TARGETTING IRAN: The Dogs of War are off the Leash
Israel to the US: ‘We’ll Give You the War, You Give Us the Cannon Fodder”
by Tom Burghardt
In meeting rooms in London, Tel Aviv and Washington the dice have been thrown: snake eyes.
Flashback, 1963: When John F. Kennedy decided not to escalate the soon-to-be disastrous Vietnam war and issued National Security Action Memorandum 263 (NSAM 263), he signed his death warrant.
Scarcely six weeks after vowing to pull all American forces out of South Vietnam by 1965, Kennedy was dead, the target of an “executive action” orchestrated by the CIA, a coup d’état on behalf of America’s corporatist masters–the military-industrial cabal of hardline cold warriors who stood to lose billions if Kennedy lived.
That sweet little deal to “win” the war in Southeast Asia cost some two million Vietnamese lives, 58,000 dead Americans and precipitated an economic crisis which dealt a death blow to post-World War II prosperity and launched the United States on its inexorable glide path towards becoming a failed state.
Flash forward to 2012: We have Barack Obama in the White House; a fraudster who promised “hope and change” and instead led his wilfully blind constituents into embracing the third term of a George W. Bush administration.
Comparing Obama with Kennedy one can only conclude: They don’t make bourgeois politicians like they used to!
Following on from a decades-long drive to transform the Gulf into an “American lake” (under provisions of the so-called “Carter Doctrine,” another “peace loving” Democrat), the coming war with Iran is a transparent scheme to ensure U.S. hegemony over the vast petroleum resources of Central Asia and the Middle East–to the detriment of their geopolitical rivals.
U.S. and NATO naval forces on high alert threaten the free flow of oil in the Persian Gulf, the life’s blood of the global capitalist economy.
A war will lead to an oil price spike as Iranian, but perhaps also Saudi and GCC oil is removed in one fell swoop from the market, thereby setting-off a chain reaction that will exacerbate the West’s economic decline–to the benefit of financial jackals waiting in the wings who will gobble up what remains of America and Europe’s publicly-owned assets at fire sale prices in a desperate move to stave off the crisis.
Currently, Iran is ringed with military bases. American, British and Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles keep silent watch. Aircraft carrier battle groups carry out provocative maneuvers. U.S. and Israeli drones routinely overfly Iranian territory. Scientists are murdered in orchestrated terror attacks. Defense installations are bombed.
Economic sanctions, universally recognized as a prelude to war, strangle the Iranian people and their economy, all in the quixotic hope of inducing (coercing) “regime change” in Tehran.
The U.S. media, reprising their role during the run-up to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, are chock-a-block with scare stories that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are preparing to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.
Indeed, the Shiite regime “may have” given “new freedoms” to Sunni Salafist extremists, including members of the “management council” of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets also known as “Al Qaeda” detained in Iran and “may have provided some material aid to the terrorist group,” if an account published last week by The Wall Street Journal can be believed, which of course it can’t.
Meanwhile, the CIA and Mossad recruit, train and then unleash Salafist terrorists such as Jundallah or Saddam Hussein’s former henchmen, the cultic Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) for terror ops, just as they did in Libya when former Al Qaeda “emir,” the MI6 asset Abdelhakim Belhaj was appointed chief of Tripoli’s Revolutionary Military Council.
And what “evidence” did U.S. officials offer for these dastardly Iranian plots to murder us all in our beds? Why the now-discredited FBI fable which had a failed Texas used-car dealer, Manssor Arbabsiar, and a still-unnamed DEA snitch posing as or actually a member of the notorious Zetas narcotrafficking cartel, plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a tony Georgetown restaurant, that’s what!
Former CIA chief Leon Panetta, who replaced Robert Gates, also a former CIA chief, now helms the Defense Department.
Corporate media in Europe and America report that Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, have tried to “cool” the Israeli’s ardor for a preemptive strike and deny that the U.S. is preparing for war.
This too, is a carefully contrived disinformation campaign.
In a syndicated column for The Washington Post, war hawk David Ignatius wrote Thursday that “Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June–before Iran enters what Israelis described as a ‘zone of immunity’ to commence building a nuclear bomb.”
According to Ignatius, “the administration appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response,” and that Washington’s alleged disapproval of an Israeli first strike “might open a breach like the one in 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower condemned an Israeli-European attack on the Suez Canal.”
Ignatius’ unnamed “senior administration official,” since identified as Panetta, “caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.”
In other words, should America’s “stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East” launch a sneak-attack on Iran, hitting their civilian nuclear and defense installations, thereby inflicting “collateral damage,” i.e., the wanton slaughter of innocent Iranian citizens, if Tehran has the temerity to defend itself and strike back, the full military might of the imperialist godfather will be brought to bear.
Inter Press Service reported Wednesday that JCS Chairman Dempsey, “told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.”
According to journalist Gareth Porter, “Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.”
Claiming that “Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon,” Porter alleges that “the message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally.”
Holding onto the thinnest of reeds, Porter writes that Panetta “had given a clear hint” of the U.S. position “in an interview on ‘Face the Nation’ Jan. 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated.”
When asked by CBS host Bob Schieffer, who pressed the issue of a unilateral Israeli attack, Panetta said, “If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that’s what we’d be concerned about.”
What are we to make of these claims?
If their purpose was to force Israel to rethink their attack plans, it clearly isn’t working. If however, Panetta’s remarks were meant to disarm domestic opponents of U.S. war plans, then mission accomplished!
“Speaking at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center’s annual conference,” The Christian Science Monitor reported that “Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak compared the current standoff with Iran to the ‘fateful’ period before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt.”
“The temperature is rising in Israel,” Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar told the Monitor. “He says that if the defense minister sees the current period as similar to the run-up to the  Six-Day War, ‘that gives credibility to those who think Israel is going to launch an attack’.”
In a follow-up piece published Saturday by IPS, Porter now suggests that Panetta’s leak to Ignatius “had a different objective,” namely that the “White House was taking advantage of the current crisis atmosphere over that Israeli threat and even seeking to make it more urgent in order to put pressure on Iran to make diplomatic concessions to the United States and its allies on its nuclear programme in the coming months.”
Indeed, the “Panetta leak makes it less likely that either Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Iranian strategists will take seriously Obama’s effort to keep the United States out of a war initiated by an Israeli attack.”
Moreover, Panetta’s leak to The Washington Post “seriously undercut the message carried to the Israelis by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last month that the United States would not come to Israel’s defence if it launched a unilateral attack on Iran.”
Although there is trepidation amongst military planners in Tel Aviv and Washington should Israeli officials opt for a preemptive attack on Iran–and a retaliatory counterstrike by the Islamic Republic would have devastating effects on both Israel’s civilian population and U.S./NATO military forces in the Persian Gulf and beyond–should such disastrous orders be given, it is a certainty that Washington would follow suit.
This in fact, is what the Israeli leadership is banking on and, contrary to sanctioned leaks to media conduits like Ignatius, is fully in keeping with Washington’s strategy of employing Israel as a cats’ paw to “drag” the United States into a war with Iran.
As the World Socialist Web Site points out, “any differences between the US and Israel are purely tactical.”
“Washington could of course use its considerable influence to veto an attack by Israel, which is heavily dependent on the US, diplomatically, economically and militarily,” leftist critic Peter Symonds writes.
Ignatius’ column however, “makes no mention of this possibility. In effect, the Obama administration appears to be giving Israel a tacit green light for an illegal, unprovoked attack on Iran, and threatening its own military action if Iran retaliates.”
Indeed, the right-wing Israeli publication Debkafile reported Saturday that while Panetta “has been outspoken about a possible Israeli offensive against Iran taking place as of April … no US source is leveling on the far more extensive American, Saudi, British, French and Gulf states’ preparations going forward for an offensive against the Islamic Republic.”
Accordingly, Debkafile’s “military sources” (read high-placed intelligence and military officials favoring an attack) “report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman’s Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.”
Debkafile also noted that “the Saudis this week wound up their own intensive preparations for war. Large forces are now deployed around Saudi oil fields, pipelines and export facilities in the eastern provinces opposite the Persian Gulf, backed by anti-missile Patriot PAC-3 batteries. American, British and French fighter-bombers have been landing at Saudi air bases to safeguard the capital, Riyadh.”
And with the Pentagon speeding-up arms sales to repressive Gulf monarchies and Saudi royals (with tens of billions in profits flowing into the coffers of American and European death merchants), the stage is now set for a bloody military confrontation.
On the so-called diplomatic front, as “useful idiots” and “accessories before the fact” in the drive towards war, the shameful part played by the International Atomic Energy Agency must be underscored.
Despite, or more likely because Iran’s top leadership have expressed their willingness to reopen stalled talks over their civilian nuclear program and have taken steps to do so, the United States and NATO are stepping-up their propaganda offensive, with the IAEA playing a leading role.
Indeed, The New York Times reported Sunday that “American and European officials said Friday that a mission by international nuclear inspectors to Tehran this week had failed to address their key concerns, indicating that Iran’s leaders believe they can resist pressure to open up the nation’s nuclear program.”
Times’ stenographers Robert F. Worth and David E. Sanger averred that an unnamed “senior American official described the session between the agency and Iranian nuclear officials as ‘foot-dragging at best and a disaster at worst’.”
Why is the onus solely placed on Iranian negotiators?
Because “members of the I.A.E.A. delegation were told that they could not have access to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an academic who is widely believed to be in charge of important elements of the suspected weaponization program, and that they could not visit a military site where the agency’s report suggested key experiments on weapons technology might have been carried out.”
What Worth and Sanger fail to mention in their report is that Iranian officials asserted that before Roshan’s murder he “had talked to IAEA inspectors, a fact which ‘indicates that these UN agencies may have played a role in leaking information on Iran’s nuclear facilities and scientists’,” Russia Today reported at the time.
Protesting the killing before the UN Security Council last month, Iranian deputy UN ambassador Eshagh Al Habib said there was “‘high suspicion’ that, in order to prepare the murder, terrorist circles used intelligence obtained from UN bodies.”
According to the deputy ambassador’s charge, “this included interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the sanction list of the Security Council,” RT disclosed.
Sound far-fetched, the product of Iranian “conspiracy theories”? Better think again!
As former UNSCOM Iraq weapons’ inspector Scott Ritter revealed in his 2005 book, Iraq Confidential, “The issue of uncovering incriminating documentation suddenly took on a higher priority, and the CIA, supported by activist elements within the Department of State, pushed for more direct involvement in the operations of UNSCOM and the IAEA. For the first time, the darkest warriors in the CIA’s covert army, the Operations Planning Cell (OPC), were getting actively involved in preparing intelligence for UNSCOM’s use.”
According to Ritter, “The secret warriors of the CIA were accustomed to plying their trade in the shadows, far away from prying eyes. UNSCOM inspections, however, were carried out in full view of the Iraqi government, representing the antithesis of covert action. The existence of the OPC, as with any CIA affiliation with UNSCOM, was a carefully guarded secret. Officially, therefore, all OPC personnel were presented to UNSCOM as State Department ‘experts’.”
In light of past practices by the CIA, or for that matter the IAEA itself, Iranian fears that their scientists are being set-up for liquidation are fully justified.
Indeed, the “cautious” U.S. Secretary of Defense, former CIA chief Leon Panetta, speaking at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, echoed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s claim that Israel would need to “consider taking action” should nuclear inspections and sanctions fail.
“My view is that right now the most important thing is to keep the international community unified in keeping that pressure on, to try to convince Iran that they shouldn’t develop a nuclear weapon, that they should join the international family of nations and that they should operate by the rules that we all operate by,” Panetta asserted. “But I have to tell you, if they don’t, we have all options on the table, and we’ll be prepared to respond if we have to.”
One of those “options,” passed by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Friday were demands made to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT.
“The new Senate package,” Reuters reported, “seeks to target foreign banks that handle transactions for Iran’s national oil and tanker companies, and for the first time, extends the reach of Iran-related sanctions to foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies.”
The new legislation would target SWIFT with wide-ranging penalties if they failed to exclude sanctioned Iranian banks from the international system.
The bill now goes to the full Senate “where the likelihood of passage is considered strong,” The New York Times reported.
With the Orwellian title, the “Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act” Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) said that “Iran can end its suppression of its own people, come clean on its nuclear program, suspend enrichment and stop supporting terrorist activities around the globe. Or it can continue to face sustained, intensifying multilateral economic and diplomatic pressure deepening its international isolation.”
Now if only Senator Johnson offered similar demands on America’s Israeli allies who possess upwards of 200 nuclear weapons, refuse to join the international nonproliferation regime and carry out worldwide terrorist attacks with impunity, perhaps then diplomacy would operate on a level playing field!
SWIFT officials were quick to cave to U.S. pressure. “SWIFT fully understands and appreciates the gravity of the situation,” Reuters disclosed.
In its statement, “SWIFT said it is working with officials and central banks to find ‘the right multilateral legal framework’ to ‘expedite’ a response to the issues.”
“This is a complex situation, and SWIFT needs to ensure that it takes into consideration the implications to the functioning of the broader global financial payments system, as well as the continued flow of humanitarian payments to the Iranian people,” the organization said.
Needless to say, a boycott of Iranian financial institutions by SWIFT would be catastrophic to Iran’s economy, a provocation fully intended as a step towards war.
As the World Socialist Web Site noted, “if Israel does attack Iran, it will not simply be ‘a surgical strike’ that destroys Iran’s key nuclear facilities. Any Iranian retaliation will be used by the US as a pretext for a massive air war aimed at destroying the country’s military and infrastructure. As a result, any conflict carries a real danger of becoming a regional war that could embroil the major powers.”
Despite the evident madness of countenancing an Iran attack, political calculations by capitalist elites during a critical election year in the United States, with “conservative” and “liberal” factions angling for advantage by currying favor with the powerful Zionist and U.S. defense lobbies, Israel’s unambiguous message to the White House is: “We’ll give you the war, you give us the cannon fodder.”
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.
Tom Burghardt is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Tom Burghardt
CANNON FODDER…..BRITISH SOLDIERS!
Israel’s Mossad Teams up with Terror Group to Kill Iran’s Nuclear Scientists
U.S. officials tell NBC News
by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem
Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.
The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.
The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.
The Iranians have no doubt who is responsible – Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known by various acronyms, including MEK, MKO and PMI.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describes what Iranian leaders believe is a close relationship between Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel. “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information. And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”
Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs. In one case, he said, Mossad agents built a replica of the home of an Iranian nuclear scientist so that the assassins could familiarize themselves with the layout prior to the attack.
Much of what the Iranian government knows of the attacks and the links between Israel and MEK comes from interrogation of an assassin who failed to carry out an attack in late 2010 and the materials found on him, Larijani said. (Click here to see a video report of the interrogation shown on Iranian televsion.)
The U.S.-educated Larijani, whose two younger brothers run the legislative and judicial branches of the Iranian government, said the Israelis’ rationale is simple. “Israel does not have direct access to our society. Mujahedin, being Iranian and being part of Iranian society, they have … a good number of … places to get into the touch with people. So I think they are working hand-to-hand very close. And we do have very concrete documents.”
NBC’s Robert Windrem discusses the allegations that Israel’s secret service is teaming up with an Iranian dissident terrorist group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists.
Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.” All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.
As it has in the past, Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment. Said a spokesman, “As long as we can’t see all the evidence being claimed by NBC, the Foreign Ministry won’t react to every gossip and report being published worldwide.”
For its part, the MEK pointed to a statement calling the allegations “absolutely false.”
Ali Safavi, a long-time representative of the MEK, underscored the denial after publication of this article,
“There has never been and there is no MEK member in Israel, period,” he said. “The MEK has categorically denied any involvement. The idea that Israel is training MEK members on its soil borders on perversity. It is absolutely and completely false.”
The sophistication of the attacks supports the Iranian claims that an experienced intelligence service is involved, experts say.
In the most recent attack, on Jan. 11, 2012, Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan died in a blast in Tehran moments after two assailants on a motorcycle placed a small magnetic bomb on his vehicle. Roshan was a deputy director at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and was reportedly involved in procurement for the nuclear program, which Iran insists is not a weapons program.
Previous attacks include the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
In the case of Roshan, the bomb appears to have been a shaped charge that directed all the explosive power inside the vehicle, killing him and his bodyguard driver but leaving nearby traffic unaffected.
Although Roshan was directly involved in the nuclear program, working at the huge centrifuge facility between Tehran and Qom, Iran’s religious center, at least one other scientist who was killed wasn’t linked to the Iranian nuclear program, according to Larijani.
Speaking of bombing victim Ali-Mohammadi, whom he described as a friend, Larijani told NBC News, “In fact this guy who was assassinated was not involved in the nitty-gritty of the situation. He was a scientist, a physicist, working on the theoretically parts of nuclear energy, which you can teach it in every university. You can find it in every text.”
“This is an Israeli plot. A dirty plot,” Larijani added angrily. He also claimed the assassinations are not having an effect on the program and have only made scientists more resolute in carrying out their mission.
Not so, said Ronen Bergman, an Israeli commentator and author of “Israel’s Secret War with Iran” and an upcoming book tentatively titled, “Mossad and the Art of Assassination.”
Israel has long used assassination against its enemies, “hoping that by taking out individuals, they can alter, change the course of history,” says Ronen Bergman, an Israeli commentator and author of “Israel’s Secret War with Iran” and an upcoming book tentatively titled “Mossad and the Art of Assassination.”
Bergman said the attacks have three purposes, the most obvious being the removal of high-ranking scientists and their knowledge. The others: forcing Iran to increase security for its scientists and facilities and to spur “white defections.”
He explained the latter this way: “Scientists leaving the project, afraid that they are going to be next on the assassination list, and say, ‘We don’t want this. Indeed, we get good money, we are promoted, we are honored by everybody, but we might get killed. It isn’t worth it. Maybe we should go back to teach … in a university.’”
There are unconfirmed reports in the Israeli press and elsewhere that Israel and the MEK were involved in a Nov. 12 explosion that destroyed the Iranian missile research and development site at Bin Kaneh, 30 miles outside Tehran. Among those killed was Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, director of missile development for the Revolutionary Guard, and a dozen other researchers. So important was Moghaddam that Ayatollah Khamenei attended his funeral.
Unlike the assassinations, Iran claims the missile site explosion was an accident; the MEK, meanwhile, trumpeted it but denied any involvement.
Indeed, there may be other covert operations carried out either by Israel acting alone or in concert with others, according to Bergman.
“Two labs caught fire,” said Bergman, enumerating the attacks. “Scientists got blown up or disappeared. A missile base and the R&D base of the Revolutionary Guard exploded some time ago, with the director of the R&D division of the Revolutionary Guard being killed along with … his soldiers.”
Bergman added, “So, a long series of … something that was termed by an Israeli (Cabinet) minister … as ‘mysterious mishaps’ happening and rehappening to the project. Then the Iranians claim, ‘This is Israeli Mossad trying to sabotage our attempts to be a nuclear superpower.’”
Dr. Uzi Rabi, director of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, said the supposed accidents could all be part of “psychological warfare” conducted against Iran. “It seems logical. It makes sense,” he said of possible MEK involvement, “and it’s been done before.”
Rabi, who regularly briefs Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Iran also said the ultimate goal of the range of covert operations being carried out by Israel is “to damage the politics of survivability … to send a message that could strike fear into the rulers of Iran.”
For the United States, the alleged role of the MEK is particularly troublesome. In 1997, the State Department designated it a terrorist group, justifying it with an unclassified 40-page summary of the organization’s activities going back more than 25 years. The paper, sent to Congress in 1998, was written by Wendy Sherman, now undersecretary of state for political affairs and then an aide to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The report, which was obtained by NBC News, was unsparing in its assessment. “The Mujahedin (MEK) collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the former shah of Iran,” it said. “As part of that struggle, they assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the U.S. embassy, and opposed the release of the American hostages.” In each case, the paper noted, “Bombs were the Mujahedin’s weapon of choice, which they frequently employed against American targets.”
“In the post-revolutionary political chaos, however, the Mujahedin lost political power to Iran’s Islamic clergy. They then applied their dedication to armed struggle and the use of propaganda against the new Iranian government, launching a violent and polemical cycle of attack and reprisal.”
Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, greets several hundred Iranian expatriates who had gathered to welcome her at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on March 22, 2010.
U.S. officials have said publicly that the information contained in the report was limited to unclassified material, but that it also drew on classified material in making its determination to add the MEK to the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
The MEK and its sister organizations have since the beginning been run by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, a husband-wife team who have maintained tight control despite assassination threats and internal dissent. Massoud Rajavi, 63, founded the MEK, but since the U.S. invasion of Iraq has taken a backseat to his wife.
The State Department report describes the Rajavis as “fundamentally undemocratic” and “not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran.”
NBC News correspondent Tom Aspell visits an MEK base in Iraq in this Nightly News piece that aired on May 26, 1991.
One reason for that is the MEK’s close relationship with Saddam Hussein, as demonstrated by this 1986 video showing the late Iraqi dictator meeting with Massoud Rajavi. Saddam recruited the MEK in much the same way the Israelis allegedly have, using them to fight Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq War, a role they took on proudly. So proudly, they invited NBC News to one of their military camps outside Baghdad in 1991.
“The National Liberation Army (MLA), the military wing of the Mujahedin, conducted raids into Iran during the latter years of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War,” according to the State Department report. The NLA’s last major offensive reportedly was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991, when it joined Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion. In addition to occasional acts of sabotage, the Mujahedin are responsible for violent attacks in Iran that victimize civilians.”
“Internally, the Mujahedin run their organization autocratically, suppressing dissent and eschewing tolerance of differing viewpoints,” it said. “Rajavi, who heads the Mojahedin’s political and military wings, has fostered a cult of personality around himself.”
The U.S. suspicion of the MEK doesn’t end there. Law enforcement officials have told NBC News that in 1994, the MEK made a pact with terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Yousef built an 11-pound bomb that MEK agents placed inside one of Shia Islam’s greatest shrines in Mashad, Iran, on June 20, 1994. At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 200 wounded in the attack.
That connection between Yousef, nephew of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and the MEK was first reported in a book, “The New Jackals,” by Simon Reeve. NBC News confirmed that Yousef told U.S. law enforcement that he had worked with the MEK on the bombing.
In recent years, the MEK has said it has renounced violence, but Iranian officials say that is not true, that killings of Iranians continue. Still, through some deft lobbying, the group has been able to get the United Kingdom and the European Union to remove it from their lists of terrorist groups.
The alleged involvement of the MEK in the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists provides the U.S. with a cloak of deniability regarding the clandestine killings. Because the U.S. has designated the MEK as a terrorist organization, neither military nor intelligence units of the U.S. government, can work with them. “We cannot deal with them, “ said one senior U.S. official. “We would not deal with them because of the designation.”
Iranian officials initially accused the Israelis and MEK of being behind the attacks, but they have since added the CIA to the list. Three days after the Jan. 11, 2012, bombing in Tehran that killed Roshan, the state news agency IRNA reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. claiming to have “evidence and reliable information” that the CIA provided “guidance, support and planning” to assassins directly involved in the attack.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately denied any connection to the killings. “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” Clinton told reporters on the day of the attack.
But at least two GOP presidential candidates have no problem with the targeting of nuclear scientists. In a November debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed “taking out their scientists,” and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called it, ”a wonderful thing.”
The MEK’s opposition to the Iranian government also has recently earned it both plaudits and support from an odd mix of political bedfellows.
A group of former Cabinet-level officials have joined together to support the MEK’s removal from the official U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list, even taking out a full-page ad last year in the New York Times calling for the removal of the MEK from the U.S. terrorist list. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy were among those whose signatures were on the ad.
“There’s an extraordinary group of bipartisan or even apolitical leaders, military leaders, diplomats, the United States … the United Kingdom, the European Union, even a U.S. District Court in Washington, said that this group that was put on the foreign terrorist organization watch list in 1997 doesn’t deserve to be there,” Ridge said in November on “The Andrea Mitchell Show” on MSNBC TV.
U.S. politicians also have been pushing the U.S. government to protect the 3,400 MEK members and their families at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. With the departure of U.S. troops, the MEK feared that Iraqi forces, with encouragement from Iran, would attack the camp, leading to a bloodbath. At the last minute, however, agreement was brokered with the United Nations that would permit the MEK members’ departure for resettlement in unspecified democratic countries. As of this week, there’s been little movement on the planned resettlement.
Iranian fighters with the National Liberation Army, the military wing of the MEK, clean armored personnel carriers in 1997 after a field exercise near Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
The Iranians see what’s happening as terrorism and hypocrisy by the United States. They have forwarded documents and other evidence to the United Nations – and directly to the United States, they say.
“I think this is very cynical plan. This is unacceptable,” said Larijani. “This is a bad trend in the world. Unprecedented. We should kill scientists … to block a scientific program? I mean this is disaster!”
Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and also a senior fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that if the accounts of the Israeli-MEK assassinations are accurate, the operation borders on terrorism.
“In theory, states cannot be terrorist, but if they hire locals to do assassinations, that would be state sponsorship,” said Byman, author of the recent book, “A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism.” “You could argue that they took action not to terrorize the public, the purpose of terrorism, but only the nuclear community. An argument could also be made that degrading the program means that you don’t have to take military action and thus, this is a lower level of violence and that really these are military targets, where normally terrorist targets are civilians.”
But ultimately, Byman said, there is a “spectrum of responsibility” and that Israel is ultimately responsible.
Ronen Bergman, while not speaking on behalf of the Israeli government, suggests that there is a justification, citing an oft-repeated but disputed quote in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.
“Meir Degan, the chief of Mossad, when he was in office, hung a photograph behind him, behind the chair of the chief of Mossad,” notes the Israeli commentator. “And in that photograph you see — an ultra-orthodox Jew — long beard, standing on his knees with his– hands up in the air, and two Gestapo soldiers standing — beside him with guns pointed at him. One of — one of them is smiling.
“And Degan used to say to his people and the people coming to visit him from CIA, NSA, et cetera, ‘Look at this guy in the picture. This is my grandfather just seconds before he was killed by the SS,’” Bergman said. “’… We are here to prevent this from happening again.’”
Richard Engel is NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent; Robert Windrem is a senior investigative producer.
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WE SHALL TAKE THE WORLD DOWN WITH US….ISRAELI PM..
GERMANY MUST PERISH….JEWISH WRITER 1942.
OKAY FOR SOME- BUT NOT FOR ANYONE ELSE!