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John Sano: The Single Most Significant Threat to Iranian Regime

John SanoParis, February 2, 2013 - As dramatic change continues to race across the Middle East, there’s a secret war going on in Washington and in other capitols of the world on the future of policy towards Iran—the most strategically important and dangerous country in the region.  Now, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the MOIS, is fully engaged in this battle.  In fact, they’re probably directing it.  They suborn America and other countries’ media, think tanks, and even the general public.  Now even in ancient times nations and governments, even communities, have relied on intelligence as an essential guide to statecraft.  For example, the Persian Empire, the moguls of India, and even the city state of Venice, Italy utilized intelligence in a systematic manner as an essential feature of the government.  And it’s evident from these histories that there are different objectives.  Intelligence was always supposed to be a reflection of the culture and the value system of a society.  In the past, some of that was used for conquest to vanquish enemies, but when the modern state evolved, a fundamental change occurred in the nature of intelligence as an instrument of the government.

Previously the emphasis was on the security of the state and survival of the regime.  Now there is a strong emphasis on human security, human rights and freedoms.  Iran’s MOIS never made this change.  In fact, they have reverted even deeper into their past where they see their only role as protecting the regime of the Mullahs and persecuting their enemies.  A legitimate intelligence service should reflect the principles, the aspirations, and the ideals of its people, not its leadership.  In Iran the MOIS as well as the IRGC intelligence to include the Quds Force, operates under the direct supervision of the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini.  A good intel service is not an impresser of the people they serve, but rather protector, protectors of their security and wellbeing.  This is not the case with the MOIS.  This is what causes the people of Iran to fear and hate them.

Now the center of this campaign on the future of Iran is the status of the MEK.  Fortunately it was removed from the foreign terrorist organization list, but there is still a major propaganda campaign that is raging and it has muddied the waters.  I worked against the MIOS overseas.  I’m familiar with how they operate.  They are very good at disseminating what we call disinformation about their opponents.  In fact, the largest element within the MIOS is the Department of Disinformation.  They use psychological warfare and disinformation against the regime’s opponents.  They also manipulate the media in other countries as well in order to project a more positive image of Iran.  They use news agencies, like the (Mare) News Agency, to plant false stories in the media about the MEK in order to discredit them or to blame them for atrocities like the attempted attack on the Saudi Ambassador to the United States a mere 17 months ago.

The MOIS views the MEK as the single most significant threat to their regime and as such, they will continue to do whatever they can to propagate falsehoods against the MEK.  These allegations have included charges that the MEK was hiding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in Camp Ashraf, to training female suicide bombers in the camp, to attempting to bring down airliners—all these were made up by the MOIS.  None were taken seriously by the American security establishment or other countries of the world.

We are all too familiar with some of their more egregious techniques like kidnapping, torture, sabotage, assassination. But they're also a very sophisticated service, and they are quite subtle when trying to influence the media and policy makers into adopting their lies.  These lies are spreading, not just in various blogs, but also have been picked up by the mainstream media, to include CNN and the New York Times.  These media outlets have generally not questioned these allegations, nor have they relied on the judgment of seasoned intelligence officers.  One technique that the MIOS has been doing rather well is what we call false flag.  They arrange for people to pretend to be someone other than they are, and to include members of the green movement, members of the MEK.  In fact, American media sources on the MEK have been an echo chamber of the MOIS.  Front groups and proxies pose as credible Iranian-American organizations and academics.

A perfect example was the August 2011 rally that we held outside the State Department in Washington, D.C.  There were thousands of Iranian Americans demonstrating there.  I along with a few other members of the current panel spoke at that rally.  They had a reporter from CNN who did not quote a single actual participant in the rally, but rather a well-known pro-regime character who not surprisingly condemned the entire affair.  As another example, the MOIS has for years utilized the services of a British citizen, Ann Singleton, and her Iranian born husband.  Now they coerced them into cooperating and spying on the MEK because they threatened his mother's property in Tehran.  Now the MOIS also infiltrates Iranian communities outside of Iran.  They use a variety of methods, and even here in France there's an organization called Supporting Iranian Refugees, and they attempt to recruit people in that organization to spy on Iranians in France.

Now I've looked at the intelligence that was used for years to classify the MEK as a terrorist organization.  And based on my nearly 30 years of professional intelligence work I saw nothing in those documents, nothing, that would indicate even remotely that the MEK was a terrorist organization.  It was done for political reasons.  So, their goal is to continue the discrediting of the MEK.  And Iran's actions over the past several years have clearly indicated that their intent is not to reach any accommodation with the United States, because they believe America is weak, because the mullahs believe that the U.S. is afraid of Iran, and because they interpret any act of kindness on our part as weakness.  We must not let this stand.  Indeed we must show the mullahs in Tehran that the U.S. will stand up for its friends, that we are indeed resolute in rectifying that has been an exceptionally egregious situation over the past 25 years, and that we will do the right thing.

Now Prime Minister Maliki has said when he referred to both Camp Ashraf that, and this is a quote, "Iraq is dealing with the residents of the camps as individuals in accordance with the human rights principles and rules of international law."  This is a blatant lie, especially when you look at the atrocities that have occurred.  The killing of 50 innocent civilians, to include women, the wounding of over a thousand at Camp Ashraf less than two years ago.

While the Iranian intelligence service--and they should be listed as terrorists, not the MEK—while they have considerable skills in espionage, they cannot hide the truth.  The truth that the MEK promotes a peaceful, nonviolent and democratic Iran, that the MEK is committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international conventions and covenants and promotes a domestic and foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence.  Now that the MEK has finally been removed from the foreign terrorist list the U.S. needs to reach out to the MEK as part of a comprehensive effort to increase pressure towards the clerical regime in Tehran.  The MEK has repeatedly proven itself to be a very trustworthy ally, and one with whom the United States and other peace loving countries of the world should partner with when it comes to the future of Iran.  As General David Phillips, former commander of security forces at Camp Ashraf, has so appropriately stated in the past, Camp Ashraf and by extension Camp liberty is not a place, it is a belief and a spirit within all freedom-loving people.  Thank you. [applause]

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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf