The United States’ point man on Iran met with a representative of the anti-Iran Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group both before and after Washington’s assassination of senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, a report says.
Brian Hook, the US’s special representative for Iran and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, held the meetings with Robert G. Joseph, who represents the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in September 2019 and on January 31, American news and opinion website The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday.
On its website, the NCRI calls itself the MKO’s “umbrella coalition,” but many consider the two to be synonymous.
Joseph referred to the meetings in a semi-annual report he filed with the US Justice Department earlier this week in line with the US’s Foreign Agent Registration Act.
The US assassinated General Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and a number of others in a set of drone strikes targeting Baghdad’s civilian airport on January 3.
General Soleimani, who had earned reputation as the region’s most popular anti-terror military figure, was on an official visit to the Iraqi capital when the attack took place.
Joseph, a former senior State Department official under President George W. Bush, advises the NCRI at $15,000 a month. Relentlessly an Iran hawk, Joseph told a meeting of the group last March that he hoped that the Iranian government would soon fall.
The MKO has conducted a litany of assassinations and bombings against Iranian officials and civilians since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It notoriously sided with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s Western-backed war of 1980-88 against the Islamic Republic.
Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the Revolution’s victory, about 12,000 have fallen victim to the MKO’s acts of terror.
The terrorist outfit was on the US’s list of terrorist organizations until 2012.
Many other Western states have crossed its name out on their blacklists, too. The NCRI has its headquarters in Paris, which also serves as the venue for the MKO’s annual conferences.
The group throws lavish conferences every year in the French capital, with certain American, Western, and Saudi Arabian officials in attendance as guests of honor. These include former US national security advisor John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and former Saudi Arabian spy chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
Also in January, Giuliani told The Daily Beast that General Soleimani had been “directly responsible for killing some of my MEK (MKO) people,” adding, “We don’t like him very much.”
Evidence once showed that Bolton had received a $40,000 “speaking fee” to address an annual MKO gathering.
Last June, the MKO informed its members through an internal communiqué that it would “welcome” the assassination of General Soleimani and Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi.
The NCRI hailed General Soleimani’s assassination in a blog post following the airstrikes.
Shortly after the US airstrikes, Pompeo circulated a memo to all American embassies barring “direct US government engagement with” MKO’s representatives, citing its controversial history, including alleged role in the assassination of three US army officers and three civilian contractors, The Daily Beast said.
He, however, walked back from the warning later, leaving the door open to such engagement. “Posts should welcome opportunities to meet with and learn from members of the Iranian diaspora community,” he advised American diplomats in a cable overriding the memo.
Pompeo himself spoke at an event that included MKO representatives last year.