US embassy cable - 09BAGHDAD113

MEK UPDATE: DEFECTOR CLAIMS MEK HAS CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR MASS SUICIDE; MEK, IRAQI AUTHORITIES BOOST ENGAGEMENT

Identifier: 09BAGHDAD113
Wikileaks: View 09BAGHDAD113 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 2009-01-15 16:48:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PHUM PINR PREF PREL IZ IR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO7948
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0113/01 0151648
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151648Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1244
INFO RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000113 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/I AND NEA/IR 
NSC STAFF FOR OLLIVANT AND MAGSAMEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2018 
TAGS: PTER, PHUM, PINR, PREF, PREL, IZ, IR 
SUBJECT: MEK UPDATE: DEFECTOR CLAIMS MEK HAS CONTINGENCY 
PLAN FOR MASS SUICIDE; MEK, IRAQI AUTHORITIES BOOST 
ENGAGEMENT 
 
REF: A. BAGHDAD 003 
     B. 2008 BAGHDAD 4006 
 
Classified By: Acting Pol-Mil Counselor Philip Kosnett 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: A defector from Camp Ashraf, home to the 
Mujahedin e-Khalq (MeK) in Iraq, says the group's  leadership 
at Camp Ashraf is prepared to order residents to kill 
themselves to protest any arrests of Ashraf  residents.  The 
defector (now under the care of the Ministry of Human Rights 
and awaiting an ICRC interview) also said that Camp Ashraf 
residents (CAR) would stage peaceful demonstrations against 
any sustained Iraqi Army presence in the camp. The defection 
comes at a time of increased cooperation  between the MeK and 
GoI, which assumed responsibility for  security of the camp 
on January 1 and assured the USG of humanitarian treatment of 
the CAR.  We cannot rule out the possibility this defector is 
a plant sent by the MEK leadership to discourage the GOI from 
executing arrest warrants on individuals wanted by the 
Iranian government.  However, his story is consistent with 
what we know about MeK practice and philosophy, and neither 
can we discount the possibility of contingency plans by the 
group for protest suicides. END SUMMARY. 
 
---------- 
Background 
---------- 
 
2.  (C) The MeK is a U.S. designated foreign terrorist 
organization dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian 
Islamic government.  It operates as a personality cult 
centered on Iranian dissidents Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. 
The 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf live communally (males and 
females separately), supported by light manufacturing and 
donations from abroad.  They claim to have turned over all 
their arms to U.S. forces in 2003, and their camp 60 miles 
from Baghdad looks more like a relatively affluent Iraqi 
village than a military garrison.  However, until the end of 
2008, residents wore military-style uniforms and flew 
pre-revolution Iranian flags, and U.S. forces stationed at 
Forward Operating Base (FOB) Grizzly on the periphery of the 
camp report that they  continue to practice small unit 
military tactics and maneuvers under cover of darkness. 
 
-------- 
Defector 
-------- 
 
3.  (C) On January 13, Ashraf resident Maky Rafii, 34, left 
the camp and presented himself to Iraqi and U.S. troops 
outside the gate.  Rafii told U.S. forces interviewing him 
that he had lived in the camp for six years, working in MeK 
public relations.  Although a resident of the camp, he was 
not a sworn member of the MeK, he said.  Describing camp 
conditions, he said camp leaders try to exercise thought 
control over members of the group through mass meetings.  In 
one recent meeting, members exchanged text messages with 
someone claiming to be MEK leader Massoud Rajavi, who has not 
been seen since the Coalition Forces (CF) invasion of Iraq in 
 2003.  Rafii urged the USG to hold surprise meetings with 
Ashraf residents so that the leadership would not have time 
to coach them.  Rafii added that the Camp Ashraf leadership 
is trying to develop good relations with the GoI to drive a 
wedge between the Iraqi and Iranian Governments and keep Camp 
Ashraf open.  However, a number of the residents want to 
leave the camp, he said. 
 
4.  (C) When he decided to leave, Rafii said CAR kept him in 
the "exit house" (halfway house) for three days, trying  to 
convince him to change his mind. When he refused, however, 
Qconvince him to change his mind. When he refused, however, 
they offered to drive him to Irbil, but they then drove him 
to the front gate.  He walked out of the camp on January 13 
and turned himself over to Iraqi Army soldiers  manning a 
checkpoint at the entrance.  Thinking the resident was 
attempting to flee the camp, the soldiers treated him 
roughly, searching and holding him on the ground until a U.S. 
military officer from FOB Grizzly arrived to take him back to 
the base, where he spent the night. On January 15, Iraqi Army 
units drove Rafii to Baghdad and turned him over to the 
Ministry of Human Rights, which is housing him with another 
recent MeK defector. 
 
----------- 
Cooperation 
 
BAGHDAD 00000113  002 OF 002 
 
 
----------- 
 
5.  (C) Rafii said the MeK is trying to build goodwill with 
the GoI in order to drive a wedge between the Iraqi and 
Iranian governments, and in fact the defection comes at a 
time of increased GoI and CAR cooperation.  Camp leaders have 
held weekly meetings  with a GoI committee responsible for 
the issue, along with USG representatives from the Embassy 
and MNF-I.  At the  last such meeting Jan. 10, the MeK 
complied with a GoI  request for a roster of all camp members 
and a list of  weapons, including tanks, artillery, light 
arms and ammunition, that the MeK turned over to U.S. forces 
in 2003. MG Abeal Al-Hossaen Damock, Diyala provincial police 
commander, arrived at the meeting with 50 police officers 
and, he said, 14 arrest warrants for Ashraf residents. 
However, Iraqi Army MG Alaa Salmin Jasim, who had previously 
assured Embassy and MNF-I representatives that Iraqi police 
would not be allowed to arrest Ashraf residents, told Damock 
not to execute the warrants. Damock complied, participated in 
the meeting, and left without serving the warrants. 
 
6.  (C) On a working level, camp residents have provided 
Iraqi Army units now guarding the camp with meals, provided 
a trailer for the Iraqi commanding officer, provided a 
meeting room for the GoI committee, and installed space 
heaters in guard towers for the Iraqi troops. They also 
continue to build goodwill with surrounding Iraqi villages by 
providing employment in the camp, and last week Camp Ashraf 
doctors treated an Iraqi child with a serious head injury. 
 
7.  (C) The GoI has pressed the MeK for an opportunity to 
directly address Ashraf residents, followed by individual 
one-on-one interviews to be conducted by the Ministry of 
Human  Rights with the ultimate goal of voluntarily 
repatriating  the CAR to Iran or finding a third country for 
them if they  do not want to return.  Embassy and MNF-I 
representatives are scheduled to join the GoI committee in a 
meeting with  CAR on January 18. 
 
8.  (C) COMMENT: Particularly in light of the organization's 
ability to mount large-scale information operations and the 
defector's professed background in public relations, we 
cannot rule out the possibility this defector is a plant sent 
by the MeK leadership to discourage the GOI from executing 
arrest warrants on individuals wanted by the Iranian 
government.  However, his story is consistent with what we 
know about MeK practice and philosophy, and we cannot 
discount the possibility of contingency plans by the group 
for protest suicides, a tactic the MeK used in the past. 
BUTENIS 

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