Let me briefly consider this ‘alliance’ that supports the residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. There is the liberal Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and conservative Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinin (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; conservative Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), and Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and liberal civil rights activists Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and John Lewis (D-Ga.). Behind the political scene there are military veterans, many of whom were heroes of the Iraq campaign who saw at firsthand what was happening and openly condemn the abandonment of innocent refugees.
All these and other members of Congress have actively appealed, on behalf of those 3,400 members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) who are trapped in the middle of a political tug-of-war that is endangering their very lives, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should act before it’s too late
For anyone who does not already know the circumstances - these refugees have lived in Iraq for a quarter of a century having fled Iran shortly after the mullahs’ takeover of that country because they opposed the new regime. Their lives were peaceful and they built a small city called Ashraf where they lived a self-contained life.
But that all changed when U.S.-led forces deposed Saddam Hussein. The Americans, with the residents co-operation disarmament them and agreed to protect them under the Geneva Convention. But when the Americans left, that protection vanished – and by then, Iraq had become a virtual puppet of Tehran. Twice, without provocation, they were attacked by Iraqi forces, resulting in 49 deaths and 1,000 wounded. Without means to protect themselves those in Camp Ashraf had been callously abandoned – their position becoming and remaining untenable.
Following negotiations with the UN, the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki agreed to transfer them to a former U.S. military base, Camp Liberty, where they supposedly would be processed for transfer as refugees to third countries. Because of UN and U.S. assurances, those in Camp Ashraf began to move; so far, 2,000 of them have relocated to there. Then, and it shouldn’t have been any surprise, the Iraqis reneged on their agreement. Rather than humanitarian temporary conditions, they established Liberty as a virtual concentration camp that lacks basic infrastructure or amenities. As more Ashraf residents have transferred conditions have become increasingly unsustainable.
Horrifying as that situation may be the UN acquiescence is even more repugnant. It has literally turned its back on people it is supposed to be protecting. For some inexplicable reason, the secretary-general’s representative, Martin Kobler, has lost all objectivity and praises Maliki for patience and flexibility. At the same time, Mrs Clinton’s State Department is holding the MEK hostage – refusing to act on a Court ruling that the organization be removed from the list of foreign terrorists (FTOs).
Adding insult to injury is the reality that not a single transferred Ashraf resident has been processed for refugee status or relocation outside Iraq. Members of Congress who have written to SoS Clinton have continued to express strong support for the humanitarian measures to ease the plight of these individuals trapped in a state of limbo.
Those who have moved, at the urging of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, because she and they thought they would be on the road to freedom now live in intolerable conditions, with little electricity, sewage problems, little or no running water, lack of privacy, and overcrowding.
The residents have requested the provision of eight minimum humanitarian needs before resuming transfers and have provided a practical plan to the UN on July 26 to fulfil these needs with their own resources and funds.
Yet, the Government of Iraq, which gets its orders from the Iranian regime, refrains from implementing the simple and practical plan to meet these minimum humanitarian requirements, and reportedly is planning a third massacre at Ashraf. On July 31, Reuters reported Iraq “will force out Iran dissident group” from Camp Ashraf.
It is essential – a matter of honour - that the U.S. prevents such a massacre. It still bears responsibility for the people there, and must not close its eyes to a further slaughter of unarmed and innocent refugees.
Iran is stepping up the pressure as the situation worsens for Bashar al-Assad, its friend in Syria,. The mullahs fear the changing tide in the region and seem determined to crush their sole organized opposition before it gets too late. Undoubtedly, that is why they are intensifying their campaign against the residents of Ashraf and Liberty.
Moral responsibility lies with the U.S. and UN. There is clear evidence that they recognize the terrorists in the region is not the MEK but the mullahs in Tehran. So why the equivocation? Protecting Ashraf residents and guaranteeing their protection and welfare cannot compromise an international obligation.
The Iranian Resistance does not ask for money or arms from the U.S. It clamours to be unshackled so it can contribute towards a transition of its homeland back into the community of democratic nations.
When a divided Congress can agree on this issue, how can the Executive ignore its advice? The demands of Ashraf and Liberty residents are basic. Iraq has trampled on its commitments at every turn. It’s time for the Secretary of State Clinton to state clearly and courageously, “No more – enough is enough.”
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, is currently a member of the British upper chamber, the House of Lords. He was the member of parliament (MP) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 1983 to 2001.