What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, April 6, 2007

CNN discovers the MEK again

MStFB News Commentary
Today, right on the day when the UK Ministry of Defence declared it will temporarily suspend its boarding operations in the Persian Gulf after Iran's release of 15 UK sailors and marines, with the UK decision likely to give a temporary boost to all sorts of smuggling in the Gulf, CNN decided to report on the ambiguous US policy towards the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK). MEK is an Iranian political organisation (movement, party and militia/army) I have written of in the past. Their activities between 1991 and 2003 were of interest to me, because the weakened Iraqi regime needed their assistance in 1991 in the face of simultaneous uprisings in the Kurdish North and the Shiite South, and so from that time on, at least in part, MEK attacks could be regarded as a kind of negative spillover from Iraq, threatening Iran as a result of the weakness of the Iraqi regime. The latter probably could have ousted the MEK from its territory, but while that certainly wouldn't have been in the Iraqi regime's interest, it wasn't something they would have felt inclined to waste potentially significant resources on, either.
Anyway, knowing a little about the MEK, I can point to some typical weaknesses in CNN's journalistic 'analysis' of the situation.
Quote: "An Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, despite being considered terrorists by the United States, continues to receive protection from the American military in the face of Iraqi pressure to leave the country. It's a paradox possible only because the United States considers the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, a source of valuable intelligence on Iran."
Comment: Before you start thinking it's one more of those typical 'American' paradoxes, they are actually not unique to the US at all. Iranians regularly criticised the US and the UK for aerial bombings in Iraq back in the time of the No Fly Zones, in the Hussein era, when in the same period they themselves, too, launched surface-to-surface missile strikes, air strikes and other operations against MEK camps and operatives in Iraqi territory from time to time. That was part of the low-intensity conflict they were waging against the MEK, which for its part also launched cross-border operations continuously. As to the MEK, it is not free of 'paradoxes', actually quite normal in pragmatic politics, either: when the MEK formed, it vowed to fight foreign influence in Iran in general, and American influence in particular, and some of its radical elements may have been responsible for the assassination of two US Air Force officers in 1973.
Quote: "Iranian officials tied the MEK to an explosion in February at a girls school in Zahedan, Iran. The group also is credited with helping expose Iran's secret nuclear program through spying on Tehran for decades."
Comment: You'll find both sides ready to accuse each other of anything that might show the adversary ripe to be wiped out. Doubts should have been indicated by CNN in the case of both remarks. With regards to the Zahedan attack, if it would have been committed by the MEK it would have been highly undesired by the US and would thus have taken a failure of vigilance on the part of the US-led multi-national forces in Iraq, which might qualify as 'state failure' (a failure by an actor responsible for the control of a given territory in preventing negative external spill-over effects from that territory) in my conceptual framework, had it indeed taken place in the first place. However, you should definitely take a look at the map to see where Zahedan is. In light of that, the accusations against the MEK seem far-fetched literally, fetched all the way to Iran's Afghan border, where there might always be a number of other suspects if anything happens, you know.
Quote: When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Green Berets arrived at Camp Ashraf to find gardens and monuments there, along with more than 2,000 well-maintained tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, anti-aircraft guns and vehicles.
Comment: Some of those well-maintained tanks and armoured vehicles were actually bombed apart in 2003 in US air strikes, Reuters reported at the time. I have also seen pictures of the wreckages here. My understanding has always been that the MEK opted so decisively for cooperation with the US, beacuse it was left with no choice. It needed to find a way out of the cross-fire. US bombings killed about 7 of their fighters, Iranian operatives killed some 28 others in a few days. The MEK was a target both for Iran and the US back then. Now it's protected by the US and its allies, such as Camp Ashraf guards Bulgarians. Even the ICRC looks after it. Definitely an improvement for them, isn't it?
OK, that's it for today. If you have been with me all the way, here's a little reward for you. An hilarious video courtesy of YouTube and a friend of mine who is expert in Iranian affairs and pointed out this video to me. Just remember, it is meant to be fun, so don't take it too seriously.

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