August 03, 2004

A Quick Question

Suppose you were a country that was trying to tell people that you were serious on terror, and you were trying to get some other country to agree to inspections of their nuclear facilities to reduce proliferation. Would you think it was a productive move to start working with a group that had terrorized that other country?

The enemies of the ayatollahs doubtless applauded loudly earlier this week when U.S. spokesmen ventured their latest pronouncement about the status of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which has long claimed to be the "official opposition" to the current regime in Iran. Raising more speculation that Washington could one day use the group as a proxy military force against Tehran, the spokesmen announced that the MEK would not be prosecuted for any violations of American law and that its 3,800 militia in Iraq would instead be granted a "protected status" that shields them from deportation to Iran.

...Such is the unpopularity of the MEK among ordinary Iranians that the U.S. would become even more discredited by sponsoring it, instead giving a perfect opportunity to the regime's propagandists to portray Washington as the enemy of not just the mullahs but of the Iranian people in general. So there could scarcely be any better way for the clerics to rally the nation behind them and fasten their grip on power.

The group's unpopularity does not only reflect the indiscriminate bombings it has undertaken against Iranian cities in attacks that spilled some civilian blood. Much more serious in the eyes of ordinary Iranians was its long and treacherous association with Saddam Hussein. During the last three years of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the militia effectively became the stooges of an Iraqi leader whose invasion of Iran in 1980 began a bloody war in which millions of Iranians were killed or wounded, not least because of the Iraqi missile campaign against them "the war of the cities" that lasted only months but nonetheless left a lasting legacy of bitterness.

This means that any flirtation between Washington and the MEK, let alone a serious relationship, will alienate the large number of ordinary Iranians who, after years of isolation, would otherwise be receptive to any new diplomatic overtures that the U.S. might strike up. But just at the time when Washington could perhaps drive a wedge between rulers and the ruled, a heavy-handed bid to back the MEK would push them closer together. ...

I'm just asking. But it seems to me that working with the MEK would be the last thing you would want to do if you were serious about bringing Iran to the table. The unpopularity of Chalabi's people in Iraq pales before the serious hate for MEK in Iran.

As a broader insult, U.S. support for people who bombed movie theaters to stir up revolutionary zeal only makes our government sound like a bunch of tin-plated hypocrites among a population whose goodwill is crucial.

Posted by natasha at August 3, 2004 05:40 PM | International | Technorati links |