Saturday, August 22, 2009

Iran: Camp Ashraf - U.S. ponders response

Iran Policy Committee - The United States Government is considering options regarding the main Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, in light of its members' status as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention and in the wake of ongoing attacks on the group by Iraqi Security Forces that killed 11 and wounded hundreds more. The raid on the Iranian dissidents has already generated criticism of the U.S. Government for its conduct in light of the attack. Various players are proposing different options. Some, including Tehran, propose dispersal of the Iranian dissidents within Iraq or their repatriation to Iran, while others suggest a temporary resumption of U.S. military protection for them.

Meanwhile, intelligence reports from the Iranian opposition indicate that because of the very weak response of the United States regarding the 28 and 29 July attacks by Iraq Security Forces against Camp Ashraf, both Baghdad and Tehran may conclude that they have a free hand to act against the Iranian dissidents. Reports indicate that the number of Iraqi Forces and their equipment have not decreased both inside and outside of Ashraf since the 28 July attack, as more equipment is being added. Some estimates of Iraqi Security Forces present at Camp Ashraf range from 1,500 to 2,000. Absent guidance to intervene from Washington, U.S. commanders based at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Grizzly at Ashraf may again stand idle if Iraqi Security Forces make another deadly attack against the unarmed women and men residing at Camp Ashraf.

According to IPC President and former member of the National Security Council Staff at the White House, Professor Raymond Tanter, "The United States, as an Occupying Power, was responsible for the security of 'protected persons' in Iraq, including the Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf. The United States can only transfer responsibility for such protection to another state party to the Geneva Convention that guarantees their 'protected persons' status. Although Iraq gave the United States such assurances, Baghdad obviously has no intention of abiding by its promises. According to Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, if the state that assumes authority does not honor its obligations, the transferring Power -- in this case the United States -- is obliged to 'take effective measures to correct the situation, or shall request the return of the protected persons. . .Such request must be complied with.'"

General Thomas McInerney (Lt Gen, US Air Force Ret, chair of the IPC Advisory Council), stated that "It would be outrageous for the U.S. military to shirk its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention by allowing the Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf to be dispersed throughout Iraq or repatriated to Iran. Adherence to international law by American forces is essential to ensuring that our own troops are treated consistently with their international legal rights. Dispersal would leave Iranian dissidents vulnerable to attacks by the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which has operatives in Iraq ready to kidnap Iranian dissidents and bring them to Iran for torture and execution. Repatriation would be a 'legal' way to accomplish the same objective of Tehran -- eliminating the main Iranian opposition."

Regarding the Iraqi Security Forces attack on Camp Ashraf, MG Paul Vallely (US Army Ret, IPC Advisory Council) said, "Bringing the United States in line with its international legal obligations requires ensuring that Iranian dissidents, who have 'protected persons' status, are not attacked again. Repatriation, dispersal, and continued attacks can only be avoided if the United States temporarily resumes its protective role at Camp Ashraf until there is a negotiated solution acceptable to the major players. If Washington continues to ponder while Tehran-inspired assaults against Ashraf continue, there will be a humanitarian disaster for which the U.S. Government may be held responsible."

R. Bruce McColm, President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies, IPC Board of Directors said, "The events following Iran's June 2009 Presidential election make clear that forcible elimination of political opponents takes priority over human rights reputation. If that were not enough, the violent attack by Iraqi Security Forces on the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) at Camp Ashraf, at the behest of Tehran, should dispel any expectation of humane treatment of repatriated MEK members. At the very least, it should make clear that MEK members have a legitimate fear of persecution if sent to Iran."

According to Professor Raymond Tanter, "During October 2008, an Iran Policy Committee delegation traveled to Iraq to conduct research, which I authored in a book, President Obama and Iraq, 2009. This field research provided interview evidence that confirmed inferences made on the basis of primary source documents, reported in an earlier IPC book I coauthored with IPC colleagues, Baghdad Ablaze. Virtually every Iraqi interviewed by the IPC pointed to the same antidote to Iranian regime infiltration of Iraq: Iranian dissident members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) based at Camp Ashraf, Iraq."

Prof. Tanter stated, "Iraqis and U.S. military personnel also credited the MEK with a key role in helping the formation of Sunni Awakening Councils. The MEK worked to reconcile Sunnis with U.S. forces and convinced many Sunnis to participate in Iraq's political process. The political impact of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq in Iraq extended beyond relations between Sunnis and the U.S. military to reconciliation among Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shiite Arabs. Without such MEK intervention, there is likely to be not only an explosion of Sunni assaults against U.S. Forces but also Shiite attacks against our forces using Iranian weapons, as is taking place in southern Iraq by Shiites."
Published by Mike Hitchen,
Putting principles before profits