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Rohrabacher presses State on future of Iranian exiles
Wants terror label lifted as camp closing nears
The Iraqi government is using the State Department’s terrorist designation of a group of Iranian dissidents as an excuse to crack down on the unarmed exiles in their camp north of Baghdad, a top Republican lawmaker said Tuesday.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said taking the group off the terrorism list would deprive the Iraqi government of this cover and expose it as a puppet of the theocratic regime in neighboring Iran.
Mr. Rohrabacher is scheduled to convene a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday to seek an explanation from State Department officials about a court-ordered review of the terrorist label and an update on developments at Camp Ashraf.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has set a Dec. 31 deadline to close Camp Ashraf and relocate the 3,400 Iranian dissidents of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a former military wing of the Iranian resistance that U.S. forces disarmed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has said the deadline does not leave enough time to process the residents’ refugee status requests.
The Iraqi army attacked the camp on April 8, killing 36 residents, including eight women. More than 300 others were wounded. On Oct. 31, Iraqi troops and police entered the camp with sirens blaring in what residents said was an attempt to intimidate them. Supporters say all signs point to an impending massacre at Camp Ashraf.
“If we officially designated a group of people as a terrorist organization, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone commits an act of violence against them,” Mr. Rohrabacher said in an interview.
“However, the people at Camp Ashraf are not terrorists, and it is a great disservice to truth and to them and to finding some kind of peace in that part of the world to continue designating them as terrorists.”
The Iraqi Embassy in Brussels last month sent a letter to the European Parliament in which it listed the designation of MEK as a terrorist organization by the “international community” as a reason to justify its decision to close Camp Ashraf by the end of the year.
“They are trying to placate the mullahs, and that is not going to change simply because we change the designation,” he said.
“All we would have done is eliminate their cover, which is ‘These are terrorists, so thus we can do this,’ when in fact all they are doing is the bidding of a mullah dictatorship in Tehran,” he added.
The MEK has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and is backed by prominent former officials, including those who have served in Republican as well as Democratic administrations. The MEK also IS known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
In July of 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit gave the State Department six months to re-examine its decision to keep the group on the terrorist list. The State Department designated MEK as a foreign terrorist organization on Oct. 8, 1997.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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