Wednesday, October 16, 2013

US Abandons Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

By Clare M. Lopez

The Iranian regime's predilection for hostage-taking as a tool of foreign policy dates back to the earliest years following Khomeini's 1979 revolution. Unfortunately, so does the U.S. government's apparent willingness to let them get away with it.

Today, the fate of thousands of defenseless Iranian dissidents belonging to the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK), to whom the U.S. government pledged protection, depends on American action in fulfillment of solemn promises.

These pro-democracy Iranian patriots have been left stranded as virtual hostages in two camps inside Iraq, which have been attacked repeatedly with lethal force by the armed forces of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Tehran regime puppet.

Dozens of MeK members have been killed, hundreds injured and seven remain actual hostages after being seized by Iraqi troops in an attack on Camp Ashraf on September 1, 2013. It is time to welcome these MeK members into the U.S. as political refugees who share the American commitment to liberty.

Unfortunately, the U.S. record of standing up to the mullahs' regime is not encouraging. In fact, if truth be told, there is no such record, even on behalf of Americans, never mind allies like the MeK, whose members assisted U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Carter Set the Pattern

The craven failure of President Jimmy Carter in 1980 to respond immediately and forcefully to the seizure of the U.S. Tehran Embassy and subsequent holding of American mission personnel by Iranian thugs for more than a full year set the pattern of U.S. administrative quailing before this rogue regime for decades to come.

The 1980s in Lebanon featured a parade of Iranian-directed Hezbollah kidnappings, torture and murder of Westerners, including American citizens, for which no official retribution was ever exacted. Many would agree that President Ronald Reagan's panicked withdrawal of the U.S. military from the Multinational Force in Lebanon after the October 1983 Marine barracks bombing set an image of U.S. weakness that persists to this day.

As Admiral James "Ace" Lyons has explained, he personally drew up the plans to obliterate Hezbollah's Sheikh Abdullah Barracks, above Baalbek in the Beka'a Valley with a swift aerial strike. It was U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whose spineless fretting about what the Arab world might think, who ultimately prevailed on President Reagan to hold back.

The U.S. Navy SEAL withdrawal under fire from an early October 2013 night raid in Somalia intended to capture al-Shabaab commander Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir (aka Ikrima) because civilians, including children, were present only serves to reinforce that image anew among the Islamic jihadist enemy, including both al-Qaeda and Iran.

Long History of Dealing with Jihadis 

The successful seizure of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group veteran Abu Anas al-Libi, wanted on a 2000 indictment for involvement in the 1998 Nairobi Embassy bombing, hardly restores U.S. credibility against Islamic jihad given how many years al-Libi lived openly free and unperturbed—as well as actually in U.S. or British custody.

Rather, official U.S. policy to provide material support, including weapons, to al-Libi's known al-Qaeda comrades only reinforces the desperate need for a wholesale overhaul of U.S. national security strategy.

As it stands now, U.S. leadership's willingness to deal with both Sunni and Shiite jihadis (like the Iranian regime) boasts a long and sorry history, from Reagan's desperate Iran-Contra deal to the abandonment of kidnapped former FBI agent Robert Levinson, the Roxana Saberi prisoner swap for the Irbil Five, and whatever ransom arrangement it was that freed the three young American hikers in 2010-2011.

The 3,200 MeK members at the ironically named "Camp Liberty" and the 100 residents still at Camp Ashraf were pledged U.S. protection in 2004 as unarmed civilians under the terms of the 4th Geneva Convention. And yet, since the U.S. exit under fire from Iraq, these Iranian freedom fighters, whose commitment to liberating their country from the grip of Tehran's terrorist rulers remains unshaken, have been subjected to murderous rocket and small arms fire, denial of basic needs like electricity, food, water and medical care, and the studied indifference of the U.S. government, the United Nations and the international community.

At a Congressional briefing held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on October 9, attended by three subcommittee chairs from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lawmakers and speakers including former attorney general and current judge Michael Mukasey, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Judge Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and U.S. military officers such as Col. Wesley Martin and Col. Thomas Cantwell, all criticized the U.S. failure to fulfill its legal and moral obligations to these Iranian dissidents.

That responsibility, shamefully abdicated after the signing of the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, now demands that these "protected persons," effectively trapped defenseless and vulnerable in these two camps, be allowed to resettle in the U.S.

Judge Mukasey addressed the resettlement issue directly, emphasizing that the MeK members should not be required to renounce either their membership in the MeK or their commitment to the liberation of Iran.

It is long past time for the U.S. record of failure to stand up to Tehran and its hostage-taking tactics to be reversed.