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Cablegate: Iran: Readout From Uk Legislators and From Xxxxxxxxxxxx Rep On Mek Reconciliation

VZCZCXRO4574
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLO #3215/01 3591144
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241144Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0784
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 003215

SIPDIS

RELEASABLE TO UK

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2018
TAGS: KPRP PGOV PHUM PREL IS IA IR LE UK
SUBJECT: IRAN: READOUT FROM UK LEGISLATORS AND FROM XXXXXXXXXXXX REP ON MEK RECONCILIATION

REF: LONDON 3182

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Greg Berry for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C/REL UK) Summary: The Tehran regime is giving high priority and visibility to its efforts to reconcile those former members of the terrorist entity Mujahaddin e-Khalq (MEK aka MKO aka NCRI, inter alia) who have returned to Iran, according both to UK Parliamentary legislators who in October and November met with Political Minister-Counselor and London Iran Watcher (Poloff), as well as according to an NGO representative who met with Poloff December 11 (also discussed reftel). The regime channels its efforts on MEK reconcilees via XXXXXXXXXXXX.

2. (C/REL UK) Poloff first made preliminary contact with the XXXXXXXXXXXX via two UK legislators who briefed Embassy, several months after the fact, on their visit to Iran in summer 2008 as guests of the XXXXXXXXXXXX. Of special interest during the legislators' post-trip debriefs for Embassy were MPs' views of the regime's NGO-based program of reconciliation for selected returning members of the MEK, a program the UK visitors found plausible and constructive, though small-scale. MPs also shared their impressions of Iran's political atmosphere at the time of their visit. End summary.

3. (C/REL UK) In several meetings between October and December, David Liddington (a Conservative Party/Shadow Whip) and Ben Wallace (Shadow Minister for Scotland), as well as staffers from their offices and the Conservative Party's Middle East Council (CMEC), detailed for Political Minister Counselor and Poloff the group's cumulative impressions of the regime's MEK reconciliation program, and of the political atmosphere at the time of their (July) visit to Tehran and Isfahan. The MPs facilitated a XXXXXXXXXXXX delegation visit to the UK in mid-December; the XXXXXXXXXXXX rep shared his views with Poloff privately during XXXXXXXXXXXX's December London visit.

MPs' Observations on MEK Reconciliation: A Regime Line, But Stories Are Plausible -----------------------------------------

4. (C/REL UK) In Tehran in July, the UK delegation met with about half a dozen recent MEK reconcilees in the offices of XXXXXXXXXXXX, described enthusiastically by UK Parliamentary staffers (though not by MPs) as the Iranian NGO chosen by the Government of Iran to lead efforts to rehabilitate, and reintegrate into Iranian society, former members of the MEK, and to publicize the plight of MEK members past and present. On its website XXXXXXXXXXXX claims cursorily that it is not dependent on governmental support, but the website does not specify any private sponsor or contributors (Embassy comment: In an economy 80 percent government-owned, social and educational entities can safely be deemed regime-supported or endorsed, especially where their mission is as politically charged as XXXXXXXXXXXX. End comment)

5. (C/REL UK) One MP commented separately to Poloff that the persons presented to the MPs' delegation during the XXXXXXXXXXXX interviews in Tehran "looked pretty nervous -- like they had been given a good going over;" the MP said he is fundamentally skeptical about XXXXXXXXXXXX's claims of the reconciliation process's purely humanitarian elements and its unmitigated success; he thought the program carried "a distinct air of (regime) manipulation."

UK MPs' Other Iran Trip Impressions: Opposition "Tired," Regime in Control -------------------------------------

6. (C/REL UK) Liddington and his staff, discussing their July visit to Tehran and Isfahan, noted that recent Parliamentary groups' trips to Iran have been planned "in a black box;" whether participants will receive a visa or not is unknown until the last minute. Liddington said there is "genuine disaffection on the street" in Iran, but Iranians due to their history in recent decades have no stomach for further serious or violent upheaval; Liddington saw no potential for a challenge to the status quo. He said there is "a tiredness in people" following Khatami's (1997-2005) "failure to deliver." Additionally, two thirds of the population due to its youth has no frame of reference for LONDON 00003215 002 OF 003 unrest. Liddington said hard-liners seemed comfortable despite Ahmedinejad's (at that time) growing economy-centered troubles. On the June 2009 election, Liddington opined that, should Khatami not run, Qalibaf might run. The regime itself, though it lacks China's economic dynamism, seems to take Deng Hsiao Peng's China as a model: modernism and development being the goal, but with the intent to "brook no democratic nonsense." Liddington said Iranians in general seem focused not on politics but on economic survival and private concerns -- he noted trends such as the craze for cosmetic surgery, widely evident in Tehran.

7. (C/REL UK) Among other interlocutors in Tehran, the UK delegation met with MFA mid-level officials, Austrian and Italian Ambassadors, Majlis National Security Vice Chair Sobhani-Nia, Ahmedinejad's drug czar, Majlis religious minority reps (Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian), Ravand Head, and ex-Ambassador (to UK) Hossein Adeli, Khomeini's granddaughter Naeimeh Eshraghi, Amir Barmaki of the Tehran office of UNHCR, and the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support. 8. (C/REL UK) MP Liddington said his primary take-aways from the visit were: -- despite ongoing serious repression there is more pluralism in Iran than the West generally realizes; this may be embedded in Iran's political culture; -- the clerical-"pasdaran" (security services) rivalry (detailed by ex-Amb. Adeli) is a key dynamic; -- EU should be matching USG measures to pressure Iran; and -- a grand bargain with the West is possible, and the Helsinki model is useful, specifically the inclusion of human rights as an issue with which to gain and keep leverage with the regime.

XXXXXXXXXXXX -------------------

9. (C/REL UK) A XXXXXXXXXXXX representative XXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXX on the MEK. The XXXXXXXXXXXX asked that Poloff not name him as source.

Propaganda and Policy Mission -----------------------------

10. (C/REL UK) The XXXXXXXXXXXX rep told Poloff his XXXXXXXXXXXX spearheads Iran's program of reconciliation of ex-MEK members; he said XXXXXXXXXXXX supports and publicizes the confessions and reintegration into normal society of ex-members, advancing a policy agenda which, according to the XXXXXXXXXXXX rep, Iran's government is also quietly pursuing. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Iran links its reconciliation work to publicity about the victims of MEK attacks inside Iran and about families of current MEK members trying to have contact with their loved ones in Camp Ashraf.

11. (C/REL UK) XXXXXXXXXXXX Focus of XXXXXXXXXXXX

Interest: Camp Ashraf ------------------------------------

12. (C/REL UK) The XXXXXXXXXXXX during the December 11 meeting focused strongly on current U.S. policy on the future of Iranians at Camp Ashraf, confirmation of which, from his demeanor, seemed a high priority for him. Poloff noted that, consonant with Iraq's sovereignty and growing capabilities, Camp Ashraf is due to fall under Iraqi control as soon as assurances, arrangements, and actual capabilities are in place for Iraq to provide continued levels of protection for Ashraf residents equal to those supplied to date by the United States; no date had (at least at that time) been announced or promised for a final turnover, but USG hoped it will be soon. Poloff noted the MEK is considered a terrorist organization under both Iraqi and U.S. law, and urged XXXXXXXXXXXX and its supporters to read closely and to credit USG public LONDON 00003215 003 OF 003 statements on Ashraf and the MEK, specifically those emanating from U.S. Embassy Baghdad which, Poloff explained, leads USG efforts to implement existing agreements on Camp Ashraf; the XXXXXXXXXXXX rep seemed to take note.

13. (C/REL UK) The employee recited several allegations of recent, ongoing human rights abuses inside Ashraf, such as forced hysterectomies, and stated his belief that USG authorities at Ashraf do not realize all that goes on inside the camp. He said MEK members' relatives, usually with XXXXXXXXXXXX in a coordinating role, have been or can be brought by Iranian authorities to Baghdad to attempt contact with their loved ones; the employee argued many relatives have proof their loved ones inside Ashraf are avoiding contact with them due to duress from MEK leadership. The XXXXXXXXXXXX rep did not criticize USG management of Camp Ashraf but said he had the names of 600 members of the MEK inside Ashraf who allegedly are wrongfully discouraged by MEK leadership from having contact with their Iranian family members.

Anti-MEK Group's Publicity Visit to UK December 9-21 ---------------------------

14. (C/REL UK) XXXXXXXXXXXX Poloff on December 11 told the XXXXXXXXXXXX rep Poloff would not meet his XXXXXXXXXXXX colleagues, and that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was aware Poloff would be meeting him.

15. (C/REL UK) An FCO contact on December 22 told Poloff FCO had met, in a non-public setting in London, with four members of the XXXXXXXXXXXX group. XXXXXXXXXXXX's UK visit is intended to publicize efforts inside Iran and to publicize what Khodabande and other Iranian sources have called human rights violations inside Camp Ashraf by current MEK leadership. Poloff does not plan any further direct contact with XXXXXXXXXXXX.

Embassy Comment ---------------

16. (C/REL UK) It is impossible to provide a stand-alone assessment of this XXXXXXXXXXXX employee's information based on one meeting. Some of the equities and goals in play, however, seem apparent: Iran is genuinely apprehensive over the MEK's political and military potential and may, albeit with a characteristically tortuous approach, be trying to decipher the USG's true intent on Camp Ashraf and its residents. XXXXXXXXXXXX may in fact be assisting much actual, effective reconciliation of ex-MEK. There is a convenient and important overlap between its publicity efforts and the anti-MEK security goals of the Tehran regime.

Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXXTUTTLE

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