[Below is an exchange between Jalal Arani and Michael Rubin over the nature of the Iranian opposition group: the Mujahedin -- The Editors].
In “Monsters of the Left: The Mujahedin al-Khalq,” Mr. Michael Rubin, a scholar of Iran and Middle East affairs, makes a brave effort to familiarize the many US Congressmen, Senators, and US Administration officials that favor supporting dissidents to Tehran’s rule [i], about a group which is commonly called the largest, most organized, and longest standing opposition to the regime in Iran [ii]. The group has arguably the largest and most dedicated following among the Iranian Diaspora of over 2 million throughout the US and Europe [iii] and boasts a tenacious ability to annoy the Iranian regime by unveiling sensitive intelligence, particularly on Tehran’s covert nuclear activities.[iv]
Of particular interest is the timing of Mr. Rubin’s article which coincides with unprecedented condemnation of Tehran from around the world. Why would Mr. Rubin attack an Iranian “opposition force” when everyone is condemning and fretting about the Iranian “regime” and no less with a six page article that goes back to the pre-formation history of the organization from almost 50 years ago?
Whatever the author’s thinking, it is quite an interesting hodge-podge of material taken from a former Tudeh (Communist) party sympathizer turned scholar (Ervand Abrahamian), quotes from Kurds that the author grew familiar with in his stint in Iraq, and discourse with Iranians during his visit to Iran, but interestingly enough no direct dialogue with the subjects of his condemnation.
Aside from many factual errors and unscholarly references such as to the renowned Dr. Ali Shariati as Ayatollah Shariati, which might reveal the shallow depth of the author’s personal knowledge on Iran, his conclusion that the Iranian Mujahedin are “monsters”, is a particularly unscholarly term to define a political movement with wide-ranging support among Iranians and as the author concedes among both Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress and US officials.
Already, a vast disinformation campaign is afoot by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) [v] to do exactly what the author has set out to do: demonize the Iranian Mujahedin. The campaign has been well documented and some of the sources the author quotes in his lengthy diatribe against the Iranian Mujahedin are part of that campaign, intentionally fed with disinformation about the Mujahedin by the MOIS.
It is disappointing that Mr. Rubin has chosen to rely on arguments stemming from such sources to warn us against supporting what many independent sources attest to as a legitimate resistance movement to the Iranian regime. He would have done better to initiate an independent prime source research rather then rehashing old “monster” stories about the Mujahedin. W
ith his knowledge of the Farsi language, Mr. Rubin could have easily engaged in discussion with the subjects of his article either in France, Britain or even in Iraq where nearly 4,000 are currently staying at Ashraf camp as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention after a 16-month investigation by seven US agencies concluded that there are no grounds to charge even a single one of them with links to terrorism. [vi]
The terrorist designation of the Iranian Mujahedin is a vestige of the Clinton-era opening to Tehran that was never reciprocated and the present-day appeasement policy of the Europeans that has finally collapsed in the face of the Iranian regime’s intransigence. As with the policy that led to the designation, it too should be abandoned in the interest of US policy to promote democracy and the US should support the resistance movement to the religious fascism which today threatens its neighbors and the world.
Jalal Arani is an Iranian-American researcher, scholar of Iranian history, and expert in Iranian Affairs. He writes frequently for foreign policy and political journals.
[i] “Policy-group outlines U.S. options on Iran in Capitol Hill session,” Iran Focus, April 7, 2005
[ii] US Policy Options for Iran and Iranian Political Opposition, IPC, September 13, 2005
[iii] “Twenty Thousand Iranians Rally outside UN, Demand Expulsion of Ahmadinejad,” NY Committee Against Ahmadinejad, September 14, 2005; “Thousands rally in support of Iran opposition group,” Iran Focus, November 8, 2005; Rally for democratic change in Iran. Council for Democratic Change in Iran, January 14, 2005
[iv] "Group: Iran's Nuke Program Growing," The Associated Press, 15 August 2002; in New York Times, 15 August 2002; “Iranian Opposition Group Blows Nuclear Whistle, Receives Terrorist Designation,” National Journal, September 10,2004 ; “Western Officials Lukewarm Over Iranian Nuclear Allegations,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, October 15, 2003;
[v] Mohaddessin, “Masters of Disinformation,” IranTerror.com, November 22, 2005
[vi] Douglas Jehl, “THE REACH OF WAR: PEOPLE'S MUJAHEDEEN; U.S. Sees No Basis to Prosecute Iranian Opposition 'Terror' Group Being Held in Iraq,” New York Times, July 27, 2004.
While Mr. Arani is passionate, rather than address the original article’s points, he seeks to sully other scholars as dupes of Iranian intelligence.
It is ironic he seeks to dismiss Professor Ervand Abrahamian. While I disagree with Abrahamian’s personal politics, his academic works are solid. He based his study of Mujahedin al-Khalq ideology upon the group’s own writings. Ignoring the group’s murder of innocents does not absolve it of terrorism.
Mr. Arani is untruthful with his statement that seven U.S. agencies cleared the residents of Camp Ashraf of terrorism. Nor does saying the Mujahidin al-Khalq is popular make it so. Iranians are quite sophisticated. Ordinary Iranians inside Iran do not hesitate to condemn their theocratic government. Especially as Iran now marks the centenary of its Constitutional Revolution, many Iranians discuss their fondness for alternatives: the majority for constitutional republicanism or parliamentary democracy, but others for monarchy or ethnic federalist groups. No one expresses anything but contempt for the Mujahedin al-Khalq. Iranians crave liberty, democracy, and an end to the isolation brought on by the Islamic Republic. They do not want an Iranian Pol Pot. The Mujahedin al-Khalq’s terrorist designation was a result of its embrace of terrorism, not politics. Terrorism cannot be justified upon hatred of the politics of its victims.
That said, the U.S. government should do much more to enable Iranians to achieve freedom, liberty, and democracy. We should support neither political parties nor Iranian government-operated non-governmental organizations, but rather fund independent labor unions and independent civil society groups. Los Angeles-based Iranian televisions stations are more effective than the money-drain of U.S. government-produced media. That the U.S. Congress is willing to allocate more money to landscaping the Kennedy Center than in supporting democracy in Iran is inexcusable.
I stand corrected that my reference to Ayatollah Shariati should have been to Dr. Shariati.
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