- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011


Struan Stevenson, a leading member of the European Parliament, sounded desperate as he appealed to the Obama administration to prevent a “human catastrophe” among Iranian exiles in Iraq.

“America is leaving behind the biggest mess I’ve ever seen,” he told Embassy Row this week, complaining about President Obama’s decision to pull out U.S. troops by the end of the year.

Mr. Stevenson, a frequent visitor to Iraq, said the government is weak, sectarian tensions are high and Iran is poised to turn Iraq into a proxy state.

However, he is most worried about the fate of 3,400 disarmed Iranian dissidents living in a former military camp about 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called the exiles terrorists and ordered the camp closed by the end of the year.

Mr. Stevenson, chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, and more than 120 other members of the legislative arm of the European Union this week appealed to the United Nations and the United States to force Mr. al-Maliki to delay the closure of Camp Ashraf.

Mr. Stevenson said U.N. representatives need more time to prepare for the transfer of the Iranian exiles to other nations, fearing that Mr. al-Maliki will deport them to Iran, where they would be executed.

“These people are going to be massacred,” Mr. Stevenson said.

The exiles made up the military wing of the Iranian resistance until U.S. forces disarmed them in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The U.S. and the U.N. recognized the exiles as protected people under the Geneva Conventions to prevent them from being deported.

That declaration became meaningless after U.S. forces transferred control of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government in 2009.

Mr. Stevenson also appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We’re calling on her to make a public statement, criticizing al-Maliki and let the U.N. do its work,” he said.

Mr. al-Maliki has used the State Department’s own designation of the exiles as terrorists in his justification for closing the camp.

The exiles, known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran or Mujahedeen-e-Kalq Organization, were added to the State Department’s terrorist list in 1997 to meet a key Iranian demand as a precondition to open talks with the United States.

“They are a terrorist organization with no legal basis,” Mr. al-Maliki told Reuters this month. “They attack Iran.”

Iraqi forces have attacked the unarmed residents of Camp Ashraf several times, killing 31 and wounding 320 in the latest assault in April.

The State Department accused the resistance of killing Americans in the 1970s as part of the uprising against the shah of Iran.

Resistance supporters have complained that the State Department is defying a U.S. court order to review the status of the Iranian resistance, while the European Union has removed the group from its own terrorist list.

However, the group has received widespread support in Congress, where many members have demanded that it be removed from the terrorist list.

Also, many former officials from Republican and Democratic administrations have come to the defense of the mujahedeen. They include Tom Ridge, who was secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, and Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Supporters have organized a forum Friday to discuss ways to prevent what they call the “impending massacre” at Camp Ashraf.

Speakers include Dell L. Dailey, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism under Mr. Bush; retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bill Clinton; and retired Army Gen. William Wallace, who was in charge of Camp Ashraf after the invasion of Iraq.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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