June 12, 2005

Iran: Bombs and Democracy

Update: The New York Times is reporting that following more bombings in Tehran, for a total of seven pre-election bomb attacks killing 10 and wounding over 70, the Iranian government doesn't suspect the MEK this time. Instead, they're placing the blame on Baath party loyalists who resent Iran's influence in Iraq. Which I imagine is way better for the Bush administration than former Hussein employees who are now US loyalists.

You know what the second most annoying thing about FOX News is? The cowardly wankers won't consistently post transcripts of their programming. After having hoped to find a transcript of their hour-long report on Iran ever since it aired in April, I finally stumbled across one at a website that seems entirely devoted to proving that Iran is the most evil country on earth. So if you missed it, you can now go read the transcript of FOX's Breaking Point Investigation -- Iran: The Nuclear Threat.

You'll miss the startling graphics swooping towards you on the screen and the paranoid tone of the announcer, but the whole special could pretty much be summarized by this quote from Chris Wallace's opening: "So how great is the threat? What should the White House do about it?" I should note that I too am concerned at the possibility of a "despotic theocracy in possession of a nuclear weapon," as Sen. Biden said, but that's why I voted for Kerry. The special was filled with so many falsehoods, half-truths and twisted facts that it was totally ... expected. They could have called it 'Be Afraid: Iran,' and called in the director of Starship Troopers without any significant change in tone. Though this was a genuinely funny moment:

Johnathan Hunt: ...One more thing, as unbelievable as it may sound, all the facilities we know about are perfectly legal under the international treaty that's supposed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the crafty little buggers are acting within the law of non-proliferation treaties they've signed on to. Where, oh where, will this perfidy end? Kidding aside, there are serious issues posed by US relations with Iran. Mostly, how long can we convince them that we aren't going to bomb, invade or try a coup d'etat, in order to buy time to bomb, invade or try a coup d'etat?

Also, how can we avoid drawing domestic attention to the fact that Iran is more democratic and respectful of human rights than many of our regional allies? It's a low bar, I know, but there it is. The Iranians may be regularly chanting "Death to America" as part of their hollow weekly ritual to affirm the power of the ayatollahs, but it's the Saudis who are going to Iraq, strapping bombs to themselves and attacking US troops and and Iraqis with impunity. The Iranian government may insist that women wear veils, but as a consolation prize, they also get to work, drive, vote, go to college, run for office, own businesses and walk unaccompanied down the street.

After reading this news item this morning, I'm wondering if the US government hasn't already gotten started by means of a group that US conservatives often describe as being 'pro-democracy.'

Three bombs went off near government buildings in Ahwaz, Khuzestan province. Khuzestan has a large concentration of ethnic arabs with close ties to Iraq's Shia community, and is the province adjacent to Iraq that was the focal point of Hussein's invasion of the country. Hussein assumed that the Arabs of Khuzestan would rather be part of Arab-ruled Iraq instead of a Persian majority country like Iran. He was wrong.

Many Iranians will probably suspect the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that's been on the US State Department's own list of terrorist organizations since 1997, though it should have been on there for much longer. From the 2004 report, emphasis and link mine:

The MEK philosophy mixes Marxism and Islam. ... The MEK advocates the overthrow of the Iranian regime and its replacement with the group's own leadership. [Ed. -- Note that they were active during the reign of the Shah, and that they would likely oppose any government in Iran that didn't include them. You can go here to read a more comprehensive State Department history, detailing their activities both before and during the 1979 revolution.]

... The group's worldwide campaign against the Iranian Government stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorism. During the 1970s, the MEK killed US military personnel and US civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran. In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, ... Near the end of the 1980-1988 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces. In 1991, the MEK assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north. In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and intallations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. [Ed. -- Here, the report lists several additional incidents from a stepped up offensive against the Iranian government from 1999-2001, including assasinations of Iranian military and law enforcement personnel, as well as mortar and bombing attacks on government buildings.] ... After Coalition aircraft bombed MEK bases at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the MEK leadership ordered its members not to resist Coalition forces, and a formal cease-fire arrangement was reached in May 2003.

... Over 3,000 MEK members are currently confined to Camp Ashraf, the MEK's main compound north of Baghdad, where they remain under the Geneva Convention's "protected person" status and Coalition control. ... A significant number of MEK personnel have "defected" from the Ashraf group, and several dozen of them have been voluntarily repatriated to Iran.

... Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the group received all of its military assistance, and most of its financial support, from the former Iraqi regime. The MEK also has used front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities.

Yes, you read that right. A group listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department was given Geneva Convention protections that weren't extended to Iraqi civilians or thousands of other US detainees, many of whom had never been proven to have any terrorist ties at all. And not just any terrorist group, but one supported for many years by Saddam Hussein.

Guess how popular the MEK is inside Iran? Guess how popular they are inside the US Congress? Though there are both Democrats and a few Republicans who the MEK, they do have their supporters. From a Democrat this May:

... The twelve-term Democrat from New York [Congressman Ed Towns, (D-NY)] said, “Human Rights Watch should view the MEK as its partner in defense of human rights in Iran not perpetrators. I firmly believe HRW report on MEK published on May 18th will only advance Tehran’s agenda to derail the fight for democracy and human rights in Iran, calling on the group “to retract the report and provide a more factual account of rights violations in Iran”. ...

From a Republican in 2003, emphasis mine:

... “This group loves the United States. They’re assisting us in the war on terrorism; they’re pro-U.S.,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in an interview with The Hill.

...Last week, State Department spokesman Greg Sullivan told The Hill the MEK is considered “a combatant” and U.S. officials believe its soldiers “are undertaking some of the action in the south [of Iraq] where enemy combatants have disguised themselves as civilians.”

Ros-Lehtinen vehemently disputed State’s assertion to The Washington Times, calling the spokesman a “weasel” and a “gutless bureaucrat who won’t come out of his cave.” Sullivan did not respond to a request for further comment.

... “In no meeting or briefing I have ever attended has anyone called this group an anti-U.S., terrorist organization,” she continued, adding that the group has provided useful intelligence to the U.S. government on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Ros-Lehtinen further said that there is “wide support” in Congress for the MEK and that it will be “one of the leading groups in establishing secular government in Iran.”

... Elahe Hicks of Human Rights Watch said that “many, many Iranians resent” the MEK. “Because this group is so extremely resented inside Iran, the Iranian government actually benefits from having an opposition group like this,” she said. James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation agreed. “When they sided with Iraq against Iran in the [1980-88] war, that was the kiss of death for their political future. Even Iranians who might have sympathized with them were enraged that they became the junior partner of their longstanding rival,” he said. ...

Well, I guess Marxism is about as secular as you can get, but maybe the congresswoman missed the word that comes after that. If the world made any sense, you wouldn't end up with a rabid neotheocon like Ros-Lehtinen supporting Marxist Islamic terrorists. But if Marxist Islamic terrorists are your only inroad to a country whose government you want to topple ... well, maybe you put up with alarming bedfellows, emphasis mine:

... The MEK insists that it should lead a US-backed effort to bring what it has termed democratic rule to Iran. Last month it organized a rally, attended by several powerful Republican lawmakers and billed as the "2005 National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran", at Washington's historic Constitution Hall.

Since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, where the MEK had been based since 1986, the group has tried to persuade Washington that it holds the key to overthrowing the Islamic republic next door. It has been backed in this quest by right-wing lawmakers, a group of hardline neo-conservatives and retired military officers called the Iran Policy Committee, and some US officials - particularly in the Pentagon - who believe the MEK could be used to help destabilize the Iranian regime, if not eventually overthrow it in conjunction with US military strikes against selected targets.

While the group's supporters in the Pentagon so far have succeeded in protecting the several thousand MEK militants based at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border from being dispersed or deported, they have failed to persuade the US State Department to take the group off its terrorist list, to which it was added in 1997 based on its attacks during the 1970s against US military contractors and its participation in the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Teheran. The European Union also cites the MEK as a terrorist organization.

After a year-long tug-of-war between the two US agencies, a truce between the State Department and the Pentagon was apparently worked out. MEK members at Camp Ashraf were designated "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions. Since then, the Pentagon has recruited individual members of the MEK to infiltrate Iran as part of an effort to locate secret nuclear installations, according to recent articles published in The New Yorker and Newsweek magazines. ...

If the MEK turns out to have been behind the bombings in Ahwaz, you can bet your bippy that the explanation for it all across the Arab world will be that the US instigated it through their pet Marxist terrorists. It won't matter if it's true, because the US has created at the very least an appearance of impropriety and would be harder pressed to criticize other governments for being state sponsors of terror. Even US claims of Iranian nuclear capabilities, which come from the MEK, have suffered a blow with recent findings that traces of weapons-grade uranium discovered on Iranian centrifuges has a signature consistent with the Pakistani origin of the centrifuges themselves. So between unsubstantiated allegations and supporting people who are nasty in their own right, the Bush administration may push the regime in Tehran into exactly the direction they claim to try to prevent. Not pretty.

Finally, Kam Zarrabi wants answers to Three 'Stupid' Questions: 1) Why would the United States, the only global superpower, choose to promote the ideals of freedom, self determination and democratic reforms among the Middle Eastern nations; how would that serve America’s best interests? 2) Why shouldn’t the Israeli regime opt for peaceful coexistence with a sovereign Palestinian state next door, as envisioned by the United States and the world community? 3) Is Iran going to abandon its pursuit of the atom bomb, denounce terrorism, and stop its human-rights violations?

Posted by natasha at June 12, 2005 03:06 AM | International | Technorati links |

Laura Rozen has been on the trail of Rep. Curt Weldon who seems to be the goto guy for building the case for war against Iran. Sounds like Weldon has found his very own "curveball". Of course, that won't stop him from trying to get his war on.

Posted by: Mary at June 12, 2005 06:01 PM