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Obama shouldn't meet with Maliki

By AFZAL AFZALNIA, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Nov. 1, 2013 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

PLACENTIA, Calif., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- On Sept. 1 my brother was killed -- brutally murdered by masked gunmen under the command of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

I ask you, how would you feel if you lost a loved one and only two months later the person responsible for his death arrived as a guest at the White House?

That is what I am facing Friday, when Maliki is to be received by U.S. President Barack Obama in order to discuss the lasting friendship between their two countries.

I am not alone in being outraged. Indeed, hundreds, even thousands of people will look on with the same sense of revulsion and betrayal, for my brother was only one of 52 individuals killed in a merciless and unprovoked attack on Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.

Most of these people were shot in the head at close range. Some were wounded first and later executed while they lay bleeding. Many had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot dead.

There is an international community of individuals mourning these victims of the Camp Ashraf massacre. About 3,000 of them are their former neighbors and close relations, living at Camp Liberty outside of Baghdad and waiting, hoping desperately for someone to take notice of their plight and step forward to give them permanent refuge outside of the Iraqi borders.

I'm sure that most of these people are holding onto the dream that the United States will lead the way in supporting the former residents of Camp Ashraf. After all, it was the United States that gave Protected Persons Status to them during its occupation of Iraq.

Many U.S. servicemen worked closely with them and became personal friends with people like my brother.

But when the occupation ended, the United States removed its protection and left Ashraf residents defenseless and under the thumb of a dictator who would eventually kill 52 of their people in a single morning, as well as taking seven of them hostage, to be threatened with transfer to their even more brutally repressive enemy: the Iranian regime.

I thought that the United States' cold silence in the wake of my brother's murder was bad enough. But to welcome the architect of his killing and sit down for a pleasant, casually diplomatic discussion -- Obama may as well be dancing on my brother's grave.

I have no doubt that the friends and relatives of the other victims feel much the same way.

The soil has not yet settled on these 52 graves. Seven lives still hang in the balance. And this meeting with Maliki disrespects the memory of the dead while showing callous disregard for the lives of a repressed people.

That is why 45 bipartisan members of Congress and six senior senators wrote to Obama, urging him to raise the attack on Camp Ashraf with Maliki and reduce military assistance to Iraq until the seven hostages are released and the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.

I thought that it was bad enough when the U.S. government simply abandoned its obligations to my brother and the more than 3,000 other people then living at Camp Ashraf. Now it feels more like they are giving aid and comfort to those people's enemies.

The United States' silence somehow keeps growing deeper; its inaction is effectively becoming a source of support for tyrants in both Iraq and Iran. It also adds unheard-of new layers of pain to the experience of those who survive the victims of those tyrants.

We have already been betrayed by the United States and people have died and been deprived of liberty because of it.

How many more people will have to die before Obama, U.S. citizens and the international community decide to put serious political pressure on the people responsible?

As the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce, R-Calif., stressed, "Every effort should be made to determine who carried out this gruesome attack and to hold them accountable."

And I am glad he raised this issue with Maliki when he met him.

For the people at Camp Liberty there is precious little time before another attack claims more of their lives. And for the seven hostages being held in Baghdad there is no time at all.

President Obama must realize the consequences of his seemingly unconditional friendship with Maliki right away. He can still do so in time to cancel this disrespectful meeting and to make it clear that until Maliki takes steps to rectify the wrongs he has done, he will have no friend in the United States.

--

(Afzal Afzalnia is businessman and lives in Placentia, Calif. His brother Amir Hossein was killed by Iraqi forces on Sept. 1 at Camp Ashraf, 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.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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