Embassy Row: Another massacre in Iraq?

Iranian opposition leaders and their U.S. and European supporters are urging President Obama to draw a “red line” in Iraq — a week after gunmen killed 52 Iranian dissidents at a refugee camp north of Baghdad.

Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, called on Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cut U.S. aid to Iraq’s government, which is strongly influenced by Iran.

Struan Stevenson, leader of the European Parliament’s committee on Iraq, denounced the “inaction” of the U.S., U.N. and European Union after the Sept. 1 attack on Camp Ashraf, where gunmen believed to be Iraqi soldiers killed the unarmed Iranian exiles.

“Silence in relation to such murderous activity is shameful and an encouragement for further atrocities,” said Mr. Stevenson, a Conservative Party member from Scotland.

Opposition leaders also said that U.S. prestige is at risk in Iraq as much as in Syria, noting that all of the victims carried U.S. government-issued cards identifying them as protected persons under the Geneva Conventions.

The dissidents, members of the former armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces in 2003 in exchange for security guarantees. The U.S. transferred responsibility for their safety to Iraq in January 2009.

“The U.S. government and the president bear legal, political and moral responsibility regarding the safety and security of the residents,” said Mohammad Mohaddessin, a spokesman for Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, a site in Baghdad that houses about 3,000 dissidents.

In a letter Thursday to Mr. Kerry, Mr. Poe requested the State Department dispatch a team of diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to investigate the Camp Ashraf slayings and report back to Congress. He also noted that the U.S. condemned earlier attacks on the dissidents by Iraqi forces in 2009 and 2011.

“The message does not seem to be getting through,” said Mr. Poe, chairman of the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade. “We must do a better job at holding the government of Iraq accountable.”

A State Department official Friday reiterated U.S. condemnation of the attack in a letter to Maryam Rajavi, president of the Paris-based Iranian resistance council.

“We insist that the perpetrators of this barbarous act be brought to justice and that everything possible be done to find those who are missing,” said A. Elizabeth Jones, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the resistance in Paris, warned that more attacks are likely “absent a firm position by the U.S. government.”

He added that Iran is increasing pressure on Iraq to kill the remaining dissidents and support Syrian President Bashar Assad, if the U.S. launches attacks. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad over the weekend to deliver that message, Mr. Gobadi said.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

Hans-Ulrich Klose, a member of the German parliament from the Social Democratic Party. He discusses German-U.S. relations at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Mr. Klose and Ruprecht Polenz, a member of the German parliament from the Christian Democratic Union, address the Brookings Institution.

Wednesday

Danny Alexander, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, who addresses the Brookings Institution on the future of Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

Thursday

Henk-Jan Brinkman of the U.N. Peacebuilding Support Office, who addresses the Wilson Center.

Embassy Row is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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