Archive for March 2007

Iran in Iraq

March 21, 2007

In the last few days the Times has given us a summary of the recent economic penetration by Iran into Iraq. We could view this negatively, as many in Washington are wont to do. But from the viewpoint of all but the hardest line Sunnis, it should be considered as a real harbinger of hope for the future.

The stores are full of Iranian produce, air conditioners, automobiles and much else. Several Iraqi cities, including Basra, depend on Iran for their electricity. Iran has loaned Iraq one billion dollars and is establishing a bank in Baghdad. Iran is helping to relieve a severe gasoline shortage in Iraq by bringing gasoline in from Turkmenistan. Iranian trade with the Kurdish region now amounts to one billion dollars a year. Iranian tourism, particularly to the shrines in Karbala and Najaf has added considerably to the economy in some areas. Iran has assisted in the building of tourist facilities in both cities.

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Mujahedin-e-Khalq

March 21, 2007

The New York Times latest report is that “Iraqi insurgents, guerrilla fighters and death squads are being trained in secret camps in Iran with the blessing of top Tehran leaders, an Iranian opposition figure said Tuesday.” After we get beyond the alarming details of how Iraqis are recruited, sent to Iran for training, and then reintroduced to drive the Americans out, we are told that this information comes from the spokesman of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq in Washington. The Mojahedin-e-Khalq (referred to as the National Council of Resistance, PMOI, MEK, MKO etc.) was formed as an anti-government organization under the Shah. It evolved into a syncretic Islamic-Marxist group that engaged in many terrorist acts. Its membership and leaders were decimated twice, once under the Shah and once in the early days of the Khomeini regime. It then resurfaced in Europe and Iraq. Its forces allegedly took part in Saddam’s war against Iran and especially the suppression of the Kurds. How much of this is true is unclear, but clearly the movement was openly supported and maintained in Iraq by Saddam up to the American invasion It appears that most Iranians see it as an anti-national organization. After the American invasion, the military encampment of the group was sealed off by the Americans and partially disarmed, but never destroyed. It is alleged that the Americans are now using persons from the camp to infiltrate Iran. Certainly, much of the information on the Iranians nuclear program (true or not) has been traced to this group. Because it is violently opposed to the current Iranian regime, its cause has been taken up by many conservative Americans in Congress and elsewhere (strange bedfellows: Americans wanting to mix religion and politics allying with Iranians wanting their strict separation, and the radically feminist organization MKO allying with American opponents of the ERA.).

In the 1990s, the organization fell under the control of the Rajavis, Massoud and Maryam, with Maryam elevated to near divine status. She was elected “president” of Iran by a resistance council in 1993. She is to serve as President until elections are held following the overthrow of the Mullahs. The camp in Iraq is described by a New York Times here. The reporter describes a totalitarian cultist center. Family members live apart, and the most personal decisions made by the leadership. No criticisms of the Rajavis or their decisions are allowed. Regular self-criticism sessions are held and taped. Discussants are expected to confess their sexual desires. Informants are everywhere.

I do not know what to make of all this. Obviously, the Iranian opposition within Iran and overseas is split many ways, and many groups hate one another. However, I am inclined to believe the negative descriptions of the Mojahedin by many in the opposition. The American Department of State and many other foreign services see the group as a dangerous far left terrorist group with no real commitment to human rights or democracy. Even if it were a bona fide group, I would examine their intelligence on what goes on in Iran with the utmost care. As it is, I think it is disastrous for American politicians and the even the New York Times to discuss their reports as though they were credible.

Recent Talk on Iran and American Foreign Policy

March 4, 2007

Readers of this blog might be interested in a my Iran Talk that I gave recently at Wesleyan University.