Rajavi takes the resources of the organisation to Paris
Immediately after the failure of the 30th Khordad demonstration, the Mojahedin Central Committee agreed that Massoud Rajavi should be sent out of Iran along with Abol Hassan Bani Sadr. They were to take refuge in France where Abbas Darvari had already established contact. Rajavi was sent abroad in good faith by the Mojahedin's Central Committee as the organisation's spokesman. His instructions were to gain support from the international community and to publicise their struggle and ideology. It soon became clear, however, that his own personal survival was as important to Rajavi as anything the organisation required, and the opportunity this escape would give him to hold on to the power he had already gained.
When he left Iran, Rajavi took with him as many as possible of the organisation's resources; the administrative, printing, financial, and personnel resources. Supporters inside Iran were instructed to send gold, jewellery, carpets and any other valuables they could collect, out of the country to fund the struggle. Rajavi himself took with him as many members as possible who could be of value to him in his mission to publicise the struggle and his leadership of it, members who would be loyal to him or could be easily swayed to his way of thinking. He continued to bleed such members out of Iran for some years to come, leaving the internal forces severely depleted and demoralised. But for Rajavi this was not important. Internal forces were useful to him as numbers and blood; as a list of names for his rapidly growing 'book of martyrs'. In Paris, he established what for him, must have seemed a government in exile, and set about publicising his role.
In no other country had an opposition force actually left the country in order to continue its struggle. The Mojahedin sent Rajavi abroad with a specific task - to court international political opinion in their favour. He could have achieved this with very few of the organisation's own resources. France offered him a base and funding. His brothers, in particular Kazem who had campaigned for commutation of his death sentence back in 1972, were in Europe and held positions of respect and influence. In addition, there was already a well organised, professional and very active group of Mojahedin supporters outside Iran, the Muslim Iranian Student's Society. Many Iranian students had chosen not to return home after the revolution, so providing a huge resource of new recruits outside Iran. Rajavi didn't need to take the organisation's own resources. But for many people even at that time, it was obvious he had an inflated view of his position and importance. It could be assumed that he saw himself as the leader at this stage rather than as one of the leading Central Committee members and clearly believed that his court should attend him.
Rajavi bled the organisation in Iran dry in order to set up a government in exile. He had the NCRI agree that he would be the interim leader after Khomeini was toppled, and he regarded this leadership as imminent. This was a big strategic mistake. Rajavi probably did save the Mojahedin in the short term, keeping it alive in a political sense. But he had vastly underestimated Khomeini and in turn overestimated his own and his organisation's abilities.
Armed struggle inside Iran - the Ďmilitary phaseí
Outside Iran, with all the resources of the organisation with him in Paris, Rajavi declared the strategy of the resistance for overthrowing Khomeini as:
- Dealing fundamental blows to the regime's ruling figures by assassinating key persons.
- Going for all-out attacks on the machinery of suppression in order to smash the atmosphere of terror and fear.
- Unleashing the popular element; that is, arranging protests, demonstrations and workers' strikes etc.
All this, in his view, would prove the impotence of the ruling regime.
But how was the Mojahedin to perform all this when most of the leaders and resources of the organisation were outside the country.
In spite of the massive popularity of the Mojahedin, which had grown after the revolution, the number of members who could be described as cadre was still very limited. Only the top members had safe houses to escape to after 30th Khordad. Ordinary members and supporters were left to fend for themselves as best they could. While friends and families and other sympathisers were willing to help and shelter most of these forces, many others were betrayed to the authorities by pro-Khomeini neighbours or acquaintances. In this context, the Mojahedin began using whatever means they had inside Iran to attack the regime's forces.
Having infiltrated the Jomhouri Eslami Party, they put a bomb in their Headquarters in Tehran, killing almost one hundred people, including Ayatollah Beheshti, one of the founders of the Islamic Republic and the closest person to Khomeini. They also planted a bomb which killed the new Prime Minister, Rajai. They then went on to commit suicide bombings, including the killing of Ayatollah Dast Gheib, another prominent clergyman who was again close to Khomeini and an important theorist. These assassinations sent a ray of hope for many whom were looking for a way of defeating the ruling regime. But this did not last long. In February 1982 the regime, through its own counter-infiltration of the Mojahedin, discovered the whereabouts of Mousa Khiabani, the Mojahedinís commander inside Iran, and several other top members including Rajaviís wife. These top members were killed in a gun battle and Mojahedin infiltration of the regimeís apparatus was quickly blocked.
After Mousa Khiabani was killed, the Mojahedin appointed Ali Zarkesh, another deeply experienced and committed member, as commander inside Iran. The Mojahedinís forces were able to continue their struggle because they operated as cells which had no knowledge of one anotherís existence and which were all independently in contact with Paris. Although they were infiltrated, it was not easy to discover other cells and the struggle continued.
At the same time as the forces inside Iran were fighting a guerrilla war with the regime, outside Iran, Iranian refugees were being recruited to fight against the regime. Soon after his escape from Iran, Rajavi had established contact with Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein using the KDP's existing links with him through their leader Ghasemlou. The KDP and Iraq allowed the Mojahedin to set up training camps inside Kurdistan. Mojahedin members and supporters, who had fled Iran, gathered at these bases in Kurdistan. The new recruits from the West were also sent there, and would eventually form the basis of the NLA.
As the resources were becoming more and more depleted, and the Mojahedin members inside Iran more dispersed, Rajavi's initially damaging strategy deteriorated and weakened. It eventually became more and more limited to shooting pro-Khomeini shopkeepers, placing bombs in garbage bins and shooting targeted individuals in the street in order to keep up the momentum of resistance.
After some time, Rajavi changed his mind and announced a new strategy called 7/7 (seven sevenths). This meant that the Mojahedin inside Iran should start killing the so-called fingertips of the regime (that is, its suppressive forces such as the Pasdaran and Revolutionary Guards) to such a degree that the regime would be paralysed. It was also hoped that there would be an uprising because people would no longer be afraid to come out and support the resistance. The Mojahedin never achieved even one killing a week, but they did not abandon this theory until the establishment of the National Liberation Army in 1987 and with it the strategy of using an army to topple the regime.
An important feature of the Mojahedinís ability to conduct their armed struggle from outside the country was the use of radio. In 1982 the Mojahedin purchased a 10 kw radio transmitter from Siemens in West Germany. Although it required a class A export licence, they were allowed incognito, to ship the radio and other equipment to Baghdad, and from there, were able to transport it to Iraqi Kurdistan and from there to Iranian Kurdistan. There they enlisted the help of Kurdish villagers to help transport the equipment, by mule and eventually by foot, into the mountainous region where they eventually established their radio base. At this stage KDP membership in the NCRI was useful since the Kurdish villagers helped willingly due to their support for the KDP. It wasnít too long however, only about two years, before the Iranian forces pursuing their war with Iraq forced the Mojahedin to retreat into Iraqi Kurdistan. They took the radio with them and were soon helped by the Iraqi regime which allowed the use of Iraqi radio stations in addition to their own.
The radio was vital for the Mojahedin to broadcast their messages into Iran. It allowed them to recruit new members and to direct their activities. Eventually, they broadcast news of Rajaviís Ideological Revolution. For the young people inside Iran facing imminent discovery and death, this was a massive blow to their belief in the Mojahedin, as they had understood it to be. It seemed not only irrelevant to their struggle, but as a betrayal on several levels. The radio had quickly become a vital propaganda weapon against the regime. But at the same time the effects of the broadcasts on supporters and sympathisers were unmonitored and didnít always have a desirable outcome.