The MEK and ‎‏1979‏‎ comparisons

By taking the MEK off the list, the U.S. opened the door to overt MEK activities in the U.S. ‎That certainly means (even more) robust interactions with Congress and, I think, probably ‎funding or some other deeper ties.

The Republican ticket has taken to comparing the current crisis—or series of mini-crises, really—‎to the Iran's Islamic Revolution. "I mean, turn on the TV and it reminds me of ‎‏1979‏‎ in Tehran," ‎Paul Ryan said recently on the stump. "They’re burning our flags in capitals all around the world. ‎They’re storming our embassies." While comparisons are obvious, Ryan's use of the discomfiting ‎capital-T "they" got me thinking: who exactly were "they"? In just one of the subtle differences, ‎the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran had the very direct and immediate endorsement of ‎the party rising to power: Ayatollah Khomeini. But other players were involved, too, and one of ‎them just popped into the headlines again recently.‎

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the exile opposition group that just came off the official U.S. ‎terrorist list, fought—with guns and bombs—at the vanguard of the revolution against the Shah. ‎That included involvement in taking American hostages. In it's report on foreign terror ‎organizations, the State Department alleges that the MEK "supported the takeover in ‎‏1979‏‎ of the ‎US Embassy in Tehran." As with just about any criticism, historical or not, the MEK denies ‎having anything to do with the takeover (the group broke with the clerics atop the Islamic ‎Revolution soon thereafter). But attacking embassies was kind of the MEK's thing: they ‎launched coordinated attacks against Islamic Republic embassies in ‎‏13‏‎ countries in ‎‏1992‏‎.‎

Massoud Radjavi and his wife Maryam, leaders of the Iranian opposition movement the People's ‎Mujahedeen (MEK), review militants celebrating their wedding ‎‏19‏‎ June ‎‏1985‏‎. (Dominique Faget ‎‎/ AFP / Getty Images) ‎

That's not, however, where this particular ‎‏1979‏‎ comparison ends. For that we need to examine ‎the roots of the embassy takeover and what drove the MEK (which held Marxist-inspired anti-‎imperial views), students and clerics leading the revolt to take the U.S. embassy in the first place. ‎The spark was U.S. acceptance of the then-recently-deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi onto ‎American soil. The revolutionaries, in their somewhat paranoid Iranian way, thought the U.S. was ‎on the verge of using the embassy as a staging ground to launch another counter-coup to re-‎instate the Shah (not unjustified: it happened in ‎‏1953‏‎). It never occurred to Jimmy Carter, who ‎was only letting the Shah in for medical care, just how badly the Iranians would react. Sound ‎familiar?‎

By taking the MEK off the list, the U.S. opened the door to overt MEK activities in the U.S. ‎That certainly means (even more) robust interactions with Congress and, I think, probably ‎funding or some other deeper ties. While the Iranians, obviously, aren't about to seize the U.S. ‎embassy in Tehran (since there isn't one), just how this plays out Iran might yet surprise—and ‎dissapoint. We can already expect the regime to use alleged or real MEK-U.S. ties to justify their ‎crackdown on opposition, rights and democracy activists.‎

‎"The White House believes this is just another twist of the noose on the sanctions/diplomatic ‎track, a way to get the MEK out of Iraq and settled and off our hands... and all-in-all a nice tidy ‎decision," Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.) a longtime aide to General and later Secretary of State ‎Colin Powell, said in an e-mail. He recalled David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger's push to ‎convince Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carter that allowing the Shah in was harmless, and compared ‎that to the MEK decision. 'We thought the same way with the Shah's admission; only the ‎Iranians felt very, very differently about it. More sadly, today the situation we are exacerbating ‎with our dull stupidity, is far more serious."‎

What's more serious than a year-plus long hostage crisis, and more than three decades of a cold ‎war against the Islamic Republic of Iran with its requisite flare-ups? Well: open war against Iran ‎and the regional conflagration that could follow.‎‎‏2012/09/26‏‎/the-mek-and‏-1979‏‎-comparisons.html

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