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Commentary

'One Man's Terrorist...' Moral Convolution Grips The Organized Iranian-American Community

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has "far more innocent blood on its hands" than the Mujahedin-e Khalq organization.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has "far more innocent blood on its hands" than the Mujahedin-e Khalq organization.
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By Sohrab Ahmari
"One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." It's a cliched expression of the moral relativism that too often shapes elite attitudes in the West concerning what constitutes legitimate political action.

According to this view, the acts of radical Islamists, ultranationalists, and other violent groups and states are morally abhorrent only when judged from our perspective as citizens of powerful liberal democracies and beneficiaries of "entrenched interests." The designation "terrorist," under this line of thinking, is a purely political one.

In reality, of course, such sentiments are the privileged province of those who have not been victimized by political terror, whether meted out by nonstate actors like Al-Qaeda or totalitarian regimes like Iran's. The rest of us should recognize terror when we see it.

Left-leaning members of the organized Iranian-American community were right, then, to cry foul in response to renewed congressional efforts to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO, or MEK), the Iranian opposition sect based in northern Iraq, from the U.S. State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).

On August 2, dozens of Iranian-American luminaries and their allies took to the pages of the "Financial Times" with a joint statement denouncing the proposed move. "The [MKO], an organization ... that enjoyed the support of Saddam Hussein lost any following it had in Iran when it fought on Iraq's behalf during the 1980-88 war," they wrote. "Widespread Iranian distaste for the [MKO] has been cemented by its numerous attacks against numerous innocent Iranian civilians."

The Mullahs' Praetorian Guard

Which is all very true. The MKO is indeed a bizarre, Islamo-Marxist cult with a long record of gruesome terrorist attacks against civilian targets and little support among Iran's young democrats.

Yet the statement's authors -- which include many prominent proponents of the failed "engagement" strategy for dealing with Tehran -- have missed the bad faith of the outfit spearheading their campaign: the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), often accused of serving as an unofficial lobby for the Islamic republic and led by the enigmatic Trita Parsi. 

The NIAC is the last organization Iranian-Americans -- not to mention Washington -- should turn to when it comes to moral clarity on the issue of terrorism.

After all, just a few years ago, Parsi and the NIAC were busy urging the State Department not to add another, far worse organization to its list of FTOs: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), often called the mullahs' Praetorian Guard.

Heading the regime's repressive apparatus, including the vicious paramilitary Basij force, the IRGC has far more innocent blood on its hands than the puny MKO. The IRGC and Basij force's brutality against average Iranians captured Western headlines in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election in June 2009 and the subsequent crackdown against peaceful protestors seeking to assert their universal rights.
Numerous witness statements say torture and abuse have been the norm in IRGC-run political prisons.

But the Revolutionary Guards' criminality did not begin in 2009. In the aftermath of a student uprising in 1999, for example, the IRGC helped set up a parallel intelligence apparatus designed to crush internal dissent.

As extensive reporting by the independent Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) and numerous witness statements attest, torture and inhumanity were the norm in IRGC-run political prisons during this period.

"I was beaten for two weeks," one arrested dissident told the IHRDC. "They did not beat me on the face and those body parts which were easily visible. They were beating my back and my head against the wall."

Menace Not Confined To Iran's Borders

Nor is the IRGC's menace confined to Iran's borders. It was the Revolutionary Guards who, in 1982, engendered the Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah, responsible for the Beirut barracks bombing that claimed the lives of 241 Marines -- the single biggest loss for U.S. armed forces since World War II.

Today, through its elite Quds force, the IRGC continues to provide Iraqi insurgents with improvised explosive device equipment and training, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and other U.S. military officials.

Dozens of American and Iraqi personnel and civilians have died as a result of these weapons.
Elite Revolutionary Guard special forces participate in military manoeuvers near the Persian Gulf

Nevertheless, as late as August 2007, Parsi published a memorandum on NIAC's website urging the State Department not to designate the IRGC as an FTO lest such a move "further entrench…U.S.-Iran relations in a paradigm of enmity."

Pointing to the IRGC's domination of the Iranian economy, Parsi argued that targeting the Revolutionary Guards' business dealings would merely increase the costs of the regime's policies without altering them.

More fundamentally, Parsi suggested, designating the IRGC would "strengthen and prolong the dominating narrative in the United States, which reads that stability in the Middle East can only be achieved through Iran's containment and defeat."

Needless to say, the memo contained nary a mention of the Revolutionary Guards' brutality at home or nefarious activities abroad. In Parsi's view then, the IRGC carried no responsibility for the enmity between the superpower and the aspiring regional hegemon.

A Mind-Boggling Volte-Face

Today, the NIAC is eager to claim credit for State Department sanctions imposed on individual human rights violators in Iran, including members of the IRGC.

This about-face is mind-boggling. It also raises some important questions: Were the Revolutionary Guards any less vicious toward oppositionists back in 2007?

Were they not actively engaged in undermining American efforts to stabilize Iraq? If not, then why did the NIAC seek to protect the IRGC's business interests in Washington at that time while now helping to isolate this monstrous entity?

And why does the MKO -- a mostly irrelevant group as ideologically coherent as Lyndon Larouche's cult and just as ineffective -- so raise Parsi and the broader engagement community's ire?

That the NIAC so struggles to reconcile these underlying ideological tensions or win broader support among the diaspora it claims to represent is a testament to its moral bankruptcy.

Its hypocritical approach to the MKO further compounds the impression that it does not represent the values of the Iranian-American community, which, having experienced terror first hand, knows how to consistently recognize it.

Sohrab Ahmari's writing appears in "The Boston Globe," the "Weekly Standard," and "Commentary," among other publications. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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by: Ashraf from: London
August 16, 2011 14:41
I can see that the Iranian regime is changing tactic. Trita Parsi and his group of "experts" are so discredited that now a new tactic (in fact the old 80-20; 80% against the regime and its proxies and only 20% demonize the PMOI devised during Khatami) is now being used. Nonetheless the regime would be infuriated with the prospect of a de-listed PMOI.
Any one claiming to be representing democratic values has to recognize the right of an oppressed people for resistance. Repeating mullahs' unfounded and discredited (in 22 court rulings) allegations against PMOI only reveals the undemocratic attitude of the author and his disrespect for law.

by: EbbyM from: New York
August 16, 2011 17:46
Thank you Mr. Ahmari for exposing NIAC and its Napoleon-complexed leader Titra Parsi for what it is, a shill for the Iranian regime. Notice readers that Ahmari also took the MKO to task for being a backward cult, so NIAC can't smear Ahmari for being part of MKO or a war-monger (their usual tactics). Parsi's strategy is to manipulate unwitting Iranian-Americans (Dokhi Fassihian for example) into believing that he is a fighter for human rights and justice, when in reality all of the things he most passionately agitates against (namely sanctions and the MKO) conveniently serve the Iranian regime's interests.

by: winston from: Canada
August 16, 2011 20:55
NIAC is evil. So is MEK. Both front a terrorist culture. Both are front groups for Islamism. I hate them both passionately.

by: Alice from: Sweden
August 17, 2011 08:06
Some times you have to be too naïve to believe that things happen accidently. In recent days you can read many articles about the out come of delisting MOJAHEDEEN. As I mentioned there has to be a reason to write such article. I have some thing about the writer. Mr. Ahmari is a leading member of American Islamic Congress. When you look at the name of Board of Director, you get a clue . Baronness Emma Nicholson member of the European Parliament well known to Iranian people for her lobbying for Iranian regime in EU and her baseless out rage toward Mojahedin. I don’t believe on conspiracy theory but I look at evidence. Beside this the Iranian regime tactic is obvious; the content of this article is nothing more than recycling the old nonsense accusation to Mujahedeen.

by: Arash Irandoost from: USA
August 17, 2011 11:59

http://hakemiat-e-mardom.blogspot.com/2011/08/joint-statement-about-niac-and-trita_16.html

Joint Statement about NIAC and Trita Parsi بیانیه مشترک در باره لابی نایاک

Over 2,600 individuals and organizations including Iranian and American Iran experts, scholars, human rights activists, academicians, researchers, writers, lawyers, reporters, artists, refugees and former political prisoners denounce NIAC's lobby in favor of the Iranian regime.


A few months ago, Dr. Irandoost invited individuals and organizations with different political views to join a newly created facebook cause to expose and denounce NIAC and Trita Parsi's lobby aimed at manipulating US policy in favor of Islamic Republic and consequently weakening the pro-democracy movement inside Iran.

Supporters of the cause believe that Trita Parsi (a green card holder) and NIAC operate as an undeclared lobby and are guilty of lying to the Iranian-American community, and may have violated tax laws, the Foreign Agent Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Dr. Irandoost invites our compatriots to speak out against Iran’s web of influence in Washington by joining the cause denouncing NIAC's pro-regime activities.


We, 2,625 members of this cause, firmly believe that NIAC and Trita Parsi are “self-appointed” representatives of the Iranian-American community in the US. NIAC and Trita Parsi advocate for policies favorable to the regime and do not express our views and interests. Trita Parsi is not even and Iranian-American and cannot vote. Having been affiliated with convicted felons, he is not qualified to represent us.

Trita Parsi and NIAC operate as an undeclared lobby and are guilty of lying to the Iranian-American community and members of Congress, and may have violated tax laws, the Foreign Agent Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

NIAC has less than 500 paid members, however, there are over one million Iranian- Americans, and how can NIAC claim that it represents us? Has NIAC ever asked for your opinion? Has NIAC helped with the release of a even a single refugee or talked about refugees being raped by the regime thugs? The answer is, NO!

Learn about NIAC and Trita Parsi. Find out the facts for yourself. Visit Hassan Dai’s web site (www.iranianlooby.com). Read NIAC's internal court documents. Tell the world that you can speak for yourself and do not need a spurious organization such as NIAC to speak for you! Search Google for Rise of IRI lobby article by Clare M Lopez. Go to http://hakemiat-e-mardom.blogspot.com/ and do a search on Trita and NIAC.

Bottom line, NIAC is using us to get lucrative deals from big oil and companies who want to do business with Iran. NIAC is ensuring the survival of the regime by advocating for dialogue and diplomacy with a criminal regime and help to buy it time to develop its nuclear weapons program. NIAC says sanctions hurt ordinary people, but works with companies who sell surveillance technologies and sophisticated applications to mullahs.

In an online survey of over 2,000 respondents conducted by PDMI,

https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewf...

• 95% of respondents expressed NIAC did not represent their interests
• 94% of respondents believed NIAC was a lobbyist for the Islamic Republic
• 93% of respondents believed that NIAD has defrauded the federal government
• 80% of respondents stated that NIAC lied to members of Congress about its membership numbers
• 82% of respondents said that they were never asked for their opinion by NIAC
• 1% of respondents believed that NIAC was a human rights organization and
• A large majority of respondents wanted NIAC to disclose its financial documents (91%) , membership list and numbers (85%) , and be held accountable for its actions as a tax exempt, 501 ( c ) tax exempt organization (84%).

Please join the cause and do ask others to join the cause. Your voice is important.

Respectfully,
Dr. Arash Irandoost, Founder
Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran

by: Sohrab
August 17, 2011 18:24
Cult? Only the Iranian regime and its lobbies oppose delisting of MEK. They need the designation to justify execution of MEK supporters in Iran. They need it to justify attacking 3,400 unarmed and civilian members of the MEK living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. US will do as Europe and delist them soon, because this listing is illegal and causes innocent bloodshed in Camp Ashraf.

by: Wonks Anonymous from: United States
August 17, 2011 19:40
The Revolutionary Guards sound like a government's military force. Militaries often do bad things, but the term "terrorist group" is generally applied to non-state actors. Is there any other example of the State Department's list?
In Response

by: JC Vaughan from: Odenton, Maryland
September 14, 2011 20:11
The Revolutionary Guards are, from everything I have read, far more like the Nazi Gestapo under Adolf Hitler, or the Ku Klux Klan during the worst days of Southern U.S. segregation and lynching. The worst thing is, from what I have read, the rank-and-file members honestly believe they are fighting for Allah, Iran and righteousness, even when they are committing the worst Human Rights abuses in the world (as in deliberately raping young virgin girls before executing them so that they will go to hell).

by: kam Joon
August 17, 2011 21:57
NIAC = mullas. Who the hell is this Parsi dude setting up Iran's foreign policy? It shows how bankrupt US politicians are in DC.

by: Mike from: Toronto- canada
August 18, 2011 15:19
I believe this struggle to delist Mojahedin, whatever the result may be, is once more taking direction to expose the people who write for special interest rather than ethics. In todays human's social and individual behavior, one who thinks repressive methods can be resulted in correction is far away from progressive civilization. I have no doubt the author of article is someone who believes in confinement as a tool to correct individual and social behavior. Progressive and open minded people believe in democracy and democratic rights to express as the best method to let the truth and justice grow. It is so unfortunate to see Mr.Sohrab to compare a group which is the ruling party with a group which was ruled upon. You can't compare these 2 social phenomena. This is like Mr. Sohrab is comparing his behavior with his son when they come to a quarrel.

by: Esther Haman from: DC
August 18, 2011 16:31
It is just ludicrous and shameful to have support for a group of people who has killed Americans and Europeans in Iran during the Shah. They have not provided any information on who did the killing or even volunteer to help the authorities to bring the killers to justice. Those issues needs to be resolved first.

These are the same people who took over American embassy in Tehran for 444 days and kept the Americans crew hostage. Their drive to grab hold of power in Iran has blinded them and they will not stop at anything. They have changed their ideology so many times that not even they know what they believe in. Now it is very convenient that they want to side with the same people that they were sworn to kill only a couple of decades ago. HOW CONVENIENT!!

These are the same people who abandoned their own followers in camp Ashraf severaql month back and left them to Iraqis to slaughter them. Where was the leadership then??! I am sure some where safe and well feed.

These are the same group of people who sided with Saddam Hussein of Iraq and killed their own country men during the 8 years long Iraq/Iran war. Not to mention gassing the Kurds. Who in Iran will side with them when their relatives was killed by these traitors?!! Think about that a minute!!

Now you people want us to go in bed with these cut throat bunch to do our dirty deeds for us in Iran and terrorize the Iranians?! How shameful is that thought!?

Get real..
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