Tehran’s heated response to the Free Iran rally, held on July 9th in Le Bourget, France, continued this week as Iran’s government sought to criticize and downplay the importance of the event.
The meeting this week between Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, in Paris prompted accusations from Tehran that Abbas is a CIA operative. An Iranian parliamentary official described the meeting of the two leaders as “unfortunate” for Palestinians.
“The previous records of Abbas and the approaches he has adopted clearly prove that he is a US hireling,” said Hossein Sheikholeslam, an advisor to FM Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“The documents of his cooperation with the US were discovered in the Spy Nest [the US embassy in Tehran], and it was made clear that he was an agent of US Central Intelligence Agency [CIA].”
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said that Abbas merely updated Rajavi on the current situation of the Palestinian territories and the Middle East. The two groups have expressed shared concern for the growth of religious fundamentalism in the Middle East and the need to increase stability in the region.
Members of the Palestinian Authority demanded an apology from Tehran following the remarks.
An official from the Fatah party, the largest faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, asked in a statement why Abbas was not allowed to meet with the Iranian opposition while Tehran is allowed to meet and support all Palestinian opposition groups.
Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI, also accused Tehran of sending 80,000 Iranian armed guards to fight in Syria. He said that “terrorists linked to [Iran] were performing the ugliest crimes in several regional countries, including Bahrain.”
On Saturday, Fatah’s Information and Culture Commission released a statement regarding Tehran’s insinuations and its response to the meeting:
“The Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, regards the remarks by Hossein Sheikholeslam, advisor to the Iranian Foreign Minister, about President and Commander-in-Chief of the movement, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), as a reflection of the betrayal and the policy of those who have a destructive role and who sow divisions among Palestinian ranks and among Arab and Islamic nations and who support coups and division in our country Palestine and in all parts of Arab and regional countries.
“The Iranian regime seeks to destroy the Palestinian ranks and deepen divisions and prompt one side to act against the other, in order to gain greater positions which are only to their own interests – goals that have nothing to do with Quds, the first Qiblah of Muslims and the third sacred shrine, or to the just Palestinian cause and which simply turn one Palestinian side into a tool to serve their interests and the development of their influence in the region.”
The statements from Tehran are the most recent in an increasingly hysterical response to the July 9th Free Iran rally, which commanded an unprecedented viewership and notably featured an anti-regime speech by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal. The speech, which was the first of its kind by a major Saudi Arabian official, increased the divide between the region’s two major geopolitical players, and lent clout to the rally, which drew 100,000 audience members and was broadcast around the world.
The outsized response from Tehran comes on the heels of growing domestic and international problems which have weakened the regime’s base of power, as well as the growing momentum of the resistance movement. Tehran released over 4,000 pieces of anti-resistance news and journalism following the event through its massive state-directed media apparatus.
Any expression of solidarity between the Iranian resistance and other regional political actors could be seen as threatening by the regime because of its destabilized position.