What is the People's Mujaheddin of Iran?
BY DOUG LORIMER
When Australian Federal Police raided the homes of 10 Iranian Australians on June 3, the AFP agents carried warrants authorising them to seize information relating to refugees' rights organisations and the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK), which also operates under the name People's Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).
Under legislation passed last year, it is illegal for Australian residents to fund or be a member of an organisation classified by the government as "terrorist". At the moment, the MEK is not classified by the Australian government as a terrorist organisation.
What is the MEK? The MEK originated in the 1960s and was described by the pro-US monarchist regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as an "Islamic-Marxist" organisation. However, the MEK's politics and methods had nothing in common with Marxism.
Rather than seeking to organise and mobilise the Iranian working class to overthrow the shah's pro-US regime, the MEK relied on small groups of middle-class youth carrying out assassination attacks on government officials — the classical methods of individual terrorism.
In the 1970s, the MEK also carried out assassination attempts on US military and civilian advisers to the shah's despotic regime.
In February 1979, the MEK participated in the mass insurrectionary mobilisations of working people which forced the shah and his 20,000 US "advisers" out of Iran.
The political weakness of the Iranian left enabled Muslim clerics, headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to replace the shah's regime with a pro-capitalist Islamic republic.
Following the Khomeini regime's 1981 suppression of all opposition groups, the MEK began a campaign of terrorist bombings and assassinations, which resulted in the deaths of many officials of the ruling Islamic Republican Party, including a president (Mohammed Ali Rajaei) and a prime minister (Ali Akhbar Bahonar.)
The Iranian workers and peasants saw the MEK campaign as part of Washington's drive to restore a pro-US regime in Iran. When the MEK carried out a terrorist bombing of the prime minister's office in August 1981, more than 1 million people poured into the streets of Tehran chanting slogans against US imperialism.
The Iranian masses judgement that the MEK was a pro-imperialist organisation has been confirmed by its subsequent political evolution.
In September 1981, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, backed by Washington, launched an invasion of Iran. The MEK not only continued its acts of individual terror within Iran but accepted funds and arms from Hussein's regime. It also supported the US economic embargo against Iran.
The MEK's collaboration with the Iraqi regime's 1980-88 war against Iran led to the organisation's complete loss of popular support within Iran, as the war resulted in more than 1 million Iranian dead and wounded and caused massive destruction of the country's oil and other industries.
At the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the collaboration between Hussein's regime and the MEK continued and deepened. The MEK moved its base of operations to Iraq and Baghdad provided the MEK with tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery, which it used to launch military assaults across the Iraqi border into Iran.
The MEK participated in the Hussein regime's bloody suppression of the Iraqi Shiite uprising in 1991.
In 1997, the US administration of President Bill Clinton — in an effort to seek out pro-US figures within the Iranian regime — decided to put the MEK on the US State Department's list of foreign terrorist organisations. However, the Clinton administration continued to allow the MEK, through its front organisation — the National Council of Resistance — to openly operate and raise funds in the US.
For more than a decade, the MEK has enjoyed considerable support within the US Congress, particularly from politicians closely associated with American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main US pro-Israel lobby group. In November, 150 Congress members signed a petition asking US President George Bush to remove the MEK from the State Department's list of terrorist organisations.
On April 8, the organiser of the petition, Florida Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who describes herself as "a fighter for our US ally, Israel"— said of the MEK: "This group loves the United States. They're assisting us in the war on terrorism; they're pro-US."
During the lead-up to Washington's March 20 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration cited Baghdad's support for the MEK as evidence of Hussein's support for terrorism. Thus, in his speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Bush argued that "in violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organisations that direct violence against Iran".
Even after the speech, the MEK remained free to continue its activities in the US, including holding press conferences in Washington.
During its invasion of Iraq, the US military initially treated the MEK as a hostile combatant group, bombing the group's camps. However, on April 22, the US military signed a "cease-fire" with the MEK. The group's representatives outside Iraq claim that the agreement allows the MEK to retain its camps, armed personnel and weapons.
Following the deal, there have been numerous press reports of a debate within the Bush administration over whether to utilise the MEK in covert operations aimed at "destabilising" the Iranian government.
From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.
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