The USA and NATO seem to be using Albania as a home for their DAESH and the MEK ‘assets’, an Australian expert has said.
In an interview with Balkans Post, Professor Tim Anderson said, “It seems highly likely the group is still backed by Saudi money and Israeli advisers. Riyadh and Tel Aviv remain the most outspoken enemies of Iran.”
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
BP: Dr. Anderson, please explain the role of the MEK terrorist organization in countering the Islamic Republic of Iran since the revolution, 40 years ago
Tim Anderson: The history of betrayal and terrorism by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is quite well documented, because they have attacked all sides and were an internationally designated terrorist group for many years. While they opposed the U.S.-backed Shah regime and participated in the Revolution of 1979, they quickly turned on the new government and its supporters. This led to their suppression and expulsion from the country. They were rapidly adopted by the Iraq-Saudi-CIA bloc, helping Saddam Hussein in his aggression against the new Islamic Republic of Iran. Their role in the slaughter of 300,000 Iranian patriots destroyed their reputation within Iran (Carey 2018). Very quickly their hybrid (anti-imperialist, socialist and Islamic) philosophy was abandoned in favor of an opportunist cult (Merat 2018). After 1991 they continued as mercenaries for Saddam Hussein, helping to suppress Iraqi Shi’a and Kurd resistance (USDOS 2007; Merat 2018). After the 2003 invasion they were protected by U.S. forces at the ‘Camp Ashraf’ base, precisely because they were seen as a tool which could be used against Iran (Cartalucci 2018).
BP: Why does the Trump administration support the MEK as a ‘democratic alternative’ to the Iranian state, when it has no social base in Iran?
Tim Anderson: Fairly soon after Iran had suppressed the MEK’s assassination and bombing campaign, the MEK leadership sought exile in Europe and Iraq. However Washington saw the possibility of using them to weaken the new Islamic Republic of Iran. With Saddam’s support the MEK created a ‘National Liberation Army’ (NLA) of Iran, based in Baghdad, and used this to destroy Iranian villages, even during a UN brokered ceasefire (Carey 2018). Although there were internal U.S. debates (e.g. within the Bush administration) as to how to use them, there were few illusions about the group’s character. The U.S. Brookings Institute wrote that the terrorist group was “undemocratic and enjoys little popularity in Iran itself”. Nevertheless, the think tank recognized that the MEK might be used as a proxy but, to do so openly, “Washington would need to remove it from the list of foreign terrorist organizations” (Pollack et al 2009).
However the U.S. kept the MEK on its designated terrorist list until 2012, noting that they had: killed ‘several U.S. military personnel and civilians in the 1970s’, maintained European centers, and ‘planned and executed terrorist operations against the Iranian [government] for nearly three decades, from [their] European and Iraqi bases’ (USDOS 2007). With the proxy wars of the ‘Arab Spring’ – when the U.S. backed a range of al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, Libya and Syria - the MEK was gradually brought ‘in from the cold’, with the Obama administration eventually removing them from the U.S. ‘foreign terrorist’ list.
That delisting was duly carried out by the Obama administration, in 2012. The claim made at this time was that the MEK had publicly renounced violence, had not carried out terror attacks for ‘more than a decade’ and had cooperated with U.S. occupation forces at Camp Ashraf (USDOS 2012). This was a deceptive rationale. That same year U.S. officials linked the MEK to the assassination of two Iranian nuclear scientists; Iranian officials believed they were collaborating with and trained by Israel’s secret service, Mossad (Marizad 2012).
The utility of the group was not for ‘renouncing violence’ but rather because they were committed to ruthless violence against Iran and had proven themselves pliable opportunists (Cartalucci 2018). The MEK is seen by Washington as a proxy force, like the al Qaeda groups used against the Arab states, but with a distinct ideology. They are a nominal ‘alternative’, like other exile bodies set up by Washington for Iraq, Libya and Syria. For this purpose it is not considered important how little support they might have within Iran. They are useful to denounce, destabilize and attack (Parsi 2018; Carey 2018). They also help confuse feeble minded western people about the nature of the campaigns against Iran.
BP: Albania has become a hub for MEK propaganda, why is this? How are relations between the MEK and European countries?
Tim Anderson: For its public relations face in Europe, the MEK has a political front called the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). They identify with internal civil protests in Iran, over local economic issues, even though the MEK/NCRI has few Iranian links and very different objectives (Carey 2018). European tolerance of their activities seems to have grown in line with U.S. and NATO reliance on proxy terror groups for their current Middle East campaigns.
The MEK organizing center in Paris is now joined by a center in Albania, a weak state which emerged after NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia and the collapse of the third (Socialist) Republic of Albania. After the MEK was ‘delisted’ in the USA, between 2013 and 2016 Washington moved the 2,900 Camp Ashraf (Iraq) MEK members to Albania, where they are now joined by former DAESH / ISIS fighters (Spahiu 2018; Khodabandeh 2018). So the USA and NATO seem to be using Albania as a home for their DAESH and the MEK ‘assets’; and the Albanian regime seems to expect ‘some leverage with’ the U.S. for performing this hosting service. The MEK in Albania runs social media campaigns, attacking Tehran and promoting its leader Maryam Rajavi (Merat 2018). NATO has been ‘normalizing’ the MEK among the European states, as various European figures have endorsed or attended their ‘Free Iran’ rallies, in recent years. Trump advisor John Bolton is reported to have been paid large sums of money to advocate for the MEK (Merat 2018), while Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani has visited the MEK troops in Albania, on the invitation of MEK leader Maryam Rajavi (Jazexhi 2018). It seems highly likely the group is still backed by Saudi money and Israeli advisers. Riyadh and Tel Aviv remain the most outspoken enemies of Iran.
BP: Backed by the U.S. warmongers, Israelis and Saudis, the MEK’s aim is to implement regime change in Iran. What is your analysis of the role of these countries against the IRI, especially through their support of the MEK?
The U.S. and its key regional agents, Israel and Saudi Arabia, remain in a near permanent cold sweat over the strength and durability of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The U.S. tried to intervene in the country’s 2009 elections, pumping tens of millions into media propaganda (Carpenter 2009), with little success. None of them have any significant allies within the country, not least because Iran does not view traitors kindly.
Nevertheless, Iran’s enemies are keen to have some sort of Iranian partner including, it seems one as discredited as the MEK. There is no possible hope of any regime change, based on this traitorous terror group. However they can be used as dedicated provocateurs who are capable of terror attacks and disinformation campaigns. Their social media work may help fool gullible western people, as did the various paid al Qaeda PR groups, after 2011. Supplemented by Saudi-sponsored DAESH attacks, like those carried out on the National Assembly and the Khomeini mausoleum in June 2017 (BBC 2017), MEK agitation may be the best destabilizing option the imperialists have.
In September 2018 the MEK was linked to an attack on a military parade in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz (MNA 2018). Saudi sponsorship of the MEK-linked ‘al Ahwazia’ group was strongly suspected (Osman 2018). DAESH may also have been involved. With common sponsors and a common safe haven in Albania, the two terrorist groups may be working together.
Tim Anderson has degrees in economics and international politics, and a doctorate on the political economy of economic liberalisation in Australia. His current research interests relate to (i) Development strategy and rights in development, (ii) Melanesian land and livelihoods, and (iii) Economic Integration in Latin America. He is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He has studied the Syrian conflict since 2011.
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