Outside View: U.N. should press Iraq on Ashraf and Liberty

By TARSEM KING, UPI Outside View Commentator

LONDON, July 19 (UPI) -- Many eyes will be focused on the U.N. Security Council this week when it hears a report from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq Martin Kobler.

Of particular interest will be how he tries to explain away the ineffective job he has done regarding a group of Iranian dissidents who have been mistreated by the Iraqi government.


The situation involves the 3,400 members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran who have lived peacefully in Iraq since fleeing the mullahs' severe repression beginning early 1980s.

Thanks to an agreement with the United States in 2003, they survived at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, until their security was transferred to Iraq.

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And thanks to the bravery of the residents who withstood two brutal military strikes by the Iraqis, at the cost of 49 dead and hundreds wounded and thanks to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Iraq has been unable to disperse them or put them back into the hands of Nouri al-Maliki's patrons in Tehran.

But what seemed little a fair deal back in December has deteriorated into virtual imprisonment for these members of the Iranian Resistance.


Back in December the residents of Ashraf agreed to be transferred to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base closer to Baghdad, where supposedly the United Nations would monitor their treatment and begins the process of recognizing them as refugees for transfer to countries outside Iraq and Iran.

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Ambassador Kobler and Secretary Clinton gave personal assurances that all would be well if the PMOI members would only make the move. At the urging of Iran's Resistance leader Maryam Rajavi, they bit their lips and agreed to leave their homes for over quarter of century. So what has happened since January and how will Kobler justify it.

What has happened is that five convoys of 400 people each have made the journey to the misnamed Camp Liberty, trips that have taken many days when they should have taken hours. There, they found a small patch of land surrounded by walls, a virtual prison, no running water or electricity, no privacy, no freedom of movement, little sanitation.

Remember, these folks gave up life in Ashraf, a modern town they built over 25 years, worth around $500 million, where they had their own schools and shops, parks and hospitals -- indeed, a life. Now, they don't even have their basic needs.

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The remaining people at Ashraf, willing to relocate; they have given their commitment, say they won't move until certain minimums are obtained. All they want is a handful of very reasonable, minimum humanitarian demands. It is almost ludicrous that Maliki should refuse them and refuse to push Iraqis to stop trampling on their part of the deals.

So what are these demands, and why doesn't Kobler step in and get the situation resolved?

-- Transfer of three specially designed vehicles and six specially designed trailers for the disabled.

-- Connecting Liberty to Baghdad's water network. Alternatively, the residents should be permitted to hire Iraqi contractors to pump the water into Liberty from a nearby water canal and bring their own water purification system from Ashraf.

-- Permission for construction, including footpath, porches, canopies, ramps, special facilities for the disabled and green areas.

-- Transfer of all power generators currently in Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty. Any dispute about ownership of the generators can be resolved in the future, under U.N. supervision.

-- Transfer from Ashraf to Liberty of five forklifts crucial for daily displacement of heavy loads.

-- Transfer from Ashraf to Liberty of 50 passenger cars (this is an absolute necessity in the extremely hot weather for wounded patients and disabled residents.)


-- Allowing merchants or bidders access to Ashraf to negotiate and buy the movable properties as soon as possible and to make advanced payment and start making partial payments to the residents before the resumption of the relocation of the next convoy.

-- Start of negotiations between the residents and their financial representatives and the Iraqi Government regarding Ashraf's immovable assets and properties. At least 200 residents would remain at Ashraf to maintain the properties until they are all sold.

These conditions supposedly had been agreed to in the memorandum of understanding between the Maliki government and the United Nations late last year.

So Ambassador Kobler when will you see that these conditions are implemented?

We're waiting for answers. The U.N. Security Council session will be a proper place to demand from Iraq to carry out its commitments. The world will be watching.


(Tarsem King, Lord King of West Bromwich, is a ranking member of the 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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