Ironic that Egypt’s pro-democracy demonstrators fought and freed a nation from a brutal dictator in 18 Days, yet in just 1 less day’s length 3,400 people in Camp Ashraf may be condemned to die in the middle of the Iraqi desert because of apathy and inaction.
These 3,400 have been the subject of multiple European Parliament, UK Parliament, US joint Congressional and UN resolutions. Indeed there has been a global outcry for their recognition as a refugee camp subject to the Geneva Convention demands that the host nation protect them, yet, ironically, they will likely finally get the media coverage they have lacked because of genocide.
Located 60 miles inside the Iraqi border with Iran and 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, the camp has long been an expensive inconvenience to the cash-strapped regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. In an effort to suppress an internal uprising of those loyal to Iran’s Shiite mullahs, Maliki has gotten into bed with the Iranian regime to close the camp and eliminate Iranian opposition. In return Iran will help Maliki stay in power and prevent civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq.
Despite multiple vicious Iranian sponsored cross-border attacks of the Camp leaving tens dead and hundreds injured, the UN Security Council is just now meeting to discuss Camp Ashraf? Why are there not blue helmeted, UN peace-keeping troops there ringing and protecting the residents of this camp? Why are Iraqi and Iranian police forces allowed to menacingly encircle a refugee camp?
And why is it only within the last 60 days have there been serious negotiations about extending the Maliki government’s 31 December deadline for camp closure (in violation of international law)? Where were they during this past year when numerous UN and Parliamentary committees met to demand that Camp Ashraf and its residents be protected?
Because it all was a series of empty, meaningless words.
Because the Camp is home to residents loyal to the MEK/PMOI it has been a political football through four US Administrations. The US refuses to remove the MEK/PMOI from their terror watch list despite UK and EU list removal years earlier. They were placed on the list in ’97 under questionable circumstances by then US President Bill Clinton. His Administration was so eager to have better relations with the Iranian regime, he traded the Camp’s residents’ lives for better relations with an incoming regime sending ‘moderate’ signals (whilst pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme…). With his wife as President Obama’s Secretary of State, a promised decision on removal due last September, remains unfulfilled. Now, by doing nothing and letting the clock run out, the Camp and the terrorist branding issue will simply disappear and no decision will be needed.
And it works because media attention is always focused elsewhere. Even with furious activity due to the desperation of the situation, no one has the political will to face the situation head-on because of the region’s delicate diplomacy.
President Barack Obama is a poker player. He has shoved US chips all-in on hopes the previous Administration’s Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) and faith in Maliki (with whom he meets later today in the White House), will keep Iraq free of its covetous, radical neighbour.
If it all goes horribly wrong, Obama can blame the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and be the hero because he brought 100,000+ US troops home for the holidays. Yet it is precisely those US troops who protected the Camp until January 1st of this year when the Bush SoFA ordered them back to their bases. Shortly thereafter, vicious attacks by Iraqi troops backed by Iranian Q’od forces led to injuries and death, restrictions on medical treatment, the installation of 200 loudspeaker towers bombarding the camp with propaganda messages and further isolation of a group of refugees living there for more than two decades.
In the US’s race to move military personnel and equipment out of Iraq, the camp will not receive protection from them. So despite repeated assurances by Administration officials they will be protected, it seems the equally grim choices are they will either die on the spot or be removed and ‘disappeared.’
This (and previous) Administrations view them as acceptable collateral damage. Lives will continue to be lost in Iraq as a result of sectarian violence and, as the photos accompanying this article show, Iraqi and Iranian forces are already amassed on the boundaries of Camp Ashraf. So they are content to run out the clock.
And their covering story? Those in the Camp were terrorists, the ultimate US Right Wing nut job talking point, especially in an election year! And FOX News, The Times and Wall Street Journal will all gladly amplify that line and diminish the needless loss of life or imprisonment of camp residents as justified.
After covering this story for three years… the people of Camp Ashraf like 14-yr-old Shaghayegh (pictured at right), regardless of their politics, are sitting ducks. People of conscience could, if they chose to, do something about this, but they all have other priorities.