Protective Measures Are Necessary to Ensure the Safety and Security of the Population of Camp Ashraf | Commentary
The United States is again party to a good news–bad news event in the Middle East. For years, freedom-loving people around the world worked together under the courageous leadership of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, using every tool at their disposal, to get the wrongful designation of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) as a terrorist group removed.
Finally, the “good guys” won, empowering the most powerful group outside Iran in favor of disposing of the current Iranian leadership and providing the freedom-loving people of Iran a chance for democracy. Unfortunately, the bad news is that there has been little time to celebrate that monumental victory because a potentially catastrophic event is unfolding at this moment!
Regrettably, our victory is far less sweet than it might have otherwise been, because the U.S. requirement for delisting the MEK involved the residents voluntary moving from Ashraf to Liberty. Our U.S. State Department, which orchestrated the move under the guise of the United Nations, quickly accepted the Iraqi name of Hurriya vice Liberty when it recognized that the place did not approximate any form of the word liberty. But, with both U.S. and the UN assurances for their safety, some 3,100 residents made that move to Camp Liberty in January of last year.
Now, let’s review the facts. The United States — yes, the United States, not the European Union, not the UN — at this point has made two guarantees to the MEK residents at Liberty and the 100 still at Camp Ashraf. First, in 1994, the United States guaranteed the protection of the residents when they agreed to disarm and secondly the United States promised they would be safe when they agreed to move from Camp Ashraf to the concentration camp-like facility called Camp Liberty. The U.S. also promised to work hard to ensure rapid resettlement from the hellhole known as Liberty to other countries, including the United States. The United States is clearly in breach of its agreements and international obligations, as well as written guarantees that it provided each resident in 2004 — to protect them until their final disposition.
As an individual who fought for 38 years to protect the human rights and also provide an opportunity for freedom in such places as Vietnam, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, it pains me to see my government turn its back and to display such indifference — and most of all, to ignore its commitment and its promises. That is not the American way.
And it’s not as if we don’t know that this is a catastrophe waiting to happen at the hands of the Iranian-controlled Maliki government in Iraq. The first rocket attack on Liberty, as we know, occurred last February and the latest occurred just a few weeks ago. But that’s not the full story. The sorry state of affairs at Liberty — lack of proper medical treatment, constant and continuous inhumane harassment at the hands of the Iraqis, preventing the delivery of foodstuffs, preventing the removal of sewage, and hundreds of other harassing techniques — showed what the Iraqi army and the Maliki government really stand for.
Unable to win wars, it is a government and an army that excels in harassing women, children and the infirm. The United States must quit passing the buck. Note Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement issued immediately after the rocket attack: “We remain absolute. The United States remains committed to assisting the government of Iraq and UNAMI and implementing the December 25, 2011, agreement to quickly relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya outside Iraq. We must find a permanent and long-term solution that insures their safety.”
Notice that he very quickly passed the blame to the United Nations, to UNAMI and to Iraq. But what about United States commitments and promises? Secretary Kerry, the buck stops with you and President Obama.
Let’s review. All residents who have been killed or injured in Camp Liberty had been living considerably safer at Camp Ashraf. And to date, the United States has accepted zero for resettlement. So much for leading from the front. It’s time for the United States to take action, lest we be guilty of contributing to a very significant humanitarian disaster. We must open our doors to these individuals and, as we promised, provide for the safety of the Ashraf and Liberty residents until we can to pressure an ineffective UN and UNAMI to expeditiously resettle them. To do otherwise is, at worst, to support a pending massacre, and, at best, to accept death by a 1,000 cuts. We must also continue to pressure the U.N. secretary general to get personally involved and not send in another lackey like the departing Martin Kobler.
The Obama administration needs to forego issuing Caspar Milquetoast comments like Secretary Kerry did and get tough with the Iraqis. Quit calling for the Iraqis to identify the terrorists and call a spade a spade. The Iraqis are either the terrorists or they support the terrorists. Either way, they must be held accountable for every action that takes place on their soil.
The U.S. promises and commitments are still as valid today as the day that they were made, and must be honored. Kerry and Obama must use America’s economic tool to get their attention — and not be afraid to use ultimatums. One thing we know about bullies is they understand either-or ultimatums.
Then, when our commitments have been fulfilled, we can get on with the real business of supporting the superb leadership of Madam Rajavi and her efforts to replace the tyrannical and theocratic leadership of Iran with a government based on the democratic principles she espouses. Then, and only then, can we declare victory.
General Hugh Shelton was the 14th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001.