Homeland Security


STATE DEPARTMENT VIEWS OF THE PEOPLE'S MOJAHEDIN ORGANIZATION OF IRAN -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - April 28, 1992)
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HON. LEE H. HAMILTON
in the House of Representatives
TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 1992
  • Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of my colleagues some correspondence I had with the State Department concerning United States views of the Iranian organization called the People's Mojahedin which is fighting the current Government of Iran.
  • Attached are: a State Department fact sheet on the organization written roughly 2 years ago; a February 27, 1992 letter of the organization rebutting that fact sheet; my letter to the State Department asking for further comments; and the State Department's reply of April 2, 1992. The State Department explains its concerns about the organization and its past involvement in terrorism and why the State Department will not meet with the organization.
  • The material follows:

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a leftist revolutionary group, was formed in 1963.

Its founding principles included the creation of a Marxist-oriented Islamic government in Iran; opposition to `imperialism' as supposedly embodied by the United States; opposition to Zionism and Israel; and a close affinity to Third World radical movements.

Its political philosophy put the MEK at the forefront of those Iranian opposition groups advocating the overthrow of the Shah and led to the MEK's strongly opposing the involvement of the United States in Iran. The MEK publicly supported the seizure of our Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

To achieve its political objectives, the MEK almost from its inception has engaged in acts of terrorism and violence; the organization was responsible for fatal attacks on several Americans in Iran in the 1970s.

Since it fell out with the Khomeini regime in 1981, the MEK has been engaged in an armed struggle with the Iranian government, and has used methods of terrorism and political violence against Iranian officials.

The military wing of the MEK, the National Liberation Army, operates from bases in Iraq and received Iraqi support for offensives into Iranian territory during the Iran-Iraq war. It continues to receive Iraqi support and protection.

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REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE OF IRAN,
Washington, DC, February 27, 1992.

Hon. Lee H. Hamilton,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, Washington, DC.

Dear Representative Hamilton, I have recently learned that the United States Department of State has been sending a text entitled `Fact Sheet: The Mojahedin-e-Khalq, People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran' to those senators and representatives who have requested information on the Mojahedin, a member organization of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This fact sheet, which I have enclosed for your information (Enclosure 1), unfortunately contains incomplete and inaccurate information. To clarify any questions in this regard, I draw your attention to the following text:

1. With regard to the Mojahedin's revolutionary nature, if the American and French peoples' struggles for their nations' freedom, independence and democracy (1776 and 1789) are considered revolutions, the Mojahedin are also revolutionaries. They are fighting for their nation's liberation from one of the most hated dictatorships of the contemporary era, and seek to establish peace and democracy in their homeland. The Mojahedin are revolutionary in the same sense as the people of Italy, who took up arms to save themselves from Mussolini's fascism.

Revolution and armed struggle, when all peaceful avenues to realize the people's fundamental rights have reached an impasse, are recognized as the only resort by all religious authorities, as noted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc. In a noted press conference reported by the Vatican publication L'Osservatore Romano on April 5, 1986, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, introduced a document entitled `Christian Liberty and Liberation,' wherein it is stated: `Armed struggle is the last resort to end blatant and prolonged repression which has seriously violated the fundamental rights of individuals and has dangerously damaged the general interests of a country.'

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2. The Mojahedin have consistently condemned terrorism (whether by groups or states) in the strongest terms; in particular, the Mojahedin have exposed the Khomeini regime's terrorism in the most documented and public manner at every possible opportunity.
(Enclosure 2) In truth, the Mojahedin are victims of the Khomeini regime's terrorism within Iran and abroad. During the period when the Mojahedin were able to openly and officially conduct political activities within Iran, more than 70 of the organization's members and supporters were murdered by terrorists unofficially directed by the Khomeini regime. Abroad, Khomeini's diplomat-terrorists are responsible for the wounding or assassination of many representatives of the Mojahedin and National Council of Resistance to various countries. These victims include Professor Kazem Rajavi, the NCR Representative in Switzerland and brother of Mr. Massoud Rajavi, the Leader of the Iranian Resistance. Prof. Rajavi's murder was carried out, according to the Swiss Police and Investigations Magistrate, by 13 persons carrying official Iranian service passports. (Enclosure 3)

The Mojahedin were obliged to choose armed struggle as the last avenue of confronting the Khomeini regime--a right officially recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all religious authorities--after exhausting all peaceful, democratic avenues to establish freedom and democracy in Iran; after all the organization's official, public centers had been closed down; after more than 70 Mojahedin supporters and members had been murdered for no reason, and 3,000 others arrested and subsequently executed without being charged; and finally, after the peaceful demonstration by 500,000 people, called by the Mojahedin on June 20, 1981, was turned into a bloodbath by the Khomeini regime, and groups of 50 and 100 of their supporters were subsequently executed en masse for the `crime' of possessing newspapers. (Enclosure 4)

This struggle is conducted only against the regime's officials--who are responsible for the murder of 100,000 people and the imprisonment and torture of 150,000, as well as for international terrorism and hostage-taking--and suppressive forces.

The terms `terrorist' or `terrorist methods' cannot be applied to this Resistance which, under no circumstances, targets ordinary citizens or innocent civilians. Furthermore, even regarding the regime's officials, the armed struggle is contained within Iran's borders. Outside of Iran, the Mojahedin have respected and respect the laws of the relevant countries, and confine their struggle to political activities and exposes. As per the positions and orders of their Leader, Mr. Rajavi, the Resistance's supporters and ordinary Iranians, despite their wrath at this regime, have controlled themselves outside Iran and have on no occasion responded to the regime's violence and bloodshed in kind. (Enclosure 5)

Mr. Rajavi has repeatedly declared that `from the Mojahedin's standpoint, no death--not even that of our suppressive enemies within the Khomeini regime--is to be welcomed in itself. It is even regrettable. Were it not for the Khomeini regime's blocking all avenues of peaceful political opposition and had it not
responded to any call for freedom with execution, the Resistance would not have been necessary.'

Furthermore, for years the Mojahedin's armed resistance has been carried out within the framework of the National Liberation Army of Iran, whose duty is to bring about the military overthrow of the Kohmeini regime. The specifics and methods of this army, consisting of tank, armored, artillery, mechanized and other units, are completely in line with the criteria outlined in the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949. The NLA is `commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates'; has `a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance'; carries arms `openly'; and conducts its `operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.' These characteristics have been observed on numerous occasions by the international journalists and observers who have visited the NLA's garrisons.

Therefore, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the label `terrorist' cannot be rightfully applied to the NLA, and its warfare is categorized as classical. In accordance with the regulations of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Resistance prisoners qualify and should be treated as prisoners of war.

3. The regime of the Shah was the first to brand the Mojahedin `Marxist.' A profoundly freedom-loving and democratic force, the Mojahedin fought against the Shah's regime only after perceiving that all avenues of peaceful political opposition had been closed. The label `Marxist' was applied to them for this reason, i.e. their opposition to the Shah. Of course, the Mojahedin were rightly known among a large sector of Iranian society as a Muslim force, and the Shah could not apply the label `Marxist' by itself. He therefore invented the label `Islamic Marxist' in reference to the Mojahedin.

Khomeini and his followers followed the Shah's lead, branding the Mojahedin `Islamic Marxists' in their propaganda for foreign consumption. Ironically, within Iran, Khomeini, the Tudeh Communist Party (supporters of Moscow), and other communist party members and groups meanwhile labelled the Mojahedin `American agents.' The latter label prompted these persons to adopt the position that hostility and warfare against the Mojahedin were their fundamental duties (Enclosure 6), even abroad, for example in France in 1986. (Enclosure 7) The Pasdaran (`Revolutionary Guards') wrapped Mojahedin corpses in the American flag prior to burial. Thousands of Mojahedin supporters and members were turned in to Kohmeini's executioners by communists supporting Moscow and other political currents. After savage torture, these Mojahedin were executed.

In response to the charge that the Mojahedin are Marxist, Mr. Massoud Rajavi, Leader of the Iranian Resistance, told Time
magazine on September 14, 1981: `Every high school student knows believing in God, Jesus Christ and Muhammad is incompatible with the philosophy of Marxism. Everyone knows that, even Khomeini. But for dictators like Khomeini, `Marxist Islamic' is a very profitable phrase to use against any opposition. If Jesus Christ and Muhammad were alive and protesting against Khomeini, he would call them Marxists too.'

In another interview, with the Farsi section of `Voice of America' radio, December 20, 1984, Mr. Rajavi said: `As far as our economic and social views are concerned, we accept private ownership, national capitalism, free competition, and private investment.' The program announced by Mr. Rajavi for the National Council of Resistance also states that the Provisional Government of the Democratic Islamic Republic of Iran, which will administer the country's affairs for a period of six months after the overthrow of the Khomeini regime, respects free competition, private ownership, and private investment.

The reapplication of these labels in the current international situation and subsequent to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Block, and in relation to a movement which has millions of supporters throughout Iran, doesn't stick. In fact, it is due to the Mojahedin's faith in the modern and democratic Islam that they have been able to deeply influence Iranian society throughout their 27-year history, and to grow on a daily basis despite the Khomeini regime's savage killings and suppression. The Mojahedin's resilience, moreover, coincides with the demise of all the Marxist groups in Iran, who were eliminated within the first two years of Khomeini's rule.

From another perspective, the Mojahedin are the only real solution to the spreading fundamentalism of the criminal mullahs ruling Iran. The experience of past years has shown that the other political trends and solutions were incapable of opposing this regime, which, after centuries, had seized religious and political power in one of the world's most strategic regions. In this region, which is profoundly Islamic in nature, only a democratic and modern Islam, represented in Iran by the Mojahedin, could and can counteract the spector of fundamentalism. In the name of Islam, this fundamentalist phenomenon perpetrates unprecedented bloodshed and killings. The Mojahedin's Islam, in contrast, bears a message of co-existence, democracy, peace, and mercy.

4. In specifically addressing the charge of being anti-American, or anti any country, contained in the fact sheet, I should state that the documents and declared programs of the Mojahedin and NCR are sufficiently clear. If the writers of this fact sheet had obtained these documents, they would perhaps have referred to them in their fact sheet. For example, Mr. Rajavi states in introducing the Program of the National Council of Resistance of Iran: `We have no enmity toward any country, and seek amicable and respectful
mutual relations, provided that they recognize our country's independence, freedom and territorial integrity.'

As for the current differences and conflicts in the Middle East, the NCR and all its members support the Peace Conference and are hopeful that the issue will be resolved, that peace and stability be established in the region, and that there remain no source of turmoil or crises, essentially because the Khomeini regime is the primary beneficiary of any regional war or unrest.

Elsewhere, Mr. Rajavi has said that contrary to Khomeini's regime, Iran's future government will not be anti-Western `since such hostility in reality embraces the backward ideas of the Middle Ages.' Mr. Rajavi has also pointed out Iran's technical, economic, scientific, cultural, and artistic needs in relation to Western countries, adding that rather than being anti-western, the Mojahedin seek equal and independent relations.

The Mojahedin have maintained an active presence in the United States and most western European countries for more than a decade, where they have explained their economic and political programs on an extensive scale to relevant officials and parliamentarians. There is, moreover, significant support for these programs among various parliamentarians, including a significant number of members of Congress. (Enclosure 8)

However, with regard to the Shah's reign, the Shah was hated by the people of Iran for his dictatorship and his crimes. Unfortunately, the United States, due to its incorrect information on and analysis of the socio-political situation in Iran, actively supported the Shah until the last months of his reign. In consequence, anti-Americanism was widespread among the Iranian public. Under the circumstances, the Mojahedin naturally did not agree with such U.S. support, which was neither in the interests of Iran's people, nor of regional peace and stability.

Khomeini took advantage of the public sentiment to suppress and execute the Mojahedin, and his regime continues to do so. The Mojahedin, from the outset, had consistently declared that the primary enemies of the Iranian people were the Khomeini regime, fundamentalism and religious retrogression. In order to eliminate democratic freedoms, Khomeini and the supporters of Moscow were demagogically telling the people that their primary enemy was American imperialism.

It is regrettable that positions occasionally adopted by the State Department against this Resistance, which has sacrificed 100,000 execution victims for the freedom of its homeland, have thwarted our efforts to expose the suppressive objectives behind the Khomeini regime's anti-Americanism. Ultimately, the only result has been to enhance pessimism among the Iranian people.

The taking of American diplomats hostage in Tehran, an act which the fact sheet unfortunately claims the Mojahedin supported, had but one objective: the suppression of opposition, and in particular of the Mojahedin, under the guise of `struggle against America.' Indeed, not only were the Mojahedin not supportive of or involved in the taking of American hostages, they were the primary victims of the incident.

In an interview recorded by ABC television on October 29, 1984, Mr. Rajavi said: `If we are a country, if we are a state, we have to be respectful and must not believe in the violation of diplomatic immunity. So, I can say that not only about this [hostage] crisis but also about the warmongering policy of Khomeini, international terrorist activities and also his suppressive measures, we wish they would not [have] happened. These are all against Iranians and against democracy.'

As for the participation of the Mojahedin in the assassinations of several Americans in Iran, it should be recalled that the Mojahedin Organization had carried out no military operations prior to the arrest of all of its leaders in August 1971. All of the Mojahedin's leaders were executed by the Shah, with the single exception of Mr. Rajavi, who was sentenced to life imprisonment due to the international activities and intervention of Amnesty International and a number of Western public figures, including President Francois Mitterrand. Mr. Rajavi remained incarcerated, along with the other leading figures of the Mojahedin, until January 1979.

With regard to the members of the Mojahedin who did remain out of prison, a number of individuals, who subsequently revealed that they were Marxists and later took the name of `Peykar dar Rah Azadi Tabageh Kargar' (`Struggle in the Path of the Working Class's Freedom'), took advantage of the imprisonment of all leaders and most members of the Mojahedin to penetrate the organization. These individuals subsequently murdered many of the Mojahedin's members in a brutal fashion and staged an internal coup, temporarily destroying the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. (Enclosure 9)

After the anti-monarchic revolution which toppled the Shah, the Mojahedin, recently released from prison, were able to rebuild the organization. By exposing Khomeini's backward nature, the Mojahedin managed to attract widespread support among various sectors of Iranian society. Many of these supporters were later to become members of the organization, and currently are included on its 837-member Central Council.

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5. The relations of the Mojahedin and National Liberation Army with Iraq are based on non-interference in each other's internal affairs. The NLA's primary aspiration is to be on Iranian soil, where it will be able to carry out a military operation and effect
the overthrow of a regime which domestically has violated all fundamental, basic human rights, and has exported terrorism, fundamentalism, and warmongering abroad, thus disrupting the region's peace, stability and tranquility. (Enclosure 10)

The NLA is funded by the Iranian people. The executions of Iranian merchants for contributing to the Mojahedin, and the large demonstrations in various countries by the organization's supporters attest to this support. In addition, some of the movement's financial resources are obtained by means of the commercial undertakings of the National Council of Resistance. The NLA's weapons were essentially obtained in the war of liberation against the Khomeini regime, during which they were taken as booty. A great many members of the Khomeni regime's regular military have joined the NLA. Their allegiance to the Resistance, in addition to demonstrating the NLA's popularity and support among freedom-loving Iranian servicemen, has provided the force with needed personnel, weapons, and expertise.

Mr. Hamilton, I am hopeful that the above text has clarified and responded to the allegations leveled in the enclosed fact sheet. I respectfully request that as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, you forward a copy of this letter to the State Department in order to clarify these issues. I further request that this response be published in the Congressional Record to better inform members of the House and Senate regarding the Mojahedin and the Iranian people's Resistance. Particularly at this sensitive and decisive state, the unity of democratic freedom-loving, and anti-fundamentalist forces vis-a-vis the trend towards fundamentalism and Khomeini's medieval outlook in the Middle East and other Muslim countries, is essential.

Sincerely,

Dr. Masoud Banisadr,
U.S. Representative.

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CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,

Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Washington, DC, March 2, 1992.

The Hon. James A. Baker III,
Secretary of State, Department of State, Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Secretary, I attach for your consideration a fact sheet I understand was prepared by the Department of State regarding the Iranian People's Mojahedin Organization of the National Council of Resistance of Iran as well as the organization's response to that fact sheet.

I would appreciate your detailed response to the comments of the organization as well as the State Department's policy today on meeting with representatives of this organization and the reason for that policy.

I asked the organization for their rebuttal to your fact sheet and they provided in addition to the attached letter backup documents which are available to you if you want or need them.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

With best regards,

Sincerely,

Lee H. Hamilton,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.

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U.S. Department of State,
Washington, DC, April 2, 1992.

The Hon. Lee H. Hamilton,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.

Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter of March 2, addressed to Secretary Baker, in which you asked for our response to claims by Dr. Masoud Banisadr of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) that a Department of State fact sheet on that organization contains inaccuracies. You also requested an explanation of the Department of State's policy of not meeting with representatives of the PMOI or its political arm, the National Council of Resistance.

We have carefully reviewed the fact sheet and found it to be an accurate description of the PMOI's history and ideology. Founded in 1963, the PMOI's platform blended Islamic ideology with Marxist tenets, including the collectivization of economic interests and opposition to capitalism. As described in Ervand Abrahamian's book The Iranian Mojahedin, the PMOI has `tried to synthesize the religious message of Shiism with the social science of Marxism.' While any shorthand description of a complex ideology requires simplification, the generalization is reasonable.

Our opposition to the group, however, stems not from its political ideology per se but from its use of terrorism and its aim of seeking the violent overthrow of the current Iranian regime. Just as we deplore the excesses and harsh reaction of the Iranian regime to political opposition, we do not condone the use of terror and violence in turn by the Mojahedin or any other opposition group. Contrary to Dr. Banisadr's allegations, the PMOI has advocated the use of violence since its inception. In the 1970s, for example, the PMOI received training and support from the Palestine Liberation Organization, and current PMOI leader Masoud Rajavi fought alongside Palestinians in Jordan during `Black September' in 1970.

The historical record shows clearly that PMOI opposition to `imperialist' and `capitalist' forces associated with the Shah's government included direct and violent attacks against U.S. interests. In 1973, the PMOI assassinated Lt. Col. Lewis Hawkins, a U.S. military advisor in Iran. In 1975, PMOI terrorists shot and killed two U.S. Air force officers in Tehran. The same year, a PMOI attack against a U.S. Embassy van in Tehran resulted in the death of a local employee. And in 1976, the PMOI assassinated three American employees of Rockwell International working in Iran.

The PMOI's claim that the organization is not responsible for actions carried out while its leaders were incarcerated is a facile one. It is true that some of the assassinations were carried out by avowedly Marxist members of the organization, who in 1975 split from the `Muslim' wing which included current PMOI leaders. However, there is no indication that the incarcerated PMOI leadership objected to the terrorism carried out in its name. Given the organization's strong anti-U.S. sentiment at the time, it would have been uncharacteristic for its leaders to denounce acts against what the PMOI viewed as an `imperialist' power affiliated with the Shah. Only in the past few years has the PMOI sought to distance itself from these acts of terrorism.

In the same context, Dr. Banisadr's claim that the PMOI was a victim of the U.S. Embassy takeover in November 1979 overlooks the fact that the PMOI supported the holding of U.S. hostages. It was only in 1981 that the Mojahedin openly joined the opposition to Khomeini's regime. The split was due to ideological differences, and not over the question of U.S. hostages.

In 1984, the group's leaders fled to Paris, where they established a presence until expelled by French authorities in 1986. Since 1986, the PMOI and its military wing, the National Liberation Army, have been based in Iraq. The PMOI and NLA continue to receive support and financial assistance from Saddam Hussein's government.

We do not dispute Dr. Banisadr's assertion that the Islamic Republic has routinely tortured, executed, and assassinated PMOI members. We have made clear, in our public statements and in our annual human rights report, that such actions violate all norms of international behavior. Indeed, we have cited the assassination of political opponents abroad, including that of Dr. Kazem Rajavi, as an example of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism. This does not, however, justify the PMOI's own use of violence either against Iranian government officials or, as in the past, U.S. interests and citizens.

I hope this answers your questions. For further study of the history and ideology of the PMOI, I would refer you to Ervand Abrahamian's The Iranian Mojahedin (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1989).

Sincerely,

Janet Mullins,
Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs.

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