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After latest attack on dissidents, Western policy toward Iran must change

At the end of last month, the Iranian dissident community at Camp Liberty, Iraq, was struck by a barrage of rockets, which killed at least 24 people. The former U.S. military base, near Baghdad’s International Airport, has served as a Transit Transfer Location  for members of Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) since 2011, when they were relocated there from their self-built community of Camp Ashraf. Their resettlement was attanged by the UNHCR under an agreement between the Iraqi government and the UN, endorsed and backed by the United States.

Only a few hundred of the several thousand residents of Liberty have been successfully relocated – a testament to the failure of the U.S. and its allies to live up to their obligations to a group of people who, in an agreement with the U.S. at the beginning of Second Iraq War, were guaranteed protection in return for giving up their defensive weapons.
{mosads}The residents of Camp Liberty are now defenceless in the face of repeated deadly attacks carried out by clients of the Iranian regime. The latest attack reportedly utilised missiles known to have originated in Iran.

The October incident was the seventh such assault on the residents of Ashraf and Liberty. This fact also is a testament to the failure of Western policy, demonstrating that the U.S. and UN have failed repeatedly to take the necessary action to safeguard the community or to relocate its residents to locations outside Iraq.

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, issued a statement soon after the attack promising to work with Iraq and the international community to achieve both these goals. But his department has issued such statements before. What is lacking is a clear plan of action and proper assurance that the White House will not put its faith in people who have proven to be hostile to the interests of both the West and the Iranian resistance.

The PMOI’s parent organisation, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was quick to criticise the White House and the UN in the wake of the latest attack. NCRI’s president-elect, Maryam Rajavi, suggested that both had been aware of the role of Iranian clients in each of the six previous attacks, but had done little to constrain them.

Indeed, it would be virtually impossible to be unaware of the connection between the Iranian regime and the numerous, well-equipped Shiite militias that operate in the sectarian conflicts in both Iraq and Syria.  The fact that it is apparently ignored by the U.S. and its allies is disturbing enough. It is all the more disturbing that their initial reaction to the latest attack gave no indication that they are prepared to address that connection.
The attack was almost certainly carried out with the knowledge, if not the support, of elements within the Iraqi government, given that Camp Liberty is located very close to Baghdad’s International Airport. Furthermore, Iraqi forces have been permanently posted outside the perimeter of the camp, but have not sought to intervene to protect its inhabitants or warn of pending attacks by gathering militias. Instead, they have made it impossible for residents of the camp to move freely, to the extent that many have been denied life-saving medical care.

Camp Liberty has been subjected to a months-long medical blockade which has already cost several lives. Fortunately, residents wounded in the latest attack were transferred to Baghdad hospitals, undoubtedly only because it would have been impossible for the international community to ignore the continuation of the blockade after such a catastrophic event. This underlines both the effectiveness of world attention in alleviating the conditions endured by the Liberty residents and the need for such international scrutiny to continue.

It remains to be seen whether survivors of the attack will be granted continued access to medical treatment beyond the borders of Camp Liberty;  much will depend upon the firmness of the international response and the resulting pressure upon the governments of Iran and Iraq.

When Hassan Rouhani took office as Iran’s President in 2013, he was quickly hailed as a moderate by many Western leaders. That view prevails, in spite of the growing accumulation of evidence that Rouhani is cut from the same cloth as the ayatollahs.

On November 14, Italy will accept Rouhani as a guest, and France will follow suit on November 16. This is an opportunity for the West to challenge him over Iran’s continued human rights abuses and support of terrorism; the Camp Liberty killings are fresh in the public consciousness as an obvious example of both.

It is imperative that the U.S., the EU, and the UN cease to neglect their clear responsibilities with regard both to the dissidents of Camp Liberty and to Iranian adventurism. There is a strong sentiment in Western and international bodies that more should be done to relocate and protect the PMOI, whilst also supporting its goal of a free and democratic Iran; but those sentiments they have been marginalised in the face of current international policies of rapprochement and appeasement.

These policies are costing lives, as the Camp Liberty attacks amply demonstrate. They must not continue any longer. It is high time that the Western powers recognise the accuracy of the PMOI’s official position: that many of the multiple crises in the Middle East cannot be resolved until the influence of the Iranian regime is confined within its own borders.

It is certain that the Tehran regime recognises the consequences it faces if the West does adopt that policy and acts in accordance with it. There is a very good reason why the PMOI has been a consistent target for the types of attacks that were repeated last month. Its platform, and its appeal to a restive Iranian populace, is a threat to the survival of the theocratic regime and its project of regional hegemony.  The PMOI needs the active support of Western powers before Iran succeeds in destroying it.

In response to the latest attack, the U.S. could start by either accepting the Camp Liberty refugees into its own borders or providing diplomatic encouragement to close European allies to take them in. Doing so would cost little, would certainly save lives, and could help make the Middle East and the world a safer, more peaceful place.

Jones, secretary of State for Wales (2012-14), is a Conservative member of the House of Commons and a leading member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF),

Tags John Kerry

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