One of the more memorable claims made constantly by the Iran lobby during negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal two years ago was that its passage would embolden moderate forces within the regime government and nudge it to a more stabilizing influence in the region and world.
We now know how utterly wrong that promise was since the deal was approved, but more importantly, the agreement emboldened – not moderate influences within the regime – but the hardcore sentiments of the mullahs controlling the regime to crack down even harder on dissent at home and abroad.
Chief among those dissenters were those amongst the Iranian diaspora around the world actively working to promote democracy and freedom within Iran, especially anyone associated with the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), the oldest and largest of the Iranian dissident groups abroad.
The MEK has been a particularly annoying thorn in the side of the mullahs since it has helped break closely-held secrets of the regime such as the existence of its then-clandestine nuclear program.
The MEK has also been a conduit for videos, photos and news from within Iran smuggled out to give the world a glimpse of the atrocities committed by the regime such as gruesome public hangings, as well as protests and demonstrations by Iranians against the government both large and small, including the most recent waves of protests stemming from deep dissatisfaction over the faltering economy.
For the mullahs, the mere existence of an organized and global resistance movement comprised of Iranians is galling and worrisome since it shows how the regime’s rule is neither benevolent, nor popular.
The threat posed by groups such as the MEK is such that the regime has waged a secret war against its members including launching attacks on refugee camps in Iraq housing MEK members resulting in the massacres of MEK members in an effort to eradicate the resistance movement.
As pressure has mounted on the Iran regime because of its floundering economy and death spiral in the value of its currency, the mullahs have grown increasingly desperate to strike at its perceived mortal enemies; their fellow Iranians.
Last July, Belgium authorities arrested an Iranian couple and charged them with an “attempt at terrorist murder and preparing a terrorist crime” in a planned bombing attack on an Iranian freedom gathering in Paris with the MEK as one of its chief participants.
Additionally, German authorities arrested an Iranian diplomat from Vienna who was implicated in providing support and assistance to the couple in planning the attack.
Now we have news that U.S. prosecutors announced charges Monday against two men arrested Aug. 9 and accused of acting as agents of the government of Iran, covertly monitoring a Jewish center in Chicago and American members of the MEK on behalf of the Iranian regime government.
Criminal complaints against Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, 38, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were unsealed after an indictment was returned Monday in the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. attorney’s office of the District.
“Doostdar and Ghorbani are alleged to have acted on behalf of Iran, including by conducting surveillance of political opponents and engaging in other activities that could put Americans at risk,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
“This alleged activity demonstrates a continued interest in targeting the United States, as well as potential opposition groups located in the United States,” namely the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mujahedin of Iran, said Michael McGarrity, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch.
Doostdar and Ghorbani were charged with acting as agents of Iran, violating U.S. sanctions and conspiracy. The charges carry maximum statutory penalties of 10 years, 20 years and five years in prison, respectively, according to the Washington Post.
The Justice Department alleged that Ghorbani took pictures of participants at a MEK rally in New York last September and that Doostdar paid him $2,000 in cash for the photos during a meeting in Los Angeles later.
He later attended another MEK rally in Washington, DC in which he “appeared to photograph certain speakers and attendees, which included delegations from across the United States.”
The photographing of MEK participants is disturbing since the Iranian regime has already acted in the past to try and assassinate and kill its members. It also raises the specter that the regime is attempting to identify MEK members who may have relatives living in Iran who could be arrested and imprisoned in order to put pressure on the MEK.
The hardball tactics are nothing new to the regime and its intelligence services, especially its Ministry of Intelligence which has led the charge against the MEK for decades.
It also was not surprising to find the Iran lobby completely silent on the matter with no mention from the National Iranian American Council or any other Iran supporters about the purported surveillance operation being conducted by the Iranian government on U.S. soil.
The regime has also stepped up its practice of arresting dual-national citizens, especially from the U.S., Canada and Europe to use as political pawns, as well as arrest scores of Iranian citizens caught protesting the regime or simply acting contrary to its medieval sensibilities.
These actions though once again are proof that the MEK is a singular threat to the regime’s continued existence and one that is gaining strength with the protest movement within Iran.