The article by Dr. Raymond Tanter calls to mind the full page, $100,000 ad the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK) has been publishing in the New York Times. In defending this organization as zealously as he does, Tanter succumbs to his own form of propaganda.
The piece begins by talking about the Durban conference, which of course has nothing to do with the subject at hand—namely, delisting the MeK from the State Department’s catalogue of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. What is the relation between the two? Apparently the argument is that because the Iranian regime grossly violates its citizens’ human rights, and its president denies the Holocaust, the State Department should delist the MeK because it opposes that regime. I suggest to Tanter to familiarize himself with the MeK’s history, including the fact that its current leader, Masoud Rajavi, was trained by the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1970. This is also the same MeK that was supported by Saddam Hussein, Israel’s sworn enemy, up until 2003!
Tanter uses the crimes of the Iranian regime to justify what he advocates. As the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the spiritual leader of the Green Movement, Iran’s true democratic movement (as opposed to the bogus movement that the MeK claims to lead), put it, “The Iranian regime is neither Islamic nor a republic.” Indeed, it is a religious, ideological dictatorship. I call it the Velaayat-e Faghih (VF) regime (guardianship of the Islamic jurist, represented by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). But, the MeK has precisely the same power structure as the VF regime. The latter has an ideological leader—Khamenei—just as Masoud Rahavi is the MeK ideological leader, and a Stalinist one at that. The VF regime has a president in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was essentially handpicked by Khamenei, despite overwhelming evidence that the people voted for his main rival Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 election, just as Maryam Rajavi was handpicked by her husband as the never-elected-by-anyone “president-elect of the resistance.” Khamenei’s supporters claim that he is God’s representative on earth and the deputy to Imam Mahdi, the Shiites’ hidden Imam, and Masoud Rajavi has also claimed repeatedly that he is in contact with the Imam. And, so long as the MeK thought that it could overthrow the VF regime from its bases in Iraq, it was as anti-American as is the VF regime.
So, what is the difference between the current power and the power to be? Believing that the MeK can bring democracy to Iran is a perfect example of what Iranians say in Persian, az chaaleh dar amaadan va beh chaah oftaadan (getting out of a ditch and falling into a deep well). Moreover, Iranians do not need Tanter to confront the VF regime. This is an internal matter for Iranians.
Tanter emphasizes the MeK’s “credentials” for opposing the VF regime. Opposing a dictatorial regime does not make one democratic. Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge opposed the Vietnamese Communists. Joseph Stalin opposed any religion and its role in governance. The Shah of Iran opposed the clerics. But all were dictators. Tanter tries also to confuse the reader by saying the Green Movement (GM) has two parts, and only one part is headed by Mousavi, as if the other part supports MeK. This is false. No supporter of the GM supports the MeK. Worse, Tanter claims that Mousavi accepts the clerical rule. This is also false. Both Mousavi and the other opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, have agreed with the aforementioned opinion of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Both have called for the unconditional release of all the political prisoners, freedom of the press, political parties, gatherings and peaceful protests, a stop to the intervention of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps in politics and the economy, and free and fair elections. Both have said that at the appropriate time Iran’s constitution must be revised.
Tanter seems to claim that anyone who believes that the MeK has no significant support within Iran is a tool of disinformation campaign by the VF regime. Nonsense! I oppose the VF regime and despise the MeK. To me, they represent the same thing. In Iran, 70 percent of the population is under the age of 35 and has no memory of the MeK, which left Iran in 1981-1982. The only things that the young people know is what their parents tell them—about the numerous treasons that the MeK committed against the nation at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. It sided with Hussein’s regime and spied for it when his army was savagely attacking Iran’s population centers. They tell their children how the MeK leadership sent the impressionable youth to their demise—including my own young brother—by claiming that the VF regime would be overthrown easily. And they tell them how the MeK attacked Iran right after the ceasefire between Iran and Iraq went into effect. Ironically, Tanter’s own statement is the perfect indication of the depth of hatred toward the MeK in Iran: the VF regime blames MeK for anything it wants, because it is well aware that the population despises the MeK!
Likewise, contrary to Tanter’s claim, the MeK does not have any significant support in the Iranian Diaspora. The “well-attended” rallies that Tanter refers to are populated by non-Iranians paid to attend, just as various politicians have been paid huge honoraria to speak on MeK’s behalf. Without them, the “support” will shrink to a few thousand out of the 1.5 million Iranians that live in the U.S.
Tanter quotes Patrick Clawson, the Iran “expert.” In Persian we have a proverb: the fox was asked who his witness is, and he responded “my tail.” How many of Clawson’s analyses of developments in Iran have turned out to be wrong? Too many to count! This is the same man who argued that one can create industrial accidents in Iran’s nuclear facilities without causing any casualties. Clawson, Tanter and people like them support the MeK because it spies on the motherland. Every nation has a number of turncoats, and Iran is no exception.
Ninety-six members of the Congress support delisting of the MeK? Congress also approved overwhelmingly the illegal invasion of Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and numerous other questionable measures buoyed by propaganda. Besides, in a nation in which only about 10 percent of the population approves of Congress’s performance, using its sentiment as support for delisting of the MeK is absurd.
Tanter emphasizes the disinformation campaign by the VF regime. But disinformation is used by practically all governments, including the United States. The Iranian people do not need the disinformation campaign to be aware of the MeK crimes. They have experienced it personally. Hence, to insinuate that any expert who opposes MeK delisting is under the influence of the VF regime disinformation campaign is an insult.
Should the MeK be delisted? Yes, with one condition. The true patriots among the MeK rank and file must apologize to the Iranian nation for the numerous treasons that their leaders forced them to commit against their motherland and, similar to any organization that has suffered catastrophically at the hands of treacherous leaders, they must purge the present leadership and throw them into the dustbin of history. It is then, and only then, that the MeK can be delisted, because only then will it be prevented from committing any more terrorist acts or provoking a war.
Muhammad Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and lead political columnist for the website Tehran Bureau. He also contributes regularly to Huffington Post and Antiwar.com. The opinion is his only.