UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD IRAN'S MOJAHEDIN -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - September 29, 1993)
HON. LEE H. HAMILTON
in the House of Representatives
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 1993
- Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Speaker, in August, I wrote to the Department of State asking for an explanation of United States policy toward the organization called the National Council of Resistance or the People's Mojahedin of Iran [PMOI], a political and military organization opposing the Government of Iran and an organization active in the United States and promoting a resolution on Iran which has been circulating in the Congress.
- Attached is a copy of my letter to the State Department and the resolution being circulated in the Congress as well as the reply of the Department of State dated September 20, 1993. The State Department states its concerns about the PMOI and its use of terrorism and explains why the United States maintains a policy of no contacts with the PMOI.
- This correspondence which I would like to bring to the attention of my colleagues follows:
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Washington, DC, August 3, 1993.
Hon. Warren Christopher,
Secretary of State, Department of State,
Dear Mr. Secretary: Attached is a copy of a resolution which is being circulated by some of my colleagues in the House of Representatives regarding U.S. policy toward Iran. Among other things, this resolution urges the President to consider opening a dialogue with the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
I would appreciate receiving the Administration's views on this resolution, in general, and specifically on the desirability of dialogue with the NCR.
I appreciate your prompt consideration of this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.
With best regards,
Lee H. Hamilton,
Whereas, the Human Rights Watch World Report for 1993 reports that `Iran retained its unenviable reputation for having one of the worst human rights records in the region.'
Whereas, the Iranian authorities have harshly repressed anti-government protests and demonstrations seeking establishment of democracy and human rights.
Whereas, prisoners of conscience remain in prison and torture of prisoners continues.
Whereas, several government opponents living abroad were murdered in circumstances suggesting that they may have been victims of extrajudicial executions.
Whereas, persecution continues against political opponents and ethnic and religious minorities.
Whereas, Iran remains one of the world's most egregious state sponsors of terrorism, according to the State Department's 1993 Report on Terrorism.
Whereas, Iran has engaged in a major rearmament drive, and is also pursuing the acquisition of non-conventional weapons.
Resolved by the House of Representatives of the United States of America, that the Congress,
1. Supports a U.S. foreign policy which promotes human rights and democracy in Iran.
2. Supports a ban on all arms sales and military assistance to the current regime in Iran.
3. Urges a strong U.S. role in developing an international policy to end the sale of arms and technology to Iran until it ends human and political rights abuses.
4. Urges the President to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for democracy and human rights and to consider opening a dialogue with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which espouses democracy and human rights.
- U.S. Department of State,
Washington, DC, September 20, 1993.
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives.
- Dear Mr. Chairman: I am writing in reply to your letter of August 3, addressed to Secretary Christopher. You asked for the Administration's views on a proposed resolution regarding U.S. policy on Iran. The resolution urges, among other things, that the President consider a dialogue with the National Council of Resistance.
- On the general topic of our policy toward Iran, the Administration's position was detailed by Assistant Secretary Djerejian in his testimony of July 27 before the Committee. That statement of policy remains current.
- Concerning contacts with Iranian opposition groups, there are numerous such groups in the United States and abroad that do not espouse violence and whose political aims range from supporting a return of the monarchy to establishing a constitutional democracy. Many focus their efforts on Iranian human rights abuses, and work closely with the U.N. Human Rights Committee and private human rights groups. We do meet with representatives of such groups at their request, and believe these contacts are useful as an informational exchange.
- However, the National Council of Resistance is closely linked to the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Both groups are led by Masud Rajavi. The Administration maintains a policy of no contacts with the PMOI and, by extension, the NCR. This decision is based on our opposition to the PMOI's use of terrorism. Just as we vigorously oppose the Iranian Government's support for terrorism, we do not condone the use of terror and violence in turn by the Mojahedin or any other opposition group. Nor can we forget that U.S. citizens were the victims of PMOI terrorism in the 1970s, or that the group supported the takeover of our Embassy in 1979 and the holding of U.S. diplomats. The PMOI's claim that the organization is not responsible for actions carried out while its current leaders were in jail is a facile one and, in the case of the Embassy takeover, erroneous. As shown in attached 1981 excerpts from the PMOI's own newspaper--published after current PMOI leader Masud Rajavi was released from jail in February 1979--the group fully supported the
- Embassy takeover and opposed releasing our diplomats. Only in recent years has the PMOI sought to distance itself from its past in order to gain Western support.
- Other factors support our view that it would be inappropriate to deal with the PMOI/NCR. The National Council of Resistance's claims to be a democratic organization have never been substantiated by its actions. The NCR did, at its inception, include a diverse range of Iranian opposition groups. However, within three years most of the groups that were not controlled by Masud Rajavi had left the organization. According to Ervand Abrahamian's book The Iranian Mojahedin (Yale University Press, 1989), these groups left because the NCR was not democratic, but rather manipulated by Rajavi.
- In years since, most Iranian opposition groups have continued to refuse cooperation with the NCR. A recent example was a 1992 interview with the late Dr. Sa'id of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (Iran), who denied any links or connections with the PMOI, and said, `In our opinion, our cooperation with the PMOI right now is impossible.' We have no reason to believe the PMOI has become democratic, nor that an Iranian government established by the NCR would be.
- In a different area, I would note that the PMOI/NCR reporting often contains questionable statements and assertions which do not stand up to later examination. Our intelligence community judges that their reporting is not reliable without validation from other sources.
- Our own analysis does not support PMOI claims to widespread support inside Iran. The PMOI's military wing, the national Liberation Army, continues to be based in Iraq and retains the support and financing of Saddam Hussein's regime. The PMOI joined Iraqi forces in the eight-year war with Iran. These ties to Iraq have discredited the Mojahedin and NCR in the eyes of many Iranians, and the organization does not represent a significant political force among Iranians.
- The Office of Management and Budget advises that from the standpoint of the Administration's program there is no objection to the submission of this report.
- I hope this information is useful to you. Please do not hesitate to call if we can be of further assistance.
Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs.
The Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), the Iraq-based Iranian opposition organization, was in full support of the takeover of the US embassy and the holding of our hostages during the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Iran. Their own published statements show that their anti-US position at that time was much more hard-line than that of Iran's leaders.
Though the Mojahedin now deny a role in that crisis, they advocated a tough hostage policy in several issues of their own official newspaper, Mojahed, published in Persian in Tehran in 1980-81. The MKO's present leader, Masud Rajavi, was in command of the group at that time.
One commentary in particular (in issue 107, published January 27, 1981--just a few days after the hostages' release), scores the Khomeini government for releasing the hostages too soon and for too little gain. Among its main points:
--The Mojahedin at the Embassy: The commentary reminds its readers that the Mojahedin were the `first forces that fully stood in support of the occupation of the American house of spies. The organization's members and sympathizers stood in front of the embassy 24 hours a day for weeks and months . . . and kept the place as a focal point of anti-imperialism.'
--The hostage `card:' The commentary derides those `monopolizing' power in Tehran--i.e., the clerical regime--for misusing the hostage card only to benefit themselves in their own internal power struggles. It argues that the card could have been used better for the struggle against American imperialism.
--Iran's revolutionary leaders: soft on America: The paper mocks the `anti-imperialism' of the leaders as insincere, complaining that their calls for the trial and execution of the hostages turned out to be hollow. It says the Mojahedin had `regularly warned' against giving ground on the hostages, which would only `embolden and encourage the imperialists.'
--America the enemy: The commentary declares that the Mojahedin's policy was to use the hostage crisis to spread `anti-imperialistic culture' and to reveal the true face of American imperialism as the `fundamental enemy of our people.' It quotes a letter the MKO sent some fourteen months earlier to Iran's Revolutionary Council demanding that all treaties and relations with America be cut off without delay. The commentary declares that the Mojahedin still aim `as much as possible to close the path to reconciliation with America.'