Mike Pence and John Bolton among VIPs at Iranian dissident rally despite pressure from Tehran

Thousands of Iranian dissidents thronged the streets of a Parisian neighborhood on Saturday while Western anti-government opponents gathered in Tehran for a high-profile political event to poke the ayatollah’s supporters in the eye.

Despite warnings from French authorities and the US Embassy in Paris that the alleged threat of a terrorist attack would make a major outdoor event unwise, there were no incidents over the weekend as Iranian dissident activists met with prominent current and former officials from the US, UK and other countries met European nations. If the threat of a terrorist attack was real, French authorities’ concern was hard to see on Saturday as police had made no more than a handful of officers available to patrol the area, people at the scene said The Independent.

Dissidents from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) have long maintained a checkered relationship with the West, alongside their long campaign against the Iranian government. This year is no exception to that dynamic. The MEK, formerly classified as a terrorist group by the US, is now based in Albania, where just weeks ago a massive police crackdown was blamed for the death of a senior MEK member while others sustained serious injuries – all the MEK claimed , at the behest of the Iranian government. On the same day, French authorities decided to cancel Saturday’s rally.

Various explanations for the raid were offered in the hours that followed, but over the weekend a senior Iranian official tweeted that the computers seized by Albanian police at the MEK had been transferred to Iranian custody, a development first reported in Iranian state media on Monday became. In a statement to NCRI, a senior NCRI official expressed anger at the news The Independentand demanded that the US State Department take a position on Albania’s cooperation with Iran’s intelligence services; The Biden administration had previously responded to the raid by describing it as a police action, carefully avoiding any suggestion of Iranian involvement.

The Independent has asked the State Department for comment on the news that the computers have been transferred to Iranian custody. The agency previously issued a brief statement following the raid, presenting it as a typical law enforcement measure and noting that the Biden administration does not see the MEK as a viable political alternative to the Tehran regime.

The President-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, also addressed sharp words specifically to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in her speech on Sunday.

“As for the US State Department’s appeasement advocates, who at the same time have supported the tragedy.” [Albania]”Suffice it to note that the mullahs waved their turbans and showered them with commendations,” she stressed.

Ms. Rajavi also asked, “Why? [Ayatollah Ali] Khameni and [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi shows such fear of a gathering taking place 5,000 kilometers from Tehran?”

The seemingly increasing efforts of Tehran to punish the MEK and the rejection of the group by Biden’s State Department as a possible alternative to the Iranian regime made Saturday and Sunday’s events an even bigger coup for the NCRI and the MEK; With increasing support from prominent figures in DC and London’s foreign policy institutions, the current government’s position seems all the more precarious. That fact was illustrated by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s virtual address to the convention on Sunday, marked by The Independents According to sources, during his tenure he enjoyed one of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, relations between the State Department and the MEK.

Other VIPs at Sunday’s event also made impressive appearances for the dissident group, especially given the coldness of the Foreign Office: former British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who appeared from afar, 2024 presidential candidate Mike Pence, former Senator Joseph Lieberman and the former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton and a dozen incumbent members of the US Congress from both parties. Members who have attended NCRI events in Washington tend to lean towards the conservative or more restrictive wing of the US government’s foreign policy.

VIPs including Mike Pence, John Bolton and others take a group photo at the 2023 Free Iran Rally hosted by the NCRI


Mr Pence used his comments to slam the White House of Joe Biden for allegedly “working overtime” to restore the Iran nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration in 2015 (and later abandoned by Donald Trump).

“Now a new government threatens to undo all the progress we have made in marginalizing the tyrannical regime in Tehran,” Mr Pence claimed.

“They are working overtime to restore the Iran nuclear deal and put Tehran back on the fast track to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

He also claimed that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in a year if sanctions are lifted and the 2015 deal is reinstated.

Ms Truss, meanwhile, appeared to be targeting the West to “appease” the Iranian regime – remarks that were timely following the Albanian police operation and allegations of similar treason by the French.

“There was too much appeasement. There was too much wishful thinking, there was too much hope that things would change when it was clear things wouldn’t and haven’t changed,” she said.

Former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow to address the 2023 NCRI Free Iran Summit in Paris


She then spoke about Iran alongside Russia and other authoritarian governments, arguing, “We must make it clear that we will not treat these countries as part of the normal international system.”

Although Saturday’s rally passed without incident, the NCRI is no stranger to the threat of more serious revenge plots by Iranian government agents.

The rally and congress, attended by Mr Pence and others, was the subject of a terrorist attack in 2018 that was uncovered and stopped by authorities by arresting an Iranian diplomat and five others accused of planning a bomb attack. Diplomat Assadolah Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium and the French government accused Iranian intelligence services of being behind the plans.

Iran’s foreign ministry publicly condemned France over the weekend for allowing the rally to go ahead, after a court dispute resulted in a dissident victory over authorities who had hoped to cancel the rally.

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