The Mujahedin-e Khalq's (MEK) advent in 1965 marked the beginning of an armed paramilitary campaign against Iran, where collateral damage became a non-issue in their attempts to overthrow two successive regimes. The Mujahedin-e Khalq is a paradoxical concept in itself. Defined as “Holy Warrior” in Arabic, the term “Mujahedin” gained popularity in Iran at the height of the Industrial Age, when European Imperialism was at its most rampant form.
It was during this pinnacle stage in Iran's modern history that revolutionaries, known as the Mujahedin helped dislodge the heavily corrupt Qajar dynasty and thus, paved the way for the establishment of the first constitutionally elected session of parliament in Iran's history. The nationalistic fervour demonstrated by the latter has no correlational ties with the contemporary form of the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Based on a cultic Marxist-Islamic ideology, the MEK depends on fanatical membership and the organization's military wing to execute its political mandate. This form of aggressive resistance has collectively hindered the MEK's popularity amongst Iranians.
The MEK seems to have met one of its final crossroads, especially since the invasion of Iraq by the American led coalition in 2003. This decaying terrorist organization is declining to a point where they will never be able to capture a sustained period of Iranian statesmanship after the subsequent overthrow of the current theocratic regime, a far fetched proposition to begin with.
Just prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, much of the MEK's expenditures were subsidized by the Baathist regime under the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was said to have trusted the MEK more so than his personal army of bodyguards, the Republican Guard. Iraq was essentially the organization's last resort. After many of their original leaders were summarily executed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, scores of the group's subordinates were exiled to several European states.
France, who was and still is the chief harbourer of MEK members in the west, also expelled a large portion of the group's members to Iraq where they were embraced by the Baathist administration. In exchange for exposing key military targets in Iran and assisting Iraq's Ground Forces in critical infantry offensives during the eight year long Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein offered to maintain and support the Mujahedin-e Khalq for as long a period as they wanted.
Massoud Rajavi, the then leader of the MEK, along with the support of all his subordinates, happily accepted the deal knowing full well he would be pitting MEK soldiers against their own countrymen. Raises in funding occurred when the MEK brutally suppressed both the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings after the first Persian Gulf War.
Maryam Rajavi, who assumed the leadership role of the MEK after a series of years as co-leader alongside her husband Massoud Rajavi, had the following to say during a moral-boosting speech to an audience of MEK troops: “Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”.
Ambiguous means of raising revenue by the MEK, such as initiating in direct combat with Iranian soldiers for increased funding by Iraq's Baathist dictatorship, has undermined their credibility as both defenders and liberators of the Iranian people.
The civilian sector has also gotten involved with funding for the terrorist organization. Instances have increased in recent years, particularly due to the strengthening of support amongst diaspora communities and the severing of the cash flow from the Baathist administration in Iraq to the MEK.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright announced in 1997 that the MEK would be then added to the list of foreign terrorist organizations. It has been made explicitly clear by both Albright and her successor, Colin Powell that any material support gathered through domestic fundraisers would be deemed illegal in the eyes of the American judicial system. These decrees have yet to yield any positive results.
Evidence of the state department's apathetic attitude towards enforcing this law can be seen in the operational status of several MEK bases along the Iran-Iraq border. They are all intact, Camp Ashraf alone houses thousands of MEK troops. The longevity of the MEK, especially after the 2003 invasion of Iraq is purely based upon the fiscal support provided by western expatriates.
Recently, there have been multiple seizures executed by the American federal government against the MEK to try and crack down on illegal fundraising operations all over the United States. One such case involved Roya Rahmani and Hossein Afshari, two top officials personally stationed in the west by Maryam Rajavi to control the activities of several fundraising efforts.
It has been pointed out in the December 20th, 2004 publication of the United States vs. Afshari court case, that they were both conducting fundraising operations with fellow MEK agents for over 4 years (1997 – 2001). This timeframe only refers to the period in which the State Department recognized the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization, which excludes the years they operated both in and out of the United States prior the 1997 decree by Albright.
This case centers in on one particular instance where both Rahmani and Afshari raised funds from the Los Angeles International Airport under organizational guises such as the “Committee for Human Rights.” These crimes were allegedly committed after Secretary Albright's labelling of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization.
Working behind the protection of seemingly benevolent names such as the “Committee for Human Rights,” “Iranian Refuge Society,” and “Women's Association”, literally proves the illegitimacy of the MEK in Iranian society; for cowering behind invalid front organizations that hypothetically promote humane causes, is the only way they can increase their profit projections. When these front organizations gather together in a convention type setting, that's when they are most potent and successful in raising revenue.
On the 24th of January, 2004, there was a huge fundraising convention established in Washington D.C. for the collection of 'paid' donations, which was said to have been used for the Bam relief effort (Bam was the location of a devastating earthquake that ravaged the ancient city in Iran during the latter end of 2003). In actual sense, this “Night of Solidarity” was set for raising funds for the MEK, not the victims of the Bam earthquake. Many non-profit organizations like the Red Cross withdrew their support of the event because of the apparent political connotations.
In a rare announcement by a member of congress, House Administration Chairman Robert Ney (Republican from Ohio) proclaimed that “the MEK is [was] hiding behind earthquake victims.” Overall, seventeen of the twenty-three organizations were known to have direct ties with the MEK, and estimates conclude that over $140,000 was raised that night. The malevolent measures in which the MEK takes to raise revenue for both military and political expenditures in the Western world has also discredited their reputation amongst most Iranians.
In an unorthodox move, Richard Perle, an extremely influential neo-conservative hawk visited the “Night of Solidarity” convention as one of his book tour stops. Many questions were tossed around, questioning the motivations behind his attendance at a terrorist sponsored charity event. Many conclusions were drawn upon but in retrospect, Perle is in favour of regime change in Iran and he believes the MEK has the capacity to enforce their vision of democracy upon the Iranian population.
Like Perle, many Western (Americans in particular) law-makers are servile to the ideological manipulations of the MEK. Behind the pro-democratic tenets preached by influential figureheads such as Maryam Rajavi, there is a bleak cultic ideology only MEK members in Iraq are exposed to. Notwithstanding these truths, many Western law-makers have obliged themselves into siding with the MEK cause and to some extent, promoting their pseudo-ideology.
Pentagon hardliners who are the key moulders of the Bush administration's foreign policy, have expressed their satisfaction with the MEK's resistance efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and that they should be removed from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The MEK, whose main office is just walking distance away from the White House, also has the overwhelming support of the Congress and the House of Representatives behind them.
The following statistics agree with this notion: On July 1st, 1999, 100 congressmen united in calling on Secretary of State Albright to support the MEK as the only predominate ” democratic opposition” that threatens the Iranian totalitarian regime. 130 members of the U.S. House of Representatives requested Secretary Albright to restart the lines of communication with the MEK, who they generalized as being the “Iranian opposition.”
Also on this day, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen herded 220 congressmen into protesting MEK's designation as a foreign terrorist organization in 1998. This speaks volumes of the MEK's ability to lobby in the U.S. capital. Their propagandist organs are always on the offensive, trying to capture all the support they can, anyway they can.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq is an extremely attractive prospect for the American war on terror. Their apparent belief in the democratic process, promotion of feminism, symbolized by Maryam Rajavi, and a pro-Western attitude fits the quintessential candidate for a next Iranian government.
The MEK also has an apparent habit of leaking highly classified information about Iran to the state's enemies. This snitching prerogative landed the United States Intelligence with important information regarding the relationship between Ahmad Chalabi and the Iranian government, and vital developments concerning Iran's nuclear program (Pound).
What antagonizes Iranians the most is the conscious act of divulging information of high-priority to the enemy; more so than the actual contents registered within these relays. A senior Department of Defense official speaking for the entire department refused to acknowledge that the American government is having any bilateral relations with the MEK, totally downplaying the idea of the MEK as being an ally of the United States. Weak arguments such as this do not stand firm against the large body of evidence.
After the American-led invasion of Iraq, the MEK was protected from international scrutiny by the physical presence of the 4th Infantry Division who in-essence protected them from being prosecuted by an international tribunal for war crimes. The initial Governing Council in Iraq wanted the MEK to be removed from Iraqi territory but due to persistent lobbying, protection provided by coalition armies, along with the support within the confines of the U.S. government, the Americans passively bypassed the request, letting the MEK continue to use its pre-existing bases.
The MEK's requests to be taken off the list of foreign terrorist organizations might be granted in the near future by both the American Department of State and the European Union, due to the growing strength of the lobbyist bulwark. All this might sound well and good for the average Westerner but to Iranians, the MEK's prompt segregation from regional issues to the concentration on Western support demonstrates where their true allegiances lie; within the West and the acquisition of power without the consent of the Iranian majority.
Iranians have personally acquainted themselves with the cultic ideology the MEK is based upon, and are not ignorant in that particular context, the way Western supporters of the MEK are. The rare confrontation with the Islamic Republic results in decreased internal support and therefore, the depreciated chances of the Mujahedin-e Khalq ever capturing Iranian statesmanship.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq has accomplished its goal of attracting Western, and especially, American attention. Several federal departments directly involved in communications with MEK lobbyist groups have conformed to the wishes of the MEK and American neo-conservatives. The approach they are opting for is a possible military incursion of Iranian held territories, a role in which the MEK has voluntarily nominated itself for.
A senior U.S. administration official has been quoted as saying that Defense Department hardliners have “toyed with the idea of rearming the MEK as a proxy force against the Islamic regime” (Pound). Questions of how far the MEK had actually disarmed after the 2003 capitulation to the 4th Infantry Division of America will be analyzed further. Any attempts at a sustained military campaign against Iran, by the MEK, have and will continue to be sidetracked due to a number of both internal and external factors.
The embodiment of the MEK in Iraq is its main body of loyal personnel. In its entirety, the MEK currently has approximately 3,800 soldiers and technicians stationed at Camp Ashraf where they are isolated by the 4th Infantry Division. Membership levels were much higher prior the fragmentation of the group due to splintering ideological beliefs, and the eight year-long Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
Near the end of the war, as Iraqi armies started withdrawing back into their mainland, The MEK attempted to exploit Iran's fragile state by initiating in guerrilla combat around the south-western city of Khorramshahr. Coined as operation “Eternal Light,” it was anything but bright for the MEK forces. Of the approximately 7000 invaders, 200 were killed, and hundreds more were captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The MEK was forced to retreat back into Iraq, suffering tremendous losses.
In June of 2002, Massoud Rajavi held a meeting in the Al-Karakh district of Baghdad. Just over 6000 members attended the audience. As time went along, internal strife ravaged the structure of the MEK, resulting in the defections of hundreds of soldiers. Most of those who remain in Iraq encompass the most loyal members. These are the ones who joined the Mujahedin-e Khalq at the very outset of its creation during the 1960's.
Aside from the hastening biological degeneration of the MEK's manpower, its equipment also shows signs of aging as well. The mainstay of the MEK's arsenal is the battle tank. Most of their armoured or mechanized units were captured from Iranian regiments during the Iran-Iraq war, and others were provided by Saddam Hussein in efforts to quell the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings after the first Persian Gulf War.
Some examples include Brazilian Cascavel tanks, Russian BMP armoured vehicles, British Chieftains, and Katyusha rocket trucks. Most of these brands have discontinued production decades ago. Like the rest of the international community, the MEK has limited resources to exactly pinpoint the topographic features of Iran's western frontier; something which must be acquired in order to be successful in any military engagement.
Recent American drone missions which have been illegally executed into Iranian airspace have been claimed by American administration officials to be targeting such sites as nuclear reactors. If you think about these activities in context to the MEK, these spy drones may be providing key technical information to them, data which is extremely useful from a logistical standpoint.
Despite the importance of this revelation, if it were true, the MEK would still have great obstacles to overcome in dislodging the Iranian military apparatus, which has enough resources to gather a force of approximately 20,937,348 military personnel.
The disarmament procedures resulting in the complete capitulation of MEK forces took place under the supervision of the 4th Infantry Division via Central Command. The April 18th 2003 cease-fire, required the terrorist paramilitary force to disarm all weapons which may be deemed as a risk to Iraqi national security; this included all assault rifles and armoured vehicles.
It seems that both sides of the treaty agreed to compromise on a few articles of importance. There have been instances where international correspondents have witnessed MEK forces armed to the brink after the cease-fire. Lt. Col. Mark Young of the 4th Infantry division concluded that after the full capitulation of MEK forces, enough equipment was turned over to arm a small army, but then why is it that there is still a presence of heavy weaponry in Camp Ashraf?
In a recent MEK military parade, there were four artillery pieces involved in the ceremony marking the 26th anniversary of the armed resistance campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a July 13, 2003 New York Times article, Elizabeth Rubin has an interview with several MEK members in Iraq. She asked one of the female soldiers what she was currently involved in, and the soldier responded by saying she was attending artillery classes.
Why would she be learning a subject where the practical value of field exercises is not available? If they are available and ready to mobilize in live combat situations, the status of these forces has been heavily concealed by both the MEK and Central Command. Despite the conspiratory connotations regarding the notion of an American backed MEK military force, it can be a determining factor in the United State's unilateral policy towards Iran, but the repercussions involved in an MEK invasion of Iran would cripple the group render less.
This is only the surface of the MEK's drawbacks. Sinister methods by which they recruit members, specific evidence pertaining to the cultic foundations of the organization, the execution of multiple terrorist acts committed against the citizens of Iran, and many other unfavourable characteristics. With this said, the Mujahedin-e Khalq is facing its demise but it is reluctant to capitulate. Radical devotion to this Marxist-Islamic cult is the only thing keeping the grinding gears afoot.
One thing is for certain however, Iranians have collectively denounced the MEK, typecasting the organization as both illegitimate representatives of the Iranian population and evil heretics. The question is, are the members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq willing to accept their fate?