Glenn Carle – Iranian intelligence has made a particular effort to undermine the MEK during the regime’s entire existence
Glenn Carle – March 24, 2012 Paris -Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I’m honored to be here with such dedicated people. My colleagues on the podium have spoken powerfully about the plight of the people in Camp Ashraf and about the Mojahedin-e Khalq. I’m going to speak about the framework in which the struggle with Iran over the fate of the camp is occurring, a clash of great powers where much that happens is not seen, only the consequences of clandestine acts are felt but not often understood, and where now the people in the camp, Camp Ashraf, are suffering as a result. So I will say a word about three aspects of this clash, Iranian disinformation, the MEK, and U.S. policy.
I’ll start with disinformation. Two objectives guided my career as a CIA officer trying to ascertain the truth and trying to learn and counter the lies spread by my country’s adversaries, what we call disinformation in the intelligence business. Now at the entrance of the CIA headquarter building is a quote from the Bible. It says, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” With the truth in hand, a government may—may—pursue its national interests sensibly. This gray world of doubt and confusion is one of the central themes in a book that I wrote which relates my involvement in the interrogation of a man whom we believe to be one of the top members of Al-Qaeda. The facts are uncertain, objectives are unclear or mutually exclusive, lies are very hard to detect and the truth is often beyond reach. And yet one must decide as a policy-maker, as these gentlemen and lady are, what our objectives are, who the enemy is, what he is doing and one must decide now.
The United States is strong and Iran cannot challenge it directly without running great risk. And it is, in any event a far wiser policy for any state to convince your adversary to do your bidding for you by convincing him without his being even aware to share enough of your views so as to undermine his own objectives. So sensibly, Iran has sought to make it almost impossible to know the truth about Iran’s nuclear program, about Iran’s support for the Syrian regime, for Hezbollah and Hamas and about the nature of the MEK. But hiding the truth is straightforward. More subtle, and at least as important, is Iran’s effort to alter the perceptions of Iran’s adversaries through a disinformation campaign to discredit Iran’s opponents, perhaps the most important of whom is the MEK. This is a campaign carried out by indirection rather than by frontal denunciations. The MOIS, Iran’s intelligence service, the counterpart of the CIA, is sure to have made a particular effort to undermine the MEK during the entire existence of the mullah’s regime. This constitutes a perverse and yet an ironic tribute to the impact that the mullahs fear the MEK can have inside Iran.
Now how does an intelligence service undermine an adversary or one of its targets? How does the MOIS seek to discredit the MEK or to mask Iran’s nuclear policies? Well straight denunciations are too crude and too simple, easy to find. Instead, the MOIS or any intelligence service will seek to work from within the opponent’s own camp. Comments will surface in society or in the media, wherever opinions are formed, that are not attributable to the Iranian regime at all, arguing that de-listing the MEK from the foreign terrorist organization list of the United States State Department would undermine U.S. interests. De-listing, the argument will run, will make the Iranian regime more recalcitrant. It is an Orwellian world in which true is false, and denunciations are praise, and unarmed refugees threaten thugs with AK-47s. The results of such reasoning is that U.S. policy with a view of the MEK now years behind the facts actually serves Iranian purposes. The campaign will muddy the very nature of the MEK through a series of seemingly independent remarks made by respected individuals or that surface in untraceable ways. Conflicting characterizations surface, all based of course on some truth. The best way to lie is to tell some bits, some small bits of partial truth and that then distort perception enough to serve your own purposes. So one hears, we’ve all heard, that the MEK has become a culted personality or it’s a Marxist organization or it’s a terrorist organization or it’s an elitist organization out of touch with the desire of the Iranian people, or that it abuses its members or it has no support within Iran, that it is weak and yet it is so strong that it threatens the regime of the mullahs and that the U.S. must hand it over to the Iranians as a first condition of discussing whether to have the discussions over possible concessions by Tehran, the concessions being not to agree with what the regime says it’s not doing anyway. A truly Orwellian world. The effective disinformation, of Iranian disinformation, even when one knows that the MOIS is spreading this disinformation and exaggeration is at the least that the truth becomes harder to see. Should the United States de-list the MEK then? What is in the United States’ interest? What are the facts? It becomes harder to know.
Now a word about U.S. policy. For all my intelligence officer colleagues’ and my efforts often the truth becomes disputable or uncertain. Even lies, even lies raise doubts, slow decisions can make actions harder to take. Now this is a real dilemma for policy-makers. But it is disturbing, I find, how often policy-makers then feel they must rely on intelligence services to provide answers to policy issues that are value judgments for which facts are helpful, but facts cannot make decisions about national interest. In the end then, value judgments about national interest, about U.S. national interest, trump muddled or contested facts or awkward facts or the MOIS, or they should. Knowing your strategic interest arms you from many of the effects of this disinformation, from the MOIS’s disinformation. And here U.S. policy interest in the MEK find themselves in harmony. Whatever the truth or lies one has heard or learned or come to wonder about, whatever the MOIS has been whispering in the ears of anyone they can get to listen to them, it is clear that the United States and Iran are involved in a regional great game for influence in the Middle East, that the United States seeks stability in the region and that the Iranian regime is a destabilizing power there whose values as you all know are inimical to those of the United States and of the West.
It is also clear that the Iranian regime supports Hezbollah, Hamas, the Assad regime in Syria, threatens the stability of Saudi Arabia, all the Gulf States and the existence of Israel. It is clear that Iran has a disturbing and destabilizing nuclear program whether it intends to take the final steps to develop a nuclear weapon or not. It is also clear that over 30 years the MEK has evolved and has become a champion of Western norms and has always been a keen adversary of the mullahs. It is clear to everyone who is not part of the Iranian power structure that the true Monafeqin (term normally used by Iran regime for MEK which means ‘hypocrites’) are the Mullahs of Tehran, [applause] their servants, the Iranian revolutionary guards and the MOIS who serve as the regime’s goons. It is clear also that Ayatollah Khomeini was right. The MEK does have a word I will mispronounce, (Gharbzadegi) the Western plague. But it is clear that Khomeini was profoundly wrong. For the Western plague, as he called it, is a set of values and norms and beliefs that most Iranians wish to live by and that would make Iran prosperous, Iranian people free to live as they choose, and the Middle East peaceful rather than a region in constant war and suffering, blighted by rigid minds and dashed hopes and its peoples resentful and envious of more successful societies that have embraced these Western norms.
These larger truths considered, the MOIS’s disinformation efforts against the MEK and its efforts to muddy perceptions about Iranian actions in the entire region or of the inimical nature of the mullahs’ regime need not, should not distract the United States from its national interests vis-a-vis Iran. And here, the U.S. national interest and the goals of the MEK coincide. The United States should remove these MEK from the foreign terrorist organization list. And the poor people now in Camps Ashraf and Liberty are suffering and ill-treated pawns in this great game. Both from humanitarian and United States’ policy objectives, the individuals in the camps should be removed or I should say liberated beyond the hostile influence of the Mullahs. The camps blight the conscience and hinder what should be U.S. policy objectives as well as those of the MEK. Thank you very much. [applause]