Trapped by Politics
by Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin, U.S. Army
Completed November 1, 2011

If there is any expectation that the current U.S. administration is going to do the harder right instead of the easier wrong, it is very doubtful to happen in the case of the People's Mujahedin of Iran. The PMOI or Mujahedin, as they are more frequently referred to, has become more of a cultural, political, and ideological threat to the Islamic fundamentalist Iranian government than the military opposition force of years past. Located in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, the PMOI surrendered their enormous inventory of weapons to the American military following the fall of Saddam Hussein. The largest component of the European-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the PMOI no longer possesses offensive military capability.

Formed in September 1965 as a Muslim group opposed to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the PMOI grew quickly in numbers and influence. Had not the Central Intelligence Agency twelve years earlier caused the collapse the popular Iranian government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, the PMOI would have likely never come to exist. Had President Teddy Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit, not publicly boasted about orchestrating the overthrow and placing the US-friendly Shah Pahlavi in power, the hostility toward the U.S. would not have occurred. Installing a government that would in time execute thousands is bad enough; boasting about it is not the way to win hearts and influence the minds of the victims. The June 5th, 1963 brutal suppression that ended the demonstrations resulting from the rift between the Shah and the clerics set in motion many actions that still have major impact on Iran, the Middle-East, and the world.

In 1966 the PMOI adopted a set of philosophies that would put them at odds with both the ruling government and rising Islamic fundamentalists. They came to embrace equality between those in power and those not, between men and women, and among various religions and races. Going even further, they believed the clergy should not have total control over interpretation of the Quran, nor should the clerics have total control over their congregations. These philosophies, which still have major influence on the PMOI, would cast them into fighting successive enemies.

Even further problems were growing. As in the case of many organizations, an internal element often develops that does not share organizational beliefs, but are within the ranks because it best suits their purpose at the time. When the opportunity presents itself, this element will either split off or attempt to take control of the original organization. This became the situation as a Marxist element emerged within the PMOI. Often at serious odds with established senior leadership, the Marxists soon found themselves in a very advantageous position.

Failed attempts at attacking the Shah and disrupting the government ended up with arrests of sixty-nine members of the PMOI in August of 1971. The core of the PMOI leadership was off the streets, and most ended up on the gallows, including the three founding members. As very few remaining members of PMOI leadership survived in the Shah's prisons, awaiting the end of torture that only death would bring, the rift between the rival elements intensified. By May of 1972, two PMOIs existed, with the preponderance of power favoring the Marxists. The two elements spent as much time fighting each other as they did engaging the Shah‘s regime. Meanwhile, one imprisoned member who was not executed by the government enforcers, but rather remained captive until the final days of the Shah's rule, was a young Massoud Rajavi. Inside prison he built an organizational structure and a large membership anchored on original PMOI concepts and independent of Marxist influence.

Today, any action conducted by either the PMOI or the Marxist PMOI is viewed as a PMOI action with no discrepancy to which organization did it. For the United States, this is especially true concerning the deaths of three American officers: the June 1975 dual killing of COL Paul Shaffer and Lieutenant Colonel John Turner, and the following month's killing of Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Hawkins. The fact that in August of 1975 the Shah's police arrested two people for the killings of Shaffer and Turner and stated they were part of the "Islamic Marxist group," and a member of the Marxist PMOI would later claim to have killed Hawkins, the blame remains on the PMOI.

In November of 1976, the strength of the Marxist PMOI was shaken when they lost a major gun battle with Iranian police. Weakened, but not broken, both elements continued to be actively involved in 1978 and 1979 uprising against the Shah. In January of 1979, ten days before Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in Paris, Rajavi was released from prison. As he worked to rebuild the PMOI, most of the subordinate leadership he selected also came from Qasr Prison. Soon the Marxist element abandoned any claim to the PMOI name and renamed themselves "Paykar" (Struggle).

Following the fall of the Shah, the PMOI had hopes of being part of the moderate Premier Bazargan/President Bani Sadr government. However, Ayatollah Khomeini was determined to establish a religious regime, with himself at the center. With this latest development, almost immediately Bazargan and the PMOI were at odds with the fundamentalist clerics under the leadership of Khomeini. Years earlier, as a cleric, Khomeini had been condemned to death by the Shah. The execution had been prevented by a sudden meeting in Najaf, Iraq where Khomeini was elevated to Ayatollah. In turn, Shah Pahlavi was left with the options of violating Islamic law by executing an Ayatollah or exiling Khomeini out of country. Out of country did not mean Khomeini was no longer undermining the Shah nor working to destroy his or any Iranian government which did not practice Khomeini's own brand of fundamentalism.

On November 3, 1979 Khomeini addressed the university students, resulting in 400 of them storming and taking over the American embassy in Tehran. This act caught the rest of Iran and the world by surprise. Yet it became one more thing attributed to the PMOI. Any military leader can verify that from Khomeini's exciting the students to their taking over the embassy, time did not exist for any formal organization to develop and perform a mission. Hope for a moderate Iran was immediately disappearing, as evidenced by the same-day resignation of Premier Bazargan. Bani Sadr stayed on for the time being as President, but it was obvious his attempts to bring order out of this chaos were not going to succeed.

As in the words of Shakespeare, "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war," Khomeini was able to seize upon this event to take the world stage and raise the fever all across Iran. His followers had successfully attacked the center of United States presence in Iran and now held American hostages. Khomeini used that excitement to bring his wrath on adversaries, real and perceived, within Iran. Anyone who did not share his fundamentalist beliefs was an adversary. Top on the list were the PMOI and the Communists. Attempts by Rajavi to work within the new government were not allowed. In December of 1979, Khomeini refused to allow him to run for President; and the following March, Rajavi was denied attendance to Parliament. In June 1981, the PMOI organized a peaceful demonstration in Tehran which attracted nearly half-a-million people. Khomeini responded by unleashing a brutal crackdown where dozens were killed, hundreds wounded, and thousands arrested. By 1982, Khomeini's attacks produced further bloodshed, to include the death of Rajavi's wife Ashraf and his second-in-command, Moussa Khiabani.

This time it was the PMOI who had to seek refuge. By 1981, Rajavi and now-ex-president Bani Sadr had moved the organizational structure behind their combined efforts to Paris. In 1986 another major relocation took place that takes us directly to the situation currently trying to be resolved. In the Middle-East, the belief is very real that, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Iran's mortal enemy was the Iraqi government under the rule of Saddam Hussein. While possessing the ability to be very charismatic, Saddam was also one of the most corrupt, manipulating, brutal, and self-serving leaders in the world. He was a person who enjoyed delighting others with his charm, yet would take equal delight watching those same people being tortured to death. The legend of his wood chipper was very much real.

Saddam saw a purpose for the Mujahedin. Having a major military force in his country dedicated to the overthrow of his principle enemy and replacing that enemy with a friendly government was very much in his interest. For the PMOI, Saddam offered a series of bases where they could monitor the Iranian government, work their operatives inside Iran, have a military staging area, operate a radio communications network, and be a beacon of hope to the people in Iran hoping to survive until a better government could take control. In 1986, a large majority of Iranian people had lived under the Mosaddeq government or heard stories from their parents. They knew that replacing the Shah with Khomeini was not a solution in the right direction, only more of the same. Even Khomeini's grandson had long since remarked that replacing the Shah's government with his grandfather's regime had taken the country from bad to worse. Now, just across the border into Iraq was organized Iranian opposition.

For the next seventeen years, the Mujahedin operated several bases in Iraq and did conduct military operations against the Iranian government. Up to the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Mujahedin grew in size and capability. It was during this period that the majority of the people now living at Ashraf joined the PMOI. An interesting and still haunting development occurred in October of 1997. While attempting to create positive relations with the newly elected President Mohammad Khatami, who was then making overtures of becoming more moderate, the Clinton administration placed the Mujahedin on the State Department list of terrorist organizations. As time would prove, there never was an intent by the fundamentalist Islamic leaders of Iran to become more moderate. This perception was nothing more than a successful psychological operation that achieved many desired goals, which once achieved revealed Iran's true intent - complete with an active nuclear weapons research program.

In 2003, as the United States developed its plans to invade Iraq, the Iranian government set to work on how to quietly take over as much of Iraq as possible. The Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq and its own military arm, the Badr Corps, were already firmly inside Iraq. The political operations of the southern Shia provinces were continually taken over by Iranian loyalists. Since the invasion, the Ministry of Interior and especially the national police have become more and more under the control of rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr. Today, the Iranian influence has expanded itself through the southern provinces, over most of Baghdad, and into Diyala province where Camp Ashraf is located.

Also in 2003, as the Coalition prepared to invade, Mujahedin leadership made the decision that their fight was not with the Coalition and elected not to rise up in support of Saddam. Their fight was with the Iranian government. Even when their camps were bombed, resulting in deaths within the organization, the Mujahedin did not return fire. When the Coalition forces arrived on the ground, rather than resistance, it became a relationship of cooperation. The Mujahedin accepted consolidation of their ranks into the one camp of Ashraf. Of the 10,000 members, approximately 3,700 accepted the move, with the remainder leaving the organization. Eventually, another 190 of these members elected to leave the PMOI and move to a small camp under Coalition control. In time, these 190 former members were accepted into Kurdistan where they now reside.

From the very beginning, the United States had a difficult time figuring out what to do with the PMOI. This was a first in the history of the world: an invading force inherits control of a military organization within the defeated country, yet that organization is an adversary of another country. That country, being Iran, is the same one that President Bush declared to be a nation sponsor of terrorism. In 2004, following the PMOI's formal renouncement of terrorism, members of the Mujahedin were awarded Protected Person status under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

My first awareness of this organization came in October 2003. After having conducted a force protection assessment of Abu Ghraib, I had a meeting with 800th Military Police Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. A classmate from officer basic course, I addressed with her the serious lack of adult supervision at Abu Ghraib. In the same meeting, she addressed the PMOI and how Coalition leadership had yet to figure out how to deal with them and use them as a potential resource - especially in the area of intelligence. Their name came up again when an officer reported to Coalition Forces J-3 (Operations), Major General Tom Miller, that the Mujahedin were constructing combat trenches between their camp and the Americans. Turned out the trenches were for the installation of water pipes to handle the surge of new residents caused by the consolidation. I had no way of realizing this was just the beginning of all the unfounded rumors I would hear about the PMOI. Two years later, the Mujahedin dilemma would play a bigger role in my life when I became the Operations Officer for Task Force 134, Detention Operations. Seven months after that, it became my main focus when in June of 2006, I became the first colonel to serve as base commander of Camp Ashraf.

One thing that always impressed me in 2006 about Camp Ashraf (named after Rajavi's first wife) was how out of the desert an oasis was built. Outside of the perimeter fences was barren land. Supported by water pumped from two rivers and purified within the compound was a well irrigated community. Each time I witnessed this irrigation I was drawn back to Anwar Sadat's amazement when he first saw the work Ariel Sharon had done during Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula. The Mujahedin had also set up outlets along the pipeline to allow local farmers to draw water for their use. Electricity was provided to all camp facilities; a hospital and clinics served not only the Mujahedin but anyone who showed up at the gates requesting treatment. Each compound had its own bakery and dining facility. Each of these had a special food or item that championed over the other facilities. They produced their own ice and made their own soft drinks. The uniforms they wore were always well-serviced and clean at the beginning of the work day.

I found Camp Ashraf's mosque a testimonial to the organization's founding principles of tolerance of other religions and races as well as the clergy not possessing total control over interpretation of the Quran or the congregations. Constructed with the two towers of a Shia religious center, it was open to all. Sunni residents of the local area were welcome to come and worship. Americans and all other nationalities of any faith were welcome to come inside the mosque. Unknown to the outside world, one of the biggest celebrations of the year at Ashraf is Christmas. This may seem strange to outsiders, but any resident of Ashraf is always ready to point out that Christ is the second prophet.

As base commander, I moved out to develop a professional relationship and gain a thorough understanding of this organization. What I found is the vast bulk of proclaimed knowledge among the Americans concerning the Mujahedin was basically rumors. No one had attempted to study the history of the organization. It was almost like Greek mythology. The unknown was explained with stories passed on from one to another. By western standards, their way of life is considered strange, if not bizarre, but that doesn‘t make them bad people. They do live a Spartan life and have a closed society. Men and women live separate of each other. Makeup is not worn. At the time of my presence, all of the membership wore uniforms. Women have the key leadership roles of running the organization. They do have a strong allegiance to Massoud Rajavi and his current wife, Maryam. Often their understanding of western attitudes and perceptions is as weak as our understanding of what they think and feel. It is easier for westerners who don't understand them to simplify the situation by proclaiming the Mujahedin to be a cult. I have had many detailed conversations and debates with them. They have even asked me about the cult label and how they could improve the outside perception of themselves. Often the advice I gave was very hard and direct. To their credit, they accepted the advice and frequently exercised the guidance I provided.

Unfortunately, while serving as base commander, both the Mujahedin and I had to put up with occasional visits from a State Department representative who would come in with her own prejudice and refuse to even listen to what anyone else said - to include Americans. The most disastrous visit by this representative occurred during the same time I was back in Baghdad taking care of several other responsibilities. Upon my return, I found myself having to go visit every compound this representative had toured and mitigate every offensive remark she made and unwarranted action she conducted. This State Department employee is yet another testimonial to the media acknowledgment our government made years ago that the State Department did not send over its best and brightest during the early days of our involvement in Iraq. Part of this overall problem can be attributed to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refusing to turn over the rebuilding of Iraq to Secretary of State Colin Powell. A larger part of it was that most State Department employees were not going to give up the good life to live in a war zone in less than ideal conditions. We have paid, and continue to pay, for that mistake. Ashraf can be included on the tab.

Perhaps the most blatant and irresponsible rumor that came out of State Department occurred in the fall of 2006. An urgent warning came through that the PMOI was recruiting Iraqis by the hundreds and training them at a specific compound. My unannounced inspection of this compound revealed a handful of local Iraqi workers. The Mujahedin hired local labor because there was always too much work at Ashraf for the membership to perform. Should the workers come and go every day, their chances of getting caught by the Shia death squads were that much greater. The workers preferred to come and go once a week and deliver the earnings to their families. Having seen enough to realize that once again I was chasing State Department swamp gas, I started to leave the compound. My PMOI escort interrupted my departure and stated that there was another building to examine. I assured him between what I already witnessed, and his willingness to show more, I was convinced there was no reason to look further.

Another rumor concerned the Mujahedin keeping people against their will. They did have concertina wire fences between their compound and ours. To the outside, it appeared they were trying to keep people in. Upon much closer examination and experience, I came to realize that they didn't want anyone to defect from the organization without being debriefed and carrying in their possession sensitive documents or information. In one case, the Mujahedin took me to a compound they had for people wishing to leave. One person was living the good life there and didn't want to leave. He was being cared for with meals and lodging, but didn't have to work for his keep. The Mujahedin leadership asked me to talk to him and convince him to come over to our defector camp. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. This person had the best of both worlds and didn't want to give it up. Using the logic of Imam Ali Hussein, the Prophet's grandson, the night before the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD, Mujahedin leadership told their membership, "We will turn out the lights." Anyone wishing to leave had that choice. Mujahedin leadership just wanted to know about the departure before it happened.   One unexpected departure afforded me the opportunity to negate another rumor: that the Mujahedin were sneaking out of Camp Ashraf without our knowledge to conduct business and undermine the Iraqi government. Having shown up unexpectedly in the middle of the night, this man caught both the Americans and PMOI by surprise. The Mujahedin accepted my doing the debriefing of this person who was now under our control. They accepted my word that he didn't bring any sensitive documents, only himself. This person's former role was to do the shopping and bank business trips to Baghdad while under American oversight. When I interviewed him, he made it clear he wanted nothing more to do with the Mujahedin. I then specifically asked him if the PMOI were leaving camp without our knowledge. Even though he was dissatisfied with his former organization, he assured me they were not violating any of our rules and were complying with everything we mandated. That conversation, and many other events, further proved to me that the PMOI was fulfilling the spirit and intent of every requirement placed on them by the Americans.

The Mujahedin was an intelligence source that we didn't learn to fully use for a long time, even though they were willing to share information. This is the organization that made the world aware that the Iranian government was conducting nuclear research operations. Their relationships in the local area were bringing in continual reports of Al Qaeda, Badr Corps, and Mahdi Army activities throughout the region. Not until the arrival of the Marine Corps Human Exploitation Team were we able to get that information into the intelligence network. I was always amazed at the amount of information they were able to extract out of Iran. One instance was the result of a conversation in Baghdad between that same State Department representative and a senior Iraqi official. When the conversation was over, the Iraqi official filed his report to Tehran. Within two weeks, all the details of the conversation were handed to me by the PMOI.

Concerning my tour of duty at Ashraf, I came to know the Mujahedin better than any other outsider before, and very likely after. I heard the rumors, then pursued the facts. I challenged them in debate and listened to them in discussion. Having already been the Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer for all of Iraq, I had a solid understanding of the ever-changing threat. To understand what I was working to protect, and from whom, I had done an incredible amount of studying. When I was outside the perimeter in missions with the Mujahedin, I found them to be a solid ally. Inside the perimeter, I found them to be a major learning opportunity. We didn't always agree, but we always respected and trusted each other.

Upon my return to the Pentagon, I began working with State Department representatives in Washington, D.C. to properly address the PMOI issue. What I found were the two primary people at Foggy Bottom responsible for the Mujahedin had almost no working knowledge of the organization. The first two meetings I had with them, and several other people in attendance, concerned presenting a time-line history of the organization from its earliest days and going over about sixty photographs I had taken concerning all aspects of Camp Ashraf and its residents. The State Department representatives had no idea what the membership looked like, the uniforms they wore, the layout of the compound, the existence of an industrial compound where trailer homes were being manufactured, the fact they ran their water through a treatment plant before consumption, had medical facilities, and ate their meals in dining facilities. They did know a lot of the rumors, but almost none of the facts.

Finally we got to the issues concerning the Mujahedin. The biggest one was the accepted-as-fact rumor that in years past the Mujahedin had attacked the Kurds. I produced a letter from Hoshyer Zebari, head of Kurdistan Democratic Party International Relations, clearly stating this did not occur. This was checked out by having their counterparts in Baghdad talk to Mr. Zebari. I was later assured by my Foggy Bottom counterparts that Mr. Zebari confirmed my information to be true. Yet, several months later when the annual report on terrorism was released by the State Department, the accusation for attacking the Kurds was not removed. I questioned the same people I had been dealing with and was informed that they don't communicate with the people who put out the annual report.

Another issue that has plagued the PMOI is the Marxist label. While the PMOI worked for more openness in Islam, the Marxist element discarded Islam in favor of Marxism. The best analysis to this situation was provided by former Undersecretary of State George Ball in his August 19, 1981 Washington Post article. Mr. Ball stated, "...The sloppy press habit of dismissing the Mujahedeen as leftists badly confuses the problem....Its intention is to replace the current backward Islamic regime with a modernized Shiite Islam drawing its egalitarian principalities from Koranic Sources rather than Marx..."

The leadership of the Mujahedin have expressed their willingness to leave Iraq and go elsewhere. The problem is they have no place to go. Even if the United States follows the actions of the European Union and removes this organization's terrorist designation, none of the members can come to the United States because they were once in a designated terrorist organization. As far as Homeland Security is concerned, it is irrelevant as to whether that designation was right or wrong in the first place. As long as the United States leaves them on this list, no other country is willing to accept them. The only actions that have come out of the State Department were to pull the "protected person" status and turn oversight of Camp Ashraf over to the Iraqi government.

Against this backdrop, we now have a U.S. administration who believes the war is basically over for America and we can start pulling out. As Americans, we haven't learned from our mistakes. In the early days of Iraq occupation, we saw little activity in the southern Shia provinces. We were so focused on the Sunni activity that we never realized Iran and the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq were taking control of all the community and provincial governments. The same has now been going on for several years throughout the country. Yet our politicians continue to express confidence and support of this government.

We continually experienced corruption within the Iraqi government, to include civilians being arrested without reason and held for ransom, illegal detention facilities to include on Ministry of Interior grounds, and an entire Sunni village ordered to leave their homes within an hour so Shia families could move in and take over their possessions. I personally had senior members of the Ministry of Culture offer to give me a painting that was part of usurped art. One of the most painful events was when one of our convoys was driving through an Iraqi police checkpoint. Just as our last vehicle entered the open area, the rear gunner saw the uniformed Iraqi police officers running for cover. As he radioed the warning to the convoy commander, a suicide driver came at the front of the convoy. Engaged by the lead gunner, the vehicle was destroyed and the driver killed before he made it to the convoy. Suddenly, the entire right flank of the convoy was under attack. When it was over, one American was killed in action. Meanwhile, this is the government that has been making continued promises to the Americans that the Mujahedin will be protected. Yet on a continuing basis, Camp Ashraf has been placed under siege. Attacks have left members of the Mujahedin dead or maimed. Critical medical supplies, petroleum products, and food have been denied delivery to Ashraf. Loudspeakers have been continually used to conduct psychological operations against the PMOI.

It is not hard to recall the fiasco that was supposed to be the legitimate execution of Saddam Hussein. If not for the unexpected release of the digital footage, the world would never have learned of the executioners chanting "Moqtada, Moqtada" while Saddam's body was dangling from the rope. These actions supported the promise Moqtada Sadr made to his followers, that Saddam would "not live to see the light of the new year." There is no reason to expect the Iraqi government to do any better with the PMOI. If Prime Minister Maliki really cared about Iraq, he would turn to the PMOI just as Egypt's Anwar Sadat turned to Israel's Ariel Sharon and ask for guidance in developing more fertile lands.

Ruled by fear enforced by brutality, the Iranian fundamentalist government remains in place. Each year we watch the spectacle of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad giving his annual speech to the United Nations. Representatives of the free world get up and leave as Ahmadinejad speaks. He doesn't care. For his rants are not to positively influence the outside world, but to be shown inside Iran how their President is standing up to the West. Even though in his last ramblings he called for an investigation into the American government‘s orchestrating the 9-11 attacks, Ahmadinejad's attention is never far away from the annihilation of Israel. Khomeini often stated, "The road to Jerusalem is through Karbala."

The real benefactor to the fall of the Mujahedin will be Ahmadinejad and the ruling religious fundamentalists. The determination to maintain themselves in power by deceit and brutality was well proven following the 2009 Iranian presidential election. There was no way the mullahs were going to allow a real moderate and progressive leader like Mir Hussein Mousavi to become the President. The brutality in putting down the protests following the election brings back the deep memories of 1963 and 1981. Perhaps more than anything else, the Iranian government wishes for the membership of the PMOI to be turned over to them. The Mujahedin has represented resistance to the fundamentalist government for more than a generation. Mass public executions will be conducted to show the Iranian people what happens to people who oppose the government. The public executions will also be used to further break the spirit of anyone considering resistance and to show the world what happens to those trust their lives to the United States.

To appease the Iranian government, the State Department recently placed Jundallah, a Sunni-Balochi Islamic group, on the terrorist list. To this, it needs to be accepted that this group in fact is conducting terrorist activities inside Iran. That stated, the timing speaks for itself as the State Department is trying to figure a way to work with the Iranian government and is making an appeasement gesture. There is little chance the same State Department is going to make a negative gesture by removing the PMOI despite calls from the American Legislative and Judicial Branches of government, as well as the European Union, to professionally revisit this issue. That would be the harder right. History is repeating itself back to when the current Secretary of State's husband was the President and the Mujahedin was placed on the list.

Meanwhile, the State Department claims to have access to classified information about the activities of the PMOI. It is doubtful to be more accurate than the intelligence reports about Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction and those State Department intelligence reports that frequently sent me out looking for activities that were not happening. To date the State Department has yet to share this classified information with either the United States military or members of Congress who do have the clearances, need to know, and ability to validate or debunk the information. This steadfast refusal leaves us to conclude State Department officials have realized this "classified information" cannot withstand the test of scrutiny.

That takes us back to the already discussed real and present danger of the PMOI. Will the United States allow the easier wrong and permit the Iraqi government to turn the PMOI over to Iran? No matter how the United States government will attempt to cleanse itself of this matter, one fact will always stand out above all others: the Peoples' Mujahedin Organization of Iran surrendered to the United States military. They trusted their safety to the United States. They renounced terrorism at the request of the United States and through the effort lead by the United States, they accepted the status of protected persons. As a nation, we made a serious mistake in the First Gulf War when Kurds and Shia were encouraged to rise up against Saddam. After one hundred hours of fighting, we shut down and left them to their fate. Thirteen years later we invaded Iraq, setting off a whole new series of mistakes. Trusting the Iraqi government to handle the Mujahedin any better than they handled the execution of Saddam will be a mistake that will cost 3,500 lives. There is still time to correct this problem, but not at the pace and in the direction the State Department is moving.

©2021 Wes Martin