Tag Archive: People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Tribunal Dismisses Prosecution’s Application to Recuse Judge Eric David.


 KUALA LUMPUR, 21 August 2013 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, which commenced today to hear war crimes and genocide charges against the State of Israel and Amos Yaron, a retired Israeli army general hit a snag.

To begin with, the Prosecution made an application that, to preserve the sanctity of the tribunal, Judge Eric David be recused for his alleged possible connection with the Mossad, the intelligence agency of Israel.

There have been allegations including from US officials that the Peoples Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) is supported by Mossad. The PMOI is listed as a terrorist organisation that has carried out terrorist activities against Iran. According to the prosecution, Judge Eric David had written a legal opinion that the PMOI be removed from the list of terrorist organisations.

Amicus curiae Jason Kay appointed under Article 15 of the Charter, raised the point that the allegations were not supported by clear evidence. And that perceived bias does not amount to actual bias. The Prosecution further argued that there must not even be any perceived bias on the part of any judge of the tribunal in deciding a case.

The Tribunal adjourned the hearing to deliberate further and later returned dismissing the prosecution’s application to recuse Judge Eric David, as they felt there was no threat of real bias. However, the prosecution disagreed and the hearing was adjourned once again.

When the hearing resumed, the President of the Tribunal, Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus Lamin, expressed the panel’s disquiet of the breakdown of the forum stressing that once an objection had been overruled, it should be accepted and respected. He instructed the registrar to expunge all the allegations levelled against Judge Eric David from the records.

In their response, the prosecution accepted the panel’s decision but conveyed the serious concerns of the witnesses who had come all the way from Palestine to have their day in court. The witnesses, through the Chief Prosecutor Prof Gurdial S Nijar made known their three points of concerns to the panel of judges.

One, the fact, that, they have come to the Tribunal seeking justice after literally years of being unheard. They have come for justice and are prepared for any decision but in the present situation, they are not comfortable to appear before a judge that may be biased. They want the process of obtaining justice untainted in any way. Otherwise, in their view, it would be worthless. Secondly, they fear for their personal security in having come all the way to Kuala Lumpur to testify and thirdly, it is a matter of principle to them and if they lack confidence in the panel of judges, they would essentially be insecure and thus unable to tend evidence. As such, the Prosecution recommended that the hearing be adjourned Sine Die (indefinitely).

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By Ismail Salami


Terrorism is terrorism and it cannot be defined otherwise unless the interests of one party tilt the scale in disfavor of another and the dichotomization of the terrorists in Syria into good and bad by the West casts doubt on its claim on democracy.

In a somber political tone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out as “absolutely unacceptable” the West’s support for the terrorists in Syria in his exclusive interview with Russia Today.

Lavrov said the West has divided the terrorists into “bad” and “acceptable,” throwing its support behind the latter.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable, and if we follow this logic it might lead us to a very dangerous situation not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world, if our partners in the West would begin to qualify terrorists as bad terrorists and acceptable terrorists,” the Russian foreign minister said.

The dichotomization of such a grave issue by the West is almost nothing new. The delisting of MKO, a long-considered terrorists group, by Washington is in line with this process of redefining well-established concepts and terms by the West.

Paradoxically, the MKO has been supported by Washington even when it was on the terrorist list. They even received their training at the hands of the Bush administration.

In a enlightening article, Seymour Hersh showed that US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) trained members of the Iranian Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MKO) at a secretive site in Nevada from 2005 to at least 2007. According to Hersh, MKO members “were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office.”

In a separate interview, a retired four-star general said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of MKO members in Nevada by an American involved in the program. He said that they got “the standard training in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months. They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror.

To the dismay and disappointment of many, US State Department decided in September to remove the MKO from the terror lists.

US State Department said its decision to delist the group was made because the group has not committed any terrorist acts for a decade and brashly whitewashed the fact that the group has been to all intents and purposes instrumental in carrying out nuclear assassinations in the last few years in Iran. Although the group has never officially assumed responsibility for the assassinations (which is quite natural), there is solid evidence suggesting that it has been complicit in these terrorist acts.

The terrorist group made unrelenting efforts for years to be removed from the terror list and enlisted a number of Republican and Democratic officials to lobby on its behalf. Instead of paying lobbying fees to them, “it offered honoraria ranging from $10,000-$50,000 per speech to excoriate the US government for its allegedly shabby treatment of the MEK. Among those who joined the group’s gravy train are former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz, and former FBI director Louis Freeh. Many of them profess to have little interest in the money they have collected” (Richard Silverstein, The Guardian September 22, 20212).


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Politics  :  Government Corruption – Hypocrisy – War on terror



Published on Sep 29, 2012 by

The anti-Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) paid immense bribes to top American politicians to gain their support for delisting the group from the US terror watch list, a New York Times report says.

The revelation comes as US State Secretary Hillary Clinton officially de-listed the MKO from its terror watch list on September 21.

The NY Times article reaffirms that the support of prominent American politicians for the MKO organization has undoubtedly played a role in the de-listing of the MKO organization as a terrorist group.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official, to further discuss the issue.

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History :  Politics – War on terror

Q&A: what is the MEK and why did the US call it a terrorist organization?

The MEK cut a ‘swath of terror’ in the Middle East, but leaders have worked hard to convince the west they are peaceful now

    mek iraq

    About 2,000 members of the MEK currently live at a camp near Baghdad – but the organisation refuses to shift another 1,200 from a former training camp. Photograph: Hadi Mizban/AP

    Why did the US designate the MEK a terrorist organization in 1997?

    The MEK’s supporters say it was banned as a move by the Clinton administration to appease the Iranian government. The US state department, which decides which groups to include on the list of designated terrorist organisations, points to a long and bloody history.

    The MEK ran a bombing campaign inside Iran against the Shah’s regime the 1970s. The targets were sometimes American, including the US information office, Pepsi Cola, PanAm and General Motors. The group routinely denounced Zionism and “racist Israel”, and called for “death to America”.

    A state department report in 1992 identified the MEK as responsible for the killing of six Americans in Iran during the 1970s. They included three military officers and three men working for Rockwell International, a conglomerate specialising in aerospace including weapons, who were murdered in retaliation for the arrest of MEK members over the killings of the US military officers.

    The MEK was an enthusiastic supporter of the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran following the Iranian revolution. It called the eventual release of the American hostages a “surrender”.

    After falling out with Iran’s new rulers, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the MEK launched a bomb campaign against the Islamic government. In 1981, it attacked the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party, killing 74 senior officials including the party leader and 27 members of parliament. A few months later it bombed a meeting of Iran’s national security council, killing Iran’s president and the prime minister.

    The state department described the MEK as cutting a “swath of terror” across the country in the following years and of “violent attacks in Iran that victimize civilians”.

    “Since 1981 the [MEK] have claimed responsibility for murdering thousands of Iranians they describe as agents of the regime,” the report said.

    The bombings continued into the 1990s including one at Khomeini’s tomb and against oil refineries.

    Who supported the MEK?

    After the MEK leadership fell out with the Islamic regime it fled first to Paris. France expelled the MEK leader, Masud Rajavi, in 1986. The group then ran into the arms of Iran’s enemy, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. Iraq helped arm the MEK’s thousands of fighters with artillery, guns and tanks and housed them in three camps near Baghdad and along the border with Iran. Baghdad also supplied money.

    saddam hussein MEKSaddam Hussein helped arm the MEK’s fighters. Photograph: APThe MEK’s armed wing, the National Liberation Army (NLA), conducted raids into Iran during the last stages of the Iran-Iraq war. It also became a tool of Saddam Hussein’s campaign of internal oppression.

    “The NLA’s last major offensive reportedly was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991 when it joined Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion,” the state department report said.

    The last major act of violence committed by the MEK in the west was in 1992 when it stormed Iranian diplomatic missions in the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Switzerland. The assault was in response to an Iranian air force bombing raid on an MEK base in Iraq.

    Wouldn’t the killing of Americans, calls for the destruction of Israel and supporting Saddam Hussein be enough to scare off any American politician from ever supporting the MEK?

    The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 changed everything for the MEK. Its fighters at Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border, and other sites near Baghdad were disarmed by the Americans. The MEK leadership moved swiftly to distance itself from Saddam Hussein, emphasizing its opposition to the Islamic government in Tehran and casting its supporters as selfless and long suffering supporters of freedom and democracy. From then on the MEK reinvented itself in American eyes.

    Until the 1990s it was known as the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran, but that’s not the kind of name to win support in the west these days so it tweaked the name.

    Two decades ago, the state department identified the MEK as running what it called “a determined lobbying effort among western parliamentarians”.

    “To conduct its propaganda campaign the group has established offices through western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and the Middle East,” it said. “Through such efforts, the (MEK) attempt to transform western opprobrium for the government of Iran into expressions of support for themselves”.

    The MEK leadership has played on opposition to the present Iranian leadership, which is in part bound up with concerns among US politicians over Tehran’s nuclear program and fears for Israel’s security, to bury its past by portraying itself as a democratic and popular alternative to the Islamic regime.

    “Exploiting western opprobrium of the behavior of the current government of Iran, the (MEK) posit themselves as the alternative. To achieve that goal, they claim they have the support of a majority of Iranians. This claim is much disputed by academics and other specialists on Iran, who assert that in fact the MEK have little support among Iranians,” it said.

    The state department report quotes an American journalist as saying of the MEK: “They hope to transform their public image in America from terrorists to freedom fighters”.

    It appears to have been largely successful in that. Few of the MEK’s American backers appear to know the detail of its past, particularly the scale of its killing and the depth of its hostility to the US and Israel. Instead it described as a loyal and useful ally. Supporters say that it was the MEK that first provided the US with information about Iran’s nuclear programme.

    Has the MEK changed?

    It has certainly abandoned violence, at least for now. But that is in part because it was forcibly disarmed by the US army in Iraq. It also recognizes that since 9/11, bombing attacks by a mostly Muslim organization are not likely to win it friends in the west.

    In exile, the MEK leadership established the National Council of Resistance which has evolved into what the group calls a parliament in exile.

    But the MEK is far from democratic. It is autocratically run by a husband and wife, Masud and Maryam Rajavi, who the state department say have “fostered a cult of personality”.

    In its 1992 report on the MEK, the state department said the group’s leadership “never practices democracy within their organization”.

    “Many Iranians who have dealt with MEK members assert that the [MEK] suppress dissent, often with force, and do not tolerate different viewpoints. The [MEK’s] credibility is also undermined by the fact that they deny or distort sections of their history, such as the use of violence or opposition to Zionism. It is difficult to accept at face value promises of future conduct when an organisation fails to acknowledge its past,” the report said.

    So what is the likelihood of the MEK being unbanned?

    As part of their campaign, the MEK’s supporters have won a federal court order requiring the state department to make a decision on whether the group should remain on the designated terrorist list by October 1.

    Some pro-MEK activists have interpreted that as a foregone conclusion that the state department will have to delist the organisation. They have been bolstered by its unbanning in Europe.

    The MEK’s well financed and organized lobbying campaign has placed enormous pressure on the state department to delist the group. But the state department has warned the MEKthat its status will in part be decided over whether it obeys a demand to leave its main camp in Iraq. Its refusal, so far, to move remaining supporters from Camp Ashraf – where it used to train its paramilitary fighters – to a former US military base near Baghdad is said by the state department to be a significant obstacle to delisting the group.

    The MEK has moved 2,000 of the 3,200 people who were living in Camp Ashraf but refuses to shift the rest. The MEK has portrayed the issue as a humanitarian one to its sympathizers in Washington, saying that all that remains in Camp Ashraf are families and that conditions in the Baghdad camp are inadequate. They say it is effectively a prison – even going so far as to call it a concentration camp – and alleged they will be vulnerable to violence from the Iraqi government and forces.

    Some US officials say that those refusing to leave shows that the MEK has not really abandoned its past.

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    MEK decision: multimillion-dollar campaign led to removal from terror list

    Revealed: the steady flow of funds to members of Congress, lobbying firms and former officials in support of Iranian group

    Exiles, lobbyists and the campaign to delist the MEK

    Q&A: what is the MEK?

    MEK protests

    The MEK, which was banned in 1997, supported the Islamic revolution in Iran and later allied itself with Saddam Hussein. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP

    Supporters of a designated Iranian terrorist organization have won a long struggle to see it unbanned in the US after pouring millions of dollars into an unprecedented campaign of political donations, hiring Washington lobby groups and payments to former top administration officials.

    A Guardian investigation, drawing partly on data researched by the Centre for Responsive Politics, a group tracking the impact of money in US politics, has identified a steady flow of funds from key Iranian American organizations and their leaders into the campaign to have the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran removed from the list of terrorist organizations.

    The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is expected to notify Congress that the MEK will be removed from the terrorism list in the coming days.

    The campaign to bury the MEK’s bloody history of bombings and assassinations that killed American businessmen, Iranian politicians and thousands of civilians, and to portray it as a loyal US ally against the Islamic government in Tehran has seen large sums of money directed at three principal targets: members of Congress, Washington lobby groups and influential former officials.

    Prominent among the members of Congress who have received fund is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chair of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee. She has accepted at least $20,000 in donations from Iranian American groups or their leaders to her political campaign fund.

    English: Official House of Representatives por...

    English: Official House of Representatives portrait of of Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Other recipients include Congressman Bob Filner, who was twice flown to address pro-MEK events in France and has pushed resolutions resolutions in the House of Representatives calling for the group to be unbanned. More than $14,000 in expenses for Filner’s Paris trips were met by the head of an Iranian American group who also paid close to $1m to a Washington lobby firm working to get the MEK unbanned.

    A Texas Congressman, Ted Poe, received thousands of dollars in donations from the head of a pro-MEK group in his state at a time when he was a regular speaker on behalf of its unbanning at events across the US, describing the organisation as the ticket to regime change in Iran.

    Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, has also received the backing of individuals and groups that support the unbanning of the MEK. Rogers has been among the strongest supporters in Congress of delisting the group, sponsoring resolutions and pressing other members of Congress to support the cause.

    A leading advocate of unbanning the MEK and chairman of the foreign affairs committee’s oversight subcommittee, congressman Dana Rohrabacher, has received thousands of dollars in donations from supporters of the banned group this year alone.

    The Guardian sought comment from Ros-Lehtinen, Rogers, Filner, Poe and Rohrabacher. Only Rohrabacher responded.

    He said he was comfortable accepting donations from MEK supporters but that the money has no influence on his position that it should be unbanned.

    “I wouldn’t doubt that people would donate to my campaign if it’s something that they see as beneficial to them, to what they believe in, whether it’s the MEK or whether it’s anybody else,” he said.

    “The question is whether it’s the right position to take or not and whether it’s a benefit to the people of the United States as a whole. In this case I’ve no doubt that supporting the MEK under this brutal attack from the Mullah regime [in Tehran] is in the interests of what I believe in but also in the interests of the people of the United States.”

    Rohrabacher said the MEK’s past attacks on Americans, its bombing campaign in Iran that killed top politicians and civilians, and its support of Saddam Hussein were history and the group has turned its back on violence. He also denied that public support for a designated terrorist organisation might put him in conflict with the law.

    “This isn’t a bad group. A long time ago, in their history, they certainly had a questionable time – 20, 30, 40 years ago. But I don’t know of any evidence they’ve engaged in terrorism for many, many years,” he said. “They’re not a terrorist group simply because some bureaucrats in the state department say so.”

    Three top Washington lobby firms – DLA Piper; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; and DiGenova & Toensing – have been paid a total of nearly $1.5 million over the past year to press the US administration and legislators to support the delisting of the MEK and protection for its members in camps in Iraq.

    Two other lobby groups were hired for much smaller amounts. The firms employed former members of Congress to press their ex-colleagues on Capitol Hill to back the unbanning of the MEK.

    Scores of former senior officials have been paid up to $40,000 to make speeches in support of the MEK’s delisting. Those who have received money include the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Hugh Shelton; ex-FBI director Louis Freeh; and Michael Mukasey, who as attorney general oversaw the prosecution of terrorism cases.

    The former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, has accepted more than $150,000 in speaking  fees at events in support ofthe MEK’s unbanning. Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, was paid $20,000 to speak at the rally. Part of the money has been paid through speakers bureaus on the US east coast.

    Others accepted only travel costs, although in some cases that involved expensive trips to Europe.

    In June, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives and Republican presidential candidate, flew to Paris to address a pro-MEK rally and meet its co-leader, Maryam Rajavi.

    He was criticised for bowing to her.

    Congressman Rohrabacher has described the lobbying campaign as one of the most effective he has seen on Capitol Hill. It has galvanised powerful support for delisting the MEK far beyond those receiving political contributions, lobbying fees or other payments.

    Ros-Lehtinen has been a vigorous proponent of recognition of the MEK, flying around the country to speak in support of unbanning the group and pressing the issue among fellow members of Congress. She has accepted an award from one group funding the campaign to delist the MEK. Other recipients of political donations, including Rogers, Filner and Rohrabacher, have also lobbied other members of Congress to support the unbanning. As a result, nearly 100 members of Congress have co-sponsored a resolution demanding the Obama administration to delist the MEK.

    Last month, 17 former senior officials and US generals called on the state department to remove the group’s terrorist designation. Among them were General James Jones, Barack Obama’s former national security adviser; Tom Ridge, the former homeland security director; as well as Mukasey, Freeh and Rendell.

    Some of the same politicians and former officials have also targeted newspapers and online publications in a campaign of opinion articles and letters aimed at changing the image of the MEK as a terrorist group.

    The campaign has in part been funded by substantial donations from Iranian Americans and a web of organisations they lead from Florida to Texas and California.

    The most generous benefactors include:

    Saeid Ghaemi, head of Colorado’s Iranian American Community, who paid close to $900,000 of his own money to a Washington lobby firm for its work to get the MEK unbanned.

    Ali Soudjani, president of the Iranian American Society of Texas. He gave close to $100,000 over the past five years to congressional campaign funds. His organization paid more than $110,000 in fees to lobbyists last year.

    Ahmad Moeinimanesh, leader of the Iranian American Community of Northern California. The group paid $400,000 to a lobby firm. Moeinimanesh made personal donations to Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign even though her constituency is several thousand miles from where he lives.

    Some of the payments have prompted an investigation by the US treasury department. It is examining the fees paid to Shelton, Freeh, Mukasey and Rendell, and possibly others, to see if they breach laws against “material support for a terrorist group”. In cases involving links to other banned organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, individuals have received long jail sentences for indirect financial support.

    The original source of the considerable sums involved is not always clear as groups making political donations or funding lobby firms are not required to declare their origin. Previously the MEK has relied in part on funding from Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

    Soudjani told the Guardian that the moneys were raised from Iranian Americans in the US. “The Iranian community is wealthy. It has more than $600bn in the United States. This is pennies for supporting freedom,” he said.

    Asked if his own donations to members of Congress was specifically because of their positions on the MEK, he replied: “Yes, it is.”

    However, Soudjani was careful to say that the support is not for the MEK as an organization, which could open donors to investigation under anti-terrorism laws.

    “We are not giving material support to the MEK. We are supporting freedom of speech for justice and peace in Iran,” he said.

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    Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News

    Mehdi Marizad / Fars via AP file

    A car that was bombed by two assailants on a motorcycle in Tehran on Jan. 11, killing Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan, is removed by a mobile crane. The photo was distributed by the semi-official Iranian photo agency Fars.

    By Richard Engel and Robert Windrem
    NBC News

    Updated: 11:14 a.m. ET — Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.


    The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.

    The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.

    U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.

    The Iranians have no doubt who is responsible – Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known by various acronyms, including MEK, MKO and PMI.

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    “The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel.  “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information.  And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”

    Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs.  In one case, he said, Mossad agents built a replica of the home of an Iranian nuclear scientist so that the assassins could familiarize themselves with the layout prior to the attack.

    Much of what the Iranian government knows of the attacks and the links between Israel and MEK  comes from interrogation of an assassin who failed to carry out an attack in late 2010 and the materials found on him, Larijani said. (Click here to see a video report of the interrogation shown on Iranian televsion.)

    The U.S.-educated Larijani, whose two younger brothers run the legislative and judicial branches of the Iranian government, said the Israelis’ rationale is simple. “Israel does not have direct access to our society. Mujahedin, being Iranian and being part of Iranian society, they have … a good number of … places to get into the touch with people. So I think they are working hand-to-hand very close.  And we do have very concrete documents.”

    Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News  the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.”  All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.

    As it has in the past, Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment. Said a spokesman, “As long as we can’t see all the evidence being claimed by NBC, the Foreign Ministry won’t react to every gossip and report being published worldwide.”

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    For its part, the MEK pointed to a statement calling the allegations “absolutely false.”

    Response to article from the National Council of Resistance of Iran

    Ali Safavi, a long-time representative of the MEK, underscored the denial after publication of this article,

    “There has never been and there is no MEK member in Israel, period,” he said. “The MEK has categorically denied any involvement. The idea that Israel is training MEK members on its soil borders on perversity. It is absolutely and completely false.”

    The sophistication of the attacks supports the Iranian claims that an experienced intelligence service is involved, experts say.

    In the most recent attack, on Jan. 11, 2012, Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan died in a blast in Tehran moments after two assailants on a motorcycle placed a small magnetic bomb on his vehicle. Roshan was a deputy director at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and was reportedly involved in procurement for the nuclear program, which Iran insists is not a weapons program.

    Previous attacks include the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

    In the case of Roshan, the bomb appears to have been a shaped charge that directed all the explosive power inside the vehicle, killing him and his bodyguard driver but leaving nearby traffic unaffected.

    Although Roshan was directly involved in the nuclear program, working at the huge centrifuge facility between Tehran and Qom, Iran’s religious center, at least one other scientist who was killed wasn’t linked to the Iranian nuclear program, according to Larijani.

    Speaking of bombing victim Ali-Mohammadi, whom he described as a friend, Larijani told NBC News, “In fact this guy who was assassinated was not involved in the nitty-gritty of the situation.  He was a scientist, a physicist, working on the theoretically parts of nuclear energy, which you can teach it in every university. You can find it in every text.”

    “This is an Israeli plot.  A dirty plot,” Larijani added angrily. He also claimed the assassinations are not having an effect on the program and have only made scientists more resolute in carrying out their mission.

    Not so, said Ronen Bergman, an Israeli commentator and author of “Israel’s Secret War with Iran” and an upcoming book tentatively titled, “Mossad and the Art of Assassination.”

    Bergman said the attacks have three purposes, the most obvious being the removal of high-ranking scientists and their  knowledge. The others:  forcing Iran to increase security for its scientists and facilities and to spur “white defections.”

    He explained the latter this way: “Scientists leaving the project, afraid that they are going to be next on the assassination list, and say, ‘We don’t want this.  Indeed, we get good money, we are promoted, we are honored by everybody, but we might get killed.  It isn’t worth it.  Maybe we should go back to teach … in a university.’”

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    There are unconfirmed reports in the Israeli press and elsewhere that Israel and the MEK were involved in a Nov. 12 explosion that destroyed the Iranian missile research and development site at Bin Kaneh, 30 miles outside Tehran.  Among those killed was Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, director of missile development for the Revolutionary Guard, and a dozen other researchers. So important was Moghaddam that Ayatollah Khamenei attended his funeral.

    Unlike the assassinations, Iran claims the missile site explosion was an accident; the MEK, meanwhile, trumpeted it but denied any involvement.

    Indeed, there may be other covert operations carried out either by Israel acting alone or in concert with others, according to Bergman.

    “Two labs caught fire,” said Bergman, enumerating the attacks. “Scientists got blown up or disappeared.  A missile base and the R&D base of the Revolutionary Guard exploded some time ago, with the director of the R&D division of the Revolutionary Guard being killed along with … his soldiers.”

    Bergman added, “So, a long series of … something that was termed by an Israeli (Cabinet) minister … as ‘mysterious mishaps’ happening and rehappening to the project. Then the Iranians claim, ‘This is Israeli Mossad trying to sabotage our attempts to be a nuclear superpower.’”

    Dr. Uzi Rabi, director of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, said the supposed accidents could all be part of “psychological warfare” conducted against Iran. “It seems logical. It makes sense,” he said of possible MEK involvement, “and it’s been done before.”

    Rabi, who regularly briefs Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Iran also said the ultimate goal of the range of covert operations being carried out by Israel is “to damage the politics of survivability … to send a message that could strike fear into the rulers of Iran.”

    For the United States, the alleged role of the MEK is particularly troublesome.  In 1997, the State Department designated it a terrorist group, justifying it with an unclassified 40-page summary of the organization’s  activities going back more than 25 years.  The paper, sent to Congress in 1994, was written by Wendy Sherman, now undersecretary of state for political affairs and then an aide to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    The report, which was obtained by NBC News, was unsparing in its assessment. “The Mujahedin  (MEK) collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the former shah of Iran,” it said. “As part of that struggle, they assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the U.S. embassy, and opposed the release of the American hostages.”  In each case, the paper noted, “Bombs were the Mujahedin’s weapon of choice, which they frequently employed against American targets.”

    “In the post-revolutionary political chaos, however, the Mujahedin lost political power to Iran’s Islamic clergy. They then applied their dedication to armed struggle and the use of propaganda against the new Iranian government, launching a violent and polemical cycle of attack and reprisal.”

    Sean Gallup / Getty Images file

    Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, greets several hundred Iranian expatriates who had gathered to welcome her at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on March 22, 2010.

    U.S. officials have said publicly that the information contained in the report was limited to unclassified material, but that it also drew on classified material in making its determination to add the MEK to the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

    The MEK and its sister organizations have since the beginning been run by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, a husband-wife team who have maintained tight control despite assassination threats and internal dissent. Massoud Rajavi, 63, founded the MEK, but since the U.S. invasion of Iraq has taken a backseat to his wife.

    The State Department report describes the Rajavis as  “fundamentally undemocratic” and “not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran.”

    One reason for that is the MEK’s close relationship with Saddam Hussein, as demonstrated by this 1986 video showing the late Iraqi dictator meeting with Massoud Rajavi. Saddam recruited the MEK in much the same way the Israelis allegedly have, using them to fight Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq War, a role they took on proudly.  So proudly, they invited NBC News to one of their military camps outside Baghdad in 1991.

    “The National Liberation Army (MLA), the military wing of the Mujahedin, conducted raids into Iran during the latter years of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War,” according to the State Department report. The NLA’s last major offensive reportedly was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991, when it joined Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion. In addition to occasional acts of sabotage, the Mujahedin are responsible for violent attacks in Iran that victimize civilians.”

    “Internally, the Mujahedin run their organization autocratically, suppressing dissent and eschewing tolerance of differing viewpoints,” it said. “Rajavi, who heads the Mojahedin’s political and military wings, has fostered a cult of personality around himself.”

    The U.S. suspicion of the MEK doesn’t end there. Law enforcement officials have told NBC News that in 1994, the MEK made a pact with terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.  According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Yousef built an 11-pound bomb that MEK agents placed inside one of Shia Islam’s greatest shrines in Mashad, Iran, on June 20, 1994At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 200 wounded in the attack.

    That connection between Yousef, nephew of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and the MEK was first reported in a book, “The New Jackals,” by Simon Reeve. NBC News confirmed that Yousef told U.S. law enforcement that he had worked with the MEK on the bombing.

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    In recent years, the MEK has said it has renounced violence, but Iranian officials say that is not true, that killings of Iranians continue.  Still, through some deft lobbying, the group has been able to get the United Kingdom and the European Union to remove it from their lists of terrorist groups.

    The alleged involvement of the MEK in the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists provides the U.S. with a cloak of deniability regarding the clandestine killings. Because the U.S. has designated the MEK as a terrorist organization, neither military nor intelligence units of the U.S. government, can work with them.  “We cannot deal with them, “ said one senior U.S. official. “We would not deal with them because of the designation.”

    Iranian officials initially accused the Israelis and MEK of being behind the attacks, but they have since added the CIA to the list. Three days after the Jan. 11, 2012, bombing in Tehran that killed Roshan, the state news agency IRNA reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. claiming to have “evidence and reliable information” that the CIA provided “guidance, support and planning” to assassins directly involved in the attack.  

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  immediately denied any connection to the killings. “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” Clinton told reporters on the day of the attack.

    But at least two GOP presidential candidates have no problem with the targeting of nuclear scientists.  In a November debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed “taking out their scientists,” and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called it, ”a wonderful thing.”

    The MEK’s opposition to the Iranian government also has recently earned it both plaudits and support from an odd mix of political bedfellows.

    A group of former Cabinet-level officials have joined together to support the MEK’s removal from the official U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list, even taking out a full-page ad last year in the New York Times calling for the removal of the MEK from the U.S. terrorist list.  Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy were among those whose signatures were on the ad.

    “There’s an extraordinary group of bipartisan or even apolitical leaders, military leaders, diplomats, the United States … the United Kingdom, the European Union, even a U.S. District Court in Washington, said that this group that was put on the foreign terrorist organization watch list in 1997 doesn’t deserve to be there,” Ridge said in November on “The Andrea Mitchell Show” on MSNBC TV.

    U.S. politicians also have been pushing the U.S. government to protect the 3,400 MEK members and their families at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, about 35 miles north of Baghdad.  With the departure of U.S. troops, the MEK feared that Iraqi forces, with encouragement from Iran, would attack the camp, leading to a bloodbath. At the last minute, however, agreement was brokered with the United Nations that would permit the MEK members’ departure for resettlement in unspecified democratic countries.  As of this week, there’s been little movement on the planned resettlement.

    Jassim Mohammed / AP file

    Iranian fighters with the National Liberation Army, the military wing of the MEK, clean armored personnel carriers in 1997 after a field exercise near Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

    The Iranians see what’s happening as terrorism and hypocrisy by the United States.  They have forwarded documents and other evidence to the United Nations – and directly to the United States, they say.

    “I think this is very cynical plan.  This is unacceptable,” said Larijani. “This is a bad trend in the world.  Unprecedented.  We should kill scientists … to block a scientific program?  I mean this is disaster!”

    Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and also a senior fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that if the accounts of the Israeli-MEK assassinations are accurate, the operation borders on terrorism.

    “In theory, states cannot be terrorist, but if they hire locals to do assassinations, that would be state sponsorship,” said Byman, author of the recent book, “A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism.” “You could argue that they took action not to terrorize the public, the purpose of terrorism, but only the nuclear community.  An argument could also be made that degrading the program means that you don’t have to take military action and thus, this is a lower level of violence and that really these are military targets, where normally terrorist targets are civilians.”

    But ultimately, Byman said, there is a “spectrum of responsibility” and that Israel is ultimately responsible.

    Ronen Bergman, while not speaking on behalf of the Israeli government, suggests that there is a justification, citing an oft-repeated but disputed quote in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.

    “Meir Degan, the chief of Mossad, when he was in office, hung a photograph behind him, behind the chair of the chief of Mossad,” notes the Israeli commentator.  “And in that photograph you see — an ultra-orthodox Jew — long beard, standing on his knees with his– hands up in the air, and two Gestapo soldiers standing — beside him with guns pointed at him.  One of — one of them is smiling.

    “And Degan used to say to his people and the people coming to visit him from CIA, NSA, et cetera, ‘Look at this guy in the picture. This is my grandfather just seconds before he was killed by the SS,’” Bergman said. “’… We are here to prevent this from happening again.’”

    Richard Engel is NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent; Robert Windrem is a senior investigative producer.