- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

Election fever across the United States is reaching a climax. Top of the agenda has been the national and international financial crisis, with polls indicating Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama leads the way currently by quite a distance in the fight for the White House.

Inhibited by the eight years of a Bush/Republican White House, the Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin finds itself in second place. Though rattled by opinion polls one thing remains strong in the McCain corner: When Americans fear an international crisis, they take the safe bet, preferring to support what they know than what they may hope for. For Mr. Obama this may well be a shortcoming in what up till now has been a clinically precise campaign.

Attacked in the early stages of his bid to become the Democratic nominee and his current White House campaign, Mr. Obama has put such deficiencies behind him with a powerful campaign that has hinged on unity of the Democratic Party. His choice of Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate further indicated a need for some experience beyond his own.

History always plays a significant role in U.S. elections, and this one will be no different. International fears currently center on the Iranian regime and all that surrounds this regime, including its terrorism and nuclear weapons.

The U.S. electorate remains deeply concerned about troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and the further threat of a nuclear armed Iran. Such an outcome would not be permitted by the most significant U.S. ally in the region, Israel, increasing the possibility of a military strike.

In Iraq, the fight to retain control over the rogue insurgent elements causing significant casualties to the Coalition will be the first major international issue facing the future resident of the White House. This struggle to help the fledgling Iraqi security maintain order in Iraq’s towns will lead to further confrontation with the Iranian regime, whose support for terrorist groups through the provision of funds and weaponry is the current single greatest danger to peace in Iraq.

Iranian influence in Iraq cannot be discussed without a mention for the current residents of Ashraf City, a group of 4,000 strong members of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI (or MEK as it is also known) has found itself at the heart of the tug-of-war currently suffocating Iraq.

The PMOI has long been dedicated to replacing the unelected fundamentalist mullahs. The group is best known for exposing Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2002, while the National Council of Resistance of Iran a coalition to which the PMOI is a member, prides itself on being the Parliament in exile. Lead by the charismatic Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI has become the apparatus of support for many politicians across the United States.

Now, Iranian demands have centered on the transfer of the safety and security of the PMOI in Ashraf City from Coalition troops to Iraq. This would undoubtedly lead to placing PMOI members in grave risk of attack by agents of Iran.

Whoever ends up in the White House in January will almost immediately have a knock on his door from the U.S. top commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno - the PMOI will be on his agenda. Although an early decision to make by the incumbent President, it could well be a critical one that will have a significant impact on his years in charge.

The threat of Iran will loom large over the new president and were he to decide to hand over security for Ashraf City to Iraq, the power balance in Iraq would tilt heavily in Tehran’s favor. This would not only inhibit the most significant opposition to the mullahs, but could embolden the regime in its daily interference as Iraq tries to grow democracy.

Any further increase in Iranian support for terrorism in Iraq and the regime edging closer to a nuclear weapon will lead the world ever closer to military confrontation with Tehran. Transfer of security for Ashraf City from Coalition forces to Iraq would be a significant decision for the incoming U.S. president. A failure to make the correct call could have disastrous consequences for a region already beset by violence.

Robin Corbett, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, is a former Labor Party whip in the British House of Commons (1984-‘87), and chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (1999-2001). He now is chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.


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