Podcast: Trita Parsi and the Fight for a Sensible Foreign Policy Towards Iran

Published September 24th, 2018 - 09:36 GMT
Trita Parsi (AFP/FILE)
Trita Parsi (AFP/FILE)


By Ty Joplin 


Trita Parsi occupies a lonely position in the world.

After escaping from Iran at a young age, Parsi now lives in the U.S. and advocates for a more sensible foreign policy towards Iran. The current doctrine of war-mongering and sanctions, he claims, is irrational and does little to ensure stability in the region. He is the founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and his writings have been featured in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, the New York Review of Books and The Nation. 

His position is not a popular one, at least not among influential policy makers, who by-and-large, view Iranian power as an existential threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East and thus support every measure to combat the country, even if it means supporting war crimes in Yemen.


Trita Parsi (Wikipedia)

But Parsi is also one of the loudest voices criticizing the U.S.’ support of a little-known group called the Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK).

The MEK is one of the strangest groups operating today.

They call themselves the main opposition to the Iranian regime, but support for them inside Iran is nowhere to be found. They aren’t on any battlefields or ballots either, they’re sitting in a compound in Albania, only to come out once a year for their annual gathering in Paris.

They’ve been called a cult centered around their leader, Maryam Rajavi, and until 2012, they were listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. But now, influential U.S. policy makers  who have received MEK money, including Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, are saying that the MEK could be used as a force of regime change in Iran.

In explaining how they got off the terror list, Parsi claims in our interview that it was less re-assessing the MEK’s core values, and more raw politicking.

“It was [a] political calculation, because there were so many high-level democrats that had ended up on the MEK’s payroll,” Parsi says, adding that Hillary might have been a little bit afraid,” of angering those politicians “who needed the MEK to get off the list to whitewash their own names,” because if they were known associates with a listed terror group, their own reputations may be threatened.

When asked what the actual beliefs of the MEK are, Parsi says they don’t have beliefs anymore so much as they do a survivalist instinct that has been driving them. “What’s been most important for them has been power and the survival of the cult.”

“They have gone through numerous iterations in which one by one, they had shed any actual type of belief system beyond their own short-term interests beyond surviving and being a player.”

The MEK, according to Parsi, is being used by the U.S. as a tool to demonstrate that regime collapse is possible for Iran. Parsi is careful to mark a difference between regime change and regime collapse. For those Iran hawks currently occupying the White House, “you don’t want a next regime, you want there to be chaos,” Parsi says.

And for this task, the “MEK is almost a perfect fit,” because its thousands of members are trained guerrilla fighters who can instigate a internal conflict inside Iran.

To listen to the full conversation, click here:

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