- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Iranian influence

He survived 14 assassination attempts as governor of Iraq’s Diyala province and is ready to risk his life again as a candidate in the parliamentary elections expected in December.

Dr. Abdullah Rasheed al-Jabouri, a dentist by profession, also learned about dirty politics when his opponents on the provincial election commission blocked him from running in the January elections by leaving his name off the ballot. Dr. al-Jabouri, who made enemies among Islamic extremists by governing as a secular leader, only learned about the stunt on election day when the ballots were made public.

“There was cheating and deception. It was not a fair election,” he said over lunch yesterday at The Washington Times.

His one-year term ended in March, and he returned to England to resume his dental practice. However, he is already planning his political comeback, and he plans to travel to Iraq soon to open his campaign.

Dr. al-Jabouri was in Washington to talk about the threat facing Iraq from its old enemy, Iran, which shares a border with Diyala province, and to urge the United States to remove the Iranian resistance from a blacklist of terrorist groups on which they were included during the Clinton administration.

“There’s question today that Iran is behind many terrorist attacks, especially against civilians and anti-fundamentalist politicians,” he told a congressional hearing this week.

“In Diyala province … we managed to capture many Iranian agents or Iraqi and foreign nationals who were on Iran’s payroll and had received training in terrorist activities.”

Dr. al-Jabouri told the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus in the House that the United States made a mistake in 2003 when U.S. forces bombed the camps of the military wing of the resistance, the People’s Mojahedin, which had operated from Diyala since 1986. He said they provided security against Iranian infiltration.

“I believe the bombing of the Mojahedin camps at the outset of the war was a major blunder, even more so was the U.S. decision to disarm them,” he said. “This left the entire province wide open to Iranian meddling and interference.”

Also at the Tuesday hearing, two Army officers who dealt with the Mojahedin testified about their cooperation and professionalism. The officers pointed out they were offering their personal opinions.

Lt. Col. Thomas Cantwell, who commanded a military police battalion, guarded the Mojahedin at Camp Ashraf, where all of the resistance fighters were consolidated. He called them “cooperative” and “very disciplined, as a paramilitary force should be.”

Capt. Vivian Gembara, the Army lawyer who negotiated the Mojahedin disarmament agreement, said the United States should make “maximum use of the assets and potentials of this ally.”

“As a soldier and a lawyer,” she said, “I believe it’s time to change their classification as a terrorist organization.”

Trade and security

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday welcomed six Latin American presidents and called the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement another weapon in the war on terrorism.

“Economic progress and security are interdependent,” he said. “Today the threat to Central American and Caribbean security comes from an anti-social combination of gangs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hostage takers and terrorists. It is increasingly clear that they can be effectively combated and are being combated only by close cooperation among nations.”

Presidents Oscar Berger of Guatemala, Enrique Bolanos of Nicaragua, Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras, Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica and Antonio Saca of El Salvador are in Washington to campaign for congressional passage of the trade agreement.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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