Hitting Mark on Wrong Iranian Target Doesn't Help Cause
by Professor Daniel M. Zucker
Global Politician, NCRI Iran News, February 22, 2006
Michael Rubin's recent attacks on the Mojahedeen-e Khalq must have the mullahs of Iran laughing hysterically. Here is a vocal opponent of their corrupt regime doing their job of slandering the principal opposition group for them. It should thus come as no surprise that the Tehran regime's electronic and print media have been giving prominent coverage to the Farsi translations of Mr. Rubin's articles. At the very least, the mullahs and their VEVAK agents must be patting themselves on the back for once again succeeding in dividing (and thus conquering) their opponents.
Mr. Rubin's recent reply ("Hitting the Mark on Iran" in Front Page Magazine) to Ali Safavi's "Missing the Mark on Iran" (also in Front Page) cites "facts" without comprehending their original context. As a result, he distorts the picture and draws the wrong conclusions. That is not a sign of careful, measured research. Labeling Massoud Rajavi as a leftist terrorist like Yasser Arafat (or Robert Mugabe) is irresponsible when it is not backed up by carefully documented facts. Rajavi's MeK never deliberately targeted civilians, nor has it ever sent suicide bombers to strike at innocents; its one target is, and always has been, the leadership and principal adherents of the Islamic regime in Teheran. If you are a reigning mullah or ayatollah, or a Bassiji or member of the Pasdaran, Rajavi is indeed a terrorist in your eyes; if, on the other hand, you are an ordinary Iranian, particularly if you are female, Rajavi is a legitimate resistance leader, and your best hope for bringing an end to the current Islamofascist regime that is making your life into a living hell.
While it indeed is true that early members of the MeK trained with Arafat's PLO in Jordan, MeK members simply used the training bases but did not become involved in the politics of their host. This association took place in the 1970's, before the fall of the Shah, when it was highly illegal for Iranians to possess any firearms without a permit. Those who wished to learn to use firearms had no opportunity in Iran. Few chose to go to Moscow to attend the Oxford of terrorism, Patrice Lumumba Friendship University. (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a graduate of that institution.) Rajavi's relocation to Iraq was not of his own choosing. Jacque Chirac (then the French Prime Minister) had struck a deal with Tehran to secure the release of French nationals in Lebanon in exchange for declaring Mr. Rajavi persona non-gratis. No other country offered to accept Mr. Rajavi out of fear of terrorist reprisals by Teheran. Only Iraq offered asylum. Although the MeK accepted the hospitality of Saddam Hussein within Iraq, thus acquiring direct access to Iran, Rajavi and the MeK leadership made it clear to Saddam that they would remain uninvolved in Iraqi politics, concentrating exclusively on their goal of liberating their homeland, Iran. The charge that the MeK participated in any attacks on Iraqi Kurds in 1991 or at any other time is totally false. Over 12,000 Iraqi jurists recently signed a petition of support for the MeK similar to the one signed by 2.2 million Iraqis last year, stating that the MeK (PMOI) never was involved in any attack on either the Kurds or the Shiites in Iraq. In addition, five investigative agencies of the U.S. government (US Army intelligence, CIA, FBI, etc.) interviewed and took DNA samples of every member of the MeK in Camp Ashraf in 2003, following the MeK disarmament, and after an exhaustive 16-month investigation found not one of the nearly 4,000 MeK members interviewed to have any links to terrorism or to have violated any US laws.
Mr. Rubin could have interviewed these individuals himself, as the MeK policy has been one of complete openness and disclosure for as long as they have been in Iraq, but it's easier to sling muddy accusations if you don't personally know your victims.
Mr. Rubin claims that the MeK has no popularity within Iran. If that is the case, why have Iranian supporters risked their lives to plant flags and posters of the Rajavis on the sides of Mt. Damovand above Teheran and carried posters of the Rajavis during demonstrations in Teheran? Why does the regime devote about 75% of its propaganda attacking its opposition, not against the Tudeh Party, the monarchists, or the Freedom Movement of Iran, but against the MeK? Why is the regime afraid of the MeK if, as Rubin claims, the MeK is so unpopular? And how is it that it is the MeK that has supplied virtually all of the public information about the regime's nuclear and missile programs as well as its extensive meddling in Iraq? Why aren't any of the other opposition groups revealing this type of information? Could it be that Rubin is incorrect in his information or assessment of the MeK's popularity?
As regards Ervand Abrahamian's text The Iranian Mojahedin, whether or not it is accurate is debatable; reviewers seem to be very divided as to its accuracy. As a former supporter of the Tudeh Party and now a spokesman for appeasing the regime, Abrahamian hardly seems a dispassionate reviewer. However, more to the point is the fact that his text is now seventeen years old and therefore badly outdated. Quoting Daniel Pipes' review is irrelevant. Dr. Pipes wrote to me two months ago that he does not keep up with events in the Iraq-Iran theatre and therefore does not consider himself an expert in that arena. Nonetheless, he has stated publicly that placing the MeK on the terrorist list and shutting down its Washington press office was a mistake.
"Islamic Marxists"? Yes, the Mojahedin are Shia Muslims, but very unusual ones at that. They are fervent believers in egalitarianism; their leaders are women and they demonstrate admirably that Islam can be modern and moderate while still adhering to much of Islamic tradition.
How many Marxists advocate a free market economy? The term "Islamic Marxists" was coined by the late Shah; it was inaccurate then, and much more so now. Ervand Abrahamian writes on page two of The Iranian Mojahedin (Rubin's apparent and only source of information): "The Mojahedin has in fact never once used the terms socialist, communist, Marxist or eshteraki [communism] to describe itself." It is a shame that Mr. Rubin has ignored such an obvious fact in the interest of political expediency.
Mr. Rubin suggests that the MeK regards itself as the only alternative to the theocratic regime of the ayatollahs. Not true! The MeK has suffered the loss of tens of thousands of its members and supporters and endured many hardships in the past quarter century only to provide the Iranian people that which the regime has denied them: the chance to choose freely, whatever that choice might be. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), of which the MeK is a member, has declared innumerable times that if it succeeds in overthrowing the mullah regime, it would regard itself as a caretaker government for six months and that it would work to hold free and fair elections for a legislative and national constituent assembly. If rejected, the NCRI would become a part of the opposition within the government, maintaining its identity and political stance.
Michael Rubin continues to toss the "cult" label at the MeK, but he has done nothing to substantiate this claim. Quoting from Abrahamian's seventeen year old text without looking at current material is shody scholarship. Whether or not the MeK ever had cult-like traits is debatable; today such a charge is ridiculous. Actually, had Mr. Rubin bothered to interview genuine former MeK members (as opposed to VEVAK agents posing as such) or traveled to Paris or Iraq's Camp Ashraf to interview current members, he would have realized how inaccurate such a term is for describing the MeK. (As mentioned in the introduction, the mullahs in Tehran must love what he wrote.)
Mr. Rubin suggests that the Bush administration should take a page out of President Reagan's book on dealing with Communist Poland in the days of Solidarity's beginnings, and treat Iran in a similar manner. Unfortunately, Iran is not Poland at the end of the 1980's; to talk about funding independent Iranian university sociological and political research is absurd. There are no more independent researchers in present day Iran's universities and colleges than there were in German universities in 1943. Support independent unions? Has Rubin paid attention to what is occurring to the Tehran bus-drivers that went out on strike this month? Support Persian-language media? Yes, but let's try beefing up Radio Farda and the VOA; the Los Angeles stations won't inspire a revolution before hell freezes over. And accusing the MeK of seeking a "cash cow" truly is rich; the NCRI has declared its lack of desire for foreign troops or foreign cash to aid or subsidize its operations; all funds are raised internally within the Iranian expatriate resistance community.
The MeK and NCRI seek only one thing from our government: to be removed from the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization list to which they were added in 1997 and 1999 respectively, strictly for the political purpose of appeasing the regime of then newly-elected President Mohammed Khatami, and as part of a(n unsuccessful) deal to keep Iran from interfering in Iraq. Removal from the FTO list and having their equipment and assets unfrozen would allow them to go about their business of aiding the Iranian people to overthrow the corrupt theocratic regime so as to be able to replace it with a secular, democratic government at peace with the world. If Michael Rubin had done real research, interviewing his subjects, he would have presented a very different view.
Mr. Rubin: On behalf of the MeK and the NCRI, I invite you to visit their offices in Paris and to go to interview their members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. Let's see what you write after a real interview and genuine research of your subject.
Professor Daniel M. Zucker is Chairman of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East.