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Outside View: Will Obama live up to his Nobel Prize qualifications?

By TARSEM KING, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Dec. 12, 2011 at 8:17 AM
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LONDON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to visit U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. He also is wanted for questioning by Spanish courts for crimes that have taken place at Camp Ashraf, home to 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq, in July 2009 and April 2011under his orders. These courts are waiting for his term of office to end to summon him.

Last week in Brussels, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a presidential candidate and chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the time Obama was elected, challenged Obama to live up to the qualifications of the Nobel Peace Prize he was given the first year he was in office.

He said the president had till the end of December to show the world he was worthy of that Nobel Prize. He also added: "Mr. President, we do have a responsibility. We gave our word to Ashraf residents and we gave it in writing. We have a responsibility. It is a legal responsibility. I do not want my country to be complicit in the carrying out of war crimes, as the Dutch found out in Srebrenica."

In that same conference Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University, said, "The potential war criminals who run the Iranian regime are so anxious to see Camp Ashraf shut down because they are planning the mass killing of the largest concentration of witnesses to their crimes in the world today, those who are living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

"If the president of the U.S. does not demand a change in the Iraqi government's commitment to close the camp, his silence will be taken as acquiescence, and that is so dangerous, silent acquiescence."

As the unworkable deadline set by Maliki to avoid questions about the massacre on April 8, 2011, at Ashraf nears the fingers are more and more pointed to the one man that can make the difference. After all, Maliki is a child of America's war in Iraq. If it was not for American lives and finances, Maliki would not be in the position he is in today.

Obama must make it abundantly clear to Maliki during their meeting that America didn't sacrifice all it has so that he could show this blatant disregard for international law.

Almost all the other world leaders have done so one way or the other. This week in the U.N. Security Council meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressly filed concern over the situation and asked the Iraqi government to set aside the unworkable deadline of Dec. 31 and to let the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees complete its work. Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs also voiced concern and asked Iraq to let the UNHCR carry out its mandate.

These demands on their own carry little weight. It is well within America's remit and is in fact its obligation to make sure a government which it created does not carry out war crimes. The world is again moving towards a predictable massacre, a crime against humanity like those in Rwanda and Srebrenica. Yet those leaders who can and must do what is necessary to stop it are doing nothing.

In a world summit in Berlin in July 2008, Ban regarding Responsibility to Protect said: "It would be neither sound morality, nor wise policy, to limit the world's options to watching the slaughter of innocents or to send in the marines. The magnitude of these four crimes and violations demands early, preventive steps -- and these steps should require neither unanimity in the Security Council nor pictures of unfolding atrocities that shock the conscience of the world."

"… We need to enhance U.N. early warning mechanisms, integrating the system's multiple channels of information and assessment. We need to strengthen the capacities of states to resist taking the path to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity", he added.

Where else could these measures be applied more appropriately than in the case of Camp Ashraf?

So the responsibility lies upon all. We have only a few weeks to make use of all these tools described by the secretary-general to prevent another Srebrenica from unfolding.

Time is running out and of course those in high office bear a greater share of the burden.

Our role is to constantly and continuously remind them of their responsibilities. It is in the end, up to them to act responsibly. Otherwise they could be accused of complicity in yet another preventable crime against humanity.

Let us hope this time world leaders live up to their collective responsibility and prevent another slaughter in Ashraf. Obama is top on the list of those who would be held accountable should such genocide occur.

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(Lord Tarsem King of West Bromwich is a member of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom."

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(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.)

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