Two separate pieces of information have convinced me of the likelihood that the Mossad and the Iranian dissident group, Mujahadeen e-Khalq (MK) are knocking off some of Iran’s top nuclear scientists. As I’ve posted here, Haaretz’s Yossi Melman has written that the hand of Mossad is in yesterday’s assassination and near assassination of two senior Iranian nuclear researchers. Earlier this evening, a respected Iranian-American academic who knows whereof he speaks, told me he is convinced that the Mujahadeen e-Khalq are behind the killings.
What could be more perfect that Israel providing the external bomb-making expertise and electronic surveillance and the MK providing the internal muscle, logistics, and the killers to execute such a plan? Keep in mind as well that this plan goes back at least to 2007 when the first Iranian scientist was murdered. Last year, the second one was killed. The Iranian authorities routinely blame Israel and the U.S. for these terror acts but never bring up MK as a possible culprit. Possibly they have their own internal political reasons for that. But the relationship seems to be made in heaven from a terrorist’s point of view. Israel attacks the Iranian regime “where it lives” while leaving no direct fingerprints of its own. The MK too gets the glory of “taking out” the bulwarks of the Iranian regime they so despise (the feeling really is mutual).
Several Iran analysts with whom I correspond noted to me that at least one of the al-Mabouh assassins escaped Dubai on an Iran-bound ferry where his trail was lost. At the time, I thought that was incredibly brazen and even bizarre even for the Mossad. But if you consider that MK has an underground network inside Iran that is possibly second to none, it makes perfect sense, if the two groups are allied with each other. And this is certainly a brazen message that they are both sending to Iran, that we can penetrate your territory at will.
Such a relationship of convenience between the two is nothing new. Gareth Porter, writing in Anti-War.com notes Bush Administration claims in 2004 of Iranian “laptop documents” which proved an intent to manufacture a nuclear weapon. The documents were allegedly provided to the Americans by MK, no doubt hoping that we would believe they’d been procured by an internal Iranian source.
But a CIA analysis indicated otherwise:
In her February 2006 report on the laptop documents, the Washington Post‘s Linzer said CIA analysts had originally speculated that a “third country, such as Israel, had fabricated the evidence.”
…Shahriar Ahy, an adviser to monarchist leader Reza Pahlavi, told journalist Connie Bruck that the detailed information on Natanz had not come from MEK but from “a friendly government, and it had come to more than one opposition group, not only the mujahideen.”
Bruck wrote in the New Yorker on Mar. 16, 2006 that when he was asked if the “friendly government” was Israel, Ahy smiled and said, “The friendly government did not want to be the source of it, publicly. If the friendly government gives it to the US publicly, then it would be received differently. Better to come from an opposition group.”
Israel has maintained a relationship with the MEK since the late 1990s, according to Bruck, including assistance to the organization. in beaming broadcasts by the NCRI from Paris into Iran. An Israeli diplomat confirmed that Israel had found the MEK “useful,” Bruck reported…
In the same article, Porter notes the love affair between the MK and the Bush era neocons who, like the Mossad, saw the Iranian group as a useful tool to advance their policy objectives vis a vis Iran.
Writing earlier this month at Truthout, Porter deepens his portrait of collaboration between the two groups:
The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the MEK, was generally credited by the news media with having revealed the existence of the Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak in an August 2002 press conference in Washington, DC. Later, however, IAEA, Israeli and Iranian dissident sources all said that the NCRI had gotten the intelligence on the sites from Mossad.
An IAEA official told Seymour Hersh that the Israelis were behind the revelation of the sites and two journalists from Der Spiegel reported the same thing. So did an adviser to an Iranian monarchist group, speaking to a writer for The New Yorker. That episode was not isolated, but was part of a broader pattern of Israeli cooperation with the MEK in providing intelligence intended to influence the CIA and the IAEA. Israeli authors [Yossi] Melman and Javadanfar, who claimed to have good sources in Mossad, wrote in their 2007 book that Israeli intelligence had “laundered” intelligence to the IAEA by providing it to Iranian opposition groups, especially the NCRI.
If my hunch is correct, then the assassination campaign would indicate a ratcheting up of the relationship between Mossad and MK. Instead of being satisfied with passing on bogus intelligence to the U.S. in hopes of fomenting a military strike against Iran, Israel is now using the MK to execute high-value targets within the regime.
What is ironic about these marriages of convenience is that they so often blow up in the faces of those who devise them (cf. Reagan era support for the Afghan mujahadeen which morphed into the Taliban). No doubt, Israel would be delighted if the MK overthrew the Iranian regime as a number of powerful neocons have advocated. But would an MK dictatorship be any friendlier to Israel than the mullahs? Be careful what you wish for Tamir Pardo and Israel’s Mossad…you might get it. Actually, the idea that MK could ever come to power in Iran seems preposterous and those proposing the idea seem to be living in a dream (or nightmare) world. But God forbid that something like this should happen and you will see rivers of blood in the streets in Teheran and unrest lasting years. Perhaps that is just what the Mossad wishes. And does the Mossad think that an MK regime wouldn’t pursue nuclear weapons with the same or greater zeal as its predecessors?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.