Consider the scenario: A Middle Eastern nation is in the Bush administration’s sights; an expatriate opposition figure of dubious provenance emerges and becomes prominent in Washington and across conservative media; this opposition figurehead claims to be in possession of sensational intelligence which indicates that the leadership of his native land is hell-bent on destruction and that immediate action is needed.
Stop me, as the Smiths once sang, if you think you’ve heard this one before.
The nation in this instance is not Iraq but Iran. And Alireza Jafarzadeh, a man who is intimately linked with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (M.E.K.), is—at least in the minds of skeptics—playing a role akin to that performed by Ahmed Chalabi in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Jafarzadeh, unsurprisingly, does not welcome the comparison. His role, he claims, “is exactly the opposite of what Chalabi was.” But the similarities are uncanny.
Mr. Jafarzadeh’s prominence—his claims have been cited publicly by President Bush—is peculiar, to say the least, given that the group with which he is so closely linked has long been listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.
He ceased to represent the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in the U.S. when its Washington office was forced to close in 2003. The closure took place because, in the eyes of the State Department, the NCRI was—and is— merely a front for the M.E.K.
Mr. Jafarzadeh, an affluent-looking 50-year-old with neatly trimmed dark hair, spoke gently and with deliberation in a Gramercy restaurant recently about the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions and its desire to “dominate” Iraq and the broader Middle East.
The solution, he suggested, lay in the U.S. permitting the opposition—by which he clearly meant the M.E.K.—to be “unshackled”. Perhaps mindful of the U.S. experience in Iraq, Mr. Jafarzadeh insisted that America would not need to “put boots on the ground.”
Instead he suggested, somewhat opaquely, that if the U.S. would “pursue a policy totally different from what its policy has been so far,” it could set off a chain of events that would ultimately bring the Iranian regime crashing down.
The U.S., he said, “should rely on the tremendous potential inside Iran.” If it were to “build bridges with people and with the organized opposition, it could expedite the process of change.”