Rob: Is there any information about what they were being recruited to do for the Israeli's?
Mark: It's not clear but I think it's pretty obvious. Two days before my article appeared, an Iranian scientist was assassinated in Tehran-- a person apparently on a motorcycle, or two people, put a magnetic explosive device under his car while passing it and blew him up. I think if you're Israel and you're worried about an existential threat, a very real threat to your existence or one you feel is very real, you'll do anything to stop it. And it seems clear to me that it's quite probable that Israel is behind some of these assassinations of scientists in Iran. So I think we can make a putative case that Israel was recruited Jundallah for these kinds of violence operations against the Iranians and it seems to be quite likely that Jundallah would sit and listen very closely to these proposals.
Rob: Okay. There's another organization that you mentioned briefly in your article, the MEK. Any information about any connection with Israel with them or how do they tie into this story, if at all?
Mark: Well the Mujahadeen-el-Khalq, the MEK is an Iranian revolutionary and terrorist organization based both in Iran and in Iraq, violently opposed to the Iranian requiem, but also viewed here among intelligence professionals as kind of a cult, very dedicated, extremely violent and they have been reported to have been recruited by Israel. I am starting to doubt that, not sure it's true and the evidence on it, it seems to be pretty substantive. But if you look at it closely it's very anecdotal and it's hard to prove. This is true about the MEK, very prominent American officials retired American policymakers have appeared as speakers at some MEK forums, very disturbing since they are foreign terrorist organizations and Americans are barred from any show of support for them.
But the MEK is an organization much better known than Jundallah that conducts these kinds of very violent campaigns, is considered a terrorist organization and now, by my colleagues here in Washington and reporters, are being looked at very closely as perhaps an organization being used by intelligence agencies to undermine the Iranian requiem. I don't have evidence that Israel or the United States is using the MEK, I would almost say with certainty that the United States would not have anything to do with them.
Rob: I know the is a reason they are connecting with these retired political leaders like Howard Dean and Ed Rendell, for example on the Democratic side, but they also are looking at the Republicans. Have they been lobbying to be taken off the terrorist list.
Mark: Well that's absolutely right and it's quite a campaign, it's a very well funded campaign, it's not clear where the money is coming from and you're right, Ed Randel and former Governor Dean have had very close contacts with them and have spoken at their conferences. But they are not alone in this. General James Jones, who is the former National Security Advisor in the Obama Administration has spoken. Patrick Kennedy, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, has been very prominent. When I talk to my reporter friends in town, everyone of us scratches our head over this, why would any political figure be associated with such a violent organization. Well I guess the obvious answer is you get pretty good speaking fees by speaking at their conferences and there have been long articles on who really supports them and their very murky past and their very murky funding. But it is very disturbing. I mean just think of it, if I were to appear at a conference of Islamic resistance movement Hamas, it would seem to be I would be under immediate investigation by the United State Government. And yet, these ex government officials seem to get a pass when it comes to talking at MEK conferences and it's become a little bit of a controversy here in Washington and across the nation.
Rob: It's very interesting, I agree. I've read the reports that they get paid $25,000 to do these things.
Mark: Yeah, it's an appreciable amount of money. I've also been reading recently, over the last 48 hours, reports that some of the people who appear don't really know the full extent and depths of the violence of this group and are just taking the money. It's too bad, I think that if you're a prominent public official you ought to know what you're supporting and how controversial it is and what kind of a trick bag it puts you in.
Rob: Yes. Well let's get back to this story that you wrote. You reported in the article that you had attempted to contact the CIA and the White House and Mossad and Israel. Did you ever get any responses before or after the article came out?
Mark: No, no. It's a matter of courteousy for a jouralist to do this, but I also wanted to probe the possibility, I was waiting for the agency to say, "Listen Mark, you're just dead wrong on this, this is ludicrous." And if that had happened I would have really rethought, gone back, checked with my sources, who are very well placed. I would have thought twice about publishing the article. Instead I was met with absolute silence from the White House-- a "no comment" from the CIA and of course I wasn't surprised. I didn't hear anything from the Mossad, but I thought it was kind of a courteousy to do it. There are two things that bother me as a reporter, I don't want to print an article that's wrong and I don't want to do anything that would harm my country, not necessarily in that order. My priority is I wouldn't want to harm my country. And instead I got a "no comment." Certainly no official in Washington since the article has been printed called me and said you're just dead wrong. In fact, quite to the contrary, I haven't received any calls at all No one has really come out and said this is wrong. And the reason no one has come out and said it is because it's not wrong.
Rob: Okay. So let's move on. Now, you report in your article that basically, even though Bush got really upset, they didn't do anything. You said that it was easier to just "to do nothing than to rock the boat."
Mark: Yes, well, anyone familiar with Washington I don't think would be too surprised. On the surface this sounds very conspiratorial, that they decided not to confront Israel, they didn't want to have a break with Israel, they didn't want to offend Israel. And that stands to reason. But in the case of this false flag operation, while it sparked an argument inside the National Security Council of the White House, people who are familiar with the way Washington works know that it doesn't really work that well. And after 3 or 4 days of argument, things tend to calm down, people say well let it go, and it was attributed to me by a former CIA officer that bureaucratic inertia was probably the reason why this wasn't followed up on. There wasn't any real conspiracy to keep it quiet or to not confront Israel. It was just one of those things, the moment passed. It seemed easier to do something than to do something. The discussion had suffocated, as happens in Washington, discussions suffocate, real policy moves, and that's what happened, it was just let go.
The question of Jundallah was raised again when the Obama Administration took office and it was decided early on in the Obama Administration that they would go on, that the organization would be put on the foreign terrorist organization list, and as I say in my article, an intelligence officer told me that was a real no brainer, that Jundallah belongs on the foreign terrorist organization list, belonged on it long before Obama put it there.
Rob: Would that lead to strong Israel supporters to accuse Obama of making trouble for Israel?
Mark: Well I kind of waited for people to say that, but again, that's been met with silence. Some of the very large pro-Israel organizations here in Washington D.C. have remained absolutely silent on the issue of whether this would cause problems for Israel. I think there's a growing division inside the pro-Israel community here in the United States between those who think we ought to allow Israel to do whatever they want and those who think that there are some things that Israel has done that are going to be construed as being not in our interest, not in America's interest. And this agreement has opened up almost very publically. I think on this issue the reason that the article is met with silence by the pro-Israel community is because this is really an embarrassment for Israel and it's not in the interest of the United States. And people are calculating very carefully-- Israel's ability it seems almost recently to be able to hurt itself here in the United States-- it's really from my own perspective and looking at this, it's really difficult to defend this action.