What's Up With All the MEK Ads?

If you’ve been watching cable news lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed some out-of-the-ordinary adverts. Namely, a 30-second spot done in the grainy style of a spy-thriller flashback calling for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group, to be taken off the official U.S. terrorist watch list. It’s a conspicuous outsider in the typical ad roster filled with car commercials and cholesterol meds, which might have led some viewers to wonder, “What’s up with that?”

Ask and ye shall receive.

What does the MEK purport to be?

As tabloid editors who traffic in celebrity divorces and teen-idol feuds well know, there are two sides to every juicy story. In the words of the commercial mentioned above, the “MEK is Iran’s democratic opposition working for a nuclear-free Iran founded on human rights.” The ad employs cinematically ominous music and a narrator whose vocal stylings are more stress-inducing than a pelvic exam, all to great effect. It closes with pictures of U.S. politicians and officials who have publicly supported the group, along with the imperative, “Secretary Clinton, for democracy and freedom in Iran, delist MEK.”

This sentiment is well in line with how supporters of the MEK portray the group—as a political movement with freedom-fighting roots going back to the overthrow of the shah. The MEK didn’t mesh well with Iran’s new Islamic government, however, (Marxist leanings appear to terrify powerful imams just as much as they do senators from Wisconsin), and its members were booted from the country in 1981.

Most MEK loyalists moved into a camp on the Iran/Iraq border and were materially supported by Saddam Hussein until his ouster. Over the course of the last three decades, they have been linked to attacks on Iranian embassies abroad, along with assassinations within Iran itself.

How does the U.S. government characterize the MEK?

As a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the official bad-guy label that the group earned from the State Department in 1997, the U.S.’s feelings about MEK are pretty clear.  According to the official State Department report listing the MEK as a terrorist organization, which was obtained recently by NBC news, the group’s actions during the Iranian revolution were anti-American: “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 the American hostages.”

Most recently, the MEK has been accused of coordinating with Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, in the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in January in the midst of busy downtown Tehran traffic.


Why is there talk of delisting?

In July 2010, a federal appeals court in D.C. ordered the State Department to reconsider the MEK’s place on the terrorist watch list.  The court ordered the State Department to revise the MEK’s delineation as a terrorist group on the grounds that it was categorized without proper evidence brought by the government.  The ruling mandated that Secretary Clinton come back with sufficient evidence and a ruling on the MEK designation within 180 days. Two years later, no such announcement has been made. In 2009, the European Union removed the MEK from its watch list.


The MEK sounds sketchy! How’d it get support from all those politicians in the pro-delisting TV ads?

The short answer is, to quote the inimitable Coolio, because of the “power and the money.”

Basically, through its Paris-based political wing, The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the MEK has been on a PR blitz as of late. The poster girl for the movement is Maryam Rajavi, who, along with her husband Massoud (whereabouts unknown—how glam!) runs the MEK’s operations. The current TV ad features her wearing a matronly suit and a purple hijab, smiling winningly for the cameras.

The quest for legitimacy in recent years has consisted of paying prominent U.S. political figures thousands of dollars to appear at pro-MEK speaking engagements. Payments are made through speaking agents with money from pro-MEK Iranian community organizations. Videos of Howard Dean, Patrick Kennedy, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former National Security Adviser Jim Jones promoting the delisting of the MEK can all be found in the multimedia section of the NCRI’s website. Other delisting proponents are retired General Wesley Clark, former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

Mitchell Reiss, Mitt Romney’s special adviser on foreign policy is another Washington pol who has publicly advocated for the MEK over the years.


Should we be weirded out by this whole campaign?

Yes. Very much.

First of all, the MEK is not well liked by the majority of Iranians because of the numerous acts of violence it has committed within the country. This means that it’s not really a viable regime-change option—which is the reason Washington insiders have been lining up on behalf of the group.

More disturbing is the fact that the MEK is basically a cult. In a 2009 report on the group, the Rand Corporation characterizes the MEK’s practices as “cultic” and their recruitment tactics as “deceptive,” noting that the group practiced “near-religious devotion to the Rajavis…public self-deprecation sessions, mandatory divorce, celibacy, enforced separation from family and friends, and gender segregation.” It goes on to describe efforts to attract new members with false promises of employment and marriage, and the confiscation of passports once recruits reached the MEK stronghold.

In her 2011 opinion piece in The New York Times, Elizabeth Rubin, who spent an extended amount of time in Camp Ashraf, the MEK stronghold by the Iran/Iraq border, echoes these sentiments and expresses dismay at the support from U.S. officials. Her basis for concern came largely from the conditions she witnessed at the camp and the former MEK members with whom she talked: “Friendships and all emotional relationships are forbidden. From the time they are toddlers, boys and girls are not allowed to speak to each other. Each day at Camp Ashraf you had to report your dreams and thoughts.”


What do these commercials mean for primary-campaign season?

Combined with the machismo “bomb Iran” rhetoric that has been bandied back and forth in this year’s GOP race, the airing of the pro-MEK ad during marquee events like the GOP debates is part of a disturbing trend. There have been MEK advocates in Washington for years, namely the Iran Policy Committee led by Raymond Tantur, a Georgetown University professor and former staff member of the National Security Council, but the hawkish leanings of the group meant that it wasn’t really part of the mainstream discourse. The spate of appearances by high-profile, mainstream public officials from both sides of the aisle is a whole different story—it lends a loud microphone to the MEK and bestows legitimacy by osmosis; coasting off of the reputations and connections of their paid supporters in Washington is a shrewd move by the group, one that could very well pay dividends.

Ramped-up talk about Iran from GOP candidates, including Romney, who lacks any real foreign-policy experience (the Olympics don’t count), coupled with the clever pro-MEK ad campaign could mean a softening of ground when it comes to public opinion of the group.  There’s nothing like good polling numbers to sway a candidate with an immature foreign policy. After all, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, a cable ad is sure to pack a punch. 


So the Department of State should ignore the court order and place itself above the law because they think MEK is a cult or RAND think so at least. That would be an American Prospect!!!

The listing of a group as terrorist is and should be a MATTER OF LAW, and not political. And if some political genius suggest that “First of all, the MEK is not well liked by the majority of Iranians because of the numerous acts of violence it has committed within the country”, the following immediate question emerge: does this expert or journalist means that he or she has done an independent opinion poll in one of the most repressive and close societies in the world, namely Iran ruled by the mullahs and thus conclude that an opposition group do not have any support ?!

By the way, did you know that the US Department of State also designated Mr. Mandela as terrorist?

Thompson, who is often called on by media outlets to offer up analysis, says he was offered $80,000 by a man tied to Iran’s mission in Canada.

“They wanted me to publish a piece on the Mujahedin-e khalq," he said. "Iran is trying to get other countries to label it as a terrorist cult.” Thompson says he turned down the offer.

Source of any anti-MEK article is the Iranian regime.

Iran hired over 1200 individuals living in USA in 2002 to manipulate US policy in the Middle East. These individuals including Trita Parsi have formed over 200 entities to influence US policies. They work for the devil in Tehran.

Usual suspects at it again!

As the campaign for removing the MEK from the State Department's terror lists gains steam, the usual suspects are at it again. I guess the latest entry into the gang of MEK-bashers, the author of this piece of yellow journalism, has entered the fray a bit too late as she has merely regurgitated what others before him have already rehashed to no avail, borrowing a few pages from Iran's intelligence services' "fact sheet" on the MEK.

In case Prospect's readers don't know, Elizabeth Rubin's "extended time" in Camp Ashraf in April 2003 amounted to a few hours. Not to mention that she happens to be the sister of Jamie Rubin, the State Department spokesman when her boss, Madeliene Albright, in a haste to tango with Mohammad Khatami designated the MEK in 1997.

As for the RAND study, readers show be informed that its architect was James Dobbins, a die-hard proponent of appeasing the turbaned tyrants of Iran and a late-night cafe-mate of Tehran's ex-ambassador to the UN, Javad Zarif. That report was basically a license to murder the residents of Ashraf, as the Maliki regime, a stooge in the hands of the mullahs, took maximum advantage of when it raided Ashraf twice in July 2009 and April 2011, killing 47 residents and wounding thousands more. The RAND study was totally trashed by an independent report a couple of months later (http://www.executiveaction.com/randreport).

As for the so-called 1997 State Department report which NBC boasted of obtaining, suffice it to say that the report was put together in 1994 and is a public document readily available. As to its credibility, 202 Members of the House and 12 senior Senators from both sides of the aisle lambasted the State Department for wasting tax-payers money to do such shoddy work.

One obvious contradiction which the author fails to reconcile is that those calling for MEK delisting are Democrats and Republicans. And no one can accuse the likes of Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, Ed Rendell, Lee Hamilton and Wesley Clark of being the bombing party.

But the most disturbing part of this story is that the author has not even bothered to do her homework in reading about ample countervailing evidence and documents which render these allegations she has suddenly discovered completely false. But, then again, when you have a political act to grind, why bother with facts?

If anything the commercial must have been so effective and powerful that it has ticked off this particular journalist to hastily put out this piece of shallow journalism.

As the great American statesman, Abe Lincoln, once said, "you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."

How cheap you have sold your writing talent in collaborating with the Iranian ministry of information and repeating the same lies that they have been saying for decades, to dis-inform the public about the only democratic opposition to the Mullahs in Iran. You seem to have intentionally misinterpreted the facts in addition to using all you talents against the only source of hope and inspiration for millions of youths and women in Iran who look upon MEK as their true choice for freedom and democracy. Is it by incidence that you have not mentioned how over 120000 members and supporters of MEK including 13years old kids have been executed by the mullahs because they chose to stand up against the fanatic regime in Iran? You have also neglected the fact that they are the same group that exposed Iran's clandestine nuclear weapon program, which is another favor to the International community.
Also you have intentionally ignored the fact that blacklisting of MEK has justified the execution of many freedom loving people in Iran who were active during the uprisings in 2009 and 2010 and their only excuse was the US list of terror, that based on Madeleine Albright was only done to appease the Mullahs in Iran. What a shameful policy!
It is also a shame for anyone that advocates the same policy directly or indirectly by suggesting to keep MEK in the list. Obviously you have to justify this by repeating all the despicable and unfounded lies about MEK being a cult, being an ally to Saddam Hussain, killing Americans, etc. All of these allegations have been examined by more dozens of qualified courts all around the world including the district of Colombia and they actually gave a clean bill to the MEK. Therefore repeating what the lobby of the Iranian Government is paying for to be written in the papers, makes you complicit on all the killings that are taking place in Iran and in Camp Ashraf under the pretext of fighting against terrorism. What a shameful business to live out of that money!

I was not aware of this information. It does appear quite complicated. The comments were helpful in understanding the possible implications. Thank you. steam shower

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