The Baffling Relationship between American Politicians and the MEK
By Ashton Hashemipour / July 10, 2018
American calls for regime change have certainly focused on this idea of a democratic, liberal Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Ted Cruz, and National Security Advisor John Bolton (among many others) have openly advocated for such change. But it’s not just Republicans: both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have also called for Iranians to be freed from the chains of the Islamic Republic. These politicians have decried the lack of human rights in Iran, the lack of democracy, and the suffering of the Iranian people.
Given this context, the relationship between some American politicians and the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, is baffling. The MEK, guided by an undemocratic fusion of Marxism and Islamism, has conducted terrorist attacks against Americans and Iranians alike yet has support from a plethora of U.S. conservative and liberal politicians
(including many who advocate for the democratization of Iran), such as Rudy Giuliani, Bolton, Pompeo, Pelosi, and Edward Rendell. Given the MEK’s inability to meaningfully change Iran, the support of U.S. politicians for the Mujahedin will only have negative effects for the United States, namely that it will alienate the Iranian people and give hardliners in the Islamic Republic a chance to capitalize on this support.
What is the MEK?
The MEK was established in 1965 as a leftist organization staunchly opposed to the American-backed Shah of Iran. Until the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the MEK, originally founded upon the ideals of Marxism and Islamism, engaged in a plethora of terrorist attacks, targeting Americans civilians and government workers
. Many of its members were either imprisoned or executed while the Shah was in power.
During the Revolution, the MEK helped supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini overthrow the Shah
. Yet after a few years of rule by the Islamic Republic, Khomeini saw that the MEK’s ideology was at odds with his vision for the country, and he ordered his forces to arrest and execute Mujahedin members. The Mujahedin responded by assassinating members of the Islamic government
, including the Prime Minister in a 1981 bombing.
In 1980, Saddam Hussein, sensing instability in Iran, decided to invade. The MEK, seeing an opportunity to destabilize the Islamic government joined him in fighting their own countrymen. Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, and his bombing of Iranian cities, did not deter the MEK in their support of him, which continued throughout the war. Saddam even helped arm the MEK, allowing them to conduct suicide attacks in Iran
In spite of the MEK’s recent history of terrorism, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 removed the organization from of the FTO list
, unfreezing its assets and allowing it to engage in financial interactions with those in the United States. The organization, however, in spite of its claim to want democracy in Iran, remains internally undemocratic and is monumentally unpopular among those living in Iran
Implications of American Support
Despite its talk of freeing Iran and the friends that it has made in the West, the Mujahedin is hated among the Iranian people. For many Iranians, the MEK’s decision to fight alongside Saddam, and its indiscriminate attacks on Iranian civilians, destroyed any possible sympathetic feelings. Further, according to a poll taken by George Mason University, less than one percent of Iranian-Americans—the largest group in the Iranian diaspora—support the MEK
Perhaps more importantly, however, U.S. support of the MEK will only alienate the people of Iran, the very people to whom Western politicians, from Trump to Pelosi to the conference’s speakers, have tried to appeal. Any American call for freedom in Iran—any message in support of the Iranian people—will be marred by this widespread support of a terrorist organization. The only people who will be strengthened by this support are Iranian hardliners, whose ultimate message is that the United States despises Iran, wants the country to fail, and is not a reliable partner. Supporting the MEK will only strengthen that narrative
Although supporting the MEK provides a way for American politicians to ostensibly advocate for a democratic revolution in Iran, the costs of supporting a terrorist group far outweigh any benefits. To weaken the Iranian government and gain the support of the Iranian people, the United States should attempt to act as a friend to the Iranian people, instead of supporting a terrorist organization, banning Iranians from entering the country, and putting crippling sanctions on Iran, which hurt civilians more than the government. But given the immense amount of lobbying from
anti-Iran groups—from America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)
—it is highly unlikely that such a change in the mindset of American politicians will occur.
http://uchicagogate.com/articles/2018/7 ... s-and-mek/