InsideEmbassyRow: American supporters of a free Iran are demanding that President Obama honor U.S. promises to provide political refuge to Iranian dissidents crowded into a relocation camp in Iraq where they face daily threats against their lives.
By James Morrison
American supporters of a free Iran are demanding that President Obama honor U.S. promises to provide political refuge to Iranian dissidents crowded into a relocation camp in Iraq where they face daily threats against their lives.
The 3,400 dissidents who made up the armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq in exchange for U.S. guarantees to protect them and relocate them to the United States or other Western nations.
But all they got were “empty words, tragically flawed and broken promises,” Tom Ridge, a former secretary of Homeland Security, told a Capitol Hill forum on democracy and human rights in Iran earlier this month.
The Obama administration transferred the administration of Camp Ashfra, the dissidents’ stronghold in northern Iraq, to the Iraqi government in 2009, despite early signs that the Iraqis were developing close relations with Iran, which wants the dissidents extradited to face execution.
The dissidents were attacked several times at Camp Ashraf by Iraqi gunmen and forced to relocate to a smaller installation, Camp Liberty, in Baghdad.
“The rest of the world knows they are living in a concentration camp, and the rest of the world knows that even Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton promised that they would be safe and secure and that [the Obama administration] would expedite resettlement,” Mr. Ridge added.
“As the rest of the world knows, the United States of America has failed miserable to keep its word.”
Francis Townsend, a counter-terrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, blamed both Republicans and Democrats for breaking promises to the dissidents.
“The residents of Camp Liberty deserve justice, and they have been denied justice,” she said. “There have been promises made by multiple secretaries of state on both sides of the aisle, presidents from both sides of the aisle, across administrations.”
She noted that Mrs. Clinton in February 2012 endorsed the relocation of the dissidents as the “only viable and durable option that would secure the safety and security of the residents.”
The United States has yet to accept a single Iranian dissident.
David Phillips, a retired Army general who commanded the military police in Iraq and administered Camp Ashraf, denounced the deplorable conditions at the Baghdad relocation camp.
“The [terrorist] inmates at Guantanamo Bay have better living conditions that the people … being kept at Camp Liberty,” he said.
Alan Dershowitz, a renowned civil rights attorney and Harvard University law professor, urged congressional staffers at the forum to get their bosses to join a broad bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate that is threatening to cut aid to Iraq unless that government protects the dissidents.
“I know how influential you can be with your senators and congressmen if you become pitbulls, if you become people who say … this is a moral obligation, this is something we have to do,” he said.
Mr. Dershowitz called on Mr. Obama to relocate the dissidents to the United States.
“They would be great citizens,” he said. “They have a legal, they have a political and they have a moral right to be given asylum from the Iranian regime and its Iraqi henchmen.”