Interim Governing Council expels Mujahidin
According to AP, the Iraqi Interim Governing Council has decided to expel from the country the terrorist group, the Mujahidin-i Khalq. The Mujahidin-i Khalq Organization or Holy Warriors of the People (MKO) had about 4,000 men at the Ashraf Base near the Iranian border in the Saddam period, from which it launched terrorist operations inside Iran. Saddam, who fought the Islamic Republic 1980-1988 and who remained on bad terms with the ayatollahs thereafter, used the MKO as a way to harass the Iranians.
The US had occupied the MKO base in June, but had not closed down the organization or expelled it, hoping to use it as a quid pro quo with the Iranians, in an effort to get them to turn over to the US the al-Qaeda operatives Iran had captured. This move of the IGC either indicates that a deal has been struck, and the US will get the al-Qaeda personnel from Iran; or it indicates the independence of the IGC from the US and perhaps even a certain amount of Iranian influence on that body. (Several IGC members, including Ahmad Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, are rumored to get money from Iran). Although State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has denied that the US ever planned to trade the Mujahidin-i Khalq in Iraq for the al-Qaeda members in Iranian custody, he may have been being coy. I don’t think the deal sought was an exchange. It was more like a threat: If Iran did not turn over al-Qaeda members in its possession, the MKO might be given renewed freedom of movement in Iraq, which would allow it to go on hitting across the border into Iran.
The MKO originated in a group of radical Iranian students in the early 1970s, and carried out somewhat futile guerrilla strikes at the Shah’s government. It joined in the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution. After Khomeini’s return on February 1, 1979, Iran quickly became a clerically-dominated state in which there was no room for a leftist/populist Muslim militia. The Khomeinists and the MKO fell apart, and began attacking one another. The MKO conducted spectacular bombings, one of which killed over 80 high Iranian clerical politicians. But it was unable to spark a general uprising against the ayatollahs. In their turn, the Khomeinists launched a massive persecution of MKO members, killing an estimated 10,000 in the early to mid-1980s.
Writers in New York and Washington associated with the far rightwing Likud Party of Israel, such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson, have come out in support of the Mujahidin-i Khalq. This support from this quarter seems to me suspicious in the extreme, and suggests a desire among some neocons to use the MKO against the Iranian regime. Pipes, who supports this terrorist organization, was appointed by President Bush to the US Institute for Peace, over the objections of one of USIP’s founders, Senator Tom Harkin.