state-backed Iran Times carries a report from Iran’s Mehr news service that alleges that it learned from Interpol that Gholam Shakuri is a member of the People’s Holy Jihadis guerrilla group (the Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK). The MEK wants to see the rule of the ayatollahs in Iran overthrown.
Shakuri is the second person named in the Department of Justice case that holds that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was involved with expatriate Manssor Arbabsiar in a plot to blow up the Saudi Ambassador in Washington.
The paper says that Interpol has evidence that Shakuri was in Camp Ashraf, the compound where members are virtually imprisoned (in inhumane circumstances and with occasional attacks on them) by the now-Shiite government in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had given the base to the MEK so as to allow them to carry out spying, sabotage and terrorist missions against the Islamic Republic.
The People’s Holy Jihadis was one of two prominent guerrilla groups active in Iran in the 1970s against the government of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the then king and a close US ally. The other was the Fedayan-i Khalq or ‘those who sacrifice themselves for the people,’ a Marxist group. The MEK for its part mixed Islam and Marxism and was headed by the charismatic Massoud Rajavi, to whom members had a fanatic devotion. I remember when I was in Iran in summer, 1976, the newspapers were full of jeremiads about the Islamic Marxists, and I was shown a bombed-out second story apartment in South Tehran, allegedly MEK work.
The organization played a role in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but was marginalized by Imam Ruhollah Khomeini when he came to power. They then turned to terrorism, conducting a number of large bombings (one, in the early 1980s against the government, killed 81, including high government officials). The regime waged a vicious dirty war against them, killing some 10,000 in the 1980s (see the important study by Ervand Abrahamian). Because of the bombings, the group became extremely unpopular inside Iran, and was reduced to expatriate plotting.
Rajavi was succeeded by his wife Maryam. The MEK is nowadays a manipulative and authoritarian political cult that has taken in otherwise canny US politicians such as Howard Dean and many Congressmen on the Hill. There is some reason to think that it is secretly supported by Israel (presumably MEK leaders have privately assured Tel Aviv that they will recognize Israel if they come to power). Prominent right wing Israel apologists such as Daniel Pipes have campaigned to have the MEK taken off the State Department terrorist watch list. The Neoconservatives in the Pentagon used Camp Ashraf in Iraq to spy on Iran and on Shiite political groups in Iraq. The MEK continues to try to overthrow the Iranian government. It is highly intolerant of criticism and has bought well-placed US politicians and flacks, so it is dangerous to criticize it.
If Shakuri is an MEK double agent, then that would blow the FBI case against Iran out of the water, since they are constantly plotting against Tehran and are entirely capable of trying to frame the ayatollahs.
Iran is sourcing this allegation to Interpol, so it should be easy enough to confirm or falsify the claim– we can just ask Interpol if it is well founded.
Of course, Shakuri might not be MEK and Iran could be trying to muddy the waters by alleging an FBI/ MEK conspiracy against it. But then why bring in Interpol, why not just source the accusation to Iranian intelligence?