The United States' Joint Special Operations Command (JSOT) conducted training for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group listed by the US as a terrorist organization, journalist Seymour Hersh claims.
The Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, 65 miles from Las Vegas, was the site of extensive military and intelligence training for the MEK, in addition to elite Iraqi combat units, Hersh writes in The New Yorker. The training is believed to have been covertly sanctioned by the Bush administration, and was stopped shortly before President Obama took office.
“We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official said. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications — coordinating commo is a big deal.”
Hersh's article quotes a retired four star general who advised the Bush and Obama administrations on national security issues. The general noted that Iranians associated with the MEK received “standard training in commo, crypto, small-unit tactics and weaponry.” He also said he cautioned the JSOT that the Iranian government was very good at counterintelligence and that the US could end up in a lot of trouble if the training program was discovered.
Former and present intelligence officials, Hersh states, also note that US has been providing the MEK, directly or indirectly, with arms, intelligence and logistics since 2003.
But it turns out that the US is not the MEK's only ally. A former senior intelligence official said Israel cooperated with the MEK to conduct a number of sabotage operations inside Iran, including pipeline attacks. Last month two senior Obama administration officials told NBC News that Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, trained and financed MEK units that organized the assassinations of Iran’s nuclear scientists. MEK spokesmen have denied this claim.
The MEK is a formerly radical Islamic-Marxist movement, labeled a “cult” by Human Rights Watch and listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, alongside Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
In the meantime, more and more public figures, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, have been pushing for the MEK to be delisted as a terror group. But experts note that the US would be better off not delisting the MEK if it is to continue its alleged close ties.
“On the one hand, the MEK was relisted year after year after year in the eight-year duration of the Bush administration, and it’s been relisted since Obama came into office,” Reza Marashi, research director of the National Iranian American Council noted on RT’s Alyona Show. “So it might just be as easy as, if we’re going to continue to cooperate with this group directly or indirectly it doesn’t really make a difference if they’re on the terrorist list because this was so close-hold until recently. This wasn’t readily available information even to people inside the US government.”
Hersh is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award.