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Senators threaten cuts in Iraq aid over attacks on Iranian exiles

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2013

Two senators warned Iraq on Thursday that it could face a sharp cut in aid if it continues to fail to protect unarmed Iranian dissidents after a deadly attack on a refugee camp north of Baghdad last month.

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told a top State Department official to inform the Iraqi government that Congress is growing impatient with its failure to keep the dissidents of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq safe from assaults.

Mr. McCain noted that the United States protected the Iranians, the former armed wing of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, after they turned over their weapons to U.S. troops in 2003. Six years later, Iraq took over the administration of the 3,500 dissidents located at that time in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad.

"We, unfortunately, did not keep our word. I hope that this issue will be raised with the Iraq government, and we in Congress may have to look at the kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind of thing is going to be continence by the Iraqi government," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Menendez added that his committee is unlikely to approve any future weapons sales to Iraq if the dissidents suffer more attacks.

Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told the committee that the State Department shares "your deep concern" over Sept. 1 attack that left 52 dead.

Seven dissidents remain missing, and resistance officials say they are being held by Iraqi authorities. The resistance has blamed the attack on Iraqi security forces acting on behalf of Iran.

Ms. Sherman noted that the Iraqi government has provided 50,000 sand bags and physical barriers to protect the dissidents, now relocated to Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

But Mr. Mendez snapped: "I don't care how many tons of sand bags, but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very well be complicit in what took place, sand bags are not going to take care of the problem."

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