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Increase in terrorist activities of the Iranian regime

The US Can Force Europe to Take a Tougher Stance Against Iran by Designating MOIS a Terror Organisation

Increase in terrorist activities of the Iranian regime

Assadollah Assadi, the mastermind behind the Iranian regime’s foiled terror plot to bomb MEK’s annual gathering in Paris-June 30th, 2018

Alarabiya published an opinion piece outlining the increasing international concern over Iran’s state-sponsored terrorist activities. 2018 has seen a surge in Iranian terrorism across the world as European authorities have foiled several terror plots and which were traced back to the Iranian regime leadership.

“If ISIS targeted people arbitrarily without any operation center in the EU, Iran’s regime uses its embassies to organize terrorist operations across Europe”, the piece said.

The most recent development was the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador to Albania and another high-level diplomat. Albania’s government cited increasing security threats as the reason for the expulsion.

In March, during the Persian New Year celebrations, two Iranian agents working for the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) were arrested for plotting a terror attack on Albanian soil. The attack’s target was members of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) currently living in exile in a compound near the Albanian capital of Tirana.

The Iranian regime scrambles to distance itself from the foiled terror attack in Europe

Following the Albanian government’s decision to expel the diplomats, President Trump personally praised the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama. He thanked him for his “steadfast efforts to stand up to Iran and to counter its destabilizing activities and efforts to silence dissidents around the globe.”

A Growing Operation

Prior to the MEK’s arrival on Albanian soil, the country was on the regime’s periphery. It had a small embassy in Tirana through which it managed diplomatic operations. However, since the MEK arrived in 2016 after fleeing regime attacks on its compounds in Iraq, the regime has expanded the Albanian embassy’s operations, “almost doubling the size and the number of staff”, according to Alarabiya.

In addition to expanding the building and hiring more staff, the regime sent an MOIS agent to the country as its ambassador and created a special section of the embassy devoted to planning attacks against the MEK and the Iranian opposition.

The regime’s activities in Albania have been a microcosm of a growing surge in terror activities in Europe. 2018 saw the foiled terror plot in Albania, a foiled terror attack in Paris in June, an assassination attempt against a political dissident in Denmark, and the arrest of two MOIS agents in the United States on espionage charges.

Alongside their violent terror attacks, the regime has coordinated an extensive misinformation campaign against the MEK. Recent hit pieces against the MEK have appeared in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, and Channel 4.

Channel 4 News Report Serves as Tool for Iran Lobby

The response has been somewhat muted. Following the attempted attack on the MEK’s Grand Gathering in June, the French government expelled diplomats and froze MOIS assets. However, few countries have followed suit, making Albania’s decision a landmark moment.

Many observers attribute this surge in state-sponsored violence against political dissidents to a decades-long policy of appeasement towards the Iranian regime from Western governments. “In their view, the current EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and her colleagues are responsible for this emerging threat to [the] EU’s security”, the Alarabiya piece states.

The Alarabiya piece asserts that the US government could force Europe’s governments to adopt a tougher stance by designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the MOIS as terrorist organizations. “This is what the Iranian people, dissidents and dozens of prominent Western politicians ask and call for”, the piece concludes.

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Iran's dictatorship gaining more popularity in Iran.

The Regime’s Fear is a Sign of Changing Times

 

Iran's dictatorship gaining more popularity in Iran.

A scene of one of the protests by the MEK supporters calling for regime change in Iran as the only solution to end the current dictatorship in Iran

An article in International Policy Digest by Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan charts the Iranian regime’s increasing fears of the main opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK / Mujahedin-e Khalgh) and demonstrates that this increasing fear is a sign of changing times in the Iranian political landscape.

The Status Quo has Become ‘Untenable’

Professor Sheehan, the incoming Executive Director at the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, wrote:

“There are growing signs that the status quo has become untenable”, in response to renewed US sanctions, continuous protests at home, a failing economy, and increasing international isolation, “the regime is finding it much more difficult to contain the situation”.

“The most defining aspect of Iran in 2018 has been the continuation of anti-government protests”, Sheehan suggests. Ahead of 2018, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)’s president-elect, Maryam Rajavi called for a year of protest and it has not disappointed.

The nationwide uprisings of January engulfed Iran’s cities and towns, expanding to more than 140 cities in all 31 provinces. According to Sheehan, it “shook the ruling theocracy to the core”. Confronted with such intense public outcry, the regime arrested political dissidents in the thousands, sentencing many to extreme punishments and lengthy jail terms.

The Iranian Regime Sentences Six to Between 8 and 18 Years in Prison for Protesting

“That movement has continued in different shapes and forms over the past 11 months”, Sheehan writes, “despite a heavy crackdown, waves of arrests, and long prison terms for protesters.”

Key Iranian industries have suffered been racked with strikes, including the logistics sector, education, the retail industry, and manufacturing. Many sectors were protesting appalling working conditions, unpaid wages, and the pandemic corruption that ravages the Iranian business and political landscape.

Anti-government Protests

Beyond poor working conditions and unpaid wages, the protests that have rippled across Iran in 2018 have taken a decidedly anti-government tone.

“In July, a five-day wave of anti-government protests proved to be the largest since January and encompassed more than a dozen cities throughout the country”, wrote Sheehan.

Similar anti-government took place across Iran’s major cities in June and August. “What makes recent and ongoing protests different from earlier movements”, Sheehan explained, “is that they are not limited to one part of the country or to any specific demographics.

What began as a grassroots movement among the “hungry and unemployed”, has spread to the urban middle classes, the working-class factory workers, college-educated students, inner-city shopkeepers, and younger segments of the population.

Iran: Steel Workers, Factory Workers, Drivers Strike Despite Regime Suppression

Sheehan writes, “at first, the protests were over dire economic hardship, exorbitant prices of basic staples, high unemployment, runaway inflation and the lack of some of the most basic social services including running water and electricity. But protests quickly became political with people calling for an end to dictatorship”.

Among the protestors demands now are an end to the financing of foreign terrorism, missile proliferation, and the frequent and blatant human rights abuses. The protestors are calling for more civil freedom, an end to institutionalized discrimination and sexism, and the eradication of regime corruption.

What began as an economic protest movement evolved into a defiantly anti-regime movement.

The Iranian Economy is in Free-fall

“The Iranian economy is in free-fall and is getting more precarious”, Sheehan writes. “The national currency, the rial, has lost about 75 percent of its value in the past seven to eight months”.

What makes the current economic crisis worse is that it has come at a time when the Iranian regime was still exporting 2.7 million barrels of oil a day and received $100 billion of unfrozen assets.

For the country to be in economic collapse despite this significant windfall and oil revenue demonstrates extensive economic mismanagement and pandemic corruption.

“The main cause of the economic collapse is the regime’s policies”, Sheehan explains, “the lion’s share of the government budget is allocated to the apparatus of domestic oppression and to financing terror and warmongering abroad”. Sheehan cites payments of around $12 to $15 billion annually to the Assad regime in Syria.

Corruption and economic mismanagement were even explicitly mentioned by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in his speech on August 13th. He referred to the plunder of $18 billion as an example of some of the embezzlement and corruption that plagues his regime.

But Khamenei is nothing more than a hypocrite. In public, he may lament the state of the Iranian economy, but the Supreme Leader has a personal slush fund worth $95 billion according to Reuters.

Sanctions Will be Effective

Given that the Iranian economy is under the control of 14 financial holdings, all of which are managed by the Supreme Leader and the regime itself, US and international economic sanctions will be able to end the stream of revenue flowing directly into the mullahs’ pockets and impact their ability to funnel finances to international terrorists and militia groups.

“This is one of the greatest sources of anxiety for Tehran”, Sheehan writes. Under President Trump, the US has ended its decades-long strategy of appeasement. Trump and Pompeo have indicated that they will use sanctions to stop Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses.

The State Department has reintroduced strict economic sanctions on the Iranian auto-industry, financial institutions, and energy sector. The US has vowed to bring further sanctions to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero.

“The regime has been at a total impasse”, Sheehan writes, “since retreating from its strategic policies would mean major reform”— which Khamenei is adamant he will not do.

As Khamenei and Rouhani continue to dig their heels, the public has only grown louder in its demands for political reform and regime change. “The protests have been a game changer in the Iranian political landscape”, Sheehan exclaimed.

The Regime has Intensified Efforts Against the Opposition

In response to the impasse Tehran finds itself in, the regime has targeted the MEK and other Iranian political opposition groups. “The MEK’s modern, tolerant and democratic view on Islam has been the antithesis to the Islamic fundamentalism” presented by the mullahs.

Iran State Media Acknowledges MEK Can Topple Regime

“The ayatollahs were bent on annihilating it as a social and political force before they even took power”, Sheehan writes. Following their rise to power, the mullahs unleashed an “unbridled terror” campaign against the MEK and their supporters.

“Tens of thousands of MEK activists, men, and women, have fallen victim to brutal crackdowns. In the summer of 1988 alone… some 30,000 political prisoners— primarily MEK activists— were massacred”, Sheehan describes.

Today, the support and influence of the MEK are evident across Iran. The group has exposed some of the mullahs’ most secretive and nefarious activities, including their secret nuclear program.

Amnesty International Holds Press Conference Following its Landmark Report on 1988 Massacre

The MEK’s network of experts and underground sources has led to the exposure of over 100 “clandestine nuclear projects in Iran”, Sheehan claims. The MEK’s network has also played a crucial role in exposing the mullahs’ routine and frequent human rights abuses.

A Coordinated Campaign of Oppression

In response to the MEK’s surging power and influence, Tehran demanded international governments suppress the MEK as a precursor for good relations with Tehran. “Tehran demanded that Western powers blacklist the MEK”, Sheehan explains.

 

The MEK went on to challenge these blacklistings in international courts and were eventually delisted after courts ruled there was not even a shred of evidence connecting the group with terrorism.

“Interestingly, an impressive group of mostly senior former officials who held key national security posts in four US administrations filed an amicus brief in support of the MEK’s petition”, Sheehan writes.

“In the international arena, the MEK gained enormous respect among American and European politicians”, Sheehan continues, “a number of MEK allies hold prominent positions in the Trump administration, while the MEK itself enjoys solid bipartisan support in the US Congress”.

In 2016, following a particularly violent and aggressive persecution of the MEK in Iraq from the Iranian regime, several thousand MEK members were safely transferred to Albania. Following the outbreak of MEK-organised and endorsed protests in Iran in December 2017 and January 2018, the regime has targeted these members living in Albania.

Giuliani Issues Statement in Wake of Failed Terrorist Attack on NCRI Gathering

Tehran intensified its terrorist activities in Europe and the US. On June 30th, Belgian law enforcement authorities foiled a state-sponsored Iranian terrorist plot against the MEK’s annual Grand Gathering event.

A Belgian-Iranian couple was arrested traveling to the event with 500g of explosive matter. Their intention was to detonate the device at the event, which was attended by delegations of high-profile politicians and journalists from around the world.

President-elect, Maryam Rajavi, was the keynote speaker at the event and had traveled to Paris from Albania to be there.

The MEK’s investigation found that the Iranian embassy in Austria orchestrated the attack. The diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was later arrested in Germany near the Austrian border, provided the couple with the explosive material and was the mastermind behind the operation.

German prosecutors later confirmed that Assadi was a member of the Iranian intelligence agency (MOIS) and was acting under the supervision of senior members of the Iranian regime.

Following the clear violation of international law and deliberate plotting of a terrorist attack on European soil, the French government froze MOIS assets and expelled Iranian diplomats from Paris.

There were other plots coordinated against the MEK. “In March… an attack was foiled that would have targeted a gathering of MEK members in Tirana, the capital of Albania, for the Iranian New Year celebration”, Sheehan writes.

A car bomb was to be used. Two Iranians who had arrived in the country under the guise of journalists were arrested over their involvement in the attack’s planning and coordination.

Similarly, in August, the US Justice Department announced it had detained two Iranian agents suspected of collecting information on the MEK ahead of a possible terror attack.

Once more, in October, Danish authorities arrested an assassin working for the MOIS. The Iranian government had planned to kill a dissident on Danish soil, but the plan was thwarted before it could be executed.

Each plan followed the same objectives; to attack and cause significant loss of life to the MEK and the Iranian opposition.

The Battle for Public Minds

Alongside the aggressive terror campaign against the MEK, Tehran organized a demonization campaign designed to vilify the MEK in the eyes of the public. Sheehan explains, “the objective has been to show that no democratic alternative is available and that dealing with this regime or looking for change within it is the only option for the West”.

The regime uses social media, state-run news outlets, and payments to international journalists to discredit the MEK. In one case, a regime-affiliated individual offered the head of the Mackenzie Institute $80,000 to publish a hit piece against the MEK.

NCRI Report Shows the Iranian Regime Used Channel 4 to Further its Objectives and Sway Public Opinion

One-sided stories against the MEK have gradually seeped into international media outlets’ reporting. The Guardian, MSNBC, Channel 4 News, Al Jazeera, and the Independent have all echoed regime talking points in their coverage and published regime-fed lies about the MEK and the Iranian opposition.

The Committee of Anglo-Iranian Lawyers Issue a Statement on the Guardian’s MEK Hit Piece

“The same individuals are quoted in each of the articles and questionable evidence that demonstrates a clearly pro-regime bias is used to source the so-called facts”, Sheehan writes. Many of the articles glaze over or completely ignore the Iranian regime’s state-sponsored terror activities or deplorable human rights record.

“For anyone who has followed Iranian affairs, it is evident that the content of the pieces are almost identical to the allegations and smears that Tehran has been making against the MEK for years”, Sheehan explained.

The regime also relies on its social media capabilities to spread misinformation about the MEK. Twitter recently detected 770 regime-affiliated accounts, many of which were posing as foreign citizens or international journalists to deliberately influence public opinion. The accounts had published more than 1.1 million Tweets promoting regime talking points, slandering the MEK, and even attempting to influence the US elections.

MSNBC’s MEK Coverage Lacks Accuracy and Objectivity

Sheehan predicts that the regime will only intensify its efforts to persecute and attack the MEK in the near future. “Tehran is likely to respond to the challenge by growing even more focused on the MEK. This means more repression at home and terror plots abroad”, he writes.

Sheehan argues that it is the responsibility of the international community to give voice to the Iranian people and lend their moral support to the anti-regime protestors and the MEK. With this support, Sheehan supposes that 2018 could come full circle. “2018 may well end as it began: With Tehran’s theocratic rulers consumed with an existential revolt and brave anti-government demonstrators insisting on democracy in the streets”.

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What we are not seeing in Iran

Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian opposition, joins the general election of the MEK Secretary-General, September 2017. After her election as PMOI/MEK Secretary General, Zahra Merrikhi pledges to bring freedom to Iran

The wind of change blows in Iran. A lot of people feel it. A few people try to ignore it, not daring to face the consequences. But generally, it seems to be a proven fact that change is on its way. There are however important factors which are being ignored in the process…

In its bid to survive, the ruling regime seems to be eking out every last drop out of its legitimacy and is on the verge of an internal conflict of power among its warring factions. Public support is shrinking to new depths. Political unrest calling for regime change is now an everyday phenomenon.

The regime’s intervention in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere have bled the regime financially. Demonstrators in Iran are calling for their money invested in banks related to the Pasdaran Army (Revolutionary Guards Corps), but the institutions are bankrupt because of the continuous funding of extraterritorial military projects.

Politically, different political clans within the regime are at each other’s throats on specific issues such as the defunct nuclear deal with the West and the rejected FATF agreements on monetary transactions, among others.

The regime’s popularity, limited to a very thin social circle consisting of families of those under arms and the feared paramilitary Bassij (popular mobilization) force, is at its lowest point. Some two hundred towns across the country have experienced unrest against oppressive measures undertaken by the regime.

The international situation has never been so bad. Donald Trump seems convinced to go to the very end with the rejection of the nuclear deal, while European and other support seems unable to balance the American rejection.

This is not the first time the regime has faced grave difficulty. In 2009, Iran came close to social chaos following presidential elections leading to a second presidential term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But at that time, the stakes were only political and limited to Tehran, the capital. The opposition movement was led by dissident elements from the power’s inner circle. Also, on an international level, a reluctant Barak Obama was far from today’s Donald Trump who supports the popular movement in Iran.

The current unrest has lasted ten months. It stems from an unprecedented political and economic situation with no way out and with too many victims. Demonstrators do not hesitate to call for regime change, and a large number of towns now engaged in political unrest marks a significant break from 2009. Oppressive forces have to control vast territory and numerous cities, above all, they cannot afford to give an inch in Tehran.

Additionally, an important internal element is playing a role in the regime’s latest existential crisis. Organized groups are coordinating political unrest in cities across Iran. Social media is allowing for the grassroots mobilization of the Iranian opposition.

In February, the regime’s president Hassan Rohani called Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to ask for his support in muzzling the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, or the MEK. Rohani claimed the MEK was engaging in planning and organizing activities in France. MEK’s umbrella organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, is based in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise. In any case, the French did not bother to answer Rohani’s call.

Later in June, a mass assassination plan was defused in Belgium. The attack targeted a huge meeting organized by the NCRI in Villepinte, north of Paris. An Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was arrested with three other individuals found with 500 grams of a powerful explosive and detonation mechanism. The four will go on trial in Belgium on premeditated murder charges.

Youth Vow to Make a Free Iran Possible At NCRI Gathering

In the meantime, Iranian leaders including the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have not hesitated to point to MEK as the main instigator of the domestic unrest in Iran. The MEK’s leadership is the making the real difference between the current opposition movement in Iran and its previous ones.

Massoud Rajavi, the historical leader of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK)

Founded in 1965, MEK spent a dozen years fighting the Shah’s regime. MEK’s historical leader, Massoud Rajavi spent eight years in the Shah’s prisons before being liberated by the people’s uprising a few days before the Shah left Iran, for good.

Ideologically, the MEK is known for its modern, tolerant interpretation of Islam, its patriotism, and its social program calling for social justice and respect for Iran’s history and culture. The founding members were executed by the Shah in early 1970s. Their struggle for freedom and their tolerant Islam earned them much respect, even among religious circles close to the actual ruling clique.

Many of Iran’s current officials sympathized with the MEK at the time when the organization was bravely fighting the Shah. Clerics currently ruling the country kept a low profile under the Shah to avoid persecution by the feared SAVAK, the Shah’s oppressive secret police. Meanwhile, MEK members were being tortured and executed in the SAVAK’s prisons.

After their rise to power, the mullahs had a single serious opponent; the MEK. The organization underwent the most severe oppression in Iran’s modern history. More than a hundred thousand of its members and sympathizers were eliminated.

Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras Speaks at Geneva Conference Commemorating 1988 Massacre

In 1988, following the Iran-Iraq war, some thirty thousand members were massacred while serving time in the regime’s prisons. But the organization managed to keep many of its cadres out of the regime’s reach. It formed a National Liberation Army during the Iran-Iraq war in Iraq and finally evacuated its members in a spectacular operation in 2016 when more than 3,000 members were relocated to Albania.

Thus, in the regime’s worst days currently unfolding, its sole political opponent is very much present on the political scene. At the MEK’s last great gathering in Villepinte in France, the one targeted by the regime’s terror operation, more than a hundred thousand members of the Iranian diaspora gathered, as well as political figures including Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and many other internationally known political figures.

The most important issue the MEK champions is a total regime change in the country. The never fading presence of MEK has had an important political effect on the regime. It has made any halfway or reformist bid to modify or moderate the same regime utterly meaningless.

Most revolutions have changed course, towards more moderate rules, with objectives diverging from those held at the beginning of their campaign. When faced with an absence of opposition, even well-meaning revolutionary groups can evolve into a brutal regime once in power.

The Iranian revolution was no exception. However, in the case of the clerical regime, brutal repression was not able to eliminate the real opposition. This has had a by-effect: there can be no transmutation towards a more moderate version of the same regime while a total opposition is still alive.

In other classical cases, a compromise can be found, some sort of provisional or long-lasting solution emerging from the national social demands. But this Iran is no classical case. In fact, no compromise is possible between the opposition and the regime in power in Iran. Regime change is an integral part of the founding declaration of the National Council of Resistance, the political umbrella for MEK’s struggle against the regime.

This is one of the essential elements that a great number of people interested in the Iranian problem ignore: the ever-growing role and effect of the MEK on the course of events in Iran. The continuous denial and suppression of any opposition movement in Iran are triggering a domestic backlash.

A smear campaign aiming to discredit the opposition movement by the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence, along with vast lobbying efforts by preachers forms part of this systematic denial effort. But the whole house of cards began to tremble when the most important authorities in the country, beginning with the supreme leader, pointed to the MEK as the main factor behind this year’s civil unrest in the country. In his speech on January 9, Ali Khamenei stated:

“The incidents were organized and carried out by the MEK (although he used a different pejorative term). They had prepared for this months ago, and their media outlets had called for it.”

Prior to this defining moment, the regime’s leadership had publicly ignored the MEK’s presence in Iran. Khamenei’s speech indicated that the regime has thus changed its policy. It can no longer afford to ignore the danger the MEK represents. It is now clearly identifying the real danger the MEK represents in order to direct its repressive forces against the group.

Regime Official: The Threat Knows No Bounds

The change is not limited to words. For years, the Iranian regime has shown self-restraint when it comes to the assassination of opponents abroad. The regime had initiated more than 400 assassination attempts against opposition members outside its borders until the late 1990s. Then, Iranian rulers were condemned in absentia, by European courts for having ordered opponents to be killed on European territory.

With the failed explosion attempt at Villepinte in France, the sleeping dragon seems to have been awakened. At least two other such attempts have been discovered since the failed Paris attack, and there remains little doubt that the tacit agreement not to take such action in the West has breathed its last breath.

The changing stance of the mullahs towards the MEK is an important indicator of the threat the regime now faces. For years, a line of appeasement has prevailed among international governments. However, this approach has proved fruitless.

Another approach is necessary, one which endorses total regime change as the solution. Those wishfully thinking that a moderate force will emerge within the regime and amend its behavior and policy are ignoring the real influential factors on the ground, particularly the MEK and the traction it is gaining both inside and outside Iran.

Iran State Media Acknowledges MEK Can Topple Regime

The MEK and the Iranian regime’s disinformation

The Iranian public has been protesting in ever greater numbers and in an expanding list of localities since December 2017. Iran’s people are making it clear that they seek a regime change. This is key to understanding the developments in the domestic situation in Iran.

MEK has enjoyed unrivaled success in undermining the regime’s actions and strategies by sustaining complex anti-government campaigns such as exposing the regime’s nuclear sites and terror networks in the Middle East and across the world. It is now exposing the corruption and repression carried out by the theocratic regime in Iran. Therefore, it is easy to understand why the mullahs are so desperate to demonize the MEK, especially at a time when they are rapidly losing their international appeasers and their string of terror plots to physically damage the MEK have been unsuccessful.

Three full pages in the Guardian, a British newspaper, is part of the Iranian regime’s desperate attempt to hit its strongest opposition group. Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, once said: “Tell a lie that’s big enough, and repeat it often enough, and the whole world will believe it.” But we say there is a limit to this. You cannot fool and trick the whole world forever just by repeating a very big lie in paid international media outlets.

The Guardian article “Terrorist, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy?” written by Arron Reza Merat, a known anti MEK element of the Mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry who has infiltrated the Guardian, is an attempt to depict a violent, wild and power-thirsty picture of the MEK in a bid to evaporate Western sympathies to the Iranian opposition.

But it is too little too late. Today, MEK is not an unknown name that can be adequately vilified in a Goebbels-style article by Reza Merat. Its history is already known to many Iranians who wholeheartedly support it, and it is widely renowned by many prominent international politicians who have offered it unfettered support for over 15 years.

MEK History

The 1950s and 1960s were marked by severe repression against dissidents in Iran. After conducting a coup in 1953 against Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, Iran’s popular Prime Minister who nationalized the country’s oil industry, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s monarch, forced all opposition groups and movements into silence and submission.

However, on September 6, 1965, three Iranian intellectuals, Mohammad HanifnejadSaeid Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan, founded a new opposition movement that later became the MEK. They were inspired by the authentic interpretation of Islam that rejects all forms of fundamentalism, which had previously been the dominant interpretation of the religion in Iran.

Since its founding, the MEK has been opposed to the atheist/Muslim conflict that the fundamentalist mullahs promote. Hanifnejad and the other founders of the MEK stressed that the real conflict was not between faiths but between the tyrants (the Shah regime) and the oppressed (the people of Iran, regardless of their faith and ethnicity).

In the first five years, the MEK’s founders concentrated on recruiting new members and creating a network of elite cadres that could lead the movement through the hard times that would come. They engaged in thorough studies of all doctrines to gather everything that could help in their struggle because they viewed the struggle for freedom as a science to be studied and acquired in order to succeed where their predecessors had failed. After thorough examination and studies, Hanifnejad and his comrades eventually chose democratic Islam as the ideology that could best serve the aspirations of the Iranian people.

Thus, the MEK founders embarked on a long journey to establish freedom and democracy in their country and they paid a heavy price to defend the rights of their people. Their conduct has set an example of persistence and loyalty that is still admired by Iranians to this day.

Massoud Rajavi, the popular candidate for the presidency in Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Rouhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s religious dictatorship prevented him from running, since he felt a big threat, given rajavi’s popularity among all sectors of the society, and religious and ethnic minorities. He was known as the candidate of the new generation.

The MEK’s founders also recruited people who were willing to dedicate every hour to help advance the organization’s goals. They concluded that the fight for freedom and democracy can’t be a part-time job. The first people to join the movement were young intellectuals and university students. Among them was Massoud Rajavi, a young student who later became pivotal in shaping the organization’s future.

In August 1971, while the Iranian monarchy was preparing for its much-advertised festivities to celebrate its longtime rule, more than 80 percent of MEK’s members, including all of its leaders were arrested. This was a hard strike against the nascent organization, but it also led to the widespread recognition and popularity of the MEK among the Iranian people.

Stories of the MEK’s resistance in the Shah’s prisons and courts circulated among Iranians by word of mouth. Soon the organization had managed to build a solid and widespread support base in Iranian society, with supporters from all walks of life.

The ruling mullahs of today, who themselves did nothing efficient against the Shah, are well aware of the history of popular support for the MEK in Iranian hearts and homes. But they disgracefully pretend the opposite is true in their demonization campaigns.

On May 25, 1972, the Shah’s regime executed the MEK’s founders and of all its leading members. Only Massoud Rajavi was spared. He was saved from imminent death thanks to an international campaign by his brother, Kazem Rajavi who was a renowned jurist and politician in Switzerland. Kazem managed to get Massoud’s death sentence revoked by rallying several international organizations and politicians in support of Massoud. Among those politicians was Francois Mitterrand, the leader of the French Socialist Party and the future President of France.

A failed coup within the ranks of the MEK

In September 1975, the MEK was still recovering from the execution of most of its leadership cadre. During this period, a separatist Maoist group tried to change the ideology of the MEK and hijack its name and emblem. They went as far as intimidating, oppressing and even killing the MEK members who remained loyal to the organization’s original mindset and ideology. This group was responsible for killing several Americans in Iran in those years, something which is mistakenly being attributed to the MEK members in the mullahs’ demonization campaign against the MEK, also repeatedly used by the Iran lobbies.

Thanks to the efforts of Massoud Rajavi, the organization was brought back from the brink. In the fall of 1976, while Massoud was in the Shah’s prison, he issued a 12-point declaration, in which he reasserted the true foundations of the MEK’s ideology and its principles. The declaration became the basis upon which all MEK members resist the world’s most brutal regime and number one executioner.

Since Khomeini’s rise to power, the MEK has constantly warned of the new regime’s human rights abuses, including the repression of women, minorities and all opposition forces. As the main defender of freedoms, the MEK quickly built up an expanding base of support across the Iranian population, especially among young people and intellectuals. In less than two years, MEK became the largest political movement in Iran.

Mek Political Platform

However, during these two years, Khomeini’s regime carried out a brutal and merciless crackdown that spared neither women, nor students, nor minorities. In the same period, Khomeini’s henchmen murdered 70 members and supporters of the MEK at peaceful rallies, meetings, and protests. The regime’s conduct in this period was deliberately deleted from all its state-published and affiliated media reports, including the Guardian article.

On June 20, 1981, the MEK tested Iran’s democratic environment a final time by launching a peaceful demonstration to remind the Khomeini regime of its responsibilities to respect the fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people. In Tehran, more than 500,000 attended. In response, Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), his personal army, to open fire on the unarmed and peaceful protesters.

The following day, the Iranian regime launched a ruthless crackdown against all opposition forces, especially the supporters and members of the MEK. The regime’s forces pursued and executed many of the Mojahedin’s members in the streets, and thousands were dragged into the regime’s prisons, where they were subjected to inhumane methods of torture and were later executed. Women, children, the elderly—no one was spared.

Following the ban of all opposition forces, the Khomeini regime executed and murdered some 120,000 people, most of whom were affiliated with the MEK. In Khomeini’s prisons, his guards and executioners resorted to the vilest and most brutal torture methods. Khomeini’s fatwas gave his torturers free rein to do anything they wanted to torment the MEK members and sympathizers, including rape, severing body organs, gouging eyes, and other deplorable and vile acts.

According to eyewitness accounts, the regime’s guards extracted blood from the MEK members before executing them, so they could use it for the medical needs of their own guards and soldiers. Pregnant women were tortured and executed. Young girls were raped before their execution. The imprisoned MEK members suffered a truly evil fate at the hands of the regime.

Under these circumstances, on July 21, 1981, a month after the beginning of Khomeini’s reign of terror, Massoud Rajavi founded the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iran’s opposition forces that aspired to replace the violent brand of religious fascism promoted by Khomeini with a democratic, pluralist and secular state. A week later, on July 29, the leaders of the MEK left Iran with help from the brave and freedom-loving officers of the Iranian Air Force. Rajavi took refuge in France, from where he continued to lead the struggle for freedom against the Iranian regime.

Iran-Iraq War

The regime has massaged the narrative of the Iran-Iraq war to hide its war-mongering activities. In 1980, when the Iraqi army occupied parts of Iran, the MEK was quick to take up arms and defend their homeland.

But as soon as the Iraqi army released its hold on Iranian land and retreated back behind international borders, the continuation of the war was no longer justified and the MEK was also quick to call for peace between the two countries. Meanwhile, Khomeini insisted on continuing the war until and pushed for the overthrow of the Iraqi government. The Iran-Iraq war went on to cause the avoidable deaths of millions on both sides, while peace was totally achievable.

The war provided Khomeini with the perfect pretext to suppress the demands of the people. He used the excuse of being at war as a pretext to crack down on all the regime’s political opponents, accusing them of weakening the government and colluding with foreign enemies.

On September 10, 1982, Massoud Rajavi met with the then Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz at the NCRI’s Paris headquarters and signed a peace agreement with the Iraqi government on behalf of the MEK and the Iranian people. The move proved that peace was achievable and that the Iranian regime was prolonging the Iran-Iraq war against the wishes of the Iranian public.

The MEK’s peace effort gained international recognition and support and was endorsed by 5,000 politicians from 57 countries worldwide.

The rise of women in leadership roles in MEK

In the six years that followed the 1979 revolution, female members of the MEK were active in their resistance against the religious and misogynous rule of Khomeini.

 

Eventually, on March 10, 1985, women found their true place in the leadership ranks of the MEK when Maryam Azdanlou (Rajavi) became the co-leader of the MEK. The event marked a turning point in the history of the MEK in its struggle against the Khomeini’s fundamentalist ideology, which had been particularly harsh towards Iranian women.

It was the MEK’s conviction that if women were the primary victims of the Iranian regime, then they should be given a privileged status in the MEK’s ranks which stands opposed to the mullahs’ rule in every way. This illustrated the MEK’s genuine commitment to equality between women and men.

MEK relocated to Iraq

On June 7, 1986, under pressure from the French government, which was deeply engaged in dealings with the Iranian regime, Massoud Rajavi left France for Iraq. There he founded the National Liberation Army (NLA) on June 20, 1987. The NLA became a major force in opposition to the Iranian regime.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad agreed it would not interfere in the politics and operations of the MEK and its NLA. The MEK predicated its presence in Iraq would preserve its independence.

On July 25, 1988, the NLA launched its largest operation, called “Eternal Light,” in which it targeted the entirety of the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime suffered 55,000 casualties, and on its part, the NLA lost 1,304 of its officers and soldiers, heroes who laid down their lives for the freedom of their country. MEK members who returned alive were more determined than ever to bring freedom to their homeland, Iran. There was no sign of defeat and failure in the minds of those who survived.

Middle East analysts and observers attributed Khomenei’s acceptance of the ceasefire with Iraq in 1988 to the efforts of the NLA.

The massacre of MEK members and supporters in Iran’s prisons

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime began a mass purge of its prisons from political prisoners, executing anyone who refused to repent for their opposition to the rule of Khomeini.

Families of Victims of 1988 Massacre Still Seek Justice

In the span of a few months, the regime’s executioners sent more than 30,000 prisoners to the gallows. This was a genocide, a crime against humanity without precedent, which became known as the “1988 massacre.”

Contrary to what has been said by regime mouthpieces in the demonization campaigns against the MEK, it was later revealed in summer 2016 in an audio tape of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the heir-apparent to Khomeini, that the regime leadership extensively planned the massacre.  Plans for the 1988 massacre began months earlier, as Khomeini became worried of the future of his regime and his tenuous hold on power and it was not the result of the MEK’s largest operation.

The 1990s and 2000s: The policy of appeasement

During the 1990s, western states engaged in a new drive of rapprochement towards the Iranian regime, hoping they could preserve their economic interests and avoid the obvious threats emanating from Tehran. Naturally, it was the Iranian people and the MEK that paid the price of this failed policy.

In 1997, the US administration, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, inserted the MEK into its list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) as a goodwill gesture to Mohammad Khatami, the newly appointed president of the Iranian regime, who presented himself as a “moderate” and “reformist.”

European states followed suit and classified the MEK as a terrorist organization in an effort spearheaded by Jack Straw, then-foreign minister of the United Kingdom. Straw was known for his endorsement a policy of appeasement towards the Iranian regime, an attitude that made him the object of much criticism from the Iranian people inside Iran and abroad. Canada and Australia also soon followed the UK’s lead.

The adoption of a policy of appeasement triggered a wave pressure against the MEK and the Iranian resistance, resulting in the suffering and deaths of many innocent people. The bombing of MEK camps in Iraq during the 2003 US-Iraq conflict, the coup-d’état of July 17, 2003, against NCRI headquarters in France, and the numerous raids and rocket attacks against MEK camps in Iraq were just some of the results of that policy of appeasement.

Having been through many trials and ordeals during their decades-long history, the MEK was not intimidated by the show of power of the Iranian regime and its foreign cohorts. MEK’s victory in getting the organization removed from terror lists or, better put, the victory of justice and truth was the end result of the MEK’s engagement in a legal battle that lasted more than 15 years.

In 2009, the European Union removed the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations. In the years that followed, the US judiciary declared that the MEK had been wrongly designated as a terrorist group, and in 2012, the US State Department removed the label. Canada and Australia also removed the MEK from their lists shortly after the US.

Camp Ashraf and MEK’s relocation to Albania

Camp Ashraf, situated 77 kilometers north of Baghdad, was home to thousands of MEK members for 25 years. Prior to the 2003 US-led war in Iraq, the MEK publicly declared its neutrality and played no part in the ensuing conflict. However, exploiting the post-invasion atmosphere in Iraq, the Iranian regime did its utmost to destroy and demonize the MEK.

Three massacres at Camp Ashraf, five missile attacks on Camp Liberty, two cases of abduction of residents, and the imposition of an eight-year siege, which left 177 residents dead, constituted parts of this inhumane, albeit futile, plan.

The regime’s enormous efforts to create rifts among the ranks of the also MEK failed. Foreigners were astounded at the high morale in Camp Ashraf. Such a level of liveliness under such difficult conditions came from the depth of the residents’ profound belief in freedom.

The main entrance to Camp Ashraf – Iraq, the former residence of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK / PMOI)

During all those years, Ashraf residents enjoyed excellent relations with the communities and people of surrounding towns and villages in Diyala province of Iraq.

Ashraf also invested heavily in infrastructure projects in the region. A water purification plant provided water to tens of thousands of people in surrounding towns. Local Iraqi residents were welcome at Ashraf medical clinics. A new electricity grid and roads benefited the entire region.

Some 5.2 million Iraqis signed a petition in June 2006 warning of the Iranian regime’s dangers in Iraq and describing the MEK as the main bulwark against the regime’s interventions. More than 3 million Iraqi Shiites signed a declaration in June 2008 calling for the eviction of the regime and its agents from Iraq and the removal of restrictions imposed on MEK members residing in Ashraf City.

The Iranian regime launched a campaign to have the MEK dismantled but it ultimately due to the skill and competence of Camp Ashraf’s leaders, of which the large majority were women.

This explains why female members of the MEK were extensively targeted by the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine, including in the recent Guardian article. The mullahs attack the MEK’s women using fake stories featuring a host of female defectors. All the fake stories about women being abused in the MEK and being held against their will are nothing but the mullahs’ lies and propaganda without a shred of truth.

Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian opposition, addresses the MEK members after their relocation to Albania- October 2017

In 2016, while the Iranian regime and its Iraqi proxies were trying to exterminate the MEK in Iraq, an international effort led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, succeeded in relocating all members of the organization to Albania. The event was a major achievement for the MEK, whose members could now intensify their efforts in leading the struggle for freedom in Iran. It was a major defeat for the Iranian regime, whose existence depended on destroying its main opposition.

The Iranian regime now finds itself in a dangerous position. It has started losing its international supporters while the networks of MEK supporters and activists continue to expand inside Iran. The MEK’s resistance units play a major role in keeping the flame of resistance alit and preventing the regime from suffocating the voice of protesters.

As a result, the protests continue in every city and corner of Iran, and protesters are calling for the overthrow of the Iranian regime, a goal that the MEK has been striving for since 1981. As the mullahs’ regime inches towards its inevitable collapse, the MEK, which has been through countless trials and tribulations, thrives and aims to fulfill the dreams of the Iranian people.

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Professor Sascha Sheehan

How Tehran Manipulates Journalistic Independence in the West

Professor Sascha Sheehan

Professor Sascha Sheehan, Executive Director at the School of Public & International Affairs, the University of Baltimore speaking at Capitol Hill during a conference about the correct policy towards Iran.

Ivan Sheehan penned a piece for US news outlet, Townhall on Thursday, December 6th. The piece, titled “Tehran’s Influence Operations a Threat to Journalistic Independence”, explored the great length the clerical regime has gone to influence and infiltrate Western media.

Sheehan wrote, “these efforts have been so successful that many such organizations are now threatened from within by assets- often disguised as journalists- portraying Iran as the victim”.

Sheehan’s piece is particularly timely. It comes just weeks after the British newspaper, The Guardian, published a three-page article attacking the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK), the most popular and well-organized resistance movement.

The Guardian Spreads the Iranian Regime’s Propaganda

 

Its author, Arron Merat, has close ties to the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) and is widely seen as a regime stooge, who promotes Iranian interests and regime talking points to discredit the MEK and legitimize attacks on the Iranian opposition.

Many “journalists” cut their teeth in the state-run media

Sheehan goes on to explain how many of these “journalists” working for news outlets around the world previously worked for Iran’s state-run media. “Some parrot the regime’s talking points as if they are still on the payroll”, Sheehan wrote.

Al-Jazeera recently aired a program attacking the Iranian opposition living in exile, including the MEK and its president-elect, Maryam Rajavi. Will Yong, the producer, and host of the program, once hosted Press TV, an Iranian state-run media outlet with close ties to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

These regime stooges are working in some of the West’s most prominent media outlets including MSNBC, Al-Jazeera English, Channel 4 News, The Guardian, and The Independent.

The regime ensures it keeps a tight control on the reporting coming out of Iran by requiring local assistants and translators that help foreign journalists to secure a permit from the Ministry of Media and Culture. This allows the regime to hand pick the personnel that works with foreign journalists in the country. These assistants control journalists’ access to information and shape the reports they produce.

NCRI Report Shows the Iranian Regime Used Channel 4 to Further its Objectives and Sway Public Opinion

Many of these assistants and translators have previously worked within the Iranian MOIS. As they strengthen their relationships with foreign media outlets, many are later taken on as reporters themselves, allowing them to disseminate regime talking points directly to Western readers and listeners.

Sheehan writes, “though some of these journalists do, from time to time, reference human rights abuses in Iran, seldom- if ever- do they contradict the regime’s fundamental positions in critical areas”.

These critical areas include the calls for regime change, the effect of international sanctions, and the role of grassroots movements in organizing an effective resistance movement.

Instead, they promote the idea that sanctions harm ordinary Iranians, the Iranian population would rally behind the mullahs if the US supported the Iranian opposition, and that the MEK is a violent cult that tortures its members and holds people against their will. Sheehan correctly asserts, “there is not an ounce of evidence to support these claims”.

Rebuttals have been limited

There has been limited engagement among the Western media and governments to discredit these regime mouthpieces that have infiltrated the Western free press.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did tweet a response to a Newsweek article that claimed US sanctions would prevent Iranians accessing basic humanitarian needs. His tweet called Newsweek out as #FakeNewsweek and accused the media outlet of spreading Iranian Foreign Minister, Javid Zarif’s lies. He said, “the truth is, the US does not, and never did, sanction food and medicine”.

Sheehan concludes his piece with a word of warning. “These pro-Iran writers and their syndicates are not ordinary journalists,” he wrote, “they are PR agents for a regime that jails reporters, censors free media expression, and enslaves a restless nation”.

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Terribly biased article on the Guardian against the MEK

Falsehoods and Lies: Debunking the Guardian’s Piece on the MEK

Terribly biased article on the Guardian against the MEK

Biased article bashing the MEK in the Guardian raises outrage among the Iranian diaspora. The piece is considered a reaction to the recent surge in protests and strikes in the country and a preparation for more terrorist activities against the main opposition, the MEK.

Aaron Merat’s long-awaited hit piece was finally published in the Guardian on Friday. Under the headline ‘Terrorists, Cultists- or Champions of Iranian Democracy’, the piece pedaled the regime’s brand of lies and misinformation. It was a clear example of Tehran’s smear campaign against the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) that it has used to undermine the Iranian opposition and legitimize its use of violence against political dissidents.

The Death of Independent Journalism

Even before the article’s publication, the MEK expressed its misgivings over its content. MEK spokesperson, Shahin Gobadi, wrote two letters to the editor of the Guardian in recent weeks. In the letters, he aired his concerns over Aaron Merat’s ability to conduct objective journalism on the MEK.

Merat has close ties to the Iranian regime and its lobbyists. He worked for the Economist between 2011 and 2014, during which time he was an outspoken advocate for the regime. He has written previous articles with the explicit intention of demonizing the MEK and condemning the Iranian resistance.

Who is the MEK?

It came as little surprise then that his piece for the Guardian was no different. It was essentially a hit piece against the Iranian resistance group and was full of inaccuracies, falsehoods, and barely concealed attacks on the MEK.

In his very definition of who the MEK are, Merat is incorrect. He described the organization as a “fringe Iranian revolutionary group”.

The MEK is far from a “fringe” group. They are the oldest, largest, and most popular Iranian resistance group.

The group organized nationwide protests in January and December which spread across every major city in Iran. At its annual Grand Gathering event, it draws an attendance of more than 100,000 supporters, including high-profile political figures such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and President Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

The Grand Gathering of over 100,000 MEK supporters at VillePinte Paris-June 30, 2018

The resistance group enjoys widespread support inside Iran and abroad.

Merat later seems to admit that the MEK does enjoy the support of international political figures but seeks to explain this by suggesting that the MEK pays “western political influencers fees to pen op-eds and give speeches”.

This is untrue. Professor Raymond Tanter debunked this myth with the help of the US Treasury Department. The Treasury Department investigated the allegations that its political figures had received cash to write opinion pieces and give speeches at MEK-organised events, but found them to be “unsupported claims”.

Ms. Somayeh Mohammadi

Merat’s piece begins by describing Mostafa and Robbie Mohammadi’s journey to Albania to “rescue their daughter”. Merat alleges that Ms. Somayeh Mohammadi, the couple’s daughter, is being held against her will by the MEK.

These allegations are false. Ms. Somayeh Mohammadi joined the MEK in 1990 and has been a member for more than two decades. She has previously been interviewed by Canadian and US officials, and each time she has maintained that she is in Albania working for the MEK out of her own free will.

Somayeh Mohammadi, one of distinguished members of MEK, now living in Albania

She has previously written a book about the regime pedaling lies about her situation and using her case to legitimize terror attacks against the MEK. She even went as far as to write an open letter to Albania’s Minister for Internal Affairs, Fatmir Xhafaj, publicly calling for an end to his lies.

Repeating Lies to Demonize the MEK

The Guardian piece goes on to blame the MEK for the deaths of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s.

However, subsequent investigations by both the US State Department and the Washington Post newspaper found this to be false. The 2005 State Department report clearly states, “a splinter organization with ties to Marxist groups in Cuba and Oman… appropriated and modified the MEK name and symbols, clashing with original MEK members, and killed Americans in Tehran”.

The report describes that the individuals responsible for the murders were later caught, tried, and executed for the killings.

Merat also attempts to blame the MEK for killing Iraqi Kurds in the North of Iraq. He claims Saddam Hussein used MEK members to quell the Kurdish armed resistance during the 1990 Gulf War.

The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) provided a written statement in 1999 that unequivocally stated the MEK was not involved in the killing of the Kurdish people. The statement read “the KDP can confirm that the Mujahedin were not involved in suppressing the Kurdish people neither during the uprising nor in its aftermath”.

Delisting the MEK as a Terror Group

Merat goes on to suggest that the MEK’s delisting as a terrorist group was not because the group was deemed mislabelled and was a non-violent organization, but because if the US didn’t delist them, the group would have been wiped out in Iraq.

Once again, this claim is unfounded. The Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit actually threatened to court order Hillary Clinton’s State Department unless she removed the group from the country’s terror list.

Burying the Regime’s Terrorist Plots

Merat then furthers the regime’s interests by attempting to cast doubt over the regime’s terror activities in Europe. In June, European authorities foiled a plot to detonate a car laden with explosives at the MEK’s Grand Gathering in Paris.

After a thorough investigation, Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat working at the regime’s embassy in Vienna was found to have orchestrated the plot. The French government froze the assets of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.

Merat attempts to shift the blame away from the regime. He quotes the Iranian Foreign Minister directly in his piece, who called the allegations of the Iranian terror plot a “sinister false flag ploy”.

If the plot was nothing more than a “false flag ploy” it seems unlikely that the French government would have taken such forceful actions against the Iranian regime.

On top of seizing assets, the Emmanuel Macron’s government expelled an Iranian diplomat and is currently refusing to nominate a new French ambassador to Iran. France’s foreign ministry also confirmed that following its own investigation, it was in no doubt that the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind the June 30th terror plot.

The Regime is Fearful

Aaron Merat’s piece goes on to spout all of the regime talking points against the MEK. However, his piece does provide some insight into why the regime spends so much time, money and effort on demonizing the MEK and its supporters.

He wrote, “politicians openly called for bombing the Islamic republic, amid growing panic over Iran’s nuclear program- the existence of which had first been exposed by the MEK”. In this sentence, Merat demonstrates why the regime despises the MEK. It works tirelessly to bring the regime’s atrocities and illegal behavior to light.

Merat writes that the MEK and its supporters around the world “openly call for the overthrow of the Islamic republic and the installation of Maryam Rajavi as the leader of Iran”.

In this one aspect, Merat is correct. But in drawing this to attention, Merat is also drawing to attention why both he and the regime relentlessly pursue the MEK.

The MEK represents the single greatest existential threat to the mullahs’ regime. It has orchestrated nationwide protests that have crippled Iranian regime’s key industries. Even regime officials have admitted publicly that the MEK is a direct threat to the regime.

The MEK has resistance units working inside Iran, that mobilized in the nationwide uprisings in December and January of this year. This has the Iranian regime terrified and explains why they use mouthpieces like Aaron Merat to undermine and demonize the MEK in international media outlets.

New Report Details Iran Regime’s Demonization Campaign Against the MEK

The piece in the Guardian is little more than the mullahs lashing out at the MEK out of fear. The MEK is gathering momentum. Strikes and protests are now a daily occurrence in Iran and the mullahs future in power is growing more uncertain by the day. The fact is, regime change is on the horizon. When it comes, the world will look at Merat’s piece, and others like it and wonder how they got away with such blatant lies and deceit.

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Report on Iranian regime's demonization campaign against MEK in Albania

NCRI Report Shows the Iranian Regime Used Channel 4 to Further its Objectives and Sway Public Opinion

Report on Iranian regime's demonization campaign against MEK in Albania

A new report by the NCRI, reveals details of the Iranian regime’s demonization campaign, using friendly “journalists” producing propaganda programs against Iran’s main opposition. The propaganda is used to prepare for terrorist attacks against the MEK members residing in Albania.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) released a report on Friday the 20th of October. The report shed new light on the Iranian regime’s nefarious activities in conjunction with Britain’s Channel 4 surrounding the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) compound in Albania.

The MEK play an integral role in the Iranian opposition movement.

The NCRI’s report concluded that Channel 4 and Al-Jazeera News were involved in a smear campaign, at the behest of the clerical regime, designed to vilify the MEK and influence international and public opinion.

The Mullahs’ Are Working to Manipulate Public Opinion

The revelations come just one month after the regime’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called on Twitter’s CEO to close the MEK’s Twitter accounts.

The Iranian regime’s own social media activities have also been under scrutiny in recent weeks. Twitter recently released more than 10 million tweets from 770 Twitter accounts with suspected links to the Iranian regime.

Among the Tweets linked to regime-run media outlets and Tweets deliberately designed to turn public opinion against the MEK.

The accounts masqueraded as foreign journalists and US citizens to influence public opinion in the US.

Using Mullah-Friendly Journalists to Further the Regime’s Objectives

The NCRI report revealed that Britain’s Channel 4 referenced a fabricated Albanian police report to portray the MEK in a negative light. In Channel 4’s program on the MEK, which was aired on September 6th, Oli Zola, the former head of the Albanian Intelligence Agency claimed that the MEK is “building a government within a government in Albania”. He also claimed that anyone who violates the MEK’s laws “may be killed by other members of the group”.

The NCRI revealed that Oli Zola was dismissed from the Albanian Intelligence Agency for smuggling and is a close associate of Vincent Trist, an Albanian citizen with ties to the Iranian regime who was arrested for secretly filming the MEK compound in Albania.

The regime is working tirelessly to demonize the MEK’s activities in Albania. It believes that is doing so, it can legitimize its terrorist operations against the organization, which included a foiled terror attack during the group’s Iranian New Year celebrations (Norooz) in Albania.

Following the failed attack, the Albanian government arrested and deported two agents of the Iranian regime for their involvement in the terrorist plot. The Albanian media reported that the pair were operating in Albania under the masquerade of foreign journalists.

Perpetuating the lie that the MEK kill their own members also strengthens the regime’s narrative of the events that occurred at Camp Ashraf in Iraq in 2011. The Iranian regime killed 36 members of the MEK during an attack on Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s compound in Iraq. It has since claimed that 33 of the 36 members were killed by the MEK themselves!

A Fabricated Police Report

The Albanian government has distanced itself from Oli Zola and the fabricated police report that featured in Channel 4’s reporting. The Albanian government denied governmental involvement in presenting the report. It also expressed its desire to fully investigate the report’s origin.

The NCRI believes the report came from a false report which originally appeared on the Albanian Fax Web TV Channel in March without official police letterheading. When Channel 4 presented the report in September, it appeared with Albanian police letterheading.

Forged statement on Albanian police letterhead

An Albanian Police official confirmed the report’s fabrication. The official pointed to the report’s use of terms such as “Islamic Marxist” as evidence of its inauthenticity. The official confirmed that official police reports never use this term.

The report’s sources also cast doubt over the report’s legitimacy. Four mercenaries are cited as sources in the report. All four have ties to the Iranian regime, several are currently serving within the regime’s Intelligence Ministry inside Iran.

The NCRI previously reported in January 2018 that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) was paying mercenaries in Albania to spy on the MEK and orchestrate terror plots against its members.

Following the regime’s evident fabrication of official Albanian police documents, the NCRI’s Security and Anti-Terrorism Committee urged the Albanian government to investigate the Iranian agent’s responsible and bring them to trial, or at least expel them from the country.

The regime’s nefarious activities within Albania and the wider European region undermine national governments and demonstrate the regime’s engagement in plotting and carrying out violent terrorist attacks.

The regime and its agents, therefore, pose a very real threat to international stability and its diplomatic activities must be thoroughly investigated anywhere they are being carried out.

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MEK's congress in Albania - September 2017

American Reporter Visits MEK Camp in Albania

MEK's congress in Albania - September 2017

MEK members during September Congress during which they elected their secretary general.

A report published in the Washington Times on September 19th sheds light on the lives of MEK members living in Albania. Reporter L.Todd Wood researched the article while traveling in Albania. Wood was invited to visit the new MEK camp that is being built outside of Tirana while in Albania and learned about the MEK and its members. His report separates fact from fiction and explores the kinds of people who join the MEK and their reasons for doing so.

The new MEK camp, named Ashraf 3, houses around 3,200 members of the Iranian opposition movement. The group built the camp after being forced out of their old home in Iraq by a series of attacks by the Iranian-backed government.

The Iranian government is extremely fearful of the MEK, as it sees the group as an existential threat. As a result of this fear, the regime has repeatedly carried out brutal and reckless acts against the MEK in a series of failed attempts to destroy the organization and all opposition to the mullahs’ rule. In June, an Iranian diplomat was arrested for planning a foiled terrorist attack on the Iranian resistance’s Free Iran gathering in Paris. In August, two Iranian intelligence agents were arrested in the United States and charged with spying on the MEK on behalf of the Iranian regime.

According to Wood, the Iranian regime has taken its demonization campaign against the MEK all the way to Albania, employing its intelligence agents to recruit former MEK members to spread propaganda against the group in an attempt to ruin the organization’s reputation within Albania.

Wood’s visit to Ashraf 3 took place against the backdrop of the regime’s hostile attacks against the MEK, as well as the popular uprising currently taking place in Iran, which is being organized by MEK resistance units; the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions, which are exacerbating Iran’s escalating social and economic crises; and a regime that is teetering on the verge of collapse through its own corruption, incompetence, and mistreatment of its people.

Wood described his entrance to Ashraf 3 in terms of the security measures that were required to ensure the safety of camp residents. Any time he left the camp during his visit, two cars had to travel together. Local security services were employed to provide perimeter defense and to inspect all cars who entered the camp gates.

According to Wood, Ashraf 3 resembles a small city in various stages of construction. It has lodging, robust cooking facilities, assembly halls, a medical facility, and an administrative building. He said that the MEK has done a remarkable job in recreating their home in Iraq in such a short time, noting that the facilities were already very functional, if still somewhat barren.

Wood met the leaders of the camp and was immediately struck by their openness. The MEK has been the subject of a number of recent journalistic attacks by BBC Channel 4 and Al Jazeera, ending in a flyover of the camp by a drone owned by Channel 4. The false reports have left the MEK eager to set the record straight. Wood indicated that he would be willing to keep an open mind, and he received full and detailed answers to all of his questions. In some cases, additional members were brought in to provide more detail on a response. No subject was taboo during the two-day visit, and Wood left with positive feelings about the MEK and a commitment to come back and learn more about the organization.

Wood was interested in the members of Ashraf 3. He wanted to know who joined the MEK, who chose to live at Ashraf 3, and why they joined the organization. He found that most of the camp residents were older, as the children of MEK members were moved out of Iraq and sent to Europe and the U.S. over the last decade when Camp Ashraf and Liberty became the targets of missile attacks. There were, however, quite a few younger members, some of whom were part of the group of children who were evacuated from Iraq in 2009. These children grew up and joined the MEK as adults, following in their parents’ footsteps.

Wood interviewed approximately 50 MEK members during his stay at the camp, speaking to people both young and old about their experiences and what led them to join the organization. Some of the people he interviewed joined because their loved ones suffered violence at the hands of the regime. Others joined because the regime executed a loved one. Many became members because they couldn’t envision a future in Iran and chose to commit themselves to bring regime change for the generations to come.

Wood acknowledges that the MEK has been described as a cult, but he pushes back against this idea, saying instead that it is a “fanatically committed group of individuals who have given their lives for an idea: a free Iran.” He describes the members of the MEK as individuals who want a better life for their brothers and sisters in Iran. He said that this was especially prevalent amongst the young people at the camp, many of whom carried physical scars from their time at Camp Ashraf or Iran. Many of the MEK members Wood spoke to “had a deep sense of loss and pain from their dealings with the regime-murder, assault, deceit, torture. Their overriding principle was to prevent future generations of Iran from having to go through the same horrific experiences.”

Wood pointed out that the camp residents are mostly intellectuals and were very successful before joining the MEK. These are people who could have settled anywhere in the West and done well for themselves, but they chose to sacrifice everything to work toward a free Iran. Wood emphasized that everyone in the camp is singularly focused on freedom, that the idea of freedom permeates the camp itself. He spoke of the focus and determination of every member of the camp in completing their tasks. The members of Ashraf 3 have one goal—freedom—and they are determined to achieve it. Wood said that everyone he spoke to knew why they were fighting and why it was important that they do so.

Wood also referred to recent propaganda pieces published by the Iranian regime lobbies or paid agents saying: “Albania has nothing to fear from this group. I did not see any weapons or military training. They want to become good citizens of Albania and to build a life in the former communist country. In fact, it is the MEKwho has to be worried about violence. The regime has shown it will stop at nothing to destroy them. Iranian Ministry of Intelligence agents are active in Albania. They are the ones the Albanian public has to fear, not the people in the camp.”

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Lindsey Hilsum filming MEK residence without permission

Channel 4 News Report Serves as Tool for Iran Lobby

Lindsey Hilsum filming MEK residence without permission

Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 editor shows up next to the camp of the place of residence of Iranian refugees in Albania, filming the compound and individuals to be used to vilify Iran’s principal opposition the MEK.

One of the keys to a successful lobbying campaign is to get your point across through the use of surrogates and third parties, especially if those entities are not even aware of being manipulated for a specific purpose.

In politics, the tactics are well-worn and timeless as the third party, grassroots organizations, think tanks and other groups spring up like weeds to advocate a specific position, recruit like-minded people and then activate them to write letters, post on comment boards, give money or man phone banks.

The Iranian regime recognized the effectiveness of those tactics, even though it bans them within its own political world, and utilizes them to advocate abroad, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Those tactics have taken shape in forms both legal and illegal.

Iranian regime made significant investments in building a political lobbying and PR machine to help rally support for the nuclear deal during the Obama administration. Messages were carefully crafted to coincide with the projection of a moderate in the form of Hassan Rouhani’s election as president.

Many news organizations bought it hook, line and sinker as they dutifully spit out the concepts of Iranian moderation and ignored the excesses of the regime in its crackdown on human rights at home.

Predictably it all fell apart as Iran sank billions in supporting the Assad regime even as it gassed hundreds of men, women, and children and killed over half a million people and turned another five million into refugees that swamped Europe and spread Islamic extremism that Europe still wrestles with daily.

But now as the regime is facing more and more demonstrations against its corrupt and repressive rule, and as Trump administration has decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose economic sanctions, the regime is under the greatest stress economically and politically it has ever been. Predictably, the regime has gone looking for a scapegoat as well as stepped up efforts to stomp out any dissension.

Given the role of MEK in recent uprisings in Iran, the mullahs in Tehran have decided to focus their efforts on the Iranian opposition, and its principal member, the MEK, and sought to bring all of their lobbying and PR tools to bear. In the U.S., the effectiveness of that lobby has been severely retarded and advocates for the regime have found it tough sledding to get their editorials and commentaries placed.

Whereas before you could see editorials in prestigious publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post, those same editorials can now only be found on obscure blogs or those already controlled by the regime’s state news apparatus.

But periodically, someone gets taken in and in this case, it was Britain’s Channel 4 News and international editor Lindsey Hilsum.

She produced a piece that dutifully checked off all the boxes for the regime in attacking the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the oldest and principal opposition group to the Iranian regime and failed to provide many contexts to the realities of the regime’s actions.

In it, she attempts to vilify the Iranian opposition by showing visually arresting visuals of her attempt to enter the main camp in Albania where displaced MEK refugees were relocated after suffering continued attacks at another camp in Iraq by Iranian forces and affiliated Shiite militias – many of whom would later go on to fight in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime.

While the video depicts security guards trying to deter the crew from filming the camp and security measures being put in place, she never provides the context of why those measures are necessary.

Hilsum gives some lip service to prior attacks on the MEK refugee camp in Iraq and to the mass execution of MEK political prisoners by the Iranian regime but neglects to mention how relentlessly the regime continues to pursue attacks on these harsh critics of the mullahs’ rule.

She mentions the MEK’s annual gathering in Paris but doesn’t mention the arrest of Iranian diplomats and operatives by French and Belgium police who were planning on smuggling a bomb to the MEK’s convention this summer.

Nor does she mention the recent disclosure by cybersecurity firm FireEye of a sophisticated operation by Iran Ministry of Intelligence Services (MOIS) to influence U.S. and European opinion about economic sanctions on Iran through the use of false front social media profiles who were also involved in massive vilifying campaigns against the MEK.

Taken in context, it’s understandable why the MEK in Albania are nervous about any video showing the layout, security, and location of the camp and its facilities. Remarkably, Hilsum adds with emphasis that this is Albania, how can they be in danger here?

Obviously, she must believe that Paris, Brussels, Sydney, Ottawa, San Bernardino, Nice, Orlando, Berlin, and other cities are immune from Islamic extremism. The fact that Iranian diplomatic personnel was attempting to smuggle a bomb from Belgium to France to bomb the MEK must have slipped her attention.

While Hilsum conveniently mentions the MEK’s placement on the U.S. terrorism list, she neglects to mention that it was taken off that list by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Obama administration.

That bipartisan support of the MEK is also neglected by Hilsum who makes a big show of discussing support from the MEK by Trump legal counsel Rudy Giuliani and National Security Advisor John Bolton, but never mentions support from Democratic senators Robert Menendez, Richard Torricelli and Joseph Liberman, not to mention a slew of Democratic representatives and ex-administration officials.

Hardly a club of extremists.

Oddly, in the video of the MEK gathering, Hilsum prominently displays videos and name tags for American officials attending, but curiously in one scene, blurs the nameplate for a prominent British official.

Why? Afraid to showcase support from Channel 4’s home country?

The truth is Hilsum has served as a useful tool by taking as gospel the key messages churned out by the Iranian regime’s PR machine. Her ultimate condemnation of the MEK is to claim there is no support for it within Iran.

Her most serious omission is that the MEK has long campaigned on one simple platform: open and fair elections in Iran allowing for all political parties to participate.

Hilsum never mentions membership in the MEK is banned in Iran.

She never mentions active participation in MEK activities in punishable by imprisonment and even death.

She never mentions the Iranian regime outlaws the MEK from participating in any election.

She never mentions the regime’s ruling council regularly disqualifies dissident candidates from election slates by the hundreds.

As the statement by the Iranian opposition mentioned, “Demonizing the Iranian regime’s main opposition concurrent with the visit of the UK Foreign Office’s Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, to Iran is another objective of Ms. Hilsum’s upcoming report. Burt’s visit to Iran is the first by a European minister subsequent to the foiled Paris terrorist plot” states the NCRI.

It also rightfully warns, “Experience has shown that offering concessions to the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world that has made hostage-taking into its most lucrative trade for the past four decades, would only encourage it to continue its despicable policies. Proffering concessions to the clerical regime by jeopardizing the safety and security of 2,500 refugees, members of the PMOI (MEK), is tantamount to the promotion of terrorism and hostage-taking.”

Staff Writer

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Channel 4 news possible colluding with Iran's intelligence Ministry against the Iranian opposition

Iran Opposition Issues a Warning over Upcoming Channel 4 Report

 

Channel 4 news possible colluding with Iran's intelligence Ministry against the Iranian opposition

Iranian opposition, warns against spreading disinformation by Channel 4 News.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) issued a warning, it has reason to believe the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) and the British television network, Channel 4 are working together to defame against the MEK.

An Eleventh-Hour Warning

Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4’s Foreign Editor, submitted a letter to the MEK on August 31st, 2018. In the letter, it warned the Iranian opposition organization that the television network would air a report on the MEK’s activities in Albania.

The report will carry the much-touted falsehoods and accusations pedaled at the behest of the Iranian regime. In his letter, Hilsum declared that if the MEK had a response to the allegations, it should submit them to Channel 4.

Hilsum’s actions beg the question: why wait until the eleventh hour to warn the MEK and solicit a response? The preparation and production of such a report would have taken weeks or even months, yet the network waited until the last moment to contact the MEK.

This decision was likely made to prevent the MEK from mounting a legal challenge against the allegations made in the report.

The MEK had prior knowledge of the report after the detention of three Channel 4 reporters on August 10th for illegally filming the MEK compound in Albania without permission.

Britain’s Channel 4 is Working with the Iranian Regime in Albania

On August 10th and 13th, the MEK and NCRI wrote to Channel 4’s editor-in-chief. In the letters, the groups expressed concern over the detained reporter’s footage ending up in the hands of the Iranian regime (which was later confirmed when photos and footage of the MEK in Albania were posted on the Facebook page of regime agents). However, they received no reply.

On August 16th, the NCRI released a statement revealing the cooperation between Channel 4 and regime MOIS agent, Massoud Khodabandeh. The NCRI expressed concern that the cooperation indicated the regime’s exploitation of Channel 4 to further its terrorist objectives.

A justification for Foiled Terror Plots

In a statement, the NCRI suggested that the Iranian regime would use the Channel 4 report to provide justification for its foiled terror attacks. The MEK were the targets of a failed bomb attack during the Nowruz (Persian New Year) celebrations and at the organization’s annual Grand Gathering event in Paris this summer.

By demonizing the MEK, the regime would attempt to justify the attempted terror attacks. The timing of the Channel 4 report is also deliberate. The UK Foreign Office Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, visited Iran this weekend.

A One-Sided Narrative

Channel 4 did not cover the foiled terror attacks carried out by the Iranian regime. It has made no attempt to offer accredited, impartial journalism. The report on September 3rd has used well-known regime agents as sources, including Mostafa Mohammadi.

The report comes at a time when the regime seeks justification, recognition, and above all, stability. Protests rack Iran every week. The Iranian population has clamored for regime change in the streets. The regime’s very existence is under threat. It needs to utilize its allies and media connections now more than ever. The upcoming Channel 4 report is the product of a regime in crisis. It is the verbal manifestation of Rouhani and Khamenei’s uncertain future.

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Channel 4 journalist used to produce a hit piece against Iran's main democratic opposition

Britain’s Channel 4 is Working with the Iranian Regime in Albania

Channel 4 journalist used to produce a hit piece against Iran's main democratic opposition

Disgusting attempt by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to use UK media to try to demonize its main opposition.

Last week, on Friday, August 10th, 2018, a television crew in Albania stood on land adjacent to the headquarters of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) and began secretly filming the compound. The group had not obtained prior permission to film and were filming members and their residences without the MEK’s knowledge.

When local Albanian security guards noticed the three-person film crew acting suspiciously, they approached the group. The trio introduced themselves as reporters from the UK working for Britain’s Channel 4 television, at which point the security agents asked the group to stop recording and hand over the footage. They refused, and the security guards were left with little option but to call the police, reports the statement by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Once the group were taken into custody, it became obvious that everything was not as it seemed. One member of the trio had an expired press card from Britain’s ITN. The other two, after failing to provide identification, turned out to in fact be Albanians.

Two of the groups’ members have a history of collaborating with Iranian intelligence agencies and mercenaries. They had been involved in several projects to create propaganda material attacking the MEK.

The Footage

The group’s intentions became clear the following day when the footage they had collected from the site turned up on the Facebook page of the Iranian regime agent, Massoud Khodabandeh, and the Iranian intelligence community’s state-run website, Iran-Interlink.

It is widely believed that the team from Channel 4 working within Albania had been contracted by the Iranian intelligence services to create a television program vilifying the MEK.

Research into the project has exposed Darius Bazargan’s involvement in the project. Bazargan has worked for both NBC and ITN and is a well-known stooge of the Iranian regime in the Western media.

The Regime’s Use of the Media to Vilify the MEK

The regime frequently uses its state-run media networks to disseminate anti-MEK propaganda. They have also used television networks in the West to spread their malicious lies and propaganda.

Most recently, on May 25th, 2018, America’s MSNBC demonized the MEK. Its “On Assignment” program accused the MEK of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists and US servicemen based in the country. The program used unnamed sources and did not offer a single shred of compelling evidence for its claims.

The United States State Department was evidently unconvinced; a senior official sought to distance the US government from the network’s claims, stating explicitly, “the United States Government has not claimed that the MEK was involved in the assassination of scientists.”

The program based its claims on interviews with Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne Singleton. However, a study from the University of Baltimore, further corroborated by a separate report from the Council of Foreign Relations, categorically concluded that the MEK had no involvement in the murder of six US servicemen in the early 1970s.

On top of this, there have been several court rulings in the US over the last decade which have concluded there is no evidence of terrorism within the MEK. It was these rulings that led to the MEK’s delisting as a terrorist organization in 2010, despite the Clinton administration’s own admission that it only put the MEK on the terrorist list in the first place as a “goodwill gesture” to the Iranian regime.

In reality, the MEK was also adversely affected by many of the acts ascribed to it by the regime. The same individuals who murdered the US service members in the 1970s also murdered several prominent members of the MEK.

Channel 4 Must Answer Pressing Questions

Given the sensitive nature of the situation, the responsibility now rests on Channel 4 to explain their activities in Albania. The network must release information regarding the trio responsible for filming and their reasons for carrying out this assignment. It must also detail why it opted to film the compound covertly rather than contact the MEK and request permission. Lastly, the network should release the details of everyone the footage has been shared with.

A MEK spokesperson contacted the Channel 4 editor on August 10th for a response to these questions. However, Channel 4 has not issued a response.

A follow-up query was also sent on August 13th following Khodabandeh’s publication of the images and footage. The query outlined Khodabandeh’s record as an agent for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), including reports from a UK Parliamentary Group and the Library of Congress highlighting his connections to the MOIS. Still, the editor did not respond.

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