UPI: Ever since the United Nations brokered a deal with the Iraqi government regarding the 3,400 Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, the situation has been one of give and take — the dissidents giving and the Iraqis taking.
By DAVID AMESS, UPI Outside View Commentator
LONDON, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Ever since the United Nations brokered a deal with the Iraqi government regarding the 3,400 Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, the situation has been one of give and take — the dissidents giving and the Iraqis taking.
The original plan had been to transfer the members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. Army base closer to Baghdad, where they would be processed by the U.N. refugee agency for transfer to other countries.
Despite misgivings, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, Maryam Rajavi, persuaded the Ashraf residents to start the move and more than two-thirds of them have done so.
But the Iraqis failed to keep their promise to have humanitarian facilities available — indeed, Liberty is a misnomer; the camp is more like a detention facility – and the United Nations has failed to process even one individual for refugee status and transfer.
At the same time, the U.S. State Department has used this stalemate to blackmail the PMOI: either move everyone to Camp Liberty or face renewal of its status on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. The State Department voiced such a veiled threat when the move to Liberty stalled because of the Iraqis’ failure to provide electricity, running water, sewage facilities and any semblance of decent living conditions.
Despite all of this, Rajavi, in her role as president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has gone the extra mile. She announced that as a goodwill gesture, a sixth convoy carrying 400 residents would leave Ashraf for Liberty Thursday.
How much more must the PMOI do before the United States lives up to its commitments?
Two issues are uppermost:
— A real effort must be made to resolve the remaining humanitarian issues at Liberty that affect the health and well-being of the residents, as well as their safety and security until they relocate to third countries outside of Iraq.
— Removing the FTO designation from the PMOI as implied by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Feb. 29, recognizing that the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit requires the secretary of state to make a determination regarding the FTO designation of the PMOI by Oct. 1.
The latter action should clear the logjam that has existed since the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, acting at the behest of his friends who rule in Tehran, took over supervision of Ashraf when U.S. troops pulled out.
In the ensuing time, there have been two armed attacks on the camp by Iraqi forces, causing the deaths of 49 residents and the wounding of a thousand more. Maliki’s excuse has been that the PMOI is a terrorist organization, as shown by the U.S. FTO listing.
Without that designation, Maliki can have no excuse for his treatment of the Ashraf-Liberty residents.
So, the path to a resolution of this situation is clear: The Iranian Resistance has done its part — and considerably more. It is time for the other players to come forward.
The United States should keep its word to see the move to Camp Liberty as a favorable gesture and move promptly to remove the PMOI from the FTO list, as well as work with the United Nations to assure humanitarian conditions at Camp Liberty.
The Iraqis should make conditions at Camp Liberty more livable, and the United Nations and United States should do everything necessary to make sure that this happens, and quickly, especially because new residents will be arriving soon and conditions will get worse unless something is done.
The United Nations should keep its word to assure humanitarian facilities for those at Camp Liberty, and should start — and then speed — processing of PMOI members for transfer outside Iraq.
And the European Union should start accepting these dissidents as refugees. Delisting by the United States should facilitate this and remove a major obstacle.
Once unencumbered by an FTO listing and out of the clutches of the mullahs’ puppets in Baghdad, the Iranian Resistance will be able to work harder to free their homeland.
Secretary Clinton: Pick up the pen and sign the order for delisting.
(David Amess, a Conservative member of Parliament for the constituency of Southend West, is a leading 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.)