The Blog

Resisting Iran

A peculiar Iranian exile group protests Ahmadinejad.

2:15 PM, Sep 26, 2008 • By MICHAEL WEISS
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According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the MEK's ideology is a strange admixture of Marxism, feminism and Islamism. Its official flag, brandished liberally throughout the assembly, is an iconographic cross between the Hezbollah pennant and the hammer and sickle. However, the MEK is still tolerated by certain Western figures and lawmakers who operate under the assumption that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The group's most significant public relations coup to date has been its role exposing Iran's nuclear program, for which the NCRI has gained renewed credibility in U.S. intelligence circles.

Since 1995, it has advocated a seemingly liberal and Western-friendly platform that enshrines freedom of speech and freedom of religion (several members are Jews, Bahai and Christians) and abides by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nevertheless, in 1997, the State Department put the MEK/NCRI on the list of foreign terrorist organizations at the behest of the Clinton administration, then looking to placate Khatami by criminalizing his most persistent and dangerous foe. (The EU, Canada and Iraq consider the MEK terrorists, too, although the European Court of Justice overturned the EU designation last year.) Former House majority leader Dick Armey, and serving representatives Tom Tancredo and Bob Filner have argued for its removal from the blacklist; even Condoleezza Rice has referred to the NCRI as a "dissident" group.

The NCRI has cash to burn because, like the Church of Scientology, it reportedly demands a goodly portion of its adherents' personal income. This was a claim I was not able to substantiate independently, although I did notice that many of its assembled guests were flown in from Los Angeles just to help make Ahmadinejad's stay in this city that much more unpleasant this week. If the NCRI is in fact invited back into the international community's good graces, it will be because it has what other Iranian oppositionists lack--a committed and loyal cadre with the political savvy to match its ideological zeal.

Michael Weiss is a writer living in New York.