Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Iranian opposition accused Tehran of interfering in the affairs of Arab states “in order to protect the Tehran regime from collapse.” The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization [MKO] which said that it spent more than $200 million preparing and outfitting Camp Ashraf in northern Iraq. MKO also stressed that despite this investment it does not object to the transfer of its approximate 3,400 members residing within the camp outside of Iraq following an attack on the camp two weeks ago which resulted in 35 casualties.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat from the headquarters of the MKO in Paris, Mohammed Mohaddesin, chairman of the MKO Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the Iranian regime’s “double-standards” towards the uprisings taking place in the Arab world. He said that Tehran is extremely concerned that these protests could spread to Iran, with a popular uprising taking place against the Wilayat al-Faqih [Guardian of the Jurists] regime, which has been in power for more than 30 years.
Mohaddesin referred to the Iranian regime’s brutal suppression of the Iranian opposition both at home and abroad, as well as the regime’s efforts to take advantage of the current unrest in many Arab states to activate its sleeper cells there. As for the accusations that Iran is interfering in the internal affairs of Arab states, Mohaddesin told Asharq Al-Awsat that such accusations are true and that “this interference began in Iraq. The Iranian regime, through its agents, turned Iraq into an arena for it to extent its influence, in an attempt to separate Iraq from the Arab world.” He added “these efforts brought Iran face-to-face with many Arab states.”
Mohaddesin also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Iranian interference has now extended to Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and the rest of the Arab states.” He added “the greatest problem’s in the Arab world has been caused by Iran’s interference, whether it is direct or indirect.” Mohaddesin also said that the Iranian interference in Aran affairs is far greater than many believe, stressing that “the Arab states are only mentioning one instance in a thousand regarding [Iran’s] interference.”
Mohaddesin stressed that the ruling regime in Tehran has adopted a policy of expansion since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that Tehran “is in the process of establishing an Islamic empire that extends from the sea to the Gulf.” He added that “the state of Iraq is naturally the first target for the mullahs’ regime, due to the Shiite majority there.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat “I want to tell the officials in the Arab states and the youth of the revolution that have taken place in various states in the region that the Iranian regime is the archenemy of democracy.” He added: “If genuine democracy is established in Iraq and the Arab states, this will represent the hangman’s rope for the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.”
Mohaddesin also said that “the recent attack on Camp Ashraf in Iraq reflects the real state of the dying mullahs’ regime.” He added that the Tehran regime is continuing to plan the destruction of the MKO mujahedeen and Camp Ashraf.
He also referred to the deteriorating situation in Iran, adding that the Iranian people are now chanting the slogan “Mubarak, Ben Ali…Your turn is next, Sayyed Ali” [in a reference to Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. He said that the Iranian regime has increased its suppression of the opposition both at home and abroad, and was indirectly involved in the attack on Camp Ashraf.
Mohaddesin said that the death toll from the attack on Camp Ashraf, carried out by Iraqi security forces two weeks ago, rose to 35 after one of the wounded, Banham Atiqi, died due to a lack of medical capabilities within the camp. He added that another 13 people wounded in the attack are in a critical state, and accused the Iraqi authorities of being responsible for the slow death of the wounded. Mohaddesin called on the international community to intervene to relieve the Camp Ashraf wounded.
In reply to a question posed by Asharq Al-Awsat on the issue of whether the presence of the MKO in Iraq represents a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, Mohaddesin replied that “the party that is violating Iraqi sovereignty and constantly interfering in its internal affairs is the Iranian regime.” He accused Tehran of “infiltrating all administrative, political, and security institutions and agencies in Iraq.”
As for why the US has placed the MKO organization on the US State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations, Mohaddesin told Asharq Al-Awsat that this dates back to 1998 when the US administration of the time sought to make a gesture of good will towards the Iranian regime. He added “unfortunately, despite protests from Congress and notable US figures against this decision, successive US administrations have pursued this policy.” He also noted that the Washington Court of Appeals had invalidated the description of the MKO as a terrorist organization, and called on the US State Department to review this.
As for the effectiveness of this Iranian opposition group operating from Paris, Mohaddesin stressed that the MKO has managed to secure huge support in Europe, including a motion put to French parliament stressing the necessity of establishing democracy in Iran based upon the “separation of religion and state.” In addition to this, the French Senate had called on the United Nations to support the rights of the Camp Ashraf residents, whilst the EU Council and European parliament have also made similar requests.
As for whether the MKO leadership is attempting to secure the safe transfer of the Camp Ashraf residents outside of Iran, Mohaddesin told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the MKO transformed [Camp] Ashraf from a dust-covered plot of land in an arid desert with no resources to a city that enjoys modern facilities, spending more than $200 million on [outfitting] the camp.”
He added that “in spite of this, we informed the UN and the Americans that we are not insistent on remaining in Iraq and that they can bring airplanes now to transport all Camp Ashraf residents to the US or Europe and we will pay the transportation costs. However we would prefer to return to our homeland, Iran, provided that security, freedom of expression, and political activity are ensured.”
Mohaddesin told Asharq Al-Awsat that the people of Iran are not seeking to reform the regime because they are well aware that the Wilayet al-Faqih [Guardian of the Jurists] system is “not Iranian, Islamic, or humanitarian.” He added “this regime is completely isolated within Iran. If genuine elections were held, the mullahs would not secure even 3 percent of the vote. That is why the regime always avoids free elections.”
Mohaddesin also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Tehran regime, which has been in power since 1979, has managed to survive “by depending on brutal repression and executions, including the execution of more than 120,000 people, mostly members and supporters of the MKO.” He added: “We published the names and details of 20,000 of these martyrs.”