Here you will find a lengthy letter from theIran Policy Committee, complaining about my coverage of a pro-MEKevent in Washington, DC. Below that letter is my point by pointrebuttal.
One for the archives.
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Responseto ‘Terrorist Group Supporters Meet inWashington'
Tuesday, June 6,2006
This article is in response to KenTimmerman's article TerroristGroup Supporters Meet inWashington from May26th, 2006.
Kenneth Timmerman got many thingsmixed up in his article, "MEK, Iranian Terrorist Group SupportersMeet in Washington," May 26, 2006, NewsMax.com Web site. His articlerequires my response, as some of the inaccuracies involve the IranPolicy Committee and its research on the issue of the Iranianopposition.
Timmerman's actions serve to strengthen the regime by attackingthe First Amendment rights of Iranian expatriates as well astargeting Iran's main pro-democracy opposition—the NationalCouncil of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its member organization, theMujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).
Timmerman is a modern-day version of the so-called "usefulfool" or Communist sympathizer of Cold War years, one who providedsupport, wittingly or not, to the repressive Soviet regime.Timmerman's description of the Second Annual National Convention fora Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran is a template of naïve,foolish, factual distortion that is already greeted with satisfactionby Tehran's terrorist clerics, as it has already appeared on websitesoperated by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence.
Below are some of the Timmerman myths followed by thefacts:
Asserts that Professor Raymond Tanter, who chairs the Iran PolicyCommittee (IPC), addressed the Convention, and calls the IPC "aprivate group in Washington that is lobbying Congress and the Bushadministration to remove the MEK and its front groups from theterrorist list."
In fact, although Iran Policy Committee (IPC) PresidentProfessor Raymond Tanter and Executive Director, Clare Lopez, were inattendance at the Convention, neither one addressed the group. TheIPC is a leading Washington think tank, established in 2005, whichconducts extensive research on policy issues related to Iran as wellas engages in educational efforts about Iranian topics throughpublication and speaking activities.
The IPC complies with all relevant regulations of the Districtof Columbia, where it is registered as a non-profit organization, aswell as those of the Internal Revenue Service, which requires annualdisclosure about donors, funding, expenditures, members, anddirectorship.
Asserts that the only member of Congress who addressed the rally wasRepresentative Ted Poe, R-Texas.
In fact, Member of Congress Bernice Edie Johnson, D-Texas, alsospoke, and the Chief of Staff for Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla.,addressed the event. The IPC obtained copies of messages of abipartisan group of members of Congress to the Convention, amongthem, House International Relations Committee members, Tom Tancredo,R-Colo., Michael McCaul, R-Texas, as well as Judiciary Committeemember, Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas. In attendance, moreover, weremany congressional staffers from the House and the Senate.
Ambassador Pierre Prosper, former Ambassador-at-Large for WarCrimes (2001-2005) and Ambassador James Akins, former ambassador toSaudi Arabia, also addressed the event.
Claims that the MEK took part in the 1979 revolution against the Shahbut only lately has become anti-regime
Asserts that the MEK allied with Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988Iran-Iraq War
Favorably cites a 1994 report to Congress, where the State Departmentexplained that it had designated the group as a terroristorganization because it had taken part in the 1979 taking of the U.S.embassy in Tehran and had murdered Americans working in Iran underthe Shah
In fact, research by the Iran Policy Committee finds that theMEK had nothing to do with the 1979 attacks on the U.S. Embassy inTehran or with the subsequent hostage crisis.
IPC research concludes that the MEK neither participated withthe Iraqi army nor lent support to Saddam Hussein's brutalsuppression of Kurdish and Shi'ite populations after the First GulfWar in 1991.
Such IPC research also finds that the MEK was not responsiblefor the killing during the 1970s of several American militaryofficers and defense contractors.
The MEK is the oldest, largest, and best-organized of allsurviving Iranian opposition groups, despite its 1997 placement onthe U.S. Department of State Foreign Terrorist Organizations list asa conciliatory gesture to incoming Iranian president MohammadKhatami.
The MEK today counts some 4,000 of its members who live atAshraf City in northern Iraq under the protection of the U.S.military and enjoy Protected Persons status under the provisions ofthe 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 ofIran 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 theShah's American security advisers prior to the Iranian Revolution.Indeed, Marxists hijacked the MEK name, killed Americans, murderedthe legitimate Moslem leaders of the organization, and sought to pinthe blame on the core leadership of the MEK.
The term "Islamic-Marxists" was coined by the Shah and must bedismissed as meaningless jargon with regard to the MEK, anorganization that adamantly calls for separation of religion andstate and whose leadership has been a staunch proponent of a freemarket system since the early 1970s. In this regard, then, rejectionby a genuinely Marxist organization logically must count as a pointin the MEK's favor.
Founded in the 1960s by Iranian university students who opposedthe rule of the Shah and called for democratic reform, the MEKinitially joined Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1979 Revolution beforebreaking away to enter into armed opposition when it became clearthat Khomeini opposed MEK principles of democracy, separation ofreligion and state, and gender equality.
Claims that the rally of May 25, 2006, was a pro-MEK event and wassparsely attended compared to similar events in the past
In fact, the Convention drew a sizable group of people to theAndrew W. Mellon Auditorium in downtown Washington. Organized in thestyle of an old-fashioned American political convention, completewith delegations from most states, food, music, slogans, and chantsin support of democratic change in Iran, the event featured dozens ofspeakers, including human rights and women activists, student groups,and religious leaders from a range of faiths.
Delegates viewed a video highlighting activities ofIranian-American communities in various states, including state-wideconventions in California and Texas, major rallies in New York Cityand Washington, to protest Ahmadinejad, as well as meetings andbriefings on Capitol Hill.
Several calls, amplified by large speakers, were made from Iranby activists, who reported about their anti-government activities andurged the Iranian Diaspora to support the cause of democracy in Iran.Punctuating the crowd's calls for an end to police state repressionwas the showing of an extraordinary series of video images takeninside Iran just the day before, in which thousands of Iranianuniversity students poured into the streets to protest against theregime.
A video message from National Council of Resistance of IranPresident-elect Maryam Rajavi to the Convention was the high point ofthe program. Madame Rajavi said that "the mullahs' nuclear program istotally against Iran's national interests," and added that "Democracyin Iran serves the interests of the peoples in the region and globalpeace and security."
A bravura performance by the legendary Iranian singer, Marjan,provided the closing notes of the program. Marjan's moving tribute tothe Iranian opposition "What will you do with the roots?" brought thecheering audience to its feet. Its message of challenge to thetheocratic regime in Tehran and reaffirmation of hope for a free anddemocratic future for the people of Iran offered a leitmotif for theConvention itself. The Convention was organized into two sets ofplatform presentations:
The first speakers described the challenge to internationalsecurity posed by Tehran's nuclear weapons program and aggressiveIslamist ideology.
The second platform was dedicated to the theme of democraticchange and emphasized the urgency of empowering the Iranian people totake charge of their own future.
A sea of waving placards throughout the hall proclaimed "No toNegotiations, No foreign war, Support the third option," to highlightthe assembly's preference for civilian action to bring aboutdemocratic change. Among the placards could be seen many with thepictures of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the husband-wife electedleadership of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The bottom line is that Timmerman's article strengthens theregime by attacking the First Amendment rights of Iranian expatriatesas well as targeting Iran's main pro-democracy opposition—theNational Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its memberorganization, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).
Clare M. Lopez is the executive director of the Iran PolicyCommittee and a 20-year veteran of the CIA. Additional informationabout the IPC, its platform, publications, and members may be foundat its Web site: www.iranpolicy.org
In response to a 650 word news story,Clare Lopez has contributed a literary effort of more than 1,400words. It is difficult to separate the ad-hominen attacks from thesubstantive comments in her letter.
In the category of "ad hominen" attacks, Ms. Lopez accuses meof "serve[ing] to strengthen the regime by attacking theFirst Amendment rights of Iranian expatriates," of being a "usefulfool" to a repressive regime, and for giving "satisfaction" to"Tehran's terrorist clerics" because my article was cited on Websites "operated by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence."
Her message can be summed as follows: Anyone who exposes theactivities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the group that was the subjectof my article, must be a servant of the regime in Tehran. This hasbeen a constant theme of MEK propaganda for many years, and as Ms.Lopez correctly points out, this is the type of analysis thatflourished among communist sympathizers during the Cold War years. Itis a purely Marxist technique.
As to the substance of her comments: Ms Lopez criticizes me for"targeting Iran's main pro-democracy organization – theNational Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its memberorganization, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)."
But the MEK cannot claim to be a pro-democracy organization, ora 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 thedictatorships of the shah and Khomeini." That is a definition thatsums up just about every opponent to the current regime –including the Mujahedin! Like the Bolsheviks of 1917, the MEKbelieves that it alone can confer political legitimacy, and prefersrevolutionary 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 August1993.
If a similar criterion was applied to the United States, HowardDean would be the "president-elect" of the United States, because heis 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 havetestified that the group compels members to divorce their husbandsand wives, live in collective dwellings, and raise children incommon. In response, the MEK accuses these defectors of being "agentsof the Tehran regime," its solution to virtually any form ofdissent.
When Human Rights Watch published a 28-page report last yearwith defector testimony of MEK human rights violations inside itsmilitary camps in Iraq – camps set up under the auspicious ofSaddam Hussein's regime – Ms. Lopez and the Iran PolicyCommittee rejected the allegations on similar grounds.
In addition, Ms. Lopez claims that "research by the Iran PolicyCommittee finds that the MEK had nothing to do with the 1979 attackson the U.S. Embassy in Tehran or with the subsequent hostagecrisis."
A tortuous 102-page defense of the MEK published by hercommittee last year cites a number of sources to buttress this claim,including Ervand Abrahamian's definitive 1989 book, "The IranianMojahedin."
In a selective use of sources, however, Ms. Lopez's committeefailed to note massive evidence presented by Abrahamian of the MEK'santi-American positions and actions, including its "full support tothe Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line who had taken overthe U.S. embassy" [Abrahamian, p 196].
During his trial on terrorism charges in 1972, for example, theMEK's Rajavi told the court that U.S. imperialism was "the main enemyof Iran." Thus, Rajavi insisted, "the main goal now is to free Iranof U.S. imperialism" [Abrahamian, p134-135].
This is a theme reported ad nauseum in MEK publications afterthe 1979 revolution as well, but absent from the IPC papers on theMEK.
For example, in "Mojahed" daily, the following statementappeared under the headline: "Let's create another Vietnam for theU.S." "MEK congratulates the Iranian nation for breaking diplomaticties with the U.S. and calls for a total break-off [inrelations]. As long as we enjoy the anti-imperialisticdecisiveness of Imam Khomeini . . . the imperialists and theirmercenaries are the ones who should be fearful of creating anotherVietnam for themselves" [Mojahed, Vol 1., No. 36, April 9,1980].
Ms. Lopez claimed that "IPC research also finds that the MEK was notresponsible for the killing during the 1970s of several Americanmilitary officers and defense contractors."
This is a curious assertion, given the fact that the MEKpublicly celebrated the anniversary of these murders, at leastthrough the late 1980s (Source:"Mojahed" daily, June 4, 1980;testimony of FBI informant during Operation Suture, who relatedanniversary celebrations at the MEK's military training camps in Iraqin 1988).
The definitive answer on these events comes from a 48-pageDepartment of State report, dated Oct. 28, 1994, that was requestedby Congress as part of the FY 1994-195 Foreign RelationsAuthorization Act, PL 103-236:
"The Mojahedin collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini tooverthrow the former Shah of Iran. As part of that struggle, theyassassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeoverof 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, ‘Afterthe shah, it's America's turn.' Following the seizure of the embassy,the Mojahedin participated physically at the site, assisting inholding and defending the embassy against liberation. They alsooffered political support for the hostage-keeping," Page 5,"Mojahedin Support for Hostage-Taking."
Ms. Lopez also claims that several members of Congress addressed theMay 25 event, not just one.
I wrote in the dispatch: "Organizers said the only member ofCongress who addressed today's rally was Rep. Ted Poe, R, Texas."
I phoned Mr. Poe's office several times to verify that headdressed the rally, but his press spokesman said she was unawarethat he attended. Additional messages were not returned. This is whyI quoted the individuals who said they had organized the event assaying Mr. Poe was the only Member who attended. (A chief of stafffor a U.S. Senator is not yet a Member of Congress).
Similarly, Ms. Lopez claims that I erred in stating that "RaymondTanter, who chairs the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), addressed theConvention."
Mr. Tanter arrived just as I was leaving the conference with athin dossier in one hand. If he did not address the group, as I wastold he intended to do, then the relevant paragraph in my storyshould 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. Tanteraddressing a similar conference in San Diego, from a head table witha prominent sign, "Democratic Change with Maryam Rajavi." The IPC Website also features press releases on events featuring Mr. Tanter injoint appearances with Alireza Jaafarzadeh, who is cited in an August28, 2002 FBI report to the State Department's Counter-terrorismoffice as "a NCRI representative." The NCRI for many years was theoverseas political wing of the MEK.
Ms. Lopez apparently objected to my characterization of the IPC as "aprivate group in Washington that is lobbying Congress and the Bushadministration to remove the MEK and its front groups from theterrorist list."
In fact, virtually every public appearance and report issued bythe Iran Policy committee includes a plea to remove the MEK and itsfront groups from the terrorist list.
For example, the 102-page report cited above presents "anevaluation of political benefits that would accrue to the UnitedStates if it were to remove the MEK from the FTO [foreignterrorist organization]" [p. 4].
Similarly, a Feb. 10, 2005 white paper from the group arguedthat "a review of U.S. policy concerning the MEK and the overallIranian opposition is in order," and asserted that "Removing theterrorist designation from the MEK could serve as the most tangiblesignal to the Iranian regime, as well as to the Iranian people, thata new option is now on the table" [p. 19].
In a March 20, 2006 press conference at the National PressClub, posted to the group's Web site, Mr. Tanter again made the sameargument. "While the U.S. government considers Iran the top statesponsor of terrorism, the $64,000 question is why Iran's mainopposition is on the American terrorist list."
Finally, Ms. Lopez, was irritated that I pointed out that the May 25event "was sparsely attended compared to similar events in thepast."
By my count, there were three sections of the auditorium, withroughly 30-40 persons in each section. However, as I noted in mydispatch, the audience had been given noise-makers and signs ofMaryam and Massoud Rajavi to give the impression to the camerasfilming 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 MEKmanaged to garner in the past.