August 20, 2017

Lawmakers, retired colonel voice support for Iranian exile group

STARS AND STRIPES

BAGHDAD — Lawmakers and former military officials called on the U.S. government to protect an Iranian exile group in Iraq facing resettlement by the end of the year, citing conflict with Iraqi security forces earlier this year that killed dozens of people.

The hearing came in the wake of an intensive lobbying effort by former high-level U.S. government officials to have the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terror groups.

The 3,400 MEK members at the camp were friendly to U.S. forces who oversaw their settlement at Camp Ashraf until the U.S. relinquished control in 2009, former camp commander and retired Army Col. Wesley Martin told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, according to published testimony.

Martin advocated relocating the group to the United States, and referred to an April video that purportedly showed 34 unarmed people being killed during resistance to Iraqi security forces entering the compound as evidence that the Iraqi government had no intention of protecting them.

During the video, some rushed to the aid of fallen comrades during the gunfire, according to Martin.

“I know if either myself or the American warriors with me at Ashraf had been under such an attack, the residents at Ashraf would have been rushing equally fast to our rescue,” Martin said.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said during the hearing that the camp risked massacre by Iraqi forces without special protection, according to a New York Times report.

The State Department is re-examining MEK’s status as a terrorist organization, said Ambassador Daniel Fried, who was appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to oversee the MEK’s situation.