Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has found
himself sandwiched between the demands of an influential neighbor, Iran, and the
presence of a large occupation force of mostly U.S. soldiers, assured Iranian
leaders during a recent visit to Tehran that a "solution acceptable to all
parties" was imminent to the contentious issue of an Iranian rebel camp on Iraqi
The MKO has been
listed by both the United States and the European Union as a
Camp Ashraf, located north of Baghdad and close to the Iranian border, houses
some 3,500 rebels belonging to the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), an
Iranian opposition group.
On December 21, an Iraqi government representative traveled to the camp to tell
its residents that the camp will be disbanded and that they "may go to any
country of their choice."
Iraq "is responsible for their security, and it continues to implement its plans
to shut down the camp and to either deport its population to their own country
or to a third country," according to a statement issued by Iraqi national
security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i after that visit. "Remaining in Iraq is not
an option for them."
Founded in 1965 to fight the Shah's regime with terror attacks, the MKO soon
turned against the Islamic regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s and its
members were expelled from Iran after a crackdown. They settled in Iraq, mostly
in Camp Ashraf, and were supported and used by former Iraqi dictator Saddam
Hussein in his 1980-88 war against Iran.
That controversial alliance with Hussein made the
rebel group extremely unpopular with other Iranian opposition groups. The MKO
has been listed by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist
After the overthrow of Hussein in 2003, U.S. forces disarmed the MKO rebels but
stopped short of disbanding the camp, putting it instead under military
protection. Some analysts have suggested that Washington views the MKO as a
source of intelligence and leverage against Iran.
When U.S. troops start gradually withdrawing from
the country in accordance with a security pact signed between Washington and
Baghdad, the protection of Camp Ashraf will be turned over to Iraq. News
agencies report that the Bulgarian mission charged with guarding the camp will
end on March 31.
Tehran has been pressuring the Iraqi government to
extradite the rebels, but organizations such as Amnesty International have urged
Baghdad against any forcible returns, believing the rebels could face execution
The White House said last week that it has received
written assurances from the Iraqi government that "no one will be forcibly
transferred to a country where they fear persecution."
Concerned About Consequences
In November, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the U.S. and Iraqi
governments not to extradite the camp's residents to Iran. Dorothy Krimitsas, a
spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told RFE/RL's
Radio Farda last week that ICRC representatives visit the camp regularly.
Krimitsas said camp residents are concerned about
the possible consequences of the security takeover by Iraq, adding that the
United States and Iraq are responsible for the lives of those living in Camp
Nobody doubts that the decision to disband the camp will be implemented,
probably by the end of March. Some camp residents may voluntarily decide to
return to Iran, but most of them are expected to seek political asylum in
Third countries are hardly likely to grant asylum to
more than 3,000 former members of a terrorist organization within the space of
three months, however. There have been no reports of any serious efforts to
accommodate them temporarily until their asylum requests are processed.
Tehran might welcome that failure as a pretext to
"welcome" more former fighters back home.
In any event, Tehran would prefer to see the camp closed and its 3,500 rebels
stamped as terrorists removed from its immediate neighborhood.
Either way, the dispersal of its members across the
globe will be a devastating blow to the MKO, which once claimed to be Iran's
"best-organized armed opposition" group, but which will now have more marginal
Abbas Djavadi is associate director of broadcasting for RFE/RL. The views
expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect
those of RFE/RL.
Acts of War
By Scott Ritter, TruthDig.com
The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer
dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund
activities that result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian
property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation's sovereignty
would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were
being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions that took the lives of
Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and
livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad
in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are
supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran
accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to
justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just
a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of
terror in the world today.
Iran: Exiled Armed Group Abuses Dissident Members; Opposition Group Seeks
Recognition and Support in Western Capitals
(Paris, May 19, 2005) -- An armed Iranian opposition group in
exile, the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, has subjected dissident members to
torture and prolonged solitary confinement,
Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 28-page report,
"No Exit: Human
Rights Abuses Inside the MKO Camps," details how dissident
members of the shadowy Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) were tortured,
beaten and held in solitary confinement for years at military camps in Iraq
after they criticized the group's policies and undemocratic practices.
Iran Interlink: Iran
Interlink has been established as a point of contact for families and friends of
members of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (aka MKO, MEK, PMOI, NCR, NCRI, NLA,
MISS) which is now based in Iraq. Among its aims is "to inform as widely as
possible about the real nature of the Iranian Mojahedin Khalq cult and to act as
a pressure group in this regard."
Copyright (c) 2008 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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