An Independent Assessment by Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr.
The essence of Iran’s “information operations” activity has been to derogate from the MEK’s image and influence with western governments by seeking to tie the MEK to actions highly prejudicial to the MEK’s image with target audiences in Iran, Europe and the United States. This is not to say that all these potentially damaging claims about the MEK are false, only to report that the Iranian government’s hand has repeatedly been exposed placing such information without attribution into the public realm abroad. For its part, the MEK/PMOI and its supporters have been no less vigorous in contesting the Tehran regime’s version of reality and similar criticisms emanating from respected voices in the West.
MEK supporters have issued book-length rebuttals and fastidiously documented histories in an effort to persuade western audiences that the truth about the MEK’s beliefs, nature and past actions is at odds with the ‘damning’ portrayal that is often accepted and repeated as fact.
One focus of this review, accordingly, is to note that some of the derogatory and prejudicial perceptions that commonly surface in discussions of the MEK – by experts in the media, think tanks,academia, and government – match themes and portrayals discovered to have been actively promoted by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), as will be detailed. To be clear, this intersection of content proves neither that the information secretly promoted by Iranian intelligence is false, nor that western individuals and entities citing comparable ‘facts’ lack independent and credible sources for their assertions. But the burden of proof on all sides becomes much heavier in this arena rife with propaganda and deception, claim and counter-claim. For anyone purporting to offer a “true” portrayal of MEK actions from the 1960s until today, the bar is high.
There is, furthermore, a longstanding pattern of Western governments being privately pressured by Tehran to constrain and sanction the MEK as a terrorist group. This connects counterterrorism policy to wider foreign policy considerations, leaving unclear whether governments including the US would have designated the MEK/PMOI as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) solely on the basis of confirmed ‘terrorist’ activity, unconnected to other bilateral equities with Iran. The MEK/PMOI has challenged in court and overturned terrorist designations and charges by the EU, UK and Francerespectively, as the judicial process has exposed flaws and deficiencies in the information relied upon by these government entities for their designations. The existing US designations of MEK and NCR as Foreign Terrorist Organizations - which by law can also be overturned judicially - are similarly being challenged, and the court has obliged the Secretary of State to clarify the factual basis for its policy.
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