Human Rights Watch Report on the Iranian Opposition: A Reward for the Iranian Regime; A Penalty for the Iranian People
Prof. Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee
WASHINGTON, May 19 /U.S. Newswire/ — In a press release, Human Rights Watch announced that it has released a 28-page report titled, "No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the MKO Camps." The report contains telephone interviews with 12 "former…(Mujahedin e-Khalq Organization-MEK)) members." It considers their statements as "credible claims that they were subjected to imprisonment as well as physical and psychological abuses."
But these "credible claims" are actually statements by agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
The Human Rights Watch press release also mentions the Iran Policy Committee (IPC): "On February 10, a think-tank co-chaired by retired U.S. military officers, (sic) the Iran Policy Committee, called for the removal of the (MEK) designation and for the U.S. government to actively support the group against the Iranian government."
Joe Stork, Washington director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division said, "The Iranian government has a dreadful record on human rights." "But it would be a huge mistake to promote an opposition group (Mujahedin e-Khalq) that is responsible for serious human rights abuses," said Stork.
In reply to Stork, Professor Raymond Tanter of Georgetown University, a former White House aide and IPC co-chair said, "It is a humongous mistake for a human rights organization to promote the agenda of a rogue regime by taking at face value the claims of its intelligence agents." "All of the individuals cited in the Human Rights Watch report are agents of the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), including Mohammad- Hossein Sobhani, and Farhad Javaheri-Yar." Tanter added that, "Tehran sent most of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch from Iran to Europe for the purpose of demonizing its main opposition, the MEK." Tanter, author of Rogue Regimes, helped manage U.S. policy toward Iran while on the National Security Council staff. Tanter conducts research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy on options for Iran in light of its sponsorship of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and dreadful record on human rights.
Bruce McColm, a co-founder of IPC, former executive director of Freedom House, and former president of the International Republican Institute said: "The message of this report discredits the messenger-Human Rights Watch-more than its intended target-the MEK." McColm also said that, "Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch appears to have fallen for Tehran’s disinformation campaign. Over the past several months, Iran has been aggressively peddling these sources to many groups in Europe, hoping someone would bite." McColm concluded that "The Human Rights Watch report lacks validity and is solely a compilation of allegations by former associates of an organization most feared by Tehran, who have long-served in an intelligence capacity for the regime by spreading its propaganda."
IPC research has determined that Iran’s disinformation goes out to a variety of western organizations, including Amnesty International, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as International Committee of the Red Cross. What further discredits the report is that there is no counter evidence, such as responses by the MEK to allegations, in the Human Rights Watch report.
Clare Lopez, executive director of the IPC called the Human Rights Watch report a "counterattack and disinformation campaign by the Iranian regime." "The methodology used to prepare this report is stunningly uncharacteristic of any investigation, for its lack of balance, corroboration, and face-to-face interviews," Lopez added.
Moreover, the report fails to include the views of the United States military, which controls all MEK bases since April 2003. A Knight-Ridder correspondent visited MEK’s Camp Ashraf in Iraq and wrote on March 18, 2005: "The U.S. military has investigated claims that the Mujahedeen were keeping people in Ashraf against their will, but found no solid evidence. As one senior U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, put it: ‘I think they’ve been captured by ideas and dogma, but they are not prisoners. They are reasonably physically free to leave.’"
At the same time, the individuals cited in the Human Rights Watch report have all appeared on regime-sponsored websites over the past few months, and similar accusations have already been posted on these sites.
"This is a bad news-good news situation," Tanter said. "The bad news is that Human Rights Watch has sacrificed its credibility by supporting a rights-violating regime attempting to destroy its main opposition-the MEK; the good news is that the leaders of Human Rights Watch can view this situation as an opportunity to side with the Iranian people instead of with an authoritarian regime," Tanter concluded.
The bottom line is that the Human Rights Watch report is a reward to the Iranian regime. Likewise, it is a penalty to the Iranian people because the report opposes U.S. policy of encouraging Iranian opposition groups to determine their country’s future. The report helps Iran buy time to develop nuclear weapons, sponsor terrorism, and threaten the security of the United States. The report sides with the regime and punishes its victims.
The Human Rights Watch report contrasts sharply with the 2005 Inaugural Address of President George W. Bush, who said, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." And in the State of the Union Address, President Bush said to the Iranian people, "As you stand for liberty, America stands with you."