WASHINGTON’S FAVORITE TERRORISTS
By: Trita Parsi
Author: A Treacherous Alliance
Published firs at the Huffington Post. Click here.
In the 10 years that I have lived in Washington, I have never seen lobbyists for al-Qaeda parade through the halls of Congress. I have not seen any events on Capitol Hill organized by Hamas. And I have not seen any American politicians take campaign contributions from the Islamic Jihad.
But the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization with the blood of Americans and Iranians alike on its hands, freely does all of these things, despite being a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
And in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented mutli-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.
If al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization were holding fundraisers in DC, lobbying Congress, or holding press conferences at the National Press Club, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement would be all over it.
Not so with the MEK. There, law enforcement seems nowhere to be found. In fact, a prominent spokesperson for the MEK terrorist group was hired by Fox News in the mid-2000s to serve as their on-air terrorist analyst. Go figure.
Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.
But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.
No one should be surprised — not even DC’s “unwitting members of Congress” — as the FBI calls the group’s supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK’s disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam’s brutal campaign against Iraq’s Kurds and Shia; its “cult-like” behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.
And let’s not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members – more than 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes, according to a RAND Corporation study.
But even if the MEK could be believed, the reality is that they are currently on the terrorist list and, as a result, they must be subject to U.S. terrorism laws. Simply put, the laws must be enforced — without exception.
The State Department’s review of their terrorism status, which is due to be completed by August of this year, must be conducted without the essentially illegal pressure tactics the MEK currently is employing through lobbyists, lawmakers and hired former officials.
If the group is taken off the list, not as a result of an objective review, but by virtue of their lobbying prowess, several repercussions can be envisioned.
First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are arguing using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.
As one former State Department official put it, the “paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror.”
Much like Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the permanent leader of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, seeks to return from decades of exile as the anointed President of Iran. And freed of the terrorist designation, there is little reason to believe the MEK won’t turn its lobbying apparatus — which puts Chalabi’s to shame — to obtain U.S. funding and to promote war with Iran. In fact, some members of Congress already refer to the MEK as the “real Green movement.” Even more shocking is that top former U.S. officials have called on the U.S. to recognize Rajavi as the rightful President of Iran.
Second, de-listing the MEK would spell disaster for the Iranian pro-democracy movement. According to prominent Green movement figures Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri:
Removing the MEK from the FTO at this juncture would embolden Iran’s hardliners to intensify their repression and discredit the Green Movement by implying that it is somehow connected to the widely detested MEK terror group. Furthermore, supporting the MEK would provide the Iranian government with the specter of a foreign-based threat that could be exploited to heal key fractures within the system, increase the number of Iranians who would rally around the flag, and facilitate the suppression of the indigenous political opposition.
If you recognize the necessity of a non-violent campaign against the Iranian regime, the last thing you want is to have the US government support and fund one of the most violent and undemocratic Iranian organizations — and, to make matters worse, to do so in the name of the Iranian Green movement.
Third, de-listing will put the rising Iranian-American community in a state of shock. In the last decade, an impressive civic awakening has occurred in this successful but previously politically silent community, with dozens of new groups being formed with the aim of contributing to the American democracy and providing the Iranian Americans in the U.S. with a voice. A U.S. funded and supported MEK will ensure a return to the pre-1997 era. Back then, in the eyes of most U.S. lawmakers, the voice of Maryam Rajavi was the voice of the entire Iranian-American community.
Now, by buying off officials to pry open the floodgates of U.S. financial and political support, Rajavi and her small but vocal minority threaten to simultaneously drown out the voices of the rest of the Iranian-American community, co-opt the voice of Iran’s true opposition, and carry the U.S. down the path of war yet again.
Iran And The Woman Question
Francesca Donner, 06.17.09, 06:50 PM EDT
Feminism has a rich history in Iran. Now more than ever, says journalist Roya Hakakian, it is alive and well and at its most vibrant.
Against the backdrop of Iran’s political turmoil, Iranian-American journalist Roya Hakakian sat down with ForbesWoman to discuss her native country’s current climate and the situation facing women–and men–in Iran today.Born in Tehran, Hakakian is the author of several collections of poetry and Journey from the Land of No, a memoir. She left Iran in 1984 at the age of 18. She has not returned nor has she been permitted to return. She now lives in Connecticut.
Excerpts from her interview with ForbesWoman follow.
Forbes: What was your first reaction to seeing women among the protesters in the streets of Iran?
Hakakian: The presence of women is not a surprise to me at all.
Iran has had a robust women’s movement for several decades now. But in the late 1990s, a new generation took charge; and in the early 2000s, they managed to organize and unite in ways that women had not since the revolution in 1979. It started as petition movement to collect signatures to ban stoning women to death and has spun out to become the “One Million Signatures Campaign.” So this is precisely what I expected.
What’s the extent of risk these demonstrators are taking?
The risk is enormous.
By looking at pictures and YouTube videos, I can see the regime is using certain tactics: Plainclothes operatives with knives circulate through the crowd and bring out these knives and just as they are feeling safe because they are next to like-minded people who are demonstrating too, the operatives start to attack the protesters.
When one thinks back to 1978 and 1979 and overthrowing the Shah, it’s not remotely comparable. Even though I was young, I could see that the people knew who they were demonstrating against. There was a clear face-off between the Shah’s guards and armies and the rest of the people. The boundaries were very clear. This regime doesn’t honor that.
Some reports have noted the regime’s use of non-Persian-speaking police. Because the regime is afraid of the police switching loyalties, it has imported crowd control from other Arab countries so demonstrators on street can’t communicate with them. Iranians speak Persian and Arabs speak Arabic so they can’t be converted and brought to the other side.
Women are not particular targets. At this point, I don’t think it really matters to [the regime] whether it’s women, men, young or old.
What provides some measure of safety is the sheer volume of people that have taken to the streets. In the past 15 years, we have never had one million people marching on the streets of Tehran. Students have marched, yes, but there have been more than a million people demonstrating in the past two to three days. The crowds should are fed up and willing to pay the price.
Is this a moment of change for women?
Yes. The feminist movement, which has been ongoing in Iran, has now joined the broader public movement against the regime. This happened in Iran in the late 1970s too, but it had actually a terrible effect on the women’s movement in Iran. Women were somehow “hoodwinked” to think that the veil wasn’t such an important issue, that it was more important to sacrifice for the greater good. So the Shah went and the veil stayed.
This generation is a lot smarter. The broader social movement is far more sympathetic to the cause of women than in the late 1970s. Thirty years later, Iranian men now realize that their fate is entwined with that of their female counterparts: If women are doing better, then men will do better too.
Does Mousavi’s wife–Zahra Rahnavard–in any way represent a new face of women in Iran?
Her presence on the political scene is, if anything, a manifestation of the strength of the feminist movement. It was a smart strategy to bring her out and make her visible. Mousavi wanted to court women who constitute a huge voting block and are extremely powerful and know how to organize. So, [Rahnavard] speaks more to the feminist movement than anything else.
What role has the Internet and modern technology played in helping Iranian women to get their message out?
I think it’s enormous. I have a Facebook page with several hundred people friending me from Iran. These are people I’ve never known. They post photographs, film clips, news items. I haven’t looked at any television broadcasts … I only look at television broadcasts to measure the lag time between what I’ve read [on social networks] and the news networks.
What have you heard in the last several years about the situation for women in Iran? How have their lives changed or stayed the same?
It varies. Life can be very different for women who live in big metropolis and women who are in more remote parts of Iran. It has been a grand metamorphosis since 1979 when the regime started rolling back women’s rights and freedoms that had been extended under the Shah, prior to revolution.
The [religious] regime took a very macho approach to governance and saw rolling back the rights of women as a major priority. It instituted the veil and closed major [academic] fields to women, such as law and engineering.
But [the regime] never counted on the enormous backlash and not just from women who had been used to their freedoms. Challenges came from their “own” women too. They said, “We are Muslim, we wear veils on heads and we want to participate. You told us we are brothers and sisters and as long as we are devout, there will be equal opportunity for everybody.” The regime encouraged religious women who had never thought of themselves outside of the kitchen and home to come out and take part. And as a result, the women thought they were entitled. That was the part of the game the men had not foreseen.
These women helped cultivate a whole generation that previously was not politically active.
At this point, what’s your greatest hope for women in Iran?
Greater solidarity and commitment to the cause of women.
Much of what we’re seeing right now–what we understand to be the huge social campaign against the rigging of the election–really came from the vast activities over the years of the feminist movement. Women were the ones who put together the infrastructure, who organized demonstrations and knew how to do this. The movement today owes a lot of its existence to the women’s movement and the infrastructure the women’s movement put in place.
What can individuals around the world do to help show their support for more equality for women in Iran?
A ribbon campaign or bumper stickers.
And we need to keep this in focus. We are far more connected as human beings than we ever were. Our destinies are entwined with one another. The events of Sept. 11 and the rise of global terrorism is a sad reminder of that.
Iran arrests 2 activists; political prisoners end hunger strike
Political prisoners started a series of hunger strikes this month following the death of women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi, opposition media have reported. According to opposition sources, Sahabi, 54, was beaten by security forces who broke up a June 1 funeral procession for her father, a renowned dissident. Authorities said she suffered a heart attack during the melee.
Sahabi’s death prompted journalist Hoda Saber and another imprisoned activist to start a hunger strike, according to the opposition. Days later, Saber, 52, died in prison under mysterious circumstances. Other prisoners have told opposition media that Saber was beaten by prison guards, while authorities said that he, too, died of a heart attack.
The second death prompted 18 activists in two prisons to join in a second hunger strike June 18, demanding investigations into the deaths. The action seems to be well-coordinated, with opposition activists in exile orchestrating an international campaign in support of the prisoners. Several of the inmates, among them former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh and journalist Isa Saharkhiz , have been transferred to infirmaries, opposition Web sites said.
The strike ended Sunday, the Kaleme site reported, saying a statement by the prisoners would follow. Ali Shakori-rad, a politician belonging to the group, said the prisoners started eating after prominent activists asked them to stop their strike.
The fresh arrests and the end of the hunger strike come as several Iranian leaders are reaching out to arrested politicians, journalists and activists, asking them to urge their supporters to participate in parliamentary elections set for March 2012.
Following widespread purges of reform advocates, many of whom had disputed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 2009 reelection, Iranian leaders hope that some of them will become candidates in the coming elections.
In another development Monday, the Associated Press reported that as Iran began 10 days of war games, the country unveiled underground silos that can carry missiles able to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf.
The AP reported that state television showed deep underground silos with missiles that it said were ready to defend the country in an attack.
On Saturday, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which vets all candidates for general elections, said members of the disbanded Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution mujaheddin party could participate without problems if they “acted lawfully.” Both parties call for widespread reforms, more personal freedoms and better relations with the international community.
Several Iranian politicians say they fear a disappointing turnout for the parliamentary elections if opposition representatives do not participate.
But the influential brother of former president Mohammad Khatami, one of the political leaders of Iran’s reformist movement, reiterated Friday that the group would participate only under certain conditions.
“The official recognition of parties, an independent press and the freeing of political prisoners are our main demands,” Mohammad Reza Khatami told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency. “Anyone who wants lively elections must bring about these conditions,” he said.
Iran parliament set to ban entry of UN Special Rapporteur on Iran
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN – The Human Rights Committee of the Iranian parliament has decided to take measures to prohibit the entry of the newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran, MP Mohammad-Karim Abedi announced on Sunday.
On June 17, the UN Human Rights Council appointed former Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed as Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Iran.
On March 24, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council voted to appoint a special rapporteur to look into the situation in Iran.
In a U.S.-backed resolution adopted with 22 votes in favor, seven against and 14 abstentions, the 47-member council said the rapporteur would report to both the council and to the General Assembly.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Abedi said during the most recent meeting of the committee, it was emphasized that this person should not be allowed to enter the country.
Abedi, deputy chairperson of the Majlis Human Rights Committee, also said that the United States, Britain, and the Zionist regime are the greatest violators of human rights, and it would be better if the UN look into their human rights cases.
In addition, he pointed to the UN Fact Finding Mission’s report on war crimes committed by Israel during its 2008-2009 military offensive in Gaza, saying the UN failed to deal with the Zionist regime.
The Iranian lawmaker also said that the United States and Britain have dark human rights record as well.
MP Zohreh Elahian also said that Iran will not allow the UN Special Rapporteur to carry out his mission in the country.
Elahian, chairperson of the Majlis Human Rights Committee, made the remarks during a speech at the open session of the Majlis on Sunday.
The Islamic Republic of Iran full well knows the hidden agenda behind the human rights resolution that were adopted against it and will not bow to political pressure being exerted by certain other countries, she stated.
Elahian also said Iran has respect for the appointed rapporteur, who is a Muslim, but Iran is ready to welcome him as a tourist