A short while ago, I invited the Washington Examiner to scrutinize the dishonest and false assertions of Michael Rubin against the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Iran’s primary democratic opposition. Instead, Rubin uses another platform to promulgate his spurious narratives. However, as the MEK garners mounting support, Rubin’s exasperation seems to intensify to the extent that he has now aligned himself with the regime’s threats against the MEK leadership.
It seems the controversial American Enterprise Institute (AEI) employee has tempered his hyperbole after I fact-checked his claims. For instance, he’s dropped using the regime’s acronym MKO and now qualifies his statements by saying “many” Iranians dislike the MEK, not “all.” Similarly, he’s replaced “everyone,” calling the MEK a cult with “some” people.
Some 17 years ago, I debunked Rubin’s outrageous propaganda by providing facts and evidence he has never addressed. For example, contrary to the regime’s contention that MEK is Marxist-Islamist with no popular support, according to a detailed US State Department report to Congress, the MEK’s ideology is “a major source of the group’s popularity in Iran.”
Rubin has a long and troubled history of working as a professional propagandist. From 2002 to 2004, he worked at the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP), which planned the disastrous Iraq War through systematic disinformation. According to now-retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, the OSP’s work “was not intelligence, it was propaganda.”
At the very least, he has a similar track record with the UAE, Iraq, and Turkey. After a New York Times investigation into his involvement in a “propaganda campaign” in Iraq, Mr. Rubin simply dodged questions about his activities and alleged financial gains.
A few years before the Iraq War, he visited Iran twice. Shortly after, the administration he served conducted secret negotiations with Tehran. One of the mullahs’ demands was to hand over MEK leadership to the regime, including Mrs. Maryam Rajavi. Rubin then teamed up with Ahmad Chalabi to align with Tehran’s demands.
In 2004, US intelligence officials revealed that Chalabi was an Iranian double agent. Yet, as investigative journalist Bob Dreyfuss explains: “It’s hard to explain why Rubin would ignore the machinations of a blatantly pro-Iranian coalition orchestrated by Chalabi.”
Sadly, Rubin’s propaganda techniques are eerily similar to those employed by the murderous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. These include constantly repeating a few stereotyped phrases and never addressing arguments or facts.
Mr. Rubin’s dehumanization of the MEK as a “cult” is a baseless and unscholarly assertion easily debunked by simple facts. In July 2019, a bipartisan delegation from the United States, comprised of four-star generals, foreign policy experts, and sitting members of Congress, visited the MEK’s home at Ashraf-3 in Albania. Their report stated, “What we witnessed was eye-opening and deeply promising: A cohesive political opposition movement … guided by gifted female leadership.” In fact, on July 11, 2019, delegations from 47 nations visited Ashraf 3, which begs the question: What kind of “cult” openly invites the entire world to its home? This fundamentally refutes the notion that the MEK is a secretive and closed organization.
The MEK never “sided with Saddam.” The Rubin of Arabia knows this full well because he himself visited Saddam’s Iraq just after he visited the mullahs in Iran. But the results of all this “studying,” which included spending “time with the Taliban,” are unimpressive.
It is undisputed that the MEK defended the country when Iraq invaded Iran in 1980. A December 1984 State Department unclassified report noted: “Mujahedin units [MEK] went to the front immediately.” Moreover, the MEK moved to Iraq six years after the start of the war when Iraqi forces had withdrawn from Iranian territory. And, when Rubin was still battling teen acne, Massoud Rajavi asked Iraq to stop bombing Iranian cities. According to the Washington Post, Iraq heeded Rajavi’s request, ultimately saving countless Iranian lives.
Mr. Rubin is intellectually lazy and dishonorable as he repeats well-known Tehran propaganda alleging that MEK leaders live “in luxury” while supporters live in group homes. The thousands of Iranian-American MEK supporters comprise a community of highly successful and well-to-do business leaders and distinguished academics who have attained notable accomplishments in their personal and professional lives.
Nazi propaganda recommended goading the enemy into revealing vital information about itself. In perfect alignment with Tehran’s security apparatus, Rubin has been trying to coax the MEK into revealing its financial backers and the location of its senior leaders. Before the regime attempted to bomb a MEK rally in Paris in 2018, this is precisely what Hassan Rouhani’s presidential advisor did through a peculiar publicized threat that mirrored Rubin’s latest tirade.
On February 8, Washington saw significant congressional support for Mrs. Rajavi and her 10-point plan for the future of Iran. She was widely praised at the House of Representatives unprecedented bipartisan press conference. They said: “We want people to recognize that Mrs. Maryam Rajavi heads the future.”
In anger, Rubin turned to selective quotes from purported “analysts” to launch an overtly unprofessional and personal attack against Mrs. Rajavi. “Perhaps, with Rajavi in her grave, it could be a free-for-all,” he opined. This is not an academic discussion about death. What kind of “scholar” would wish for the death of a female Muslim Iranian political leader, especially one whose eight-month pregnant sister was killed while in prison? Who benefits from such perverse logic? This rhetoric aligns with the regime’s threats against Mrs. Rajavi and paves the way for terrorism, similar to the 2018 foiled terrorist plot against her life.
Mr. Rubin’s articles go beyond the average scholarship and creep into dangerous propaganda that effectively aids Tehran’s terrorism. His erratic conduct deserves a severe examination by AEI, which prides itself in “building a freer and safer world.”
Safavi (@amsafavi) is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)