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When Making a Revolution, Allies Matter By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 20, 2006


An Iranian opposition group that figures prominently on the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations will openly flaunt U.S. law today, when supporters demonstrate in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, just across the street from the White House.

Organizers of the January 19 demonstration openly refer to the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, banned from operating in the United States, as the “largest and most popular resistance group inside Iran.”

The former Shah called them “Marxist-Islamists,” because they had been trained by the Soviet Union in guerilla warfare and supported Khomeini.

The FBI has been tracking the activities of the Mujahedin, known in Persian as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), since the mid-1970s, when MEK members assassinated U.S. military officers then working in Iran. MEK members actively took part in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, according to a U.S. government report.

Despite this track record, the FBI has refused to ban demonstrations by supporters of the banned group, who have formed a variety of organizations ostensibly headed by U.S. citizens.

An FBI spokesman in Washington, DC told FrontPage magazine on the eve of the White House protest that the demonstrators were “exercising their 1st Amendment Rights. Whether they have been acknowledged by the United States Government as a terrorist group is a separate matter. Any gathering of people to protest is Constitutionally-protected and we acknowledge that and will do nothing to quash it.”

Why does any of this matter? Because the MEK has convinced many Members of Congress that they are the “democratic alternative” to the clerical regime in Tehran and deserve U.S. government support.

MEK supporters roam the halls of Congress asking unsuspecting twenty-something aides if their Member will sign a “Dear Colleague” letter calling for freedom and democracy in Iran. They have conducted similar influence operations in Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, and elsewhere.

Iranian-Americans openly refer to MEK leader Massoud Rajavi as the “Pol Pot” of Iran, because they believe he would conduct wholesale massacres of his political opponents should the current regime implode and the MEK seize power through organized street violence. In the group’s “16 points” for a future “democratic” Iran, they promise political freedom to all – except their political enemies.

Rajavi has insisted that MEK members divorce their spouses, and live in communist-style collective houses. In 1983, he divorced his own wife – the daughter of former president Abolhassan Banisadr, with whom he had a political falling out – and married the wife of a political rival.

In 1986,the Rajavis and the top MEK leadership left France for Iraq, where Saddam Hussein extended a warm welcome to the group and gave them weapons and financial assistance.

Following the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam used MEK military forces as shock troops to attack dissident Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq, an experience that Iraq’s democratically-elected president, former Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, has never forgotten.

According to the definitive 1993 Department of State report that led to the banning of the organization’s activities in the United States, the MEK not only killed Americans, but provided hit teams during the 1979 revolution against the Shah that allegedly assassinated thousands of senior Iranian military officers.

Members of Congress worried by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s terrorist record and its nuclear weapons programs in August 1993 (yes, 1993) petitioned then Secretary of State Warren Christopher to open an official U.S. dialogue with the main MEK front organization, the National Council of Resistance.

Christopher’s September 20, 1993 reply was devastating.

“Concerning contacts with Iranian opposition groups, there are numerous such groups in the United States and abroad that do not espouse violence and whose political aims range from supporting a return of the monarchy to establishing a constitutional democracy. Many focus their efforts on Iranian human rights abuses, and work closely with the UN. Human Rights Committee and private human rights groups. We do meet with representatives of such groups at their request, and believe these contacts are useful as an informational exchange.

“However, the National Council of Resistance is closely linked to the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Both groups are led by Masud Rajavi. The Administration maintains a policy of no contacts with the PMOI and, by extension, the NCR. This decision is based on our opposition to the PMOI's use of terrorism.”

Operating under a number of fronts following the Christopher letter, Mujahedin supporters bundled more than $204,000 in campaign contributions to U.S. Representatives Robert Torricelli (D, NJ) Gary Ackerman (D, NY) and others in Congress, in a failed effort to lift the State Department designation of the group as an international terrorist organization.

Over the past year, a new pro-MEK group known as the “Iran Policy Committee” has sought endorsements from well-known former policy makers, including respected FoxNews commentators Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely and Lt. Gen. Tom McInerny.

IPC chairman Ray Tanter, a former Reagan administration NSC official, regularly appears at pro-MEK press conferences and has likened a proposed U.S. alliance with the MEK against the mullahs in Tehran to FDR’s alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler.

Allying with terrorists is not just wrong for strategic reasons. It is just plain wrong. The Rajavi cult has a known track record. They have murdered Americans. They have murdered their fellow Iranians. And their dedication to democratic principles is as thin as the ether of the Internet, created for public consumption.

Promoting the Mujahedin in Iran is no different from supporting former Baathists in Iraq in the vain hope they will do the heavy lifting the U.S. policy and intelligence community is unwilling or unable to do.

Pro-democracy groups are struggling to be heard and to organize inside Iran, and they deserve urgent and massive U.S. support. President Bush has repeatedly pledged his support for their cause, but until now the State Department has blocked funds appropriated by Congress from reaching groups inside Iran.

As we skate ever-closer to a nuclear showdown with Iran, we must not in our impatience make the mistake of helping a violent group to overthrow a dedicated and dangerous enemy, in the vain hope they will shed their violent ways once they have achieved victory.

When making a revolution, it is critical to choose one’s allies well. The future depends on it.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).


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