Arab Countries’ Political Investment in the MKO

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hossein Kebriaeezadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

The Mujahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO), which is mostly known by Iranians as the Monafeqeen (Hypocrites) grouplet, is the most organized group among the Islamic Republic of Iran’s opposition. This organization was established during the 1960s under the influence of the leftist discourse prevalent at that time and rapidly opted for armed struggle against the former monarchial regime of Iran. The second Pahlavi monarch answered the group’s activities by launching a wave of executions of its leaders. By and by, the group distanced itself from its early religious and Islamic tenets and took a Marxist approach to Iran’s developments in the 1970s.

This change was a strategic and determining mistake, which caused the group to choose for armed struggle following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, through both purposive and blind assassinations, in order to topple the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The result of that policy was the killing of about 20,000 Iranians in terrorist attacks carried out by this group, including the assassination of 72 members of the Islamic Republic Party, as well as the killing of the then Iranian president and his prime minister.

In later years, conditions surrounding this group fared in such a way that it was put on the United States government’s list of terrorist groups in 1990 and the French government conducted a major raid on 13 bases of this group in 2003 in order to prevent migration of its members from Iraq to France.

Of course, this background has been currently forgotten by the West because the Western countries consider it expedient for the time being. As a result, the recent conference of this group in the French capital, Paris, drew unprecedented attention from world media as it was attended by a host of Western, and of course Arab, officials and figures.

The presence of Saudi Arabia’s former spy chief, Turki al-Faisal, along with political figures from Egypt and Jordan, combined with the wide coverage given to this event by major Arab world media outlets such as al-Arabiya news channel, as well as al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat newspapers, was quite thought-provoking. This issue becomes more important when one takes into account that a few weeks later on July 30, the current leader of the MKO, Maryam Rajavi, met with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.

Such an attitude toward this organization among Arabs, especially among officials of the Fatah movement, is not special to current conditions and there have been military and training ties between the MKO and Palestinian organizations, including the Fatah, since the inception of the MKO. However, under present circumstances, when tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached their height, such exchanges are indicative of a major change in Arab actors’ relations with and attitude toward this attenuated organization. Although such political investment in this bankrupt group is not accompanied with a bright outlook for the investment, it entails threats and messages for Tehran.

The failure of Daesh and reduced power of this Takfiri group in addition to the apprehension of Daesh agents in Tehran proved that terrorists cannot easily infiltrate into Iran to conduct terrorist attacks. Therefore, taking advantage of the experiences of a seasoned group to organize future terrorist attacks can preoccupy Iran with its national borders now that the country is in relatively good conditions in the region.

Although the MKO lacks its past operational capability and political power, the group is still able to embark on a new gamble through financial support it gets from its Arab supporters and try to disturb Iran’s regional focus and domestic development under present conditions through political and propaganda maneuvers.

It seems that the investment made by Saudis in few groups like the MKO and the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran is the opening of a new chapter in unconventional behavior of this regional actor, which following failure of its regional policies and lack of coherence in its domestic policies, is trying to resort to terrorism and launch a new dangerous game in the Middle East by establishing a connecting bridge between various anti-Iran and Takfiri groups.

In view of the fact that part of Daesh is made up of the former staff of Iraq’s Baath Party and the MKO sticks to a Marxist ideology, there is good ground for ideological convergence between the two sides. Such a connection can be also justified in historical terms in view of past cooperation between Iraq’s Baath Party and the MKO during the eight years of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran.

However, the point, which has been largely ignored by Arab strategists, is bankruptcy of both terrorist groups and their extreme weakness. Iran has good intelligence command of both groups and, as a result, the chances for their success in creating crises along Iran’s national borders are infinitesimal.

From a different viewpoint, the meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Maryam Rajavi at a time that the Arab world has practically forgotten about the cause of Palestine and the liberation of al-Quds and only Iran is still supporting the freedom of Palestine, is a sign that following normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey and open contacts between Israel and the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, the Middle East peace process will probably enter a new phase and the president of the Palestinian government is not willing for Tehran's idealism to lead to failure of the peace talks.

However, Iran’s approach to developments in Palestine is a large-scale approach. On the other hand, in view of good relations that Iran has with those Palestinian groups, which are not in line with Mahmoud Abbas’ policies, and also due to lack of popularity for Abbas among many Palestinian groups, such political maneuvers cannot be considered as a serious message by Tehran.

At present, the MKO is on the verge of turning 51. The organization, however, is grappling with political alienation, ideological confusion, ethical bankruptcy and an uncivilized and military way of life as a result of which it is plagued with lack of identity as well as cultural and political obscenity. Therefore, although such a group can host apparently glamorous gatherings at the heart of Europe, it lacks necessary capability, coherence and popularity to affect Iran’s regional approaches.

Key WordsArab Countries, Political Investment, MKO, Marxist Approach, Armed Struggle, Terrorist Attacks, Paris, Saudi Arabia, Turki al-Faisal, Maryam Rajavi, Mahmoud Abbas, Daesh, Kurdish Democratic Party, Middle East, Peace Process, Kebriaeezadeh   

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*Photo Credit: The Iran Project