Outside View: U.S. State Department must show some spine on Iranian dissidents

By MURIEL TURNER, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  July 13, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LONDON, July 13 (UPI) -- The fate of 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq must not be a bargaining chip to appease the Iranian regime and their Iraqi agents.

Recently some media and U.S. State Department alike have adopted an incomprehensible path to simultaneously blame Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, members of the largest Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedin of Iran, for potential attack by Iraqi forces if they do not immediately relocate to Camp Liberty, which lacks the basic humanitarian needs, and attack their American supporters.

A U.S. Court of Appeals on June 1 called the action of State Department "egregious" when it turned a blind eye on an earlier verdict of the same court to review its decision on the designation of PMOI as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, who in May 2011 stated the secretary of State would make a decision within six months, has yet to respond why the State Department has not acted on this issue. Now dangerously enough, he suggests that delisting of the PMOI is somehow contingent upon their relocation to Camp Liberty.

Let's remind ourselves that the United States made a commitment in writing to every member of Camp Ashraf that they would be protected by the U.S. forces. To their credit, all American military commanders who were stationed in Camp Ashraf and tasked with this protection, did an excellent job until the United States decided to give the protection responsibilities to the Iraqis, better say to leave Iraq in Iranian mullahs' lap.

The residents of Camp Ashraf, despite having every right to remain in Ashraf until their final disposition, decided to go along the relocation to Liberty to reduce undue tensions and show goodwill upon the urging of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of Iranian Resistance.

This was subsequent to the fact that Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave personal assurances about their safety and security.

The residents kept their words as 2,000 -- two-thirds of the total number -- have already left Ashraf to Liberty in five convoys despite the fact that Liberty lacks the most basic needs, such as running water and electricity.

In return, all the Iranian dissidents have asked for is that their basic humanitarian and human rights needs be met, as agreed in a signed agreement by the Iraqi government and the United Nations.

In the meantime, the Iraqi government, a subservient of the Iranian regime, repeatedly violated the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding.

And where do the U.S. State Department and United Nations stand? One would expect them to stand by the victims and protest to the Iraq's egregious behavior.

Shockingly, the State Department and its officials who are fully aware about the political influence of Iran over Iraq and try to downplay it, for apparently no rational reason other than appeasing the brutal dictatorship in Iran, instead of showing spine in front of the Iraqi government and reminding them that it was due to American sacrifices that they are in power now and therefore they must comply with international obligations and commitments they made to the US, are putting pressure on defenseless Iranian dissidents to relocate to Liberty without their needs being met.

One has to explain the relationship between asking for water to be connected to Liberty and similar humanitarian demands as a condition to move, to Ambassador Benjamin's pressure that if they don't move their designation as an FTO may continue and this is well in the capacity and authority of the secretary of State. This is in spite of the fact that the federal court has twice found to the State Department's conduct unconstitutional and on June 1 the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gave Clinton a 4-month deadline to decide on the listing.

By its conduct, it appears the State Department has given absurdity a new meaning.

Let's hope the appeasers of the Iranian regime will not prevail in the State Department and politicization of our laws including the FTO designation that was meant to safeguard Americans inside or outside the country is not allowed to captivate humanity and common sense.


(Muriel Turner, Baroness Turner of Camden, was deputy speaker of the British House of Lords until 2008 and she is a ranking member of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.)


(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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