Around midnight Saturday, several battalions of the Iraqi military and special SWAT forces, acting on orders directly from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, stormed the camp under cover of darkness. Anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were fired into the sleeping quarters of the refugee camp and fleeing residents were then machine-gunned.
So far, 51 deaths and dozens of severe injuries have been reported. At least five residents, including one woman, were handcuffed and summarily executed by being shot in the back of the head. Injured and other surviving residents have been kidnapped.
The systematic massacre continued into Sunday for many hours and, despite repeated pleas for the United Nations or United States to intervene, there has been complete silence and inactivity from both.
This most recent massacre at Ashraf was as avoidable as it was predictable. Many members of Parliament, congressmen, senators and leading judicial and military figures in Europe and the United States have warned for months that a massacre was imminent. One hundred civilian residents had remained in Ashraf following the involuntary resettlement of more than 3,000 refugees to a tiny corner of a former U.S. military base called Camp Liberty near Baghdad Airport.
The refugees, including many women, are Iranian dissidents, hated by the fascist mullah regime in Tehran. They were encouraged to leave Ashraf, their home for more than 30 years, on a pledge from the United Nations and United States that they would be quickly resettled to safe third countries.
They have now been incarcerated in appalling conditions described by one U.N. working group as "prison-like" for more than two years, while only a handful of residents have been successfully resettled.
Meanwhile, under the agreement of the United Nations and United States, 100 residents remained behind in Camp Ashraf to negotiate the safe disposal of their movable and fixed properties valued at many millions of dollars. Lawyers employed by the Ashraf residents to negotiate the sale of their properties were threatened by the Iraqi regime and scared off, while Maliki, acting on the instructions of his sponsors in Tehran, cut off supplies of water, food and electricity to the camp in an attempt to oust the remaining residents and loot their belongings.
Late last week, intelligence reports from inside Iran made clear that the mullahs saw the Syrian crisis and the West's ineffectiveness as ideal cover for a brutal strike. Despite warnings to U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry and others of the inevitability of an attack, no action was taken to protect the unarmed men and women in Ashraf, who have now forfeited their lives.
Having achieved their objectives in Ashraf while the West continues to bicker and dither over the crisis in Syria, we can now expect similar pre-emptive action against the 3,000 residents of Camp Liberty. Despite being under the supposed protection of the United Nations, these refugees have twice suffered vicious mortar attacks leading to more than 10 deaths. Kerry has also stressed that the Iranian regime is behind these attacks.
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy leader Catherine Ashton and U.S. President Barack Obama wring their hands in feeble impotence, the killing of the innocent will continue apace.
Tehran and Baghdad are both supporters of the brutal Assad regime in Syria and they must be rubbing their hands together in glee that the West can simply ignore the gassing of more than 1,400 people in Damascus and the scorching of school children with napalm in Aleppo.
What perfect cover for their own vicious assault on Ashraf.
To ignore this criminal and barbaric attack on Ashraf will be to give the green light for a full-scale massacre at Camp Liberty.
The Ashraf agony could have been avoided if the west had heeded the warnings. The liquidation of Liberty will follow unless we hold Maliki and his Iranian sponsors to account now.
(Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro Member of Parliament for Scotland and president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq.)
(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.)