Raymond Tanter

President Obama abandoned pro-American Iranian dissidents in Iraq, the Mojahedin. In face of Iranian regime threats, his actions breathed new life in Tehran’s efforts to subjugate Iraq and Arab Gulf states. Although there was a Bush administration pledge to protect Iranian dissidents if they disarmed during the 2003-2004 takedown of Saddam Hussein, Washington subsequently left them exposed to the not-so-tender mercies of Iranian proxies operating freely in Iraq.

There is speculation that the Saudis would like a new security framework, which might even include Israel. But that regime-focused entity, as suggested here, fails to include the Iranian people. Left out is the main dissident organization that rejects clerical rule—the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI/Mojahedin). Perhaps because of a false perception that they lack means to help change the Iranian regime, Washington analysts pay less attention to them.

Not only does the Iranian regime pay more attention to the Mojahedin than all other groups because of the Mojahedin’s ability to rally opponents interested in bringing about a free Iran, key elements in the Saudi Kingdom also credit the Mojahedin with regime change potential.

In a 2008 interview with the author, Saudi Prince Turki expressed fear of Iran as an impending nuclear-arms capable state. Even prior to the 2008 election of Obama and his 2014 interim accord with Iran, Turki worried Washington would reach out to Tehran at the expense of Arab Gulf States. But when asked about the possibility of countering the Iranian threat by reaching out to the Iranian people in the form of the Mojahedin, Turki was lukewarm.

Prince Turki acknowledges the major role the Mojahedin played in overthrowing the Shah of Iran in 1979; but he worries needlessly that they might align with forces in the Kingdom that reject rule by the Royal family. He fails to distinguish between Islamists like al Qaeda who seek to topple the Kingdom and the Mojahedin, which practices a moderate brand of Islam, has no interest in stimulating revolt in Saudi Arabia, and is pro-American. But in another interview during December 2013, the Prince makes a distinction between Syrian moderates deserving support and radical Islamists who are not.

A symbol of regime change in Tehran to youths within Iran and expatriates worldwide, the Mojahedin are unconcerned with fomenting unrest in Saudi Arabia. They are under virtual imprisonment in Camp Liberty, Iraq and are subject to periodic attack by Iranian-sponsored militias. The shared interests between the Kingdom and Iranian dissidents in Iraq provide good reasons for them to work in tandem as counters to threats from the Iranian regime.


Raymond Tanter

Raymond Tanter served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His latest book is "Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents."