Iran group tied to Trump advisers rallies in Washington to demand regime change
search

Iran group tied to Trump advisers rallies in Washington to demand regime change

Controversial Mujahedeen-e-Khalq has hosted John Bolton at previous events, counts Giuliani as a supporter; over 1,000 members protest against Tehran’s theocratic government

The Organization of Iranian American Communities march to urge 'recognition of the Iranian people's right for regime change,' in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2019. (Eric BARADAT / AFP)
The Organization of Iranian American Communities march to urge 'recognition of the Iranian people's right for regime change,' in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2019. (Eric BARADAT / AFP)

WASHINGTON — Supporters of an Iranian exile group with ties to some of US President Donald Trump’s top advisers rallied Friday for regime change in Iran, amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

Clad in yellow vests emblazoned with the words “Free Iran,” more than 1,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq gathered outside the State Department to demand an end to Iran’s theocratic government. The demonstration took place just hours after Trump claimed he had approved but then called off military strikes against Iran to retaliate for its downing of a US drone in the Persian Gulf.

After the rally, the demonstrators were to march to the White House to press their case.

“We have and will continue to declare that what we seek is the regime’s overthrow, overthrow, overthrow,” the group’s Paris-based leader Maryam Rajavi said in a video message to the crowd, which also included current and former US lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Activists gather at the State Department and watch a message on the screen from Maryam Rajavi before a march to the White House to call for regime change in Iran, June 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Known as the MEK, the controversial group has hosted Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton at previous events and the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a supporter. Before joining the administration, Bolton told an MEK meeting in 2018 that “before 2019, we here … will celebrate in Iran.” Giuliani, the former New York mayor, has made similar comments before the MEK.

Once listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the United States, the MEK has been derided by critics as a cult. But the terrorist label and sanctions attached to it were rescinded in 2012 and its influence has increased since Trump became president. The Trump administration earlier this year designated one of the MEK’s main foes, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization, and the MEK is now calling for Iran’s Interior Ministry to be similarly sanctioned.

Activists march on 23rd Street, with the Lincoln Memorial behind, en route to the White House to call for regime change in Iran, June 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Iran views the group as a threat, and last year its annual rally in Paris that Giuliani attended was the target of an alleged Tehran-backed bomb plot that was thwarted by arrests.

Israel’s Channel 12 news reported last year that the plot was foiled by the Mossad spy agency giving authorities in France, Germany, and Belgium crucial intelligence that led to arrests of the cell.

An Austrian-based Iranian diplomat is being held in Belgium, where police found bomb material in the car of a couple of Iranian origin.

The group has its headquarters outside Paris with several thousand members in Albania, extracted in a UN-brokered effort from Iraq. Supporters are scattered elsewhere in the West as part of the Iranian diaspora.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
less
comments
more