U.S. supports plan to relocate terror group
Banners against the Iranian regime are seen at Camp Ashraf as Iraqi special security forces stand guard outside the camp.
December 19th, 2011
09:52 PM ET

U.S. supports plan to relocate terror group

By Jamie Crawford

The Obama administration "welcomes" a United Nations-led effort in Iraq to relocate a group on the State Department terrorism list, before an end-of-the-year deadline that could see heavy violence and a large humanitarian disaster unfold, senior administration officials said Monday.

The Iraqi government has said it will close Camp Ashraf - the home of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK - by December 31, without offering clear assurances the refugees will be protected against attacks by Iraqi forces, or reprisals from neighboring Iran. MEK has been on the U.S. terrorism list since 1997 because of the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s, and an attempted attack against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992.

The administration is supporting a plan led by Ambassador Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, that would allow for a peaceful transfer of the approximately 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf to a new facility in Iraq, one official said. The plan would also work to repatriate MEK members to Iran who go "voluntarily," or resettle to third countries under the auspices of the U.N., the official said.

"The good news here is that in the past two weeks, Ambassador Kobler and the Iraqi government have made significant progress on this plan," the official told reporter at a briefing. That official and another senior administration official declined to be named due to the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations between the U.N., the Iraqi government, and the MEK.

Under the plan being negotiated, a single "temporary relocation" facility for people now at Camp Ashraf would be established near the Baghdad International Airport, the official said, with that location in "an accessible, not inaccessible part of the country."

The plan would be administered by the Iraqi government. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees would process the MEK residents for refugee status, with the U.N. monitoring the entire process from beginning to end. The relocation facility would remain open until all residents are eventually relocated the official said.

"It will not in effect be an MEK-run facility, this is an Iraqi facility," the official said, while stressing there would be U.N. monitors present to assure the facility does "not exist in the dark."

A second administration official described the facility as one with a good deal of "infrastructure," and at a site that is "well known" to the United States. Neither official would confirm or deny whether the proposed facility is a former U.S. military base that was handed over to the Iraqi government when U.S. forces withdrew from the country.

Camp Ashraf was established in 1986 after Saddam Hussein invited members of the MEK to relocate to Iraq in an effort to undermine the Iranian government, which was at war with Iraq.

Up until "recent days," the administration official said the MEK had not engaged in a meaningful way with the government of Iraq and the U.N. in order to devise a way forward for the closure of Camp Ashraf.

"The Iraqi government has been constructive, and if they keep working with Ambassador Kolber as they have, that's quite good," the first official said. "The MEK having just recently engaged, needs to get in all the way in a constructive fashion," the official said adding the United States continues to support Kolber's efforts.

If the plan is implemented, the United States and Europe "will have to do whatever we can do within our laws to look at individuals whom the (U.N. high commissioner for refugees) has made eligible for refugee status, and we will have to consider what we can do to take them," working within U.S. immigration laws, the official said. That aspect of the plan will be tough to reconcile as the United States has been unable to definitively determine the entire makeup of Camp Ashraf, saying some residents are not MEK members, but probably came to the camp under different circumstances.

The official noted that although MEK is on the U.S. terrorist list, "we can look at individual refugee cases on an individual basis," as a matter of U.S. law.

The State Department is in the process of determining whether to remove MEK from the terror list. When asked for an update to that decision, both administration officials would only describe the process as "ongoing."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has close ties to Iran, has opposed MEK's presence in Iraq.

MEK has said Iraqi forces staged multiple attacks on Camp Ashraf earlier this year, killing nearly 50 people. Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the attack as a "massacre."

Since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf "noncombatants" and "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions. A United Nations commission on refugees has described those at Camp Ashraf as "formal asylum seekers" against persecution by the regime in Iran.

U.S. forces had handed security of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government before the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq last week.

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Filed under: Iran • Iraq • State Department • Terrorism
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Habib T

    The title of this Article is completely wrong and as a journalist you shouldn't have done this..

    When you say "Terror group" you mark it as a terrorist group while the Columbia District court in DC as well as UK & EU have taken them off the black list and the State Department knows exactly that the PMOI/MEK is NOT a terrorist group.

    Secondly something that the State Department officials clearly do forget that their statement of "the MEK not being engaged meaningful" is an utter disgrace!!! Can you tell us why it is that Camp Ashraf has been attacked 2 times and 47 killed and over a thousand injured (1/3 of the camps population) while the first time the American troops were there and WATCHED the attack AND second time they pulled away 6 hours before the attack?!! So because the MEK wants to have guaranteed security for their relocation is not meaningful???? Your a bunch of ******

    What ever has been achieved so far with these negotiations is thanks to the people of Ashraf themselves, they have been imazingly flexible, I would have NOT moved away knowing that they have lived there for 25 years, given up their security arms, been attacked twice, friendly with the people, close to Iran, etc.. The fact they have already accepted to go out you should be happy and give them all their demands!!

    IF ANY BLOOD will be shed this time or anything happens to them and you give them no security , we (Iranians) will bring you (state department officials) ALL to court and hold you accountable!! Not only us but majority of Congress and Senate will do the same and you will regret EVER to talk this way to the MEK.

    Shame of the US's Foreign Policy that while the MEK is a democratic movement has to be put in such a position while you should all be afraid of the Iranian regime and it's proxies. You won't be able to stop them. The MEK can.

    December 21, 2011 at 5:52 am | Reply
  2. michaelfury

    http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/memory-against-forgetting/

    December 20, 2011 at 8:17 am | Reply
  3. Jan i Norge

    People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) is a terrorist group. The huge lobbying effort in the U.S. to assist this militant sociopath-ic community is absurd and reveals the true power in Washington: money. Let the Iraqi's deal with the MEK as they wish, as if they were their own citizens, as they fought with them, on S. Hussein's side in the Iraq-Iran war.

    December 20, 2011 at 6:15 am | Reply
  4. ali

    Regime Change in Iran

    While Iran’s nuclear program is in development, and Iranian regime attacking foreign embassies and Ahmadinejad in the U.N. general assembly, called 9/11 terrorist acts mysterious, and said the U.S. used it as a pretext to attack Iraq and Afghanistan, also he repeated comments casting doubt on the origins of the Holocaust.
    On July 26, 2011 U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is nominated to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that “Iran was working toward a massive attack to force the American military out of Iraq. Dempsey cited the bombing by the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah in 1983 in which 241 Marines were killed.” By a truck loaded with explosives blew up in front of the American Embassy in Beirut. When on November4, 1986 the president of Iran to be Rafsanjani said the blow the U.S. received in Lebanon “is attributed to us and it should be.” Five years later, on July20, 1991 the former Revolutionary Guards Corps Minister, Mohsen Rafiqdoust, admitted, “The TNT and ideology (for the Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks) were sent there from Iran.”
    Gen. added, “Iran’s activities in southern Iraq are intended to produce some kind of Beirut-like moment and in so doing, to send a massage that they have expelled us from Iraq”, as it happened in Beirut.
    On August 28, 2007, Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad, declared a “readiness to fill the great power vacuum” in the region. In addition, a few weeks later, he told the UN General Assembly, “I officially declare that the era of post second World War relationships have ended. Palestine and Iraq will be cleared of the occupiers and the people of Europe will be free of the pressures of the Zionists.”

    The best way to achieve regime change in Tehran is for the U.S. government to empower the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK).
    Empowerment requires removal of the main Iranian opposition groups from the foreign terrorist list, which it has been maintained only by the U.S. Only regime change in Tehran can ensure that extremist Iranian terrorism regime do not wind up with the bomb and its wrong ideology.
    The MEK and National Consul of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) are feared by the Tehran regime more than any groups, according to research of the Iran Policy Committee. The IPC finds that state run Iranian media assail the MEK and mention it 230 percent more than all others opposition groups combined.
    The clerical dictators in Iran rightfully should fear the MEK. The MEK has vast support both inside and outside of Iran. It stands for democratization, freedom of religion, and is a shining example of civil society, protecting minority rights and treating women and men equally. The MEK has been the main source of intelligence on Iranian nuclear sites, exposing Iran’s decade’s long deception by revealing once hidden major nuclear sites in Iran.
    On September 17,2011 a senior panel of former Secretaries, Generals, and Governors, as well as State and justice Departments officials and attorney General Michael Mukasey, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Governor Ed Rendell, Ambassador John Bolton, and FBI Director Louis Freeh denounced the continuing designation of the MEK was acting as a license for genocide at Camp Ashraf, Iraq,
    On July 2010, the MEK won a ruling from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Secretary of State must reconsider the designation of MEK as a foreign terrorist organization because the information she was relying on to continue that designation was not sufficient.
    In May 2003, the MEK voluntarily signed a disarmament agreement with the American forces in Iraq. After sixteen months investigation by American to determine whether anyone had any links to terrorism, all 3800 passed the test, which included DNA samplings.
    Subsequently, the residents of Ashraf received “protected persons” status under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention. From day first until the end of 2008, the residents of camp Ashraf remained under the protection of American forces. The Iraqi government which has long been allied with the Iranian terrorist regime continues to take orders from Tehran concerning the Camp Ashraf. As the Iranian regime regards the MEK residents of Ashraf as its number one enemies, it has repeatedly demanded of Baghdad that it close down the Camp and repatriates the residents to Iran.
    The Camp has been attacked twice by Iraqi forces, once in July 2009 and once in April 2011, and both times, when the secretary of defense of the U.S. was present in Iraq. The last time resulting in the murder of 36 defenseless women and men using weapons and vehicle supplied by the U.S. and operated by troops and train by the U.S. And the U.S. has done nothing about it.

    Wes Martin wrotes on NY times: 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. %A0 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.
    MEK is U.S. allies. They are the one first time in 2003 provided the international community with vital information on Iran’s secrat nuclear sites, also it was the MEK provided the world with details about Iran’s terrorist training camps and more MEK exposed a list of 32,000 Iranian proxies in Iraq. Furthermore, MEK unified the Iraqi people to fight terrorism and Iran’s interference.
    MEK never ever should be in FTO list in first place, now U.S. should seek removal of the MEK from U.S. FTO list immeditly, as EU and British did . This course of action is recommended by members of Congress from both parties and by FBI Director and by the Court of Appeals for District of Columbia and is long overdue.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:21 am | Reply

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