Long Thread: My story about how I was once investigated for supporting a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)—the MEK—and how I was later designated a terrorist. The designation was of course in 2019 -- Thanks Iran!
During 2010-11 I was serving as a BN XO in Diyala Province. My BN, 1-21 IN, had a weekly mission to link up with UNAMI at Camp Ashraf and ensure their security as they met with the MEK. UNAMI’s role was to negotiate the MEK’s move out of Iraq.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27…
FOB Grizzly—adjacent to Ashraf —transitioned to Iraqi control 2 days before my Brigade transferred authority from 3/2 SBCT. As a result, we maintained an OP in the desert over watching the front gate. OP was pointless as the terrain did not allow any observation inside Ashraf.
Took these pics in late June 2011 and I can still feel how hot it was that day. After a couple of weeks of rotating a company’s worth of combat power to Ashraf, we went to USD-N and received permission to step up collection efforts and patrols to free up the OP.
Interaction w/MEK was the most surreal deployment experience I had. Soldiers loved going to Ashraf—MEK gave them homemade ice cream and baklava—routinely gave us gifts. Until 2017, I had a MEK baseball cap and windbreaker buried in a tuff box.
Here is why I was investigated (I was not the only one). The MEK received their supply shipments (food, water..) from a company in Kuwait. This same company was the one who also supplied the recently closed FOB Grizzly.
MEK supply truck routinely moved from Kuwait under the same TMR (Transportation Movement Request) as trucks resupplying US forces at Grizzly. Once Grizzly shut down, they continued to do so. I believe the TMR had a LT’s name from 5-20 IN (the unit we RIP’s with) on it.
Came to a head when someone from movement control at Joint Base Balad called asking why we were authorizing these shipments to rest overnight at JBB. Replied we had nothing to do with those missions and if someone was letting them on a US installation, that was their problem
Later as I was filling out a sworn statement, I learned that it was potentially my problem as well. At the end of the day, the USFI 15-6 investigation wrapped up and we had to tell the MEK to figure out another shipment method.
The ISF routinely stopped their trucks outside the Ashraf gate for days on end to spoil much of their food so I am sure they would’ve continued using us as cover to prevent the ISF from interdicting their shipments.
The MEK were the best I’ve ever seen in the information environment. This is how the typical meeting went—we occupied an ornate conference room. The men were all in suits and did not say a word. The women, led by Madame Parsai, did all of the talking.
Whenever she made a point of emphasis, one of the men would come forward, reach over you, and place a packet of DVDs and other materials on the table—and a video clip would begin playing on the screen to the front of the conference room. A highly choreographed affair every time.
MEK members attempted to collect, which is something we had to remind our security elements of. Once Madame Parsai attempted to speak French to me -- thanks to the fact that my Cajun ancestors were viewed as low-class and robbed of their native tongue, I could not reciprocate.
A little about Ashraf. Ashraf was an oasis in the middle of the desert. It was a small city, with a medical clinic, fountains, well-maintained lawns. It was also eerie - in all of our visits there, no one ever saw teenagers or children.
However, we did see a number of Iranian intelligence agents or as they referred to themselves, “Concerned family members.” These agents routinely placed large speakers on the front gate and blasted messages about how they were letting their families down.
The MEK also understood command post operations. They had a LNO with us. Not literally with us mind you, but a MEK member named Farid had a local cell phone # for out TOC and routinely called and spoke to our Battle Captain.
This is how the call typically went:
 
Farid: The Iraqis are marshaling outside to attack. They are going to attack any minute!
BTL CPT: No they are not Farid. You’re fine.
Farid: I am serious this time. 
BTL CPT: Farid, we are watching you right now.
Farid: Oh yeah.
Note to self. If you ever have to communicate with a FTO, put a CPT between you and the FTO! @AndreDByrd1 was the man. I mean, besides USR, what else do CHEMOs do?
ISF had warrants for several MEK members and continually threatened to attack Ashraf and arrest them. Towards the end of deployment, it became clear that it was only a matter of time before we would have a legal, ethical, and moral dilemma on our hands.
We had a plan for this inevitably. I cannot recall the name of the CONOP, but we were task organized into 2 teams: Tooth (built around 1-21 IN) and Tail (built around 225 BSB). We rehearsed marshaling and movement several times and had pre-configured HA loads.
As the ISF narrative of executing the warrants began to pick up, we made an effort to educate leaders. We also smuggled in the USD-N CG (now a retired 4-star) as an air guard on a Stryker.
Then, one night as @PatrickRoddy4 and I were about to head to our CHUs, we saw indicators and warnings on our feeds that the ISF were assembling to attack Ashraf. This was confirmed via their LNO Farid – this time he was not exaggerating.
hrw.org/news/2011/04/1…
We saw our ISF partners assault the compound with equipment we provided. We stacked ISR over Ashraf, had priority of support for OH-58Ds in USD-N.
We also requested Rivet Joint due to emerging operational requirements no doubt the result of activities from the previously mentioned MEK “family members” (thanks to Odyssey Dawn, none were in theater).
We soon received national level attention. The best example of mission command I’ve seen was when the USD-N Commander gave my boss (an O-6 Brigade CDR) authority to reply to emails directly to ADM Mullen without clearing it through him or USFI.
Pat and I routinely spoke to the USD-N staff on nightly SVTCs while the BCT CDR and 1-21 IN CDR attempted to talk the ISF off the ledge. Here is where the legal, ethical, and moral dilemma comes in.
How do you abide by a law that states you cannot assist a FTO, respect the sovereignty of your partners, while preventing the needless killing of others? My boss appealed to the personal interest of the Diyala Operations Center Commander, sLTG Tariq.
Tariq had children in the west and my boss knew that Tariq’s long-term goal was to leave Iraq and join them. Boss told Tariq that if he continued the assault he would be subject to the ICC and INTERPOL notices and would never be able to leave Iraq.
Boss essentially talked the man into getting fired. The IGFC Commander fired Tariq and continued the assault. Pressure from us on the ground, from Washington, and from the USFI Commander and Ambassador, eventually brought the ordeal to a head...
but not before we deployed Teams Tooth and Tail who ensured the MEK could evacuate their dead and wounded to hospitals in Baqubah.
We added the Brigade Surgeon and a security detail to the operation. Their only task was to visit every hospital and morgue and document what they observed.
Then the staff went to work on the mother of all briefs. We referred to it as our brief for the SASC. We had timelines, pictures, transcripts of phone calls and discussions. It’s probably on a hard drive in someone’s office safe right now. End/

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