Causes and Ramifications of De-Listing of the PMOI from the U.S. State Department’s FTOs List
I. Derivers of American Foreign Policy
1. The Clinton administration placed the PMOI on the FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organizations) list in order to reward President Khatami’s moderation. This had less to do with what the PMOI or Khatami (and the fundamentalist terrorist regime) had actually done, and had more to do with what policies would serve the national interests of the U.S. Some times foreign policy is determined by ideals, but usually it is by interests. When ideals and interests are in conflict, most governments choose their interests in the determination of their foreign policy. Foreign policy is not about consistency. For example, the U.S. State department knew full-well then, and knows full well now, that the fundamentalist regime had engaged in unambiguous TERRORIST activities. For example, the terrorist regime mass murdered political prisoners in 1981 was done by Ayatollah Khomeini and at that very time Khatami was one of the main leaders of the regime. Under Khatami’s leadership of Keyhan, the regime’s mouthpiece, Keyhan viciously attacked the moderate forces such as Mehdi Bazargan and others pro-democracy forces (Bani Sadr, etc). Khatami was one the main propagandists of the fundamentalist regime in that period. Khatami was one of the main persons who authored Khomeini’s statements. From the invasion and takeover of the American embassy to the creation of the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah, the magnitude of the actual terrorist actions of the fundamentalist regime is huge and Mohammad Khatami was among the leaders of the Islamic Republican Party, in Majles, editor-in-chief of Keyhan, and in the government.
When the State Department listed the PMOI in the FTO, it was not because Khatami was a decent democrat, but despite the FACT that Khatami was part of the leadership of the fundamentalist regime responsible for horrendous terrorist crimes. The U.S. closed its eyes to the terrorist crimes committed by the fundamentalist regime because it believed that Khatami would moderate the policies of the regime.
One of the funniest ironies is that among the examples of PMOI’s terrorism is that it supported the embassy hostage taking. It is true that the PMOI supported the hostage taking, but it was Khomeini and Khatami and the hard-liners and reformists who actually took the Americans hostage and kept them for 444 days. The actual terrorist ACTON was committed by the gang under the leadership of Khomeini, Khatami, and Khamenei. The PMOI supported those terrorist actions. There is a HUGE difference between ENGAGING in terrorist ACTIONS on the one hand, and supporting those terrorist action on the other. Khatami was guilty of being a prominent member of the gang that engaged in taking terrorist action, while the PMOI was guilty of supporting those actions by Khomeini and Khatami. Fundamentalists (reformists and hardliners) were the terrorists inside the embassy holding Americans hostage. The PMOI was outside marching and supporting the fundamentalists inside engaging in the terrorist action.
Therefore, the actual deeds were not the primary criteria. The interests of the U.S. was the primary determining factor. The State Department was following the decision of the White House in deciding to help and reward President Khatami DESPITE the FACT that in actual fact Khatami and the regime he represented was a main terrorist entity in the world. Khatami was promising a set of policies, and the U.S. wanted to reward those new policies. Therefore, the State Department rewarded the terrorist regime with listing the PMOI. Historical actions were ignored and new interests were the deciding factor.
In sum, what is germane is what each group could do today that would be in the interests of the U.S. or undermined them.
2. The Obama administration’s primary policy towards the fundamentalist regime was to sit down and negotiate with Khamenei with no pre-conditions. Hence, President Obama made the Norooz messages and used the term “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” and repeatedly stated that it wants to reach agreements based on “mutual interests and mutual respect.” There was no mention of the FACT that this regime is the primary state sponsor of terrorism and that the Supreme Leader in one of the top terrorists in the world. The Obama administration’s policy was to reach an agreement with the regime and therefore the Norooz message and private Obama letters to Khamenei.
For the sake of reaching an agreement with the regime, when Khamenei was brutalizing and murdering the protesters after the June 2009 election, the Obama administration refused to side with the protesters. The INTEREST of reaching an agreement with the hard-line regime on the nuclear enrichment issue was the primary concern of the Obama administration. If President Obama sided with the protesters and called for the change of the regime with democracy, then Khamenei would STOP the negotiations with the U.S. government. Therefore, President Obama made some mild remarks after great pressure. President Obama’s policy to sit down and talk with the regime provided legitimacy to the hard-line regime and strengthened the regime and had a demoralizing impact on the Green and pro-democracy protesters. President Obama chose what he regarded as American’s INTERESTS (reaching an agreement with the regime which would end the nuclear enrichment) and ignored America’s IDEALS (of democracy, freedom, human rights).
II. A New Policy Towards the PMOI
It became plain that the Obama policy of engagement with the regime had totally failed. Despite President Obama pursuing the policy of sitting down with officials of the regime to reach an agreement, no such agreement was reached. It is now more than 2 years and 1 month since President Obama took office. The regime has more centrifuges and more enriched uranium. Now it is clear to the Obama administration that the regime did not accept what they had offered the regime. The question is what would the fundamentalist regime accept in order to fully stop enrichment program. If the position of the fundamentalist regime is that it would not stop enrichment no matter what the U.S. would offer then no negotiation would succeed in stopping the regime from enrichment.
It appears to me that the Obama administration has given up on the possibility that the regime could be appeased. So, what NOW?
A number of things have occurred in the past 2 years.
1. The Green Movement (fortunately) rose and (unfortunately) fell. The hard-liners successfully repressed it (for now at least). The Obama administration by holding meetings with the officials of the hard-line regime, in actual fact provided legitimacy to Ahmadinejad-Khamenei.
2. The PMOI succeeded in winning several court cases in the UK and EU. The PMOI then succeeded in removing the PMOI from the UK and EU terrorist lists. Therefore, according to UK and EU, the PMOI is not a terrorist group.
3. The PMOI won a court case in the U.S. The court asked the State Department to review the case and allow the PMOI and its attorneys to challenge the designation.
4. Via some PR group, the PMOI has held several fantastically successful conferences where former TOP officials in the U.S. diplomatic, political, security, military, intelligence communities presented arguments for support of de-listing of the PMOI. Many made glowing support for the PMOI. They include liberal democrats, conservative republicans, neo-conservatives, Realists, etc. These are great victories for the PMOI.
5. These efforts may lead to the de-listing of the PMOI.
I think in the next several months we will witness more efforts to have the PMOI de-listed. On one side will be the PMOI which will concentrate its efforts to de-list itself. I guess that the IRI is very upset about this. My guess is that the fundamentalist regime will tell its agents and supporters to do all they can to stop the de-listing of the PMOI.
My guess is that the PMOI will win this fight. Why? It is in the national interests of the U.S. to de-list the PMOI. The Obama administration has lost all hope to get the regime to agree to suspend uranium enrichment. So why the hell to negotiate with the regime if there is no chance that the regime would stop doing things that could provide them with the possibility to have nuclear weapons. The PMOI has provided intelligence to the U.S. Moreover, with the de-listing of the PMOI, the PMOI could increase its activities outside and inside Iran. American (and European) assistance would increase the power of the PMOI, which would allow it to become more active inside Iran. The more powerful the PMOI becomes, the more it could help the U.S. with intelligence and the like. If the regime would get close to acquiring nuclear weapons, then the U.S. could cooperate with the PMOI in sabotaging the nuclear facilities. Or in a war scenario, the PMOI could play the same role the Northern Alliance played in the U.S. war against al Qaeda-Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. That is the U.S. would bomb (missiles, smart bombs from airplanes) the coercive apparatuses (IRGC, Basij, Ministry of Intelligence, Niroyeh Entezami) of the fundamentalist regime and then the PMOI forces would enter to fill the vacuum.
In other words there are a lot of REAL BENEFITS to American national interest by de-listing the PMOI and using the group. There are also disadvantages to the U.S. interests of de-listing the PMOI. One may criticize the U.S. for working with a group that itself had listed as terrorist. The U.S. has worked closely with groups once described as terrorist such as the PLO (and Yasser Arafat), ANC (African National Congress and Nelson Mandela) , IRA, etc. The U.S. has also has been working with former insurgents in Iraq and elements of Taliban in Afghanistan. In actual FACT the Obama administration engaged in negotiations with officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the state department has classified as the number one state-sponsor of terrorism. So the U.S. has already been engaged in negotiations with the biggest terrorist in the world, so using a groups that has committed one-zillionth of those would not be much of a headache.
My guess is if the hard-liners arrested Mousavi and Karrubi in the next few days and there was a mass uprising and the regime successfully repressed the uprising, then the U.S. would lose all hope in the Green Movement. Then, the Obama administration would de-list the PMOI in a short order. In a cost-benefit analysis, the benefits outweigh the costs for the U.S. by de-listing the PMOI.
1. The BIGGEST LOSER is, of course, the fundamentalist regime. The IRI is most worried about the PMOI.
2. Those who promote appeasement of the fundamentalist regime.
1. The BIGGEST WINNER is, of course, the PMOI.
V. Ramifications of De-Listing of the PMOI on the Opposition Groups
1. The Democratic Opposition (Iran National Front, NAMIR, Iran Liberal Party, etc)
The democratic opposition does NOT have any lobbying group in the U.S. If the democratic opposition had a lobbying group, then this lobby group would have openly and explicitly lobbied against the interests of the fundamentalist regime.
If the PMOI is de-listed, they would lobby against the regime. To the extent that a group (ANY group) works against the interests of the fundamentalist group, to that extent that is bad for the fundamentalist regime. With some exceptions, the policies that HARM the fundamentalist regime, of course hurt the regime, and thus are good for the Iranian people.
The PMOI would also lobby to benefit itself. This obviously would not be good for the democratic opposition.
The question is what is more significant? And relatedly, on BALANCE, are the advantages more or are the disadvantages more? It depends on the nature of the PMOI. The PMOI is by far the MOST organized opposition group. No other opposition group comes close. This is of course, the fault of us in the other opposition groups. The FACT that Jebhe Melli and monarchists and Marxists or not as organized is OUR fault. The PMOI is also intensely opposed by many Iranians, inside and outside Iran. Therefore, in a free and democratic election, the PMOI would get something like 5% of the vote. In other words, the PMOI could harm the fundamentalist regime, but in a democratic system could NOT harm other opposition groups.
Policy Ramifications for Iranian Democrats
If there are free and democratic elections in Iran, in all likelihood, we will win. Therefore, we do not have to fear any scenario in which there will be free and democratic elections. The PRIMARY obstacle for democracy in Iran is the existence of the fundamentalist regime. Therefore, OUR primary goal is to weaken the fundamentalist regime so that it would be overthrown or the regime accept free and democratic elections. The weaker the fundamentalist regime, the higher the likelihood of the regime being overthrown. The weaker the fundamentalist regime, the higher the likelihood of the regime accepting free and democratic elections.
If the fundamentalist regime is strong it would NOT accept free and democratic elections. If the regime is strong it would not be overthrown.
The PMOI does not pose any threat to the Iranian democrats as long as there will be democratic and free election. Many democrats hate and oppose the PMOI. In my opinion, the regime will send its agents and supporters to try to manipulate the members of the Iranian American community in order to use them as useful idiots in the regime’s fight against the PMOI. We should not fall for their tricks. We oppose the PMOI, but our MAIN enemy is the fundamentalist terrorist regime. As long as the PMOI does not attack us, they pose no threat to us. We should be smart and not allow the supporters of the regime fool the less politically astute and use them to help the fundamentalist regime.
Also all the opposition groups (JM, monarchists, Leftists, Greens, ethnic parties) should try to make their organizations stronger.
2. The Monarchists
The monarchists, by and large, prefer the fundamentalist regime to the PMOI. A smart plan of the Ministry of Intelligence would be to pose as an opponent of the IRI or supporter of monarchy in order to mobilize the monarchists to attack the PMOI. If a member of the Ministry of Intelligence arrived and said that he or she is a supporter of Ahmadinejad, he or she would not be very successful in mobilizing many in attacking the PMOI. But if that same person claimed to be an opponent of the IRI, then he or she would have a good change in fooling many in a campaign against the PMOI. Here the role of Reza Pahlavi and top monarchist personalities could counter the plans of the Ministry of Intelligence. RP and monarchist personalities have to find a way to prevent their supporters being used by the fundamentalist regime agents and supporters.
Unfortunately for RP, the bulk of the monarchists are not very politically astute. They say things that harm the cause of monarchy. RP talks about “emrooz faghat etehad” day in and day out, but his supporters insult and attack every person who is not a monarchist or a sycophant of RP. Reza Pahlavi needs to find a way to prevent his supporters from being manipulated by the Ministry of intelligence and supporters of the fundamentalist regime and used as useful idiots.
Some monarchists who have been trying to get assistance from the U.S. government might feel jealous that the PMOI has succeeded in gaining support from the U.S. government. RP and monarchist officials need to analyze this rationally and not emotionally. They need to develop future alternative scenarios and see what policy they take today will help them in the next stages. Certainly siding with the fundamentalist regime against another opposition group – what exactly the Tudeh Party and Fadaian-Majority did between 1979 and 1985 – will be regarded the same way people view the policies of the Tudeh Party and Aksariyat as regime collaborators. The question for Reza Pahlavi is this. Realistically, does RP think that monarchists constitute more than 5 to 10 percent of the population? Realistically, does the PMOI get more than 5% of the vote? If RP really wants to see the fundamentalist regime overthrown, then which of the following policies would serve his goal? Policy ONE to engage in fight against PMOI; Policy TWO leave the PMOI alone and instead concentrate on building monarchists’ own organization.
Policy ONE to engage in a fight with the PMOI would definitely 100% help the fundamentalism regime and would definitely weaken the monarchists and would weaken the PMOI.
Policy TWO leave the PMOI alone, and organize monarchists own supporters and try to also gain some support from U.S. government as well. The fundamentalist regime would definitely 100% be the loser. The PMOI benefits a little. The monarchists will benefit a little.
3. The Marxists
The bulk of Iranian Marxists are highly educated and highly politically astute. Therefore, they could not be easily manipulated by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.
During Feb 1979-1985 or so (1983?) , the Tudeh Party and Fadaiyan-Majority did side with the fundamentalist regime and against other opposition groups (democrats, other Marxists, PMOI, Kurdish groups, etc). Many of them were executed by the terrorist regime in 1988 during the massacre of political prisoners.
Due to the weakness of Iranian Marxist groups, several pseudo-leftists have been fooling Western progressives in order to help the appeasement of the terrorist regime. Many leftists in the U.S., UK, parts of Western Europe, and Latin America are susceptible to being fooled and used as useful idiots by the fundamentalist regime and its supporter, agents and apologists.
Fortunately, in the past few months, I have noticed a rise in the activities of Iranian Marxists. This is a welcomed phenomena. First, Iranian Marxists can prevent the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, the supporters and apologists of the fundamentalist regime from fooling Marxists around the world and use then as useful idiots. Second, Iranian Marxists can gain the solidarity of leftists around the world with progressive Iranians. Third, Iranian Marxists are part and parcel of Iranian society. Therefore, to the extent that they accept democracy and freedom, they can play a very positive role in the fight against the terrorist regime and a positive role in the construction of a multi-party democracy after the overthrow of the fundamentalist regime.
Unfortunately, almost all the Iranian Marxist groups in 1979 were terribly dictatorial. Equally bad were their wrong analyses, which made some to constantly attack the democratic forces (called us liberals, bourgeois, jadeh saf kon imperialist, etc), while some supported Khomeini and sided against JM, Bazargan, and Bani Sadr. Neither Fadaian-Minority, nor Peykar, supported the democrats. Tudeh and Fadaian-Majority totally sided with Khomeini and called democrats “jasos” and supporters of imperialism. There were some leftists who were democratic such as Sazeman Vahdat Kommunisti, Shoray Motehhad Chap, and National Democratic Front, but, unfortunately, they constituted a small minority of Iranian leftists.
Ramifications for Iranian Left
Like the democratic opposition, the left should simply remain quiet on the issue of de-listing of the PMOI.
The Iranian left should become more active in condemning the pseudo-leftists who engage in fooling the western leftists.
I think it would be helpful in the struggle against the IRI if the leftists would explicitly state that:
a. they oppose the one-party dictatorship that existed in the former USSR, China, and what was the so-called actually existing socialism;
b. they now fully support civil liberties for all and multiparty democracy;
c. their policies in the 1979-1980s were wrong, that they should have cooperated with the MODERN DEMOCRATIC groups (JM, Bazargan, Bani Sadr) and opposed Khomeini; and
d. now they are willing to fully support working with the liberal democratic forces in order to create a democratic secular republic, with freedom of the press, parties, and elections as well as human rights.
Once the Iranian leftists do these, it would become easier for those of us in the democratic opposition to make the argument that today’s leftists are not like the old Stalinist tyrants who massacred millions and millions. This would help all of us to concentrate all our attacks on the fundamentalist regime.
4. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdestan
The DPIK is well organized and enjoys great mass support among the Kurdish population inside Iran as well as among Kurds in the diaspora. The DPIK has moved from being pro-Soviet party (1940s to 1979), to a Euro-communist (1979-early 1980s), to Euro-socialist (mid 1980s to 1990s), to a pure ethnic party now. The DPIK has developed a close relationship and friendship with the U.S. government. In my opinion, the DPIK would benefit if the PMOI was de-listed. Both DPIK and PMOI wish the U.S. govt to stop appeasement of the fundamentalist regime. Their social base is also different, they do not compete for support among the same persons. The DPIK’s social base is among the Sunni Kurds and the PMOI’s social base is among non-Kurdish Iranians. The two groups could help each other in many ways in Iran, in Iraq, and in Washington DC. A PMOI-DPIK alliance or cooperation (formal or informal) would greatly enhance their abilities to gain support from the U.S. and other countries around the world.
The above may also hold for Komeleh. If I am not mistaken there are 2 or 3 Komeleh factions. I think that the above would hold for all them.
I see the Greens as being comprised of many elements.
a. Reformist Greens
The reformist faction (supporters of Mousavi and Karrubi) will not be happy with the de-listing of the PMOI. I guess that many of them will vocally condemn it. But paradoxically, it also may help them. Nothing scares the daylight out of the hard-line regime than the PMOI. The reformists have always presented themselves to the hard-line elements as a group (inside the fundamentalist oligarchy) that could successfully deflect the threat from the U.S. In other words, the reformist ARGUMENT to other members of the ruling fundamentalist oligarchy has been: “we and our policies will stop the U.S. from harming the nezam.” If the hard-liners believe that there is no real threat from the PMOI or the U.S., then the hard-liners could easily repress the reformists with no worry. But if there is a possibility of real threat from the PMOI (or monarchists, or democrats, or DPIK), then the hard-liners would be worried to get rid of the reformists. In other words, sharing power with the reformists is actually good for the Nezam, both domestically and internationally.
My guess is that the reformist Greens will make many public statements against the de-listing of the PMOI. Many are emotionally intensely opposed to the PMOI. The reformists were those in the 1979-1980s who were among the leaders of the fundamentalist regime and were directly involved in the brutal fight against the PMOI. But ironically, they would not be a loser if the PMOI is de-listed. Some of their less astute supporters may think that the PMOI is going to get more powerful and thus would undermine their ability to get support and attention. That would be a little true outside Iran. But inside Iran, the de-listing of the PMOI could shake the hard-liners and make them stop the repression of the reformists. Although it should be kept in mind that the hard-liners may not think very rationally and do what is against the interests of the nezam.
In my opinion, the de-listing of the PMOI would have some advantages and some disadvantages for the reformist wing of the Greens.
b. Democratic Greens
Democratic Greens or Secular Greens are the ones whose slogans are “Esteghlal, Azadi, Jomhuri Irani” [Independence, Freedom, IRANIAN Republic], and “Marg bar Asl Velayat faghih” [Death to the Principle of Rule of a Cleric]. Their ideals are identical to those of the Iran National Front and other pro-democracy groups (i.e., they want a democratic secular republic). I don’t think the de-listing of the PMOI would have any measurable impact on the Democratic Greens. There might be some minor advantages and some minor disadvantages.
My guess is that in the next few months many of us will not be happy with some of the things we will see. But eventually, I think the BIGGEST loser is the fundamentalist terrorist regime. I do NOT think that the process will undermine the democratic forces (JM, NAMIR, Iran Liberal Party), or the monarchists, leftists, or Kurdish groups.
The de-listing of the PMOI will make the PMOI only a little more powerful. Their social base is very limited. It is about 5% of the population, but they are highly devoted and highly organized. The more powerful PMOI would be able to help the U.S. much more in gathering intelligence and perhaps some sabotage of various facilities of the terrorist regime on behalf of the U.S.
I think the BIGGEST LOSERS will be the fundamentalist regime and its supporters.
I do not think the PMOI has made a democratic transformation. If they remain dictatorial, they would become a nuisance to the rest of us. If they make a democratic transformation, that would be helpful in the post-fundamentalist Iran for the prospects of stability and democratization.
The BEST policy we all could take is to make various opposition groups stronger and stronger. Of course the stronger the pro-democracy groups, the higher the likelihood of transition to democracy in Iran.
With hope for a free and democratic Iran.
My 2 cents,
P.S. My apologies for the typos. I would probably not be able to respond for the next 4 or 5 days.