UPI: Picture this: The year is 2011. President Barack Obama has managed to stabilize the housing and financial market chaos, but an adversary armed with nuclear weapons has demanded the U.S. military immediately remove its last two combat brigades from Iraq or see them ripped to shreds by a phantom army of insurgents.
United Press International
By LORD CORBETT OF CASTLE VALE
UPI Outside View Commentator
LONDON, Nov. 26 (UPI) — Picture this: The year is 2011. President Barack Obama has managed to stabilize the housing and financial market chaos, but an adversary armed with nuclear weapons has demanded the U.S. military immediately remove its last two combat brigades from Iraq or see them ripped to shreds by a phantom army of insurgents.
Threats by the great foe's elite extra-territorial armed wing to target the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet in Manama and blow up U.S. interests in Riyadh, Amman, and the Horn of Africa risk sending oil prices through the roof and firing a global recession.
U.S. power in the Middle East has drastically diminished, and Washington's closest regional ally, Israel, is facing a surge of attacks by dominant Islamist radicals who have rooted out the moderate movements in Palestine and the Lebanon.
The new regional superpower is Iran.
The scariest part is that this scenario is not too hard to imagine. This could well be the course that the next administration treads, albeit unaware, by keeping the regime in Tehran unchecked over its nuclear defiance and renewed interference in Iraq.
There is another prospect that requires President George W. Bush to make the right call at the eleventh hour regarding Tehran's main nemesis.
Though no president could ever take the military option off the table, this cannot be the long-term solution, and further appeasement of the regime will only fuel the mullahs' assumption that brazenness will get them further concessions.
What the mullahs fear most is organized domestic upheaval, and the Iranian resistance spearheaded by the People's Mujahedin of Iran is coordinating its efforts to foment unrest on student campuses and at major factories.
The PMOI, which has lost tens of thousands of its members to the regime's executioners, is based at Camp Ashraf in Iraq's Diyala province and has managed to rally Iraqis of all sects and denominations to stand against Iranian intrusion.
Some 3 million Iraqi Shiites signed a declaration sponsored by the group in June calling for the closure of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. Though the PMOI is a Shiite movement, most Sunni parties in Iraq have forged close alliances with the group, believing it to be the strategic counterweight to Iran's export of fundamentalism to their fledgling democratic state.
But as the Iraqi Parliament votes this week on the Status of Forces Agreement governing the future presence of U.S. troops in their country, Iran has set its sights on its main opposition force in Camp Ashraf. Under overwhelming pressure from Tehran, the Iraqi government has asked the Bush administration to hand over protection of Ashraf to its forces.
This would violate international law, since PMOI members in Iraq are recognized as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention and International Humanitarian Law, and the Iraqi government in June issued a directive — again under Iranian pressure — ordering the group's expulsion, in violation of this status.
Although the U.S. State Department still defines the PMOI as a terrorist group, international law prohibits the transfer of "protected persons" to an authority that would seek to violate their rights. Clearly, from the moment U.S. forces stop guarding Ashraf, Tehran will direct its Revolutionary Guards Quds Force to carry out a flurry of terrorist attacks on the PMOI. It also will step up pressure on Baghdad to expel the group, tipping the balance of power in Iraq completely in Tehran's favor.
Time is running out. George Bush is still the U.S. president. He should use all the power vested in his office to guarantee continued U.S. protection for the PMOI in Ashraf, more so now that the European Court of Justice ruled in October that the European Union's terrorist tag on the group was "unlawful."
This could be the decision that ensures the likelihood of an eventual stable, democratic Iraq and an increasingly isolated regime next door overwhelmed with social dissent. Let that be the legacy of President Bush.
(Lord Corbett of Castle Vale is a former Labor whip in the House of Commons (1984-87) and chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (1999-2001). He is currently chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.)