- Campbell Soup apologizes for SpaghettiOs’ Pearl Harbor tweet
- Former Reagan aide James Baker: President regretted apartheid veto
- Some donations to gay waitress who allegedly forged hate note refunded
- German President Joachim Gauck boycotting Sochi Olympics
- Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel: If you want to pay more for your doctor, you can under Obamacare
- Sen. Rand Paul: ‘I am seriously thinking about’ running for president in 2016
- Sleet, ice, deepfreeze hit large swath of U.S.
- ‘Welcome to the edge of freedom’: Biden’s boots touch down in DMZ
- Obama: Hole U.S. ‘digging out of’ requires billions more in unemployment benefits
- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
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.
“Our focus is on reviewing the [terrorist] designation in accordance with the D.C. Circuit’s decision and applicable law,” said Noel Clay, a State Department spokesman.
The State Department is “working as quickly as possible to complete the review,” he added. At the end of the review, it will be up to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to decide whether to maintain or rescind the terrorist label.
State Department officials Daniel Fried, special adviser on Camp Ashraf, and Barbara Leaf, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, are scheduled to testify at the subcommittee hearing.
President Obama is scheduled to meet with Mr. Maliki at the White House on Dec. 12.
Sam Drzymala, a spokesman for Rep. Russ Carnahan, the subcommittee’s co-chairman, said the Missouri Democrat hopes to get an update at the briefing on the status of the “safety, protection and potential relocation options for the residents of Camp Ashraf as the U.S. military transitions out of Iraq.”
All U.S. combat troops are expected to leave Iraq by the end of the year.
In June of 2009, the U.S. turned over control of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government, which gave written assurances that it would treat the residents in accordance with Iraq’s constitution and its international obligations.
“Will they be a friend of the United States … or a lackey to Iran?” he asked.
He and Mr. Rendell spoke along with other MEK supporters at an event in Washington last week.
Camp Ashraf residents surrendered their weapons in 2003 as part of a cease-fire agreement with U.S. forces.
Earlier this year, French magistrates dismissed terrorism charges against MEK members after an eight-year investigation.
The State Department accuses the MEK of terrorist attacks in Iran in the 1970s that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians. MEK also received military and financial support from Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to the State Department.
There is considerable debate in Washington over taking the MEK off the terrorist list.
Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service, said some U.S. officials are convinced that such action would be viewed by the Iranian government as a hostile act and eliminate hope for a resumption of talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
“An American embrace of a group that has killed so many Iranians and allied itself with Saddam Hussein and other American embassies would be a world-class [mistake],” he said.
Others argue that delisting the MEK would be interpreted by the Iranian opposition as the U.S. throwing its weight behind what they say is an undemocratic group that does not have much support inside Iran.
“This is not a group the U.S. would look to work with as part of a policy of supporting groups that are trying to achieve human rights and democracy,” said Mr. Katzman.
© Copyright 2013 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.
- U.S. teacher shot dead in Benghazi after al Qaeda call for violence
- Syria nightmare: Fresh fears about al Qaeda fighters there returning home as sleeper terrorists
- Iran official: Sanctions 'utterly failed' to stop nuclear program
- China accuses Japan of raising tensions over new air defense zone
- Joe Biden meets Xi Jinping in China to try to defuse tensions on air defense zone
- Obama: Hole U.S. 'digging out of' requires billions more in unemployment benefits
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- Sen. Rand Paul: Supreme Court needs to re-examine Fourth Amendment
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Dick Cheney: Family feud over gay marriage has been 'dealt with'
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- 'Dude, I'm dreading that I will have to go': Czech prime minister on Mandela funeral
- Sen. Rand Paul: Long-term unemployment benefits are disservice to workers
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Get in the middle of all the action inside and outside the boxing ring.
Opinion, analysis, and musings on politics, pop culture, reinvention, and the resultant flotsam and jetsam floating around the right-of-center quadrant of the Left Coast.
The cold hard truth about politics in America today and the state of this once great nation.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
Let it snow
White House pets gone wild!