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It is high time for the West to expose the malign activities of Iranian regime in Europe

earthBy Siavosh Rajabi

As an Iranian human rights activist and someone who would like to see democracy in my home country, it’s important for me to understand the principal enemy of my cause: the Iranian secret service, known as the Ministry of Intelligence and Security or MOIS.

The MOIS is not only vicious and dreadful, it is also very shrewd and conniving. Its activities are not limited to intimidation, assassination, and torture.  While these are certainly the most egregious of its actions, it also engages in more subtle activities which have equally damaging political consequences. It resorts to all sorts of psychological schemes and disinformation regarding the opposition. These are tools of survival for a dreadful theocracy that has executed some 100,000 dissidents over the past three decades and has subjected innumerable others to inhuman incarceration and all sorts of tortures.

As part of its disinformation campaign, the MOIS fabricates information and disseminates them through social and media contacts that are either recruited outright or merely contacted casually and deceived into conveying an item of propaganda. This interactions help to imply that the MOIS and its affiliates are reliable sources of information when of course they are anything but.

But sometimes the MOIS schemes are truly tricky and convoluted.

In the mid-1990s a friend told me about a scheme called “80-20.” The MOIS, being cognizant of the scope of the Iranian people’s loathing of the regime, concluded that it would be ineffective to openly and directly attack the opposition with smears and disinformation campaigns. So it devised the 80-20 scheme. It recruited some individuals who ostensibly had some tendency towards the opposition, even some turncoats. These individuals were instructed to attack the regime 80 percent of the times on non-serious issues. That provided them some sort of “legitimacy” and “credibility”, which they could then leverage to attack the opposition the other 20 percent of time. That way the smear against the opposition would seem credible and genuine and would be more effective.

This scheme was most systematically used against the regime’s chief opponents, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

As John Sano, a former Deputy Director of Operations of CIA who operated as an intelligence officer and a spy for almost 30 years and had discussions with MOIS officers in the field put it in 2014, the MOIS fears the MEK the most, because the MEK represents a possibility for change in Iran and has shown resilience against the regime and is growing at home and abroad, despite being ferociously persecuted.

A number of the MOIS agents who defected over the years exposed the 80-20 scheme.

While this is bad enough, what turned out to be of paramount concern for the West is that the MOIS even recruits non-Iranians to cooperate as well, some wittingly and some unwittingly. This was established by the report, “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile”, by the US Library of Congress in December 2012.

Over the years, I have encountered several cases of non-Iranians who start to make some general criticism on the Iranian regime and its egregious conduct and then turn into making outlandish attacks on the Iranian opposition, most notably the MEK. Whenever I encounter such a situation, I whisper to myself, “Here we go again: 80-20”.

During a debate at a European Parliament plenary session at Strasburg on December 13, I heard Ana Gomes, a member of the European Parliament from Portugal making some mild criticism of the Iranian regime before abruptly turning to baseless allegations about the MEK and its activities at the Parliament (i.e. exposing Tehran’s human rights abuses and calling for a firmer policy on Tehran’s human rights abuses and regional misdeeds). It had all the markings of the “80-20”.

A cursory review of some of the positions of Ana Gomes over the years showed a very clear pattern. Some general and rather harmless criticism of Tehran allowed her to leveraging “credibility” and deniability to lambaste the MEK at every opportunity and warn about the “threat” that the Iranian opposition poses.

As the old adage goes, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The world is realizing the Iranian regime’s behavior is growing worse. As Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN pointed out on December 14, 2017, “Aid from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing. Its ballistic missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in warzones across the region. It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” And various aspects of the human rights situation are deteriorating.

While the world is coming to grips with the reality of Tehran’s nefarious conduct and the need to adopt a policy that responds to that, it is becoming more imperative to neutralize and expose the activities of its secret service, including its disinformation campaign against the opposition. That policy should include calling out Tehran’s trolls, whatever form they may take.

Siavosh Rajabi is chair of Angelo Iranian Academics in Britain, Fellow Higher Education Academy in UK, and professional member of British Computer society.

augusta free press
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