Opinion Iran in the World Press Who’ll topple Iran?

Who’ll topple Iran?

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New York Post: Want to see US bipartisanship on Iran? Go to Paris and attend a rally led by Maryam Rajavi, the charismatic head of the best-organized anti-regime group of Iranian exiles. Where else can you hear former lefty congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee calling Rajavi “my sister” and soon after listen to righty Rudy Giuliani saying she’s the best alternative to “that killer,” Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani?

New York Post

By BENNY AVNI

Want to see US bipartisanship on Iran? Go to Paris and attend a rally led by Maryam Rajavi, the charismatic head of the best-organized anti-regime group of Iranian exiles.

Where else can you hear former lefty congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee calling Rajavi “my sister” and soon after listen to righty Rudy Giuliani saying she’s the best alternative to “that killer,” Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani? Where else can a one-time Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Richardson, be on the same foreign-policy page as a Republican wannabe, Newt Gingrich? Or a former Obama adviser, dovish retired Gen. George Jones, support the same cause as Bushie hawks like former UN Ambassador John Bolton and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey?

All these pols, who hold a lot of sway in national politics, came to Paris Saturday, along with a flag-waving crowd of Iranian exiles, estimated at over 100,000, to attend Rajavi’s annual barn-burner.

Also in attendance were counterparts from Europe, the Mideast and even parts of Latin America. (Disclosure: Rajavi’s extremely well-funded group flew me to Paris for the festivities.) They all spoke passionately against the media’s tendency to describe Iran’s recent election as a healthy exercise in democracy — and to call the winner, Rouhani, a “moderate.”

At 59, Rajavi manages to look fabulous in traditional, expensively tailored, softly colored Islamic garb. But is she really a viable alternative to Rouhani and the mullahs? “That’ll be up to the Iranian people,” Louis Freeh, FBI director under President Clinton, told me.

Rajavi’s numerous US supporters almost uniformly agree. And Rajavi, in a rousing address resembling a US stump speech, doesn’t disappoint. She details a Jeffersonian 10-point plan for Iran’s future that would disarm any US politician — complete with notions like separation of mosque and state, true rule of law and renouncement of nukes and other WMDs.

And yes, it also includes a presidential election open to all Iranians (as opposed to the June 14 ruse, in which only a handful of candidates, pre-approved by an unelected bunch of clerics, were permitted to run.) As president of the National Council of Resistance, or the Iranian Mojahedin-e-Khalq, Rajavi will assume power once the group unseats the mullahs. She will then leave her posh Paris compound for Tehran, where she’d serve as president-elect for a six-month period, as a new constitution is forged by the Iranian people. Then presidential election would follow — and she’d exit stage left.

Many in Washington, of course, are skeptical of this scenario — and of her intentions. Obama officials as well as European foreign ministries question the extent of the MeK following in Iran. And, post-election, Obama would rather test diplomacy with the mullahs than try to unseat them. (Never mind that Rouhani himself once boasted of his ability to calm the West down while Iran advances its nuclear ambitions).

Others see the MeK as a cultish group that, if it ever achieves power, wouldn’t be much better than the current mullahs. The MeK, which started as a Communist alternative to the shah, may well emerge as anti-US Reds.

Wrong, the staunchly anti-Socialist Giuliani told me: While the MeK’s socialist past “may have its down side, the other side of it is that theocracy doesn’t emerge from that.”

Either way, Rajavi’s American supporters and her well-oiled political machine have enough clout: They managed recently to remove the MeK from the State Department’s terrorist list, where it’s been since its days as Saddam Hussein ally in the 1980s.

Tehran is increasingly concerned by the MeK, as is obvious not only from the harsh rhetoric directed at the group but also from Iran’s “celebration” on Election Day: As Iranians went to the polls on June 14, their agents bombarded Iraq’s Camp Liberty, the former US Army post where the core of the MeK group was moved to recently. Several residents were killed and maimed.

But is all that enough for a revolution? And can the upward momentum of the MeK’s US support remain for long? As long time supporter Bill Richardson told me, after managing to be removed from the terrorist list, the MeK and its supporters “now need a new cause.”

Even if detractors are right that the group’s support in Iran is much less significant than in DC, Rajavi may have a key role to play. Mostly, she can help convince Americans that the best future for relations with Iranians — and for the Mideast — is regime-change in Tehran. If she succeeds, her habit of collecting fans among former US pols would end up being a worthy cause indeed.

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