December 16, 2017



More than 60 members of Congress and a human rights commission named for the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the House are urging President Obama to use his Monday meeting with the prime minister of Iraq to demand he protect Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf.

The letters sent to the White House on Friday are the latest developments in a growing U.S. campaign to prevent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from closing the former military base north of Baghdad by the end of this month.

More than 3,400 Iranian exiles fear the Iraqi government will evict them from Camp Ashraf and deport many of them to Iran, where they face execution as opponents of the brutal theocratic regime.

U.S. supporters of the Camp Ashraf residents are expected to protest outside the White House during Mr. Obama’s meeting with Mr. al-Maliki. Speakers at the 11 a.m. rally will include former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, the protest organizers said.

In their letter, the 66 members of Congress expressed their distrust of Mr. al-Maliki because he broke his promise to protect the Camp Ashraf residents after U.S. forces turned over control of the compound to Iraq in 2009.

American forces disarmed the dissidents in 2003, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein. The United States treated the camp residents as “protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions.

Iraqi forces twice attacked the unarmed dissidents, killing nine people in July 2009 and 36 in April this year. They wounded hundreds in both assaults.

“Our lack of trust in Mr. Maliki is well-founded,” the House members said.

“It is imperative that Mr. Maliki understand, in the clearest terms, that harm to Camp Ashraf residents will be met with severe consequences from the United States.”

The signatories on the bipartisan letter spanned the political spectrum from liberals of the Congressional Black Caucus to conservative tea party members.

The letter from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission emphasized the need for U.N. officials to have more time to interview all Camp Ashraf residents who have applied for refugee status. The commission added that Mr. al-Maliki would violate a U.N. treaty on civil and political rights by forcibly relocating the Iranian dissidents.

The commission, formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, was named after the late Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and only Holocaust survivor to serve in the House.

Mr. al-Maliki has partially based his decision to expel the dissidents on the inclusion of the group, called the Mujahedin-e Khalq, on the U.S. terrorist list, although the State Department is under a court order to review the group’s status.