MEK Iran: MOIS Political Oppression
Iranian intelligence agents conspired to kidnap expatriate journalists and conduct cyber-espionage against scholars abroad by impersonating a British institution, according to reports released in late July. Both incidents are evidence of the Islamic Republic’s continued — and growing — international oppression of Iranians who speak out against the regime.
Oppression of Iranians who speak out against the regime
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) initially focused on removing Iranian opposition members, under the command of intelligence minister Mohammad Reyshahri. Namely the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), an organization active both at home and abroad.
With the assistance of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, right-wing Islamists who were more loyal to him began to dominate the ministry after 1989. MOIS then turned its attention to assassinating Iranian dissidents under the management of Ali Fallahian.
Qassemlou was slain in Vienna in July 1989
Abdulrahman Qassemlou was slain in Vienna in July 1989, which was the first high-profile event. Shapour Bakhtiar, the shah’s former prime minister, was assassinated in Paris in August 1991.
One of the most well-known events occurred a year later in Berlin when Iranian Kurdish dissidents were slain at the Mykonos restaurant by MOIS operatives and Lebanese Hezbollah triggermen.
Buenos Aires in 1994
MOIS is said to have worked with the IRGC-Qods Force to bomb the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 people and injuring 300 others.
Until the end of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency in 1997, this wave of targeted violence continued.
The “Chain Murders”
Initially, MOIS hardliners carried out a series of political assassinations known as the “Chain Murders,” in which they targeted Iranian intellectuals. At least six activists were assassinated by the agency in 1998, including Dariush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh Eskandari.
Golam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a Haqqani School alumnus and extreme preacher, was chosen as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first intelligence minister in 2005. The purpose of Mohseni-Ejei was to reassert the Supreme Leader’s influence over MOIS.
Foreign strategy for overthrowing the regime
On the internal front, MOIS concentrated on disrupting alleged “color revolution” conspiracies, which is viewed as a new foreign strategy for overthrowing the regime. The agency crushed civil society organizations and arrested a large number of civic and political activists as part of this operation.
The Green Movement erupted in response to the disputed presidential election of 2009, which sparked widespread protests across the country. Ahmadinejad accused members of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of orchestrating the unrest in order to destabilize his government. He dismissed Mohseni-Ejei on July 26 of that year due to his incapacity to put an end to the uprising.
MOIS was the ministry of the Supreme Leader
Haydar Moslehi, his replacement, was the first non-Haqqani graduate to lead MOIS. Moslehi, who used to be Khamenei’s agent in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Basij militia, led another series of purges at MOIS, firing many supporters of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Between Ahmadinejad and Moslehi, a disagreement arose and grew over time. The president complained that he wasn’t getting intelligence briefings; in fact, MOIS frequently circumvented him and conveyed top-secret reports to Khamenei directly. Moslehi later justified his actions by claiming that MOIS was the ministry of the Supreme Leader, not the president.
Ahmadinejad retaliated by accusing MOIS
Ahmadinejad retaliated by accusing MOIS officers of importing valuable goods in order to destabilize them and replace them with his allies.
However, when Ahmadinejad attempted to fire Moslehi in April 2011, Khamenei overruled the president’s decision and reinstated Moslehi, limiting Ahmadinejad’s authority and prerogatives.
Mullahs regime is no stranger to international repression
The Islamic Republic is no stranger to international repression. Regardless of whose government was in power when the rule began in 1979, it ruthlessly surveilled, abducted, and assassinated opposition members and defectors.
The latest efforts in the lengthy chain of international suppression that has defined the Islamic Republic are front-page conspiracies to kidnap journalists and impersonate scholars. These activities should be condemned more forcefully by Western nations, and they should be punished whenever possible.