2 Letters to the Guardian, Warning Against Iran Regime's Plans to Exploit the Newspaper and Set the Stage for Terrorism Against the Opposition
Below please notice two letters from the spokesperson of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) addressed to The Guardian Editor, these two letters warn that using some people under the title of journalists, the Iranian regime, is trying to turn The Guardian into a tribune for demonization of the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance, and setting the stage for terrorist acts against the opposition, the concurrence of these efforts with a series of terrorist acts by the Iranian regime, in Albania, France, the United States and Danmark increases the importance of this issue, the following are the full texts of the letters.
Ms. Katharine Viner
Editor-in-chief of The Guardian
Re: Slanderous article by Arron Reza Merat against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran and Iranian refugees, members of the PMOI in Albania - setting the stage for the mullahs’ terrorism
I write to once again draw your attention to an article that Arron Reza Merat is preparing for The Guardian regarding the PMOI and Iranian refugees who are members of this organization in Albania; an article that based on all the facts and evidence, including his letter of October 31 to me, would be riddled with lies, slander and baseless allegations against the Iranian Resistance. These allegations can be pursued through legal avenues and can be the basis for legal action.
As a reminder, I enclose my October 3 letter to you in which I had elaborated on the background of Reza Merat’s enmity towards the PMOI and his deeply suspicious and unusual conduct. I had pointed out in the letter that based on years of experience, these sorts of articles that pursue the Iranian regime’s demonization policy against the PMOI, solely set the stage for terrorist acts against the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance.
1. Merat’s letter, which reflects parts of his article, includes a litany of allegations that are a rehash of the lies uttered by the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) and that are reflected systematically and almost on a daily basis in verbatim in Iran’s state-run media. It is very telling that most of these allegations could be found in the tweets sent out by the Iranian regime and which were exposed by Twitter on October 17. These tweets belong to 770 fake accounts of the regime that were shut down by Twitter in August.
A large number of these tweets disseminated lies and were part of the demonization campaign against the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance. "Iranians masqueraded as foreign journalists to push political messages online, new Twitter data shows," the Washington Post wrote on October 17. (Please refer to the October 30 statement of the Security and Counterterrorism Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran: https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/ncri-statements/iran-resistance/25456-tweets-reveal-mullahs-setting-the-stage-for-acts-of-terrorism-against-the-iranian-resistance )
The MOIS’s use of individuals under the cover of journalists is nothing new. Former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian shed more light on such tactics during a television interview on July 9, 2017: “In order to gather intelligence, the Ministry of Intelligence needs a cover, whether inside or outside the country. We do not send an intelligence officer to Germany or the United States to say, ‘Hey, I am from the Ministry of Intelligence.’ [Rather,] a business or journalism cover is needed.”
2. The timing of the article is also very telling. According to Merat’s own remarks, he has pursued it since August. Yet, it is about to be published only days after the October 30 announcement that a fourth terror plot by the Iranian regime in the West in 2018 was foiled and an MOIS member was arrested in Denmark, causing a new fiasco for the regime. Prior to this, an Iranian diplomat and several terrorists of the regime were arrested (June and July 2018) and were extradited to Belgium; two MOIS spies who had focused on the PMOI were arrested in the U.S. (August 2018); and a terror plot by the regime was foiled in Albania (March 2018).
The clerical regime, which will face a new round of US sanctions in a matter of days, is in dire need of Merat’s article. Faced with a wave of protests and nationwide strikes, the mullahs are facing the biggest challenge of their tenure and have found no solution but to resort to plots and terror against the Iranian Resistance. This is while scores of the Iranian regime’s European allies have concluded that the policy of appeasement has failed utterly. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Denmark announced on October 30 that they would seek new sanctions by the EU against the Iranian regime. Mr. Merat and his ilk are ‘lifeguards’ for the regime who have arrived too late. With such acute crises, the mullahs cannot be saved from the current quagmire.
3. The mullahs’ propaganda machine has been churning out sexual libels against the Resistance and its leader for the past 40 years. In the first Presidential elections after the overthrow of the Shah in January 1980, Mr. Rajavi’s candidacy received widespread support. The corrupt and criminal mullahs attacked the PMOI offices in Qom, Tehran, and other cities by resorting to the same type of moral libel that was cited by Merat in his October 31 letter. In reality, the most constant element in the policies and conduct of the regime in the past 40 years has been its view that the PMOI, the Iranian Resistance, and its leader, Mr. Rajavi, are the antithesis and main challenger of its survival. Thus, he is targeted by any means available, and all of the regime’s agents, mercenaries and allies are led in that direction. In hundreds of tweets, the regime has written about “moral corruption of the PMOI leader”, ”sexual abuse by MEK leader Masoud Rajavi in Camp Ashraf”, ”Do you know who has the most wives in the world? #Rajavi”.
Most parts of the mullahs’ demonization campaign, including twitter campaigns carried out by the MOIS, show animosity and blind hysteria to the Iranian Resistance leader, Mr. Rajavi, and the President elect of Iranian Resistance, Mrs. Rajavi. If The Guardian is in search of reality and does not intend to be a platform for the Iranian regime, it can find out that Mr. Merat is only parroting the MOIS.
The Iranian people, 120,000 of whose best children including tens of thousands of women have sacrificed their lives against this misogynist regime, have answered these absurdities in their nationwide demonstrations and protests for regime change, which despite all the suppressive measures taken by the regime have continued for the past ten months.
4. The fact that “former PMOI members” are quoted by Merat as his source of information in another way proves the fact that the main source of this report is none other than the MOIS.
The annual reports of the intelligence services in the West including Germany and the Netherlands have emphasized for many years that the individuals who are described as “the former members of the PMOI” are prime targets of the MOIS to be used in its demonization campaign against the Iranian Resistance.
A US Library of Congress report, dated December 2012, also underscored this fact. The profile of agents who Merat has spoken to has mostly been previously exposed.
Prior to this, in letters dated August 10 and August 13 to Channel 4 and in a letter dated August 22, 2018 to Al-Jazeera English, as well as in a statement by the NCRI's Security and Anti-terrorism Committee on September 19, the PMOI had exposed the dirty scenarios dictated by the Intelligence Ministry to a network of "mullah-friendly reporters," providing details, documents and the names of the agents used in these programs.
5. Is such a coordination between Merat and the MOIS a mere coincidence? According to Merat himself, he is focused on the PMOI’s presence in Albania. The clerical regime’s tweets that were identified by Twitter, in addition to smearing the Iranian Resistance leader, are focused on the PMOI’s presence in Albania. As was stated in the October 30 statement of the NCRI Security and Counterterrorism Committee, Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne Singleton, who are agents of the MOIS, were previously focused on Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq. Currently they are totally focused on the presence of the PMOI in Albania. Their tweets against the PMOI in Albania are widely retweeted by the regime.
6. The regime’s tweets talk about the “suspicious disappearance of a member of the MEK terrorist group in Albania,” and Merat wrote that “the MEK is responsible for the death of Malek Sharai in Albania.” This outrageous lie is made while the PMOI issued a statement on June 22, 2018 stating that Malek Sharai attempted to rescue one of his friends who was drowning and he himself drowned. Albanian Police, legal authorities, and the Coroner’s Office are fully aware of the details of this case. It seems Mr. Merat’s time in Albania was so full with the MOIS agents that he had no time to make an inquiry with the Albanian authorities and then accuse the PMOI with murder.
7. The notion that the PMOI has set up a “toll farm that creates coordinated messages” is another lie that is made up to support Javad Zarif who desperately needs such assistance amidst the global fiasco of the regime. Zarif wrote on September 16: “Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an 'influence op'. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up 'regime change' propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots.”
8. As for the false claim about the involvement of the PMOI in the assassination of the nuclear scientist, whose main source is the mullahs’ regime, and which was rehashed by NBC TV on February 2, 2012, the PMOI has repeatedly and unequivocally denied it, and a senior US State Department official in response to a question from a reporter on September 28, 2012 clearly stated that “And I should add that the United States Government has not claimed that the MEK was involved in the assassination of the scientists in Iran.”
PMOI (MEK) press spokesman
November 1, 2018
Ms Katharine Viner
Editor in Chief
Dear Ms. Viner,
I am writing this letter to draw your attention to the suspicious action of Mr. Aaron Reza Merat, who introduces himself as the Guardian reporter. I ask you not to let the Guardian stray from the journalistic objectivity by becoming a platform for hostility toward the Iranian people and their resistance or by preparing the ground for terrorist acts against them.
On August 16, Mr. Merat sent a message to Mr. Farid Totounchi, Legal Advisor of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) in Albania, and asked for an interview. Mr. Totounchi replied:
Before everything, you owe an apology to the Guardian’s readers, to the Iranian Resistance, and to the combatants of freedom for fobbing the Guardian readers off with a big and dirty lie about the Gathering of Iranians on June 30th in a bid to appease the mullahs. The mullahs’ TV station immediately sent back its receipt to you, and referred to your false report in Guardian bombastically and said: ‘Guardian wrote today about the yesterday backstage and stage-setting of the Monafeqin [PMOI]. This British daily wrote that around 4000 people had gathered, most of them were either asylum-seekers, or youths from Eastern Europe who accepted to show up in the event by bus in exchange for their weekend trip.’….
I hope you … would not pave the path for the terrorism of religious fascism ruling Iran against the biggest opposition force of this regime”.
Despite this response, Reza Merat, on August 17, appeared in front of the Iranian refugees’ residential compound in Albania, where Mr. Totounchi refused to be interviewed by him. He sent you an e-mail the same day, attaching his previous day’s letter to Mr. Merat and wrote:
“ Today, at noon, without any prior notice he (Merat) came to the residence compound of the PMOI Iranian refugees and threatened if I don’t give interview, he would write a 4800 words article in Guardian covering the lies of the agents of the Iranian ministry of intelligence who introduce themselves as former PMOI members.
Since Arron Reza Merat due to his links with the Iranian regime and the agents of this regime lacks the minimum journalistic impartiality toward the PMOI, you should not provide an opportunity of abuse and exploitation to the Iranian regime in the Guardian”.
I would like to briefly mention some points and I hope that unlike previous occasions they will not be ignored by the Guardian
1- Of course, the Guardian has the right to choose its journalists and reporters, and it is Mr. Merat's right to have his own political opinions, but since he is a well-known advocate of the clerical regime and its president Hassan Rouhani, and an activist against the PMOI, he lacks the minimum journalistic standards and criteria regarding the issue of the Iranian regime and its opposition. His interviews and opinions during the run-up to the “presidential election” of the clerical regime, as well as his articles and tweets against the PMOI, are available and well-publicized. His critical comments against some of the regime's factions are also necessary to justify his defence of the integrity of the regime and his hostility against the PMOI.
2- Based on our long experience, the article that Mr. Merat is intending to write will be the basis for pressure and acts of terrorism by the regime against the Iranian resistance in general and these refugees in particular. The unprecedented upsurge in activities, espionage and terror plots in recent months against the PMOI, particularly in Albania, has doubled this concern. The mullahs, having failed to massacre the PMOI members in Iraq and now being faced with a popular uprising that has shaken their regime to its core, want to complete their mission in Albania. For this reason, they are desperately in need of help from the likes of Mr. Merat.
3- The following are some examples of acts of espionage and terror plots by the regime in 2018:
- In March, a terror plot against the PMOI members' celebration of the Iranian New Year in Albania was foiled. Two Iranians who were sent to Albania under the cover of being journalists were arrested. The Albanian PM and US State Department both confirmed that a terrorist act was foiled in March against Iranian dissidents.
- On June 30, a terror plot to blow up the Iranian Resistance Gathering in Paris attended by hundreds of prominent dignitaries from both sides of the Atlantic, including a cross party delegation of 25 members from both houses of the UK parliament, was foiled at the last minute. Two Iranian terrorists were arrested in Belgium while in possession of a bomb, and a third operative was arrested in Paris. According to Belgian prosecutors and federal police and the German Federal Prosecutor, an Iranian diplomat called Asdollah Assadi, who was accredited as the Third consular in Austria, was arrested in Germany, on his way back to Austria, after delivering the bomb to the two terrorist operatives in Luxembourg.
- According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, two Iranian agents who were involved in espionage against the PMOI were arrested on August 9th.
- On September 8, the Iranian regime simultaneously executed three Kurdish activists and bombed the headquarters of two Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing and injuring dozens. Subsequently, Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, and Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council threatened more such attacks, and Khamenei's adviser Rahim Safavi stated that the regime would attack their opponents overseas as well.
4- The Supreme Court of the state of Bamberg in Germany, on October 1, ruled that Assadollah Assadi, the Iranian regime’s diplomat should be extradited to Germany. The court statement underscored: “all the requirements for extradition are met and there are no obstructions to his extradition.” It added that Assadi “cannot resort to diplomatic immunity,” and “the continuation of the extradition process should be carried by the Prosecutor General of Bamberg.”
In a joint statement, the Foreign, Economy, and Interior Ministers of France announced: “the attempted assassination in Villepinte on June 30 was foiled… Such a despicable and horrendous act cannot take place on our soil without any reaction. Thus, France has taken targeted and proportionate preventive measures in the form of adopting national freezing measures of assets of Assadollah Asadi and Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, Iranian nationals, as well as the Directorate of Internal Security of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.”
Reuters quoted a French diplomat as saying: “Behind all this was a long, meticulous and detailed investigation by our (intelligence) services that enabled us to reach the conclusion, without any doubt, that responsibility fell on the intelligence ministry…
The deputy minister and director general of intelligence Saeid Hashemi Moghadam had ordered the attack.”
As such all the attempts by the Iranian regime, its lobbyists, and allies to attribute the terror act to rogue individuals in the regime and to exonerate the Rouhani faction or the person of Khamenei failed.
5- Reza Marat is the only journalist who, contrary to journalistic norms and without accreditation, anonymously entered the gathering of the Iranian resistance in Paris on June 30, 2018. Meanwhile, nearly 100 journalists including from the most important media outfits from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East officially participated in this gathering, many of which broadcast live from the event. But the same evening, Merat published an article in the Guardian full of lies and unfounded statements about the dimensions and goals of the meeting, as well as the propaganda of the regime against the PMOI. For example, in a clear lie, he identified the number of attendees at the meeting as "4,000 people," adding that "half of them were tourists." Meanwhile, according to dozens of media outlets, there were tens of thousands or upwards of a hundred thousand.
Please see the examples below:
You can refer to the videos on the Internet and guess the degree of Mr. Merat’s honesty. He copied the MOIS propaganda saying that most of the participants do not know why they came to this gathering. The Iranian regime, which was severely frightened by the dimensions of the gathering and its pressures and conspiracies to cancel it had come to no veil, immediately seized the opportunity and published the Guardian article on most of the state-run radio and government press. The Guardian did not pay the least attention to our responses.
6- On August 30, the news of the visit of Mr. Merat to the PMOI residence in Albania was published in a joint article by Massoud Khodabandeh and his wife, Ann. Singleton, two MOIS agents. They wrote in the article:
“Since arriving in Albania between 2013 and 2016, MEK has already shown itself to be aggressive, criminal, and dangerous.... Aaron Merat, a journalist with The Guardian, was also subjected to an assault by MEK operatives during his investigations. MEK accused them of being “agents of the Iranian regime.”
The fact that this couple are agents of the Iranian regime has been revealed in the reports of the US Library of Congress in December 2012 and the UK parliament’s Committee for Iran Freedom in October 2007. They repeatedly travelled to Iraq and played an active role in the plot to massacre and exert psychological pressure on the residents. Anne Singleton made several trips to Albania to plot against the PMOI. The documents establishing the fact that the couple are agents of the Iranian regime can be found at these links:
If Merat is preparing a report for the Guardian, why has he provided a copy of it the above-mentioned agents of the regime in advance? It is evident that Merat’s visit to the PMOI location and the article were coordinated with the agents in advance. I suppose this should suffice for you to be assured that Merat is not qualified to write about Iran and the Iranian opposition as a journalist.
7- In his reports and analyses, Merat has described Hassan Rouhani as someone “extremely popular”, who carries message of “reform” and “change” including in the area of human rights, and he was an advocate of the notion that Rouhani’s victory reflected an “increase in the influence of reformists.” He said on January 29, 2014: “The one hope I think that the reformists have is that they’ve got a reformist-backed president who has the support of not only the reformists but the hardliners and this hasn’t happened since [former president Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani’s first term [in 1989]. . . . Nothing happens in Iran unless you have both sides on board.” He added that after a nuclear agreement, Iran’s regional conduct would move towards moderation and friendship with countries in the region. More than four years, it is totally evident that these assessments were totally baseless and were uttered with a particular political agenda.
8- Unfortunately the Guardian on many occasions has demonstrated that when it comes to the issue of Iran and the Iranian resistance it is far from being impartial. There are very few other newspapers in the West that have adopted such a biased approach towards the PMOI and the Iranian resistance or rehashed so much of the mullahs’ propaganda against them.
Merat is not the only Iranian who writes anti-PMOI articles in the Guardian. Saeed Kamali Dehghan, as is evident from his writings, positions, and tweets, is an anti-PMOI militant. He has hysterically attacked the PMOI at every opportunity. Even today, October 2, without any reason he has described the PMOI as “a cult-like organisation that espouses regime change.”
The Guardian’s article on July 2, 2018 regarding the terror plot against the Paris gathering that could lead to a catastrophe, was riddled will allegations, slander and smears that totally tarnished the image of the PMOI, which was used to justify and legitimatize this criminal act.
In scores of articles including on April 28, 2017, May 15, 2014, and May 31, 2005, the Guardian has rehashed the cliché allegations of the MOIS against the PMOI almost verbatim. In his April 28, 2017 article, Saeed Kamali Dehghan descried the PMOI as a group “with immense unpopularity inside Iran.” On May 15, 2014 he went a step further in clear slander and wrote: “The MEK [PMOI], characterized by many observers as a cult-like group, has been repeatedly slammed by the United Nations because of mistreating its own members.”
9- One of the constant sources of these articles, including the one in 2005, have been Massoud Khodabandeh and Anne Singleton. The Guardian has systematically ignored irrefutable documents in rejecting the allegations against the PMOI and has even refused to publish responses and rebuttals by the Iranian resistance or even British dignitaries. In the 20005 article, an individual who introduced himself as a former member of the PMOI claimed that he was handicapped from beatings by the PMOI. When the documents showing that his illness was due topoliomyelitis disease from childhood were provided to the Guardian, the newspaper took no action to correct the lie. Later, Late Lord Avebury protested to this one sided approach of the Guardian and requested a medical review to establish the reality but he received no convincing response. (The correspondences between Lord Avebury and the Guardian are available).
10- The Guardian’s hysterical enmity towards delisting of the PMOI was utterly shameful. The highest courts in the UK, EU and the US had repeatedly determined that the terrorist designation was unjust and perverse. The listing only served the mullahs, justified and facilitated execution and torture of political prisoners in Iran, and promoted massacre of PMOI members in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Several articles on the 21st, 23rd, and 28th of September 2012 are examples.
Following the ruling by the UK court of appeal in favor of delisting the PMOI on May 7, 2008, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Iranian officials for years have made suppression of the MEK a priority in negotiations with Western governments over Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues, according to several diplomats who were involved in those talks.”
11- Given the current political climate, Tehran’s need for such assistance, including from “journalists”, has grown.
Continuation of anti-regime protests throughout the past eight months has faced the entirety of the regime with unprecedented challenges. Even the most optimistic independent observers have doubts about the future and survival of the regime. In the protests, the Iranian people have been chanting “reformist, pricinpalists, this game is now over”.
This should unequivocally put an end to the political life of those who, like parasites, have been trying to maintain this regime under the guise of “reformers.” In light of growing popularity of the PMOI inside Iran and throughout the international community, and in light of repeated acknowledgment by the regime’s supreme leader, president, and other officials of the PMOI’s role in the protests, the regime and the supporters of an appeasement policy are extremely alarmed.
- In such circumstances, the mullahs’ lobbyists are desperately trying by discredit the resistance, suggesting that there is no viable alternative to the current regime, and argue that realpolitik compels one to compromise with it.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Iranian Ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad have demanded that Twitter shut down accounts belonging to the PMOI members. This follows the exposure of the regime’s apparatus for disseminating lies and fictitious news, as well as the decision by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to close down thousands of fake accounts belonging to the Iranian regime. Baeidinejad accused the PMOI of “using advanced technology” to send “millions of messages in the context of regime change hashtags on a daily basis”, and called on Twitter “to act on the official request of Dr. Zarif to close down fake accounts.”
As you can see from the above, while the Iranian regime, its diplomats and agents in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and other European countries as well as in the US are challenged and are put on trial for terrorism and espionage against the PMOI, the Iranian regime through journalists like Merat and Kamali tries to deflect the issue and mislead the fight against terrorism.
Ali Fallahian, a former Minister of Intelligence, said in a TV interview on 9 July 2017, “In order to collect information, the MOIS needs cover for its agents both inside and outside Iran. We do not send an intelligence agent to Europe or the US saying I am from MOIS. A business or journalism cover is needed.”
We are not opposed to the Guardian reporting on the PMOI, but the primary journalistic principles require that the Guardian first apologize for the lies that its reporters have written and then assign actual journalists to subsequent reporting, instead of anti-PMOI militants and those who defend the Iranian regime.
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
October 2, 2018