The Mujahedin-e-Khalk Organization is facing dwindling popularity among its Western backers and partners.

  • Former US Vice President Mike Pence during a speech at Iranian terror group MKO's headquarters in Albania at Ashraf-3 camp in Manza town, about 30 kilometers west of Tirana, Albania, June 23, 2022 (AP)
    Former US Vice President Mike Pence during a speech at Iranian terror group MKO's headquarters in Albania at Ashraf-3 camp in Manza town, about 30 kilometers west of Tirana, Albania, June 23, 2022 (AP)

Former US Vice President Mike Pence has become one of the sole supporters of the Iranian terrorist organization, Mujahedin-e-Khalk (MKO) at a time when its popularity is dwindling because its main backers are coming to realize that it is more of a liability than anything else, Responsible Statecraft reported.

The cult-like exiled Iranian opposition group notorious for its human rights abuses spent nearly two decades on the US list of terrorist organizations, yet its political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has long been receiving backing from prominent US officials, including Pence.

Pence is trying to use the MKO as a trump card in his run for the 2024 presidency, hailing it as a "secular, democratic, non-nuclear" alternative to the Islamic Republic of Iran in a bid to boost his popularity through hawkishness toward Iran in a bid to assimilate with fellow Trump administration senior officials John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

Currently, Pence is trying to overthrow the man under whom he served as Vice President, Republican front-runner Donald Trump, but his legal troubles might take care of that, but if he were to be disqualified, no one knows what the Republican arena would look like.

The backing of the MKO would win over the neoconservative campaign donors and lobbies who oppose a lenient, or merely more lenient, approach toward Iran, - such the Biden administration's attempts to de-escalate tensions with Tehran - in pursuit of the Trump-era "maximum pressure" policy against the Islamic Republic.

Despite throwing his weight behind the NCRI, Pence might be in trouble, as his push might only benefit him in the US political landscape rather than in making any actual change in Iran, mainly due to the organization's unpopularity and its waning fortunes.

Disdain is growing for the MKO all over the world. The Albanian police on Tuesday raided the country's MKO base to which its top brass was relocated from its base in Iraq, due to its violation of the US-mediated agreement allowing for their resettling in the country. 

Originally, the deal was aimed at hosting a couple of thousand individuals disdain for which was growing after the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq; however, the organization members took to using their presence in the country as a base of operations for political activities, including carrying out cyberattacks and mass online harassment of opponents.

The MKO was violent in resisting the Albanian raid, resulting in the death of at least one person and the injury of dozens more, prompting concerns about the group having grown into a "state within a state" in the country that has been granting them humanitarian asylum for years.

In an interview, published by VOX News Albania, a former member of the MKO, Mustafai Beheshti, revealed what happened inside the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO) camp located in Manza, Durrës.

It was also reported that Mustafai underscored that the MKO camp was filled with well-trained terrorists and are very dangerous. The former member stated "The oldest are soldiers and they know a lot of things. Many of them lived in America and were IT engineers. Even now there are people in America working for them. They have a lot of money.

Mustafai then went on to highlight that people in the camp had no freedom and that their basic human rights were violated. For example, he explained that he had not seen his son or family for 22 years. He said "After 22 years, I want to see my family. When I left, I left my grandson who was only one year old. We can't go there, our families can't come here."

The Albanian Ministry of the Interior announced that the raid, carried out by the police in the Ashraf 3 camp, which houses Iranian anti-revolution members who belong to MKO, "was carried out in accordance with the law and an order issued by the Anti-Terrorism Court."

"There is no reason for a sovereign state like Albania to tolerate on its territory some enclaves where its national laws don’t necessarily apply," Responsible Statecraft argued.

The raid in Albania came after France refused to grant permission to a large NCRI gathering set for Paris in July on the grounds of security, marking another hit dealt to the group that uses rallies to gain international support as it continues to prove to the West that it is more costly than beneficial for its backers, with the French having long been uncomfortable with the group's presence on its soil.

Many of the group's militants had resorted to France as a shelter after losing to the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini whom they had supported against the Western-backed monarchy initially before turning against the revolution.

The MKO's militants moved from France to Iraq, where they cooperated with Saddam Hussein in the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq war, earning them the hatred of the Iranians.

France and Albania were lambasted by pro-MKO US officials, such as Senator Ted Cruz, who accused them of acting at the "ayatollah's behest"; however, the Texan lawmaker perhaps forgot that Albania and Iran have had their diplomatic ties severed since 2022 in the wake of a suspected wave of Iranian cyberattacks against Albania.

His theory on France, though, has different grounds as Paris is seeking closer cooperation with Tehran in the hopes of reviving the Iran nuclear deal flushed down the drain by the United States under Donald Trump, who left the deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

France also wants to convince Iran to phase out support for Russia in light of the Ukraine war, with direct talks taking place between Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. "As long as the diplomatic channels with Tehran remain open, the [MKO's] activities in France are seen as harmful," the report added.

The MKO's latest blow was the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as Riyadh was suspected of being one of the main backers of the organization for years, with senior Saudi diplomats attending MKO rallies abroad. However, it seems that Saudi will phase out support for the group, as it is speculated that Tehran and Riyadh's rapprochement stipulated that the latter downgrade its ties to the terror group.

As Mike Pence tries to give life back to the MKO to try and revive his political career, his attempts may be more than futile as its international partners are deserting it one by one as its true colors are revealed and as the world comes to terms with the fact that the Islamic Republic is there to stay.

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