Americans must be wary of Iranian influence over US media
Many seemingly important news reports that gained attention in 2016 turned out to be marred with falsified information.
A major threat to the dissemination of true information to U.S. citizens lies in the existence of suspicious figures sent by foreign countries for the purposes of espionage and influence over U.S. foreign policy.
Iran is a prime example. Its golden age of insider influence has passed with the inauguration of President Trump. The Tehran loyalists no longer have established access to the U. S. State Department and the National Security Council. Wrote COL. Wes Martin in ‘THE HILL’ on February 12, the article continues as follows:
But this does not mean Iran’s network of spies and agents in the U.S. are going to stop spreading misinformation. It simply means the primary means of influence has been relegated back to mainstream and social media.
Left unchecked, it still remains a serious problem that cannot be underestimated and deserves due attention. As someone who had to deal with the threat of terrorism firsthand, I appreciate the significance of such due vigilance.
A prime example of Iranian infiltration comes in the form of Masoud Khodabandeh. He introduces himself as the “director of Middle East Strategy Consultants.” As such, he published nine Huffington Post articles in 2016.
Seven of those pieces were focused on spreading fake news and demonizing the main Iranian opposition, the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran/Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).
The MEK believes regime change is needed in Iran as Tehran remains the main source of Islamic fundamentalism and is the number one state sponsor of international terrorism.
It is committed to establishing a democratic government in Iran based on the separation of church and state. As such, the extremist government in Tehran has good cause to be concerned about the MEK.
A report commissioned by the Pentagon and released by the Library of Congress provides an alarming look into the operations of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Services (MOIS) right here in the United States.
“MOIS recruited former members of the (People’s Mujahedin of Iran) in Europe and used them to launch a disinformation campaign against (PMOI),” the report reads.
Among those named in the Pentagon report are Massoud Khodabandeh and his British wife, Anne. They were recruited by the MOIS in the mid-1990s and used as assets against the opposition before launching the ‘Iran-Interlink’ website explicitly under Tehran’s orders.
The MOIS resorts to character assassination against lawmakers and reporters who hold positive views of the Iranian opposition, aiming to silence their voices.
The Iranian intelligence service also seeks to employ such individuals to influence U.S. and European foreign policy in the hopes of allowing the Iranian regime to remain intact.
Iran’s MOIS has recently attempted to demonize and silence a British politician through the efforts of Khodabandeh’s wife.
The co-author of many of Masoud Khodabandeh’s articles in The Huffington Post under the name Anne Singleton, she accused Lord David Alton of receiving money from the PMOI/MEK in exchange for supporting the Iranian opposition in a letter penned on the Iran-Interlink site.
Singleton, however, failed to provide any evidence for her allegations.
Lord Alton, a lifelong advocate of human rights in the British Parliament, is a professor at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University. He has received many honors.
Most recently, he was awarded the St. Thomas More Religious Freedom Award for his commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 2014, iSight Partners uncovered a three-year espionage campaign, originating in Iran, that used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to deceive victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere.
The Middle East Strategy Consultants seemed bogus from the onset and an investigation of its public records reveals it existed for a very short time before dissolving in 2013. The Huffington Post continues to name Masoud Khodabandeh as the entity’s director.
It is worth noting that all websites used by Khodabandeh, such as mesconult.com, Iran-Interlink and khodabandeh.org are hosted by Ravand Cybertech, an entity run by the Iranian regime, as reported by Stand for Peace, a Jewish-Muslim interfaith organization.
The American Enterprise Institute conducted a very interesting investigation titled, “Growing Cyberthreat from Iran,” providing further Iran-related information of Ravand Cybertech.
Khodabandeh’s profile in The Huffington Post introduces him as an advisor to the Iraqi government.
Their relations with Iraq are nothing but continuous efforts by the Khodabandeh couple to legitimize seven massacres carried out by Iran-backed Iraqi forces against MEK members in two camps outside of Baghdad — Ashraf and Liberty.
Their measures were directed by Danaie Far, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq and a former senior Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander.
Tahar Boumedra, former chief of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Iraq, explained how the Iranian embassy introduced Khodabandeh as an interpreter for the embassy in Iraq.
Many images of Khodabandeh have been posted on the internet showing him in 2011 expressing gratitude to Iraqi military commanders who attacked defenseless MEK members in Camp Ashraf, leaving 36 killed in the process.
In 2010, a number of Iranian regime agents, introducing themselves as relatives to MEK members, installed 300 powerful loudspeakers around Ashraf with support provided by the Iranian embassy and Iraqi army.
These loudspeakers were used to blare deafening sounds, insults and profanity into the camp, as part of psychological torture against the residents.
Khodabandeh’s wife supported this psychological torture by appearing at the scene, advocating these measures and taking images of herself standing near the loudspeakers.
The time has come for America’s mainstream media to distance themselves from Iran’s spies, as these individuals are supporting a regime that is understood to be the world leading state sponsor of terrorism, with the highest per-capita rate of domestic executions.
The American people deserve not to be misled by the false information provided by these intelligence agents.
Col. Wes Martin (US), former Anti-terrorism/Force Protection Officer of all Coalition forces in Iraq.
More about the People’s Mojahdin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK)
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Also known as MEK, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq / Mujahedeen-e-Khalq), was founded on September 6, 1965, by Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali-Asghar Badizadgan. All engineers, they had earlier been members of the Freedom Movement (also known as the Liberation Movement), created by Medhi Bazargan in May 1961.1
The MEK’s quest culminated in a true interpretation of Islam, which is inherently tolerant and democratic, and fully compatible with the values of modern-day civilization. It took six years for the MEK to formulate its view of Islam and develop a strategy to replace Iran’s dictatorial monarchy with a democratic government.
MEK’s interpretation of Islam
The theocratic mullah regime in Iran believe interpreting Islam is their exclusive domain. The MEK reject this view and the cleric’s reactionary vision of Islam. The MEK’s comprehensive interpretation of Islam proved to be more persuasive and appealing to the Iranian youth.
MEK’s founders and new members studied the various schools of thought, the Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and ideologies with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran’s problems.
MEK’s leadership’s arrest during the 70s.
The Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK, arrested all MEK leaders and most of its member’s in1971. On May 1972, the founders of the MEK, Mohammad Hanifnejad , Saeed Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan, along with two members of the MEK leadership, Mahmoud Askarizadeh and Rasoul Meshkinfam, were put before death squads and were executed after long months of imprisonment and torture. They were the true vanguards, who stood against the dictatorial regime of Shah. However, they are also recognized for their opposition to what is today known as Islamic fundamentalism.
The death sentence of Massoud Rajavi, a member of MEK’s central committee, was commuted to life imprisonment as a result of an international campaign by his Geneva based brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi (assassinated in April 1990 in Geneva by mullahs’ agents) and the personal intervention of the French President Georges Pompidou and Francois Mitterrand. He was the only survivor of the MEK original leadership.
Massoud Rajavi’s critical role in characterizing religious extremism
From 1975 to 1979, while incarcerated in different prisons, Massoud Rajavi led the MEK’s struggle while constantly under torture for his leading position.
Massoud Rajavi stressed the need to continue the struggle against the shah’s dictatorship. At the same time, he characterized religious fanaticism as the primary internal threat to the popular opposition, and warned against the emergence and growth of religious fanaticism and autocracy. He also played a crucial role when some splinter used the vacuum in the MEK leadership who were all executed or imprisoned at the time, to claim a change of ideology and policy. Massoud Rajavi as the MEK leader condemn these individual’s misuse of MEK’s name while continuing to stress the struggle against dictatorship. His efforts while still in prison forced these individuals to no longer operating under the name of MEK and adopting a different name for their group. These positions remained the MEK’s manifesto until the overthrow of the shah’s regime.
Release of Political Prisoners on the last days of the Shah
A month before the 1979 revolution in Iran, the Shah was forced to flee Iran, never to return. All democratic opposition leaders had by then either been executed by the Shah’s SAVAK or imprisoned, and could exert little influence on the trend of events. Khomeini and his network of mullahs across the country, who had by and large been spared the wrath of SAVAK, were the only force that remained unharmed and could take advantage of the political vacuum. In France, Khomeini received maximum exposure to the world media. With the aid of his clerical followers, he hijacked a revolution that began with calls for democracy and freedom and diverted it towards his fundamentalist goals. Through an exceptional combination of historical events, Shiite clerics assumed power in Iran.
Khomeini’s gradual crackdown on MEK in fear of their popular support
In internal discourses, Rajavi the remaining leader of the MEK, argued that Khomeini represented the reactionary sector of society and preached religious fascism. Later, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs, specifically Rafsanjani, pointed to these statements in inciting the hezbollahi club-wielders to attack the MEK.
Following the revolution, the MEK became Iran’s largest organized political party. It had hundreds of thousands of members who operated from MEK offices all over the country. MEK publication, ‘Mojahed’ was circulated in 500,000 copies.
Khomeini set up an Assembly of Experts comprised of sixty of his closest mullahs and loyalists to ratify the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute supremacy of clerical rule) as a pillar of the Constitution. The MEK launched a nationwide campaign in opposition to this move, which enjoyed enormous popular support. Subsequently, the MEK refused to approve the new constitution based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, while stressing its observance of the law of the country to deny the mullahs any excuse for further suppression of MEK supporters who were regularly targeted by the regime’s official and unofficial thugs.
Khomeini sanctioned the occupation of the United States embassy in 1979 in order to create an anti-American frenzy, which facilitated the holding of a referendum to approve his Constitution, which the MEK rejected.
MEK’s endeavors to participate in the political process avoiding an unwanted conflict with government repressive forces
The MEK actively participated in the political process, fielding candidates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. The MEK also entered avidly into the national debate on the structure of the new Islamic regime, though was unsuccessful in seeking an elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution.
The MEK similarly made an attempt at political participation when [then] Massoud Rajavi ran for the presidency in January 1980. MEK’s leader was forced to withdraw when Khomeini ruled that only candidates who had supported the constitution in the December referendum – which the MEK had boycotted- were eligible. Rajavi’s withdrawal statement emphasized the MEK’s efforts to conform to election regulations and reiterated the MEK’s intention to advance its political aims within the new legal system”. (Unclassified report on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/ MEK) by the Department of State to the United States House of Representatives, December 1984.)
However, the MEK soon found itself in a direct struggle against the forces of the regime’s Supreme leader. The MEK’s differences with Khomeini dated back to the 1970s, and stem from its opposition to what is known today as Islamic extremism. Angry at the position taken by the MEK against his regime and worried about the MEK’s growing popularity, Khomeini ordered a brutal crackdown against the MEK and its supporters. Between 1979 and 1981, some 70 MEK members and sympathizers were killed and several thousand more were imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
June 20, 1981- Khomeini’s order to open fire on peaceful demonstration of half-a-million supporters of MEK
The turning point came on 20th June 1981, when the MEK called a demonstration to protest at the regime’s crackdown, and to call for political freedom which half-a-million supporters participated at. Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the swelling crowd, fearing that without absolute repression the democratic opposition (MEK) would force him to engage in serious reforms – an anathema as far as he was concerned; he ordered the mass and summary executions of those arrested.
Since then, MEK activists have been the prime victims of human rights violations in Iran. Over 120,000 of its members and supporters have been executed by the Iranian regime, 30,000 of which, were executed in a few months in the summer of 1988, on a direct fatwa by Khomeini, which stated any prisoners who remain loyal to the MEK must be executed.
Having been denied its fundamental rights and having come under extensive attack at the time that millions of its members, supporters and sympathizers had no protection against the brutal onslaught of the Iranian regime, the MEK had no choice but to resist against the mullahs’ reign of terror.
“Towards the end of 1981, many of the members of the MEK and supporters went into exile. Their principal refuge was in France. But in 1986, after negotiations between the French and the Iranian authorities, the French government effectively treated them as undesirable aliens, and the leadership of the MEK with several thousand followers relocated to Iraq.” (Judgment of the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission, November 30, 2007.)
The MEK today is the oldest and largest anti-fundamentalist Muslim group in the Middle East. It has been active for more than a half century, battling two dictatorships and a wide range of issues. The MEK supports:
• Universal suffrage as the sole criterion for legitimacy
• Pluralistic system of governance
• Respect for individual freedoms
• Ban on the death penalty
• Separation of religion and state
• Full gender equality
• Equal participation of women in political leadership. MEK is actually led by its central committee consist of 1000 women.
• Modern judicial system that emphasizes the principle of innocence, a right to a defense, and due process
• Free markets
• Relations with all countries in the world
• Commitment to a non-nuclear Iran
The MEK remains a strong and cohesive organization, with a broad reach both worldwide and deep within Iran. MEK is the leading voice for democracy in Iran, supported by its interpretation of Islam that discredits the fundamentalist mullahs’ regime.