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US has no better friend than Iran!: What to do with the MKO cult?

4/29/03 By Ali Moayedian

Now that US forces are in Iraq, the big questions is what will be the fate of the Iraq-based People's Mujahedin (MKO), a supposedly Iranian opposition group?

MKO was originally formed during Shah's time. It was an attempt in bridging Islam and Marxism to offer a revolutionary brand of Islam and to compete with the Marxist groups that dominated the university campuses. Many MKO fighters died in street battles with the Shah's forces or in prisons, and this made the group very popular in Iran. This popularity however did not extend to the conservative clerics who seized the rein of the revolution that overthrew the Shah. A few years after revolution, violent confrontations erupted between revolutionary guards and MKO that resulted in deaths of hundreds of the group members and followers. The wave of executions that followed did not stop at MKO's followers however. Any group that was considered anti-revolutionary was game. But one person who escaped the killings was Massoud Rajavi, the head of MKO. He decided to follow Shah's example and split when the situation got hot! And he left behind the battered opposition groups in their ruins, not unlike Shah who left his commanders to face the execution squads!

There has been many condemnations of the ruling clerics who were responsible for the crimes committed in the name of purging anti-revolutionaries. Another group that deserves condemnations for what happened is the leadership of MKO, and specially Massoud Rajavi, since they are responsible for ordering the armed conflict with the revolutionary guards without realizing or perhaps caring about the consequences. And while their exposed followers were being dragged to prisons to face torture and execution, Massoud Rajavi fled to the safety of Paris!

Many Iranians have questioned why Massoud Rajavi stayed alive in the Shah's prisons while the rest of MKO's leadership were eliminated, and they have concluded that he must have been "useful." Or may be he was in fact very charming and charismatic! I actually attended one of his speeches at Tehran university in the summer of 1979. I must admit his voice was captivating. I was lucky that I left Iran shortly after that, or had I attended another speech of his, I might have joined MKO myself!

With the arrival of Rajavi in Paris, MKO took a big turn. Not only Rajavi left the young followers in Iran to fight for their lives in the streets, he also left most of MKO's leadership behind, including his wife, to be eliminated by the revolutionary guards. What this meant was further consolidation of power in the hands of Rajavi! While MKO's followers were still mourning the killing of Rajavi's wife in Iran, Rajavi came up with the revolutionary idea of marrying the daughter of Bani Sadr, the ex-president who had fled Iran along with Rajavi. And Rajavi sold this marriage as something that would strengthen the union with Bani Sadr and was at the service of the revolution! Naturally when Rajavi-Bani Sadr union melted away, so did the marriage! But then again there was Maryam Rajavi, the wife of another MKO leader. Close working relations between Maryam and Massoud may have created strong attraction between the two. This is perfectly understandable. But what's harder to understand this attraction and subsequent divorce of Maryam from her husband and her marriage to Rajavi was once again sold to the followers as a "cultural revolution" where all involved parties were serving the organization's interests!

Following these event, it was clear that MKO is no longer an opposition group, but rather a cult headed by Massoud Rajavi. And like other cults, MKO demanded blind following of the group: Members and followers were told not to question the leadership and to follow all orders. They were even told to not to engage in discussions with others. The task at hand was overthrowing the Islamic Republic and there could be no distractions until that goal was achieved! And anyone who criticized the group was naturally branded a traitor and an agent of the mullahs!

So it's no wonder that Massoud Rajavi was able to go through another marriage, this time with the infamous Saddam Hussein, a cult-like character himself! The similarities between Saddam and Rajavi are in fact very strong and point to a marriage made in heaven! When I remember that in the early days of the revolution I actually liked Rajavi and would have been happy to see him in power, and then I look at what he turned out to be, I realize how lucky Iranians have been. Even with all the suppressions that happened in Iran, compared to the situation in Iraq, we have been a thousands time better off! And that's what Massoud Rajavi seems to have had in store for us!

Being in bed with Saddam offered MKO bases and military and financial support, in exchange for Rajavi providing assistance to Iraq in its deadly war with Iran. So while tens of thousands of Iranians were dying in the war fronts, in a disastrous war which started by Iraq, MKO forces were assisting the enemy! It was at this point that MKO lost what was left of its legitimacy as an opposition group and became a group in the service of the enemy. No wonder today MKO is considered an external group with no popular support in Iran that is kept tightly together with the forces associated with a cult. And even with all the financial backing from Saddam, MKO has failed to attract a strong backing among the Iranians living abroad. But unfortunately as a direct result of Saddam's financial backing, MKO has been able to lobby members of the US House and Senate very strongly and win backing from some senators and congressmen who have assumed MKO is a true representatives of the Iranian opposition. But as more and more people become aware about the true nature of MOK, it's becoming apparent that the backing by those senators and congressmen has been mostly superficial and is fading away fast.

So now the questions is now that US has come face to face with MKO, what is it going to do about it? MKO is recognized as a terrorist group by both US and EU. Furthermore, according to US State Department, MKO has participated in the suppression of the uprising of the Shi'ites and Kurds that followed the first Persian Gulf War. Even if this is not completely true, there are still the following facts:

All this makes Iraq a hostile territory for MKO forces. The choice for US is clear. MKO should be removed from Iraq as soon as possible. Not only this will prove that US is true to her words, it will also encourage stability in the region by more positive engagements from Iran in regards to Iraq and the region. And it will prevent a potential tragedy in the making. What many Iranians are afraid will happen is a massacre of the MKO members in Iraq by the hostile forces that are bound to focus on MKO sooner or later. While Iran has offered to accept junior members of MKO and promised not to prosecute them, this is unlikely to bring a mass exodus from MKO camps to Iran. Also, as a cult, many members of MKO are under great influence of their leaders, and like any other cult walking out for them is not a clear option. They will need great assistance in doing so. Once separated from their cult leadership, these members will hopefully be able to make the right choice. If going to Iran is not an acceptable option for them, then western countries should step in and offer homes to these people.

What Iranians hope for is a completely free Iran. The present Iranian president and parliament, while elected, have little control when it comes to critical issues which are the exclusive domain of the un-elected clerics headed by the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. But Iran is not a closed society. There are crucial debates going on in Iran. There has been progress in the last ten years, and people are demanding even more reforms and radical changes. But this is a distinctly non-violent movement. And this is exactly what MKO have been working very hard to disrupt. The non-violent and peaceful transformation of Iran threatens the very existence of MKO and they have been hard at work trying to sabotage that process in Iran.

US should consider joining European Union in implementing a constructive engagement with Iran and applying critical pressure to speed the political transformation process in Iran. Any aid by US to MKO or other violent groups will disturb the healthy and growing political currents in Iran and is bound to backfire and create problems which will once again result in animosity between the Iran and US. Iranians have still not forgotten the involvement of US in the 1953 coup that overthrew their popular Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq. Neither have they forgotten the US support for the Shah. But they have been ready to forgive. Even with all the hard feelings, Iran, after Israel, is the other country in the Middle East where people feel very close to the Americans and have great admirations for them. We need to build on these feelings. Any involvement of US in Iran that goes against the popular desire is bound to flare hostilities, not only in Iran but the whole Middle East. What US needs more than ever in the region are good friends. And while President Bush has said that Iran will not find a better friend than US, the reverse of that is also true. US will find no better friend in the region than Iran! Now the task ahead of us is to make this friendship take shape and blossom!

About the author:
Ali Moayedian is an Iranian-American who lives and works in San Francisco bay area.

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