Wednesday, April 30, 2003

US defends ceasefire deal with Iran opposition group

US defends ceasefire deal with Iran opposition group
Agence France Presse

April 30, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 30 (AFP) - The United States on Wednesday defended a ceasefire deal concluded with an Iraq-based armed Iranian opposition group that it has designated a terrorist organization.

A senior State Department official also rejected claims from Tehran that the agreement US forces reached with the People's Mujahedeen, or MKO, called into question Washington's commitment to the war on terrorism.

"The United States government does not negotiate with terrorists," said Cofer Black, the department's counter-terrorism coordinator.

"(MKO's) opposition to the Iranian government does not change the fact that they are a terrorist organization," he said, noting that US forces now in Iraq had agreed to the ceasefire as a "prelude to the group's surrender."

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

U.S. reaches cease-fire with terror group

U.S. reaches cease-fire with terror group
Associated Press
April 29, 2003

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- The U.S. cease-fire with an Iranian exile group it considers a terrorist organization allows the Mujahedeen Khalq to defend itself from Iranian-sponsored attacks and keep its artillery and other weapons, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The cease-fire signed April 15 appears to be a way for the United States to increase pressure on Iran, which Washington has accused of meddling in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

But it represents a conundrum of sorts for the United States, which has classified the Iraq-based group as a terrorist organization. The United States went to war against Iraq in part to dismantle what it said were terrorist networks supported by Saddam.

U.S. officials had said they were working out a capitulation by the group, also known as the People's Mujahedeen. But on Tuesday, a U.S. military official said the deal doesn't require the group's fighters to surrender to coalition forces -- at least for now.

It allows the Mujahedeen Khalq to use military force against what the United States says are Iranian infiltrators entering Iraq, such as the Badr Brigade, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Independent newspaper of Britain has reported that armed members of the Badr Brigade had crossed into Iraq from Iran and were holding sway in Baqubah, a town 25 miles northeast of Baghdad. The brigade is the military wing of the Iran-based anti-Saddam group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The U.S. official said the Mujahedeen Khalq "reserves the right of self-defense against the Iranian regime's attacks."

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group that includes the Mujahedeen, says members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have entered Iraq and fought the Mujahedeen in recent weeks.

A top official in the council, Mohammad Mohaddessin, praised the agreement and said anything short of allowing Mujahedeen fighters to defend themselves would have only benefited the Tehran regime.

"It would only be natural that the Mujahedeen ... would be able to keep their weapons against such a common enemy," he said by telephone from Paris.

When asked how the United States could make deals with groups classified as terrorists, the U.S. military official said the cease-fire was a battlefield agreement that coalition commanders were entitled to negotiate.

"Like all other parties in Iraq we will use U.S. influence and power to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment," the official said.

Mohaddessin said the accord showed that the Mujahedeen should not be considered a terrorist group. He said he expected the Mujahedeen would negotiate another "agreement of mutual understanding" with the United States about the eventual status of their forces in Iraq in the near future.

U.S. officials have charged that Shiite Muslim-controlled Iran was sending in operatives to further destabilize the country and promote an Iranian-style theocracy for Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ruled out a theocracy for Iraq. On Monday, in an interview with the Qatar-based satellite channel al-Jazeera, he said Iran's meddling was problematic.

"That type of external influence I don't think is helpful," he said. "I don't know anyone who does think it's helpful except the few people from Iran that run that country, a small clique of clerics."

Shiites make up over 60 percent of Iraq's population, and there are concerns that free elections might produce an Islamic-oriented government with close ties to the historically anti-American Shiite clerics who have governed Iran since 1979.

Iran has denied meddling in Iraq. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Tehran wants to see an Iraqi government that is chosen by the people.

"For us the most important thing is that the Iraqi people independently choose their leadership and that the new government depends on the will of all the ethnic strata of Iraq," Kharrazi said.

The U.S. military official outlined the cease-fire deal, which he said was signed by a coalition forces commander and Mahdi Baraie of the Mujahedeen Khalq to "ensure a complete cessation of hostilities."

Under the agreement, the official said, the Mujahedeen agreed to "not fire upon or commit any hostile act toward any coalition forces; not destroy or damage any government or private property, for example public infrastructure, oil pumping, refining, storage, or transportation facilities, and ... place all towed artillery and air defense artillery in a passive travel mode."

In return, coalition forces agreed to not damage the group's vehicles or equipment and not fire upon or commit any hostile act toward its forces.

"Additionally the agreement does not surrender or capitulate troops under the command of the (Mujahedeen Khalq) commander," the official said.

During the 1970s, the group was accused in attacks that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Iran. It reportedly backed the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, but later broke with Iran's government. The group has denied involvement in the killing of U.S. servicemen and says it didn't support the embassy takeover.

U.S. cease-fire with Iranian exile group allows it to respond to Iranian-sponsored attacks

U.S. cease-fire with Iranian exile group allows it to respond to Iranian-sponsored attacks
Associated Press
April 29, 2003

By Nicole Winfield
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) The U.S. cease-fire with an Iranian exile group it considers a terrorist organization allows the Mujahedeen Khalq to defend itself from Iranian-sponsored attacks and keep its artillery and other weapons, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The cease-fire signed April 15 appears to be a way for the United States to increase pressure on Iran, which Washington has accused of meddling in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

But it represents a conundrum of sorts for the United States, which has classified the Iraq-based group as a terrorist organization. The United States went to war against Iraq in part to dismantle what it said were terrorist networks supported by Saddam's regime.

U.S. officials had said they were working out a capitulation by the left-leaning group, also known as the People's Mujahedeen. But on Tuesday, a U.S. military official said the deal doesn't require the group's fighters to surrender to coalition forces at least for now.

It allows the Mujahedeen Khalq to use military force against what the United States says are Iranian infiltrators entering Iraq, such as the Badr Brigade, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Independent newspaper of Britain has reported that armed members of the Badr Brigade had crossed into Iraq from Iran and were holding sway in Baqubah, a town 25 miles northeast of Baghdad. The brigade is the military wing of the Iran-based anti-Saddam group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The U.S. official said the Mujahedeen Khalq also ''reserves the right of self-defense against the Iranian regime's attacks.''

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group that includes the Mujahedeen, says members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have crossed into Iraq and fought Mujahedeen fighters in recent weeks.

A top official in the council, Mohammad Mohaddessin, praised the agreement and said anything short of allowing Mujahedeen fighters to defend themselves would have only benefited the Tehran regime.

''It would only be natural that the Mujahedeen ... would be able to keep their weapons against such a common enemy,'' he said in a telephone interview from Paris.

When asked how the United States could make deals with groups classified as terrorists, the U.S. military official said the cease-fire was a battlefield agreement that coalition commanders were entitled to negotiate.

''Like all other parties in Iraq we will use U.S. influence and power to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment,'' the official said.

Mohaddessin said the agreement showed that the Mujahedeen should not be considered a terrorist group. He said he expected the Mujahedeen would negotiate another ''agreement of mutual understanding'' with the United States about the eventual status of their forces in Iraq in the near future.

U.S. officials have charged that Shiite Muslim-controlled Iran was sending operatives into neighboring Iraq to destabilize the country further and promote an Iranian-style theocracy among Iraq's predominantly Shiite population.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ruled out a theocracy for Iraq. On Monday, in an interview with the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, he said Iran's meddling was problematic.

''That type of external influence I don't think is helpful,'' he said. ''I don't know anyone who does think it's helpful except the few people from Iran that run that country, a small clique of clerics.''

Shiites make up over 60 percent of Iraq's population, and there are concerns that free elections might produce an Islamic-oriented government with close ties to the historically anti-American Shiite clerics who have governed Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Iran has denied meddling in Iraq. On Monday, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Tehran wants to see an Iraqi government that is chosen by the people.

''For us the most important thing is that the Iraqi people independently choose their leadership and that the new government depends on the will of all the ethnic strata of Iraq,'' Kharrazi said while visiting Azerbaijan.

The U.S. military official outlined the scope of the cease-fire deal, which he said was signed by a coalition forces commander and Mahdi Baraie of the Mujahedeen Khalq to ''ensure a complete cessation of hostilities.''

Under the agreement, the official said, the Mujahedeen agreed to ''not fire upon or commit any hostile act toward any coalition forces; not destroy or damage any government or private property, for example public infrastructure, oil pumping, refining, storage, or transportation facilities, and ... place all towed artillery and air defense artillery in a passive travel mode.''

In return, coalition forces agreed to not damage any of the group's vehicles or equipment and not fire upon or commit any hostile act toward its forces.

''Additionally the agreement does not surrender or capitulate troops under the command of the (Mujahedeen Khalq) commander,'' the official said.

During the 1970s, the group staged attacks that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Iran. It supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 but later broke with the Iranian government.

Women Brush Off the Hardships of Rebel Life

Women Brush Off the Hardships of Rebel Life
By DAVID ROHDE

New York Times
April 29, 2003

Three weeks ago, Mahnaz Bazazi was an ally of Saddam Hussein, a member of a terrorist group and an enemy of the United States. That is why an allied bomb hit the military base where she works. Three women were killed in the attack and Ms. Bazazi lost both her legs.

Now, however, the organization Ms. Bazazi belongs to, the People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian guerrilla group working for the overthrow of the Islamic government in Iran, has become the first terrorist group to sign a cease-fire with American forces.

''We never had any animosity toward the United States,'' Ms. Bazazi, a senior commander of the group, said from her hospital bed. ''We never fired at the American soldiers.''

The graveyard on the group's sprawling base here, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, is a testament to the success of recent Iranian efforts to infiltrate Iraq. Officials here said pro-Iranian fighters who crossed into Iraq had killed at least 20 members of the group in the last two and a half weeks.

The group's cadres are an odd mix of graying revolutionaries and young female volunteers who may have been born in Iran, but did not grow up there. Many of the young women said they had never visited Iran as adults and were risking their lives for a place they could barely remember. Some are the children of revolutionaries.

Mahnaz Afshar, 21, was in high school in Florida three years ago. Her eyes brightened at the memory. She came here, she said, because she felt a need to ''take responsibility'' and try to work for a secular government in Iran.

Now she is part of an all-female tank unit that officials showed off to journalists today. A quarter of the group's fighters are women.

Today they gathered in a semicircle, wearing tan uniforms, black combat boots and olive head scarves.

Sahar Gholamali said she left Toronto two years ago at 17. She said Iranian officials had hanged her father when he refused to give them information.

She herself was born in a jail cell. ''I was born in prison,'' she said. ''It's helped my motives because I knew many people were like me.''

Fazeh Saadat, who spent seven years in Denmark with foster parents, said she had always thought she was not supposed to lead a normal life while there were people her age suffering in Iran.

''They said I shouldn't get killed, but that's what parents say.'' Ms. Saadat said her biological parents were both members of the group.

''I don't know what base they are on,'' she said, but added that it was not a problem. ''If I miss them or anything I just go to tell my commander and I go see them.''

The hospital ward where Ms. Bazazi was staying had a half dozen other wounded women. Two others had lost a leg in allied bomb attacks. Another six were wounded in ambushes by pro-Iranian fighters.

Ms. Bazazi said she had an adult daughter in Germany whom she had not seen for years; but she quickly changed the subject.

''Let me tell you, legs are not that important to us,'' she said. ''What is more important to me is to see my homeland free of mullahs.''

American Forces And Terror Group Reach Cease-Fire

American Forces And Terror Group Reach Cease-Fire
By DOUGLAS JEHL WITH MICHAEL R. GORDON

New York Times
April 29, 2003

American forces in Iraq have signed a cease-fire with an Iranian opposition group the United States has designated a terrorist organization, and expect it to surrender soon with some of its arms, American military officials said today.

Under the deal, signed on April 15 but confirmed by the United States Central Command only today, United States forces agreed not to damage any of the group's vehicles, equipment or any of its property in its camps in Iraq, and not to commit any hostile act toward the Iranian opposition forces covered by the agreement.

In return, the group, the People's Mujahedeen, which will be allowed to keep its weapons for now, agreed not to fire on or commit other hostile acts against American forces, not to destroy private or government property, and to place its artillery and antiaircraft guns in nonthreatening positions.

The accord is apparently the first between the United States military -- which in early April was bombing the group's Iraqi camps -- and a terrorist organization, and it raises questions about how consistently the Bush administration intends to apply a policy that had vowed to crack down on terrorist groups worldwide.

The Iranian group, which is led by a woman and has an estimated 10,000 members in Iraq, has no known ties to Al Qaeda, but its members killed several American military personnel and civilian contractors in the 1970's and supported the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

It has carried out dozens of bombings that were aimed at Iranian military and government workers, but that also killed civilians.

It was added to the State Department's list of terrorist organizations in 1997. [Page A18.]

An American military official said the group could provide intelligence regarding Iranian government activities both in Iraq, and in Iran itself.

A spokesman for the Central Command, in Doha, Qatar, who was responding to a reporter's inquiry, issued a three-sentence statement today that provided the basic outlines of the cease-fire.

A senior military officer said he expected the accord to be followed in the next few days by a formal capitulation agreement, and he indicated that the group would eventually have to give up some of its arms.

The accord with the People's Mujahadeen reflects a pragmatic approach to a security problem for an American military that already has its hands full trying to stabilize Baghdad and other areas of Iraq. But it raises the issue of how to square the accord with the administration's antiterrorism policy.

A State Department official said tonight that the deal was not inconsistent with the broader effort against terrorism. The official said the agreement with the group, which operated with support and protection from Saddam Hussein's government, would help the United States learn more about Iraq's ties to terrorism and the nature of its former government.

''You can't get information out of a dead man,'' the official said. He said the decision to call a halt to American bombing and other attacks against the group did not reflect any change in its terrorist status. ''It's a cease-fire,'' he said, ''that's all it means.''

As recently as last week, senior Pentagon officials described the group as a vicious entity that had served as a de facto security organization for the Iraqi government. At the same time, however, supporters of the People's Mujahadeen, including dozens of members of Congress, have portrayed the decision to label the group as terrorist as one that was taken by the Clinton administration largely as a positive gesture to the Iranian government, which regards the People's Mujahadeen as a serious foe.

A senior American officer said several approaches, or ''courses of action'' were being considered by the United States government as to what to do about the group and its weapons over the long run.

Asked why American commanders would sign a cease-fire with a terrorist organization, a Central Command spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens, said he had no further information. He noted that the State Department was responsible for decisions about the status of terrorist groups.

At a time when United States forces are stretched thin in Iraq, the Mujahadeen organization is one of the few groups of armed fighters that had been affiliated with the Hussein government that is not a threat to American forces, they said. American military officers in Iraq said they expected that some of the group's weapons might be confiscated once the capitulation agreement was signed.

One motivation for allowing the People's Mujahadeen to keep some weapons, they said, was to leave in place a balance of power between the group and the Iranian-backed fighters known as the Badr Brigade. Some of those fighters are based in Iraq and have continued to focus on the organization even since the fall of the Hussein government. If the Mujahadeen group were disarmed, American forces would have to assume the responsibility of separating the two antagonists, a task the heavily burdened American forces do not want to assume.

Muhammad Mohaddessin, a top People's Mujahadeen official, said in a telephone interview from Paris that ''this cease-fire agreement gives us the right to keep our weapons in noncombat formations and the right to defend ourselves'' against attacks from Iranian-backed forces. None of the group's members had been taken into custody by American forces, Mr. Mohaddessin said.

The statement issued by the Central Command said the cease-fire had been signed by ''a coalition forces commander and a Mr. Mahdi Baraie of the National Liberation Army of Iran,'' the armed wing of the Mujahadeen organization.

Military officials declined to identify the ''coalition forces commander,'' but senior military officers said the agreement was being enforced in areas north of Baghdad under the control of the Army's V Corps. Mr. Mohaddessin, the People's Mujahadeen official, identified Mr. Baraie as a senior official of the organization and a member of its army's general staff.

As recently as April 22, the Central Command spokesman in Doha, Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, declined to say whether a cease-fire with the People's Mujahadeen, known to the United States government as the Mujahedeen Khalq, or M.E.K., had been signed.

''We certainly know that the United States has maintained the M.E.K., as we describe it, on the terrorist list, and they still are,'' General Brooks said at the time. ''So, until that changes, we view them that way. However, there's still discussion that's ongoing right now to determine exactly what the condition and what the status will be and how we'll handle them. It's premature for me to describe exactly what that will be at this point.''

The disclosure that a cease-fire had been signed on April 15 suggests statements by American officers lagged events.

On April 17, General Brooks said at a briefing in Doha that work intended ''to secure some agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation'' would ''most likely unfold within the coming days.''

A senior military officer said a formal capitulation from the group was likely to be taken in coming days by the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, which is conducting peace enforcement in Tikrit and areas in northern Iraq.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Concern at US/UK support for MKO terrorist group

Concern at US/UK support for MKO terrorist group

IRNA (Iran's state news agency)
April 28, 2003

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has accused the US and UK of double standards by giving tacit support for the Iraq-based Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) terrorist group, IRNA reported from London.

"This continuing blind-eye shown by the US and the UK governments towards MKO activities within their borders and in US-administered Iraq exhibits not only a shameful lack of consistency but a complete deficit of ethical motivation," the London-based commission said.

It expressed its deep concern about the ceasefire declared last week between US forces and the anti-Iranian terrorist group, saying it was the "latest inconsistent application of the definition of terrorism" by Washington and its allies.

IHRC voiced further alarm that the MKO had been allowed to retain their weapons and compared the US support for the terrorist group against action taken in Iraq against other groups, like Ansar al- Islam.

It reminded the US and UK that they had both designated the MKO as a terrorist group, for carrying out bombings around the world. It had a long-established status as a proxy of Saddam Hussein's regime and participated in the brutal crushing of Iraq's 1991 post-war uprising.

The IHRC, set up as an independent human rights research organisation in 1997 for both Muslims and non-Muslims, said that it fears that the MKO will be granted "carte blanche the freedom to continue its terrorist activities."

It also expressed alarm about Britain and America's duplicity and the "message it will send out to the wider Middle East in this critical period."

The MKO was first designated in 1997 by the US Secretary of State as a terrorist group among 30 foreign organisations that "engage in terrorist activities that threaten the security of the United States." In Britain, it was proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

US-MKO deal a breach of Bush's anti-terrorism campaign: daily

US-MKO deal a breach of Bush's anti-terrorism campaign: daily
Payvand News
April 26, 2003
http://www.payvand.com/news/03/apr/1126.html

’Iran Daily' on Saturday expressed shock at Washington's shocking deal with the shunned Iraq-based terrorist Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO), saying it is a breach of President Bush's anti-terrorism campaign, IRNA reported from Tehran.

In a move that has shocked world public opinion and has raised questions for both Iran and Iraq, the US commander of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" reportedly struck a deal with the MKO allowing them to retain their military camps in the war-town nation and assuring them security by American troops.

It is to be noted that the US-led forces bombed MKO bases, which had initially declared its neutrality in the war but later agreed to a cease-fire with the rebels, allowing them to move into war areas in a "non-combat formation."

The MKO has been blacklisted by the US and the UK as a "terrorist" group. It set up bases in Iraq in the mid-1980s and fought with the Baghdad regime against Iran during the eight-year imposed war. Since then it has been openly armed, backed and funded by Saddam Hussein until his ouster.

The outfit served the Iraqi regime in return for financial assistance and weapons. Its agents were trained by the Iraqi intelligence service and the army.

The MKO has not only been launching terrorist operations inside Iran but has also helped Saddam's regime quell the rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq and the Shiites in the south during the 1991 uprising of these Iraqi groups, the paper noted.

Documented reports released by American and European sources say it that the MKO cooperated with Saddam's elite Republican Guards and his Fedayeen paramilitary forces to suppress the Iraqi people.

American media and politicians have time and again underscored the terrorist nature of the group and have recently said it is among American targets in Iraq.

However, "it seems America now wants to protect the MKO by allowing it to keep the weapons given by Saddam to fight the Iraqis, it noted.

"Those adequately familiar with MKO characteristics are certainly not surprised about America's deal with the group," suggested the daily.

Washington's "scandalous" deal with the group now raises questions as to "whether Washington, like Saddam's regime, intends to use the banned group to confront the Iraqis who have legitimate demands about their rights of sovereignty?" said the daily.

It said America will have to answer to the Iraqi people, especially the Kurds in the north, who have been victims of MKO atrocities for so many years."

Undoubtedly, the US might use the terrorist MKO, Iran's main rebel group to pressure Iran into preventing it to do anything in favor of the Iraqi Shiites in the war-torn nation.

However, "if America looks deeper into the issue, it will realize that the group cannot be used as a threat against Iran's national security," pointed out the paper.

No wonder the despotic ruler of Baghdad so generously used the MKO elements for terrorist missions inside Iraq, it said.

Clearly, a deal with one of the most vicious groups which waged a bloody campaign in the early 1980s to topple the newly-born Islamic Republic with wave after wave of assassinations of the country's top officials in addition to helping Saddam murder his own people questions Washington's sincerity in its anti-terror campaign, blasted the daily.

It said the US will pay directly for the costs of keeping and protecting MKO agents inside Iraq which it knows to be a terrorist group.

What remains to be seen is what reaction the European Union, especially the UK will adopt towards this scandalous and destabilizing move, the daily concluded.

Iran's MEK fight to "liberate" their Iranian sisters

Iran's MEK fight to "liberate" their Iranian sisters
Agence France Presse
April 26, 2003


ASHRAF, Iraq, April 26 (AFP) - Standing next to the ageing tanks they intend to ride in to "liberate" Iran, the stern young women speak of freedom and democracy for all their sisters suffering under the clerical Islamic regime that rules their homeland.

The women of the People's Mujahedeen, a paramilitary outfit that has operated from Iraq for 17 years, make up one-quarter of their army's forces but also serve on the front line of the equally important propaganda war.

"I have devoted everything in my life to free the women of Iran and the people of Iran," 25-year-old tank driver Elham Zanjani told AFP this week from the mujahedeen's main Ashraf base north of Baghdad and less than 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Iranian border.

Zanjani was born and grew up in Canada but quit a physiotherapy major half way through to travel to Iraq and join the mujahedeen.

"I couldn't continue living a comfortable life knowing the people of Iran, especially the women, were suffering," she said, explaining that her parents had heavily influenced her with their support of the mujahedeen's struggle.

"I wasn't satisfied. Right now I am more than satisfied."

Zanjani's commander is Sima Bagherzadeh, a 28-year-old woman who said her father was killed by government forces in Iran in 1988.

Bogherzedeh has since lived with the mujahedeen and her passion for the cause appears fanatical.

"I'm sure there's no freedom-loving people in the world who can live comfortably when they see so much oppression on their own soil," Bogherzedeh said.

Bogherzedeh sees one of the roles of the female mujahedeen fighters as a symbol of hope and free choice for all Muslim women, but particularly in Iran.

"For the women soldiers there are particular difficulties that we have to overcome considering we come from an Islamic background," she said.

"But because we don't see any limitations we feel free."

However, the women of the mujahedeen are more than just PR officers, with 21 women suffering from war injuries at the group's Ashraf base hospital a testament to the real dangers they face.

Mahnaz Bazazi, 45, has had both her legs amputated above the knee after a bombing incident blamed on the United States on April 6 at another of the mujahedeen's Iraqi bases.

And a row of eight women in another ward were nursing various bullet and shrapnel wounds from what they said were various ambushes by Iranian government forces on Iraqi soil.

After 17 years in Iraq with the approval of dictator Saddam Hussein and with a "terrorist" label attached to them, the Mujahedeen are frantically trying to convince the country's new rulers, the United States, to allow them to continue operating.

The group has made some early progress, with the United States allowing them to remain armed and in Iraq for the time being, even though Washington has not dropped the terrorist tag.

The Mujahedeen says it has "thousands" of soldiers committed to overthrowing the Iranian regime in Iraq, but does not give specific numbers.

US President George W. Bush has made no secret of his distaste for Iran's hardline government, and it is clear that the Mujahedeen believe their female soldiers could help further align the group to Washington.

"The presence of these women in our tanks, in our ranks and on the front lines shows how serious we are when we talk about equality and freedom for all people in Iran," spokesman Mohsen Nadi said.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Iran Disputes American Accusations of Interfering in Iraq's Affairs

Iran Disputes American Accusations of Interfering in Iraq's Affairs
The New York Times
April25, 2003
By NAZILA FATHI

TEHRAN, April 24 — Iran's foreign minister brushed off American accusations of interference in Iraq today at a joint news conference with the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin.
"It is very interesting that the Americans have occupied Iraq but they accuse Iraq's neighbor of interfering in its affairs," said Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister. "Instead of raising accusations, the United States should adopt cooperation with Iran. The United States should welcome Iran's positive role."

The United States blames Iran for the ferocious anti-American sentiment being voiced by Shiite Muslims and some Sunnis in Iraq.

It has said that Iranian agents have crossed into Iraq to promote friendly Shiite clerics in Basra, Karbala and Najaf and advance Iran's interests. The agents are said to be members of the Iraqi Badr Brigade and Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guards.

The Badr Brigade is the armed force of the Iraqi opposition group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite group, which has enjoyed the support of the Iranian government and is trained by the Revolutionary Guards.

Mr. Kharrazi denied that Iran has meddled with Iraq or that Iranians are in the Iraqi Badr Brigade. He said that the Badr Brigade was an Iraqi movement and that it was natural for its members to be inside Iraq and play a role in the future of their country.

Mr. Kharrazi also voiced concern over reports that American forces reached a cease-fire agreement on Wednesday with an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, in Iraq.

The group is the main armed opposition against Iran and is listed by the United States and Europe as a terrorist organization. As recently as last week, American forces were bombing Mujahedeen Khalq camps in northern Iraq.


"If this news that they can stay in Iraq and keep their arms is correct," he said, "it will expose the Americans' plans for the region and it would be contrary to international law. The United States should be responsible for this."

Mr. Kharrazi also announced that five Iranian Jews who had been sent to prison in 2000 on charges of spying for Israel had been freed. The 5 are the remainder of a group of 10 Jews imprisoned in the case. Mr. Kharrazi did not say when they were released.

Mr. de Villepin, who arrived here on Wednesday, expressed hope that France could contribute to the political, economic and social reconstruction of Iraq. He also stressed the pivotal role of the United Nations.

Mr. de Villepin's visit came amid French efforts to mend relations with the United States. Earlier this week, France called for the temporary suspension of United Nations-imposed economic sanctions against Iraq.

The United States has also called for lifting the sanctions entirely, but Russia and some other Security Council members want to wait until the United Nations inspectors declare Iraq free of weapons.

Mr. de Villepin also stressed the need for the speedy formation of an Iraqi government, saying that "the Iraqis must be able to decide their future as soon as possible."

He met today with President Mohammad Khatami and Aliakbar Hasehmi Refsanjani, the head of the powerful Expediency Council.

Mr. de Villepin said he had urged Iran to sign the additional protocol of the United Nations Nonproliferation Treaty, which would allow unexpected and rigorous inspections of its nuclear sites.

Iran has signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, but it has come under pressure to sign the additional protocol since January, when it announced its ambitious program to develop nuclear technology. Iran says that the program is for peaceful purposes.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

De Villepin, Rafsanjani discuss Iraq situation

De Villepin, Rafsanjani discuss Iraq situation
IRNA (Iran's state news agency)
April 24, 2003

Tehran, April 24, IRNA -- Chairman of the Expediency Council of the Islamic Republic Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Thursday the United States is following undemocratic policy in Iraq which will further complicate the situation in the region.

In a meeting with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Rafsanjani said that the US waged the war on Iraq without consensus of the regional states, many European nations and especially the United Nations adding that the international community is expected to pay close attention to the humanitarian crisis resulting from the war.

He said that the Iraqi people are happy with collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime and at the same time don't accept occupation of their country by the United States.

"When the Iraqi people are dissatisfied with US occupation of Iraq, the United States cannot reach its hegemonic goals under the pretext of freedom and democracy," Rafsanjani pointed out.

Rafsanjani criticized the US double standard in the international campaign against terrorism, and said that the US launches campaign against terrorists on the one hand, and signs agreement with terrorist Mujahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO) allowing them to remain armed, on the other.

He cited the several million strong demonstrations in Karbala against occupation on Tuesday and said that under such condition, the United States sent general retired Jay Garner to replace Saddam Hussein instead of seeking key role of the United Nations to form a broadbased government in Iraq.

Rafsanjani said that Iran doesn't seek any interest in Iraq and Its doesn't want anything but independence, territorial integrity and freedom of the Iraqi people.

He praised France's brave stance toward the Iraqi crisis and its opposition to the US unilateral approach to Iraq.

Rafsanjani called for serious attention of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations to help resolve the Iraqi crisis and said that the United States should admit that it should not take a decision contrary to that of the Iraqi people, otherwise, the problems in the region will become more complicated.

He emphasized that Iran's nuclear activities are for civilian application of nuclear energy and said that Iran never considers producing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) for humanitarian obligations required by Islam.

Rafsanjani said that the Zionists have effective part in the US decision making adding that unfortunately, the international community doesn't give due attention to the plight of five million Palestinians.

He made it clear that Iran is theoretically against Taliban and al-Qaeda and said that the United States itself created those groups in Afghanistan to cause nuisance for Iran, but, now it has decided to fight them.

De Villepin said that France opposed the war on Iraq and its occupation adding that France supports formation of a national government in Iraq as well as Iraqi territorial integrity and independence.

He appreciated Iran's stance toward the Iraqi crisis and said that France believes that the United Nations should undertake its key role in helping resolve the crisis.

He said that Iran is a powerful state in the region with ancient culture and it is expected to boost its peacemaking efforts on the international scene.

He hoped that an independent and democratic government would be set up in Iraq soon and reconstruction efforts would go ahead.

4 fighters said to be captured in Iraq

4 fighters said to be captured in Iraq

The Washington Times
April 24, 2003
By Sharon Behn

An Iranian opposition group said yesterday that it had captured four Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders in the eastern Iraqi city of Mandali.

The claim came amid White House demands that Iran not interfere in Iraq as it struggles toward democracy after years of brutal dictatorship.

"We've made clear to Iran that we would oppose any outside organization's interference in Iraq's road to democracy," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "Infiltration of agents to destabilize the Shi'ite population clearly fall into that category."

The People's Mojahedin of Iran claimed it had captured the four commanders of the Iranian 3rd Brigade after a skirmish in the area that lies east of Baghdad along the Iranian border.

The group, also known as the Mujahideen Khalq, claimed yesterday that Iran had sent 14,000 Revolutionary Guards, "mercenaries," clerics and intelligence agents into Iraq in an effort to insert its Islamic style of government into Iraq's power vacuum.

Citing a report sent by the Revolutionary Guards to the office of Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Mujahideen Khalq said many of the Iranians were in the southern Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf.

The U.S. State Department has designated the Mujahideen Khalq as a terrorist group.
"This action is in line with Khamenei's evil designs to take advantage of the religious sentiment of Iraqi Shi'ites," the group said in a statement.

U.S. officials at the Pentagon and Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said they were not aware of such a large infiltration by Iranian fighters.

"I don't have any information on that at all," said Maj. Brad Bartelt, contacted by telephone at Central Command in Qatar.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the U.S. military had no indication that Iran has or was sending Revolutionary Guard forces into Iraq. The Revolutionary Guard was established in Iran to protect the Islamic revolution and enforce Islamic codes.

One U.S. intelligence official said there was a possibility that some Iranian intelligence officials were in southern Iraq, as the border between the two countries is porous. But the official said there were no reports of Iranian Revolutionary Guards crossing the border or having a presence in Najaf or Karbala.

But a senior Republican aide who works on the issue said U.S. concerns about Iranian paramilitary units and military crossing the border into Iraq, and the problems that would pose in a postwar period, have been noted in U.S. intelligence reports.

The aide added that information provided by the Mujahideen Khalq during the past month on Iranian links to the Badr brigades — the armed wing of the Tehran-based Iraqi Shi'ite opposition — and religious clerics in Iraq has been consistent with information received from U.S. intelligence sources during the past month.

Iran's majority Shi'ites share close religious, but not ethnic, ties with Iraq's Shi'ites, and they are keen to see people in place in Iraq who they can trust and work with.

"They are sending covert operatives to Basra and Najaf and Karbala because there is a struggle for the soul of the Shi'ite community," said Rajan Menon, international affairs analyst for the Council on Foreign Relations.

That has some lawmakers and officials concerned.

"The theocracy in Iran is so domineering, not at all open — they see this as a ripe opportunity for them to take over a country," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.

One of Iraq's largest political groups that opposed Saddam Hussein's regime is the Shi'ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The group, which is based in Tehran, enjoys close ties with Iran and has been invited by the United States to join in postwar reconstruction talks.

Top SCIRI officials recently publicly returned to Iraq's holy city of Karbala, where they called on the United States to leave Iraq now that Saddam has been ousted.

Based in military camps along the Iran-Iraq border, the Mujahideen Khalq is the armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, formed to oppose Iran's former ruler, the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group helped overthrow the shah in the 1979 revolution.

Shortly after the revolution, the group clashed with the clerical mainstream and was expelled in 1980 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It is now mainly based in Iraq, where it constitutes the only armed group that opposes the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The Mujahideen Khalq, which started off with a Marxist-Islamist ideology, sided with Iraq in the brutal Iran-Iraq war and is accused of collaborating with Saddam's forces. Tehran has since vowed to take the group out at any price.

Ceasefire between Mojahedin and Washington

Ceasefire between Mojahedin and Washington
Alwatan (Saudi daily)
April 24, 2003

Ceasefire between People’s Mojahedin and Washington means cooperation between the organization and the American forces

The command center of the American forces in Iraq singed a ceasefire agreement. This took place after two weeks of negotiations. The substance of this agreement which has leaked in part in Washington do not match its title, because there was basically no fire between the sides.

Instead, the substance of the agreement was to lay the foundations for cooperation between the American forces and groups of the People’s Mojahedin which would guarantee the presence of these groups in sensitive positions close to Iranian border to counter what the Washington believes to be steadily increasing influence of Tehran in Iraq after Saddam Hossein.

Number of senior officials of the Bush administration believe that Tehran has allowed thousands of Iraqis who had fled from Saddam Hossein’s regime to Iran and received military training there, to enter Iraq in recent days through Amara, Kout and Basra and the Mandali region.

The ceasefire agreement between the American forces and the People’s Mojahedin Organization stipulates on the stationing of two brigades of the Mojahedin in Mandali region to the north east of Kout.

The Americans believe that People’s Mojahedin have a lot of information about what is going on in Iran and the expected influence of Tehran over Iraq. In addition, the Mojahedin may be deployed to counter the armed elements affiliated to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which the Americans say are pouring in Iraq unabatedly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

MEK Captured 4 Iranian Gaurds

MEK Captured 4 Iranian Gaurds
Reuters
April 23, 2003

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) - An Iraq-based Iranian opposition militia said it had captured four Iranian Revolutionary Guards after an attack on its positions in a border area Wednesday.


In a statement issued by its Paris office, the People's Mujahideen said the four were commanders of Revolutionary Guards forces which fled after the clash near Mandali, 80 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The United States said on Wednesday Iran had been told not to interfere with Iraq's Shi'ite population to advance Iranian interests.

There was no immediate reaction to the Mujahideen report from Iranian officials or U.S.-led forces.

The People's Mujahideen, an armed group that had been backed by Saddam Hussein, has complained of what it said were cross-border attacks by Iranian troops or raids by pro-Iranian Shi'ite Muslim Iraqi force in recent weeks.

Iran, which has raided Mujahideen bases in Iraq in the past in retaliation for their attacks in the Islamic Republic, has said it would not interfere in Iraq during the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam's government.

The rebels, also known as the Mujahideen Khalq, have sought to overthrow Iran's Islamic government for two decades.

The U.S. military said Tuesday it had agreed a cease-fire with the Mujahideen after launching air raids against their bases in Iraq.

People's Mujahedeen say US accord keeps them armed and fighting Iran

People's Mujahedeen say US accord keeps them armed and fighting Iran
Agence France Presse
April 23, 2003

ASHRAF, Iraq (AFP) - A ceasefire agreement reached with US forces allows the Iraq)-based People's Mujahedeen guerrillas to keep their arms while maintaining their war against the Iranian government, a spokesman for the group said.

The US military on Tuesday said it had reached a ceasefire agreement with the Iranian armed opposition group, which was given protection under Saddam Hussein ('s ousted regime.

"As far as the future is concerned, the forces of the mujahedeen will stay with their arms and that was the substance of the agreement," said Mohsen Nadi, the spokesman for the People's Mujahedeen.

US officials were not immediately available to comment on Nadi's remarks, which would suggest the People's Mujahedeen, branded a terrorist group by Washington, was now an ally in the fight against Iran.

The United States considers Iran a part of the "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea.

Nadi told AFP at the group's camp 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Baghdad that the agreement consisted of three essential points:

-- The People's Mujahedeen could remained armed.

-- No timeline was set for how long they could stay on their base.

-- They would continue their efforts to overthrow the government in Tehran.

"Our combat and our war is only aimed at toppling the mullahs' regime in Iran in order to establish democracy and for peace and stability in the whole region," Nadi said.

"The mutual understanding and agreement that was reached between us and the United States forces was based on this," said Nadi, also a member of the Iranian opposition umbrella organisation, the National Council of Resistance.

The People's Mujahedeen has been labelled a terrorist organisation by Iran, the United States and the European Union, although it says it aims at only military targets and other elements of the Tehran regime.

Nadi said that US officials gave no indication whether the terrorist label would be dropped, and he saw no contradiction with the agreement allowing the mujahedeen to remain armed.

"This is not a contradiction if we have a force that has its principle emphasis on independence and democracy," he said.

Iran Opposition Has Few Postwar Options

Iran Opposition Has Few Postwar Options
Associated Press

April 23, 2003
By DONNA BRYSON

CAIRO, Egypt - Iranian opposition fighters, labeled terrorist allies of Saddam Hussein by Washington, are nevertheless trying to persuade the United States to let them keep fighting the Iranian government from their bases in Iraq.

Although Iran and the United States are hardly friends, Washington is unlikely to agree to the request from the Mujahedeen Khalq fighters. In fact, Tuesday's expression of hope by the group was a measure of how very few options it has left.

The United States invaded Iraq to dislodge terrorists it said Saddam was harboring, as well as topple him and destroy any biological, chemical or nuclear weapons he was hiding. The Mujahedeen Khalq may be the biggest catch the U.S. military has so far made in the hunt for terrorists.

The only other success came this month in Baghdad, when Americans captured the terrorist mastermind known as Abul Abbas. His Palestine Liberation Front carried out the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murdered American passenger Leon Klinghoffer, but in more recent years he had allied himself with Palestinian peacemakers.

The Mujahedeen Khalq, though, was undeniably active, launching attacks on neighboring Iran from camps in Iraq. Saddam allowed the group to exist to get back at Iran, with whom he fought a 1980-88 war and which harbored Iraqi dissidents.

After bombing the camps, the United States announced Monday it was corralling the Iranian opposition fighters under a cease-fire agreement.

In a statement Tuesday from its president Massoud Rajavi, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the umbrella organization for the Mujahedeen Khalq, said the cease-fire simply formalized its neutrality in the U.S. war on Iraq. Rajavi added the group hoped to reach "an understanding" with the U.S. military to allow it to continue its campaign against Iran.

Charges by the Mujahedeen Khalq that Iran has sent anti-Saddam Iraqi fighters and its own government forces into Iraq have not been confirmed by the United States, which has cautioned Iran to stay out of Iraq.

John Calabrese, an Iran expert at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said Iran may have worried that the United States would seek to enlist the Mujahedeen Khalq. Now that Tehran has instead seen a U.S. crackdown, it may respond by ensuring the anti-Saddam Iraqi militants it has harbored do not cause trouble in Iraq.

Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Britain, noted that predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran had cultivated Iraqi Shiite groups and no doubt has agents in Iraq now — not to fight, as the opposition charges, but to try to influence the shape of post-Saddam Iraq.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, a top National Council of Resistance official, said he believed Iran's ruling clerics, known as mullahs, wanted to recreate their conservative Islamic government in Iraq, and portrayed his fighters as a bulwark against that.

"Our war ... will continue until democracy comes back to Iraq," Ali Safavi told The Associated Press.

The United States also has called on Iran's ruling clerics to yield to democracy, and the National Council of Resistance has found friends in the U.S. Congress who say it offers a democratic alternative for Iran.

But the White House does not see the organization as an ally and lumps it with al-Qaida and Hezbollah as terrorist.

The State Department traces complaints back to the Mujahedeen Khalq's fight against the U.S.-backed shah of Iran beginning in the 1960s. After Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the group began assassinations and bombings against the clerical government that replaced the shah.

More recently, according to the State Department, the Mujahedeen Khalq helped Saddam put down internal Iraqi uprisings in 1991 and "has continued to perform internal security services" for Iraq.

Mohaddessin said such charges against his group were unfounded and the result of Iranian propaganda. But he made no apologies for basing his fighters in Iraq for the past 17 years.

"One cannot wage a successful campaign from Los Angles or Paris," Mohaddessin said from the group's Paris headquarters.

Finding a new base may prove difficult.

To Iran's north are former Soviet republics that have plenty of their own problems and no need to aggravate a neighbor. Turkey on the north and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east have relations with the United States to protect. Iran is bordered to the south by the Gulf.

The extent of support for Mohaddessin's group among Iranians is unclear.

"Iranians will never forget that they supported Saddam, a man who invaded our homeland, against their own country," said Karim Arqandehpour, a journalist. "A group that resorts to assassinations and bombings of public places can never win public support."

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Coalition negotiates cease-fire with armed group

Coalition negotiates cease-fire with armed group
U.S. considers People's Mujahedeen a terrorist organization
CNN.com
April 22, 2003

DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that coalition forces have had "encounters" with a group he identified as the People's Mujahedeen but that there is now a cease-fire.

The group -- made up of armed Iranian dissidents -- has several camps inside Iraq.

"We've had some encounters of various sorts with" the group, Brooks said at a news briefing. "And ... some of our actions involve targeting them with lethal fire."

The People's Mujahedeen is one of the groups that make up the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which opposes the Tehran government. The People's Mujahedeen wants to replace Iran's religious government with a democratically elected leadership.

NCRI President Massoud Rajavi said in a statement that he welcomes the cease-fire.

"We welcome the signing of a cease-fire with the U.S. forces ... although, we have not been firing at anyone and were in fact not a party to this war," Rajavi said. "Our presence in Iraq was conditional upon our independence."

The U.S. government views the People's Mujahedeen, which it calls the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization [MEK], as a terrorist group.

"So, until that changes, we view them that way," Brooks said, when asked if captured People's Mujahedeen fighters would be treated as POWs.

"However, there's discussion that's ongoing right now to determine exactly what the condition and what the status will be and how we'll handle them," he said. "It's premature for me to describe exactly what that will be at this point."

MEK members follow a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam. During the 1970s, the group staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians, according to the State Department.

The organization helped Iraq suppress Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in northern and southern Iraq in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War, according to the State Department's Web site.

It has also, the Web site says, provided internal security for the government of Iraq while carrying out bomb attacks on Iranian leaders inside Iran and on embassies outside Iraq.

Ali Safavi, a spokesman in Paris, France, for the People's Mujahedeen, said the United States' decision to call the group a terrorist organization was a "goodwill gesture" from President Clinton's administration to Tehran.

In November, about 150 Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives issued a statement saying that the MEK should be taken off the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, calling it a legitimate democratic opposition group.

-- CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

US agrees truce with Iran rebels

US agrees truce with Iran rebels
BBC World News
April 22, 2003

The United States says it has agreed a ceasefire with the Iraq-based People's Mujahideen (MKO) - the main armed Iranian opposition group.

It says some of the group's fighters had moved into assembly areas in non-combat formation.

The MKO has maintained thousands of fighters along Iraq's border for many years.

Equipped by the Iraqi army, and sometimes used against the Iraqi population, it had been declared a terrorist organisation by Iran, the US and the European Union.

'Thorn in Iran's side'

The US-led coalition announced last week that it had been pounding MKO positions inside Iraq and that it was working to secure the group's surrender.

The coalition regarded the group as a legitimate military target because of its long-running links with President Saddam Hussein.

The MKO - a violent organisation with an ideology combining elements of Marxism and Islam - was driven out of Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

It set up bases in Iraq, using them as a springboard to launch attacks and assassinations on Iranian soil.

Tehran has already asked for any senior members of the group to be extradited if they are captured, and such requests are likely to be stepped up in the light of this ceasefire.

It is far from clear what might happen to anyone who surrenders, although the Iranian Government has said that rank-and-file members of the MKO could return home.

Tehran's top priority will be to ensure that the MKO - which has been a thorn in its side for two decades - is not allowed to regroup.

Iraq-based Iranian opposition welcomes "ceasefire" with US

Iraq-based Iranian opposition welcomes "ceasefire" with US
Agence France Presse
April 22, 2003

NICOSIA (AFP) - The leader of the Iraqi-based Iranian armed opposition, the People's Mujahedeen, welcomed a "ceasefire agreement" he said had been reached with US forces. In a statement received here by AFP, Massoud Rajavi said: "We welcome the signing of a ceasefire agreement with the US forces ... although, we have not been firing at anyone and were in fact not a party to this war."

The statement gave no details of the accord, and a People's Mujahedeen spokesman in Paris was not immediately able to provide any.

Separately, the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera reported that a deal had been reached and that talks were still underway on the future of the group in Iraq.

Rajavi said in his statement that "our presence in Iraq was conditional upon our independence. From now on, we will try to secure an understanding and agreement on this very basis.
"The Iranian Resistance has not been and is not involved in Iraqi affairs.

"Our only concern has been and will continue to remain the illegitimate regime ruling Iran. Thus, we have not had and will not have any hostility towards, or quarrel with, any group or current in Iraq, whether Shiite, Sunni, Kurd or Arab. For this reason, we welcome any understanding and friendship."

Last week, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said at the US Central Command in Qatar that US-led forces were trying to organize a ceasefire with the People's Mujahedeen.

"There's work that's ongoing right now to secure some sort of agreement that will lead to a ceasefire and capitulation," Brooks said.

Contacted Tuesday on the reported deal, officials at Central Command said they had no information.

The People's Mujahedeen has been labelled a terrorist organisation by Iran, the United States and the European Union, although it says it targets only the military and other elements of Tehran's clerical regime.

The group was given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein in 1986, when he was in the thick of a bloody war with his neighbour, after being driven out of Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In his statement, Rajavi remained defiant against the Iranian government, and welcomed demonstrations by Iranian exiles in several cities around the world Saturday to protest reported Iranian attacks on Mujahedeen bases in Iraq.

"In a series of savage attacks," he said, "the mullahs and their mercenaries killed scores" of Mujahedeen. In some cases, they decapitated or mutilated" them and "also wounded 50 more.

"Our struggle has been and remains only with the mullahs' illegitimate regime. If the mullahs deny this Resistance's righteousness and the Iranian people's vast support for it, they could immediately test their chances against the Iranian people and Resistance by accepting a free election for a constituent assembly and presidency under the supervision of the United Nations ."

As to what he said was a reward offered for his capture, Rajavi said: "My life is not any more precious than the 120,000 Mojahedin executed by the regime so far."

On Monday, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards demanded that the United States extradite Rajavi, whose whereabouts are unknown, to show it was sincere in combatting terrorism.

"We know that the US has listed the MKO (People's Mujahedeen) as a terrorist organisation, so in order to prove it is sincere in the war against terrorism, the US has to hand over the MKO's leader to us," the official IRNA news agency quoted Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Iran military chief demands US extradite Mojahedin Leader

Iran military chief demands US extradite Mojahedin Leader
Agence France Presse
April 21, 2003

TEHRAN, April 21 (AFP) - The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Monday demanded the US extradite the head of the Iraq-based People’s Mojahedin to show it is sincere in combating terrorism, IRNA reported.

"We know that the US has listed the MKO as a terrorist organization, so in order to prove it is sincere in the war against terrorism, the US has to hand over the Mojahedin’s leader to us," the official news agency quoted Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying.

"Since the US has trapped them and until the time the US hands them over to us, anything they (theMojahedin) do against Iran, the US bears responsibility," he added.

US-led forces in Iraq have targeted several Mojahedin camps and are trying to negotiate the group’s surrender. However the whereabouts of the group’s leader, Massoud Rajavi, is unclear.

The People’s Mojahedin has been labeled a terrorist organization by Iran, the United States and the European Union, although it says it targets only the military and other elements of Tehran’s clerical regime.

The group was given sanctuary by now deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1986, when he was in the thick of a bloody war with his neighbor, after it was driven out of Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Visit to Camp Ashraf

Visit to Camp Ashraf
Aljazeera TV

April 21, 2003

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran described current negotiations between the organization and the United States over the fate of the organization in Iraq as going on in a positive atmosphere. The spokesman of the organization said that there are common grounds between the People’s Mojahedin and Washington and on top of all is their animosity against the ruling regime in Iran.

Yousef Sharif reporting: Camp Ashraf is the biggest camp of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran in Iraq which still stands after the fall of Saddam Hossein’s regime. The American bombs hit parts of this camp and seven of the combatants were killed in there.

But the officials of the organization said that Washington has expressed its regret for what had happened and does not deny that the United States has entered into negotiations with them to dampen the tension and determine the future of the organization in Iraq, although Washington considers this organization as being a terrorist organization.

The officials here emphasized that the Iranian forces had entered Iraq and following the fall of Baghdad have been attacking them. They accuse Tehran for taking advantage of the situation in Iraq and dispatching forces into the Iraqi territory.

Although the officials of the organization reiterate that they would continue with their war against the regime in Iran even if they do not reach an agreement with Washington, but most of people here hope that a new chapter will be opened with the United States which controls the situation in Iraq.

A combatant: Everybody knows that the US expresses its desire for freedom and if they knew about the situation in Iran and the kind of cruelty going on in there, then they should do something so that the people of Iran will also enjoy the freedom.

Sharif: The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran is counting on the future government of Iraq not to ask them to leave that country and emphasize that their presence in Iraq – according to them – prevents Iranian interference in the Iraqi internal affairs.

Fall of Saddam Hossein’s regime to some people meant the end of logistic support given by that regime to the People’s Mojahedin of Iran on Iraqi soil. But the other picture to this affair indicate that the fall of this regime perhaps mean the removal of last obstacles to establish dialogue or perhaps cooperation between the organization and Washington to achieve their common goals.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Iranian exiles rally for regime change in their homeland

Iranian exiles rally for regime change in their homeland
The Boston Globe
April 20, 2003‏
By Bryan Bender, Globe Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- Chanting ''down with the mullahs,'' thousands of Iranian exiles demonstrated yesterday against the Islamic government in Tehran, calling attention to the regime's reported attacks against opposition fighters along the Iraq-Iran border and attempts by ruling clerics and security services to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs and foment fundamentalist religious opposition to the US military presence.

Several thousand supporters of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran gathered on the National Mall, as other Iranian exiles took to the streets in Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Madrid, Toronto, Vancouver, British Columbia, and other cities.

Waving Iranian flags, they protested what they say have been Iranian Revolutionary Guard attacks on the organization's military wing, the National Liberation Army of Iran -- also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization, which operates in Iraq. Twenty-eight resistance fighters have been killed in the attacks.

Opposition leaders also said the Iranian government, which President Bush called an ''axis of evil'' for its support of terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction, is trying to undermine Iraq's nascent attempts at representative government.

''We are here to show solidarity and try to inform world public opinion that the biggest challenge and threat to US forces, Iraqi Kurds, and the Iranian resistance is one thing, and that is the Iranian regime,'' said Alireza Jafarzadeh, US representative for the council, which is part of a 560-member Iranian Parliament in exile.

… For their part, the group's leaders say the resistance fighters -- estimated to number in the tens of thousands -- are independent and receive financial support from exiles worldwide. They seek a new democratic Iranian government, they say, that respects all faiths and guarantees women's rights.

The group contends that as many as 3,000 Iranian government forces, backed by armored vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades, crossed into Iraq last week, and that religious leaders are trying to foment opposition to US reconstruction efforts within the Shia Muslim majority of Iraq and export their brand of militant Islam. They blame the Iranian government for involvement in the killing in Najaf by a mob on April 10 of Shia cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a prominent Hussein opponent who had earlier urged cooperation with US forces.

Members of the group consider themselves a liberal democratic alternative to the religious rulers of Iran. Ali Parsa is a history professor at California State University at Fullerton, who traveled to Washington yesterday for the rally.

''As an Iranian, along with thousands of Iranians around the world, I am here to show our support and concern that Iran, using the vacuum in Iraq, has infiltrated and occupied Iraq with its forces to destroy the resistance. The world should not ignore the biggest Islamic fundamentalist threat.''

3,000 Iranian troops enter Iraq to attack Iranian rebel group: rebels

3,000 Iranian troops enter Iraq to attack Iranian rebel group: rebels
Agence France Presse
April 20, 2003

KHALIS, Iraq (AFP) - Some 3,000 Iranian troops entered Iraq this week and are preparing to attack an armed Iranian opposition outfit based there, a member of the rebel group, the People's Mujahedeen, said.

"On Wednesday morning and Thursday night around 3,000 Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) entered Iraq," Pary Bakhshai, a senior official with the People's Mujahedeen, told AFP.

The soldiers in armoured personnel carriers entered the regions of Khaneghein and Mandali in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, added Bakhshai, who is in charge of the Ashraf camp, the group's headquarters for northern Iraq.

A US military spokesman at the Central Command war base in Qatar said he had no information on Iranian troops moving into Iraq.

Bakhshai said the alleged Iranian troop movements showed that "the forces of the mullahs' regime intend to launch new attacks against the Mujahedeen in the coming days."

On Thursday the US military said coalition forces in Iraq were trying to arrange the surrender of the People's Mujahedeen, whose camps had been targeted by the coalition airstrikes.

A senior Mujahedeen official, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, told AFP Thursday, "our commanders are talking to their commanders" in order to reach "a mutually acceptable agreement and understanding."

He said Tehran had taken advantage of the post-war chaos in Iraq to seize control of "key elements" in eastern Iraqi towns, and send elite Revolutionary Guards in civilian clothes into Baghdad and attack the Mujahedeen.

"The common enemy of us, the US forces and the Kurds is the Iranian regime's involvement," he charged. "I hope that all parties will recognise the threat posed by the mullahs."

Iran, the United States and the European Union all consider the People's Mujahedeen a terrorist organisation. The group has frequently claimed responsibility for attacks and assassinations inside Iran but says it only targets the military and other elements of the clerical regime.

The People's Mujahedeen were given sanctuary by now deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1986, when he was in the thick of a bloody war with his neighbour, after they were driven out of Iran.

Iran's Opposition Army Wants To Remain Force In Iraq

Iran's Opposition Army Wants To Remain Force In Iraq
Associated Press
April 20, 2003


NEAR CAMP ASHRAF, Iraq (AP)--Iran's opposition militia said Saturday it hopes to carry on its fight against Tehran, while remaining a force in post-Saddam Iraq.

Classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the European Union, the Mujahedeen Khalq - the People's Mujahedeen - an Iraq-based militia fighting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, said it would not retaliate against the U.S. and would even be open to "military cooperation" with the U.S. against Tehran, the Hussein Madani, a Mujahedeen spokesman said.

"If there is a wise policy that would consider the realities of this part of the world, they would recognize the Mujahedeen as a democratic force that belongs in the region," Madani said.

"We were not born in Iraq. And we are not going to end in Iraq. Our roots lie deep in Iranian society and history."

"We had nothing to do with the American war against Saddam Hussein," says Ramezan Payegar, a 42-year-old fighter for the Iranian opposition group. "Our whole purpose for staying here is for war against the clerical regime" of Iran.

The group's military activities have calmed in recent years. Madani said his militia has not conducted any recent offensive operations against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has officially announced an amnesty for the rank-and-file members of the group, which numbers up to 15,000.

"We announce explicitly that the Iranian government is ready to accept these individuals into the country and rid them from all the afflictions they are having now," government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters in Tehran last week.

After participating in the 1979 ouster of the former shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the group had a falling out with the clerical government and launched a campaign of assassinations and bombings.

Kurdish officials in northern Iraq have accused the Mujahedeen of being an arm of the Baath Party's military and intelligence apparatus, which took part in the 1991 suppression of the Kurdish uprising that followed the U.S.-led Gulf War.

Hussein Madani, a Mujahedeen spokesman, denied the allegations, calling them propaganda produced by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

Throughout the Mujahedeen's 17-year stay in Iraq, Madani said, the group has had contacts only with Iraq's Foreign Ministry.

He said its bases were considered "foreign soil" where Iraqi officials were not permitted to enter, and the group had never endorsed any of the Iraqi government's policies.

Friday, April 18, 2003

US hopeful of deal with Iran rebels

US hopeful of deal with Iran rebels
Daily Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
April 18, 2003

American-led troops were trying to secure a ceasefire and the surrender of thousands of Iranian rebel fighters who had been supported by Saddam Hussein, US Central Command said yesterday.

In a parallel conflict to the main war, Brig Gen Vincent Brooks, deputy operations director at Central Command, said coalition forces had been targeting Mujahideen-e-Khalq camps.

"There's work that's ongoing right now to try to secure some sort of agreement that would be a ceasefire and capitulation," he said. "It will most likely unfold within the coming days."

The rebels have declared themselves "neutral" in the war, but have long operated under Saddam's patronage in camps east of Baghdad, near the border with Iran.

The coalition attacks against the main Iranian opposition group are a positive signal to Teheran, even though America regards its clerical regime as being part of the "axis of evil".

The Mujahideen-e-Khalq has some support in the US Congress and the House of Commons, but is formally considered by both America and Britain to be a terrorist organisation.

Teheran officials have demanded the extradition of the group's leaders to stand trial in Iran, saying they were "negotiating with all countries about the leaders of this group".

The mujahideen have accused Iran of sending thousands of fighters to eliminate the rebel camps, but the coalition has not confirmed the claim.

A senior rebel official, Mohammad Mohaddessin, confirmed that there were talks with the US forces but did not refer to a surrender.

"We are trying to reach a mutually acceptable agreement and understanding with them," he said, describing the attacks on the camps as "astounding and regrettable".

One Step Forward, Direction Uncertain

One Step Forward, Direction Uncertain
U.S. Notes Iran's Cooperation in Iraq War
The Washington Post
April 18, 2003
By Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus

Bush administration officials said yesterday they are pleased by Iran's willingness to cooperate with U.S. requests during the war with neighboring Iraq -- a decision perhaps smoothed by the administration's bombing of Iranian opposition fighters based in Iraq. But it is unclear if this "good behavior" signals a thaw in relations with the Islamic republic.

The administration "has been very clear with the Iranians about the kind of behavior we expect," one official said. Iran sealed its border and prevented senior Iraqi officials from fleeing. Iran also did not protest too hard when U.S. munitions accidentally fell on Iranian soil.

Iran cooperated during the war with Afghanistan, another neighbor, but relations quickly chilled and Iran became a charter member of President Bush's "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea. But several officials said yesterday that for the moment, Iran has been eclipsed as a potential problem by Syria, which appears to have actively aided Iraq during the war.

"They have behaved rather well," another senior U.S. official said of Iran. Syria, by contrast, "established tactical cooperation with Iraq, almost as if they calculated this war would go differently. And they bet wrong."

Yet the official said the administration has not formally considered what this cooperation means for U.S.-Iranian relations. "It is one of the issues that will be looked at in the future."

Two senior U.S. officials -- Zalmay Khalilzad from the White House and Ryan C. Crocker from the State Department -- met secretly in January with Iranian officials to discuss potential cooperation. The U.S. officials asked that Iran seal its border to prevent the escape of Iraqi officials, among other requests, and suggested that the United States would target the Iraq-based camps of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Organization, or People's Mujaheddin, a U.S. official said.

"We told them they would find it advantageous" if the United States struck the Mujaheddin camps, the official said. A more concrete commitment to attack the camps was later relayed to Tehran through British officials. The Mujaheddin-e Khalq, which has been a source of information on Iran's nuclear programs, has protested angrily about the attacks, saying they were unprovoked.

The group says thousands of Iranian troops have entered Iraq. But U.S. officials believe there have been only limited incursions by Iranian troops, mostly as mopping-up operations against the Mujaheddin-e Khalq.

The Bush administration has long waged an internal debate over relations with Iran. State Department officials have pressed for a greater effort at engagement, and the Pentagon and White House have urged a tough line against a country that some officials believe is on the verge of revolution.

Bush seemed to end the argument last July when he issued a statement declaring his solidarity with protesters in the street. "The vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform," Bush said. "Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran."

That sentiment has been publicly echoed by other senior officials.

CIA Director George J. Tenet has been remarkably outspoken in his view that Iran's split government has to end. In open testimony last February before the Senate intelligence committee, he called the current leadership "secure, but increasingly fragile," and blamed its condition on "the reluctance of reformist leaders to take their demands for change to the street."

He said the United States was looking for new Iranian leadership but was "unable to identify a leader, organization, or issue capable of uniting the widespread desire for change into a coherent political movement that could challenge the regime," which the director noted had "publicly argued in favor of using deadly force if necessary to crush the popular demand for greater freedom."

Administration officials believe Iranian foreign policy is controlled by the mullahs who direct the nation's national security apparatus. As Tenet put it, "Conservatives already control the more aggressive aspects of Iranian foreign policy, such as sponsoring violent opposition to Middle East peace." Along with Syria, Iran continues to be one of the few open state sponsors of terrorism, although at a lower level than previously. The nation is the prime supporter of Lebanese Hezbollah, and with Syria gives aid to the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. The three are the most active of the terrorist groups fighting for Palestinian goals against Israel.

Tehran also has alarmed officials by proceeding rapidly with its nuclear weapons program, which has the support both of the mullahs and the reformers. Despite repeated protests by Washington and Iran's participation in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "the United States remains convinced Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program," according to the declassified version of a CIA study that was released last week.

Nevertheless, some U.S. officials see signs of hope. Over the weekend, Iran's former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was quoted as saying that Iran's resumption of ties with the United States could be put to a referendum. In an apparent reference to previous failures by the countries to begin a constructive dialogue, he said: "We missed certain opportunities, or took late or wrong measures, or even did not take action."
Rafsanjani's suggestion was dismissed by Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, but one U.S. official described Rafsanjani's statement as a "very significant development."

U.S. officials denied they targeted the Mujaheddin-e Khalq as a way to curry favor with the Iranians, describing it merely as a "confluence of interests." The group, which U.S. officials said is the most serious security threat to the Iranian government, has maintained thousands of fighters armed with tanks, armored vehicles and artillery along the Iraq-Iran border for the past decade.

While many in the U.S. administration share the group's antipathy for Iran's radical Islamic government, the State Department has labeled the group as a terrorist organization for its history of attacks on both Western and Iranian targets. U.S. analysts have concluded that its primary support has come from the Iraqi government, despite some financial backing from Iranian expatriates elsewhere in the world. One U.S. official said yesterday some mujaheddin fighters joined in attacking U.S. troops.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, a senior official with the group's political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, denied the allegations in an interview from Paris. He said he informed U.S. officials in February that the group had vacated most of its camps to avoid being drawn into the conflict. "We have not fired a single bullet throughout the course of this war," he said. The bombing strikes, which caused casualties, are "truly astounding and regrettable," he said.

Iran Welcomes US Bombing Of Opposition Bases In Iraq

Iran Welcomes US Bombing Of Opposition Bases In Iraq
Associated Press
April 18, 2003


TEHRAN (AP)--Iranian legislators have welcomed the U.S. bombing of guerrilla camps of the Iranian opposition in Iraq, but there is uncertainty over what the attack means for relations with Washington.

"We are not unhappy that the United States has targeted terrorist bases inside Iraq, but it does not signal a reward for Iran," the deputy speaker of Iran's parliament, Mohammad Reza Khatami, said Friday.

Khatami is a younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, who has nudged Iran toward better relations with Washington, but stopped far short of restoring the diplomatic ties severed in 1979.

The U.S.-led coalition forces bombed bases of the Mujahedeen Khalq in Iraq earlier this week and pursued the group's fighters on the ground. The U.S. and European Union consider the Mujahedeen Khalq a terrorist organization.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the deputy operations director of U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said Thursday that the Mujahedeen fighters could surrender within days.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein allowed the Mujahedeen to run training camps and bases in eastern Iraq in retaliation for Iran's support of Iraqi dissident groups.

"The attack does not necessarily support Iran's national interests. The United States considers this terrorist group as part of the Iraqi army and has dealt with them as remnants of Saddam's regime," said Khatami.

Khatami - who leads the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party - was speaking to The Associated Press.

But fellow lawmaker, Elaheh Koulaee, said that although the attack was an anti-terrorist operation, it could close the gap between Iran and the U.S.

"The attack shows that Iran and United States share common interests on some points," said Koulaee.

An outspoken reformist, Koulaee is one of 11 female legislators in the 290-seat parliament. She is a member of the legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.

Mujahedeen officials have not commented on the attacks.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

U.S. Seeks Truce with Iranian Militants in Iraq

U.S. Seeks Truce with Iranian Militants in Iraq

Reuters
April 17, 2003

AS SAYLIYA CAMP, Qatar (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Thursday it had been attacking fighters of the Iranian opposition Mujahideen i-Khalq in Iraq, but hoped to arrange a cease-fire with them in the next few days.

"We know that there's a presence of the Mujahideen i-Khalq inside of Iraq and indeed we have been targeting them for some time," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at Central Command headquarters in Qatar.

"There's work that's ongoing right now to try to secure some sort of agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation. That work is ongoing and it will most likely unfold within the coming days."

Armed with tanks and artillery, the Mujahideen have sought to overthrow Iran's Islamic government for more than a decade. The group is also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States believed the Mujahideen i-Khalq was an integral part of Saddam Hussein's forces and therefore a legitimate target for U.S. forces.

"The Mujahideen i-Khalq's forces were fully integrated with Saddam Hussein's command and control (and) therefore constituted legitimate military targets that posed a threat to coalition forces," Boucher told reporters in Washington.

The U.S. government estimated recently that the group had "several thousand fighters," most of whom are based in Iraq.

An American defense official said on Wednesday U.S. forces were still pursuing various paramilitary and other opposition groups based inside Iraq.

Iran Exiles to Protest at Attacks on Bases in Iraq

Iran Exiles to Protest at Attacks on Bases in Iraq
The Washington Post
April 17, 2003

An exiled Iranian opposition group said on Wednesday it would hold marches in Washington and across Europe on Saturday to protest against attacks by Iran on its bases in Iraq which it said killed 28 of its members.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran -- political wing of the armed People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran -- plans marches at noon local time in London, Washington, Paris, Cologne, Brussels, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.

"We want action from Europe to prevent the use of the war in Iraq by Iran's regime," Firouz Mahvi of the PMOI told Reuters in Stockholm. He said the Shi'ite Muslim clerics who dominate Iran were taking advantage of the U.S.-led war to "eliminate the Mujahideen" and build up links with Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

There was no independent confirmation of the report of attacks on the Mujahideen's bases in Iraq last Thursday and Friday, when Mahvi said 28 men and women had been killed, 43 injured and others captured by Iranian government forces.

Mujahideen bases have previously suffered rocket attacks and its office in Baghdad has survived mortar and bomb attacks.

The Mujahideen began as leftist-Islamist opposition to the late Shah of Iran but fell out with Shi'ite clerics who took power after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It uses Iraq as a springboard for attacks in Iran and was accused by Washington, which brands it a "terrorist" group, of supporting Saddam Hussein before his fall. The group is said by Western analysts to have little support in Iran because of its collaboration with Iraq during the 1980-88.

Saddam-backed Iranian group to surrender

Saddam-backed Iranian group to surrender
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Knight Ridder Newspapers
April 17, 2003

MARINE COMBAT HEADQUARTERS, Iraq - An Iranian exile group long protected by Saddam Hussein's regime has agreed to surrender to U.S. forces, raising a difficult question about whether its members will be sent back to Iran.

The Mujahedeen e-Khalk (MEK) did not fight U.S. troops during the recent war. But it did kill several U.S. military personnel in Iran in the 1970s and later staged terrorist attacks on the Islamic regime there. The State Department has placed it on the list of international terrorism organizations.

The surrender raises tricky questions. Under the Geneva Conventions, if MEK fighters are treated as enemy prisoners of war they are supposed to be returned to their home countries at the end of hostilities. But that could mean certain death for this group.

"It's going to take the State Department to sort out their status, because repatriation to Iran is something they will not want," said Marine Maj. Michael Lindemann, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's intelligence expert on the MEK.

The situation could be further complicated because the MEK and its political arm, the National Council of Resistance, has had wide support in the U.S. Congress as a leading group opposing the anti-American clerics who have ruled Iran since 1979.

The MEK's surrender is expected to delight Tehran, which had warned before the war that any U.S. attempt to turn MEK against Saddam would be a mistake, but that a U.S. strike against it would be "a good-will gesture."

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. forces bombed two MEK sites near Baghdad.

The surrender pact, which was reached Tuesday with U.S. Special Forces, covers 3,000 MEK fighters and 7,000 relatives.

Under the terms of the surrender agreement, MEK fighters must abandon their bases in Iraq and gather at their main base in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad. They must disable and leave all their weapons and fly white flags from their vehicles as they move to Baqubah on specific roads.

U.S. aircraft will watch them, said Lt. Col. Nick Morano, senior watch officer at IMEF's combat operations center.

But what will happen to them after that is uncertain.

"Saddam gave them refugee status, and now they are (enemy prisoners of war)," Morano said. "This is kind of a hot potato for us."

The MEK, Iran's largest opposition group, follows an odd mixture of Marxism and Islam reinforced by a cultlike adoration of its leaders, Masud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam. It boasts that half its fighters are women.

The MEK maintained nine bases around Iraq, and its military wing, the National Liberation Army of Iran, frequently conducted cross-border raids into Iran.

The group was equipped by Saddam with 400 tanks and other armored vehicles, and according to the State Department, helped Iraq put down a Kurdish revolt after the 1991 Gulf War.

Originally founded in 1965 to fight the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the MEK was behind the assassinations of several U.S. military personnel and defense contractors in the 1970s and backed the revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

But it broke with that government in 1981 and since has conducted several attacks against Iran, including the bombing of 13 Iranian embassies in 1992, the 1998 assassination of the former head of Iran's prisons and the 1999 murder of the Iranian army's deputy chief of staff.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, has said the group should play a role in Iran if the government there should fall. Ros-Lehtinen was unavailable to comment Wednesday, but an aide, Yleem Poblete, said the congresswoman would support treating the MEK as POWs if it is shown that "they attacked or in any way interfered with U.S. forces."

Several House leaders have turned against the MEK and National Council, as the war highlighted the group's ties to Saddam, but the White House has credited them with disclosing important information about Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

U.S. Bombs Iranian Fighters On Iraqi Side of the Border

Pledge to Target the Group Was Made Early to Assure Tehran of War's Benefits
Wall Street Journal
April 17, 2003


By DAVID S. CLOUD

WASHINGTON -- In a move to persuade Iran not to meddle in Iraq, U.S. forces have bombed the camps of Iranian opposition fighters on the Iraqi side of the border and have reached a surrender agreement with the group's remaining fighters, U.S. officials said.

The dismantling of the Iranian opposition force in Iraq, known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, fulfills a private U.S. assurance conveyed to Iranian officials before the start of hostilities that the group would be targeted by British and American forces if Iran stayed out of the fight, according to U.S. officials. The effort was part of broader strategy aimed at reassuring Tehran that the war in neighboring Iraq held out the prospect of benefits, the officials said.

Eliminating the MEK's Iraqi base of operations, from which the group has mounted hit-and-run operations along the border and violent terrorist attacks in Tehran for decades, has long been a major Iranian goal.

The U.S. has designated the MEK as a terrorist organization, which is another reason for disarming it, officials said. By carrying out the strikes, Washington and London are trying to keep Iran neutral or at least not actively opposed to broader U.S. aims in Iraq.

Although Tehran denounced the invasion and even lobbed artillery and rocket shells into Iraq in recent weeks, bombing the MEK camps has removed one justification for Iranian forces to mount incursions into Iraq. Still, U.S. officials remain concerned about less-conspicuous efforts by Iran to impede reconstruction efforts, using allies among the Iraqi Shiites in the south.

The capitulation agreement signed in recent days by MEK commanders requires the group's forces, which once numbered more than 6,000 fighters, to move within 48 hours to the Iraqi town of Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad, according to U.S. officials. U.S. officials say it is too early to know whether all of the MEK fighters would comply.

The agreement also specifies the vehicles that survived the brief but intense bombing will be turned over to coalition forces. Earlier this month, U.S. forces hit some of the group's roughly 200 tanks and armored personnel carriers in camps northeast and south of Baghdad.

Worried about appearing to attack the MEK on Tehran's behalf, U.S. military commanders have justified the bombing of MEK camps as necessary for protecting U.S. troops. In an interview last week, Vice Adm. Timothy Keating said the MEK units were targeted because the U.S. had reason to think they might fight on Baghdad's behalf. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. had bombed the MEK and said "some of them may surrender very soon."

Mohammad Mohadessin, an official with MEK's political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the U.S. airstrikes on MEK camps "astounding and regrettable." The strikes caused casualties, but he didn't have details.

Before the war, the group had moved its units from camps in the south to other camps near the towns of Khalis and Miqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad. The U.S. had attacked those locations even though the Iranian forces "had not fired a bullet at the coalition forces," he said. "These bombs were dropped as a result of the request of the Iranian regime." The organization accused Iranian Revolutionary Guards of crossing into Iraq and attacking its units.

Reporters who have visited the MEK's headquarters compound in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in recent days report that it is deserted, except for armed looters roaming the facility. Several buildings were destroyed, possibly by U.S. bombs.

The decision to inform Tehran that the U.S. intended to attack the MEK was a controversial one within the Bush administration, according to one official involved. Some hard-liners who favor isolating Tehran said that it shouldn't be given any warning and that the U.S. should announce that any fighters from Iran who entered Iraq during hostilities would face attack.

But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell contended that Tehran could be persuaded to remain neutral toward the U.S. invasion next door, especially if it knew the MEK would be attacked and prevented from harassing Iran in the future, the official said.

That message was conveyed by British officials before hostilities began. Foreign Minister Jack Straw informed his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi in a meeting in London in February.

Britain's Iranian Ambassador Richard Dalton repeated the message in March in a meeting with Hassan Rowhani, the cleric who heads the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's chief foreign policy-making body.

The U.S. doesn't have diplomatic relations with Tehran, but the Bush administration used international forums, including a United Nations meeting on Afghanistan, to inform the Iranians of the plan. U.S. officials also warned that Iran shouldn't let fighters from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, an anti-Saddam Hussein group of Iraqi Shiites supported and given refuge by Tehran, cross into Iraq. If that happened, they warned, the fighters would be struck, just as the MEK forces were.

Iran has announced it will grant amnesty to any MEK fighter who returns to Iran as long as authorities don't have "private complaints" against the individual. According to Iran's official news organization, IRNA, more than 100 MEK fighters have accepted the offer. Others have fled to Jordan.