Iranian dissidents in the U.S. are preparing for the Persian New Year with a major push in Washington for the removal of the brutal, theocratic regime in Iran and for the relocation of 3,000 Iranian refugees confined to a squalid camp in Iraq where they are targeted by pro-Iranian terrorists.
Supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran hosted a conference this week at the Capitol with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other national security analysts. The resistance has a luncheon scheduled Friday with other congressional supporters.
Rep. Ted Poe is drawing endorsements from Democrats and Republicans for a resolution condemning a Feb. 9 attack against the Iranian refugees in the ironically named Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport. The Texas Republican is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade.
The State Department, meanwhile, is warning American travelers in Iraq of increased dangers since the attack.
A new Islamic terrorist group called the Mukhtar Army claimed credit for the assault with rockets and mortars that killed seven people and wounded hundreds of other camp residents. An eighth Iranian dissident who was critically injured in the attack died this week.
Mr. Gingrich blamed the increasingly pro-Iranian government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to the stop the attacks on the refugees, who formed the armed wing of the resistance until they surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces after the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. The U.S. promised to protect the disarmed fighters and treat them as internationally recognized refugees.
"These attacks on Camp Liberty aren't accidents. They aren't the behavior of bandits," Mr. Gingrich told about 300 resistance supporters, congressional staffers and diplomats at a forum in the Capitol Visitors' Center on Tuesday. "This is a deliberate effort by the Maliki regime to humiliate the United States to prove our impotence and to curry favor with the Iranians."
The Obama administration supported Mr. al-Maliki's demand last year that the Iranian refugees be relocated from Camp Ashraf, a larger and more secure compound, to Camp Liberty, a smaller and more vulnerable site with poor sanitation.
"Let's be clear," Mr. Gingrich said. "The sheer hypocrisy of calling a camp 'Liberty' should tell you everything you need to know about how bad this is."
Retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a former national security adviser under President Obama, told the conference that the facility should be called "Camp Shame."
"All continue to live in poor and oppressive conditions, deprived of proper medical care and legal rights," he said. "The facility has become more of a prison than a camp."
Gen. Jones, who served in the White House from 2009 to 2010, described a meeting he held last year with Mr. al-Maliki, who said that Iran never interferes in Iraqi domestic affairs.
"It was among the most discouraging meetings I have ever attended," Gen. Jones said. "Frankly, given our enormous sacrifice over the past decade, it was insulting."
More than 4,400 U.S. troops died liberating Iraq.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, noted that Mr. Obama has "made clear he would be prepared to use military force" to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"I can say, as a member of the other party, that he would have great support of the Congress," said Mr. Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There would be no division in the country if that decision would need to be made."
Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat and former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the forum that diplomacy and tough economic sanctions might yet bring Iran to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
"Today, Iran is isolated in a region in deep trouble, rapidly deteriorating with an economy that is a mess, political infighting and factional feuding erupting all over the place and a crisis of confidence," said Mr. Hamilton, who also served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
The bipartisan forum was moderated by former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat and son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. He urged the resistance supporters to image a democratic Iran, free of the religious extremism of the ruling mullahs, as they celebrate the Persian New Year on March 20.
"We can begin to think about what a new year would look like in a country that is the birthplace of civilization but still is governed in a way that relegates it to the Stone Age," he said.
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