Israel’s Iranian Opposition?

Israel/Palestine
on 23 Comments

Two days ago, I found it curious to learn of a large rally held in Paris by the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK or MKO) by reading the headlines on Ynet and on Ha’aretz. I usually follow Iranian opposition events via various other Iranian websites, where the rally was not mentioned. And while the Israeli press can be counted upon to have nearly daily entries in its hysterical campaign towards a military confrontation with Iran, it still seemed curious to find this rally by a relatively discredited Iranian opposition group featured so prominently on these Israeli websites. But then reading closely the matter was clarified somewhat (from Ha’aretz): 

    The rally by the PMOI, which Washington considers to be a terrorist organisation, was attended by former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Jose Maria Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain. 

Bolton and Aznar were there to represent a transatlantic coalition of neoconservative pro-Israeli interests who seem to wish to promote the PMOI as the legitimate opposition to Iran’s clerical regime. Bolton’s credentials need no rehearsal here, but let’s not forget that Aznar has recently signed on as a founding member of a European Friends of Israel, in the face of the disastrous repercussions of the Gaza Freedom floatilla raid. The reason for this is fairly clear: on the issues of Israel and on Iran’s nuclear program the Green Movement is dedicated to promoting an independent policy for the country. While it is likely they would take a very different tone and approach to both issues, the Green Movement will likely do little to satisfy the interests of the Israel Lobby and neoconservatives for a pro-Israeli and subservient Iran. With the PMOI as the only reasonably well-established alternative, these groups have thrown their lot in with them. If the confrontation with Iran becomes military in nature, it seems likely that the PMOI will be (again) touted by these interests as the “leadership in exile” for any regime-change scenario.

This is not entirely new. During the Bush years, the PMOI sought alliances with the neoconservatives in the US, with a number of bipartisan congressmen acting as intermediaries to call for their removal from the terrorist list, and to advocate for their recognition as a legitimate Iranian opposition group. They are now at it again, with a new move to give legitimacy to the group launched just days ago, with a number of congressmen signed on. In the past, highly-placed neoconservatives such as Richard Perle have attended PMOI-related events and spoke positively of the group. And the group has done much to complement the interests of these allies: they were instrumental in building up the case for Iran’s nuclear program, and have supplied intelligence they claim to have gathered from inside Iran to bolster the case for an arms program — it’s unclear how accurate or legitimate this intelligence may be, but there are certainly shades of the famous WMD intelligence relating to Iraq in all of this.  

Among most prominent activists in the Iranian opposition, the PMOI is rarely remembered kindly, when they are bothered to be remembered at all. Already discredited among most Iranians for their alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, and despised by Kurds everywhere for willfully participating in Hussein’s genocidal campaigns against them, the Mojahedin have come to be seen by most Iranians as an embarrassing aberration in the political landscape. While the Islamic Republic has a virulent hostility towards the group, most secular left or reformist Iranians also will have nothing to do with the group and reject its inclusion in any coalitions to oppose the regime. In Europe and the US, during anti-regime demonstrations supporting the Green Movement, the appearance of PMOI flags or leaflets often led to standoffs and even fights among the demonstrators, with PMOI agents far outnumbered. They now stand all alone in the Iranian scene, with their only true supporters drawn from the Israel Lobby and the margins of US and European politics.  

What is so strange is that there they had once acted as the vanguard of revolutionary activity and as a synthesis of leftist and Islamist idealism in the first years of the post-revolutionary period. However, in exile they have been transformed into a political irrelevancy, made worse by their adoption of cult-like policies to maintain discipline in their ranks. The group demands of the rank-and-file a troubling adoration of the figure of Maryam Rajavi, the nominal leader of the group, relying on systems of regular debriefing and self-criticism which are mandatory for all members. Furthermore the group exerts control of many aspects of members’ personal lives, including in matters of marriage, divorce and parenting. Given what they have become, any idea of their resurgence as a valid player in Iranian politics strikes me as one of the most terrifying possibilities for Iran’s future. Their placement on the US terrorism list was clearly a political gesture during Clinton’s administration, but many Iranians find them more troubling for reasons other than the terrorist acts they have carried out.  

Rather than hear me describe these, I think it’s better to let the PMOI represent themselves — in videos they have produced. Also, here, and here and here (and you can find many more just by clicking on the related videos or googling the group’s other videos). It baffles the mind that the PMOI are so blind as to how out-of-touch their fascistic aesthetics are with the ideals of Iran’s democratic opposition and their supporters. Check out the videos linked above, produced by the PMOI to publicize "celebrations" and other group events held in their base in Iraq, and tell me if you don’t find a chill creeping down your spine… Echoes of Triumph of the Will, or the Dear Leader… 

Bizarrely, the PMOI continues to enjoy support even among some on the US left. The Huffington Post, for example, offers a forum to two of the group’s more active US propagandists, Ali Safavi and Alireza Jafarzadeh. It seems likely that we’ll be hearing more about them once again as the talk of a military confrontation grows. It’s no surprise that the neocons and Israel’s most steadfast supporters are also now openly backing the PMOI.

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23 Responses

  1. MRW
    June 28, 2010, 7:05 pm

    From Gareth Porter’s March 1, 2008 article Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group
    link to antiwar.com

    Shahriar Ahy, an adviser to monarchist leader Reza Pahlavi, told journalist Connie Bruck that the detailed information on Natanz had not come from MEK but from “a friendly government, and it had come to more than one opposition group, not only the mujahideen.”

    Bruck wrote in the New Yorker on Mar. 16, 2006 that when he was asked if the “friendly government” was Israel, Ahy smiled and said, “The friendly government did not want to be the source of it, publicly. If the friendly government gives it to the US publicly, then it would be received differently. Better to come from an opposition group.”

    Israel has maintained a relationship with the MEK since the late 1990s, according to Bruck, including assistance to the organization. in beaming broadcasts by the NCRI from Paris into Iran. An Israeli diplomat confirmed that Israel had found the MEK “useful,” Bruck reported, but the official declined to elaborate.

    Listen to Porter talk about it here. Interesting interview:
    link to antiwar.com

  2. traintosiberia
    June 28, 2010, 7:36 pm

    Will American hauled before judge for attending Hamas demonstration in Jordan,Egypt, or Pakistan or in Gaza be able cite the case of Bolton for his defense against the charges of aiding and abetting the terroism? .

    • potsherd
      June 28, 2010, 9:27 pm

      Certainly does look like “material support” for a terrorist group, dunnit?

      • droog
        June 29, 2010, 2:25 am

        If the Law is fairly and equitably applied it does look like ‘material support’, has America subtly become a legal banana republic, or will Bolton face the same charges as those ‘assisting’ Hamas.

  3. hayate
    June 28, 2010, 7:49 pm

    “I found it curious to learn of a large rally held in Paris by the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK or MKO) by reading the headlines on Ynet and on Ha’aretz.”

    :D

    Looks like somebody forgot to get the message out to the international sayanim press corps. Looks like the israelis got caught with their fly unzipped in the playground again. They screwed up similarly with their war on South Ossetia in Aug. 2008.

  4. syvanen
    June 28, 2010, 9:07 pm

    Aha Aznar is the result an interesting historical trajectory. Let us begin with the Spanish Republic, then the Phalangist Party (fascist, more on this later), military revolt, Franco seizes power and then imposition of fascist state power. That lasted about 40 years. Factions inside Lebanon were so impressed with this political movement they named themselves The Phalangist. These were Israel’s allies. After Franco died, fascist dictatorship was no longer politically viable. They reconstituted themselves as a political party. This is the party that Aznar led.

    This story plays itself out over and over again. Israeli allies = Apartheid S. Africa, or South American dictatorships or Spanish fascists or Lebanese phalangists.

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 29, 2010, 1:59 am

      Aznar sits on the board of directors of Murdoch’s News Corp. This explains many things.
      Also his father and grandfather held governmental positions under Franco. As a student, he was a member of a union supporting the fascist ‘Falange’.
      Finally he was a huge supporter of all Bush’s wars of aggression even when the majority of the Spanish people were against.
      A colorful fellow..Tfooh of the week.

    • Psychopathic god
      June 29, 2010, 9:26 am

      slightly off topic
      the ‘other’ Christians in the US, the ones who used to be mainstream (most often represented these days by United Methodists and Friends Service Committee) and whom Phil delights in referring to as they who have now been displaced by Jewish elites, the non-Hagee Christians, THOSE Christians are attempting to raise their voices to call out the criminal conspiracy that is zionism.

      One way these mainstream Christians try to approach and re-educate their errant brethren and sistern is by tracing the history of zionism in the US: twining the thread of European Jewish zionism as it entered US political space in the late 19th century, and wrapped itself around the criminal and forger John Scofield, who took an Untermeyer-inspired, Talmudic pen to the Bible, pressed its zionized message on Woodrow Wilson, spread this newly interpreted bible among the US public in much the same way as Bernays sold cigarettes, and, one advertising campaign at a time, the US became “Judeo-Christian;” zionists became Jews; America became zionized.

      From that time — the time of Rothschild and Herzl; Jabotinsky, Scofield and Untermeyer, — until today, the US has not been independent of significant zionist influence. Americans think ‘Judeo-Christianity’ is their ancient legacy. It’s not. This hyphenated god is the psychopathic creature of European predatory capitalists allied with an apocalyptic vision and a conviction that they, giants among men, know how the world should work.

      Perhaps the world has been ever thus.

      sign me,
      Writing from the Pit of Despair

      • munro
        June 29, 2010, 3:18 pm

        Christian Zionists support harsh anti-gay and anti-abortion laws. But Israel is an oasis for women and gays!

      • Shmuel
        June 29, 2010, 3:39 pm

        Israel is an oasis for women and gays!

        Unless they’re Palestinian.

    • munro
      June 29, 2010, 8:41 pm

      strange bedfellows –
      Franco gave Nazis list of Jews in Spain
      link to ynetnews.com

  5. Seham
    June 28, 2010, 9:18 pm

    Ahhh, how great were the Spaniards when they booted Aznar out of office immediately after the Madrid train bombings. Such a thing would have never happened in this country…

  6. Avi
    June 28, 2010, 9:36 pm

    The usual ruse of using those in exile to advance the goals of the empire in the Middle East. It reminds me of Curveball and WMDs.

    Are you sure Ahmad Chalabi didn’t attend the rally, too?

  7. Shingo
    June 28, 2010, 10:32 pm

    The MEK are listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, yet try are supported by the US and Israel.

  8. Saleema
    June 29, 2010, 1:27 am

    I have a bunch of books about the MEK’s, written by them of course. I finished only one with much boredom.

  9. demize
    June 29, 2010, 2:23 am

    I am now taking odds that Pamela Geller is somehow involved here:.(

    • Sumud
      June 29, 2010, 10:30 am

      Not so sure demize, I think she’d melt if she got within 100 metres of a muslim.

  10. lysias
    June 29, 2010, 6:39 am

    Bolton was another founding member of Friends of Israel, along with Aznar, David Trimble, and historian Andrew Roberts.

    • Sumud
      June 29, 2010, 7:37 am

      That is, David Trimble of the Turkel Committee, the bogus Israeli “investigation” into the Flotilla Murders that Netanyahu has already announced the outcome of (“everything Israel did as legal”).

      link to en.wikipedia.org
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      So one of Israel’s international observers on Turkel is a founding member of an organisation that is actively supporting a group the US considers a terrorist organisation. Granted, the US terrorist list lacks credibility – Nelson Mandela was classified a terrorist until 2008 – but still, Trimble’s virulently pro-Israel activities needs to be called out. Imagine the outcry from Israel if the UN had appointed George Galloway to head the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict, instead of Richard Goldstone.

      • Sumud
        June 29, 2010, 7:38 am

        “everything Israel did *was* legal”

  11. Psychopathic god
    June 29, 2010, 9:04 am

    am I correct in remembering that it was Aznar who stood at Bush’s side on some island when Bush formally declared war on Iraq in 2003?

  12. lysias
    June 29, 2010, 9:45 am

    OPINION – José María Aznar: If Israel goes down, we all go down:

    Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

    Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

    Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

    The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

    This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

    • Chaos4700
      June 29, 2010, 9:51 am

      History will remember the sons and daughters of the Holocaust survivors who went around slapping yellow crescents on Muslims. And it will not look kindly on that.

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