Tuesday, April 14, 2009
People's Mujahedin of Iran
The group People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) can be consider the prime example of Middle East weirdness and a strong lesson on the value of choosing friends wisely. The group right now is in international legal limbo stuck between the United States, the Republic of Iraq, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
MEK is a weird combination of Communism, Islamism, North Korean-style personality cult, and dominated by female leadership. The group started off as an anti-monarchist organization in Iran. It quickly turned to terrorist actions including the assassination of several American military attaches. After the fall of the Shah, MEK tried to wage war against before Iranian republicans and Islamists. MEK lost, but not before they managed to take out the chief justice, president, and prime minister of the new Islamic Republic. Iran has never forgiven MEK.
MEK, being led by intelligentsia, fled to France and mixed in with the rest of the educated Persian community. MEK continued to plot attacks against Iran. However, the Iranian-proxy force Lebanese Hezbollah managed to kidnap several French citizens. In exchange for their citizens, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac agreed to exile MEK for the hostages release.
MEK, an Iranian-Communist-Shia-Personality Cult, then made an alliance with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi-National Socialist-Sunni-Personality Cultist. MEK helped Saddam win some of the final battles of the Iraq-Iran War and crush the Shia/Kurd revolt of 1991. The Shia and Kurds have not forgotten this. Meanwhile, their support of Saddam has cost MEK significant support from anti-mullah Iranians.
The 1990s and 2000s have been ones of setbacks for MEK. Most Western nations declared MEK a terrorist group in an effort to rebuild relations with Iran and their main sponsor Saddam lost power in the Coalition invasion. MEK was under the custody of the United States until early 2009 when their detainment camps were transferred over to Iraqi control.
Today MEK is in a full scale publicity campaign that can be best described as "please don't turn us over to the Iranian to be tortured and killed." The Iranian government is promising aid to the Iraqis in exchange for MEK but Baghdad wants Iran to end its funding of various insurgent groups. The Shia and Kurds hate MEK for 1991 while the Sunnis do not like MEK because they are Persians. A major success for MEK was having the European Union delist them as a terrorist group. Right now MEK front groups like National Council of Resistance of Iran is competing for President Obama's attention. Besides a busy schedule, NCRI also has to worry about Obama listening to pro-regime elements who wish to keep MEK on the terrorist list.
One may be conflicted about MEK. They are anti-mullah and wish (at least publicly) for a pluralistic Iran but they have long been involved in terrorism. An Iraqi who I asked summed up everything I was thinking about when it came to MEK. He looked down, shook his head, and walked away.