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Those Who Struggle

by on July 10, 2012

The Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, which I could translate in a variety of ways, including, Those Who Struggle for the Masses, or The Warriors of the People, call themselves, among other names, the People’s Mujahedin.  The transliteration may never be exact, even by those fluent in Farsi and English, but Mujahedin (of which there are various spellings) means those who engage in jihad, which is the struggle of life to fulfill God’s commandments.  Contrary to standard Western doctrine, jihadism is not inherently violent.  Khalq means masses, or group of people (and, as I am sure there are other translations, please feel free to correct and expand my knowledge).  Therefore, the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq are those who struggle.

But who are they struggling for, and what are they fighting, literally or figuratively, against?  What masses of people do they represent?  The M.E.K., for those who like shorthand, “was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran;” founded in 1965 ” by a group of leftist Iranian university students as an Islamic political mass movement devoted to the overthrow of monarchist regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. However, the group went under two serious blows in 1971 and 1976 during which most of the leadership cadre of the group were executed or imprisoned. In the absence of the groups’ leadership, Ayatollah Khomeini found the opportunity to grasp the leadership of [the Iranian] Revolution in 1979.”  The M.E.K., then, at it’s founding was an anti-monarchist group.  In 1979, using the ideas but not support of the M.E.K., Khomeini overthrew the Shah; in 1979 the Mujahedin-E-Khalq quickly went from being against the monarchy to being against the Ayatollah.

That’s just the beginning.  The M.E.K is  currently a “dissident Iranian opposition group.”  Within a few years of 1979 the group was “waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.”

(A momentary detour.  What of Iran’s claim-to-fame in the West, the advent of development of nuclear capability? According to Seymour Hersh, author of the above-linked New Yorker article, “in 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location.  Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad.”)

Why say that the 1997 labeling of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq by the label-happy State Department is just the beginning?  Take a step back; at the beginning of Sy Hersh’s article the “Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training [in the Nevada Desert], beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq….The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations.”  Ah, back to the bomb.

Regardless of the bomb, perhaps not all of Ahmadinejad’s screamings are without basis.  “Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.”  Hersh continues: “despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training.”  Mind you, the government doesn’t generally announce joint training with non-state para-military forces, even when they aren’t on our terrorist list.  Hersh, who is checks his sources and gets his comments, adds,  in parentheses, “(A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that ‘U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.’)”

The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”

It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.”

The general said that the site in Nevada was being “utilized at the same time for advanced training of elite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)” (emphasis added)

In 2005, when the training theoretically began, through 2007, when the training theoretically ended, there was a conservative (to say the least) president in the White House, with a neoconservative set of policy-makers.  Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State.  Donald Rumsfeld, then Robert Gates, were Secretaries of Defense.  Alberto Gonzalez was Attorney General.  Michael Chertoff was Director of Homeland Security.  Andrew Card, then Joshua Bolten, were Chiefs of Staff.  And Dick Cheney was Vice President.  It is unreasonable to think that the policy of training the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, at that time, and currently, on the terrorist watch list, during the most terrified presidency in modern history, was not reviewed by each of these individuals, whose various positions were directed to defend and protect our country.  It is equally unreasonable to assume, given the policy stance of almost all of these individuals, that they would have trained the M.E.K in the Nevada Desert, but reality should never be based on reasonable assumptions.

The illogic and unreasonableness noted above is not mine alone.  “Such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”

What was going on in Nevada? A defector from the M.E.K., Massoud Khodabandeh, who is an IT specialist, “was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.”

America’s fascination with the possibility of Iran having a nuclear weapon has been going on since at least 2003, when the M.E.K. informed us that Iran might be enriching uranium. “Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007,” the year when training in covert operations apparently ended in the Nevada Desert. “M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities.” The “former senior intelligence official” that Hersh spoke with said the goal was to demoralize the Iranians, and that “the operations are ‘primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.'” A different source told Hersh that “the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. ‘Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates.'”

The sources Sy Hersh spoke to were “unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. ‘The M.E.K. was a total joke,’ the senior Pentagon consultant said, ‘and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations that it never had before.'”

The United States government, for its part, denies that it supports the Mujahedin-e-Khalq.

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From → Politics, World

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