Terror Group is Sounding Board for Dubious US Intel
Rudy Giuliani with MEK leader Maryam Rajavi
(Photo Credit: Jacques Demarthon / AFP)
Embracing its recent removal from the U.S. State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian terror cult with deep pockets and close ties to the Washington establishment, is attempting to ramp up the fear-mongering and propaganda over Iran’s nuclear program following last month’s election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as the Islamic Republic’s next president.
Now, a Reuters article from July 11, 2013 reported the MEK and its affiliate organizations such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claim to have “obtained reliable information on a new and completely secret site designated for [Iran’s] nuclear project,” despite providing no credible evidence to back up the allegation.
The supposed site is said to be “located in a complex of tunnels beneath mountains 10 km (6 miles) east of the town of Damavand, itself about 50 km northeast of Tehran.” The MEK claimed that construction of the site began in 2006 and it was recently completed. “The site consists of four tunnels and has been constructed by a group of engineering and construction companies associated with the engineering arms of the Ministry of Defence and the IRGC (Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards force),” a statement from the terror group said.
Unsurprisingly, the Iranian government immediately denied the allegations.
As in nearly all media reports on the MEK, Reuters credits the group with having “exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak” in 2002. But beyond the fact that Iran’s nuclear program was never a secret, this specific claim is untrue, as nuclear experts Jeffrey Lewis and Mark Hibbs pointed out back in 2006.
In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had been tracking Iran’s nuclear facility development for quite some time, notably its construction at both Natanz and Arak. Lewis notes that, in 2002, “someone leaked that information to an Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which then released the second-hand dope in a press conference where they got the details wrong.” The information the MEK supposedly gleans from sources inside Iran are actually just leaks received from intelligence agencies in the United States and Israel.
Since then, the MEK has not itself provided a single shred of credible information regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Furthermore, in early 2007, an unnamed senior official at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed to the Los Angeles Times, “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us [from the United States about the Iranian nuclear program] has proved to be wrong” and has never led to significant discoveries inside Iran.
“They gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities,” the official told The Guardian at the time. Additionally, the LA Times reported that “U.S. officials privately acknowledge that much of their evidence on Iran’s nuclear plans and programs remains ambiguous, fragmented and difficult to prove.”
Additionally, the Associated Press reported this past May that, when it comes to accusations about the Iranian nuclear program and despite their terrible track record, “about 80 percent of the intelligence comes from the United States and its allies.”
Reuters, writing about the MEK’s most recent revelation, noted, “The group released satellite photographs of what it said was the site. But the images did not appear to constitute hard evidence to support the assertion that it was a planned nuclear facility.” Clearly, a non-state actor like the MEK doesn’t have satellites of its own floating around in space taking pictures of Iranian mountains; it’s obviously getting the information from government organizations with advanced spying resources.
Though these latest claims by the MEK have garnered quite a bit of attention this week, they are, in fact, nothing new. Allegations about tunnel systems have long been a go-to source of alarmism over Iran’s nuclear program. Back in January 2010, on the heels of promoting an opinion piece that explicitly advocated an unprovoked military attack on Iran, The New York Times‘ William Broad published a hysterical report, which claimed, “Over the past decade, Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers across the country.”
The report goes on to lament that Iranian efforts to protect their own nuclear infrastructure from military attack is viewed by the U.S. administration as “a stealth weapon, complicating the West’s military and geopolitical calculus.” Translation: it’s harder to spy on things and then blow them up when they’re not out in the open and that’s annoying.
Broad doesn’t even try to mask the frustration:
“It complicates your targeting,” said Richard L. Russell, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst now at the National Defense University. “We’re used to facilities being above ground. Underground, it becomes literally a black hole. You can’t be sure what’s taking place.”
Even the Israelis concede that solid rock can render bombs useless. Late last month, the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, told Parliament that the Qum plant was “located in bunkers that cannot be destroyed through a conventional attack.”
Despite the decades of threats from the United States and Israel, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn’t realize the blistering irony when, discussing the heavily-fortified uranium enrichment site at Fordow, he said, “If they wanted it for peaceful purposes, there’s no reason to put it so deep underground, no reason to be deceptive about it, keep it a secret for a protracted period of time.”
Later in his report, Broad describes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a tunnel aficionado and quotes Greg Duckworth, a “civilian scientist” described as having “recently led a Pentagon research effort to pinpoint enemy tunnels,” as saying, “Deeply buried targets have been a problem forever. And it’s getting worse.”
As the January 2010 report continues, a familiar name emerges under the heading “An Opposition Watchdog.” Who could that be? Broad writes, “In 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group, revealed that Iran was building a secret underground nuclear plant at Natanz that turned out to be for enriching uranium. Enrichment plants can make fuel for reactors or, with a little more effort, atom bombs.”
He goes on to sing the praises of NCRI for having announced “that Iran was digging tunnels for missile and atomic work at 14 sites” in 2005 and announcing “that Iran was tunneling in the mountains near Natanz, the sprawling enrichment site” in 2007, which he says was confirmed by satellite images.
In December 2009, Broad writes that NCRI issued yet another report on “Iranian military tunneling,” which claimed “Iran had dug tunnels and bunkers for research facilities, ammunition storage, military headquarters and command and control centers.”
“A group of factories” in the mountains east of Tehran, it insisted without providing proof, specialize in “the manufacturing of nuclear warheads.”
Broad even quotes the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Frank Pabian saying of the MEK, “They’re right 90 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but 90 percent is a pretty good record.” Mohamed ElBaradei, former IAEA Director-General, had a different take on the group. “We followed whatever they came up with. And a lot of it was bogus.”
In his reporting, William Broad never once identifies the MEK or NCRI as an officially designated terrorist group, which at the time they both were and had been for over a decade.
To hammer home how deliberately alarmist the claims actually were, the Times even published the article with a photograph of a smiling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his entourage in red hardhats emerging from what is apparently supposed to resemble a steel-reinforced underground lair. Yet the photo is wholly unrelated to any of the allegations made within the report.
The caption beneath of the picture reads, “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, center, at a highway tunnel near Tehran. Much of Iran’s atomic work is also in tunnels.”
Yes, that really happened. Fit to print, indeed.
The focus on Iranian tunnels leads inevitably to discussion of American military capabilities and the challenges faced by less vulnerable facilities. Broad, in his 2010 report, noted that the “Pentagon is racing to develop a deadly tunnel weapon” for such circumstances. That weapon has since been completed and tested, but has not been sold to Israel for fear it might be used without American authorization.
Clearly, the MEK’s latest revelations are recycled claims and, like before, are essentially allegations based on vague intelligence leaked to the group by American officials. The MEK merely acts as a laundering service for the unproven accusations of its handlers in the United States and Israel.
Unfortunately, the mainstream press – even when skeptical about the information – continues to dutifully provide a platform for such propaganda and fear-mongering by publishing such accusations.
Germany is set to offer asylum to 100 members of the anti-Iranian terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).
The German Interior Ministry confirmed the initiation of the processes required for granting asylum to the MKO terrorists. The ministry said it is being examined whether the MKO members are qualified to receive visas.
One hundred members of the terrorist group, who have been expelled from Camp New Iraq, formerly known as Camp Ashraf, situated in Iraq’s Diyala province, are currently based in Camp Liberty, a former United States military installation in Baghdad.
The members of the MKO have assassinated thousands of civilians in different Iranian cities over the past years.
The assassinations by the MKO include those carried out against former Iranian President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, former Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, as well as tens of other government authorities in bombing operations.
The MKO fled to Iraq in 1986, where it received the support of Iraq’s executed dictator Saddam Hussein, and set up a camp near the Iranian border.
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Terrorism is terrorism and it cannot be defined otherwise unless the interests of one party tilt the scale in disfavor of another and the dichotomization of the terrorists in Syria into good and bad by the West casts doubt on its claim on democracy.
In a somber political tone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out as “absolutely unacceptable” the West’s support for the terrorists in Syria in his exclusive interview with Russia Today.
Lavrov said the West has divided the terrorists into “bad” and “acceptable,” throwing its support behind the latter.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable, and if we follow this logic it might lead us to a very dangerous situation not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world, if our partners in the West would begin to qualify terrorists as bad terrorists and acceptable terrorists,” the Russian foreign minister said.
The dichotomization of such a grave issue by the West is almost nothing new. The delisting of MKO, a long-considered terrorist group, by Washington is in line with this process of redefining well-established concepts and terms by the West.
Paradoxically, the MKO has been supported by Washington even when it was on the terrorist list. They even received their training at the hands of the Bush administration.
In an enlightening article, Seymour Hersh showed that US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) trained members of the Iranian Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MKO) at a secretive site in Nevada from 2005 to at least 2007. According to Hersh, MKO members “were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office.”
In a separate interview, a retired four-star general said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of MKO members in Nevada by an American involved in the program. He said that they got “the standard training in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry — that went on for six months. They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror.
To the dismay and disappointment of many, US State Department decided in September to remove the MKO from the terror lists.
US State Department said its decision to delist the group was made because the group has not committed any terrorist acts for a decade and brashly whitewashed the fact that the group has been, to all intents and purposes, instrumental in carrying out nuclear assassinations in the last few years in Iran. Although the group has never officially assumed responsibility for the assassinations (which is quite natural), there is solid evidence suggesting that it has been complicit in these terrorist acts.
The terrorist group made unrelenting efforts for years to be removed from the terror list and enlisted a number of Republican and Democratic officials to lobby on its behalf. Instead of paying lobbying fees to them, “it offered honoraria ranging from $10,000-$50,000 per speech to excoriate the US government for its allegedly shabby treatment of the MEK. Among those who joined the group’s gravy train are former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz, and former FBI director Louis Freeh. Many of them profess to have little interest in the money they have collected” (Richard Silverstein, The Guardian, September 22, 20212).
MKO has long been engaging in a series of sabotage and terrorist activities against the Islamic Republic in league with Israeli intelligence agencies.
In January 2012, Benny Gantz, the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, told a parliamentary committee: “For Iran, 2012 is a critical year in combining the continuation of its nuclearisation, internal changes in the Iranian leadership, continuing and growing pressure from the international community and things which take place in an unnatural manner.”
Just 24 hours after Israeli military chief warned of unnatural events for Iran, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated in broad daylight. It soon transpired that it had been a joint Mossad-MKO operation.
The MKO has reportedly assassinated over 12,000 Iranian citizens, seven American citizens, and tens of thousands of Iraqi nationals.
Anyhow, the dichotomization of ‘terrorists’ into good and bad is far uglier than any form of apartheid.
A comparatively similar story is being repeated in Syria. Washington has branded the Qatar-funded Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization. But why? They are fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad together with other militants in Syria who are chiefly composed of foreign mercenaries. The former are considered terrorists simply because they, to a large extent, fly in the face of Washington’s policies in Syria. So, it is Washington or the US-led West which decides who is a terrorist and who is not.
Let us not forget that the notorious al Qaeda which is sowing seeds of blind extremism and religious sectarianism in the world was founded and financially supported in the seventies by Washington and CIA in an apparent bid to fight the Soviets. The late Robin Cook lamented the creation of al Qaeda and said:
Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally “the database”, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden’s organization would turn its attention to the west.
This CIA-created Frankenstein’s monster has not changed but has grown up monstrously.
Truly known to be one of the most misinterpreted and misused words, terrorism is defined and refined by the West according to the context where it proves deleterious or beneficial to those who define the term.
By Delisting the MEK, the Obama Administration is Taking the Moral and Strategic Bankruptcy of America’s Iran Policy to a New Low
The U.S. Department of State took the moral and strategic bankruptcy of America’s Iran policy to a new low today, by notifying Congress that the Obama administration intends to remove the mojahedin-e khalq (MEK) from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).
At a macro level, we are disdainful—even scornful—of the U.S. government’s lists of both FTOs and state sponsors of terrorism. We have seen too many times over the years just how cynically American administrations have manipulated these designations, adding and removing organizations and countries for reasons that have little or nothing to do with designees’ actual involvement in terrorist activity. So, for example, after Saddam Husayn invaded the fledgling Islamic Republic in 1980—on September 22, no less—and starting killing large numbers of innocent Iranians, the Reagan administration (which came to office in January 1981) found a way to remove Iraq from the state sponsors list, in order to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the U.S. government from helping Saddam prosecute his war of aggression as robustly as the administration wanted. (During that war, the MEK—after having tried but failed to bring down the Islamic Republic through a bloody campaign of terrorist bombings and assassinations conducted against the new Iranian government’s upper echelons—ended up collaborating with an Iraqi government regularly carrying out chemical weapons attacks against targets, civilian as well as military, inside Iran.) But, when the same Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the George H.W. Bush administration couldn’t get Iraq back on the state sponsors list fast enough. We are very skeptical that Saddam’s ties to groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations changed all that much during this period.
Yet, precisely because we know how thoroughly corrupt and politicized these designations really are, we recognize their significance as statements of U.S. policy. Today, the Obama administration made a truly horrible statement about U.S. policy toward Iran.
The statement is horrible even if one wants to believe that FTO designations have some kind of procedural and evidentiary integrity about them. (We don’t, but we also recognize that letting go of illusions is often not easy.) Just this year, U.S. intelligence officials told high-profile media outlets that the MEK is actively collaborating with Israeli intelligence to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, see here; Iranian officials have made the same charge. Since when did murdering unarmed civilians (and, in some instances, members of their families as well) on public streets in the middle of a heavily populated urban area (Tehran) not meet even the U.S. government’s own professed standard for terrorism? Of course, one might rightly point out that the United States is responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians across the Middle East. But Washington generally strives to maintain the fiction that it did not intend for those innocents to die as a (direct and foreseeable) consequence of U.S. military operations and sanctions policies. (You know, the United States didn’t really mean for those people to die, but, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “Stuff happens.”) Here, the Obama administration is taking an organization that the U.S. government knows is directly involved in the murder of innocent people and giving this group Washington’s “good housekeeping seal of approval.”
But, to invoke Talleyrand’s classic observation that a certain action was “worse than a crime—it was a mistake,” delisting the MEK is not just a moral abomination; it is a huge strategic and policy blunder. It is hard to imagine how the Obama administration could signal more clearly that, even after the President’s presumptive reelection, it has no intention of seeking a fundamentally different sort of relationship with the Islamic Republic—which would of course require the United States to accept the Islamic Republic as a legitimate political entity representing legitimate national interests.
Count on this: once the MEK is formally off the FTO list—a legally defined process that will take a few months to play out—Congress will be appropriating money to support the monafeqin as the vanguard of a new American strategy for regime change in Iran. In the 1990s, similar enthusiasm for Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress—who were about as unpopular among Iraqis as the MEK is among Iranians—led to President Clinton’s signing of the Iraq Liberation Act, which paved the way for George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The chances for such a scenario to play out with regard to Iran over the next few years—with even more disastrous consequences for America’s strategic and moral standing—got a lot higher today.
- U.S. to Take Iran Anti-Regime Group Off Terrorism List (ipsnews.net)
Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald reported that, on Tuesday,
The Huffington Post published a post by Hossein Abedini, who was identified in the byline as a “Member of Parliament in exile of Iranian Resistance.” His extended HuffPost bio says that he “belongs to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran” (NCRI). The NCRI is the political arm of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, (MeK), the Iranian dissident group (and longtime Saddam ally) that has been formally designated by the U.S. State Department since 1997 as a Terrorist organization, yet has been paying large sums of money to a bipartisan cast of former U.S. officials to advocate on its behalf (the in-hiding President of the NCRI, Massoud Rajavi, is, along with his wife Maryam Rajavi, MeK’s leader). Abedini, the HuffPost poster, has been identified as a MeK spokesman in news reports, and has identified himself the same way when, for instance, writing letters to NBC News objecting to negative reports about the group.
After noted journalists Hooman Majd, Robert Mackey, Greenwald himself, and others “noted the oddity that HuffPost was publishing pieces from a designated Terrorist group, HuffPost deleted the piece.” A HuffPo spokesperson also told Greenwald that Abedini’s post “was published by mistake,” adding, “By policy, we don’t publish blog posts by people affiliated with designated terrorist organizations. The blog editor who published it was unaware that NCRI is MEK’s political arm. When the mistake was discovered the post was removed.”
Nevertheless, all of Abedini’s previous articles remain archived on HuffPo. Furthermore, Greenwald points out that “The Huffington Post has also repeatedly published Ali Safavi, who is also identified as ‘a member of Iran’s Parliament in Exile, National Council of Resistance of Iran'” and “use[s] his HuffPost platform to propagate standard MeK propaganda.” All of Safavi’s posts remain accessible.
But that’s not all.
There’s yet another MeK/NCRI spokesman and propagandist who also regularly posts articles on HuffPo: Alireza Jafarzadeh. All of his posts remain live on HuffPo, where he is touted (in a bio written by himself) as a foreign affairs analyst who has appeared all over Western media, speaking on behalf of the terrorist group. Fox News has long featured him as a contributing commentator and he currently runs his own “consulting” firm in Washington D.C. called “Strategic Policy Consulting” which is pretty much just a phony company that manages his own media appearances and lobbying to Congress. One look at his Twitter feed removes all doubt as to Jafarzadeh’s affiliation (at the highest level) with the MeK. … Full article
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