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Here you will find a lengthy letter from the Iran Policy Committee, complaining about my coverage of a pro-MEK event in Washington, DC. Below that letter is my point by point rebuttal.

One for the archives.

Reprinted from
Response to ‘Terrorist Group Supporters Meet in Washington'

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Myths and Facts about The Second Annual National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran, Washington D.C.

This article is in response to Ken Timmerman's article Terrorist Group Supporters Meet in Washington from May 26th, 2006.

By Clare M. Lopez

Kenneth Timmerman got many things mixed up in his article, "MEK, Iranian Terrorist Group Supporters Meet in Washington," May 26, 2006, Web site. His article requires my response, as some of the inaccuracies involve the Iran Policy Committee and its research on the issue of the Iranian opposition.

 Timmerman's actions serve to strengthen the regime by attacking the First Amendment rights of Iranian expatriates as well as targeting Iran's main pro-democracy opposition—the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its member organization, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).

 Timmerman is a modern-day version of the so-called "useful fool" or Communist sympathizer of Cold War years, one who provided support, wittingly or not, to the repressive Soviet regime. Timmerman's description of the Second Annual National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran is a template of naïve, foolish, factual distortion that is already greeted with satisfaction by Tehran's terrorist clerics, as it has already appeared on websites operated by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence.

 Below are some of the Timmerman myths followed by the facts:

Asserts that Professor Raymond Tanter, who chairs the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), addressed the Convention, and calls the IPC "a private group in Washington that is lobbying Congress and the Bush administration to remove the MEK and its front groups from the terrorist list."

 In fact, although Iran Policy Committee (IPC) President Professor Raymond Tanter and Executive Director, Clare Lopez, were in attendance at the Convention, neither one addressed the group. The IPC is a leading Washington think tank, established in 2005, which conducts extensive research on policy issues related to Iran as well as engages in educational efforts about Iranian topics through publication and speaking activities.

 The IPC complies with all relevant regulations of the District of Columbia, where it is registered as a non-profit organization, as well as those of the Internal Revenue Service, which requires annual disclosure about donors, funding, expenditures, members, and directorship.

Asserts that the only member of Congress who addressed the rally was Representative Ted Poe, R-Texas.

 In fact, Member of Congress Bernice Edie Johnson, D-Texas, also spoke, and the Chief of Staff for Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., addressed the event. The IPC obtained copies of messages of a bipartisan group of members of Congress to the Convention, among them, House International Relations Committee members, Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., Michael McCaul, R-Texas, as well as Judiciary Committee member, Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas. In attendance, moreover, were many congressional staffers from the House and the Senate.

 Ambassador Pierre Prosper, former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes (2001-2005) and Ambassador James Akins, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, also addressed the event.

Claims that the MEK took part in the 1979 revolution against the Shah but only lately has become anti-regime

Asserts that the MEK allied with Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War

Favorably cites a 1994 report to Congress, where the State Department explained that it had designated the group as a terrorist organization because it had taken part in the 1979 taking of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and had murdered Americans working in Iran under the Shah

 In fact, research by the Iran Policy Committee finds that the MEK had nothing to do with the 1979 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran or with the subsequent hostage crisis.

 IPC research concludes that the MEK neither participated with the Iraqi army nor lent support to Saddam Hussein's brutal suppression of Kurdish and Shi'ite populations after the First Gulf War in 1991.

 Such IPC research also finds that the MEK was not responsible for the killing during the 1970s of several American military officers and defense contractors.

 The MEK is the oldest, largest, and best-organized of all surviving Iranian opposition groups, despite its 1997 placement on the U.S. Department of State Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as a conciliatory gesture to incoming Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

 The MEK today counts some 4,000 of its members who live at Ashraf City in northern Iraq under the protection of the U.S. military and enjoy Protected Persons status under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Favorably cites a description by the Shah of Iran that the MEK were "Islamic-Marxists"

Cites the Marxist Organization of the People's Fedaii Guerillas of Iran as rejecting the MEK

 In fact, the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, 2005, finds that a Marxist element of the MEK murdered several of the Shah's American security advisers prior to the Iranian Revolution. Indeed, Marxists hijacked the MEK name, killed Americans, murdered the legitimate Moslem leaders of the organization, and sought to pin the blame on the core leadership of the MEK.

 The term "Islamic-Marxists" was coined by the Shah and must be dismissed as meaningless jargon with regard to the MEK, an organization that adamantly calls for separation of religion and state and whose leadership has been a staunch proponent of a free market system since the early 1970s. In this regard, then, rejection by a genuinely Marxist organization logically must count as a point in the MEK's favor.

 Founded in the 1960s by Iranian university students who opposed the rule of the Shah and called for democratic reform, the MEK initially joined Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1979 Revolution before breaking away to enter into armed opposition when it became clear that Khomeini opposed MEK principles of democracy, separation of religion and state, and gender equality.

Claims that the rally of May 25, 2006, was a pro-MEK event and was sparsely attended compared to similar events in the past

 In fact, the Convention drew a sizable group of people to the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in downtown Washington. Organized in the style of an old-fashioned American political convention, complete with delegations from most states, food, music, slogans, and chants in support of democratic change in Iran, the event featured dozens of speakers, including human rights and women activists, student groups, and religious leaders from a range of faiths.

 Delegates viewed a video highlighting activities of Iranian-American communities in various states, including state-wide conventions in California and Texas, major rallies in New York City and Washington, to protest Ahmadinejad, as well as meetings and briefings on Capitol Hill.

 Several calls, amplified by large speakers, were made from Iran by activists, who reported about their anti-government activities and urged the Iranian Diaspora to support the cause of democracy in Iran. Punctuating the crowd's calls for an end to police state repression was the showing of an extraordinary series of video images taken inside Iran just the day before, in which thousands of Iranian university students poured into the streets to protest against the regime.

 A video message from National Council of Resistance of Iran President-elect Maryam Rajavi to the Convention was the high point of the program. Madame Rajavi said that "the mullahs' nuclear program is totally against Iran's national interests," and added that "Democracy in Iran serves the interests of the peoples in the region and global peace and security."

 A bravura performance by the legendary Iranian singer, Marjan, provided the closing notes of the program. Marjan's moving tribute to the Iranian opposition "What will you do with the roots?" brought the cheering audience to its feet. Its message of challenge to the theocratic regime in Tehran and reaffirmation of hope for a free and democratic future for the people of Iran offered a leitmotif for the Convention itself. The Convention was organized into two sets of platform presentations:

 The first speakers described the challenge to international security posed by Tehran's nuclear weapons program and aggressive Islamist ideology.

 The second platform was dedicated to the theme of democratic change and emphasized the urgency of empowering the Iranian people to take charge of their own future.

 A sea of waving placards throughout the hall proclaimed "No to Negotiations, No foreign war, Support the third option," to highlight the assembly's preference for civilian action to bring about democratic change. Among the placards could be seen many with the pictures of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the husband-wife elected leadership of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

 The bottom line is that Timmerman's article strengthens the regime by attacking the First Amendment rights of Iranian expatriates as well as targeting Iran's main pro-democracy opposition—the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its member organization, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).

Clare M. Lopez is the executive director of the Iran Policy Committee and a 20-year veteran of the CIA. Additional information about the IPC, its platform, publications, and members may be found at its Web site:

The following is author Ken Timmerman's response to the Iran Policy Committee's article above:

In response to a 650 word news story, Clare Lopez has contributed a literary effort of more than 1,400 words. It is difficult to separate the ad-hominen attacks from the substantive comments in her letter.

 In the category of "ad hominen" attacks, Ms. Lopez accuses me of "serve[ing] to strengthen the regime by attacking the First Amendment rights of Iranian expatriates," of being a "useful fool" to a repressive regime, and for giving "satisfaction" to "Tehran's terrorist clerics" because my article was cited on Web sites "operated by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence."

 Her message can be summed as follows: Anyone who exposes the activities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the group that was the subject of my article, must be a servant of the regime in Tehran. This has been a constant theme of MEK propaganda for many years, and as Ms. Lopez correctly points out, this is the type of analysis that flourished among communist sympathizers during the Cold War years. It is a purely Marxist technique.

 As to the substance of her comments: Ms Lopez criticizes me for "targeting Iran's main pro-democracy organization – the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its member organization, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)."

 But the MEK cannot claim to be a pro-democracy organization, or a component of any pro-democracy coalition in Iran.

 In Maryam Rajavi's "16-point Platform for a Democratic Iran," for example, the MEK pledges "complete freedom of parties, assemblies, political groups . . . except groups loyal to the dictatorships of the shah and Khomeini." That is a definition that sums up just about every opponent to the current regime – including the Mujahedin! Like the Bolsheviks of 1917, the MEK believes that it alone can confer political legitimacy, and prefers revolutionary purity over coalition-building.

 The MEK refers to Mrs. Rajavi as the "president-elect" of Iran, because a party congress elected her as party leader in August 1993.

 If a similar criterion was applied to the United States, Howard Dean would be the "president-elect" of the United States, because he is leader of the Democratic Party.

 Many former MEK members have described the group as a "cult," devoted to its leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. They have testified that the group compels members to divorce their husbands and wives, live in collective dwellings, and raise children in common. In response, the MEK accuses these defectors of being "agents of the Tehran regime," its solution to virtually any form of dissent.

 When Human Rights Watch published a 28-page report last year with defector testimony of MEK human rights violations inside its military camps in Iraq – camps set up under the auspicious of Saddam Hussein's regime – Ms. Lopez and the Iran Policy Committee rejected the allegations on similar grounds.

In addition, Ms. Lopez claims that "research by the Iran Policy Committee finds that the MEK had nothing to do with the 1979 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran or with the subsequent hostage crisis."

 A tortuous 102-page defense of the MEK published by her committee last year cites a number of sources to buttress this claim, including Ervand Abrahamian's definitive 1989 book, "The Iranian Mojahedin."

 In a selective use of sources, however, Ms. Lopez's committee failed to note massive evidence presented by Abrahamian of the MEK's anti-American positions and actions, including its "full support to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line who had taken over the U.S. embassy" [Abrahamian, p 196].

 During his trial on terrorism charges in 1972, for example, the MEK's Rajavi told the court that U.S. imperialism was "the main enemy of Iran." Thus, Rajavi insisted, "the main goal now is to free Iran of U.S. imperialism" [Abrahamian, p134-135].

 This is a theme reported ad nauseum in MEK publications after the 1979 revolution as well, but absent from the IPC papers on the MEK.

 For example, in "Mojahed" daily, the following statement appeared under the headline: "Let's create another Vietnam for the U.S." "MEK congratulates the Iranian nation for breaking diplomatic ties with the U.S. and calls for a total break-off [in relations]. As long as we enjoy the anti-imperialistic decisiveness of Imam Khomeini . . . the imperialists and their mercenaries are the ones who should be fearful of creating another Vietnam for themselves" [Mojahed, Vol 1., No. 36, April 9, 1980].

Ms. Lopez claimed that "IPC research also finds that the MEK was not responsible for the killing during the 1970s of several American military officers and defense contractors."

 This is a curious assertion, given the fact that the MEK publicly celebrated the anniversary of these murders, at least through the late 1980s (Source:"Mojahed" daily, June 4, 1980; testimony of FBI informant during Operation Suture, who related anniversary celebrations at the MEK's military training camps in Iraq in 1988).

 The definitive answer on these events comes from a 48-page Department of State report, dated Oct. 28, 1994, that was requested by Congress as part of the FY 1994-195 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, PL 103-236:

 "The Mojahedin collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the former Shah of Iran. As part of that struggle, they assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy, and opposed the release of American hostages," Page ii, Executive Summary.

 "The very day that 400 university students overtook the U.S. Embassy, the Mojahedin issued a proclamation headlined, ‘After the shah, it's America's turn.' Following the seizure of the embassy, the Mojahedin participated physically at the site, assisting in holding and defending the embassy against liberation. They also offered political support for the hostage-keeping," Page 5, "Mojahedin Support for Hostage-Taking."

Ms. Lopez also claims that several members of Congress addressed the May 25 event, not just one.

 I wrote in the dispatch: "Organizers said the only member of Congress who addressed today's rally was Rep. Ted Poe, R, Texas."

 I phoned Mr. Poe's office several times to verify that he addressed the rally, but his press spokesman said she was unaware that he attended. Additional messages were not returned. This is why I quoted the individuals who said they had organized the event as saying Mr. Poe was the only Member who attended. (A chief of staff for a U.S. Senator is not yet a Member of Congress).

Similarly, Ms. Lopez claims that I erred in stating that "Raymond Tanter, who chairs the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), addressed the Convention."

 Mr. Tanter arrived just as I was leaving the conference with a thin dossier in one hand. If he did not address the group, as I was told he intended to do, then the relevant paragraph in my story should be corrected to read: "Also attending the conference was Prof. Raymond Tanter . . ."

 The IPC Web site features a link to a video-clip of Mr. Tanter addressing a similar conference in San Diego, from a head table with a prominent sign, "Democratic Change with Maryam Rajavi." The IPC Web site also features press releases on events featuring Mr. Tanter in joint appearances with Alireza Jaafarzadeh, who is cited in an August 28, 2002 FBI report to the State Department's Counter-terrorism office as "a NCRI representative." The NCRI for many years was the overseas political wing of the MEK.

Ms. Lopez apparently objected to my characterization of the IPC as "a private group in Washington that is lobbying Congress and the Bush administration to remove the MEK and its front groups from the terrorist list."

 In fact, virtually every public appearance and report issued by the Iran Policy committee includes a plea to remove the MEK and its front groups from the terrorist list.

 For example, the 102-page report cited above presents "an evaluation of political benefits that would accrue to the United States if it were to remove the MEK from the FTO [foreign terrorist organization]" [p. 4].

 Similarly, a Feb. 10, 2005 white paper from the group argued that "a review of U.S. policy concerning the MEK and the overall Iranian opposition is in order," and asserted that "Removing the terrorist designation from the MEK could serve as the most tangible signal to the Iranian regime, as well as to the Iranian people, that a new option is now on the table" [p. 19].

 In a March 20, 2006 press conference at the National Press Club, posted to the group's Web site, Mr. Tanter again made the same argument. "While the U.S. government considers Iran the top state sponsor of terrorism, the $64,000 question is why Iran's main opposition is on the American terrorist list."

Finally, Ms. Lopez, was irritated that I pointed out that the May 25 event "was sparsely attended compared to similar events in the past."

 By my count, there were three sections of the auditorium, with roughly 30-40 persons in each section. However, as I noted in my dispatch, the audience had been given noise-makers and signs of Maryam and Massoud Rajavi to give the impression to the cameras filming the event of a much larger crowd.

 As a newsman, I felt the sparse attendance was significant, especially when put in context of the much broader support the MEK managed to garner in the past.

- Kenneth R. Timmerman

Original article