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Former U.S. officials blast diplomacy with Rouhani at MEK rally outside UN

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Thousands of supporters of the MEK rallied outside the UN Tuesday. (Photo: Alex Kane)

Thousands of supporters of the MEK rallied outside the UN Tuesday. (Photo: Alex Kane)

Former U.S. officials joined an Iranian expatriate group in a rally outside the United Nations Tuesday to blast any diplomatic opening between the Obama administration and Iran.

Thousands of Iranian-American supporters of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (the People’s Mojahedin of Iran) transformed Manhattan’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, right outside the UN building where the General Assembly was taking place, into a sea of MEK flags and pictures of MEK leaders Maryam and Massoud Rajavi. Their ranks were bolstered by some Syrian-American supporters of the Syrian opposition and others who were bussed-in from around the country. Other participants included Americans from around the country–some of whom “didn’t have a clue what it was all about,” in the words of one attendee–who had their tickets, food and hotel paid for by the organizers of the rally.

One protester who joined the rally, 53-year-old Iranian-American Amir Rezaian, said that he wanted the U.S. to “stop the appeasement and let the Iranian people overthrow the government.”


While the Iranian expatriates, some of whom fled the country in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, chanted for the downfall of the Iranian regime, former U.S. officials spoke on stage.

The stars of the rally included former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Rhode Island Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy; and former chairman of the Republican National National Committee Michael Steele. They had one uniform message: stop Iraq from cracking down on MEK members and halt the Obama administration from carrying out talks with the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

The rally was held immediately after President Obama addressed the UN–where he hinted that negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program might be pursued by the U.S–and just hours before Rouhani spoke. The new Iranian president said that he was open to nuclear negotiations as long as Iran’s right to enrich uranium–which is protected under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty–was respected. But those words were likely to do little to persuade hardline former U.S. officials who attended the pro-MEK rally.

“He ought to be thrown out of the UN,” Rep. Kennedy said of Rouhani. “President Rouhani and his mullahs…are waging a war not only against the Iranian people, but the Syrian people.”

Kennedy and other speakers decried the killings of 52 people in Camp Ashraf. On September 1, Iraqi security forces reportedly opened fire at the camp, where members of the Iranian group have been based since the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein supported them while they launched attacks against Iran. The majority of MEK members have moved to a different area in Iraq in anticipation of being resettled abroad.

Kennedy, along with Bolton, Giuliani and Steele have all received handsome speaking fees in the past from MEK-affiliated organizations. They were among a gaggle of former U.S. officials who lobbied the U.S. hard in recent years to take the MEK off the State Department terrorist list. The lobbying effort bore fruit last year when the State Department did just that, despite the MEK’s past involvement in violent attacks. The MEK had been trained by the U.S. in Nevada in 2005 and received U.S. intelligence that the group used to carry out the assassinations of Iranian scientists, according to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. In February 2012, NBC News’ Richard Engel and Robert Windrem reported that the MEK colluded with Israel to kill Iranian nuclear scientists.

The scene at the UN rally was standard for events put on by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political branch of the MEK. It was a well-orchestrated affair, and the group seems flush with cash. There were security barriers and guards preventing people from moving towards the front, where a row of yellow-hatted MEK supporters and members sat listening to former U.S. officials give speeches. There was free water and food, and large television monitors showing the speeches in the front set up throughout the plaza. Balloons at back of the rally were fashioned to spell out, “Viva Rajavi,” a reference to Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the MEK who spoke via video link at the protest. Rajavi has been criticized for running the MEK like a cult; Elizbeth Rubin, a New York Times contributor, described the camp in Iraq where the MEK was based as “a fictional world of female worker bees” where “acolytes of Rajavi” lived.

But the cultish aspects of the MEK–or their violent attacks on Americans and Iranians–have not deterred former U.S. officials from supporting them in the hopes of fomenting regime change, despite the fact that most Iranians dislike the group.

At the rally, Giuliani warned of the U.S. falling “under the spell of the mullahs” and the catastrophe of allowing “nuclear armed Iran” to exist. After denouncing the attacks at Camp Ashraf, the former GOP presidential candidate launched into blasting any chance of diplomacy with Rouhani.

Giuliani also repeated a charge aired by neoconservative groups that Rouhani was linked to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 people. “Rouhani…was certainly aware of it, certainly involved. Their blood is on their hands, and just wishing people ‘Happy Rosh Hashanah’ doesn’t wipe away the blood of these Jewish martyrs from Iran’s hand or Rouhani,” said Giuliani. But while Iran has been implicated in the attack, Rouhani himself “did not participate” in the meeting that approved the bombing, according to the Argentine prosecutor of the case.

Other former U.S. officials echoed Giuliani’s dismissal of diplomacy with the new Iranian leader. “I do not understand and I do not accept the president meeting with the leader of a terrorist state,” said former Senator Robert Torricelli.

While chances of an Obama-Rouhani meeting faded by day’s end, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif will get together Thursday as part of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program.


Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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28 Responses

  1. flyod on September 24, 2013, 8:04 pm

    in reference to the Buenos Aires horror, someone should ask Rudy if he ever heard the name Carlos Vladimir Corach…

    • Krauss on September 25, 2013, 8:05 am

      Someone should also ask why MEK can still freely organize, they are a terrorist organization. Most of their victims are Iranians, not Americans, so that keeps them off the radar. They also happen to have the sympathies of hard-right Zionists who operate under the principle of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

    • marc b. on September 25, 2013, 9:35 am

      yes. and the spooky 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy. both bombings have been variously blamed on Iran, then Syria, no . . . wait, Iran. funny that.

      here is a typically disingenuous comment about the embassy bombing investigation:

      According to the majority of those who investigated the attack on the embassy (but not all), the explosion resulted from a Ford F-100 truck, which had been rented by a person with false identity, using the alias “Elias Griveiro Da Luz.” This person paid $21,000 for the truck, 50 percent more than its value on the market. According to the report, it can be established that the money used to pay for the truck originated at a house of currency exchange in the Lebanese city of Biblos, a subsidiary of a larger house of exchange, the “Society of Change in Beirut,” which was the property of al-Kassar.

      the ‘not all’ anti-majority opinion about the truck bomb thesis? well that comes from the Argentine National Academy of Engineers, assigned by the government to conduct a forensic investigation of the source of the explosion, who concluded that it originated inside the embassy. but, praise be to G_d, at least the Israeli ambassador was spared as he was out for coffee or some similarly important errand at the time of the 3PM blast.

      • Walid on September 26, 2013, 7:10 am

        Bad news for Israel last February when Argentina and Iran signed an agreement to etablish a joint truth commission to examine the bombings of 1992 and 1994 in Buenos Aires:

        Israel outraged at Iran-Argentina joint ‘Truth Commission’
        February 5, 2013

        Israel’s foreign ministry has lodged a protest with Argentinian ambassador in Tel Aviv, showing country’s outrage over Argentina’s Jewish foreign minister Hector Timerman for agreeing with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi to establish a joint “truth commission” to examine the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires and 1992 bombing at Israeli Embassy building.

        On January 30, 2013, former Assisstant Secretary of State for South America, Roger Noriega, currently a senior fellow at pro-Israel Jewish advocacy group, ‘Inter-American Security Watch’, also blasted Argentinian President Christina Kirchner over the said agreement. “It’s bad enough that the US national security establishment is ignoring the Iran-Hizballah threats in the America. Now, Argentina’s President Christina Kirchner has made matters worse by agreeing to help Iran whitewash its terrorist legacy,” wrote the paranoid Zionist.

        The Zionist regime is mad because Argentinian government did not consult with it before inking the said agreement with Tehran.

      • Walid on September 26, 2013, 7:31 am

        More recent news about the bombing (as Floyd mentioned in the first post above) and how it’s starting to look like an Israeli false-flag situation; from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

        Jewish ex-Argentina gov’t official to be probed in AMIA bombing

        June 30, 2013 4:58pm

        BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Jewish ex-interior minister of Argentina will be investigated for his ties to the AMIA Jewish center bombing.

        The Buenos Aires Federal Appeals Court last week ordered the probe of Carlos Vladimir Corach in connection with an illegal payment of $400,000 to Carlos Telleldin, an auto mechanic who was among those charged in the 1994 attack that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

        Telleldin, who allegedly provided the car bomb that blew up the Jewish center, has not been indicted.

        The three Appeals Court justices called on Federal Judge Ariel Lijo to investigate “the existence of concrete allegations involving Carlos Vladimir Corach, which have not been investigated until now” regarding the illegal payment to Telleldin.

        Corach was interior minister during the Carlos Menem government in the 1990s. He was responsible for obtaining the building for the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires and was the main speaker at its inauguration.

  2. Hostage on September 24, 2013, 8:07 pm

    They had one uniform message: stop Iraq from cracking down on MEK members and halt the Obama administration from carrying out talks with the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

    The US still has an extradition treaty in force with Iraq —

    Iraqi court seeks arrest of Iranian exiles:

    BAGHDAD, July 11 (Reuters) – An Iraqi court ordered the arrest of 39 members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, accusing them of crimes against humanity in helping Saddam Hussein to crush a revolt almost two decades ago, a judge said on Sunday.

    The 39 are members of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), a guerrilla movement opposed to the Iranian government. It sided with the toppled Iraqi dictator, a Sunni Muslim, during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s but has denied helping Saddam to crack down on long-oppressed majority Shi’ites and ethnic Kurds.

    Iran, Iraq and the United States consider the PMOI a terrorist organisation and the now Shi’ite-led Iraqi government has been trying to get it to vacate a base north of Baghdad where around 3,500 of its members have lived for 20 years.

    “An arrest warrant has been issued against 39 leaders and members of the organisation including the PMOI’s head Massoud Rajavi, due to evidence that confirms they committed crimes against humanity,” said Judge Mohammed Abdul-Sahib, a spokesman of the Iraqi High Tribunal.

    Rajavi’s wife Maryam, leader of the French-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the PMOI’s political wing, was also included in the warrant, Abdul Sahib added.

    “The 39 Iranian suspects were involved with the former Iraqi security forces in suppressing the 1991 (Shi’ite) uprising against the former Iraqi regime and the killing of Iraqi citizens,” he said.

  3. RoHa on September 24, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Should the US government talk with the government of a country that is no threat to the US and seeks to improve relations with the US?

    Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

  4. Kathleen on September 24, 2013, 9:57 pm

    Steele, Kennedy, Bolton, Guilianni should all be put on Colonel Wilkerson’s “shut up” you “traitors” list. Bolton been on it for a long long time. Now why were there never investigations into these folks who took money from the MEK when they were still on the U.S. terrorist list.

    Deceased Senator Teddy Kennedy is rolling over in his grave in response to his sons activities. Ted was all about negotiations

    • Hostage on September 24, 2013, 10:41 pm

      Now why were there never investigations into these folks who took money from the MEK when they were still on the U.S. terrorist list.

      Many of them complained about MEK being on the list, and implicitly acknowledged that they were deliberately violating the law by aiding a terror organization. The same applies to support for the PKK by Israeli officials:

      They claim that §2339B is invalid to the extent it prohibits them from engaging in certain specified activities, including training PKK members to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully; teaching PKK members to petition the United Nations and other representative bodies for relief; and engaging in political advocacy on behalf of Kurds living in Turkey and Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
      The material-support statute, §2339B, is constitutional as applied to the particular forms of support that plaintiffs seek to provide to foreign terrorist organizations. The Court cannot avoid the constitutional issues in this litigation by accepting plaintiffs’ argument that the material-support statute, when applied to speech, should be interpreted to require proof that a defendant intended to further a foreign terrorist organization’s illegal activities. [i.e. “specific direction” is not a relevant legal consideration] That reading is inconsistent with §2339B’s text, which prohibits “knowingly” providing material support and demonstrates that Congress chose knowledge about the organization’s connection to terrorism, not specific intent to further its terrorist activities, as the necessary mental state for a violation.

      – Holder, Attorney General, et al. v. Humanitarian Law Project, et al.
      link to

  5. Ellen on September 24, 2013, 10:01 pm

    Patrick Kennedy, John Bolton and Giuliani? These guys are relevant? That is who the MEK could pay to beat their drum?

  6. ToivoS on September 24, 2013, 10:09 pm

    This is painful to watch. Patrick Kennedy is part of the liberal Democratic Party wing founded by JFK and carried on by his brother Robert. Today Patrick has been reduced to a pawn of the terrorist organization MEK.

    I am puzzled by one thing: Where does the MEK find the money to buy so much support inside the US. Patrick is not the only liberal Democrat to support these terrorist: didn’t Howard Dean also lobby for them?

  7. Kathleen on September 24, 2013, 10:31 pm

    Watergate Bernstein, former Governor Rendell, General Shelton have all been paid by MEK while MEK was on terrorist list. And let’s not forget who took MEK off the terrorist list then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

  8. Justpassingby on September 25, 2013, 2:06 am

    israeli and terrorists unite as usual and warmonger..

  9. amigo on September 25, 2013, 8:47 am

    Off topic but possible good news on the BDS front.

    Canada’s largest Protestant church set to boycott Israeli settlement products
    Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies warns United Church of Canada’s against ‘imbalanced’ decision.

    • Woody Tanaka on September 25, 2013, 11:43 am

      “Canada’s largest Protestant church set to boycott Israeli settlement products”

      This is like vowing to swim only in the half of the pool that was not urinated in. The evil of the “settlement” squats encompass that entire twisted state. Boycott the whole state and any business that supports it.

      • davelight01 on September 25, 2013, 10:40 pm

        I have a question, as a non-Arab, non-Jewish American: Are there any good “anti-apartheid” Israelis in Israel? Some that are not so indoctrinated by the state that they can’t see the tragedy of the Palestinian people? I think there are many, but like many Americans, too fearful to speak out against the government?

        That said, is it fair to punish all Israelis with a boycott policy? The same could be asked about sanctions against Iran, when it is the legalistic religious leaders who should be sanctioned, not the people who just want to live in peace. The common people always suffer, whether in Israel, Palestine, US, UK, Iran, etc. On the other hand, the common people are allowing their governments to be oppressive.

        I agree that the settlements and apparently many of the settlers are inflicting cruel and inhumane punishment on the Palestinians. This must be stopped, but until the world forces the Israeli leadership and it’s allies to stop their paranoia-driven oppression and occupations, the Palestinians will continue to suffer.

        There must be a way to resolve this. God helping us, there must be a way.

      • Hostage on September 26, 2013, 2:46 am

        I have a question, as a non-Arab, non-Jewish American: Are there any good “anti-apartheid” Israelis in Israel? Some that are not so indoctrinated by the state that they can’t see the tragedy of the Palestinian people? I think there are many, but like many Americans, too fearful to speak out against the government?

        Surely. There are a lot of good people working in B’tselem, Yesh Din, the Minerva Center, & etc. Here’s what Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s Attorney General from 1993 – 1996, had to say:

        “We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal — in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day”.

        – See The war’s seventh day by Michael Ben-Yair link to

        After the 1990s, the legal system in Israel has veered to the right with the adoption of laws that are considered more fascist than liberal.

      • talknic on September 26, 2013, 3:30 am

        davelight01 “That said, is it fair to punish all Israelis with a boycott policy? “

        We’re constantly told it’s a democracy = the majority have voted for successive Israeli Governments who’re willing to break International Law, the UN Charter, tell bare faced lies and encourage their citizens to break the Geneva Conventions

        “The same could be asked about sanctions against Iran”

        No the same cannot be said. There are only accusations against Iran, no evidence. Whereas there’s plenty of evidence against Israel.

        “There must be a way to resolve this. God helping us, there must be a way”

        That the same G-d who was AWOL during the Holocaust? Don’t count on any help. Israel could and should adhere to the law. It could start NOW! There is absolutely nothing except what can only be described as evil intentions preventing it.

      • Woody Tanaka on September 26, 2013, 11:43 am

        I think there are some good people in israel, sure. Not enough, though.

        “That said, is it fair to punish all Israelis with a boycott policy?”

        Sure. They, as a populace, have overwhelming voted — repeatedly — for governments whose main activity has been the oppression of the Palestinians. It is the only common thread among every israeli government, regardless of party, regardless of anything. They all pursue a policy of the oppression of the Palestinian people and the suppression of Palestinians rights. I see no reason why it is unfair that they suffer the consequences of their own acts. If they elect a government that pulls out of Palestine and stops the oppression, the boycotts should stop immediately. But it is in no way unfair to have them in place.

  10. seafoid on September 25, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Maybe Israel is a song like “how much is that doggie in the window” in the style of the previous 20 years and talking to Iran is the equivalent of “hound dog” and everything is about to change.

  11. justicewillprevail on September 25, 2013, 2:05 pm

    So a rally of the King Canute club was held, with all present standing staunchly behind the pledge to turn the waves back. Nice. Next week: the same people at their gathering of the Emperor’s New Clothes society.

  12. James Canning on September 25, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Neocon warmongers, and supporters of terrorists operating inside Iran. And supporters of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. And of endless war for the US, in “support” of Israel. Sigh.

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