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Grasping at Straws

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Michael Rubin, a self-described "academic" with a penchant for spurious claims, is now peddling a new bizarre and incredible theory: that the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Iran's leading democratic opposition, is more reviled than the odious Iranian regime itself. Yet he never explains why he is so obsessed with his sustained campaign to malign the MEK, through numerous articles on his personal website, since the start of the anti-regime protests in September of last year. One wonders, if the MEK is indeed as unpopular as he alleges, what is the motivation for his vendetta? Surely, if this were true, the Iranian people would reject the organization out of hand without Rubin's noxious assist to the brutal regime.


It is readily apparent that Rubin, an accomplished purveyor of propaganda, evinces little interest in truth, fairness, or basic logic. His sole objective is to vilify opponents of the Iranian theocracy by any means he can invent, thus serving the interests of the regime, which of course eagerly embraces his anti-MEK screeds.

Rubin's latest, in which he questions the fate of MEK children, is emblematic of his modus operandi, replete with blatant lies, some merely parroting the regime, and some of his own invention. However, while the regime's media outlets and lobbyists, including Rubin, are entitled, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous expression, to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

The MEK's record regarding children remains unblemished. Rubin's reliance on false allegations stems from desperation. The MEK has never recruited children or placed them in harm’s way. In 1991, as Operation Desert Storm was being prepared, the MEK preemptively evacuated hundreds of its members’ children from Iraq to European countries and the U.S. in a daring and complex operation. Some of them, after they reached legal age, chose of their own volition to return to their families in Camp Ashraf, Iraq and joined the resistance, while others elected to continue their education in some of the best universities in Europe and the United States.

Rubin's assertion that the MEK had "siphoned off social welfare benefits its group homes and foster parents claimed on behalf of MEK children" more than two decades ago in Germany is, characteristically, baseless, incorrect, and easily disproved from publicly available sources. In an August 29, 2000, statement, the Senior Prosecutor in Cologne, Germany, reported that there was no evidence of any misappropriation of the funds in question, or of any ties between the children's association and the MEK. Moreover, a German court ordered the retraction of a magazine article propagating the spurious narrative (the same one that Rubin represents as fact) and imposed an 80,000-euro penalty for false reporting on the same matter 18 months later. How utterly astounding! Our exceptionally adept scholar has, yet again, simply made things up. What is amazing is that Rubin does not misstate matters that are open to doubt: he relies on charges that have been disproved and dismissed and presents them to an unsuspecting audience as the unvarnished truth.


This kind of pernicious propaganda is characteristic of totalitarian regimes. It is regularly seen in state-controlled media in Russia, in North Korea, and, yes, in Iran. That is not a coincidence, and it is not without irony. Rubin has the gall to call out the MEK as systematically misleading its adherents.

Charles de Gaulle, the French war hero who became President of France after World War II, was initially regarded as a traitor by the French people for fleeing to Britain after the Nazi occupation of France in 1940. Despite being viewed with suspicion and contempt, de Gaulle persisted in his efforts to rally his countrymen to resist the Nazi occupiers. He broadcast messages on the radio, calling on the French people to join him in the fight. His appeals were met with skepticism and outright hostility.

Nevertheless, de Gaulle persevered in his efforts, and eventually succeeded in organizing the Free French forces that fought alongside the Allies in the war, ultimately liberating France and other occupied territories. Through his unwavering dedication to the cause of liberty and his unshakeable belief in the strength and resilience of the French people, de Gaulle became a symbol of hope and inspiration to millions around the world. His example serves as a testament to the power of leadership in times of crisis, and as a reminder of the importance of steadfastness and determination in the face of adversity. He is remembered not as a winner of a popularity contest, but as a forceful and effective champion. Similarly, the MEK's struggle is to liberate the land for so long abused by Rubin’s heroes, the ones who take pleasure in abusing citizens who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace. 


Of course, that struggle will be condemned and underestimated by those who have cast their lot with the oppressors. That is hardly a surprise. What is a surprise is that Rubin is able to use a platform to spread the regime’s propaganda, through lies so flagrant that the ayatollahs themselves, were they capable of shame, would be ashamed to utter them. And while he regularly impugns the motives, as well as the character, of MEK supporters – including the very high-profile Americans who have willingly affiliated with the MEK and its goals – he has managed to conceal his own history and his own objectives from view.

What are Michael Rubin's true intentions? Is his goal to gain favor with the Iranian regime and its propaganda outlets? It certainly is not advocating for democracy and human rights in Iran. Whatever his underlying motives, Rubin's rhetoric serves to reinforce the regime, with its nuclear ambitions, its constant abuses of human rights both directly and through its proxies, and its support for international terrorism.

Safavi (@amsafavi) is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He has been involved in Iranian affairs both as an activist and a scholar since 1972.


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