More on the MEK/MKO Convention
A group that’s been described as “Islamo-Marxist," terrorists and a cult, held a convention in the nation’s capitol yesterday. Designated terrorists and known variously as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the National council of Resistance of Iran, and People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or merely “the Mojahedin” by their supporters and “the Monafeqin” by their detractors, the group held their event in the 3700 seat DAR’s Constitution Hall. It was the 2005 National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran. Despite being a designated terrorist organization, members of Congress and terrorism experts from various media outlets were on hand to give speeches.

Featured on the floor of the hall were signs with the names of each of the fifty US states to indicate where the Iranian-American delegates from those states were sitting. The press release said that here were delegates from 40 states. Only a few of these states were actually recognized, California, Colorado and Texas being the most prominently recognized (the California delegation was recognized at least three times).

Footage of the convention was made available to members of the MEK’s military wing in US custody inside Iraq, the National Liberation Army. The two side screens featured what was the to be shown in Iraq. Skillful use of cameras seemed to make the hall seem much larger and more populated than it seemed to someone who was actually there. Though the floor seats about 1200, it was only about three-quarters full. The tier seating was mostly empty with the notable exception of the area directly opposite the stage where there were numerous youths with placards that formed a portrait of Maryam Rajavi.

The gist of the entire affair was a push to remove the “terrorist tag” from the MEK/PMOI/NCRI. At points, the crowd chanted “US listen, yes, Mojahedin off the list”. It featured a mini-documentary of the history of the Mojahedin. The documentary and subsequent assertions of Ali Safavi, a frequent press consultant for the MEK who is said to have been a member of the NCRI, contended that the crucial charges of disreputableness against the MEK were false. MEK history holds that there was an intra-party coup around the time of the Iranian Revolution, just after a number of the party’s founders were executed by the ayatollah’s forces. These coup leaders were responsible for Marxism being introduced into the MEK sphere. It is also contended that “the mullah regime” have wrongly fostered the idea of “Islamo-Marxism” and the MEK. However, missing from the narrative was the explanation of how the “rightful leadership” of the MEK came to take back the reigns. Mr. Safavi has offered to provide convincing evidence that debunks the charges that the MEK were Marxist, terrorists, a cult, and killers of Americans.

Speakers of note included several member of Congress and or their representatives, AEI’s Neil Livingstone and FOX News Channel’s foreign affairs analyst, Alireza Jafarzadeh. Dr. Lvingston referred to the MEK as Iran’s “government in exile” and called for the US to engage in “destabilization efforts” in Iran. Jafarzeda, who reportedly was a spokesman for the MEK, made the case that Iran had tried to purchase three nuclear warheads from unspecified foreign countries, was in violation of the NPT had produced neutron initiators.

Two of the star speakers of the event, as judged by the attention received from the working press, were members of the US armed forces, Captain Vivian Gembara and Lt Col Tom Cantwell. Both of whom had at least some experience with the MEK’s National Liberation Army. They both had some positive things to say about the group.

Capt Gemabara went so far as to write an article for Global Politician where she contends “shortsighted policy decisions caused us to miss the opportunity” to use the NLA as “another set of eyes and ears within the [Iraqi] communities.” Capt Gembara published the article on April 11 and was quickly contacted and invited to speak at the convention on April 14. She herself said she was amazed at the rapidity.

Gembara maintained that the NLA should’ve been used to “help stabilize” Iraq, especially in the border areas. “My impression, more importantly, the impression of the special forces soldiers who dealt primarily with the MEK was very positive. Special forces soldiers spoke very highly of their potential and willingness to work with us, ” Gembara said. She felt that they were “knowledgeable of the smuggler areas and ways to cross the border.” While she specifically said that she was not “advocating that they would’ve been active in Iran” she did advocate the US should use the MEK as HUMINT on Iran. Capt Gemabara said that she only dealt with the members of the NLA “on a very minimal basis.”

Lt Col Cantwell, who worked more closely with NLA members as an MP commander at Camp Ashraf, was unwilling to say that his impressions of the NLA was shared by his colleagues, saying instead that his colleagues were “twenty three year old kids who had very tough jobs to do and didn’t think much about geopolitics.” However, most of what Cantwell cited to make his case that the NLA may have been inappropriately classified as terrorists were the behaviors of the NLA members. Why Cantwell’s colleagues would had to have been thinking about geopolitics to form an impression of the NLA members’ behaviors is unclear. Cantwell made a point of saying that he saw no evidence that the NLA presented a threat to US forces and that even though he had not asked to see the evidence that NLA members were terrorists, he had not seen any evidence that NLA members were terrorists. Lt Col Cantwell currently works as a consultant for an unspecified private firm.
15 Apr 2005 by Simon W. Moon
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