(July 11, 2007) In politics as with love, second marriages show the triumph of hope over experience.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian terrorist organization that has murdered Americans, is once again trying to launder its past and to convince Western governments that it can provide an effective alternative to the equally murderous regime in Tehran.
Few doubt that the Iranian regime has embarked on a collision course with the West and is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. Even Euro-sceptics acknowledge that Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has taken Iran on a dangerous path, and have allowed an unprecedented complaint against him by the government of Israel for inciting genocide to proceed at the United Nations.
But from acknowledging the problem to proposing marriage to the first pretty face wearing a skirt is a leap cooler heads should avoid.
MEK organizers staged a multi-media extravaganza recently at a gigantic exhibition hall on the outskirts of Paris that was worthy of Third Reich propagandists.
The MEK itself claimed that 50,000 people attended the June 30 event. Even their supporters, however, knew the number was inflated and settled on 20,000.
The normally level-headed Daniel Pipes, who attended the event, failed to ask how many of those who came to the rally had been paid by MEK recruiters, a common practise I exposed two years ago in covering a much smaller rally in New York.
The MEK has always been able to rent a crowd for the benefit of TV cameras and naïve Western commentators.
Where they have not succeeded, however, is to convince their fellow Iranians that they have discarded the Marxist-Islamist ideology that made them join forces with Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, when they helped to round up senior officers in the Iranian military for execution by the Islamist komitehs.
Pipes noted that the ³slick production² outside Paris was ³aimed mostly at an audience outside the hall, especially in Iran,² with the goal of ³reminding Iranians that an alternative does exist to todayıs theocracy.²
The only problem is that the MEK does not represent an ³alternative² to the Islamic regime, but just another flavor of tyranny.
After the group lost its power struggle with Khomeini in 1981 they fled to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein welcomed them with open arms.
He allowed the MEK to establish training camps near the Iranian border, and used MEK units to smash the Kurds in northern Iraq. (And if you believe all the rented names of so-called Iraqi tribal leaders who sign those full-page ads in American newspapers calling for the U.S. to support the MEK, just ask Iraqi president Jalal Talabani what he thinks of the group.)
In April 1988, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi and his political wife,² Maryam, announced the coming liberation of Iran and sent their Iraq-based troops across the border into Iran.
The intended ³liberation² quickly turned to disaster. Although there were no Revolutionary Guards or even regular Iranian army units in the vicinity, the MEK were so hated by Iranians that old men and young boys killed the invaders with pitchforks.
Thousands were slaughtered in a matter of days and the Rajaviıs liberation ³army² never recovered. (That didnıt prevent these masters of Nazi-style propaganda from claiming a huge victory, even parading about afterwards in ³captured² Iranian tanks that had been loaned to them by Saddam Hussein).
When making a revolution, it is critical to choose one's allies well. This is a group that openly boasts of having murdered Americans, and that aspires to dictatorial power in Iran. Their track record is clear.
Tehranıs leaders would like nothing better than for Western nations to openly back the MEK. Because the group is so hated inside Iran, such support would give the regime a convenient whipping boy. Contrary to the delusions of some that we somehow can ³unleash² the MEK, enthroning a terrorist group as the embodiment of the democratic opposition would rally support for the regime.
There are many courses of action now available to Western governments and even to individuals seeking to have an impact on events inside Iran. These range from ratcheting up economic and financial sanctions against the Tehran regime, a strategy spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Treasury, to disinvestment from companies that continue to support Iranıs oil and gas industry.
Both policies are beginning to have a real impact on events inside Iran by exposing the corrupt economic management of the ruling clergy. Witness the recent gasoline riots.
A wise policy toward Iran would include measures to encourage and nurture the Iranian people as they develop new institutions of civil society and increasingly challenge the unelected mafia that has ruled them for the past 28 years.
Such policies would include support for womenıs groups, student organizations, and other pro-democracy forces on the ground inside Iran, who have been struggling against the regime.
Such policies would include nurturing labor leaders such as Mansour Osanlou, a down-to-earth figure who has shown over the past two years that the seeds of a Solidarity-style movement inside Iran are real and growing.
An unusual new telephone poll, conducted in Iran from June 5 to June 18, 2007 by Terror Free Tomorrow, shows that the Iranian people overwhelmingly want to see democracy develop in their country and would like their country have normal relations with the West and with Israel.
Just 29% of those surveyed thought that developing nuclear weapons was an important priority, while 80% believed that Iran should agree to full, open and verifiable international nuclear inspections.
But the chief concern for 88% of those surveyed was the sorry state of Iranıs economy, a reply that shows the enormous vulnerability of Ahmadinejad, a man who campaigned for the presidency in 2005 by promising to put more of Iranıs oil wealth on the table of ordinary Iranians. Under Ahmadinejadıs stewardship, Iranians canıt even use their own oil to put gas in their cars.
The best news in this unusual opinion poll, however, showed the growing willingness of ordinary Iranians, chosen at random, to express their discontent with the regime.
61% of those surveyed were willing to tell a perfect stranger over the telephone that they opposed the current system of government, which is based on absolute rule of an unelected clergy.
Even better, 79% of Iranians said they supported a democratic system in which all leaders can be chosen and replaced by a free and direct vote of the people, according to Terror Free Tomorrowıs Ken Ballen.
This ground-breaking poll the first of its kind since Ahmadinejad took over as president ³demonstrates that the Iranian people are the best ally of the U.S. and the West against the government in Tehran,² Ballen says.
Ken Ballen is right. When Iranians lose their fear of the regime, the regime is in trouble.
We would be much better served by policies that encourage the Iranian people in their aspirations to freedom, than by trotting out worn-out cult figures who promise a new form of tyranny. Daniel Pipes of all people should know better.