A Mujahideen Conundrum

The multiple faces and roles of the Iranian MeK By Eduardo Lacerda

Abstract: This paper attempts to understand the ambiguous and multifaceted role played by the Islamic-Socialist organization Mojāhedin-e Khalq (MeK) in its trajectory from anti-Shah dissident to anti-American terrorist, from American protégé to pro-western spy. The American troops protect the MeK members as a politically threatened minority while at the same time the US Department of State classifies it as FTO- Foreign Terrorist Organization. I argue that historical changes and political choices of both the USA and Iran prompted the MeK to assume diverse and even contradictory roles while attempting to reach its main goal of defeating the Islamic Regime of Iran. Friend or foe, the Mojāhedin-e Khalq plays a crucial role in the relationship between USA, Iraq and Iran.

Key Terms: FTO, Iran, Iraq, MeK, NCRI, NLA, PMOI, Terrorism, United States

       

World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda

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Introduction
The term “Terrorist” carries a highly political undertone and value. As a highly contentious term, it can be used both to punish enemies and to protect allies. In some cases it can also be used as a ‘bargaining chip’ which countries use for diplomatic pressure and gains. The objective of this paper is to understand under which circumstances a non-state group can be classified as Terrorist, and how countries exploit the significance of that nomenclature. I will use as case-study the dissident Iranian group MeK /PMOI, and its tumultuous relationship with the United States. Seen by some as a relic of another era1 the MeK is nowadays the largest Iranian opposition movement in exile. Well-known for its violent past acts against the Iranian Islamic regime, nowadays the group is seen by most countries as a legitimate dissident organization in exile, fighting for democracy in Iran.2 It purportedly carries an agenda of democratic values, social inclusion, feminine empowerment and the struggle against authoritarianism. However, the MeK has been classified by the United States Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) due to its origins: a left-leaning group fighting against the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and internationally connected to radicals, revolutionaries and communists. Only four countries in the world accept that FTO definition: USA, Canada, Iraq and Iran itself. The paper explores the permutations of this movement, its importance and international role along the years. We argue that the USA maintains an ambiguous relationship with the group neither due to political doubts nor

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Blanche, Ed. pp.1

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda due to historical contingencies, but simply due to MeK’s utility as a political tool in the bargaining with the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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A Jigsaw of Names
The MeK is the acronym for Mojāhedin-e Khalq, (Sāzmān-e Mojāhedin-e Khalqe Irān), which in Farsi stands for the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran. Over the years the group has been and still is referred to by several names and acronyms. These varied denominations seem to have three distinct origins: 1) self-imposed, for political, strategic and cultural reasons; 2) pegged to the group by its foes as a way to express views of dishonesty and ambiguity, and finally 3) denominations due to MeK’s association with other political bodies. The group is sometimes named MKO (Mojāhedin-e Khalq Organization) and PMOI (People's Mujahedin Of Iran), two partial transliterations of the original Farsi acronym. The Iranian government officially refers to the organization as the Monafeqin, “the Hypocrites”3. In the past, MeK suffered an ideological schism, from which a rival group emerged, first hijacking the original name but further changing it, first to Mujahidin (ML) and then to Peykar4. During the 80s the MeK evolved into a large and well trained wing named the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA). Complicating the matter further, the MeK it is the founder, controller, largest and most active group within another organization named National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

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Munāfiq (n., in Arabic: ‫ ,ﻡمﻥنﺍاﻑفﻕق‬plural munāfiqūn) is a term used in Islamic Arabic to depict a religious hypocrite, who outwardly practices Islam, while inwardly conceals his disbelief (kufr). The term derives from the 63rd sura of the Qur'an, the Surat Al-Munāfiqūn (Arabic: ‫ﺍاﻝلﻡمﻥنﺍاﻑفﻕقﻭوﻥن ﺱسﻭوﺭرﺓة‬‎, The Hypocrites. This sura bears 11 ayat (verses). See http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/063.htm 4 In Farsi: ‫ , ﭖپﻱيﮎکﺍاﺭر‬meaning “battle”.

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda

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The mutable nature of its denomination and the multiplicity of its affiliations have generated a great deal of confusion among journalists and policy makers, also raising difficulties for the creation of a unified body of literature on the subject.

Historical Background
The MeK was founded in Tehran in 1963 by six middle-class students at Tehran University, former members of the Freedom Movement of Iran5. Those students were supporters of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, the popular and democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran between April 1951 and August 1953. Mossadeq was a staunchly secular nationalist, keenly opposed to foreign intervention in Iran. He had been the architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which pitted his country against British interests. Mossadeq ended being ousted from power through Operation Ajax, a CIA sponsored coup d’état supported by the MI-5. The coup brought back to political prominence the discredited and weak Iranian monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. With the approval of his western allies the Shah would rule Iran with an iron hand for the next 25 years. The event is considered a turning point in Iranian history and it is the origin of the MeK’s dissidence. It is also the starting point of ascension for a young and until then unknown Mujtahid6 named Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini. Since its inception, the open objective of MeK had been to overthrow the Shah by any means deemed necessary. The group maintained close but independent ties with clandestine, religious and radical groups and organizations from all over the world.

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The Nehzat-e Azadi-e Iran (Farsi: ‫ ,)ﺍاﻱيﺭرﺍاﻥن ﺁآﺯزﺍاﺩدﯼی ﻥنﻩهﺽضﺕت‬also known as LMI:Liberation Movement of Iran is an still existing (though now clandestine) Iranian political organization, founded in 1961 as a reembodiment of the National Front, the umbrella assemblage of Mossadegh's original supporters. See: < http://www.nehzateazadi.org/english/history.htm> 6 An Islamic cleric competent to interpret divine law.

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the MeK built alliances with the Soviet Union, East Germany and Cuba as well as other international guerrillas. Domestically it associated

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itself with underground Iranian groups and organizations such as the Fada’iyan Khalq (a Marxist revolutionary organization), the Jebhe-ye Melli (the National Front, Mossadegh's nationalist liberal party) and the Tudeh Party (the oldest communist party in Iran, of Stalinist line). Being a left but religiously-oriented group, the MeK also worked closely with a growing number of discontented religious Islamic clerics from the holy-scholar city of Qom. Those allied clerics would form the radical movement that would culminate with the 1979 Islamic Revolution7. Ironically, they would also become the MeK’s main foes. The MeK before the Islamic Revolution The MeK worked with any and everyone interested in carrying out violent terrorist acts against the regime of Reza Pahlavi. The group also chose to target American citizens along with Iranian government members, due to the involvement of the CIA in the coup against Mossadeq. The initial terrorist acts of MeK not only failed but also had disastrous consequences for the group. In November 1971 the MeK failed in its attempt to kidnap Douglas MacArthur II, the U.S. Ambassador to Iran. In August of the same year the group attempted to bomb Tehran’s electrical facilities, and to hijack an airplane with the Shah’s nephew. Those acts were in protest against Pahlavi’s lavish celebration of 2,500 years of continuous Persian civilization and Iranian royalty in the ruins of Persepolis. The Shah did not forgive those bold acts against his allies, regime, and family.

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See documents in: Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran. Gasiorowski, Mark J and Malcolm Byrne (editors). The National Security Archives. George Washington University. June 22, 2004. < http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/index.htm>

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda Pahlavi had been restored to the center of power through a coup d’état and thus had to resort to political suppression and mounting dissident repression. A prison informant betrayed the MeK’s plans, leading the Shah’s secret police, the dreaded SAVAK, to capture nine leaders of the group. Like a domino effect, one of those nine gave out the name of another 66 leaders,8 leading to a massive arrest. After trial, a military tribunal sentenced 11 MeK leaders to death. In May 25, 1972, three of its founders were executed by SAVAK’s death squads, along with two other leadership members.9 But the group managed to survive the brutal onslaught. With all the MeK’s original leadership either dead or jailed, the second tier militants took power, restarting the terrorist attacks against the regime and its American allies, while undergoing a long phase of ideological self analysis. In May 1972 the group attempted to kill the USAF Brigadier General Harold Price, a U.S. adviser in Tehran. His car went over a road IED (Improvised Explosive Device), breaking both his legs and killing a female Iranian passerby.10 On June 02, 1973, the U.S. Army comptroller Lt. Col. Louis Lee Hawkins

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was shot to death. After two years trying to redefine its radical leftist-Islam ideology and its strategy of action, the inner debate of the second tier would end up experiencing an official schism. In 1975 the rupture was made public in a book entitled Manifesto on Ideological Issues, in which the out-of-jail leadership stated “that after ten years of secret existence, four years of armed struggle, and two years of intense ideological rethinking,
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Abrahamian, Ervand. The Iranian Mojahedin. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pp.135. "May 25, 1972 – Founders of PMOI slain by the Shah’s regime". People's Mojahedin Organization Of Iran (website). Historical Events. <http://www.mojahedin.org/pagesen/decorumDetails.aspx?DecorumId=57> 10 Larzelere, Alex R., CAPT, USCG, (Ret.). Witness To History: White House Diary of a Military Aide to President Richard Nixon. AuthorHouse, 2009. See: < http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=64998>

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda [we] reached the conclusion that Marxism, not Islam, was the true revolutionary philosophy.”11 As the grip of the Shah tightened, his regime accumulated more enemies. Using

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an entirely secular new Marxist guidebook, the group kept its attacks under MeK’s name, completely disregarding the original leadership and its original left-Islamic orientation. On May 21, 1975 the Air Force Col. Paul Shaffer and the Lt. Jack Turner were shot and killed in Tehran and in May 1976 six other Americans were shot dead. They were Rockwell International employees working in an electronic intelligence gathering system geared toward the neighboring USSR, an ally of the Marxist MeK. With the Islamic Revolutionary movement gaining momentum, the Marxist MeK joined forces with Ayatollah Khomeini’s allies. On December 7, 1978 the group renamed itself Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, becoming known as the “Peykar”, and completing the schism initiated in 1975. The MeK during the Islamic Revolution Among the original MeK leaders imprisoned and sentenced to death in 1972 by the Shah’s secret police SAVAK was Massoud Rajavi, a 20 year old political law undergraduate student from Tehran University. In order to save him, his elder brother Kazem Rajavi organized a worldwide campaign, using his influence as a university professor. International pressure from Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the French socialist president François Mitterrand forced the Shah to commute his sentence to life in prison with forced labor.i Massoud Rajavi would spend the next seven years in prison, being released only three weeks prior

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Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton University Press. 1982, p.493-4

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda to the ascension of the Islamic Revolution to power. Massoud would then become the leader of the left-Islamic faction of MeK. Originally, both fractions of MeK supported the Revolution due to its coalitional revolutionary nature, involving all sectors of the society, from the military to

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businesspeople, from the secular intelligentsia to the Islamic scholars. Soon however, the most radical sectors of the revolutionary movement rose to prominence, casting aside the democratic and moderate sectors. In November 1979 Iran adopted the new constitution of the Islamic Republic, approved by a national referendum, and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader of Iran, officially known as the “Leader of the Revolution”. Initially his position was adamantly against clerics running for government positions, and the secular moderate Abolhasan Bani-Sadr was chosen and elected as the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 4 February 198012. In September 1980, the nationalist regime of Iraq invaded Iran, initiating a war that would last for eight years. Saddam Hussein wanted to destroy the menacing Shi’a revolution while taking control of the Iranian province of Khuzistan, predominantly Sunni Muslim and rich in oil. The war changed the fragile balance of power among the members of the Iranian revolutionary coalition, tilting the scale in favor of the most conservative and centralizing minds surrounding the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. These clerics had never wanted a western-type regime, but an unrestrained Islamic one. What began as a genuinely populist revolution would soon be distorted into an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy.

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Bani-Sadr was the president of the Council of the Islamic Revolution.

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda In 1981 Bani-Sadr was impeached for his opposition to the radicalization of the government. The MeK called for a mass rally under the banner of Islam, accusing Ayatollah Khomeini of obscurantism and of fascism. Its Islamic but pro-democratic left

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leaning perspective soon started to be seen as a public threat that, like many others, had to be purged. The coalition was over and all former allies had become the main enemies. The Islamic leaders acted fast, first eliminating most members of the anticlerical Peykar branch and effectively destroying the faction. Then they turned against the MeK’s religious branch: thousands were brutally persecuted, tortured and killed.13 After MeK’s leader Mohammad Reza Saadati was executed on 27 July, 1981 the remaining oppositional leaders were forced to flee the country. Massoud Rajavi and Abolhasan Bani-Sadr secretly left Iran with the aid of the MeK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), finding exile in the socialist France of Francois Mitterrand. Two days later – and disrespecting their exile agreement terms – Bani-Sadr, the MeK and the KDP founded the NCRI, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Headquarters were established in Paris while a military infrastructure was established in Iraq, under supervision of the Iranian enemy Saddam Hussein. The MeK after the Islamic Revolution As the Iran-Iraq war escalated, the MeK found a safe haven under the protection of the Baathist regime. The group was provided with weapons, training, funds and a base. In 1986 the MeK transferred its headquarters from France to a sprawling 30-square-mile complex in Iraq, less than 70 miles from the Iranian border. The place was named Camp

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security. University of Maryland, START:The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. TOPs:Terrorist Organization Profiles (formely known as TKB:Terrorism Knowledge Base). Terrorist Organization Profile. Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK). Retrieved March 6, 2010.

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda Ashraf, after Massoud Rajavi's first wife, assassinated at home by the Iranian

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Revolutionary Guard.14 Throughout the second half of the 1980s the group operated as a proxy army, conducting clandestine operations across borders, targeting Iranian civilians and military in attempts to destabilize the Iranian regime. In fact, the last important war operation between Iran and Iraq had the MeK forces as the main actor. In early 1988 Iran and Iraq accepted a cease-fire agreement under the terms of UN Resolution 598. In July, however, Saddam Hussein authorized a military incursion to force further concessions from Iran. Under heavy Iraqi air support 7000 MeK soldiers launched Operation Eternal Light (Farsi: Foroughe Javidan), using the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) as alias. The MeK/NLA attacked western Iran and battled the Pasdaran15 for the city of Kermanshah, capturing and destroying the Iranian town of Islamabad-e Gharb. However, under international pressure due to the cease-fire, Iraq withdrew its air cover and Iran was able to react, cutting the supply lines of the MeK/NLA and ultimately winning the battle. Between 1400 and 4500 MeK/NLA soldiers were killed, while over 55000 Iranian soldiers died in combat. That would be the greatest defeat of the MeK’s history. It was the largest and the last military regime change attempt made against the Islamic Republic. As a tit-for-tat response to Operation Eternal Light (called by Iran Operation Mersad), Tehran launched a silent, brutal and systematic execution of all political

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Interestingly enough, the MeK/PMOI now controlled by Rajavi’s second wife, does not provide any bibliographical information about his first wife, Ashraf Rajavi. The official PMOI web site has just a picture with four short entries containing her age, education, occupation and the year of her death. No mention about the fact that she was Rajavi’s first wife nor any connection to the Iraqi Ashraf Camp, home to the bulk of MeK’s core members. See: http://www.iran.mojahedin.org/pagesen/martyrsDetails.aspx?MartyrId=15557> 15 Sepāh e Pāsdārān e Enqelāb e Eslāmi (Farsi: ‫ :)ﯼیﺍاﺱسﻝلﺍاﻡم ﺍاﻥنﻕقﻝلﺍاﺏب ﭖپﺍاﺱسﺩدﺍاﺭرﺍاﻥن ﺱسﭖپﺍاﻩه‬The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda prisoners with ties to the MeK. The figures are unclear but several thousands of

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oppositionists, mainly members of the Mojāhedin-e Khalq, but also Fedaian, Tudeh and others, were hanged and strangled to death in SAVAKs dungeons.16

MeK: Grassroots democrats or Terrorists?
Hybrid Ideologies, strange alliances. The group had suffered massive losses during both the Operation Eternal Light and the Iranian purges of 1988. MeK came to existence in a period of intense intellectual debate and political turmoil in Iran. Traditionalists, modernists, revolutionaries, secular and religious groups were in struggle against each other, trying to define and redefine the place of Iran in the world. It was amidst such effervescence that the radical Iranian sociologist of religion Ali Shariati appeared, proposing his unique philosophy. The so called Revolutionary Islam ideology represented a midpoint that seemed to balance all sides, and thus, quickly gained great appeal among the urban intelligentsia of the time. It was this blend of religious values and socialist activism that formed the core of the MeK’s ideologies. It inspired the group to connect itself with Cuba and the Soviet Union, support guerrilla activities all over the world and target US citizens. Not surprisingly, the relationship of the group with the United States had always being of open antagonism. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. At the time Saddam Hussein was not yet an American enemy, but an ally against Iran, and the MeK’s position against the Islamic regime served well the American strategic purposes in the region. Despite the antagonism, the Mojāhedin and the US had become bedfellows.

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The Amnesty International mentions over 4,500 political prisoners but Iranian opposition groups suggest that as many as 30,000 prisoners may have been executed. See: <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/118/2008/en/f5123dcd-6de3-11dd-8e5e43ea85d15a69/mde131182008en.html>

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda From Friend to Foe The 1990s brought radical changes to the international system, dramatically

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changing the coalitional dynamics in the region, the role and importance of MeK. In 1989 the Communist Soviet block started to collapse and the world seemed to be heading away from revolutionary leftist ideologies. Having suffered massive losses during both Operation Eternal Light and the Iranian purges of 1988, and being largely unsuccessful in every single facet, the MeK had no choice but to adapt and head toward less armed attacks and more political activism. At a conference in 1995 the group established a 16point plan named the “Charter of Fundamental Freedoms”.17 The plan encompasses all the constitutional democratic values held in western countries, including separation between religion and state, freedom of expression and gender equality.ii On August 2, 1997 Iranians elected the reformist Mohammed Khatami for President. Khatami ran on a platform of liberalization and reform, emphasizing freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations and dialogue among civilizations.18 Khatami was seen worldwide as representing a new age in Iran’s relationship with the world. In order to send a “goodwill gesture” to the newly elected Iranian regime,19 the US attended a persistent request of Tehran. In early October of that same year, the United States Department of State, under the Clinton administration, placed MeK on its list of terrorist organizations.20

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Cafarella, Nicole. Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) Dossier. CPT- Center for Policing Terrorism. March 15, 2005 18 Dialogue Among Civilizations is the name of Khatami’s famous book, written in response to Samuel P. Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations. The United Nations proclaimed the year 2001 as the United Nations' Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations, based on Khatami's proposal. 19 Pipes, Daniel. Unleash the Iranian Opposition. The Jerusalem Post. July 12, 2007. Pg. 14 20 Armey, Dick. Iranian 'terror' groups; U.S. should rethink designations. The Washington Times. December 4, 2007. pg.A19.

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda From Freedom-Fighter to Terrorist The U.S. State Department establishes that a terrorist is someone whose acts

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appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.
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By the definition the MeK was an obvious terrorist organization. But so far it had been one that attacked an enemy of the United States, and therefore, a tolerated one. However, the election of Mohammed Khatami raised the possibility of transforming the US-Iranian relationship from antagonism to cooperation, and the Clinton administration did not want to miss such a unique opportunity. The implications for the MeK were vast and swift. Once placed in the FTO list, an entity cannot receive any physical, financial or intellectual support or help from any American individual or institution. To make matters worse the Department of State had classified both the MeK and the NCRI as a single entity, which affected equally both those within Camp Ashraf and those working from the NCRI base in France. Under pressure from Washington, and for fear of being possibly labeled as terrorist sponsors, in 2002 the European Union put the organization on its own list of terrorist organizations.22 After that most countries moved to a position that in practice meant treating the MeK as a terrorist group. Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the French judge in charge of counterterrorism, declared that the MeK was creating a terrorist base in Auver-sur-Oise, a village north of

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The U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is issued by the United States Secretary of State in accordance with the section 219 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as amended through the Title IV of the United States Patriot Act, subtitle B, section 411. See: <http://www.aclu.org/national-security/how-usa-patriot-act-redefines-domestic-terrorism> 22 Taheri, Amir. Foreign Views: France tries to score points with Iran. Daily Times (Pakistan). Saturday, June 21, 2003. < http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_21-6-2003_pg4_9>

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda Paris. The French anti-terrorist Special Forces troops, backed by helicopter gunships, raided about 40 houses in the village, arresting over 150 of MeK’s members, including the president of the NCRI, Massoud Rajavi’s second wife, Maryam Rajavi.23 From Terrorists to Protected People With the advent of the Second Gulf War and the resulting collapse of Iraq’s regime in 2003, the Mojāhedin-e Khalq finally lost access to all remaining military

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support and financial assistance. Located only 40km northeast of Baghdad in the unstable Diyala Province, MeK’s complex was bombed by the allied forces, but the group did not resist or react, managing to arrange a cease-fire with unconditional surrender of Camp Ashraf.24 As result over 3400 well equipped and well trained but aged MeK soldiers were captured and disarmed by American forces. From that point onward a strange and silent revolution started to happen in the relationship between the United States and the MeK/NRA fighters. First, Massoud Rajavi suddenly became unaccountably absent from power, allowing Maryam Rajavi to assume the de facto leadership of both the MeK and the NCRI from her exile in France. Then the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld conceded legal status MNF-I to all MeK recruits in Camp Ashraf. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the MNF-1 status positions a group as civilian “protected persons” and not military combatant prisoners of war. Never before or ever since has the USA classified an entire guerrilla army as an entity worthy of being protected against enemy attacks, while at the same time considering it a terrorist organization. Officially that was done due to the belief that the MeK did not pose a security threat and due to the NLA neutrality and willingness to
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Idem Blanche, Ed. An uncertain future. Middle East no. 401 (June 2009). Pp. 25

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cooperate. But placing an FTO under military protection left the United States vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. The Mojāhedin-e Khalq has been a constant and unforgettable headache to the Islamic regime since its early days. But when tracking back the history of attacks, one can observe that most of the MeK attacks failed. The Islamic regime continues in power 30 years after the revolution and the MeK did not achieve any single political objective. Still, Tehran seems to show a disproportionate fixation with the group. Over the years the Iranian intelligence services ruthlessly hunted down and killed dozens of its operatives worldwide, sponsored waves of domestic purging and demonstrated a willingness to go to even higher extremes in order to destroy the leadership structure of the organization. Nothing illustrates that willingness better than an unbelievable bargain offered to the coalition troops in December 2003. According to the German Intelligence (which works closer to Iran's security apparatus than most) Tehran offered to the USA to trade senior Al Qaeda operatives under the regime’s control for MeK commanders under US control in Camp Ashraf. The offer included the Egyptian Saif Al Adel, No. 3 in Al Qaeda’s hierarchy, and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, moniker of Mahfouz Ould Walid, a top adviser to Osama bin Laden. Surprisingly, the Americans refused the deal, despite the importance of the prisoners.25 Why would the Iranian regime be so interested in a handful of MeK leaders to the point of offering such high compensation? And why would the United States – eager to capture all the Al Qaeda leadership – refuse such an indisputably beneficial swap? According to the US military, 3,418 members of MeK are confined in Camp Ashraf. Nine hundred of them are women. Most are reaching middle age and many

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Idem, pp. 24

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda have long term injures, incapacitating them in combat. The faded military capability of the MeK may still be a deterrent factor against Iranian incursions in Iraq, but NLA

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fighting days are almost over. Furthermore, considering that its members where disarmed and cannot come and go as they wish, Tehran’s obsession with the group worldwide does not seem reasonable, because the ability of the group to strike terrorist attacks within Iran has become negligible. The Islamic Republic does not fear the MeK’s open fire, but has a much deeper reason to fear against this graying group: it is believed that the MeK still has one of the most well connected networks of agents and spies inside of Iran.26 In an autocratic country obsessed with security and control, information is many times more harmful than bullets, and that may explain why the American government refused a remarkable deal, and why the legal status MNF-I was granted to all MeK recruits by George W. Bush’s administration.

Conclusion
Since 2002 the MeK has been releasing anti-regime intelligence gathered illegally in Iran by its members and allies. U.S. officials say that the Pentagon had already thought of using the MeK informants as spies, separating them from the leadership, providing training and sending them back to their home country to gather intelligence on the clerical regime and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. In fact it was the MeK mainly responsible for the discovery of the Iranian secret nuclear program. They provided most

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About the network and influence of the Mek within Iran, the CUNY history professor Ervand Abrahamian is quoted stating that “They  are  so  discredited  in  Iran  that  I  can't  imagine  they  have  any  social   basis”. See: Peterson, Scott. Iran sees less threat in exiled MKO militants. Christian Science Monitor. February 11, 2008. Pg. 6

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda of the highly precise and valuable intelligence that allowed the International Atomic

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Energy Agency (IAEA) to find and verify the nuclear test site in Natanz, the heavy water production plant in Arak, the nuclear centrifuge testing center in Abali, the nuclear site in Lashkar Abad, the centrifuge operations center in Kolahdouz and many other invaluable pieces of intelligence that could not and would not be gathered otherwise.27 The United States has maintained control over the members of Camp Ashraf by using the MNF-I status while at the same time it has used the classification as FTO in diplomacy. For as long as the group is both officially classified as terrorist and maintained under protection, the United States will have a strong instrument to both compel Iran to restrain its insurgent activities within Iraqi territory, and to obtain invaluable intel against the Islamic regime. Under the light of MeK’s role in exposing Iran’s secret nuclear program the most rational reason for the behavior of both countries toward the MeK is its newly found importance as an unofficial information tool and spying organization within Iran.

Bibliography
Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between two revolutions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 1982 Armey, Dick. Iranian 'terror' groups; U.S. should rethink designations. The Washington Times. December 4, 2007. pg.A19 Arraf, Jane. "Tension deepens over intent to close Iraq's Camp Ashraf." Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2009., 6, Azad, Summer. Iran- Solana Incentives: An Engineered “Cat and Mouse Game”? NewsBlaze. Daily News. Op-Ed Contributor. June 17, 2008 <http://newsblaze.com/story/20080617155640summ.nb/topstory.html >
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Azad, Summer. Iran- Solana Incentives: An Engineered “Cat and Mouse Game”? NewsBlaze. Daily News. Op-Ed Contributor. June 17, 2008

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Blanche, Ed. "An uncertain future." Middle East no. 401 (June 2009): 24-27. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2742/is_401/ai_n32099941/?tag=content;col1> Chevalérias, Alain. Brûlé Vif: Au nom de Marx et de Mahomet. Enquête sur les Moujahidine du Peuple d'Iran (Trans.: Burned Alive, in the name of Marx and Mohammed). Centre de recherches sur le terrorisme depuis le 11 septembre 2001. 2004. < http://www.recherches-sur-le-terrorisme.com/Livresterrorisme/mek-livre.html> Dealey, Sam. "'A Very, Very Bad Bunch'." National Review 54, no. 5 (March 25, 2002): 25-26. < http://old.nationalreview.com/25mar02/dealey032502.shtml> Dickey, Christopher, Mark Hosenball and Michael Hirsh. Iran: The Spying Game. Newsweek (February 14, 2005) Section: World Affairs. Pg. 20 Goulka, Jeremiah, Lydia Hansell, Elizabeth Wilke and Judith Larson. The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum. RAND Corporation. Monograph Series. 2009. <http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG871/> Henry, Terrence. "Tought to be an Iranian opposition group." National Journal 36, no. 37 (September 11, 2004): 2740-2741. http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.ohiou.edu/ehost/detail?vid=2&hid=3&sid=72244 5c6-4459-4dc8-82a5d3af45d0774a%40sessionmgr11&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9 h&AN=14587068 Hughes, John. "Obama's dilemma in Iraq's Camp Ashraf." Christian Science Monitor, September 16, 2009., 9, Iran Memo Expurgated. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/opinion/20070429_iran-memo-expurgated.pdf Linda Greenhouse. "Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging Group's Designation as Terrorists." New York Times, January 09, 2007., 15, Murphy, Richard W. A Thaw in Iran. Foreign Policy, No. 109 (Winter, 1997-1998). pp. 182-183 People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran <http://www.mojahedin.org/pagesen/index.aspx> Peterson, Scott. Iran sees less threat in exiled MKO militants. Christian Science Monitor. February 11, 2008. Pg. 6 Pipes, Daniel. Unleash the Iranian Opposition. The Jerusalem Post. July 12, 2007. Pg. 14 Roshan, Majid. "Letter: Iranian Dissidents in Iraq." New York Times, November 20, 2009., 34. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E6D8123FF933A15752C1A96F9 C8B63&scp=1&sq=Majid%20Roshan&st=cse> Roshan, Majid. From Iran to Iraq, Tehran Rulers Crank Up Suppression of Dissidents. Global Politician 3/3/2010. <http://globalpolitician.com/26262-iran-iraq>

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World  Report:  The  Student  Journal  for  International  Affairs  /  Eduardo  Lacerda Roshan, Majid. Tehran is Directing Vicious Siege on Camp Ashraf by Proxy. The American Chronicle. February 27, 2010. <http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/143534> Taheri, Amir. Foreign Views: France tries to score points with Iran. Daily Times (Pakistan). Saturday, June 21, 2003. < http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_21-6-2003_pg4_9>

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security. University of Maryland, START:The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. TOPs:Terrorist Organization Profiles (formely known as TKB:Terrorism Knowledge Base). Terrorist Organization Profile. Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK). Retrieved March 6, 2010. <http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=3632> US Congress. Congressional Research Service. The Library of Congress. CRS Issue Brief for Congress. “Iran: Current Developments and U.S”. Policy. Kenneth Katzman. Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division. Updated January 3, 2002 http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/7974.pdf US Department of State. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Country Reports on Terrorism 2008. April 30, 2009 http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2008/122449.htm Williams Timothy, et al. "Tensions in an Iranian Exile Camp in Iraq." New York Times, July 30, 2009., 1. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/world/middleeast/10ashraf.html>

Endnotes

i

This contentious claim, as many others, cannot at this point be confirmed or denied. The MKOWatch, an anti MeK website, states that a press release quoted the security authorities of the Pahlavi Regime as saying: “… Based upon the fact that he [Masoud Rajavi] has heartily co-operated during interrogations and revealed the members of MKO Society and collaborated to full extent which paved the ground for detection of MKO network by the security agents thor-oughly, His Majesty’s Order prescribes the commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment with hard labour.” See: <http://www.mkowatch.com/?p=14> It is noteworthy however, that the MeK, the NCRI and its leaders have, at least in two occasions, received the most prominent public support from influential European politicians who subscribed to the Marxist ideology. The first occasion was the above mentioned, when in 1972 the socialist French president François Mitterrand defended the release of Massoud Rajavi. The second occasion happened recently, when Paulo Casaca, a Portuguese politician from Portugal's Socialist Party and Member of the European Parliament through the Party of European Socialists, presided over the European Union decision to remove the MeK from the European list of international terrorist groups. The excerpt bellow was extracted from Alain Chevalérias book. Brûlé Vif: Au nom de Marx et de Mahomet. Enquête sur les Moujahidine du Peuple d'Iran (Trans.: Burned Alive, in the name of Marx and Mohammed). It serves to illustrate the ideological connection between Rajavi and Mitterrand: Immédiatement, les fugitifs obtinrent l'asile politique. François Mitterrand présidait alors aux destinées de l'Hexagone. Sa femme, Danièle, a sans doute joué un rôle dans

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cette prise de décision. On la connaît pour son soutien à tous ceux qui, devant elle, se réclament du marxisme. Les fuyards s'installèrent à Auvers-sur-Oise sous la protection des autorités françaises. Rajavi avait bien joué. Deux jours plus tard, trahissant la préparation minutieuse de l'opération, il créait le CNR (Conseil National de la Résistance), dont Bani Sadr, en raison de sa position d'ancien Président de la République, constituait l'un des piliers. L'autre était représenté par le PDKI (Parti Démocratique Kurde d'Iran). (...) Ce n'est pas le seul soutien français de Maryam. Outre de nombreux députés et sénateurs de notre pays, elle compte parmi ses amis Danièle Mitterrand. A sa sortie de prison, dans le discours dédié à ses partisans, elle remercie les personnes qui sont intervenues en sa faveur. En premier lieu, la veuve du Président socialiste « qui a démontré la grandeur, la conscience et les plus nobles valeurs de la France et de la Résistance française... C'est comme si Madame Mitterrand avait amené ici avec elle le général De Gaulle, le chef de la Résistance contre le fascisme en France, et feu le président Mitterrand... » Image osée, tant l'on imagine mal De Gaulle et Mitterrand unis par un même sentiment. Mais comment ne pas se laisser séduire par tant de fraîcheur? TRANSLATION: Immediately, the fugitives obtained political asylum. François Mitterrand controlled then the directions of the Hexagon*. His wife, Daniele, undoubtedly played a part in this decision making. His support for all those who, like him, were followers of Marxism, was well known. The escapees settled themselves in Auvers-sur-Oise under the protection of the French authorities. Rajavi had played well. Two days later, betraying the meticulous preparation of the operation, he created the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), which Bani Sadr because of his position of former President of the Republic, constituted the one of the pillars. The other was represented by the PDKI (Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran). (…)It is not the only French support of Maryam. In addition to many deputies and senators of our country, she counts with Danièle Mitterrand among her friends. At her release from prison, in the speech dedicated to her suporters, she thanks the people who intervened in her favor. Initially, to the widow of the Socialist president “which showed the grandness, the conscience and the noblest values of France and the French Resistance… It is as if Mrs. Mitterrand had brought with her General De Gaulle, the chief of Resistance against Fascism in France, and fire president Mitterrand…” it is a provocative image, so hard is to imagine De Gaulle and Mitterrand linked by the same feeling. But how not to be seduced with such great originality? * The Hexagon is France’s nickname, due to its geographical shape.
ii

1995 MeK “Charter of Fundamental Freedoms:

1) Guarantee freedom of belief, expression and the press, without censorship; 2) Guarantee freedom for political parties, unions, groups, councils, forums, syndicates, except those loyal to either the Shah or Ayatollah Khomeini, provided they stay within the law; 3) Ensure governments would be elected; 4) Respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 5) Abolish courts, tribunals, security departments introduced by the Ayatollah Khomeini; 6) Ensure women enjoy the same social, political and cultural rights as men (including a ban on polygamy); 7) Abolish privileges based on gender, religion or ethnic group; 8) End discrimination against religious minorities; 9) Abolish compulsory religious practice; 10) Secure Iranian territorial integrity while recognizing the right of Iranian Kurdistan to autonomy; 11) Safeguard all social, cultural and political rights for ethnic minorities; 12) Repeal what the MEK deems to be ‘anti-labor, anti-peasant laws’;

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13) Encourage a return from exile for all those who fled either the Shah or Khomeini regime; 14) Base the economy on the free market, national capitalism and private ownership; 15) Provide welfare needs to the poor; 16) Improve Iran’s foreign relations with neighboring and other states; to live in peaceful co-existence.

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