London, 29 May – MSNBC aired their “On Assignment” Program, which was narrated by Richard Engel, on May 25, 2018. Engel made a series of allegations against the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) that have been repeatedly disproven.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), that acts as Iran’s Parliament in Exile, has called out the MSNBC piece by Richard Engel on May 25, 2018, as lacking the minimum standards of journalism as well as objectivity.
The piece appears to be based on assertions of Masoud Khodabandeh, who is reportedly an agent of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for some 20 years.
This is not the first the Richard Engel has done a hit-piece against the largest and best-organized Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). On February 2nd, 2012, he co-narrated NBC’s Rock Center broadcast that quoted unnamed sources saying that the MEK had assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists. The MEK flatly rejected this allegation at the time and challenged Engel to produce any evidence. On September 28, 2012, the State Department also rejected this allegation when the MEK was removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization’s list. A senior State Department official told reporters, “And I should add that the United States Government has not claimed that the MEK was involved in the assassination of scientists in Iran.”
NBC never retracted that story, nor did it apologize to the MEK.
At a time when the Iranian people have made it clear during the nationwide protests and strikes in over 140 cities earlier this year that they desire the overthrow of Iran’s totalitarian state, the NCRI questions Engel’s motives.
Engel’s report failed to mention of these protests, which have continued to escalate. Moreover, as the Iranian Resistance has repeatedly emphasized, there is no need for U.S. military involvement. The Iranian people and Resistance have the will and the capability to overthrow the current ruling system. This is the fear that made Iran’s rulers step up their efforts against the MEK outside Iran, including in Albania, the United States, and Germany, which was recently exposed by the statement issued by the National Council of Resistance of Iran on April 20, 2018.
It has been reported that Richard Engel interviewed Masoud Khodabandeh, as his key informant for the allegations against the MEK — calling them a “destructive cult” that receives money and gold from Saudi Arabia. Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne Singleton, are said to be agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for the past two decades. According to the Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, December 2012 p. 31: Masoud Khodabandeh & his wife Anne Singleton Khodabandeh “agreed to work for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS) and spy on MEK.”
Member of UK Parliament, Win Griffiths, said in a Witness Statement to UK court July 4th, 2007, “During a visit to Iran [in June 2004], I was surprised to see Anne Singleton in Evin prison. She was moving around freely and was in direct contact with Iranian officials in the prison.”
The MEK and the NCRI have have never received money from any foreign government, but instead rely exclusively on the material support of their members and sympathizers inside and outside Iran. They challenge anyone to produce evidence to the contrary.
While Engel attributed the death of six American military personnel and Pentagon contractors in the early 1970s in Iran to the MEK, an independent study in 2013 by the University of Baltimore, and a backgrounder by Council on Foreign Relations in 2014 confirm that the MEK had no role in the deaths. As a matter of fact, according to the NCRI, a number of MEK leaders were assassinated by the very same three individuals who murdered the Americans.
As well, Engel claimed that the MEK participated in the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, but rather, the MEK was also a a victim of the 1979 U.S. Embassy occupation in Tehran. Then-Supreme Leader Khomeini created the hostage crisis to consolidate power and suppress the MEK. Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Spokeswoman for the hostage takers, and now a key Rouhani cabinet official, confirmed that the MEK had no part nor did the MEK participate in that incident. Additionally, on the fifth anniversary of the embassy takeover, November 4, 1984, then-Chief Justice Ayatollah Abdol Karim Moussavi-Ardebili said on Tehran Radio, “[The embassy takeover] brought about the fall of the Provisional Government, the isolation of the liberals and the confusion of left wing groups and the [MEK] and exposed their real faces. As Imam Khomeini said, this revolutionary move was greater than the first revolution.” More proof comes from Ervand Abrahamian, an MEK detractor, who wrote in his book, “The Iranian Mojahedin,” that the MEK’s criticisms of the Mullahs at the time included “Engineering the American hostage crisis to impose on the nation the ‘medieval’ concept of the velayat-e-faqih.”
Engel claimed that the MEK paid large sums of money to former U.S. officials as speaking fees, but the MEK states unequivocally that it has never made any payments to any American, a fact later confirmed by the U.S. Treasury Department, who launched a widely reported investigation in 2012, regarding Iranian-American citizens who, in exercising their first amendment rights, had organized different conferences and seminars in which former U.S. officials spoke. After a complete review of the case lasting more than a year, they determined that no laws had been violated.
Engel’s interviewee, the former Coordinator of Counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, claimed MEK was delisted despite still being a terrorist organization. However, the Clinton Administration confirmed that the original 1997 designation was a “goodwill gesture” to Iran. A bi-partisan House Majority letter in 1998 rejected the designation as a “wrong headed policy”. Starting in 2010, several court rulings found no evidence of terrorism by the MEK and the Secretary of State revoked the MEK’s designation on September 28, 2012.
A fair-mined viewer might wonder if this report by Engel is a part of a campaign by the Iranian lobby and by the proponents of appeasement, in the face of the Iranian people’s resolve to bring down the ruling theocracy.