As December 31 Deadline Nears for American Military Withdrawal, Fate of 3,400 “Protected Persons” Hangs in the Balance
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At a press conference at the National Press Club, former Pennsylvania Governors Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell urged the Obama Administration to draw a clear line in the sand with the pro-Iranian government in Iraq: lift the approaching deadline for closing Camp Ashraf, home to more than 3,400 Iranian dissidents, refrain from forcible relocation of the residents that could lead to a massacre and allow their resettlement in third countries.
The dissidents are members the main Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
The Governors, joined by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, retired US Army Colonel Wes Martin, the former commander of Camp Ashraf, and Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, Scholar Practitioner from the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, made their call for action before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki meets with President Obama in Washington on December 12, 2011.
“The only reason we called this press conference is to call attention to a pending humanitarian disaster, the potential massacre of 3,400 democratic Iranian dissidents. The massacre can only be avoided by the collective action of Prime Minister Maliki and President Obama,” Governor Ridge stressed.
“We have sent hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world for decades to promote freedom and democracy. It was the ideal that got us into Iraq. US blood and treasure notwithstanding, this administration continues to ignore the commitment it also made when they signed the Status of Forces Agreement to protect and defend and provide for the safety and security of the people at Camp Ashraf… America’s credibility is at stake,” he added.
Governor Rendell laid out an immediate plan of action. “America has an obligation to protect the people of Camp Ashraf. We want President Obama to move swiftly to delist the dissidents from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and do it quickly. This unfair designation has given Iran and Iraq a license to kill the dissidents at will. Secondly, we want President Obama to insist to Prime Minister Maliki that he delay his order to close the camp on December 31st.”
“[We] have an obligation, we gave our word to protect [Camp Ashraf residents]. Our word has to stand for something…the Maliki Government cannot and should not be trusted to protect the lives of the residents of Ashraf. They aren’t coming to do peaceful relocation. They are coming to arrest and put in prison the leadership of the MEK,” he added.
Judge Mukasey warned, “The people in Camp Ashraf are facing a crisis that is entirely precipitated by the Iraqi Government acting at the behest of Iran. There is no reason, none, for a deadline of December 31 other than the threat of the Iraqi Government to move in…with troops and arms and vehicles provided by the United States to attack defenseless women and men… This is not a political matter. This is a human rights matter. This is matter of the safety and security of people. This is a matter of the word of the United States.”
“This is a coming disaster that can be averted by the United States President making it clear to Prime Minister Maliki that we will not tolerate this. And if we do not act, this will happen and will go down in history as a disgrace to ourselves, our country, to the remainder of the human race.”
“Make no mistake that it is the Iranian plot that is driving the December 31st deadline, the forcible relocation within Iraq and repatriation to Iran. Through its Iraqi proxies, Tehran is working hard to either surrender or wipe out every single resident of the camp at any cost. So the options are to either die under torture in Iran or be killed in the coming days. Camp Ashraf residents will never surrender to the Iranian regime. They will also resist against any relocation within Iraq unless it is under U.S. protection and UN supervision,” Dr. Sepehrrad underscored.
Recalling his experience as Ashraf base commander, Col. Martin said, “In Ashraf, I had a group of people actually trying the best they could to help the Americans. They were one of our allies, yet we were calling them terrorists. That just doesn’t mean sense… When we would go outside the perimeter, I always knew I had good strong allies on my flank. The Iranian Mujahedeen was around to the same energy to rescue us even though they didn’t have arms.”
SOURCE Institute for Democratic Strategies