December 15, 2017

Mr. War Criminal Is Coming for a White House Handshake


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under investigation by a Spanish court for war crimes against Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, is coming to Washington for a hand hake with President Obama at the White House.

As his December 5 op-ed piece in the Washington Post shows, Maliki is visiting Washington to try to defuse the well-placed fears about Iraq, under his leadership, becoming a proxy state for Iran. And, again judging by his commentary in the Post, he feels behooved to justify, albeit ineffectively, his made-in-Tehran plans to either forcibly relocate Camp Ashraf residents to multiple detention centers in Iraq before extraditing them to Iran, or kill them all at Camp Ashraf if the residents resist the forcible relocation.

So, in either case, President Obama may be shaking hands with a war criminal responsible for massacre of the unarmed and defenseless population in Camp Ashraf. That’s not exactly the kind of poster image President Obama may want for his re-election campaign. He must therefore seize the December 12 White House visit to convey in the most unequivocal terms the United States’ resolve in seeing the camp residents unharmed. 

Speaking in a Washington conference about Camp Ashraf situation last November, Professor Alan Dershowitz, an authority in international law and genocide prevention, said in reference to Maliki’s White House visit that “If the President of the United States does not demand a change in the Iraqi government’s commitment to close the camp [by end of 2011], his silence will be taken as acquiescence, and that is so dangerous, silent acquiescence.”

Dershowitz said: “When the holocaust happened, everybody said we didn’t know. When the Armenian genocide occurred, we didn’t know, when Cambodian genocides were occurring, people were telling us it was propaganda, we didn’t know. Rwanda Darfur, we didn’t know. We know [about Camp Ashraf]. We have been told. We have been warned.”

The fact remains that the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf were promised protection. Those individuals and the camp’s leadership trusted America’s promise signed by most senior commanders of the US military, and gave up their weapons. With the deadline set by Iraq to close down the camp in just over three weeks and with the official departure of US forces, the question making round in the US Congress and among thousands of Iranian-Americans who s is:

Would President Obama uphold America’s promise and ensure safety and security of Camp Ashraf residents?

Would President Obama honor the contract America signed with each individual at Camp Ashraf and would not leave them behind unprotected?

Would Administration stop paying lip service to the dire humanitarian situation in Camp Ashraf and fulfill its commitments by asking Maliki to extend his December 31 deadline to close down Camp Ashraf so that the UN refugee agency can carry out the process of relocating the residents to third countries in a safe a secure manner?

The clock is ticking, and the lives of 3,400 Iranian dissidents, including 1,000 women, are on the line as Camp Ashraf is inching toward Srebrenica-style massacre before the year’s end.

Navid Dara is a Washington-based analyst of US policy towards Iran.