Why is the Iran lobby terrified of the Iranian resistance movement around the world? Almost every spokesperson, lobbyist and PR flak with a vested stake in the Iranian regime’s continued well-being has been intent on discrediting any Iranian dissident to diminish the messenger.
The answer is simple: The existence of a viable, vocal and demonstrative dissident movement comprised of Iranians offers an alternative narrative to the Iran lobby and mullahs in Tehran that directly contradicts virtually every key message they articulate.
Key advocates for the regime such as the National Iranian American Council have made it a career to find new and inventive ways to discredit, discount and disregard even the idea of an Iranian dissident movement.
The existence of any dissident movement threatens everything the Iran lobby has sought to achieve. During the run-up to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, the NIAC’s Trita Parsi was a constant fixture on news programs and shuttling in and out of the White House and Switzerland to plant the seeds of ideas such as that the nuclear deal would empower “moderate” Iranian political forces and help stabilize the government and build trust with the U.S.
Unfortunately for Parsi, the opposite has happened with several presidential and parliamentary elections have come and gone with no viable moderates or true political opposition even allowed onto the ballot.
The reason for this is simple since the mullahs have never harbored any thoughts of actual political liberalization. Top mullah Ali Khamenei has ruled Iran in the same manner as his predecessors ever since the Islamic revolution was hijacked by the religious theocracy and turned into a virtual dictatorship.
In the intervening decades, the mullahs have grown fat and comfortable skimming off the Iranian people and economy and funneling billions to themselves, their families and the military that backs them.
The NIAC and other Iran lobby advocates, therefore, have worked to avoid the question of the dismal human rights condition within Iran and instead focused on tarring anyone who dares raise a voice of dissent against the ruling mullahs.
It’s a paradoxically insane position since it relies on the suspension of disbelief; namely that you have to ignore all of the terrible things being done internally to any political opposition in Iran and because of the lack of internal dissent, everything must be blissfully cooperative and collegial according to the Iran lobby.
This also explains why the Iran lobby spends almost no editorial time ever criticizing the Iranian regime over the treatment of its people as evidenced by the lack of commentary over the massive protests that have swept throughout Iran since last December.
Unlike the political protests that followed the disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which was centered on major urban areas and supported largely by educated, more well-off protestors, these protests have been supported by the Iranian poor and working classes and been centered in the more remote provinces and cities indicating how widespread discontent is with the ruling classes.
All of which has led the NIAC and the rest of the Iran lobby to focus its current anti-dissident barrage squarely at the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), one of the oldest Iranian dissident groups, in an effort to discredit the U.S. administration’s aggressive policies against the regime, including the decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.
That PR offensive has focused on the fact that official such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and current National Security Advisor John Bolton have addressed meetings of Iranian dissidents before. Interestingly, the NIAC and other Iran lobbyists have neglected that notable Democratic officials have also addressed these same groups but have not drawn similar rhetorical fire.
All of which lends more credence to the idea that these attacks are less about fending off Iranian dissidents as much as it’s about partisan politics.
But several academics, columnists, bloggers and journalists who were part of the so-called “echo chamber” created by the Iran lobby to support the nuclear deal, are now attacking the MEK as a stalking horse by calling it a “cult” and depicting it as a terrorist group for its past efforts to fight the Iranian regime early in Islamic revolution’s birth.
Some of those hit pieces have come from William Hartung in the Philadelphia Tribune, Bernd Debusmann in the Arab Weekly, Philip M. Giraldi in Mintpress News and Hamid Dabashi in Aljazeera.
They all use nearly identical language in an effort to single out and attack the MEK, such as Hartung’s editorial which says:
“Next-level steps could include supporting anti-regime groups like the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which was for many years on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. But its ability to win over influential supporters like John Bolton does not mean that the MEK has either the capacity or the support to overthrow the Iranian government. To think that an organization that the New York Times has rightly described as a ‘fringe dissident group’ could overthrow the government of Iran is a fantasy,” he writes.
It’s not surprising he quotes the New York Times since virtually all of the opposition to the Trump administration’s Iran policy seems to be more motivated by partisan political bickering and less about what is best for the Iranian people.
One of the central tenets of the Iranian resistance movement as articulated by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran which is the major umbrella group of Iranian dissident organizations, is that any movement towards regime change and democratization in Iran must begin and be grounded in the Iranian people. Any outside influence would only play into the hands of the mullahs, which is precisely why the NIAC and rest of the Iran lobby have sought to portray all this as a manipulation by the Bolton and his cronies.
The reality is that the protests flaring all across Iran is genuine, organic and rooted deeply in the dissatisfaction Iranians have over the corruption of their government and that’s a topic the Iran lobby doesn’t want to talk about.