Conventional wisdom and historical precedent suggest that regimes or governments are less likely to openly acknowledge the significance of their opposition, let alone ask foreign countries to crack down on them, as such actions could potentially affect their domestic or international image.
However, in the last few weeks, the theocratic dictatorship in Tehran has been deviating from diplomatic norms by openly pleading with foreign powers to accomplish what it has previously failed at. Consequently, it is potentially putting both itself and its Western counterparts at risk of a public relations crisis.
On August 14, Naser Kanaani, the spokesperson of the regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially asked the international community to suppress the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization. At a press briefing, Kanaani said, “Considering the international commitments and legal obligations that countries have in countering terrorist movements, we expect that none of the member states of the United Nations provide support, host, embrace, or grant permission for holding gatherings for this terrorist group.”
Kanaani further proceeded to issue a threat to other countries, warning that ignoring such a demand would be viewed as “an act against Iran’s national security” and would be dealt with accordingly.
Furthermore, the IRGC-run Tasnim news agency reported on August 12 that the organization is planning to relocate to Canada. These false claims were extensively propagated and disseminated by the regime’s media outlets, as well as affiliated sources in Western nations.
On the same day, Kazem Gharibabadi, the Iranian regime’s deputy for international affairs and human rights, conveyed that the regime’s Judiciary is filing a significant case against the MEK and 107 of its senior members. He emphasized efforts to leverage all available capacities to counter the organization, including its political influence.
While such statements are unsurprising from Gharibabadi, whose primary role involves denying and rationalizing systemic human rights violations in Iran, it’s worth noting that on June 24, 2022, he acknowledged during an interview, “There is no meeting with ambassadors of European countries or delegations of European countries in which we do not bring up the issue of the Hypocrites.”
The term Hypocrites is an officially sanctioned pejorative used by the regime to disparage the MEK within Iranian society.
Iran: The Nationwide Uprising and the Role of MEK Resistance Unitshttps://t.co/3E0d9NG8pQ
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) April 28, 2023
Quite typical of the extremist regime, it boldly capitalizes on the West’s policy of appeasement, portraying it as a source of strength. In the wake of the release of Asadollah Assadi, a convicted terrorist-diplomat apprehended for attempting to bomb a 2018 rally of the Iranian Resistance in Paris, as well as perceived restrictions on the Free Iran World Summit in July 2023 and an operation in Albania, the regime promptly asserted its triumph.
On June 20, the Kayhan newspaper, whose editorial guidelines are dictated by the Supreme Leader’s office, run an analysis with the headline “France and Albania’s response to the terrorist hypocrite group is interpreted as a message of Iran’s strength.”
The Mizan news agency, run by the regime’s Judiciary, published a statement on June 22, from a so-called NGO that read, “The Association of Martyrs’ Families criticized Europe’s instrumental approach to anti-Iran terrorist groups, considering recent actions against the hypocrites as the result of Iran’s successful diplomatic efforts. While commending these actions, the association called for the continuation of this pragmatic approach as an expression of Iran’s diplomatic strength.”
Even the Minister of Intelligence Esmail Khatib, a figure not typically associated with public statements, chose to make a public declaration on June 25 to extend appreciation for what he considered aligned with his ministry’s approach against the MEK.
On July 4, praising the Raisi government for what he called “active diplomacy”, MP Mohammad Esmail Kosari boasted that the regime has extended ties beyond the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to fight the MEK. He also argued that as the regime was able to succeed in persuading other countries with evidence about the MEK, it therefore must convince the new generation to distance itself from the organization.
These statements from officials, along with the multitude of daily TV interviews, articles, conferences, and roundtables organized to address the MEK for domestic audiences, provide clear indications of an imminent challenge that the regime is grappling with.
Khamenei warned about the trend of young Iranians joining the PMOI/MEK, saying, “The experience of the early days of the (1979) Revolution must not be repeated when young Muslims were attracted to the PMOI/MEK and then attacked the regime.” #Iranhttps://t.co/xpDonCyIUD pic.twitter.com/QWF427jjGy
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 19, 2020
For many decades, the MEK remained a taboo topic that ordinary people dreaded to discuss, while the regime’s loyalists attempted to suppress it. However, as consecutive uprisings continue to underscore the organization’s increasing significance and popularity, the regime finds itself compelled to demonstrate to both audiences it is at least doing something about it.
This was emphatically articulated during an interview with the state-run Etemadonline, which was solely centered on the MEK and its current role in Iranian society. In response to a query about the organization’s present status, Javad Muguee, a documentary director closely associated with the regime’s intelligence community and self-identified as an expert on the MEK, stated, “The MEK underwent a complete restructuring in Iran’s public perception during the 2000s. They assumed a prominent role in the 2010s, and the 1988 executions became the central topic of the 2017 presidential election.”