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|Founder||Massoud Rajavi and Abolhassan Banisadr|
|Founded||July 20, 1981|
|Mother Party||People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran|
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI; Persian: شورای ملی مقاومت ایران, romanized: Šurā-ye melli-e moqāwemat-e Īrān) is an Iranian left-wing political organization based in France and Albania. The organization is a political coalition calling to replace the Iranian regime. The coalition is made up of different Iranian dissident groups, with its main member being the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. Both organizations are considered to be led by Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi. The NCRI is also traditionally recognized as the MEK’s diplomatic wing opposing the religious Iranian government. In 2002, the NCRI exposed that “Tehran had built nuclear-related facilities.”
The United States Department of State refused to have contact with it since the 1980s, though it was reportedly left free to conduct its activities on American soil. MEK was identified as a foreign terrorist organization in October 1997.
The NCRI was founded by Massoud Rajavi and Abolhassan Banisadr in 1981. Both co-signed a covenant outlining Banisadr “as the Republic’s president”, and of Rajavi “as the chairman both of the National Council and of the republic’s Provisional Government.” The covenant criticised the Iranian regime as “medieval”, “reactionary”, and “dictatorial”, while proposing “a democratic, patriotic, and law-abiding government”. By 1983, the NCRI included the People’s Mojahedin o Iran, Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), National Democratic Front (NDF), the National Democratic Front, the Hoviyat Group, the Union of Iranian Communists, the Workers’ Party, the Union for Workers’ Liberation, the United Left Council for Democracy and Independence, and the Labour Party of Iran. On 24 March 1983, Banisadr officially left the council.
In 1983, elements united with NCRI began to depart the alliance because of conflicts with the MEK. Due to "violent pro-Iraq activities of MEK in the Iran–Iraq War", the NDF and Banisadr withdrew from the council. On 24 March 1983, Banisadr officially left the council. On 14 April 1985, the KDPI left the organization because they preserved their independence to decide to negotiate with Iran's regime.
In January 1983, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and NCRI President Massoud Rajavi signed a peace plan "based on an agreement of mutual recognition of borders as defined by the 1975 Algiers Agreement." According to James Piazza, this peace initiative became the NCRI´s first diplomatic act as a "true government in exile.
In the Iran–Iraq War the MEK/NCRI formed an alliance with Saddam Hussein, who was largely responsible for its financing, together with Saudi Arabia at that time, though the NCRI also employed fraud to bolster its funding. NCRI was transformed from an umbrella organization into a MEK subsidiary[when?]`. Despite being controlled by MEK, the NCRI disguises itself as the "parliament-in-exile" of the "Iranian Resistance", claiming to fight for the establishment of a democratic and secular republic in Iran, on a platform espousing such political values as secular government, democratic elections, freedom of expression, equal rights for women and human rights. It still claims to be an umbrella organization with multiple member groups, such as the "Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals" and the "Association of Iranian Women", which are in fact shell organizations established by the MEK to make the NCRI appear more "representative". Other MEK front organizations include "Muslim Student Association", the "Towhidi Society of Guilds, the "Movement of Muslim Teachers", the "Union of Instructors in Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning", and the "Society for the Defense of Democracy and Independence in Iran".
According to Ilan Berman, in 2002 the NCRI publicly called or the formation of a National Solidarity Front against the Iranian regime saying that it is “prepared for cooperation with other political forces” that seek a republican form of government and are committed to rejecting Iran’s current theocracy. The platform's core concepts (to date) include:
Christopher Harmon claims that the there are a number of organisations set up by the NCRI, including Organization of Iranian American Communities, the Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals, Association of Iranian Women, California Society for Democracy, Muslim Student Association, National Association of Iranian Academics in Britain, Towhidi Society of Guilds, Movement of Muslim Teachers, and others.
Despite NCRI claims, as of 2009, details of the group remained little known in the West, and very few legislators actively endorsed it. Resurgence of the group's foreign fortunes is tethered to the fact that it exposed Iran's nuclear programme in 2002.
The NCRI is regarded by the Iranian government as a terrorist organization, and was classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States, alleging that the NCRI "is not a separate organization, but is instead, and has been, an integral part of the MEK at all relevant times" and that the NCRI is "the political branch" of the MEK rather than vice versa. However, it is no longer considered terrorist. On September 28, 2012, the US State Department formally removed MEK from its list of terrorist organizations in a decision made by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a US appeals court.
Some top US officials such as Dick Armey (the former House majority leader 1995–2003) have suggested that the State Department wrongly included MEK in the terrorist list from the beginning. Alireza Jafarzadeh was its official representative in the US until the Washington office was closed by the US State Department in 2002 on the grounds that it was only a front group for the MEK by then listed as a terrorist organisation in the US. It has been alleged that the inclusion of NCRI and MEK in the list was a token offered to the theocratic regime of Iran rather than based on the facts of the matter. According to the Wall Street Journal "Senior diplomats in the Clinton administration say the MEK figured prominently as a bargaining chip in a bridge-building effort with Tehran." The Journal added that: In 1997, the State Department added the MEK to a list of global terrorist organizations as "a signal" of the US's desire for rapprochement with Tehran's reformists, said Martin Indyk, who at the time was assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs. President Khatami's government "considered it a pretty big deal," Indyk said.
The European Union in May 2004 implied that NCRI is part of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (rather than vice versa) and excluded the NCRI itself from a list of organisations considered to be terrorist organisations, including the People's Mujahedin of Iran "minus the National Council of Resistance of Iran" on its list of terrorist organisations. On January 26, 2009, EU Council of Ministers agreed to remove the MEK from the EU terror list. The group said it was the outcome of a "seven-year-long legal and political battle". The European Union had previously listed the MEK on its list but excluded the NCRI itself from the list of organizations considered to be terrorist organizations.
A large majority of Iran's population regards it as a terrorist group, disliking the assistance it provided to Iran's enemy Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Iran. It has an active global network, and engages in propaganda and lobbying in many Western capitals.
The Middle East department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the United Kingdom stated in early 2006 that it is widely understood that "Iran's [nuclear] program, which was kept secret from the IAEA for 18 years, became public knowledge largely because of revelations of the NCRI, and this led to heightened international concern." At the same time Michael Axworthy, former head of the Iran section at the FCO, claimed that the NCRI is a "tightly disciplined front organization for the MEK" and deemed them unreliable.
According to Rand Corporation analysts, the NCRI has hidden the Marxist-Islamic elements in MEK's programme from Western eyes in advancing a secular democratic platform. The NCRI has in the past three decades recorded and reported human rights violations in Iran to UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations. At the same time, despite NCRI claims that it espouses equal rights for women, in practice strict gender segregation is practiced in those areas it has controlled, as, for example, at Camp Ashraf.
In a meeting at the Council of Europe in April 2006, Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, elaborated on the movement's vision for a future Iran and presented a Ten Point Plan for Future Iran, according to the organisation's website.
The plan has been supported by British MPs, some arguing that it is a potential programme that "would transform Iran" since it calls for the abolition of the death penalty, the creation of a modern legal system and the independence of judges.
At a debate on the human rights situation in Iran in the House of Lords on December 8, 2016, Lord Alton of Liverpool said, "The manifesto says: Cruel and degrading punishments will have no place in the future Iran. Madam Rajavi would end Tehran's funding of Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant groups and is committed to peaceful coexistence, relations with all countries and respect for the United Nations charter."
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