MEK’s Dollars attract US officals
Ashraf News publishes the report prepared by the writer Yusef Kamel on the Siyasa Post website, on Wednesday, in which she spoke about the methods used by the MEK, which was regarded a terrorist group by Washington, and how it has penetrated the United States.
In his report, writer Yusef Kamel notes that "the MEK used the money to gain support from the White House by recruiting some American officials."
Ashraf News publishes the text of the report
This report is part of the "Pilgrimage to Washington" project to cover the activities of Middle Eastern lobbies in the United States between 2010-2020. Most of the information in the report is based on documents from a database affiliated with the US Department of Justice, which is affiliated with the Foreign Agents Registration (FARA) Act, which requires lobbyists to disclose their activities and funds, and all documents are available for browsing on the Internet.
How can a "terrorist" movement break through the barrier and build a wide network of relations with former and current American politicians with the aim of influencing the United States' positions on the movement and its activities? This is what we answered in the report before us, which is based on documents related to the movement, from the databases of the US Department of Justice.
What is the MEK?
The Mujaheen Khalq Organization is the largest movement in opposition to the Iranian regime, it was founded in 1965, and was active at first against the Shah's regime, which executed a number of its founders and members in 1972. The movement participated strongly in the Iranian revolution in 1979, but soon the dispute began between the new regime led by Khomeini and the organization, which objected to the system of guardianship of the jurist, so that this dispute turned into a bloody fight between the two parties; many of its members were arrested and executed, and the movement announced the beginning of the armed resistance against the nascent Islamic regime.
During the years, the movement carried out many military operations against the leaders of the Iranian regime, the most famous of which was the bombing that paralyzed the hand of the current Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after placing explosive materials in a tape recorder that he used in a sermon. Massoud Rajavi assumed its leadership from exile in France, and the first president of the Iranian Republic, Abul-Hassan Bani Sadr, joined the coalition. In Iraq, the organization’s members were stationed in Camp Ashraf, near the Iraqi city of Khalis, and from there the movement carried out many operations against Iran. Iranian planes bombed the camp after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and it was subjected to a violent attack from the Iraqi security services under the Maliki government, after the US invasion of Iraq. Finally, the organization’s members in Iraq were transferred to the camp Freedom under the protection of the US forces, near Baghdad Airport.
Tidal relations with the West
The decision to place it on the terrorism list was also a strategy by US President Bill Clinton, to approach the moderate wing of the Iranian regime. France also raided the movement’s offices in Paris and arrested sympathizers, but the movement succeeded in getting out of this international isolation. Britain in 2008 removed its name from the terrorism list, and the European Union joined it in 2009.
Finally, the US decision in 2012 came after political pressure from former lawmakers and members of the US administration, and the movement had marketed itself as a potential alternative to the Iranian regime. This facilitated the gathering of Western support for it. Although the movement is on the lists of terrorism, it was under American protection after the invasion of Iraq, but that protection faced a challenge in 2009, with an attack on Camp Ashraf where the movement was stationed, which prompted the United States to search for a new shelter for the MEK away from Iraq; that is the country of Albania.
The movement transferred its members and camps to Albania under the supervision of the United Nations, and Tirana, the capital of Albania, became the seat of its activities and individuals, and the movement says that the number of its members in Albania exceeds 3,400 individuals. In the following lines, we review the movement’s campaign to pressure Washington and expand its influence over American currents in the Congress, the White House and foreign affairs, especially from the conservative American right.
MEK pressures Iranian officials in the Foreign Affairs
The contract was signed on April 4, 2013, and the company is represented by Robert Torricelli, an 18-year-old former Democratic Senator and Representative, who entered the world of political pressure after public action. The former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli stood at a rally in front of the White House in November 2013 to protest against the visit of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to the White House.
Noteworthy to mention that Torricelli is one of the most important pillars of the MEK network in Washington, and with the progress of the company's work, Torricelli met with officials in the movement at least twice a year, with the aim of coordination, and these meetings took place in several western cities: Paris, London, Brussels, Washington, Toronto, Canada, and of course Albania. In the Congress, the company only disclosed meetings in 2013-2014, with the influential Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the staunchest supporters of Israel in the House, and a fierce opponent of Iran, and who is one of the Democrats who violated the party line and the Barack Obama administration line, it also voted against the nuclear agreement with Iran, in line with the Israeli lobby and with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who completely opposed the agreement. This is not just a statement, but the senator stopped a huge deal estimated at 6 billion dollars to sell Apache fighters to the Iraqi government for a period of six months, only to return and agree to the deal after the Iraqi government's war with the Islamic State (ISIS).
After an attack on the camp in 2013, and the killing of 30 members of the organization in a missile attack, the US Senator issued a statement condemning the event and calling on the Iraqi government to assume its responsibility to protect the members of the movement and prosecute the perpetrators of the attack. In 2014, he gave a speech via a video link at the movement's annual conference, held in Paris. The leader of the movement, Maryam Rajavi, promised that US support for Iraq would be linked to Iraq's good treatment of the Mujahideen.
Photo of the MEK payments for the period between April - October 2013. Source: FARA Database
The American Intercept attributed this desperate defense of Senator Menendez to the financial contributions the MEK made to him. He received separate donations from the movement amounting to 25 thousand dollars within two years. This makes him the most heavily funded American politician from the movement on the newspaper's list.
The company began its activities with contacts and a meeting with David Wade, John Kerry's chief of staff, then US Secretary of State. Then, it contacted Brett McGurk, an American diplomat who was one of the most important personnel in the Middle East, and at the time held the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. It is worth noting that he later became the special presidential envoy for the international coalition to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) between 2015-2018, and he met with the company several times during the past years.
At our hands, we have the name Jonathan Weiner, one of the most important faces with whom the movement communicated and coordinated continuously, and he is an American diplomat who worked for many years with Secretary of State, Kerry, and since September 2013 he was appointed a special advisor for the US State Department on the file of the MEK transfer from Iraq. At the same time, he was appointed a special envoy to Libya. This explains the intensity of communication with him. Finally, during the company's early years, it reached out to Andrew Snow, an official working in the Department’s Iraq office.
In addition to the list of State Department officials was the famous diplomat Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, the most important diplomat who worked on the Iranian file, and the most prominent figure of the "maximum pressure" policy adopted by the Donald Trump administration to put pressure on Iran. The company began contacting him in 2018 and it resulted in two meetings. The documents contain an orphan contact with Rich Autzen, a former US military who started his work at the US State Department in mid-2016, as a senior policy planning advisor, working on Middle East affairs, specifically Syria, and there was one contact with Gabriel Nurona, a State Department official working on the Iranian file.
With the transfer of the movement and its cadres to a camp in Albania, the company began to coordinate with American diplomats working there, and contacted David Muniz, former deputy head of the American diplomatic mission in the capital, Tirana, and it contacted the diplomat that succeeded him in his post; Layla Moses Wans.
Finally, the company has contacts and encounters with Timothy Onright, a military-political affairs officer at the US Embassy in Tirana. The relationship still exists between the company and its Iranian customer, and during the years of their work it got two million and 87 thousand US dollars, according to company documents in the US Department of Justice.
A former official working for the Mujahideen Khalq
The MEK, in the name of the "National Council of Resistance of Iran," signed a contract with Robert Joseph, a former US State Department official, who served as deputy secretary of state for arms control and international security between 2005-2007. Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, the Iranian nuclear project comes to mind; the movement had a major role in uncovering the Iranian nuclear project in 2002, and until these recent years it remains a source of information from within Iran about the new reactors.
The MEK is represented in this contract by Farzin Hashemi, a member of the Foreign Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The files of the US Department of Justice indicate that the contract with Robert Joseph secured the movement with meetings with several personalities in the US administration and research centers, including, between January and June 2019, a meeting with Richard Goldberg, senior advisor. In the Defense of Democracy organization, which is a right-wing think tank that supports Israel, and it calls for the use of military force in Middle East affairs and against Iran.
In addition to meetings with researchers from think tanks whose names have not been revealed, The company had four meetings with Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran at the time, and a meeting with John Rudd, the US deputy defense secretary for policy. From September 2019 through January 2020, the company met with Tim Morrison, a former Trump adviser on Russia and Europe.
The documents state that the company met on behalf of the movement with several researchers from different research centers, and only disclosed the name of Anthony Ruggiero, who was then a researcher at the Organization for Defense of Democracies, but he left it to work in the National Security Council since 2019 in the Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
MEK Dollar attracts US officials
A New York Times report revealed that the movement exploited its influence with American political figures and journalists, in order to obtain approval from Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in 2012, to remove its name from the list of terrorist organizations, and among these names: James Wesley and Porter Goss, both former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as Louise Freeh, former head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and national security advisor to President Obama, General James Jones.
The movement holds an annual conference, and at its 2018 conference in the French capital Paris, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Trump's lawyer, one of his most close advisors, and one of his closest confidants, made a speech threatening the Iranian regime. Among the attendees was Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives (1995-1999), as well as 33 senior officials attending the conference, including Bill Richardson, the former US Secretary of Energy. At the conference before it in 2017, John Bolton, who would later become President Trump's National Security Adviser, was the guest of honor.
Press reports mention that the movement usually pays huge sums for speeches delivered by American personalities, ranging between 15,000 and 30,000 dollars in addition to travel costs, and the matter reaches the point that former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Randall stated that he received an amount ranging between 150,000 And 160 thousand dollars from MEK.
A Side Contract
Another contract was signed by the MEK in the name of its political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, this time with Michael Mukasey, on September 26, 2019. He is a former American public prosecutor between 2007 and 2009, who provided legal services to the movement, and has a relationship with it dating back to 2015, when he gave a set of paid speeches for the movement, since at least 2015. Michael Mukasey contacted the political analyst at the US State Department, Dan Rhodes, and held a meeting with him to discuss the issue of entry visas to America for members of the movement, and on July 17, 2020, he delivered a speech online calling for severe sanctions against the Iranian regime. Total payments for the movement to Mukasey were close to $ 22,000, according to the documents.