The U.S. Needs to Protect the Iranian Opposition in Iraq — and Counter Tehran in the Region

noviembre 5, 2015On the night of Oct. 29, Camp Liberty, which houses some 2,250 Iranian exiles, was the target of a rocket attack that killed 23 people. En route to the Vienna Talks on Syria, Secretary John Kerry quickly condemned the attack and offered the United States’ condolences “to the families of the victims, and we hope for the swift recovery of those injured.” He added, “We also urge the Government of Iraq to provide additional security for the camp’s residents and to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack, consistent with its obligations under the Dec. 25, 2011 agreement with the United Nations.”

The Associated Press and the Washington Times both covered the attack. Agence France Presse and the conservative news service CNS, reported bipartisan congressional calls for action. Digital Journal included a link to detailed video footage. Another clip shows the scene shortly after the attack. The calls included two Republicans, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as a Democrat Rep. Judy Chu.

Critics of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) might say that the media coverage is really not independent because each one merely quotes what the Iranian dissidents said. But I say that when the mainstream media gives so much ink to a story, it is some evidence that they take the allegations seriously.

Critics might also say that members of Congress supportive of the MEK are acting in the interest of campaign contributions. But I say that the burden is on the naysayers to provide the evidence linking Royce, Ros-Lehtinen, and Chu as being “bought off” by the MEK. I am personally aquatinted with each of them, and I am impressed with their integrity and commitment to the MEK especially on humanitarian grounds. The attack is the epitome of a humanitarian tragedy.

Why is Iran targeting its opposition? Dissidents are trying to block Tehran’s aspirations to control Baghdad and Damascus, where the United States is fighting the Islamic State. Washington’s evolving strategy is dead on arrival on the Hill unless the Obama administration reaches out to the opposition and sees Iran as a threat across the porous border.

So how can it counter the threat from Iran? Align with others opposing Tehran and the bipartisan congressional coalition sharing that view.

Saudi Arabia’s alignment against Iran includes Israel as a silent partner. Saudis view Tehran and Damascus unfavorably. A potential partner for Riyadh and Washington is the Iranian resistance that rejects clerical rule in Tehran. All define the threat as Islamist.

On Oct. 5, 2015 Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir asked whether Iran is a “state or a revolution,” If it wants to export its 1979 revolution and revive the Persian Empire, “we cannot deal with it,” said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his speech before the U.N. on Oct. 1. Shifting alliances in the Middle East are drawing Arab countries like Saudi Arabia closer to Israel in confronting Iran and the Islamic State. Netanyahu’s Mar. 3 speech before the Congress stated that, “Iran’s regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world.”

Both Adel al-Jubeir and Netanyahu have previously distanced themselves from the MEK on different grounds. On one hand, Saudis attribute too much power to the MEK because of their role in bringing down the Shah — if their supporters can topple the Shah, perhaps they will side with those who wish to bring down the Kingdom. On the other hand, Netanyahu believes that the MEK is of too little consequence to cause even further trouble with the State Department, which fails to reach out to the MEK. Both assessments are based on my interviews with high level Saudis and Israelis.

My take is that the MEK is neither strong nor weak based on indicators like the following. According to my research, reported in my book Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents, during mid-2000, the Iranian regime paid more attention to the MEK than to all other groups combined, created expositions in every major city of Iran to warn the youths of the pro-democracy views of the organization, and paroled Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s daughter from prison because she was learning too many subversive ideas from MEK prisoners. In the expositions and the early release, Tehran’s tactics against the MEK backfired.

On Apr. 29, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing, “ISIS: Defining the Enemy.” Maryam Rajavi is President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the coalition of which the MEK is the largest unit; she testified from Paris. Her written testimony showed how Tehran is an Islamist epicenter of terrorism to establish an Empire without borders and called for empowering the democratic tolerant Islam she represented.

Critics might argue that it is easy to promise democracy and criticize the regime as being an Islamist epicenter. There is “evidence” the MEK is an intolerant cult, which forces its members to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. I have interviewed family members of a young girl who committed suicide when Maryam Rajavi was in a Paris jail. The parents told me they did not believe their daughter had done so because of pressure from the MEK. Indeed, when the jailers informed Rajavi of the suicide, she immediately issued a statement saying that she neither sanctions such behavior nor wishes anyone else to do so in the future — not the words of a cult leader.

I grant the jury is out whether the MEK will be as tolerant when the regime falls as Tehran has been intolerant towards the MEK. Think of a soft landing when the regime falls as in the disintegration of communism in Europe or a hard landing like the one in Libya. If soft, then I expect a tolerant MEK.

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Bipartisan consensus: Stop Iran and its missile attacks on Iranian dissidents

iranprotest_timessquare_072215gettyFox News reports a missile attack occurred on Camp Liberty Iraq on October 29; residents include 2,400 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK). About 80 missiles made holes as deep as 7 feet and wide as 8 feet—including 122 mm Katyushas and those Tehran produced—the NB24 Russian missiles.

Why is Iran targeting its opposition? Dissidents block the goal of Tehran—to control Baghdad and Damascus where we are fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Washington’s evolving strategy is DOA on the Hill unless the administration reaches out to the opposition and sees Iran as a threat across the porous border.

How to counter the threat from Iran? Align with others opposing Tehran and the bipartisan congressional coalition sharing that view.

Saudi Arabia’s alignment against Iran includes Israel as a silent partner. Saudis view Tehran and Damascus unfavorably. A potential partner for Riyadh and Washington is the Iranian Resistance that rejects clerical rule in Tehran. All define the threat as Islamist.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir asked, Is Iran a “state or a revolution?” If it wants to export its 1979 revolution and revive the Persian Empire “we cannot deal with it.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his UN speech on October 1 that shifting alliances in the Middle East drew Arab countries like Saudi Arabia closer to Israel in confronting Iran and ISIL. His speech before the Congress stated that, “Iran’s regime poses a grave threat…to the peace.”

On April 29, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing, “ISIS: Defining the Enemy.” Maryam Rajavi is President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the coalition of which the MEK is the largest unit; she testified from Paris. Her written testimony showed how Tehran is an Islamist epicenter of terrorism to establish an Empire without borders and called for empowering the democratic tolerant Islam she represented.

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Professor Raymond Tanter Interview on Iran with Frank Gaffney January 12, 2015

January 15

Dr. RAYMOND TANTER, former Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense for Arms Control and author of “Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents: New Landscape Allows Reset of U.S. Iran Policy”:
  • Sensitive Iraninan nuclear facilities hidden underground
  • Saudi Arabia’s continuing manipulation of the global oil market
  • Predictions the U.S. shale industry will survive record-low oil prices due to diversification of the U.S. economy

To listen the complete interview please go to: http://bit.ly/1DIZwUc  and press play on link number 3.

Is Washington Forgetting Its Allies in the Iranian Nuclear Negotiations?

BELGIUM-SYRIA-IRAQ -CONFLICT-US-COALITIONAs Secretary of State John Kerry rushed in 2013 to sign an interim nuclear deal with Iran, Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), incoming chair of the Senate Arms Services Committee, stated that Kerry “has been a human wrecking ball.” Regarding extension of current talks to July 2014, McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said a “bad deal” with Iran would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

If Ashton Carter is confirmed as secretary of defense, he may temper Kerry’s overemphasis on nuclear diplomacy with little regard for regional implications; Carter would marry diplomacy with military elements in an overall strategy for Iran’s nuclear program.

Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen wrote in a post for the Washington Institute that as far back as April 2009, Saudis told U.S. Special Envoy Dennis Ross, “if [the Iranians] get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.” On Nov. 1, 2013, just prior to the Nov. 24 interim nuclear accord between Iran and the Permanent Five Members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (P5+1), the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI),reported Riyadh’s concerns before Kerry’s visit two days later about a Tehran-Washington rapprochement: It increases Iran’s regional influence at the expense of the Arab States; a year later, Nov. 23, 2014, Saudi newspaperscriticized Obama for cooperating with Iran while abandoning his Arab allies and called on Riyadh to conduct a strategic reassessment of the alliance with Washington.

Contrast how America’s Middle East allies are cut out of the nuclear talks with Iran versus nuclear talks with North Korea. Gulf states and Israel are excluded while European allies play a prominent role in the P5+1 negotiation with Tehran. In Asia, U.S. regional allies like Seoul and Tokyo are in a contact group with Beijing, Pyongyang, and Moscow. Although talks with Pyongyang have a mixed record, Arab States are absent from talks on Iran’s nuclear program and pay the price of a deal or no deal, whether good or bad. Although Kerry often travels to Jerusalem and Riyadh before talks with Iran, he does so at his discretion, and there is not formal consultation with regional allies before each secret bilateral or multilateral with Tehran.

Washington’s participation in nuclear talks with Iran while ignoring Iranian dissidents to curry favor with Tehran are intertwined stories of diplomatic appeasement of the Ayatollahs.

The Islamic Republic wields outsize influence in councils of power in Baghdad. According to the Washington Post, appointment of Iraq’s interior minister in October 2014 opened the door to Shiite militia and Iranian influence in Baghdad. Mohammed Ghabban, a Shiite politician with the Badr Organization has ties to Hadi al-Amiri, head of Badr and its military wing. He is likely to wield huge power in the ministry. The Badr militia ran Shiite death squads during Iraq’s sectarian war, after infiltrating the Interior Ministry. A leaked 2009 State Department cable said Amiri may have personally ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis. The Post also stated that head of Iraq’s human rights ministry is also affiliated with Badr.

Meanwhile, Iranian dissidents are not well represented by the American Embassy in Baghdad during the past three years, while nuclear talks have been taking place. Memorializing an accord with Baghdad, on Dec. 25, 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, under pressure from pro-Iran Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, urged some 3,000 Iranian dissidents to abandon their home in Camp Ashraf, where they had lived for decades, in favor of Camp Liberty. In that statement, Secretary Clinton promised“officials from U.S. Embassy Baghdad will visit regularly and frequently.” This pledge was never fulfilled, except for a few short visits to the camp without discussing security concerns of the dissidents. Trying to please Tehran with unfilled efforts by U.S. Embassy staff is a macabre example of the adage, “Promises are made to be broken and lies are meant to be kept.”

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Still no help for Iranian dissidents

iraq-deaths_c0-16-512-357_s300x200Consider three principles. First, in Plato’s Republic, one definition of justice is to give each person that which is due. Second, Martin Luther King stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Third, King also said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Two groups receiving “due justice” are Iraqi Yazidis and Afghan interpreters. It is intolerable for the State Department to ignore virtual imprisonment by Baghdad of Iranian dissidents stuck in Iraq. To defend Yazidis and offer visas to Afghan interpreters but not to Iranian dissidents is an injustice to those whom we promised to protect and have provided useful intelligence to us; such actions degrade the good deeds done for Yazidis and Afghans.

With United Nations actions in support of Yazidis, the arc of justice tilts in their favor. They belong to a pre-Christian and pre-Islamic sect, which is vulnerable to the Islamic State (IS); it believes Yazidis are apostates deserving execution. The International Rescue Committee describes how 30,000 Yazidis are on Mount Sinjar, Iraq, under siege by IS. The UN Security Council condemned attacks by IS and expressed its “deep outrage” about the treatment of Iraqis from vulnerable minority communities, especially Yazidis and Christians, displaced by such attacks.

Read more:

The Mysteries of Nuclear Iran—Two letters responding to ‘Iran’s Nuclear Masters’ (editorial, 27 May 2014), 3 June 2014

Requires Subscription at: http://on.wsj.com/1kpl1jW

 Image<– (Iran’s uranium processing site just outside the city of Isfahan)

Hamid Babaei,Counselor and head of press office, Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, New York

 Regarding your editorial “Iran’s Nuclear Masters” (May 28th): It is highly unfortunate that The Wall Street Journal has opted to choose the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a known terrorist group which until recently had been listed as a terrorist group in the U.S., and still is in many other places around the world, as its main source of information.

This has resulted the aforementioned article to become an unfounded set of allegations against the exclusively peaceful nuclear program of Iran. Such fabrications only serve as means to derail the ongoing talks between Iran and P5+1 as well as ongoing cooperation of Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency to resolve this issue in a comprehensive manner.

————–

Raymond Tanter, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, Washington DC

[The following letter is slightly edited from the published version in the WSJ, e.g., with the addition of hyperlinks that do not require subscription to access]:

Kudos for your editorial on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weaponization program! As a former member of the senior staff of the Reagan National Security Council and a scholar of Iranian dissidents, I follow Tehran’s nuclear cheating closely.

The editorial uses information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS); and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Iranian opposition group also known as MEK, which has done much to expose the mullahs’ nuclear-weapons program in the past.

“The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies declared in a 2006 report (though the report questioned some aspects of those revelations).

The MEK in August 2002 exposed a secret nuclear facility near Natanz. ISIS confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium-enrichment facility and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

Also in August 2002, NCRI intelligence blew the lid on Iran’s heavy-water production facility at Arak. As ISIS has written: “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in August 2002. ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search.”

Regarding a nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian, ISIS wrotein a 2004 report: “This site first came to public attention in May 2003 when the Iranian opposition group, National Council for Resistance of Iran, announced that the site, called the Lavizan-Shian Technical Research Center, was associated with biological weapons research.”

In August 2004, NCRI exposed a laser enrichment facility, Lavizan 2, built with equipment removed from the Lavizan-Shian site, which had been kept off limits to international inspectors.

In December 2005, NCRI revealed a site near Qom, where tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledgedthe Qom site in September 2009.

NCRI intelligence revealed in September two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. Prompted by publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qom. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site—the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. I could go on.

The record shows that Tehran’s nuclear mendacity has been and can continue to be exposed by the NCRI.