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by Khody Akhavi

Is U.S. Working With Anti-Iran Terror Group? (2005)

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Alireza Jafarzadeh first burst onto the Washington political scene in 2003 when he exposed Iran's clandestine uranium enrichment facility in the small township of Natanz.

The Iranian dissident's revelations became a smoking gun inside the Beltway, and as Republican sabres rattled in anticipation of military action against the Islamic Republic, Jafarzadeh, 49, joined the television news orbit as an independent FOX News foreign affairs analyst.

If this burgeoning television personality espouses expertise on "terrorism," it behooves the viewer to take his advice.

After all, Jafarzadeh formerly served as the spokesman for the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group currently listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

In 1997, the State Department added the MEK to its list of terrorist organizations as a move towards rapprochement with Iran's then-reformist government headed by President Mohammad Khatami.

The State Department accused MEK groups of being funded by then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, supporting the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, robbing banks, and of being responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens in the 1970s.

In 2003, a U.S. weapons inspector accused the organization of receiving millions of dollars in profits from the tainted United Nations oil-for-food program, a charge the MEK calls part of a smear campaign, according to a report from the Associated Press.

In August of the same year, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell ordered the closure of two Washington offices connected to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group that is regarded by many critics as a political front organization for the MEK's military wing.

The State Department most recently described the NCRI, led by Maryam Ravaji in France, as an "alias" for the fighting exiles in Iraq.

Jafarzadeh's links to the MEK, as well as its affiliate organizations, run deep.

He served as the U.S.-based spokesman of the NCRI until its Washington office was forced to close in 2003, one year after he exposed Iran's hidden uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and heavy-water plant at Arak.

Ironically, the order came after President Bush and other senior U.S. officials publicly praised what they called an Iranian "dissident group" for unearthing the information.

In May 2003, Jafarzadeh's group disclosed that Iran was developing weaponized anthrax, aflatoxin, typhus, smallpox, plague and cholera as part of a larger plan to triple the capacity of the country's bio-warfare program.

Jafarzadeh claimed that Iran's biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs progressed rapidly under Khatami, a reformist known for trying to promote a thaw in Iranian-U.S. relations.

When the State Department added the NCRI as an alias to its terrorist list, Jafarzadeh suddenly became a FOX News analyst based in Washington.

A tell-all book called the "The Iran Threat" followed, in which Jafarzadeh, like many other "experts" in Washington, expounded on the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

Jafarzadeh also heads a private consulting company called Strategic Policy Consulting (SPC Inc.), which provides expert analysis on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Iranian internal and external affairs, as well as Iran's role in Iraq, according the company's website.

Critics argue that SPC Inc. was set up to circumvent U.S. laws prohibiting the existence of the MEK on U.S. soil.

Though listed as a terrorist organization, the MEK still maintains a high profile as a "democratic alternative to the Iranian regime."

Ravaji proclaims democracy as the only answer to the "fundamentalism" in Iran, and the group's supporters believe they are the best hope to achieve that goal.

While the Bush administration has used information provided by Jafarzadeh and other dissidents linked to the MEK, outside of a handful of lobbyists and increasingly reluctant Congressmen, the group maintains very little support in Washington.

In 2002, 150 members of Congress wrote a letter to the State Department asking that the organization be removed from the terror list, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Congressional support has come from Republicans Tom Tancredo and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, as well as Democrats such as Sheila Jackson Lee and Gary Ackerman. But support continues to wane, as many politicians justifiably fear associating with "terrorists."

In recent months, some House members have asked for their names to be taken off the letter, including Republicans Deborah Pryce and Richard Pombo.

Perhaps the most vocal opposition came from Bob Ney, who criticized FOX News for hiring Jafarzadeh and not disclosing his connections to the MEK.

Leading the charge to remove the MEK's "terrorist" tag is an outfit called the Iran Policy Committee (IPC).

The pressure group is comprized of former White House, State Department, Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency officials, including Raymond Tanter, a former National Security Council official under Ronald Reagan.

IPC favours "coercive regime change" in Iran and emphasises support for the MEK to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Even if the U.S. were to support an exile group such as the MEK, the chances that the group can bring about democratic regime change is implausible. It is reportedly even less popular among the Iranian population, many of whom abhor the MEK for allying with Saddam Hussein and fighting its own people during the Iran-Iraq war.

The MEK began as a militant organization allied with the clerical opposition during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, until it was later suppressed and marginalized by the mullahs. Since then, the group has operated out of neighboring Iraq, calling for the overthrow of the Iranian regime.

Many of the fighting exiles remain in camps, demobilized, their weapons confiscated as the U.S. decides what to do with them.

To critics, the MEK acts very similar to a cult. Even the neo-conservative establishment in Washington has reservations about the group.

In an article in the right-wing publication Front Page Magazine, Michael Rubin, a former Defense Department official, wrote, "Maryam Rajavi and her husband Masud are adept at public relations and adroit at reinvention, but the organization over which they preside eschews democracy and embraces terrorism, autocracy, and Marxism."

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Albion Monitor   June 15, 2007   (

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