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IRAN - The MeK & Pahlavi Factors.

Another pressure point is the Mujahedin e-Khalq. The start of US military pressure on Iran was signalled when the Pentagon began co-opting the MeK in mid-April, into what could be a drawn out campaign to weaken the theocracy's credibility through attacks across the border that would humiliate the Iranian military establishment. Although the organisation has attacked American interests in the past, indications are that the US is willing to overlook that in view of the advantages that the MeK can offer in calibrating its future dealings with Iran.

It is important to note that the MeK is an organization with a strong political presence in Western capitals and over 3,000 soldiers stationed in Iraq. On April 15, during the campaign against Saddam Hussein, the US Army signed a ceasefire permitting the MeK to keep its weapons and use them against Iranian regime infiltrators into Iraq. The deal prompted a clash between the neo-cons and the State Department, which then convinced President Bush to undo it; this led to a strange situation where US troops surrounded MeK camps on May 9, disarmed its fighters, and immediately took up positions to protect them.

One of the leading neo-conservative ideologues regarded as an expert on the Middle East and Islam has advocated using the MeK to apply pressure on Iran. In an article published on May 22 in CNS News, he pointed out that the U.S. Army recommends MeK members should, after giving assurances not to attack Iranian territory, be permitted enough arms to protect themselves from their Iranian opponents. He also recommends that in November 2003, "when the secretary of state next decides whether or not to re-certify the MeK as a terrorist group, he should come to the sensible conclusion that it poses no threat" to the security of the US or its citizens, and remove it from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations".

Notably, he adds that, "because Iran's mullahs irrationally fear the MeK (as shown by their 1988 massacre in the jails of Iran of 10,000 long-imprisoned MeK members and supporters), maintaining the MeK as an organized group in separate camps in Iraq offers an excellent way to intimidate and gain leverage over Tehran". Indications so far are that the US is following exactly that line of thinking.

In a similar vein, the cultivation of Reza Pahlavi as a potential constitutional monarch is underway, although this is somewhat ironic because the MeK had opposed this father, the late shah of Iran. Reza Pahlavi's profile in Washington has increased considerably in recent months. Michael Ledeen, an influential neo-con of the American Enterprise Institute, has written that Reza Pahlavi is a suitable leader for an Iranian transition to democracy, noting that he is "widely admired inside Iran".

Pahlavi is also backed by Undersecretary of Defence for policy, Douglas Feith, a key neo-con ideologue within the administration. The Financial Times of May 9 quoted Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative whose area of expertise is Iran, says there is a sense of urgency among the neo-cons because they want to "put Iran on the Bush agenda before he focuses completely on the economy ahead of the (2004) presidential election". For his part, Pahlavi is backing the neo-con argument about applying pressure on Tehran.

In line with this approach, Senator Sam Brownback has sponsored in Congress draft legislation to channel tens of millions of dollars to TV and radio stations that would beam the royalist perspective into Iran from Los Angeles, including calls for insurrection. Pahlavi, a University of Southern California graduate and a US Air Force trained fighter pilot, advocates a referendum in Iran on a return of the monarchy. He is also in favour of a political and economic boycott of Iran using the Iraqi model, in order to weaken the regime.

Reassuringly for the neo-cons in the US, Pahlavi has also ruled out the need for Iran to become a nuclear state. He has argued that that Iran has enough energy through gas and oil, and has no need for nuclear power. He has said that he would like to see a "reversal of Iran's nuclear program," which only will occur if Iran is democratised.
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Title Annotation:Mujahedin e-Khalq
Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:May 26, 2003
Previous Article:IRAN - The Al Qaida Factor.
Next Article:JORDAN - Pax Americana Is Changing - Part 7.

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