The Guardian’s attempts to paint the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/ Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) as some sort of right-wing terrorist cult supported by Donald Trump (The Long Read – Friday 9th November 2018) is so wide of the mark that it brings to mind Voltaire’s statement: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Arron Merat’s lengthy article repeats malicious allegations against the PMOI/MEK refugees currently residing in Albania. These allegations, repeated endlessly by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) and its cohorts, are familiar to those of us who have supported this key Iranian opposition movement for years.
Actually, Arron Merat, the author of the article is a well-known advocate of the clerical regime and its president Hassan Rouhani, and an activist against the PMOI/MEK. He lacks the minimum journalistic standards regarding the issue of the Iranian regime and its opposition. His interviews and opinions during the run-up to the “presidential election” of the clerical regime, as well as his articles and tweets against the PMOI, are available and well-publicised.
Merat visited the PMOI/MEK residence in Albania on August 16. On August 30, the news of his visit was published in a joint article by Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne Singleton, two well-known MOIS agents. The fact that this couple are agents of the Iranian regime was revealed in reports of the Pentagon and US Library of Congress in December 2012. If Merat was preparing a report solely for the Guardian, why did he provide a copy of it to these agents of the regime in advance? It is evident that Merat’s visit to the PMOI/MEK location and the article were coordinated with the agents in advance. That was re-enforced on November 9, the day of the publication of the article, when, within hours, it was translated and extensively published in a series of MOIS controlled sites, indicating the regime’s desperate need for the article and total coordination of its availability.
I am dismayed that the Guardian should pay lip-service to such absurd and disgraceful fabrications, propagated by a pariah regime that is widely recognised as a sponsor of international terror. Indeed, the recent arrest of Iranian agents in Europe and America, (including, according to Arron Merat, an ‘unnamed Iranian diplomat’), who were planning assassinations and terror attacks on members of the Iranian opposition, are evidence of this regime’s malign intentions. In fact, the diplomat was named almost immediately as Assadollah Assadeh, a leading MOIS agent, posing as a member of the diplomatic staff in the Iranian Embassy in Vienna. He had allegedly handed over a bomb to two other Iranian agents with instructions that they should attack the PMOI/MEK rally taking place in Paris in June, attended by renowned politicians like Rudy Giulliani and Newt Gingrich. .
Arron Merat’s attempt to whitewash this blatant terror attack again echoes Voltaire’s warning “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Tehran’s vicious conduct was further exposed when, in August, the US Justice Department announced that it had arrested two MOIS agents who had targeted PMOI/MEK members in the US. Only two weeks ago, the police foiled a terror plot by the Iranian regime in Denmark and on 9th November, the Norwegian media published the picture of the arrested suspect attending an official reception in the Iranian Embassy in Oslo, standing next to the ambassador!
As a former MEP (1999-2014), I have closely followed the issue of the PMOI/MEK for the last 18 years, from the time they were in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq, up to the present and I have seen evidence again and again of how the regime uses its vast resources to smear the PMOI/MEK refugees and their supporters. Arron Merat’s assertion that the PMOI/MEK are largely supported by the right, fits neatly with the general thrust of his narrative, but of course is completely untrue. The PMOI/MEK enjoy widespread support across the political spectrum from left to right in countries across the world. Mr. Merat has relied heavily on the Iranian regime’s agents who represent themselves as former members of the PMOI. It is a well-established ploy of the Iranian intelligence service. The annual reports of the intelligence services in the West including Germany and the Netherlands have emphasized for many years that the individuals who are described as “the former members of the PMOI” are prime targets of the MOIS to be used in its demonisation campaign against the Iranian Resistance.
The fact that “former PMOI members” are quoted so extensively by Merat as his source of information in another way proves that the main source of this report is none other than the MOIS. These ‘defectors’ have uttered these lies against the PMOI/MEK thousands of times in the sites controlled by the MOIS and the IRGC. None of these claims, not a single one is new, except the fact that they have been updated for the use of Arron Merat and this article.
Mr Merat’s absurd allegations against the PMOI/MEK could equally be applied, by association, to myself and the many thousands of supporters from all political parties and from differing religious and ethnic backgrounds, who believe the opposition movement, led by the charismatic Mrs Maryam Rajavi, offers a viable democratic alternative to the current murderous and misogynist regime in Iran. This is deeply insulting to our collective integrity. Iran, despite its rich, civilised and open culture, has now become an international pariah, its clerical fascist regime condemned for human rights abuse and the export of terror, while its 80 million beleaguered citizens, over half of whom are under thirty, struggle to feed their families.
With the introduction of the final phase of tough, new US sanctions on Iran, targeting oil exports, shipping and financial transactions, the clerical regime is now in blind panic. Human Rights Monitor (HRM) has reported an increase in executions, repression and human rights abuse during the past month, as the mullah’s try desperately to contain the growing unrest that has seen nationwide protests continue for almost a year. According to HRM there were at least 22 executions in October, including a woman who was only 17 years old at the time of her alleged crime. They also report arbitrary murders, deaths in custody, inhuman treatment, cruel punishments, appalling prison conditions and the continued persecution of religious minorities. It is unfortunate that Arran Merat does not highlight these facts.
Last month, the US State Department published a 48-page report entitled “OUTLAW REGIME: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.” In a foreword, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a normal state. Normal states do not attack embassies and military installations in peacetime; fuel terrorist proxies and militias; serve as a sanctuary for terrorists; call for the destruction of Israel and threaten other countries; aid brutal dictators such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad; proliferate missile technology to dangerous proxies; conduct covert assassinations in other countries; and hold hostage citizens of foreign nations. Normal states do not support terrorism within their armed forces, as Iran has done with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Qods Force. Normal states do not abuse the international financial system and use commercial industry to fund and support terrorism. Normal states do not squander their own natural resources. Normal states do not violently suppress legitimate protests, jail their own citizens or those of other countries on specious crimes, engage in torture, and impose severe restrictions on basic freedoms.”
With a collapsing economy, massive unemployment and a growing recognition among the young and well-educated Iranian population that Iran’s vast oil resources have been systematically misused to enrich the mullahs and to finance proxy wars across the Middle East, the nationwide protests are now moving relentlessly towards a new revolution and the inevitable overthrow of the clerical fascist regime. Desperate to cling to power, the mullahs have ramped up repression and are desperately seeking western journalists who can be persuaded to smear and demonise the PMOI/MEK, whom they regard as their most serious threat.
It is sad that there are still appeasers in the western press and political circles who are prepared to close their eyes to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s human rights abuse, aggressive military expansionism, sponsorship of terrorism and cyberwarfare. They believe that ‘constructive dialogue’ with one of the world’s most evil regimes is preferable to taking a firm line and demanding that Iran behaves like, in the words of Mike Pompeo, ‘a normal state’. Journalists who naively lap up every shred of misinformation about the Iranian opposition and every iota of propaganda about the regime, simply embolden the fascist mullahs and their clerical tyranny. These ‘useful idiots’ crop up repeatedly in newspapers, radio and television in the EU and America, echoing their predecessors who trod a similar dishonourable path during the rise of the Nazis and the oppression of the Soviet Union.
Coordinator of Campaign for Iran Change, was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).