- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A leading member of the European Parliament on Tuesday appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to disavow remarks by a U.S. diplomat dealing with imperiled Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

Struan Stevenson, president the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, complained in a letter to Mrs. Clinton that Ambassador Lawrence Butler undermined the safety of the Iranians in an interview last week in the New York Times.

Mr. Butler is foreign policy adviser to Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. He has been negotiating with the disarmed rebels of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran on relocating them from their stronghold in Camp Ashraf in northern Iraq to somewhere else in the country before resettling them in other nations.

Iraq has pledged to close the camp by the end of the year.

Leaders of the 3,400 dissidents fear their lives will be at greater risk if they leave the compound, even though Iraqi forces have attacked them there several times since the United States transferred control of the camp to the Iraqi government in 2009. Iraqi soldiers killed at least 30 camp residents and wounded 320 in the latest attack April 8.

Mr. Stevenson, a Scottish conservative, asked Mrs. Clinton: “Why does Ambassador Butler insist on a plan that only makes the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq happy?”

He told Mrs. Clinton that many members of the European Parliament were alarmed by Mr. Butler’s comments.

“Ambassador Butler’s remarks and conduct have put the residents of Ashraf in much greater peril,” Mr. Stevenson said.

He added that the state-run Iranian media have “enthusiastically welcomed Mr. Butler’s venomous remarks … .”

In the New York Times interview, Mr. Butler denounced the Mujahedeen for actions attributed to them more than 30 years ago. The State Department, which lists the Iranian resistance as a terrorist organization, accused the dissidents of killing U.S. officials in the 1970s.

“These people have slaughtered Americans,” Mr. Butler said in the interview. “They have blood on their hands.”

Mr. Stevenson is part of a large group of European and U.S. legislators who are demanding that the State Department remove the group from the terrorist list. The European Union took them off its list in 2009, and a federal court last year ordered the State Department to take the group off the U.S. blacklist.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday postponed a vote on President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Nicaragua, after two senators accused the diplomat of being soft on Cuba.

Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida have opposed the nomination since a confirmation hearing in June, when they complained about the conduct of the nominee, Jonathan D. Farrar, in his current position as the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

As late as Tuesday morning, Mr. Rubio was working to build opposition to kill the nomination.

“I believe his confirmation would send the wrong message, and I strenuously oppose it,” Mr. Rubio, a leading Cuban-American politician, wrote in an article on the conservative website National Review Online.

“His tenure as chief of mission [in Cuba] should alarm all my colleagues.”

Mr. Rubio criticized Mr. Farrar, who has headed the U.S. mission in Havana since 2008, for accommodating Cuba’s communist government and downplaying contacts with pro-democracy dissidents.

He questioned whether Mr. Farrar would be tough enough to promote U.S. interests in Nicaragua, where a “determined and autocratic President Daniel Ortega is corrupting and weakening Nicaraguan institutions to extend his grip on power.”


President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed their condolences over the massacre in Norway on a visit Tuesday to the Norwegian Embassy in Washington.

“To the people of Norway, we are heartbroken by the tragic loss of so many people, particularly youth with the fullness of life ahead of them,” Mr. Obama wrote in a book of condolences.

“No words can ease the sorrow but please know that the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with the people of Norway, and that we will stand beside you every step of the way.”

The charge d’affaires, Deputy Chief of Mission Berit Enge, greeted the president and vice president because Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Christian Strommen was out of town.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email [email protected] The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.



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