the last century: from the 1905 constitutional revolution to the nationalization of oil and the Mossadeq movement; from a vital role in the 1979 revolution to surviving a deadly war with Iraq. Any foreign military action can expect a similar reaction. The MEK and its supporters, however, will encounter a rare ferociousness because the group presents the kind of common enemy against whom the reformists, the conservatives, the students and common people will all rally against - something that has not happened since the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War. But now the Islamic Republic is dangerously better armed, holds a network of relations throughout the Middle East, and is bolstered by proxies operating widely and freely from Russia to Bosnia and from Lebanon to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the Iranian people are clearly the most pro-American populace in the Middle East, does the United States really want to turn that advantage on its head and be on the receiving end of such an Iranian nationalist movement? While the Persian puzzle continues to perplex, Chalabi-style fantasies are not an answer. The lessons from Iraq have been too many, at too high a price, for that mistake to be made again. --------------------------------------------- [1] In defending the current Rajavi leadership, supporters cite that Massoud Rajavi was in jail at the time of the American murders. However, in the critical early months preceding the Revolution, the MEK (under the leadership of the freed Rajavi) not only moved towards clerical power bases but cooperated with radical clerics to weaken and eliminate the moderate leadership of prime minister Bazargan, whom they viewed as bourgeois and pro-American. See Ervand Abrahamian, Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin 184-85 (1989). [2] Viewing the Pahlavi regime as having little social support outside the middle class, the MEK asserted that the monarchy had to rule through terror, intimidation, and propaganda. In aiming to shatter the "atmosphere of terror" through heroic acts of violence that would bring the collapse of the regime, the Mujahideen ultimately intended to could out carry out "radical reforms" that included ending Iranian dependence on the West, building an independent society, and redistributing wealth while giving a free voice to the masses. See Ervand Abrahamian, The Guerrilla Movement in Iran, 1963-77, 86 Merip Reports 9 (1980) [3] See The Mujahideen Organization, Dafa'at-i Naser Sadeq (The Defense Speech of Naser Sadeq) 24 (1972). [4] See The Mujahideen Organization, Pasokh Beh Etemat-i Akher-I Rezhin (An Answer to the Regime's Latest Slanders) 10-13 (1973). According to Abrahamian, note 1, 92-93, original members of the MEK's "Ideological Team", Hosayn Ruhani and Torab Haqshenas, explained that their "original aim was to synthesize the religious values of Islam with the scientific thought of Marxism ... for [the two] were convinced that true Islam was compatible with the theories of social evolution, historical determinism, and the class struggle." The fusion of Islam and Marxism made sense because the Mujahideen believed that the Prophet Mohammed sought to establish not just a new religion but a new ummat(progressive society) that sought social justice by delivering the message of nezam-e tawhidi (a classless society free of poverty, corruption, war, inequality, and oppression). In contrast, at least one author asserts that the MEK, as a group of Marxists, realized they lacked grass roots support and tried to legitimize their movement by utilizing Islam and following Ali Shariati's interpretation. In opposing the view of Frantz Fanon, who believed that people from non-Western countries must give up their religion to bring about revolutions in their countries, Shariati argued that without rooting identity within religion and culture, non-Western peoples could not fight Western imperialism See Asaf Hussain, Islamic Iran: Revolution and counter-revolution 85 (1985). [5] See Sam Dealey, Iran "Terrorist" Group Find Support on the Hill, The Hill, April 2, 2003.

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