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NEWSWEEK: U.S. Seeking Members of Iranian Group MEK to be Operatives Against Tehran
OK...OK...I'm Nutballs, right?
NEWSWEEK: U.S. Seeking Members of Iranian Group MEK to be Operatives Against Tehran; Will Train as Spies Then Send Back to Iran to Gather Intelligence Against Clerical Regime
Sunday February 6, 11:04 am ET
NEW YORK, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of an Iranian group known for its support of the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979 may now be sought by the Bush administration as operatives for use against Tehran, Newsweek reports in the current issue. At a camp south of Baghdad called Ashraf, 3,850 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors) or MEK have been confined but gently treated by U.S. forces since the invasion of Iraq (once they were allies of Saddam against their own country in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war).
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050206/NYSU006 )
Some Pentagon civilians and intelligence planners are hoping a corps of informants can be picked from among the MEK prisoners, then split away from the movement and given training as spies, U.S. officials say. After that, the thinking goes, they will be sent back to their native Iran to gather intelligence on the Iranian clerical regime, particularly its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, report Middle East Regional Editor Christopher Dickey, Investigative Correspondent Mark Hosenball and Senior Editor Michael Hirsh in the February 14 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, February 7). Some hawks hope they could help to reawaken the democratic reform movement in Iran, which the mullahs have silenced. "They [want] to make us mercenaries," one MEK official tells Newsweek.
Maryam Rajavi, who heads the MEK with her husband Massoud, tells Newsweek her group is what America needs. "I believe increasingly the Americans have come to realize that the solution is an Iranian force that is able to get rid of the Islamic fundamentalists in power in Iran," she says. Rajavi insists the group's former role in terrorist attacks dating back to its support of the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979 is ancient history. And the MEK is not a Jim Jones-like cult as critics allege, with forced separation between men and women and indoctrination for children, all overseen by the Rajavis' autocratic style. Instead, Rajavi insists, it is "a democratic force." She is demanding that the MEK be taken off the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, their assets unfrozen and their energies unleashed.
Still, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top State officials remain leery of the MEK, despite renewed efforts to back and fund the group on Capitol Hill. Sources tell Newsweek that the CIA is also resisting the recruitment of agents from the MEK because senior officers regard them as unreliable cultists under the sway of Rajavi and her husband. A Defense Department spokesman denied there is any "cooperation agreement" with the MEK and said the Pentagon has no plans to utilize MEK members in any capacity.