New York Daily News – By Wes Martin: As the first colonel to command Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) is located, I should like to think I can speak with some authority about this deeply misunderstood organization now at the center of a fierce debate in Washington.
New York Daily News
BY WES MARTIN
As the first colonel to command Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) is located, I should like to think I can speak with some authority about this deeply misunderstood organization now at the center of a fierce debate in Washington.
The MEK is the largest component of the National Council of the Resistance to Iran (NCRI), Iran’s parliament in exile. They established several bases inside Iraq in 1986, when Iraq was locked in a war with Iran.
Today, as Iraq grows ever closer with Iran, the MEK is being targeted for annihilation in its temporary Iraqi home at Camp Ashraf.
The marginalization and murder of MEK members defies American values and interests – but far too little has been done about it.
The group was previously thrown to the wolves by the Clinton administration, which placed the MEK on the State Department’s terrorist list at Iran’s request in a futile effort at rapprochement in the late 1990s. Not only was a grave injustice done to the democratic opposition to Tehran, but America’s reward for appeasement has been Iran’s sprint toward nuclear weapons, attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and its crushing of the human rights of its people.
The MEK surrendered to the U.S. military in 2003 without firing a shot, turned over all its weapons, accepted consolidation at Camp Ashraf and fulfilled every requirement placed on it. The MEK has even provided reliable intelligence to the U.S concerning Iran’s nuclear program and interference in Iraq.
What did the MEK get in return? Nothing we should be proud of. As part of its drawdown, the U.S. turned over the protection of Ashraf to the Iraqi government in January 2009. Twice since then, the Iraqi military has attacked the camp, killing or wounding hundreds. Today, the 3,400 remaining people in Camp Ashraf live in constant fear.
These are the facts.
With the State Department about to announce a decision on whether or not to remove the MEK from its terror list, anti-MEK “experts” are popping up everywhere in the American media to discredit the group. These “experts” range from the sister of a Clinton administration State Department official who admitted spending but hours analyzing the group, to Iranian-Americans who have consistently and publicly defended the Iranian regime. Their claims range from the MEK being a Marxist/Leninist Islamic extremist organization to it being a dangerous cult in which women are automatons, marriage is prohibited and members are prevented from leaving. They claim the group has no support inside Iran or harbors terrorist ambitions.
These “experts” are maligning a group I have come to know up close and personally. Firstly, this is no Marxist cult. The MEK was founded on democratic principles, including equality between government and governed, between men and women and among various religions and races. The MEK also believes the clergy should not have total control over interpretation of the Koran, nor should the clerics have total control over their congregations. Contrary to a recent claim by Elizabeth Rubin, sister of Jamie Rubin, a former spokesman for the State Department, the MEK promotes the empowerment of women.
Concerning the ability of members to depart the organization: At Ashraf I had responsibility for almost 200 people who left for Kurdistan. As for the claim that the group has no support in Iran, I ask the experts, where was I getting the intercepted sensitive intelligence that a State Department officer was releasing to a well-known Iranian sympathizer within the Iraqi government?
My colleagues and I had unfettered access to Ashraf. As a matter of fact, the only time Americans have been denied access to Ashraf was in 2011, when the Iraqi government refused to allow visitation by a congressional delegation. I know for a fact the MEK does not have weapons. Just search for “Ashraf” on YouTube to see horrific videos of attacks on the camp by the Iraqi Army in 2009 and 2011, in which MEK members armed only with courage rescued their fallen comrades.
A decision by the State Department that is based on the facts on the ground will result in the MEK being removed from its terrorist list and added to America’s kit bag in managing its greatest strategic threat: the Iranian regime. Any decision to the contrary is to the benefit only of this repressive theocracy and its allies.
Martin, who retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army, served as the senior antiterrorism/force protection officer for all coalition forces in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.