Outside View: What is the right decision for Iranian dissidents?

By KENT OLSSON, UPI Outside View Commentator

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 7 (UPI) -- While the governments of Iraq and Iran grow closer and closer politically, several thousand Iranian dissidents in Iraq grow more fearful of their futures. And with good cause.

Because the United States continues to stall in removing the terrorist designation from these dissidents -- the People's Mujahedin of Iran -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki uses this label as justification for oppressing the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty.


He even has the effrontery to discuss their situation with the mullahs in Tehran. How dare him!

Adding to the problem is the role of the United Nations. According to Makili's security adviser, "Mr. Martin Kobler, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Iraq, has talked in details with Iraqi and Iranian parties through the Iranian Embassy or other channels communicating with Iran in order to provide the requirements for implementation of the understanding which has been agreed on between him and Iraq to close Camp Ashraf and put an end to the presence of this organization on Iraqi territory. Talks included the mechanisms and Iran's role in what has to be done to solve this matter."


Why is Kobler talking to Iran in the first place and what role does Iran have in what should be a matter between Iraq, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States?

Maliki has been doing Tehran's bidding and it took last-minute action by the United Nations and United States to have them agree to move from Ashraf, north of Baghdad, to Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport.

But the move, intended to be for a short stay while the dissidents are being processed by the U.N. refugee agency prior to transfer to third countries, has been anything but smooth.

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At Liberty, they suffer intolerable conditions, lack of freedom and constant monitoring. Even before arriving, each group of 400 has been harassed, deprived of their belongings and treated harshly.

And not a single one has left Liberty, though more arrive regularly to greater overcrowding and a prison-like setting.

What a misnomer is the name "Liberty."

The stumbling block is the entire equation is the terrorist listing of the PMOI. It gives Maliki a pretence to be fighting "terrorism" when he is really just doing Tehran's dirty work.

It's ironic that the listing was first issued in a failed attempt to appease the mullahs. Yet, it continues almost 10 years after the PMOI turned over its weapons to U.S. forces and accepted American protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention.


That was fine as long as U.S. troops remained in Iraq but when they left Maliki had a free hand to do the mullahs' bidding.

Ironically, in recent weeks, the United States has begun to establish friendly relations with the oppressive government of Myanmar because that country's military leaders made significant moves toward democracy.

Yet, even though every single PMOI member was screened by U.S. forces in 2003 and not a terrorist was found -- and even though the U.S. commanders who were responsible for Camp Ashraf have attested to the residents' lack of any terroristic beliefs -- the U.S. State Department still has not acted on court decisions urging it to remove the PMOI from the terror list.

The European Union and United Kingdom took such action years ago.

I still have trouble understanding the delay. Dozens of American leaders -- military, political, diplomatic, human rights activists -- representing the whole spectrum of the country's bipartisan framework, support the PMOI's efforts to be delisted, sometimes at great personal risk. They have been attacked by an anonymous few who for reasons I cannot fathom; still see a benefit to maintaining them on the list.

Of course, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can avoid that by acting now to delist the PMOI. It's an action I urge her to take now. It is the right strategic decision and the one that could save lives of innocent Iranian dissidents.



(Kent Olsson served in the Swedish Parliament from 1991-2010. During his tenure, he was a member of Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Human Being of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He is also a was former vice president of Nordic Council.)


(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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