Iran Factions Use Hikers for Own Political Games

August 25, 2011

If previous Iranian government behavior is any indication, the 8 year sentence handed down this past weekend against the two American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, is by no means the final word.  The Iranian government has always sought more tactical flexibility and uses situations such as this to leverage its opponents.  But in addition to the continued U.S.-Iran standoff, the hikers have also fallen prey to political infighting in Tehran that creates the biggest obstacle to clarity.  Their sentence is the latest installment in a series of political football matches between the various factions inside of Iran.

Recall that it was last September when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attempting to score points for himself just weeks before coming to New York to address the UN General Assembly, announced an imminent release for the third hiker, Sara Shourd.  But Ahmadinejad’s political opponents in the Judiciary attempted to block the initiative and prevent any corresponding political capital Ahmadinejad hoped to gain.  They cancelled Shourd’s release and ultimately required her to post bail of $500,000 before she was finally released on September 14th.

In a case of déjà vu with Fattal and Bauer, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (appointed by Ahmadinejad) suggested the trial would lead to their freedom.  But this past weekend, we saw a completely different result.

Now, Fattal and Bauer will continue to languish in Evin Prison instead of being reunited with their families.  You can take action to send a letter calling for their release through Amnesty International’s website.

In a radio interview with Anti-War.com, NIAC’s  Reza Marashi explained, “It’s a puzzle to me what Iran’s trying to achieve.”  But he also said there remains a glimmer of hope that the Supreme Leader would issue  an edict releasing the hikers.  It could be a way to save face, by showing leniency in the holy month of Ramadan.  This way they “won’t have to come up with a nonsensical justification for keeping them in prison,” Marashi said.

As Wednesday’s New York Times editorial put it, “There is no legitimate excuse not to (let them go). Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal should be freed immediately.”

But in addition the murky internal political dynamic, this situation is endemic to the conflict between the US and Iran.  As Marashi points out, “If relations had been halfway normal this would have been resolved far earlier.”  Without diplomatic relations, there are few levers for the U.S. to pull.

Unfortunately, due to a deeply seeded culture of mistrust on both sides, the US and Iran have framed their relationship as a zero-sum game. Thus, if one side gains then by nature the other side loses.  It’s easy to envision how a stalemate can develop as neither side is willing to bargain or negotiate.  So, situations like we see with the hikers become more “complex, even though (the solution) is straight forward.”

 

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NIAC inSight’s New Look

August 23, 2011

NIAC inSight will be undergoing a major overhaul and facelift over the next few hours.  As a result, you may experience some problems loading the blog.  We apologize in advance for any inconveniences that you may experience and hope you like the changes.


The MEK’s Propaganda Machine in Three Easy Steps

August 22, 2011

“The Green Movement, I understand from the testimony in Congress in July, has accepted Madame Rajavi,” said Canadian MP Carolyn Bennett on a talk show hosted last week by Jim Brown of the CBC.

Wait, WHAT? The Green Movement has “accepted” Rajavi?

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Green Movement has made it abundantly clear that they oppose the MEK.  They’ve warned that the Iranian government seeks to use MEK and its lack of support among Iranians to try to undermine the peaceful democratic opposition.  The Financial Times reported on how prominent Greens signed an open letter to Secretary Clinton calling on her to NOT delist the MEK, citing the harm it would do to Iran’s democratic opposition.  And most recently, Kaleme – the publication associated with the Green Movement’s Mir Hossein Mousavi – published an editorial last week strongly warning against supporting the MEK.

So where did Bennet get her false information from?  The MEK propaganda machine. Read the rest of this entry »


MEK, Iran interventions and Mossadegh

August 19, 2011

Iran Policy Committee head Raymond Tanter with members of the MEK's political wing, the NCRI

The Iran Policy Committee–a  Washington organization dedicated primarily to spreading pro-MEK propaganda on Capitol Hill and elsewhere around Washington–organized an event at the National Press Club yesterday that is raising eyebrows.

It wasn’t the  spectacle of former U.S. officials rehashing MEK-prepared talking points and referring to MEK as the “main opposition”–this we have all grown accustomed to (especially now that the big money machinations behind these efforts have exposed by the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Huffington Post).

It also came as no shock when the Iran Policy Committee’s head, Raymond Tanter, invoked the death of Neda Agha Soltan (while obliviously pulling up a picture of a completely different person).

It wasn’t even surprising that Tanter referred to the Green Movement’s Mir Hossein Mousavi – who has been under house arrest since February – as a “sell out,” particularly since the Green Movement has so unequivocally expressed its opposition to the MEK and the use of violence in the struggle for democracy.

No, the surprise came when the panel suggested the MEK should be taken off the terror list so they could stage a “tit for tat” campaign of attacks within Iran.  

Mujahedin Supporters Envision “Tit for Tat” Campaign Against Iran:

Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney said an MEK delisting should be part of a campaign of “proactive actions” against Tehran.  The MEK, he said, is the only “credible overt political-military counterforce to the Iranian regime.”

“We need a very active tit for tat policy,” said McInerney.  “So every time they kill Americans, they have an accident in Iran.”

John Sano, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency, echoed those sentiments.

“I agree one hundred percent with what the General just said, it’s got to be tit for tat.  We have known that the Iranians have been in Iraq talking to our enemies.  We know that the MOIS has been in Iraq causing harm to U.S. personnel.  And the only thing that can counter that is force,” Sano said.  “I know that may sound too militaristic, but you have to go with what your enemy understands.”

I don’t think there has been a clearer sign that the campaign for delisting the MEK has little to do with supporting democracy in Iran or humanitarian concerns about Camp Ashraf but is instead central to a push to escalate a military confrontation with Iran.

The lesson of recent history–the disastrous war of choice in Iraq–has clearly not sunk in with this crowd.  But coming just one day before the anniversary of the 1953 coup d’état that deposed Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (a coup that pro-sanctions, pro-war Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently endorsed as bringing “freedom” to Iranians), yesterday’s conference helped emphasize that the empirical history of miscalculated interventions and adventures in Iran have been completely lost on Washington’s pro-war establishment.

A full write-up from the event is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


State Department includes MEK in latest terrorism report, but review still pending

August 18, 2011

The State Department today released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which includes the  Mujahedin-e Khalq under the section on Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Does this mean the group’s terror designation has been retained and its multi-million dollar campaign to pressure its way off of the FTO list has failed?

No.

The review by Secretary Clinton regarding the MEK designation remains pending.  FTOs  are legally allowed to appeal their listing every two years, and Secretary Clinton’s decision regarding their most recent appeal will come out separately and is expected soon.

The Country Reports on Terrorism, on the other hand, is legally required every year, and–since MEK remains an FTO (at least until Clinton finalizes her review)–the organization is listed in the report.

The report does, however, include many important facts on the history, ideology, and current status of the MEK (which may be worth a look by some of the prominent former U.S. officials receiving cash to advocate for the group without doing their homework).  It also includes a few updates from last year’s report that may or may not suggest which direction the State Department is headed regarding the FTO review.  The main update from last year’s report is regarding the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover:

Though denied by the MEK, analysis based on eyewitness accounts and MEK documents demonstrates that MEK members participated in and supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and that the MEK later argued against the early release the American hostages. The MEK also provided personnel to guard and defend the site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, following the takeover of the Embassy.

The new report also has omitted some items from last year’s report.  It no longer contains a passage on how Saddam Hussein provided MEK with millions of dollars from the Oil For Food program, and it no longer mentions that a “significant number of MEK personnel voluntarily left Ashraf, and an additional several hundred individuals renounced ties to the MEK and (have) been voluntarily repatriated to Iran.”

The full passage on MEK, with annotations from last year’s report, is included after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Iran’s Greens Warn U.S. Against Supporting the Mujahedin

August 16, 2011

Kaleme, a leading Green movement newspaper run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has a very strongly worded editorial today warning foreign governments (ie, the U.S.) not to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq.  This comes shortly after 37 activists warned against delisting the MEK from the U.S. terrorism list, and is yet another sign of how concerned the Green Movement has become about the possibility that the MEK will get off the terrorism list and win U.S. backing.

The editorial makes clear that the MEK has no support in Iran, and that any foreign support for the group would have very serious consequences. According to Kaleme, support for the MEK would benefit the very Iranian hardliners who are trying to destroy the Green Movement and “defame” the U.S. in the eyes of the Iranian people.

The translation, courtesy of Parisa Saranj, is below. The Persian text is available on Kaleme’s website.

Kaleme: Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK); The symbol of Treason, Violence and Terror in Iran

I am saying, as someone who cares, the MEK with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead. You, [the leaders of the government] don’t bring them back to life for the sake of scoring points and taking revenge.” — Mir Hossein Mousavi, Statement no.17

In the modern history of Iran, there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation. The Iranian people are yet to forget how their beloved children were terrorized and martyred in the worst ways possible. And, thousands of family members and children of those murdered are still alive and witnesses to these crimes. The Iranian nation does not forget how this organization, along with Saddam Hussein, craved for the lives and honor of Iranians and assisted him in the suppression and massacre of the people of Iran and Iraq. Iranians are proud of the years they stood against the MEK and Saddam and on any opportunity possible they praise the hundred thousand martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war. Iranian people know very well that this organization used unlawful and illegal sources, which initially belonged to the Iranian and Iraqi people. They are well aware that the MEK owes its remaining financial power and its limited existence to the support which Saddam Hussein provided them during the war against our country.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of “violence and terror” in Iran and the slightest mention of this word [MEK] and the remembrance of this organization is needed to remind the Iranian audience of the violence, terror, and treason they caused. As long as the groundwork of this organization is cult-like behavior, the only solution for them is to submit to foreigners in order to stab its own people in the back. Any country that supports this organization defames itself among the Iranian people and remains infamous for defending violence and betrayal.

Leaders who are deceived into supporting the MEK are only making the wall of mistrust between the nations taller and are bringing back to life the bitter memories of anti-Iranian policies, such as 1953 coup.

Mojahedin-e Khalq are outcasts of the Iranian people; even before being the outcast of the government. To invigorate the ominous name of the MEK is only the wish of sinister enemies of democracy and rule of the people in Iran. Seekers of violence whether by MEK’s side or against them would be happy to see them empowered since violence creates violence.

The presence of this terrorist group in any part of the world could become an excuse for those in power in Iran to have unlawful confrontations with critics and protesters. They [those in power] would be the only group welcoming the official presence, even if they pretend to be their enemies.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of violence, animosity, submission, and reliance on foreign powers. Thus, the organization is illegal and is the reminder of the most bitter of betrayals. Today, Iranian people who have become the example for nonviolent resistance, anti-dictatorship and independence for other countries, do not accept “violence and submission” and do not look kindly on the support of any government that relies on violence and submission.

In supporting the great Green Movement, we continue to consider Mojahedin-e Khalq hypocrites who “with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead.” And we repeat Mir Hossein Mousavi’s warning by saying “No nation should bring them back to life for the sake of rewards and if they do so, they will remain infamous in the memory of the Iranian people.”


MEK: Cult of the Chameleon

August 5, 2011


Maziar Bahari’s fascinating 2007 documentary on the Mujahedin-e Khalq, “Cult of the Chameleon,” deserves special attention given Secretary Clinton’s upcoming decision on the group’s terror designation.  The film, which was featured yesterday at a panel event assessing the ramifications of taking MEK off the terror list, is notable for its focus on the humanitarian aspect of the MEK issue.

Bahari, who appeared on yesterday’s panel along with Brian Katulis of Center for American Progress and journalist Barbara Slavin, has consistently emphasized that we must consider the individuals who have been swept into the MEK as victims of both Iranian government repression and victims of the cult’s leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi (read a full summary of the event here).

Read the rest of this entry »


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