National Council of Resistance of Iran
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National Council of Resistance
|President-elect||Maryam Rajavi|
|Founder||Massoud Rajavi and Abolhassan Banisadr|
|Founded||July 20, 1981|
|Mother Party||People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran|
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI; Persian: شورای ملی مقاومت ایران, translit. Šurā-ye melli-e moqāwemat-e Īrān) is an Iranian political organization based in France. The organization has appearance of a broad-based coalition, however many analysts consider NCRI and the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) to be synonymous, taking the former to be an umbrella organization or alias for the latter, and recognize NCRI as only "nominally independent" political wing or front for MEK. Both organizations are considered to be led by Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi.
The State Department refused to have contact with it since the 1980s, though it was reportedly left free to conduct its activities on American soil. MEK was identified as a foreign terrorist organization in October 1997. On 15 August 2003, being considered an alias of MEK, the United States also determined that NCRI was a terrorist organization being delisted seven years later on 28 September 2012. On 21 December 2001, Australia added the organization, alias of MEK, to its 'Consolidated List' subject to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373.
It was formed by People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) leader, Massoud Rajavi, and former president of Iran Abolhassan Banisadr in 1981, who co-chaired the council. They were later joined by National Democratic Front (NDF) and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). Unlike KDPI, the other leftist major Kurdish opposition Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan refused to join the alliance. The council also received unequivocal support from the Labour Party of Iran. It caused a break up in the Fedaian Organisation (Minority), when Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas (In Search of Identity Program) led by Mehdi Sameh split the former in order to join the NCRI, with less than a handful of members.
Despite presence of well-known personalities such as Nasser Pakdaman, Bahman Nirumand, Mehdi Khanbaba Tehrani, Mansour Farhang and several others, the organization was dominated by MEK.
In 1983, elements united with NCRI began to depart the alliance because of conflicts with the MEK. Due to "violent pro-Iraq activities of MEK in the Iran–Iraq War", the NDF and Banisadr withdrew from the council. On 24 March 1983, Banisadr officially left the council. On 14 April 1985, the KDPI left the organization because they preserved their independence to decide to negotiate with Iran's regime.
In January 1983, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and NCRI President Massoud Rajavi signed a peace plan "based on an agreement of mutual recognition of borders as defined by the 1975 Algiers Agreement." According to James Piazza, this peace initiative became the NCRI´s first diplomatic act as a "true government in exile.
In the Iran–Iraq War the MEK/NCRI formed an alliance with Saddam Hussein, who was largely responsible for its financing, together with Saudi Arabia at that time, though the NCRI also employed fraud to bolster its funding. NCRI was transformed from an umbrella organization into a MEK subsidiary[when?]`. Despite being controlled by MEK, the NCRI disguises itself as the "parliament-in-exile" of the "Iranian Resistance", claiming to fight for the establishment of a democratic and secular republic in Iran, on a platform espousing such political values as secular government, democratic elections, freedom of expression, equal rights for women and human rights. It still claims to be an umbrella organization with multiple member groups, such as the "Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals" and the "Association of Iranian Women", which are in fact shell organizations established by the MEK to make the NCRI appear more "representative". Other MEK front organizations include "Muslim Student Association", the "Towhidi Society of Guilds, the "Movement of Muslim Teachers", the "Union of Instructors in Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning", and the "Society for the Defense of Democracy and Independence in Iran".
Front and shell organizations
- Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals
- Association of Iranian Women
- California Society for Democracy
- Muslim Student Association
- National Association of Iranian Academics in Britain
- Towhidi Society of Guilds
- Movement of Muslim Teachers
- Union of Instructors in Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning
- Society for the Defense of Democracy and Independence in Iran
- Iran Aid (closed down by the UK government)
- Californian Society for Defense in ran
- Organization of Iranian American Communities
- Iranian–American Community of Northern Virginia
- Union Against Fundamentalism
Despite NCRI claims, as of 2009, details of the group remained little known in the West, and very few legislators asctively endorsed it. Resurgence of the group's foreignjh fortunes is tethered to the fact that it exposed Iran's nuclear programme in 2002.
The NCRI is regarded by the Iranian government as a terrorist organization, and was classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States, alleging that the NCRI "is not a separate organization, but is instead, and has been, an integral part of the MEK at all relevant times" and that the NCRI is "the political branch" of the MEK rather than vice versa. However, it is no longer considered terrorist. On September 28, 2012, the US State Department formally removed MEK from its list of terrorist organizations in a decision made by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a US appeals court.
Some top US officials[who?] such as Dick Armey (the former House majority leader 1995–2003) have suggested that the State Department wrongly included MEK in the terrorist list from the beginning. Alireza Jafarzadeh was its official representative in the US until the Washington office was closed by the US State Department in 2002 on the grounds that it was only a front group for the MEK by then listed as a terrorist organisation in the US. It has been alleged that the inclusion of NCRI and MEK in the list was a token offered to the theocratic regime of Iran rather than based the facts of the matter. According to the Wall Street Journal "Senior diplomats in the Clinton administration say the MEK figured prominently as a bargaining chip in a bridge-building effort with Tehran." The Journal added that: In 1997, the State Department added the MEK to a list of global terrorist organizations as "a signal" of the US's desire for rapprochement with Tehran's reformists, said Martin Indyk, who at the time was assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs. President Khatami's government "considered it a pretty big deal," Indyk said.
The European Union in May 2004 implied that NCRI is part of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (rather than vice versa) and excluded the NCRI itself from a list of organisations considered to be terrorist organisations, including the People's Mujahedin of Iran "minus the National Council of Resistance of Iran" on its list of terrorist organisations. On January 26, 2009, EU Council of Ministers agreed to remove the MEK from the EU terror list. The group said it was the outcome of a "seven-year-long legal and political battle". The European Union had previously listed the MEK on its list but excluded the NCRI itself from the list of organizations considered to be terrorist organizations.
A large majority of Iran's population regards it as a terrorist group, disliking the assistance it provided to Iran's enemy Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Iran. It has an active global network, and engages in propaganda and lobbying in many Western capitals.
The Middle East department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the United Kingdom stated in early 2006 that it is widely understood that "Iran's [nuclear] program, which was kept secret from the IAEA for 18 years, became public knowledge largely because of revelations of the NCRI, and this led to heightened international concern." At the same time Michael Axworthy, former head of the Iran section at the FCO, claimed that the NCRI is a "tightly disciplined front organization for the MEK and deemed them unreliable."
According to Rand Corporation analysts, the NCRI has hidden the Marxist-Islamic elements in MEK's programme from Western eyes in advancing a secular democratic platform. The NCRI has in the past three decades recorded and reported human rights violations in Iran to UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations. At the same time, despite NCRI claims that it espouses equal rights for women, in practice strict gender segregation is practiced in those areas it has controlled, as, for example, at Camp Ashraf.
In a meeting at the Council of Europe in April 2006, Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, elaborated on the movement's vision for a future Iran and presented a Ten Point Plan for Future Iran, according to the organisation's website.
The plan has been supported by British MPs, some arguing that it is a potential programme that "would transform Iran" since it calls for the abolition of the death penalty, the creation of a modern legal system and the independence of judges.
At a debate on human rights situation in Iran in the House of Lords on December 8, 2016, Lord Alton of Liverpool said, "The manifesto says: Cruel and degrading punishments will have no place in the future Iran". Madam Rajavi would end Tehran's funding of Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant groups and is committed to peaceful coexistence, relations with all countries and respect for the United Nations charter."
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