NBC Deceived by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and Anonymous U.S. Sources

Press Release                                                                             Contact: Prof. Raymond Tanter

For Immediate Release                                                             rtanter@iranpolicy.org

15 February 2012

Washington DC—On Wednesday, 8 February 2012, the NBC Rock Center TV program website ran a provocative story, “Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News.” The article claims, “Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.”

In conducting covert operations against Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers, the NBC story asserts that Israel’s intelligence service supposedly uses as a proxy the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.

According to Professor Raymond Tanter, former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush White House and now President of the Iran Policy Committee, “Left out of the NBC story is that the State Department categorizes the MeK as a terrorist group despite the law and facts.” Tanter added, “Tehran’s anti-MeK propaganda machine also routinely blames the MeK for terrorist actions, irrespective of evidence to the contrary.”

Consider an October 2011 criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department against Iranian agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force charged with involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. In discussing Tehran’s role in the plot, the former head of the Department of Justice 2007-2009, Attorney General Michael  Mukasey, made an assessment of the law and facts concerning the MeK terrorist designation. General Mukasey said on 14 October 2011, “Continued listing [of the MeK] is totally unjustified as a legal matter. There are no facts that justify maintaining MeK on the terrorist list.”

And what is Tehran’s response when confronted with evidence of its own complicity in the Saudi assassination plot? Professor Tanter said, “The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security blames Israel and the United States and asserts MeK involvement. Even the State Department promptly denied MeK responsibility in the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador and accused Tehran of fabricating news stories to exploit skepticism about the scheme.”

Tanter added, “A similar pattern is apparent in the accusation reported in the NBC story by Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, of alleged collusion between the MeK and Israel to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. “Larijani simply fabricated a narrative associating Israel with the MeK to exploit uncertainty about the nature of those who are engaged in assassinating Iranian scientists,” according to Tanter.

The NBC story claiming to connect Israel to the MeK also alleges an association of the MeK to al Qaeda. Supposedly, the MeK cut a deal with Pakistani-born terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Yousef also built a bomb that MeK agents allegedly placed in a shrine in Mashad, Iran, in June 1994

The IPC book, Terror Tagging authored by Professor Tanter with the Foreword by General Mukasey, refers to the bombing of the Mashad shrine mentioned in the NBC report implicating the MeK and linking it to one of the operatives in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing—Yousef. Tanter stated, “Contrary to the NBC anonymous U.S. government source, an open Pakistani source accuses a Pakistani militant not the MeK as having connections to Yousef to carry out the 1994 shrine bombing.”

Although [the Iranian] government blamed the Mujahedin-e-Khalq in a TV show to avoid sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni, the Pakistani daily “News” of March 27, 1995 reported, “Pakistani investigators have identified a 24-year-old religious fanatic Abdul Shakoor residing in Lyari in Karachi, as an important Pakistani associate of Ramzi Yousef. Abdul Shakoor had intimate contacts with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and was responsible for the June 20, 1994, massive bomb explosion at the shrine Imam Ali Reza in Mashhad.

At the time of the 1994 Mashad bombing, the MeK denied any role. And a few years later, during one of the regime’s regular factional feuds, a former member of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence asserted that the bombing had been perpetrated by the Ministry, and in particular, by Saeed Emami, then one of its deputies.

A main theme of the NBC story is its assertion, anonymously backed by American officials, of collusion between Israel and the MeK. That claim provides a convenient rationale for the Iranian regime to engage in terrorist attacks against Israeli diplomats. “Accusing Israel of using as a proxy a ‘terrorist’ organization to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists provides false legitimacy for Iranian assassination plots in Washington as well as a trio of plots and bombings against Israelis in New Delhi, Tbilisi, Georgia, and Bangkok, Thailand,” according to Professor Tanter.

Regarding the anonymous leak that lends a veneer of credibility to the NBC story, on 11 February 2012, former Director of the FBI, Judge Louis Freeh, called for an investigation of the leak to NBC because it damaged U.S. national security; and former Governor of Vermont and presidential candidate, Howard Dean, said, “Either the source committed treason or committed the usual Washington sin of lying to the press.”

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