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Mike Pompeo offers momentous support for Iranian opposition

By Struan Stevenson
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Mike Pompeo offers momentous support for Iranian opposition
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent five hours in Ashraf 3 last week, home to thousands of MEK members in Manëz in Albania, File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- As the 70th U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo wore the mantle that once adorned Thomas Jefferson, American founding father and first secretary of state, who went on to be president. When Pompeo paid a ground-breaking visit to headquarters of the main democratic Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), he may have remembered one of Jefferson's most famous quotes: "When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty."

Pompeo spent five hours in Ashraf 3 last week, home to thousands of MEK members in Manëz in Albania, where he met the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.

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Pompeo denounced former President Barack Obama's deeply flawed nuclear deal with Iran. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal was signed by Obama in 2015 and torn up by then-President Donald Trump and Pompeo in 2018, when the United States unilaterally withdrew.

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Pompeo famously said at the time the JCPOA was implemented: "The nuclear deal with Iran's radical clerics and their military junta is the most dangerous and potentially deadly action that the Obama administration has yet taken."

He went on to point out: "As a result of the billions of dollars flowing into Iran after the JCPOA, the Iranian regime is able to increase its support to terrorist groups like Hezbollah."

The Trump administration took an aggressively and justifiably hard line against Iran, implementing the "maximum pressure" campaign of comprehensive economic sanctions and ordering the drone strike that killed the terrorist godfather Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport on Jan. 2, 2020.

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Pompeo's visit came against the background of ongoing negotiations in Vienna, where the Biden administration is desperately seeking ways to resurrect the JCPOA, while lifting sanctions against the regime led by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Pompeo said: "A serious missing factor in U.S. policy toward Iran has been the lack of political support for the organized opposition. The regime in Tehran went to the extreme to massacre 30,000 political prisoners, whose main targets and a majority of victims, were the MEK. The threat of attack extends far beyond Iran's borders, with the regime having waged terror plots in Europe and the United States against the leaders of this movement.

"Now, to correct the Iran policy, no matter who is in the White House, it is a necessity for the U.S. administration to reach out to the Iranian resistance and take advantage of its tremendous capabilities. Ashraf 3 is one such place to focus on."

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The former secretary of state was keen to point to the role of the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in the 1988 massacre, which is the subject of a U.N. investigation. Pompeo said, "Ebrahim Raisi, the butcher who orchestrated the 1988 massacre, is now president. ... The regime is clearly at its weakest point in decades. ... Raisi has already failed. He has failed to crush uprisings in Iran or break the noble spirit of dissent within the Iranian people."

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Iranian opposition members were welcomed by the Albanian prime minister in 2014 after being rescued from Camp Liberty in Iraq, where they were under constant lethal attack by the government of Nouri al-Maliki, a puppet of the mullahs, who threatened to annihilate the Iranian opposition in Iraq. Albania stepped into the breach, agreeing to allow all 3,000 Iranians to settle there.

Albania's courage in rescuing the Iranian dissidents from Iraq caused a predictable backlash of fury from Tehran. The mullahs' regime immediately began to beef up its embassy in Tirana, deploying dozens of diplomats with the key intention of targeting the MEK. In December 2019, the Iranian ambassador to Albania and his first secretary were expelled by Edi Rama, Albania's prime minister, and declared persona non grata for "activities in breach of their diplomatic status and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."

They had been involved in a plot to attack the Iranian refugees in Ashraf 3. It was the second time a plot involving Iranian agents in Albania had been exposed. In March 2018, Albanian police foiled a planned bomb attack on the exiled Iranians who were attending a Nowruz or New Year gathering in Tirana.

Pompeo's visit will have caused similar outrage in Tehran. In his speech, he underlined his outright backing, saying, "I'd also like to recognize President-elect Maryam Rajavi. Under her leadership, the National Council of Resistance of Iran is laying the groundwork for a free, sovereign and democratic republic in Iran. We must continue to support the Iranian people as they fight for a freer and more democratic Iran in any way we can."

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Pompeo's visit coincided with nationwide protests that have continued for weeks in towns and cities across Iran, with thousands taking to the streets to demand regime change and democracy. Rajavi told Pompeo: "By glancing at the objective conditions and the successive eruption of uprisings in Iran today, one can see that regime change is on the horizon. The people of Iran have already decided to engage in the final confrontation with the regime. Today, we warn again that one should not delay. We say that we can and must free Iran, the Middle East and the world of the evil of the nuclear mullahs."

Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is also chairman of the In Search of Justice committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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