By the late 1980s, the Rajavis had amassed a heavily-armed force, some 14,000 strong, which conducted raids into Iran. Towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, on 26 July 1988, six days after Ayatollah Khomeini announced his acceptance of a UN-brokered ceasefire resolution, Massoud Rajavi ordered his forces to cross the border on a suicide mission they called Operation Eternal Light. Their convoy of tanks got as far as the Iranian town of Islamabad-e Gharb, which they razed to the ground, before being beaten back to Iraq by overwhelming Iranian firepower. The MEK’s last major offensive was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991, when it joined Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion. Maryam Rajavi reportedly told her loyal subjects to, “Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”
With Saddam Hussein falling out of favor with the West in the First Gulf War, the Rajavis reconfigured their organization. They began to present a more benign image to the West, focusing their energy on the dissemination of propaganda and lobbying Western officials. At the same time, their military wing carried out violent attacks against Iranian targets in the West, the most spectacular of which was a wave of coordinated attacks on 5 April 1992 when MEK true-believers stormed Iranian diplomatic missions, took hostages and heavily vandalized premises in New York City, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Australia.
Shortly after the US State Department placed MEK on its list of terrorist organizations in 1997, an illuminating report appeared in The Iran Brief, a private monthly publication read in Washington circles. The report describes some of the findings of Operation Suture, an FBI investigation of MEK activities in the US, which found that the organization had set up hundreds of front companies in the US through which it, among other things, was actively buying political favors.