HERNDON, Va., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- In April 1940, the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin ordered the massacre of Poland's military officer corps and intelligentsia. Taken out into the woods and gunned down, thousands of Poles lost their lives in the Katyn Forest Massacre.
Stalin targeted these Poles in particular as he said they constituted the biggest threat to his brutal rule. As military leaders and members of Poland's brain trust, they would be the ones questioning and confronting his authority.
Seventy-one years later, another Katyn Forest Massacre may be only weeks away from occurring as a Dec. 31, 2011, deadline fast approaches.
The victims this time are Iranians, also representing their country's intelligentsia, who, as such, pose a major threat to the brutal rule of Tehran's mullahs. While not located in Iran but in Iraq, they have put themselves in danger because they relied on a guarantee of U.S. protection.
In exchange for the guarantee made during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, these anti-mullah Iranians surrendered their weapons and freedom. Confined to Iraq's Camp Ashraf near Iran's border, their numbers have dwindled -- the result of unprovoked attacks by an Iraqi army doing Tehran's bidding.
During these attacks, U.S. forces guaranteeing their protection were prohibited by Baghdad from doing so. With the end of year withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, there should be little doubt the fate awaiting Ashraf's residents.
The Iranians at Camp Ashraf are members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, known by the initials PMOI or MEK. This group has had a long history of opposition to Iran's theocracy ever since the mullahs came to power in 1979. For their opposition, they have paid dearly as thousands died when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered they be gunned down during street demonstrations.
MEK relocated to France but when Iran applied pressure against Paris, the group was forced to leave. Invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein, MEK built Camp Ashraf, from where it conducted military operations against Iran.
The group was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States n 1997 after Tehran enticed Washington to do so in exchange for the promise (later broken) to improve relations with Washington.
The United Kingdom and European Union followed the U.S. example by also declaring MEK an FTO. The United Kingdom and European Union later came to realize the designation was unwarranted and delisted MEK.
The United States, however, has failed to do so -- even after being ordered by a U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider the issue and after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a call from 100 bipartisan members of Congress urging her to act.
The MEK's FTO status is what Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki argues justifies his actions, on two previous occasions, in attacking Camp Ashraf, killing dozens of unarmed residents.
Not wanting to fight U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, MEK surrendered their arms. By doing so, the U.S. military had the obligation as an occupying force under the Geneva Conventions to protect MEK. But as Shiite-dominated Iran maneuvered to gain influence over Shiite-dominated Iraq, Baghdad has become an Iranian puppet state. In this capacity, the mullahs -- fearing an unleashed MEK -- have been putting pressure on Baghdad to destroy the group.
Dozens of former high-level U.S. government and military officials have spoken out in support of MEK, encouraging the Obama administration to remove them from the FTO list. A former U.S. military commander once responsible for protecting Camp Ashraf has pleaded the United States to not turn its back on MEK.
Revoking MEK's FTO status is just one of several non-military actions U.S. President Barack Obama could be taking to send the message to Tehran we will no longer roll over in the face of Iranian aggression. Others include sanctions against Tehran's central bank which, again, Obama has refused to do even in the wake of a 100-0 U.S. Senate vote that tougher sanctions be enforced.
As our allies move into action, the United States sits by idly. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said last week, "Canada encourages the Iraqi government to extend the closure deadline to allow remaining residents sufficient time to take the required steps to seek asylum and to allow the United Nations Human Rights Council to consider and process applications."
The EU has appealed to Baghdad to delay closing Ashraf at year's end and to its member states to accept relocation of 3,400 MEK members.
In recognition that Baghdad's efforts to close Camp Ashraf and relocate its residents elsewhere in the country is simply a prelude to paving the way for MEK's extermination, over a million Iraqi citizens have signed a petition urging the United Nations to take measures to prevent this from happening. Some 94 members of Iraq's National Assembly, joined by senior officials including former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and current speaker of the Parliament, a vice president and a deputy prime minister, have made a similar appeal to Maliki. Even as Iraqi citizens act to protect MEK, Obama does not.
Last week U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Maliki in Baghdad. Among the issues discussed was the agenda for the prime minister's Dec. 12 visit to Washington to meet with Obama. While that agenda has yet to be released, it is critical that the president use this last opportunity to convey a very clear message to Maliki that the United States will not tolerate any further aggression against MEK under the guise of closing Ashraf or relocating its residents. Failing to do so will give Maliki a green light to continue doing Iran's bidding in eradicating MEK.
World War II witnessed major atrocities such as the Katyn Forest Massacre and the Holocaust. Lack of knowledge as to what was going on at the time prevented the United States from taking action to stop the killing. If and when the MEK holocaust occurs, the United States will be unable to make the same claim.
(James. G. Zumwalt, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who heads consulting firm Admiral Zumwalt and Consultants, Inc. He has published many articles in various publications and is author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)