On December 9, 2003, Iraq’s Governing Council announced that it had decided to expel thousands of members of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen Organization, also referred to as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). The group must leave Iraq by the end of December and its assets will be confiscated. Tehran hailed the announcement. Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, demanded that the dissidents be extradited to Iran.
The significance of the development extends beyond the fate of the anti-fundamentalist group. According to the Washington Post, this was “a surprise move that could alter the regional balance of power.”
|"Most of the 25 IGC members have been to Iran in recent months."|
Why has the IGC moved against a group lauded by U.S. 4th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno for its exemplary cooperation with the U.S. military in bringing security to Iraq? The decision was “the outcome of talks between Iran and the Iraqi Governing Council," Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters.
This is clearly an alarming and chilling indication of Iran’s rapidly growing influence over the Iraqi Governing Council. Most of the 25 IGC members have been to Iran in recent months.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Governing Council announced last week that it had fired a governor chosen by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer. Earlier, some IGC members demanded that the future of the country be determined through a direct vote, in which case pro-Iranian fundamentalist factions would gain the upper hand in running the country. That proposal runs contrary to the U.S.’s proposed road map, but is right in line with Tehran’s stated position. In recent weeks the same council members pressured the U.S. military into releasing two Iranian spies disguised as filmmakers, and are currently pressing ambassador Bremer to release the nearly 70 Iranian agents apprehended for sabotage by U.S. forces.
Saddam Hussein’s capture will undoubtedly have an impact, but should not be viewed as the cure-all for the current instability in Iraq, a significant part of which is foreign organized. Indeed, it might compel neighboring Iran to expand its already extensive network in Iraq beyond the IGC, as a counterweight to U.S. success in stabilizing the country. Saddam Hussein’s arrest should provide an opportunity for the United States and Iraq’s genuine leaders to focus on the dangers and challenges emanating primarily from Tehran’s mullahs.
For the past eight months, the Iranian regime has endeavored to derail any future political process in favor of an off-shoot “Islamic republic” in Iraq. Tehran’s mullahs have the means to do so, and are convinced that the United States would be hard-pressed to stop them.
The IGC call to expel the Mujahedeen has outraged Iraqi tribes and their leaders, who are increasingly concerned about Iran’s designs to dominate their country. Those tribes living round the last remaining MEK base have offered their support to the Iranian opposition group, according to news reports.
Legal experts believe that under the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1949, as the occupying power in Iraq, the United States is responsible for upholding international law. The State Department’s latest human rights report says the MEK supporters “make up a large number of those executed each year” by Tehran’s murder machine.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is the president of Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc. and a FOX News Channel foreign affairs analyst. He is a well-known authority in issues relating to Iran’s weapons of mass destruction program, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and Iranian internal politics.