(Note: This article was originally printed on YellowTimes web site: YellowTimes.org)
It has been a little over a month since one hundred and fifty congressmen came out in support of the Iranian Mujahideen Khalq (MKO), an opposition group both the Bush and Clinton administrations have called a terrorist organization.
The lawmakers, more than one third of the 432 current members of the House of Representatives, claimed that the Mujahideen were a legitimate resistance movement and should be removed from the State Department's list of "foreign terrorist organizations." To make matters worse, recently released White House documents show a top commander in President Bush's war on terrorism to also have been among the supporters of the notorious MKO: Attorney General John Ashcroft, who became involved with the MKO while a Republican senator from Missouri. The Attorney General liked to call them "Freedom Fighters."
Just to be clear, MKO/NCR are not nice people. And they are not freedom fighters.
The MKO, which originally fought to overthrow the Shah of Iran, were linked to the murder of several U.S. military officers in Iran in the 1970s and have "an extremely bloody history" according to one U.S. counter-terrorism official.
The goal of "removing a tyrannical regime from power" is one thing, supporting terrorism to accomplish that task is another.
Furthermore, I should be fair and point out that the MKO is hardly a "democratic" organization that it claims to be. They are hated by the Iranian people, including even the reformists. They operate out of Iraq and are allies with Saddam Hussein. They fought with Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iraq-Iran war and against the U.S. during the Persian Gulf War. Contrary to their claims on targeting only "military" targets in Iran, they have been blowing up bombs in government and civilian administration centers in Iran for years.
Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the MKO/NCR for their use of political violence. They have recently been involved in major criminal activities in the State of California including an immigration fraud ring and a bogus charity scheme. Numerous arrests were made in these cases.
The MKO has been similarly implicated in charity frauds in Britain and Germany. Furthermore, they believe in a Marxist-Islamic ideology that isn't far from Iran's conservative establishment thinking. Again, women covered with red Islamic veils, parading with machine guns. Who are our leaders supporting?
The fact that this is an organization that the Justice Department, the State Department, and some of our allies such as Britain consider a terrorist group that has a very clear history of terrorism makes support for this kind of group precisely the kind of short term compromise that gets us into long term trouble.
Obviously, the goal behind support for this organization is to destabilize the conservative religious leadership of Iran. But since the MKO is a well-known terrorist organization, then at some point, it will (as it already has) involve killing civilians. By backing the MKO, we are very likely making ourselves enemies of the very people we are counting on to build a democratic society. Democracy in Iran cannot be brought through terrorist means.
We cannot continue to support non-democratic groups under the guise of bringing about democratic change. It fools no one on the ground, and makes us the enemies of democracy in far too many places. Building a democratic society is hard, time-consuming work. Trying to shortcut it with groups like these is simply making the process harder. Instead of trying to "magic bullet" our way to a democratic Iran, we need to build a solid, constant, patient and engaging policy that helps the people of Iran build their own democracy. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick, but that is the only way we can succeed in the long run.
About the author:
Nima Kasraie is the president of the Persian Club at the University of Tennessee and is also a former editor of The English Service of Radio Tehran (I.R.I.B., Voice of The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Service).
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