Who are the “Iranian dissidents?” US media promotes bizarre terrorist cult

Caleb Maupin
Caleb Maupin is a radical journalist and political analyst who lives in New York City. Originally from Ohio, he studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College. In addition to his journalism, analysis, and commentary, he has engaged in political activism. He is a youth organizer for the International Action Center and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement from its planning stages in August 2011. He has worked against police brutality, mass incarceration, and imperialist war. He works to promote revolutionary ideology, and to support all who fight against the global system of monopoly capitalist imperialism.
Who are the “Iranian dissidents?” US media promotes bizarre terrorist cult
The forgotten history of a group of “Iranian dissidents” being promoted in Western media shows the hypocrisy of the so-called “War on Terror.”

The Associated Press published an article entitled“Iran Dissident: Tehran Continues Nuke Arms Work” earlier in October. The piece quoted Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) members, who insist that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The claims are rather fantastic, as the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have always declared extreme opposition to nuclear weapons, and endless inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirm that Iran is not pursuing them. Iran has every right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. These facts are largely unknown to the US public, and absent from discussion of Iran in the mainstream press.

The AP’s news report is not the only place the MEK has been given such polite treatment in the Western press. On September 17th, when the French government dropped money-laundering charges against the organization, the headlines reporting the case continued to refer to its members as “Iranian dissidents.” The articles in Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal contained nothing about what this “Mujahadeen-e-Khalq” organization is - or what kind of activities it has engaged in.

The most extreme example of hypocritical treatment for this organization comes from Murdoch-owned, ideologically neoconservative FOX News. FOX News hosts and commentators are known for stirring up rumors of US President Barack Obama’s alleged links to Marxism and Islamic radicalism. Recently, FOX News host Megyn Kelly interviewed Professor William Ayers, demanding to know why he wouldn't “take responsibility” after she listed various terrorist acts she claimed he was involved in. Kelly also recently berated Ward Churchill, Native American Professor at the University of Colorado, claiming words he wrote in a 2001 essay emotionally harmed the families of 9/11 victims.

However, on June 16, FOX News anchor and senior correspondent Eric Shawn sat down across from an actual, self-proclaimed “Islamic Marxist” named Maryam Rajavi, who is linked to the death of thousands of innocent civilians in Iran, as well as many Americans, who were killed by the MEK in the last few decades. While facing this real life, violent terrorist extremist, the FOX anchor threw softballs. He allowed the spokesperson for MEK to spew her rhetoric against the Iranian government without interruption. In his questions, Shawn even compared Rajavi to the resistance forces that fought the Nazis.

If cable news viewers and consumers of US print media knew who these “Iranian dissidents” actually were, they would begin to ask some serious questions about US foreign policy.

What is the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq?

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (People’s Army of God) organization was founded in the 1960s as a student group opposed to the Shah. It eventually began work toward achieving its aims with isolated acts of violence such as assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings. Its beliefs included a bizarre mixture of Islam and Marxism. One of the group’s primary beliefs is in the brilliance of its founder and leader, Massoud Rajavi, who is worshipped in a cultish manner. At recent rallies in France, for example, placards carried by MEK members contained the simple slogan “Massoud Rajavi Is Our Leader.” Massoud Rajavi’s location is unknown, and he has not made a public appearance since 2003. Rajavi’s spouse, Maryam Rajavi, now acts as the primary public representative of the group.

In its early years, MEK primarily targeted people from the United States. The group attempted to kidnap the US ambassador to Iran. It carried out an attempted assassination of a US Air Force General. In 1976, the organization attacked a car and killed the three American hotel employees inside. These terrorist acts were done in the hope of damaging the US backed Iranian monarchy.

However, it was not the isolated acts of adventurist violence from MEK members, but a rather broad explosion of popular resistance that toppled the US-backed Shah in 1979. After Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, when it became clear that the MEK would not become the new ruling party, the organization responded with a vicious bombing campaign against the new government. In 1981, the group bombed a meeting of the Iranian Republican Party, killing 72 people, including many high-ranking government officials.

AFP Photo / Rick Loomis

During the Iraq-Iran War, the group became very friendly with Saddam Hussein. With money pouring in from the Iraqi regime, the group formed an armed outfit called the “Iranian National Liberation Army.” They went through Iran committing war crimes, hoping that they could secure victory for the US-backed Iraqi invaders that used chemical and biological weapons against Iranian civilians.

In one particularly brutal war atrocity, the MEK group killed nearly all the residents of a village called Islamabad-e Gharb. The group staged this cowardly attack on July 26th, 1988 - six days after Imam Khomeini had announced he was accepting a ceasefire with Iraq.

The number of innocent civilians slaughtered by the MEK or its various front groups such as the Iranian National Council of Resistance, is likely to be in the tens of thousands, if you include the number of civilians killed during the bombing campaigns, the number of people MEK linked groups slaughtered during the Iraq-Iran War, and the number of victims of MEK terrorism against Iran throughout the 1990s and up to today. Human Rights Watch has issued condemnations of the group for routinely torturing those it holds captive.

The internal workings of the group are equally frightening. A Human Rights Watch report from 2005 describes how, within its various bases and camps, the group subjects members to summary execution for violations of its bizarre regulations and practices. According to ex-members of MEK, it functions as a very dangerous cult. All members are required to divorce their spouses, as family life is considered a distraction from the cause of overthrowing the Iranian state. The words of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi are interpreted as divine and infallible, and members are encouraged to seek martyrdom to advance the ideological and religious goals.

The coddling of dangerous extremists

Frequently, Iran is declared to be a “state sponsor of terror” by US officials and media outlets. However, it is leaders of the United States that are currently promoting the cause of the dangerous and violent MEK.

Hillary Clinton played an important role in removing the group from the official state department list of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, promotes its cause by acting as MEK’s spokesman. Tom Ridge, former head of the Department of Homeland Security, has played a similar role for the group. Very few US media commentators have highlighted the irony of “America’s Mayor” embracing a group of “Islamic Marxist” militants - and the truth about MEK and its relationship with figures in Washington DC is largely unknown.

Occasionally, US officials will try to justify the coddling of this group of violent extremists with vague claims that it “renounced violence.” However, the group is very open about continuing its armed underground activities inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reports indicate that it was members of MEK, in cooperation with the Mossad that assassinated scientists working on Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program in 2012.

While MEK denies it works with the Israeli government, a fact that should shatter the credibility of anyone claiming to be an “Islamic Marxist,” the truth was leaked to NBC by the Obama Administration.

The US press largely treats MEK like romantic pacifist freedom fighters. In her interviews, Maryam Rajavi seems frighteningly confident that she will be successful and her organization will someday come to power.

In her interview with FOX’s Shawn, she said, “I am confident the mullah’s religious dictatorship will not last and will be overthrown.” In the interview, a woman who oversaw the slaughter of thousands compared herself to Jefferson, Lincoln, and even pacifist civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. FOX’s Shawn sat in front of her nodding, never questioning her words or intentions.

If one looks at Libya after the US/NATO “regime change,” or the state of Syria after four years of US-funded civil war against the government, it should be clear what “regime change” in Iran will mean. The fact that the US media is openly promoting extremists like MEK - and their fantastic claims about nuclear weapons - should be a warning call to all who would support US efforts in the region.

The promises from US officials of “stability” made before the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the overthrow of Gaddafi, never materialized. Instead, the various US- and NATO-installed collaborators and extremists turned their guns against each other. With chaos and destruction in the region, the US and Israel remained secure in their control of the oil profits and world markets.

The poster children for the US/Israeli crusade against the Islamic Republic, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi are hardly capable of bringing peace and stability. The MEK is much like ISIS in Syria, or the US-backed insurgents in Libya. They are bloodthirsty extremists who would destroy Iran’s existing stability and independent economic development, replacing it with chaos, destruction, and death.

The promotion of such extremists, who unleash violence and chaos, fits perfectly with the realpolitik strategy laid out by former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski: “Maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski “The Grand Chessboard,” p. 40)

The program of the United States and Israel for the Middle East is permanent civil war, chaos, and death. Part of implementing this program is the rallying cry of “regime change in Iran,” and the promotion of violent terrorists who oppose the Islamic Republic.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.