Sophia's Peace Work

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mojahideen-e-Khalq: terrorist tools of the U.S.?

Christian Peacemaker Team has a member (William van Wagenen) on team who is well versed in Middle East issues. Below is his latest update. Those who have worried about American troops marching into Iran or Syria next should take note. It is far more likely that we will support/hire others to do this work for us.

Nikki Keddie's very informative (if a bit dry) book Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, gives some good information on the Muhahideen-e-Khalq. Keddie differs slightly from van Wagenen in her description of this guerrilla organization, referring to two Iranian revolutionary groups that formed in the late 1960's: The Marxist Feda'iyan-e-Khalq and the Islamic leftist Mojahedin-e-Khalq. Both groups rose to combat the injustices of their time. While they raised hope that resistence could still occur under a despotic regime, Keddie writes, their "guerrilla activities contributed something to the increase in political repression, jailing, tortures, and executions from the late 1960s on." [0]

US Openly Supports Iranian Terrorists

By William Van Wagenen

The U.S. Government is now openly supporting the Mujahideen-e-Khalq,an Iranian resistance movement designated as terrorist organization by the US State Department. On June 20th of this year, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq held a conference at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, which is where many foreign journalists stay and is under the full protection of the U.S. Army. I was in the area of the hotel that day, and saw at least 10 U.S. tanks heading in the direction of the hotel to provide additional security. I knew of the conference in advance, because of a report issued to all NGO's working in Iraq, which mentioned that the conference would take place. The report warned of an increased danger of attacks against the hotel, as anti- U.S. insurgents were likely to attempt to disrupt the conference [1].

The Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) is a Marxist oriented Iranian resistance organization founded in the 1960's to topple the pro-western regime of Reza Shah. Since that time, MEK has carried out scores of attacks and assassinated a number of Iranian government
officials. MEK killed several American military and civilian personnel in Iran during the 1970's, and assisted in the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 where American civilians were held hostage. Though MEK participated in the 1979 revolution, which toppled the Shah, once the Ayatollah Khomeini consolidated power in Iran, MEK moved their headquarters to Paris and continued resistance activities against the Islamic Republic. In 1981, MEK bombed the offices of the Islamic Republic Party, killing 70 high-ranking Iranian officials. MEK established its military headquarters in Iraq in 1986, where Saddam Hussein became their main source of funding and protection. In return, the MEK fought alongside Iraqi forces during the war against Iran in the 1980's, and assisted Saddam's security forces in putting down the Kurdish and Shiite revolts after the first Gulf War in 1991. The majority of Saddam's recently discovered mass graves are filled with the Shiite and Kurdish dead from this uprising. MEK military operations against Iranian targets continued through the 1990's. The U.S. Department of State added the MEK to its official list of terrorist organizations in 1997, and shut down the organization's Washington, DC office in 2003 [2].

During the U.S. invasion of Iraq, MEK forces in Iraq surrendered to U.S. forces and turned over their military hard wear, including several thousand tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft guns, and other vehicles. Despite denying suspected terrorists from Afghanistan and elsewhere prisoner of war status under the Geneva
conventions, the US granted this status to detained members of MEK in Iraq [3].

Support for the MEK reveals one of the advantages the U.S. has acquired by occupying Iraq. The country can now be used as a staging post for carrying out attacks against regimes hostile to U.S. interests in the region, whether through proxy organizations such as MEK, or by attacking such countries directly by dispatching U.S. forces based on Iraqi soil. U.S. planners are currently somewhat constrained from using the latter option due to the difficulty they face in pacifying Iraq, so the first option, namely supporting terrorist organizations that are trying to destabilize the Iranian regime, will likely be their preferred course of action until U.S. control of Iraq is fully consolidated.

So when Paul Wolfowitz promised Iraqis in 2003 that the US would hunt down the "monsters" that assisted Saddam in digging the mass graves in 1991 [4], the Bush administration was in fact just beginning its support for some of the direct perpetrators of these crimes. Also revealing is U.S. criticism of the new Iranian
president elect, due to his alleged involvement in holding U.S. embassy personnel hostage in 1979. Though the U.S. admits the MEK was involved in the same incident, White House support for this terrorist organization continues. This kind of hypocrisy reveals much about what the global "war on terror" is really about. It's not a war against terror as such, but rather a war of terror to subdue resistance to the US designs in the region.

[0] Keddie, Nikki, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, 2003, Yale University

[1] The organization which provides these security reports does not allow them to be cited publicly, and thus I cannot indicate the name of the source. The report for June 19th, 2005 stated the following: "A large conference involving the mujahadeen kalk and sponsored by the Iraqi Government is scheduled to take place in the
Palestine Hotel in Baghdad 20th June, this may lead to insurgent attempts to disrupt the conference, HOM are advised to advise their staff to avoid this area."

[2] US State Department, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002:
See specifically Appendix B: Background Information on designated foreign terrorist organizations, pg. 115 for information on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq

See also this description of the group from at:

[3] Why the US granted 'protected' status to Iranian terrorists, The Christian Science Monitor, 07/29/2004.

[4] New York Times, July 20th, 2003.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dangled Carrots

My boss is often flip-flopping on whether he'll send me to Iraq. His recent offer of a week ago, to bring me down to the south so that I could get my first glimpse of the Marshes was reneged. He's trying a new tack with me ... instead of "Hell no, you can't go ... #@%!", he's saying, "Well if you want to go, go on your own. I'm not going to help you."

I resisted the paternalism in this situation once when I traveled to Iraqi for two weeks in April without his approval but it nearly wiped me out financially (he ended up paying for some of my expenses, but it was still difficult for me, on an NGO-pay scale, to afford the trip). I'm kept on a relatively short chain (for which I'm sure my family and friends back home are rather thankful) but it is frustrating to have all my work and thoughts focused on Iraq and not have the opportunity to actually be there.

I'm left to experience Iraq vicariously, through news reports and the stories of Iraqi Nationals who come to Jordan ... such as O, a friend of my housemate, who is an Iraqi translator working with American troops on the border. He came out recently for medical attention after being wounded during an attack on the patrol he was with. He'll return as soon as he's healed because good translators are in high demand with the Americans (few Iraqis are willing to work with them because of the danger involved) and he makes, for an Iraqi, good money at the work (over $1000 a month).

Here is a sampling of what life is like in Iraq this summer which I obtained from the Iraqi Press Monitor of the Institute for War & Peace reporting:

(Al-Mashriq) - More than six millions residents of Baghdad are suffering from shortages of electricity and fuel in these very hot days when the heat reaches 45 Celsius. The outage of electricity now is 20 hours a day, which means one hour on and six hours off. Officials at the Electricity Ministry always blame saboteurs who attack the electricity stations and power lines.

People have found no other alternative but to use their own home generators but they face the problem of the fuel shortage as they have to wait in long queues at the filling stations. Some of them are obliged to buy it from the roadside sellers who charge 25 times the normal price to avoid wasting hours waiting in the long queues.
(Al-Mashriq is published daily by Al-Mashriq Institution for Media and Cultural Investments.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

My Boss Has Breezed Into Town ...

On another whirlwind visit of my boss to Amman (coinciding with a major Donor Conference for Iraq that is happening down at some posh Dead Sea Resort), I've been running around town again and super busy. Here's the list of latests activities: a meeting in my boss's apartment on the edge of town, another meeting with a Jordanian environmental group, another meeting to sign a UN Contract (one that I wrote on my own!), then on to another Jordanian enviro group to talk about doing a biodiversity study in Iraq in partnership with them, then on to a quick lunch of falafel and fool (beans)... now and then on the phone to set up meetings for the next day, then back home to send out a gizillion emails, do a little horsing around with my homies and get things ready for the next day!

Here's a little image from the horsing around part .... I call it "The U.S. and it's British Sidekick Beating up on Iraqis ... Again!" All I can say is that he deserved it ... really!

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Mother of All Problems

Since most of my work is concerned with Iraq, some people might lose patience with all my posts concerning the situation in Israel/Palestine. Alot of people are, I think, secretly tired of hearing about the situation there. We have all lived with it (vicariously atleast ... for most of us don't have a clue about what it's really like to live under such conditions) for most of our lives and we all probably consider it as intractable as the weather. Something that just is and we have to put up with it.

I continue to include posts coming from the Christian Peacemaker Team in the southern West Bank because they are a window into the biggest problem facing us. There will be no peace in the Middle East until this is resolved and if there is no peace in the Middle East than we don't have a hope in hell of solving the problem with terrorism and unrest in the world. All this talk of fighting terrorism in Iraq is just foolishness and wasted money if we continue to be unwilling to use the simple, God-given tools of diplomacy to solve this problem.

I was once in a Boston taxi cab with my current boss (an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen) when the driver asked him, "So what is the problem with the Middle East?" My boss, who has dedicated his life over the last decade to restoring the Iraqi Marshlands and who is steeped in all the problems of Iraq at present, said, "The conflict in Isreal/Palestine is the main problem in the Middle East."

So I'll continue to post and spread these stories until people get sick enough about it to do something about it. This one is from Peggy Gish, who is currently waiting here in Amman for a flight into Baghdad (the airport has been closed because of dust storms and likely security problems).

Hebron: Sharing Each Others' Pain By Peggy Gish

"A donkey was stolen by an Israeli settler from the Karmel settlement and we saw it inside the settlement compound. Please come with us to photograph it for evidence when we make our complaint." two Palestinians asked the CPT and Operation Dove team in the South Hebron Hills village of At-Tuwani.

Two days after an Israeli soldier and a settler told a Palestinian family they were not allowed to use their land either for their sheep or for raising vegetable crops, team members watched nearby while three Palestinian children continued to let their flocks graze.

Another day, the team videotaped Israeli settlers combining and hauling away wheat planted by a Palestinian family on their land, while Israeli soldiers watched and did nothing to stop them.

By mid-June an unofficial tally counted at least 57 adult and 46 young sheep and goats from the villages of At-Tuwani and Mufakara that have died from poison Israeli settlers spread on Palestinian grazing land in March and April of 2005.

As I leave the West Bank tomorrow to return to work with the CPT team in Iraq, I can't help but think of the differences and similarities between life under occupation in both places. In Iraq there is an inadequate supply of medical equipment and medicines, while in the West Bank, the people are blocked when they try to reach clinics or hospitals. In the West Bank the water is allocated in an unfair proportion favoring Israeli Jews. In Iraq, the available water is mostly impure. In Iraq there isn't the overt confiscating of the homes and land, but their economy is hurt by U.S.
economic policies that allow for systematic takeover of natural resources and exploitation by international corporations.

Palestinian families in At-Tuwani tell us, "Yes, we have our problems but the problems in Iraq are much greater." In turn, Iraqis have told me, "The Palestinian occupation is the 'mother of all problems,' and needs to be resolved in order to have peace in the whole region." I am impressed by the ability of the Iraqi and Palestinian people and many other compassionate people around the world to look beyond their own troubles and be able to care for the sufferings of others. In both places we are encouraged by organizations and individuals who are taking significant personal risks to work nonviolently to deal with the problems they face.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A recent report from Greg Rollins of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq

Even here in Jordan we hear stories of the excesses of the Iraqi National Guard.

A Police State
July 12, 2005

Most Iraqis dislike the police and Iraqi National Guard (ING). Many people think they are nothing but thugs with guns. The police and ING drive up and down the streets (or sidewalks) shooting into the air and blasting their sirens and horns so that people will move out of their way. They abuse their power. People tell CPT that they insult and harass people at checkpoints, and arrest and beat innocent civilians.
The other day I watched a police convoy pass on the street. You could hear the shooting from several blocks away. All the cars pulled over and waited for the convoy to pass. The first truck sped by with a gunman hanging out the window holding his Kalashnikov in one hand while he yelled. The following six trucks and vans looked the same. The shooting continued but it did not come from these
vehicles, it came from the last vehicle in the convoy. The policeman hanging out the back kept shooting into the air despite the fact that all the cars were out of the way.
This is a typical scene in Iraq. While the police and ING are not the only convoys that drive this way, the people are more disturbed by them than when the U.S. military does it. Iraqis have come to expect this kind of behaviour from their occupiers, but not from their new government.
In Fallujah, people told CPT that the police and ING are worse than the U.S. army. "I would rather be arrested by the U.S. than the Iraqis," one man said. "At least they would treat us better." He is not the only person CPT has heard this from. People from Fallujah told CPT that whenever a car bomb goes off, the police and ING shoot first and ask questions later. Even though the Fallujah curfew
starts at 10 pm, people are usually home shortly after 8 because the police and ING will harass them if they are not. A traffic cop said the police and ING even verbally and physically assault him when he directs traffic.
Recently a new fear has risen; fear of the Iraqi Special Forces (ISF). The ISF are a couple different brigades: the Wolf Brigade and Al Hussain Brigade. They are U.S. trained and work closely with the U.S. military, carrying out house raids, sweeps and major operations. People say they are brutal and that the Wolf Brigade is
made up of many anti-Saddam Iranians from a militia called the Badr Brigade. An official from the Interior Ministry told CPT that approval for these Brigades' violent behaviour goes all the way up to the U.S. Embassy. One family told CPT their three brothers were arrested by the Wolf Brigade one night and the next evening they saw the brothers on TV looking beaten and confessing to crimes they did
not commit. There are also stories about people being arrested by one of these brigades and found dead at the side of the road a few days later.
The reality of all this is that Iraq is now a worse police state under the U.S. than it was under Saddam. Sure, Iraq has a government, but the U.S controls it. While many people in the U.S. believe that Iraq is on the road to an American style of democracy, many Iraqis are convinced that there is no road and there will be no

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Human Rights & the Environment in Fallujah

The US has leveled entire neighborhoods in Fallujah, and according to a friend with the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), who have been able to travel to the city a few times since November of last year, and about every third building is destroyed or damaged by the fighting that occurred in April & November of 2004.

U.S. checkpoints continue to strangle the city, according to CPT and many of the Iraqis I've talked to who are from the city. CPT tells the story of one shopkeeper who said that farmers from around Fallujah can no longer deliver their produce unless they have a US-issued Fallujah ID. The shopkeepers now have to go out and pick up the produce. He said it takes him around four hours because of the checkpoint delays. "They mistreat us," he said, "they point guns at us and insult us, even the women." He said that both U.S. and Iraqi troops search through the
vegetables roughly, even dumping them on the ground and smashing them.

Mohammed, a friend who is a native of Fallujah and who runs two NGO's, one on human rights & democracy and one on the environment and conservation, was visiting last night and told us about life in the city. He mentioned that only traffic police are operating in the city during the day. The U.S. Military doesn't trust the police in Fallujah ... and so the city is without any law enforcement for much of the time which has lead to a rise in crimes and thefts.

But it is encouraging to talk to Mohammed of his plans to do environmental projects in Fallujah. In addition to the security and human rights problems in this large city on the Euphrates, there are monumental environmental problems as well ... a devestated infrustructure, increased disease, pollution to air, land and water. Fallujah doesn't have a water treatment plant ... the U.S. contract to Parsons, according to the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works is stalled because the the situation in Fallujah but also because of infighting. But even if it works, the wastewater/drinking water networks need major work themselves.

Sometimes Mohammed seems overwhelmed by the scale of the problems that Fallujah faces, but he's trying and I encourage him to start small, take little steps. For me it is a wonderful experience to share the knowledge I have to be able to help someone like Mohammed who is doing his best to make the situation better. Although I work with an Iraqi NGO that has more resources than Mohammed's group, I'm happy to help any dedicated group in any way I can. It's why I came and it's why I stay.

A Letter From Home

Dear Sophia,

Have not heard from you for awhile - hope you are not in Baghdad.

What is the response or attitude of the Muslim types that you know around you about the bombings in London? It would seem that this sort of random mayhem is both mindless & ultimately unproductive. Only reinforces the attitudes of the 'war' factions here.

Not much going on here except the unusual weather - we got a lot of rain
from 'Cindy' & now seems we will have to take on 'Dennis'. Seems that the hurricane season is starting earlier this year - all part of the global warming. My new car, the 'hybrid', is getting its advertised mileage, so far - about 50 miles/gallon. So that I am doing my bit. I think, though, that we or you may eventually go back to an horse power culture like in the 'Gilded Age' - which the Bushies are trying to push us back to anyway (guess they need more housemaids & servents - though I don't think I would make a good 'butler')

Well, have run out of words for the moment. Please let us know that you are
still alive.

Love, Dad