The Case for the PMOI/MEK:
Debunking the Yellow Journalism of Jacob Laksin
Debunking the Yellow Journalism of Jacob Laksin
by Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker
International Analyst Network, Codex-Politics, American Chronicle, July 3, 2009
It’s a shame when good, conservative, socially responsible journalists like Jacob Laksin fail to do their homework, neglecting to research their material carefully enough and publish disinformation about a group put out by its enemies in an effort to discredit it. Such is the case as regards Mr. Laksin’s recent “Terrorists as Freedom Fighters”, published in Front Page Magazine on
June 25, 2009, where Laksin serves as a senior editor. Had he done his research properly, he would have read reports issued by the Iran Policy Committee, headed by terrorism expert Professor Raymond Tanter, or the report directed by former House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey and issued by DLA Piper in conjunction with an independent report issued by Global Options—headed by the preeminent terrorism expert Neil C. Livingstone, not to mention numerous articles by Ali Safavi, Clare Lopez, and myself, all of which serve to set the record straight about the leading Iranian opposition group. Instead, he swallowed the disinformation swill concocted by the Iranian regime—as the saying goes, “hook, line, and sinker”—and regurgitated it in his recent essay.
Before I proceed to answer each of his erroneous charges, let me suggest that he should have known better, if only because both the
United Kingdom and the European Union removed the PMOI/MEK from their respective terrorist lists after extensive judicial reviews by their respective high courts. The U.K.’s Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, declared that placing the PMOI on the list had been an act of perversity, and he demanded that Parliament remove them from their Proscribed List immediately. Laksin failed to note that neither Rubin nor Timmerman, both of whom had attacked the PMOI in the past, have written anything negative about them since they were removed from the UK and EU lists. Only the regime and its proxies and agents have continued to slander the PMOI, and Laksin is neither a witting agent nor a proxy of the regime. But he is woefully naive about his subject.
Let’s begin with his first charge—that the MEK supported the “student” takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran in February 1979, and subsequent 444 day hostage crisis. MEK members actually tried to protect the U.S. Embassy from the street gang Komitehs that sought to take control of it for the Islamist faction of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini's student followers, including people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clashed with the MEK, and forbade their entrance to the embassy. Indeed, the Islamist leaders of the embassy-takeover themselves have written that the MEK was not part of their group and would not have been allowed to participate because of major doctrinal differences. Ms. Massoumeh Ebtekar (“Tehran Mary”), the hostage-takers' spokeswoman and subsequently Vice President for the Environment during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami states that: “…we had completely excluded the MKO (MEK) and its members from participation in the embassy takeover.” Further testimony of the MEK’s non- involvement comes from David Farber, author of Taken Hostage, who writes: “All the students involved were members of the Muslim Students Association…none of the left-wing political groups were allowed to participate, nor were members of the other political factions that vied for power on campus. The leaders of the takeover called their group “Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam.”
The next allegation of Laksin is that the MEK was involved in anti-American terrorist activities during the reign of the shah. As has been pointed out by the Iran Policy Committee’s White Paper # 3, the leadership of the MEK was incarcerated in the Shah’s jails by SAVAK for the entire period in question. A breakaway group, Marxist in orientation, hijacked the MEK name and symbols (although they also deleted the Quranic verses from the MEK symbol) and began their terror spree. Towards the end of the period, the small cell of fanatics renamed themselves Peykar. The leaders of Peykar died in 1976 in a shootout with the shah’s police and the group was destroyed. Blame for the assassinations of American personnel therefore cannot be placed at the door of MEK. Was the MEK anti-American at the time, due to the
United States’ support for the hated, despotic shah? Without a doubt yes, but we ought to recall that at that time period a goodly portion of American college students held similar negative views of American foreign policy, which to the best of my knowledge was and is not a crime in Western democracies.
To these points should be added the following bit of information. In August 2005, this writer was told by a senior staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee that it was known by the committee that the MEK played no role in any acts of anti-American terrorism, neither during the reign of the shah, nor during and following the revolution in 1979. The staffer stated that it was known that these old charges against the MEK were bogus.
The third charge that Laksin makes is that the MEK aided the late Saddam Hussein in his suppression of the Kurd following the first Gulf War in 1991. He quotes Jalal Talabani as having told reporters that “5,000 Iranian Mujahedeen joined Saddam’s forces in the battle for
Kirkuk.” Laksin should consider his sources; Talabani has changed his story and his allegiance more times than some change their underwear. Talabani has been a confederate of the Tehran mullahs for years, and still owns a house in Tehran, where he lived in exile from Saddam. He is not exactly an impartial source, to say the least. A more creditable Kurdish source is Iraq’s current Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who has testified that the MEK has never been involved in anti-Kurdish activities. An independent survey of Kurdish public opinion, held in Spring 2005, gave a similar clean report about the MEK. If one then considers the evidence provided by the “Solidarity Congress of Iraq”, headed by Dr. Abdullah Rasheed al-Jabouri—former governor of Diyala Province—that the MEK helped foster the creation of the “Solidarity Congress” by providing a safe neutral venue for Kurds and Arab Sunnis and Shiites to meet in Camp Ashraf, it should be abundantly clear that the MEK was regarded as a friend by the Kurdish population of Iraq, something quite impossible were there any truth to Talabani’s accusations.
Now let’s look at the accusations leveled by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in May 2005 against the MEK for the violation of the human rights of its members. The report, entitled “No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps”, was produced for Joe Stork’s HRW Middle East Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Gary Sick, long associated with the most active proponents of dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran and a long-time apologist for its regime. The HRW report was issued after the group recorded twelve hours of telephone interviews with alleged victims of MEK torture. However, it should be noted that all the alleged victims have been identified as agents of VEVAK—Iran’s equivalent of the old Soviet KGB—and several of the “victims” have been documented as being elsewhere at the time they claim to have been incarcerated by the MEK. Amongst other proof of the salacious nature of the HRW report is the testimony of US Army officers in charge of
who totally contradict the HRW report. Similar salacious reports were issued by HRW in 1992 and 1997, the 1997 report being tossed out by the UN special rappateour for Camp Ashraf Iraq as “fictional”. The 1992 report was answered by MEK leader Massoud Rajavi who invited Joe Stork and HRW to come to any of the MEK camps in Iraq to investigate “on site” for themselves; HRW never responded to Mr. Rajavi's invitation.
The final allegation—that the MEK is fanatical—because ten of its members set themselves on fire to call world attention to the arrest of the top leadership of the National Council of Resistance of Iran by France’s DST under the direction of President Jacques Chirac on June 17, 2003—needs to be viewed in the proper context. In reviewing the case, the French Judge Mr. Kolkombe—and former MP—declared: “What is obvious is that justice has always been on the side of PMOI since every time a court has judged, they have been acquitted of all the accusations.” What most press reports neglect to report about the arrest and seventeen day detention of President-elect Maryam Rajavi and the top leadership of the NCRI is the fact that an Iranian jetliner was parked on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle Airport, waiting to take the arrestees back to Iran where they would all have faced certain death. This fact was known by the demonstrators who felt that only an extraordinary act would focus enough attention on the issue and help save the lives of the leadership. The actions were not pre-planned, and thus adequate protection to prevent loss of life was not in place when Neda Hassani and Sedigheh Mojaveri ignited themselves in
London in front of the French Embassy. One may accuse them of fanaticism—but the fanaticism was not one of loyalty to the Rajavis, but of loyalty to the cause of freedom for their beloved homeland: Iran.
One should not be so quick to accuse such individuals of fanaticism, for there is a very poignant precedent for such an action. In 1943, Artur Zyglboim, Bundist representative in the Polish government in exile in
London, lit himself on fire in an act of self-sacrifice on the steps of the British Parliament in order to call world attention to the holocaust that was occurring in Poland and Eastern Europe. As a student of Artur Zyglboim’s brother Abraham Zyglboim, obm, I can assure the world that no one ever called the Zyglboim family “fanatics”. I would suggest that the term not be applied to Sedigheh Mojaveri nor to Neda Hassani, whose family is dedicated to the freedom of Iran, and one which I am honored to call my friends.
I suspect that Mr. Laksin was duped by agents of the Iranian regime, as his article shows evidence of links to the VEVAK-sponsored website Iran-Interlink.org., run by Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife Anne Singleton out of
. VEVAK agents use a very slick methodology of sowing disinformation. They contact writers and pretend to be clandestine members of the resistance, even giving tidbits of restricted information as enticements. Having won the confidence of a writer, they then supply a load of disinformation to either have a creditable writer disseminate their material or to compose materials that will cause a creditable writer to be discredited. Such is the case with the Paris-based MEAASO, which contacted this writer about a year ago and has sent “bulletins” about Leeds, England Iran at various intervals. Their last bulletin, sent just before the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, pushed the envelope a little too far, and tipped its hand. Mr. Laksin: have you, too, been receiving similar “Restricted Bulletins” from secretive sources overseas? Given the areas of interest about which you write, I suspect that the answer is “yes”. A friendly note of advice: suspect everyone, and always background-check all your sources.
Now, let’s get back to the PMOI. The terrorist label does not fit to this group unless one views it from the perspective of the
Tehran mullah regime. The UK and EU high courts have spoken and soon enough the PMOI’s case will go to trial before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. I suspect that by this time next year, the PMOI will no longer be on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Does this mean that the PMOI will then be the perfect government for a post-mullah regime in Iran? Probably not, because no government is capable of perfection; it’s made up of humans who are fallible. But whether or not the PMOI and NCRI should govern Iran is not for us to decide—that’s a question that only the Iranian people have a right to, and should, decide in an open, fair, democratic election. May that day dawn soon, Inshallah!
Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to the venom of fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.
 Jacob Laksin, “Terrorists as Freedom Fighters”, Front Page Magazine,
June 25, 2009, http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=35332.
Iran Policy Committee, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy— Policy and the Iranian Opposition: A White Paper, U.S. Iran Policy Committee, , 2006. Washington, DC
 DLA Piper,
: Foreign Policy Challenges and Choices: Empowering the Democratic Opposition, DLA Piper US LLP 2006, and Global Options, Inc., Independent Assessment of the Mujahedin-e Khalq and National Council of Resistance of Iran, DLA Piper US LLP 2006 (published together). Iran
 Ali Safavi, “Missing the Mark on
Iran”, Front Page Magazine, January 27, 2006, http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=5765.
“When Suggesting Policy on Iran, Review Your Sources Carefully”, Global Politician, February 28, 2006, http://www.globalpolitician.com/21636-iran, “Setting the Record Straight About the Mojahedin-e Khalq of Iran”, Global Politician, August 7, 2006, http://www.globalpolitician.com/22024-iran, “Timmerman’s Tendentious Tirade Against Iranian Opposition”, Global Politician, July 26, 2007, http://www.globalpolitician.com/23160-iran, and “Tehran Tries to Throttle MEK Opposition Through Iraqi Allies”, Global Politician, July 7, 2007, http://www.globalpolitician.com/25009-mek-pmoi-iran.
OPSI, Statutory Instruments 2008 No. 1645, Prevention And Suppression Of Terrorism, The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organizations) (Amendment) Order 2008, No. 1645, http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/uksi_20081645_en_1.
 See: Stephan Jones, “People’s Mujahiddin of Iran (PMOI) or Mujahiddin e Khalq (MEK): An update”, Library-House of Commons, March 23, 2009, http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snia-05020.pdf, and Agence France Presse (AFP), “EU strikes Iranian opposition group from terror list”, France 24, January 26, 2009, http://www.france24.com/en/20090126-eu-strikes-iranian-opposition-group-terror-list-0.
 Richard Norton-Taylor & Julian Borger, “Minister loses fight to retain ban on Iranian dissident group”, The Guardian,
May 8, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/may/08/terrorism.uksecurity. See also: David Williamson, “Calls for action on Iran exiles ruling”, The Western Mail, January 2, 2008, http://www.iranfocus.com/en/iran-general-/calls-for-action-on-iran-exiles-ruling-13702.html.
 Massoumeh Ebtekar, Takeover in Tehran, Talon Books, 2000, Vancouver, BC, Canada, p.106, quoted in IPC, “White Paper: U.S. Policy Options for Iran and Iranian Political Opposition”, ( hereafter, “White Paper #3”), Iran Policy Committee, September 13, 2005, Washington, DC, p.35.
 David Farber, Taken Hostage, Princeton University Press, 2005, Princeton, NJ, p.130, quoted in IPC, “White Paper #3”, pp. 35-36. The “Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam” group was diametrically opposed to the MEK which, although Moslem, was opposed to the Imam’s (Khomeini’s) idea of an Islamic state.
 Global Options, Inc., Independent Assessment of the Mujahedin-e Khalq and National Council of Resistance of Iran cites a statement by Iraqi Foreign Minister (at the time, Kurdish Democratic Party Foreign Affairs Chief) Hoshyar M.M. Zebari’s statement of July 14, 1999 clearing the MEK of any action to suppress the Kurdish People, quoted in DLA Piper, Iran: Foreign Policy Challenges and Choices, p. 190f.
 See Saffi Yasseri’s statement that his survey of Kurdish public opinion in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Spring 2005 failed to find any animosity towards the MEK, cited in Iran Policy Committee, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy—U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition: A White Paper, pp. 145-147.
 See: Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker, “
Iraq: Battleground Between Islamists and Secularists”, World Defense Review, June 17, 2008, http://worlddefensereview.com/zucker061708.shtml and “Tehran Tries to Throttle MEK Opposition Through Iraqi Allies”, World Defense Review, June 19, 2008, http://worlddefensereview.com/zucker061908.shtml.
 Human Rights Watch, No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps,
18 May 2005, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,HRW,COUNTRYREP,IRN,,45d085002,0.html.
 See the letter of Colonel David Phillips “Griffin-6” to Mr. Kenneth Roth of HRW, dated May 27, 2005, cited as Appendix D in DLA Piper, Iran: Foreign Policy Challenges and Choices: Empowering the Democratic Opposition, DLA Piper US LLP 2006, pp.106-107. See also the testimonies of Lt. Colonel Thomas Cantwell and Captain Vivian Gembara, recorded in Appendix E of IPC, “White Paper #3”.
 See: AFP, Paris, “French police raid Iranian Mujahedeen”, Taipei Times, June 19, 2003, http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2003/06/19/2003055862/print, and IslamOnline.net & News Agencies, Paris, “France Cracks Down on Iran Opposition”, IslamOnline, June 17, 2003, http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2003-06/17/article08.shtml.
 Marvin S. Zuckerman, “ON THE OCCASION OF THE
HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE JEW ISH LABOR BUND (1897-1997)”, Wikipedia, January 8, 2004, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Danny/Centenary_of_Bund. (see bottom section of article, which includes the text of Zyglboim’s letter to the world: “With these, my last words, I address myself to you, the Polish Government, the Polish people, the Allied Governments and their peoples, and the conscience of the world. News recently received from Poland informs us that the Germans are exterminating with unheard-of savagery the remaining Jews in that country. Behind the walls of the ghetto is taking place today the last act of a tragedy which has no parallel in the history of the human race. The responsibility for this crime—the assassination of the Jewish population in Poland—rests above all on the murderers themselves, but falls indirectly upon the whole human race, on the allies and their governments, who so far have taken no firm steps to put a stop to these crimes. By their indifference to the killing of millions of hapless men, to the massacre of women and children, these countries have become accomplices of the assassins....
Of the three and a half million Polish Jews (to whom must be added the 700,000 deported from the other countries) in April, 1943, there remained alive not more than 300,000 Jews, according to news received from the head of the Bund organization and supplied by government representatives. And the extermination continues. I cannot remain silent. I cannot live while the rest of the Jewish people in
Poland, whom I represent, continue to be liquidated. My companions of the Warsaw Ghetto fell in a last heroic battle with their weapons in their hands. I did not have the honor to die with them, but I belong to them and to their common grave. grave. Let my death be an energetic cry of protest against the indifference of the world which witnesses the extermination of the Jewish people without taking any steps to prevent it. In our day and age human life is of little value; having failed to achieve success in my life, I hope that my death may jolt the indifference of those who, perhaps even in this extreme moment, could save the Jews who are still alive in Poland. My life belongs to my people in Poland and that is why I am sacrificing it for them. May the handful of people who will survive out of the millions of Polish Jews achieve liberation in a world of liberty and social justice....
I take my leave of all those who have been dear to me and whom I have loved.")
 This essay is dedicated to the memory of Neda Hassani’s mother, Farouk Hassani, PBUH, “a lioness of the Iranian resistance”, who passed away of breast cancer on
Monday, June 29, 2009.
 See the case against Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife Anne Singleton in the following: Prof. Daniel M. Zucker, “Disinformation Campaign in Overdrive: Iran’s VEVAK in High-Gear”, Global Politician, September 3, 2007, http://www.globalpolitician.com/23386-vevak-iran, or, for active hyper-links, http://adme.x10host.com/Press-Reports/vevak-in-high-gear.pdf.