The MEK, long supported by members of Congress, a stellar list of former U.S. officials, western parliamentarians and international rights activists, is engaged in a decades-long struggle for the establishment of a secular, democratic and non-nuclear representative government in Iran.
It is the first time that the mullahs are brazenly pursuing intelligence operations with the ultimate goal of identifying and assassinating opponents in the United States. But why now?
As popular uprisings in Iran reach critical mass, Tehran finds itself in a do-or-die situation and wants to desperately survive by attacking its most serious alternative.
The MEK has been identified as an existential threat to the regime in Tehran. The political coalition that it is a part of, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), is led by a woman, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and represents a powerful democratic alternative to a decaying tyranny loathed by the people.
In 1988, finding itself in a similarly precarious position, the regime launched a massacre of political prisoners, killing more than 30,000 MEK sympathizers.
Today, Tehran’s intelligence service conducts a vast propaganda campaign intended to demonize the MEK as a means to dry up international and local support. Tech giants Google and Twitter closed down some of these types of accounts last week. Demonization has failed, which explains why Tehran is now focusing more intensely on physical elimination.
According to the FBI and affidavits, two prominent activists in the United States, Alireza Jafarzadeh and Ali Safavi, were identified as potential targets of Tehran’s extensive intelligence and terrorism operation.
These disconcerting revelations come on the heels of other terrorist attempts and intelligence operations by the regime in recent months.
The first involved an Iranian diplomat, Asadollah Assadi, and at least two other individuals. German authorities formally accused them of plotting to bomb the Free Iran rally held by the MEK in Paris last June.
The second involved two individuals accused by authorities of terrorism against the group’s members in Albania in March.
The regime is desperately targeting the MEK because it has played a pivotal role in organizing the current nationwide protests.
After the Trump administration withdrew from the flawed Iran nuclear deal, signaling a departure from the decades-old policy of appeasement, Iran’s dissident majority has become more hopeful of moral and political support by Washington.
The MEK is tilting the balance of power in favor of the dissident majority in at least three ways.
First, while the existence of a dissident majority is necessary, it is not sufficient. In order for its aspirations to be materialized, an organized and dedicated movement is required.
In late 2016, when the process of relocation of MEK members from Iraq’s unsafe environment to Europe was completed, the organization found the breathing space to rally and organize anti-regime forces on a much broader scale. It helped transform scattered acts of protest into a nationwide show of opposition.
In December 2017, a year after the relocation, the MEK flexed its muscles and marshaled its pervasive network inside and outside Iran. Tehran’s president Hassan Rouhani appealed to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to limit the MEK’s activities in France as the instigators of protests in Iran. The regime’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, joined the fray, accusing the MEK in a televised speech of having organized the protests “for months,” citing credible intelligence reports.
Second, MEK members have successfully overcome years of terrorism and attacks by the regime and its proxies in Iraq, persevering and willing to pay the ultimate price for liberty. The organization’s perseverance, courage and principled policies have made it a unique role model for the younger generation of dissidents, especially women.
Finally, the MEK is a reliable and responsible alternative without which the dissident majority would find protesting against the regime futile at best because there would be no serious replacement after the regime’s downfall. This explains why the regime is trying to eliminate the MEK: in order to eradicate the prospect of a real alternative at a time of mass uprisings.
The mullahs are desperate, vulnerable and afraid. They are trying to physically harm and eliminate the organizing powerhouse behind the protests and the most viable alternative to their terrorist regime. That is why targeting MEK activists inside the U.S. needs to be taken seriously by American counter-terrorism agencies. Iranian protestors are watching, and so are the mullahs.
This article was originally published by The Daily Caller. Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran, M.D., M.A., Ph.D. (c), is a doctoral candidate at Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University. He has participated in international policy forums, including the Policy Studies Organization’s annual Middle East Dialogue conferences, and has written for multiple Iranian news outlets.