«Rien n'est plus facile que de dénoncer un malfaiteur; rien n'est plus difficile que de le comprendre» ---Fédor Dostoïevski

lundi 10 mars 2008

Légaliser le MEK ou non?

L'excellent blog "Middle East Strategy at Harvard" a publié un article qui proposait d'enlever le groupe terroriste iranien Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) de la liste américaine des groupes terroristes. Motif: le MEK a fourni de nombreuses informations précieuses aux Américains sur le programme nucléaire iranien et devraient, dès lors, être récompensés. Matthew Levitt, au contraire, estime que les Etats-Unis ne peuvent pas jouer sur deux tableaux en matière de contre-terrorisme, interdisant certains groupes et autorisant d'autres.

Les deux points de vue sont "logiques" et très intéressants. Ce débat rappelle la subjectivité et la charge politique qui domine dans les débats sur le terrorisme. Les Américains et les Européens ont à ce point de vue eu de nombreuses querelles, notamment concernant le Hamas ou le Hezbollah.

Pour ceux désireux d'en savoir un peu plus sur le MEK, voici un question-réponse que j'avais rédigé l'année dernière pour un cours.

Name of terrorist organization: Mujahedeen-e Khalq

1.In what country/countries is the organization based?
France (leadership). Iraq (training bases).

2.When was the organization founded?
Septmeber 6, 1965. The MEK existed at first more as a secretive organization. They conducted their first operation in 1971.

3.In what country/countries is the organization active?
The organization is mainly active in Iran since their goal is to overthrow the mullah’s regime, but the 1992 attacks conducted on Iranian embassies in 13 different countries demonstrated the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.
They also conduct propaganda campaigns all around the world. They have an overwhelming presence in Western Europe.

4.What prompted the organization’s emergence?
It was founded by some Iranian students, members of the Liberation Movement of Iran, a nationalistic, liberal party formed by supporters of then Prime Minister Mohammed Mossaddegh. The failed June 1963 uprising in Iran prompted younger members of the party to start considering violent means to challenge the Shah. A discussion group, formed by some of these younger members, became the nucleus of the MEK.

5.What is/are the self-declared political goal/s of the organization?
The MEK's goal is to overthrow the Iranian government and replace it with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of Iranian opposition groups which claims to be the transitional parliament-in-exile with 570 members. At a 1995 conference, the group outlined a 16-point plan:
•Guarantee freedom of belief, expression and the press, without censorship;
•Guarantee freedom for political parties, unions, groups, councils, forums, syndicates, except those loyal to either the Shah or Ayatollah Khomeini, provided they stayed within the law;
•Ensure governments would be elected;
•Respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
•Abolish courts, tribunals, security departments introduced by the Ayatollah Khomeini regime;
•Ensure women enjoy the same social, political and cultural rights as men (including a ban on polygamy);
•Abolish privileges based on gender, religion or ethnic group;
•End discrimination against religious minorities;
•Abolish compulsory religious practice;
•Secure Iranian territorial integrity while recognizing the right of Iranian Kurdistan to autonomy;
•Safeguard all social, cultural and political rights for ethnic minorities;
•Repeal what the MEK deems to be anti-labor, anti-peasant laws;
•Encourage a return from exile for all who fled either the Shah or Khomeini regime;
•Base the economy on the free market, national capitalism and private ownership;
•Provide welfare needs to the poor; and
•Improve Iran's foreign relations with neighboring and other states, to live in peaceful co-existence.

6.Do members of the organization typically belong to a particular ethnic, religious or cultural group?
The organization was founded by college educated children of Iranian merchants.
The MEK is a Shiite movement from Islamo-Marxist inspiration.
They recruit essentially urban Iranians.

7.What method/s of threat or attack does the organization employ?
Since the beginning of the armed struggle in 1971, the organization has used mainly three tactics:
•Assassination (with firearms or explosives)
•Armed attacks (with firearms or rockets)
•Bombing (with mortar shells)

The organization also held hostages in the United States in 1981 and they supported the take-over in 1979.

8.Has the organization ever employed suicide attacks?

9.Does the organization have a preferred method of attack? If so, what is it?
Yes. Mortar and fire attacks.

10.Has there been any change in the organization’s preferred mode of attack over time? If so, please briefly describe these changes as well as what prompted them.
Before the Islamic revolution, the organization had wide popular support. Since they fled to Iraq and collaborated with Saddam Hussein, they lost that support, which made operations from the inside harder. At the same time, Hussein gave heavy artillery to the MEK (e.g. tanks) that allowed the group to operate directly from their Iraqi bases.
The few real military operations (invasion from Iraq with their tanks) they tried were such a failure that they gave up that option.

11.What types of targets does the organization typically attack?
The group typically attacks Iranian diplomatic or government members. They also target religious figures, but because they use mortar or explosives in crowded cities they provoke a lot of civilian casualties, even if it is not the objective.
Most of the clashes oppose the MEK with military forces.

12.Has there been any change with regard to the targets chosen by the organization over time? If so, please briefly describe these changes as well as what prompted them.
The organization was founded to overthrow the Shah’s regime (first target). They hoped to take power after the coup. After the Islamic revolution, however, the mullahs took the power and the MEK redefined its objective: overthrow the mullahs’ regime (second target).

13.At any time during the organization’s existence, has there been a civil war in the country/countries in which the organization is active?
It is a fact that the country lived through a revolution from September 1978 until December 1979. Since then, the MEK has struggled against the Islamic regime. Another civil war broke out in March 1979 and lasted till July 1984.
According to the Uppsala Conflict Database, there has been an intrastate conflict of intermediate intensity since 1971.

14.Did the country/countries in which the organization is active experience a civil war at any point prior to the organization’s founding? If yes, when did the civil war end?

15.Were there any foreign troops (including peacekeeping missions) stationed in the country/countries in question prior to the organization’s emergence? If so, what countries were these troops from?
Just after World War II, there were British, American and Soviet troops on Iranian soil. They all withdrew in 1946 (the Soviets left last).
Later, when the Shah took power, he received discrete help from the United States. In 1959, for instance, there were approximately 900 US troops and officers training Iranian troops.

16.Did any foreign troops (again, including peacekeeping missions) deploy to the country/countries in question after the organization’s emergence? If so, what countries were these troops from?
The American support lasted until the Shah was overthrown during the revolution.
On April 24th and 25th 1980, the United States deployed to complete the mission called “Operation Eagle Claw” to free the hostages in the American embassy of Tehran.
During the war between Iran and Iraq, Iraqi troops invaded Iran.
At the end of the conflict, the United Nations created a peace keeping mission called UNIIMOG that lasted from August 1988 until February 1991.

17.Did the presence of foreign troops have any impact on the emergence or behavior of the organization? If yes, what exactly was the effect of the troop deployment?
Yes. The people who created the MEK saw the Shah as a corrupted puppet of the Western world. The presence of American officers and the huge transfers of money from America reinforced that conviction.

18.Is the country/countries in which the organization is active a U.S. ally? (If the organization is active in multiple countries, indicate which of them are U.S. allies)

19.If the answer to the preceding question is yes, did the alliance with the U.S. precede or postdate the emergence of the organization?

20.Is the country/countries in which the organization is active a recipient of US military aid?

21.If the answer to the preceding question is yes, did U.S. military aid precede or postdate the emergence of the organization?

22.Has the organization ever deliberately targeted US citizens or military personnel? If so, in which ways?
The MEK supported the students who took the members of the American embassy hostage in Tehran in 1979, but there were no casualties.
In the early 1970s, however, they killed several US soldiers and civilians working on defense projects in Iran.

23.What actions, if any, has the U.S. government taken against the organization?
None. After the take-over of 1979, America sold weapons to the Iranian regime at war against Iraq (where most of the MEK members fled), but it was not really a measure against the MEK.
During the 2003 invasion, the Pentagon ordered a bombing of the MEK camps in Iraq, but they finally reached an agreement after the MEK members voluntarily disarmed. Since then, the US army protects them (for instance against attacks of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan militia who wants to avenge the MEK’s assistance to Saddam to crush the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings). The MEK members are now protected under the Geneva Convention and it seems that the US troops were deliberately lenient towards the organization, permitting the MEK to run its radio station and possibly allowing it to bury its weapons and ammunition.

24.Does the organization have any known ties to other terrorist organizations? If so, what are the names of these organizations?
In the past, yes. MEK members used the training camps of the Amal group in Lebanon and of the PLO.
In December 2001, the Asia Times revealed that the MEK organization was hiding Osama Bin Laden in Iran, but that information has not been confirmed.

25.Does the organization possess any cross-border sanctuaries (such as the PKK in northern Iraq)?
Yes. They are located in Iraq.

26.Is the organization known to receive, or suspected of receiving / having received support from a foreign government? If so, what are the governments in question?
In the past, yes. They received support from Saddam Hussein from 1980 until he was overthrown. In return, they helped him to repress the Shiite and Kurdish insurgencies.
It is also obvious that MEK members were trained in Palestine, Libya, Cuba and Lebanon before the Islamic revolution.
Today, the United States is hesitant about supporting them (see question 28).

27.Has the group achieved any concessions – either explicit or implicit – from the government/s it has targeted? Examples of concessions include economic or political reform, granting of territorial autonomy withdrawal of foreign troops, significant changes in a country’s foreign policy, etc.
No. The only possible concession came from Khatami who said that Iran was ready to accept MEK fighters who regretted their acts and could be judged according to the law. Even if the sincerity of that offer and the neutrality of the Iranian judges is questionable, it is a drastic change from the early 1980’s and 1988, when the hunt for MEK sympathizers and other dissidents resulted in thousands of executions. In the early 1990’s, Iranian intelligence agents were implicated in a series of assassinations of MEK chiefs across Europe.

28.Is there anything particularly noteworthy about the organization that is not covered by the questions listed above?
The situation of the MEK is very interesting today with the tensions between Washington and Tehran. Some in Washington think that it would be a good idea to swap MEK members for al-Qaeda members present in Iran, but that would encourage Iran to welcome more terrorists on its soil. Others think that it would be a better idea to use the MEK to overthrow the Iranian regime, but the organization lacks legitimacy.
Another important point is that the organization has not conducted any terrorist action since 2001. Given that the FTO list is uploaded every 2 years, the MEK should logically be erased from that list. The State Department asserts that MEK has engaged in terrorist activity by soliciting funds, by providing material support including training, and by planning or preparing terrorist activity. The MEK leaders argue that their organization is inscribed on the list only because it is one of the conditions imposed by Tehran to continue the negotiations on its nuclear equipment.
Finally, it seems that the MEK organization gave a lot of valuable information to the IAEA and to western governments about the Iranian nuclear program.

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