Thursday, January 06, 2005

U.S. authorities also took DNA samples from several thousand MEK members

The Coalition for Democracy in Iran: "Mindful of Iran's leverage in Iraq, the United States has recently been more conciliatory. Last month, U.S. authorities in Iraq shut down a radio station operated by the Mujahedin el-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group that had been harbored by Saddam. U.S. authorities also took DNA samples from several thousand MEK members under U.S. guard in apparent preparation to charge some with terrorist crimes.


RFL: "Tanter also says the United States should assist the Iraq-based People's Mujahedin Organization (MEK),"

Iran: Pressure Builds On Washington To Promote 'Regime Change': "Iran: Pressure Builds On Washington To Promote 'Regime Change'
By Jeffrey Donovan

As student protests against the government continue in Iran, debate is growing in Washington about U.S. policy toward Tehran. On the one hand, the Bush administration has provided strong rhetorical support for the demonstrators. But for now, President George W. Bush has stopped short of publicly promoting "regime change."

Washington, 17 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- As student-led protests against the Iranian government continue for a seventh day, pressure appears to be mounting on the Bush administration to more clearly articulate its policy toward Tehran.

Since taking office in January 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush has still not issued its national security directive on policy toward Iran. Observers say that's because the administration, split between its State Department "doves" and Pentagon "hawks," has yet to make up its mind on what to do.

Gary Sick, an Iran expert and professor at Columbia University in New York City, says, "I don't think the United States really has a policy toward Iran at the present time, other than a sort of rhetorical policy."

That policy has included public appeals by Bush directly to the Iranian people -- "over the heads of their leaders to let them know that we agree with them," as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has put it.

More than 140 people have been detained in Iran during the past week of protests, which have involved thousands of people and are the most serious challenge to the leadership since university protests last November and in the summer of 1999.

The demonstrations are aimed at both Iran's hard-line Islamic regime and the reform group led by President Mohammad Khatami. Protesters say the reformers have not gone far enough in promoting democratic change.

Asked about the protests on 15 June, Bush again offered his moral support for those taking risks by publicly protesting Tehran's Islamic regime. "This is the beginnings of people expressing themselves for a free Iran, which I think is positive," Bush said.

To be sure, such rhetorical support has been enough to prompt Tehran to accuse Washington of meddling in its affairs. Iran has also accused the United States of materially aiding the protesters, which Washington denies.

But recent developments on the ground are fueling a heated debate in Washington on whether U.S. policy toward Iran should, in fact, get tougher.

First, there have been revelations that Iran's nuclear program is much further ahead than was previously thought. And now, a week-long wave of student-led protests appears to have underscored yet again the potential for a peaceful revolution in Iran.

Coupled with those factors is the strategic, pro-democracy shift in the Middle East that has come with U.S. military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sandwiched between those countries and thousands of American troops is Iran, a sworn enemy of America, with which it has not had relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Raymond Tanter, a University of Michigan professor and Iran expert who served in former President Ronald Reagan's National Security Council, doesn't think that diplomatic pressure will work. "I think that regime change ought to be the policy of the Bush administration. But regime change doesn't mean that you need the 4th Infantry Division to come in from the north and meet up in the south with the 3rd Infantry Division coming in from the south and the Marines coming in from the West. That is, Iran is not Iraq," Tanter says.

Tanter also says the United States should assist the Iraq-based People's Mujahedin Organization (MEK), so that it can launch a cross-border insurgency against Iranian regime targets. Currently, the MEK has been disarmed as part of a cease-fire deal with U.S. forces in Iraq. It is also on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

While such steps are controversial, the rising chorus for supporting Iran's peaceful democratic opposition can be heard in the U.S. Congress. A bill called the Iran Democracy Act is being debated that would provide $50 million to Iran's opposition.

"The students need more than rhetorical support," Tanter says. "They need covert backing for their demonstrations. They need fax machines. They need Internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep the vigilantes from beating them up. And if you don't provide them funds, then the demonstrations are going to peter out."

But material backing for the protesters is a sensitive issue.

The State Department insists it doesn't provide it. But at a briefing on 16 June, spokesman Richard Boucher appeared to suggest that might not be the case for other parts of the U.S. government.

"Certainly, from my vantage point here, I can tell you that all that we're involved in here is expressing our moral support, our rhetorical support, our solidarity with the demonstrators," Boucher said.

Sick of Columbia University believes it is wrong for the United States to even suggest its endorsement for the opposition movement in Iran unless it is prepared to back it up with robust support. And with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sick does not believe Washington has the resources to follow through on supporting an upheaval in Iran.

He says Washington should remember when it encouraged Iraqi Shi'ites to rise up against former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War. When they did and Washington declined to support their insurgency, Hussein's regime instituted a harsh crackdown in which thousands were killed.

"I think we should be careful to avoid another situation where we are accused of having started something which we're not prepared to follow through on in which a lot of people get killed," Sick says.

Some analysts say U.S. financial support for the Iranian democracy movement could be counterproductive. They say such support allows Iranian hard-liners to justify their crackdown on dissent in the name of national unity against an external threat.

Still others believe that even if Washington does support the opposition, the Tehran regime is unlikely to fall over the next three years, by which time Iran is expected to have developed nuclear weapons. They say Washington should be prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike against any Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.

Meanwhile, U.S. pressure against Iran's nuclear program appears to be gaining strength. On 16 June, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the European Union and Russia, called on Tehran to allow UN inspectors into the country to determine whether its nuclear facilities are purely for civilian use or, indeed, if they are involved in developing nuclear weapons.

Iran says it will not agree to stricter UN checks unless a ban on Tehran's access to nuclear technology is lifted.

Copyright (c) 2003. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

FOXNews - Raymond Tanter Links the Mujahedin-e Khalq to the AIPAC SPY SCANDAL - U.S. & World - Next Administration Must Deal With Iran: "Next Administration Must Deal With Iran
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

WASHINGTON — Iran (search), a country that has bedeviled the United States for decades, could prove to be the biggest foreign policy challenge facing whoever is the next president. The messy Iraq war and a spy scandal linking Pentagon and Israeli officials could complicate U.S. hopes of halting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Both President Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry (search) say they want to use diplomacy — although with different approaches — to prevent what could be a nightmare scenario for the United States: a nuclear-armed, hostile Islamic state in the volatile Middle East.

But the United States' ability to sound an international alarm on Iran has been damaged after much of its intelligence on Saddam Hussein's (search) weapons programs proved to be wrong. And its credibility could be further hurt by suspicions that a Pentagon official passed secrets about Iran to Israel.

Neither Bush nor Kerry advocates a pre-emptive strike on Iran. "The military option is always the last option for a president, not the first," Bush said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.

Yet Iran, by many standards, poses a greater threat to the United States than Saddam ever did.

As they did with Iraq, U.S. officials suspect Iran has chemical and biological weapons. But Iran's nuclear program is much more advanced than Saddam's program was believed to be. U.S. officials say Iran could produce weapons-grade uranium within a year and a nuclear weapon three years after that.

Iran says its nuclear program is for making electricity, not weapons.

The United States has long considered Iran the world's most active state sponsor of terror. Iran has supported militant Palestinian groups and U.S. officials say it has provided safe-haven for Al Qaeda members.

And even though Iran is more democratic than other nations in the region, the United States continues to condemn its human rights record.

In 2001, Bush called Iran part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea. Yet his administration has been divided on how to deal with it. Some, mostly in the Pentagon, favor a tougher approach. Others, mostly in the State Department, believe some accommodation is possible with Iranian moderates.

Tehran has offered some signs of seeking better relations with the United States, providing some cooperation on narcotics policy and in the war in Afghanistan. A State Department paper says relations with Iran "are frequently confused and contradictory due to Iran's oscillation between pragmatic and ideological concerns."

In a speech Monday, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said the Bush administration "has stood on the sidelines" while both Iran and North Korea "advanced their nuclear programs."

Kerry holds out some hope that a negotiated solution with Iran is possible. He said the United States and other nations should "call their bluff" by offering nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, then taking back the spent fuel so it can't be used for weapons.

If that process fails, the United States could try to ensure that the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) takes the issue to the U.N. Security Council, where Iran could face sanctions.

Bush administration officials have suggested that it is too late for incentives. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said recently that Iran "has to be isolated in its bad behavior, not engaged."

The administration is expected to request Security Council action if the IAEA condemns Iran at a meeting Sept. 13.

Yet prospects for action at the U.N. are uncertain. Russia, which is building Iran's nuclear reactor, has a veto. Other council members also have trade relationships with Iran.

Bush has demanded that Iran give up its nuclear program, but it's unclear what he would do if Iran refuses and the United Nations doesn't act.

Winning either domestic or international support for military action against Iran would be difficult.

Invading Iran has never seemed a credible option, said Robert Malley, an adviser to President Clinton on Middle East issues. "I think it has become far less so after what has happened in Iraq," he said.

Yet Raymond Tanter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he believes the next president will have little choice but to support the main Iranian opposition group, the MEK.

That group, however, is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations and few politicians openly support it.

And Tanter says support for either military action or for using the MEK could be undermined by the investigation into whether Larry Franklin, a Middle East analyst at the Pentagon, provided classified information on Iran to Israel.

"Those people who would say unleash the MEK could be accused now of following a Zionist agenda," Tanter said. "The Franklin flap is quite damaging. It plays into Iran's hand."

MSNBC Says: "Raymond Tanter is a man on a mission" in support of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq

MSNBC - Trusting �the enemy of my enemy�: "Trusting ‘the enemy of my enemy’
Some see a quick fix, others a slippery slope

Members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq protesting the deaths of relatives during a rally in Baghdad in June. The U.S. designated it a terrorist organization last week.

By Michael Moran
An MSNBC Special Report

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - While the CIA and other agencies attempt to revive the pipeline of spies-in-training, many outside the agency are urging that the country tap third parties as a stop gap — foreign businessmen eager to make a little extra money, guerrilla groups like the Northern Alliance, or dissidents inside states accused of sponsoring terrorism. Others, however, say that aligning America with “fair weather friends” is exactly how Afghanistan became the breeding ground and training camp for the terrorists who launched the 9/11 attacks.


Raymond Tanter is a man on a mission. A Middle East expert and Iraq hawk who held high level national security posts going back to the Johnson administration, Tanter says he simply cannot understand why policymakers in the current administration “took off the gloves” to fight the Taliban, al-Qaida and Iraq, but appear to hold their noses when it comes to another Islamic rival, Iran.

Tanter and other well-connected Republicans, citing the inability of the CIA and other agencies to penetrate Iran’s intelligence agencies, have lobbied hard see the State Department drop its ‘terrorist” designation of the MEK — the Mujahedeen-e Khalq.

The MEK is a group of Iranian exiles Saddam helped to shelter and arm during his years in power - providing them with tanks and light artillery — so they could infiltrate across the border and strike at the Islamic regime there, always a close second to the Bush family on Saddam’s enemies list.

“One of the reasons I’m interested in MEK is that they provide the eyes and ears for human intelligence on the ground in Iran,” says Tanter, currently lecturing at Georgetown University. “The U.S. has a very poor record of having people on the ground in Iran or Iraq. Therefore, there has been far too much reliance on technology - signals intelligence and satellite imagery. What you need are people on the ground, whose interests coincide with yours.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican known for her hawkish views on Cuba, agrees. “This group loves the United States. They’re assisting us in the war on terrorism; they’re pro-U.S,” she says.

Whose agenda?
In spite of such support for the MEK, the Bush Treasury Department last week reaffirmed the group’s place on American terrorist lists, ordering its assets seized and the State Department shut its Washington office down. The move brought a rare statement of praise from Tehran.

And so it might. According to the State Department’s 2002 list of terrorist organizations, Mujahedin-e Khalq has become a major problem for the Iranian regime. While the report describes MEK as a virulently anti-western group that supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and has killed hundreds of people, Iranian officials and civilians alike, it also notes that “MEK insurgent activities in Tehran constitute the biggest security concern for the Iranian leadership.”

According to intelligence officials, the MEK also has been behind some of the best and most startling intelligence on Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. “Our best means are technical, frankly,” an administration official says. “The rest comes from Iranians, and the MEK is part of that.”

Tanter, who knows many of the Bush administration’s most influential policymakers well, says “their aims are our aims. The problem is the American agenda is that, with respect to Iran, it is not set because of a split between State and Defense. Regime change is not our policy toward Iran, but it should be.”

Still, neither Washington nor other powers appear interested in hitching their wagon to the MEK. Earlier this summer, France withdrew its long tolerance for the MEK and arrested one of the group’s leader, Miriam Rajavi, along with dozens of supporters who had been sheltered there for years. In response, her adherents lit themselves on fire outside French embassies in several major western capitals.

“I’ve tried to explain to them that this isn’t really helping their case,” says Tanter. “But those were spontaneous acts, and it shows how serious they are.”

Rick Francona, a former military intelligence officer, spent much of the 1990s trying to help establish a reliable anti-Saddam presence in northern Iraq using the U.S.-funded exiles of the Iraqi National Congress.

“From my experience, I would say that we should not rely on groups like the INC - we should make sure we have our own independent intelligence assets — only answering to us,” he says.

Another former intelligence official who asked not to be identified says he strongly opposes an American policy that is beholden to “local hires.” That risks, the official says, a repeat of history, dragging the U.S. government into activities it may not want to be associated with — human rights atrocities, coups gone wrong or revolutions that defy any outside influence.

“Look, I think the [1970s] curbs went too far, but they didn’t just happen out of thin air,” says the former intelligence official. “There were things wrong in the old days, and as usual, government went overboard fixing it. That doesn’t mean the reforms were all wrong, though.”

Long road back
Most intelligence officials date the deterioration of U.S. spy capabilities to the 1970s, when Senate and House investigations revealed details of a series CIA operations in previous decades that shocked many Americans.

Heading these investigations was Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, whose Church committee made headlines throughout the mid-1970s. The revelations included CIA involvement in the 1973 coup that led to the death of Chilean President Salvadore Allende, eight botched attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, murderous campaigns against suspected Viet Cong sympathizers in Vietnam, assassinations and political bombings and attempted coups across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

and a host of other activities which propped up dictators around the world led to a public backlash.

The politically charged atmosphere of the day contributed to the backlash against intelligence, too. The assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam war, revelations about the domestic spying conducted against anti-war and civil rights activists by the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover, then Watergate.

By 1976, the drumbeat of bungled ops and plots gone terribly wrong led President Gerald Ford to issue an Executive Order banning assassination as an instrument of national policy. By the time the Church committee hearings ended, massive dismissals of CIA agents around the world had taken place.

The CIA and DIA became increasingly reliant on technological spying, on foreign allied spy agencies, and on the the white collar spies posing as attaches and cruising the cocktail circuits in embassies around the world.

The FBI, for all intents and purposes, withdrew from the field, concentrating on domestic crime and the hunt for Soviet agents working inside the United States. The discovery of one, Aldrich Ames, working inside its own headquarters hardly encouraged policymakers of that day to urge it to take on domestic surveillance as well.

The curbs on CIA activities received another boost in 1996, too, when congressional hearings revealed that an American citizen had been murdered by a particularly violent CIA asset — in effect, a local paid as an informer — in Guatemala. Then-CIA Director John Deutch ordered that CIA agents refrain from dealings with those with known records of violating human rights.

Today, many of those limitations remain in place, though they are widely ignored, according to those familiar with current operations.

Francona, whose experience in northern Iraq makes him wary of “third party operators,” says that expectations that American spies can infiltrate groups like al-Qaida may be over-optimistic.

“I am sure the agencies are tying to penetrate, but I doubt they are using Americans ... they would be suspect now,” he says. “Second, an agency officer couldn’t do what was expected — killing, terrorism, etcetera.”

But Francona sees a middle ground between reliance on American citizen spies and the risks of allying the country with a foreign political organization.

“Ideally the way this usually works is you find someone already on the inside who is disaffected and vulnerable,” he says. “There are a host of reasons people become vulnerable — you just have to find them and then work on exploiting the vulnerability. That’s what intelligence officers do.”


Raymond Tanter Strongly Defends the Mujahedin-e Khalq in an article

Baghdad Bulletin - Independent Iraq news: "A Middle East moment: regime change in Iran
By: Raymond Tanter (guest writer)

Published date: 24/6/2003

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The rout of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the collapse of the rogue regime in Baghdad and student demonstrations in Iran provide a policyforcing moment to shift Washington's policy toward Tehran. Military victories altered the strategic landscape in the Middle East: coalition troops can deploy along Iran's eastern and western flanks and to the east of Syria, isolating Iran within the region. At issue is whether Washington should seek only diplomatic gains from Iran following this shift or make an effort at regime change from within. While regime change for Iraq was the official policies of Presidents Clinton and Bush, neither adopted regime change as policy for Iran. Now is the time for the Bush administration to seize the Middle East moment to facilitate regime change in Iran.

Aiding student protestors and assisting the Iranian opposition are two ways the administration might stimulate regime change. Besides offering strong rhetorical support, the US could begin covert backing of student demonstrators and remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq, Iran's strongest opposition group, from the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. This would allow the opposition to raise funds in the US from the Iranian exile community and provide overt US government funding to a coalition of Iranian opposition groups. In this respect, Senator Sam Brownback's Iran Democracy Act is a promising vehicle to facilitate regime change in Iran.

Give Rhetorical and Covert Support for Student Demonstrators

Because the White House so far has avoided taking a position on the Brownback amendment, now is the time for Congress to press the Administration to go beyond public rhetoric to furnish material assistance to demonstrators and Iranian opposition groups. President George Bush praised pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran, calling their protests a positive step toward freedom. Though some argue that such praise could lead to backfiring because Iranians might view Bush's words as foreign meddling, it is well worth the effort to be on the side of the students. Ayatollah Khamenei is already accusing the US of fomenting the protests; hence, Washington might as well ramp up its rhetoric and initiate covert ops to assist the students.

White House statements of December and July 2002 criticized the "unelected few" rulers of Iran, and Secretary of State Colin Powell has reinforced the these remarks, stating that the US goal is to speak directly to the Iranian people, "…over the heads of their leaders to let them know that we agree with them." But with Iranian vigilantes beginning to repeat their 1999 assaults against student protestors, more than rhetoric is necessary.

Remove People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran from Terrorist List

There are several reasons to remove the MEK from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list:

1.Classifying MEK as a terrorist organization at Tehran's request has not resulted in major diplomatic gains from Iran and encourages Tehran to continue policies that run counter to US interests.

2. Allegations that the MEK participated in the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979 are probably false, and in any event, are based on hearsay evidence.

3. MEK listing on the FTO inhibits US collaboration with the MEK for action against groups Iran sends to destabilize Iraq.

4. The regime in Tehran considers the MEK its primary security threat.
In a bid to engage Iran diplomatically, the Clinton administration took several steps. It designated the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization, declared that it would no longer use provocative terminology like "rogue states" to classify nations like Iran and North Korea, and made concessions to Iran on carpets, caviar, and pistachios, compromises Iran promptly pocketed without reciprocity. Because an engagement policy drove the terrorist classification, there is a substantial risk of misclassification of the MEK.

MEK is the only organization on the FTO list that US government officials acknowledged to have been designated as a goodwill gesture to Tehran. The bottom line is that designating the MEK as a terrorist organization:

1.Emboldens the regime in Tehran to pursue its policies of exporting terrorism, acquiring nuclear weapons, destabilizing the region, and suppressing the Iranian people.

2.Prevents fundraising for an organization whose activities further US goals of coercing Tehran to cease its drive for nuclear weapons, sponsorship of terrorism, and crackdown on student demonstrators.

Khalid Duran, an expert on Islam and the Middle East who has monitored the role of the MEK since the early 1970s, gave expert testimony in several court proceedings in which that organization challenged its designation. He stated that, "The (MEK) had no role in the US embassy takeover. In fact, the takeover was carried out by the faction most opposed to the (MEK). The MEK challenged its designation in the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Although it has not been successful in vacating the designation, court proceedings established only the diplomatic nature of the designation rather than one based on terrorist activities.

Without having the MEK as an ally with which to pressure Iran, the United States lacks a credible answer to Tehran's efforts to destabilize post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

During the spring of 2003, Iran sent thousands of Badr Brigades troops, which are the military wing of an Iranian-based group, to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. It had been an anti-Saddam organization but its mission in the post-Saddam era includes destabilizing Iraq.

During a Pentagon briefing in late March, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a stern warning to Iran for backing Iraqi exiles living in Iran who are members of the Badr Brigades. Rumsfeld criticized Tehran for allowing Brigade fighters to cross Iraq's eastern border. The April 15 cease fire between elements of the Fourth Infantry Division and the MEK in Iraq is a step in the right direction. The next step should be to allow the MEK to repossess weapons the US military is keeping in storage and for Secretary Rumsfeld to support the MEK as a counterweight to the Badr Brigades troops.

Washington should capitalize on the shift in the strategic landscape following its military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq to facilitate regime change in Tehran. Strong rhetorical support, covert-backing for student demonstrations, and removal of the MEK from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List are steps that would facilitate regime change in Iran. Finally, because the Iran Democracy Act is a useful vehicle to fund a coalition of Iranian opposition groups, the Bush administration should consider supporting this legislation.

Raymond Tanter is an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C.

Published date: 24/6/2003
Author: Raymond Tanter (guest writer) "