September 23, 2017

UN hands Iran ‘propaganda fodder’ over Camp Ashraf

Remarks attributed to the UN’s top diplomat in Iraq have handed Tehran a propaganda coup by suggesting Camp Ashraf dissidents want to return to Iran, writes a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

In 1942, in the middle of World War Two, a well-intentioned senior European diplomat went to meet a top Gestapo general to discuss the fate of thousands of Jews who had fled Nazi occupation to seek refuge in a neighbouring country. After the meeting, the general announced that the diplomat had told him that a large number of the Jews had become weary of being away from their motherland and were looking forward to going back to the “warmth” of their country – even under Nazi rule.

The story sounded farfetched, but the gloating Gestapo man insisted that the conversation took place. The European diplomat, for unexplained reasons, was not inclined to deny it, though it was evident that he had provided propaganda fodder to the Nazis. In reality, the tale was farfetched. Such a meeting never took place, to the best of our knowledge.

Now fast forward 70 years. Something very analogous to this story is taking place – and this time it is bitter reality, not a tale. It involves the fate of 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, the principal Iranian opposition movement. These Iranians fled the ruthless rule of the clerical regime and took refuge in Camp Ashraf, across the border. Following the American led occupation of Iraq, Ashraf residents disarmed to the United States voluntarily. In return, every resident signed an agreement with the Americans guaranteeing his or her protection until final disposition.

Troubles for Ashraf residents began when the US turned over the security of the camp to Iraqis in 2009. Iraqi forces, acting at the behest of the Iranian regime, have killed 47 of the defenceless residents and wounded more than 1,000 in two massacres. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s arbitrary deadline to close Ashraf by the end of 2011 set the stage for a humanitarian catastrophe, but it was revoked in the final days of December due to international pressure.

Subsequently – with guarantees for the safety and wellbeing of the residents by the US Secretary of State and the United Nations – Maryam Rajavi, the charismatic leader of Iranian dissidents, prevented another massacre and persuaded the residents to move to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near Baghdad, under constant United Nations monitoring. The government of Iraq also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN to that effect.

But Maliki, under orders from Tehran, has been reneging on the agreement. Camp Liberty has been looted; it has no running water, no electricity, no infrastructure, and Iraq has reduced the allocated size from 40 square kilometres to one square kilometre. It also is erecting walls that would turn Camp Liberty into a virtual concentration camp. All the while, the UN and the Special Representative of the Secretary General to Iraq, Ambassador Martin Kobler, have not objected.

Now comes the perplexing part. On January 22, the mullahs’ regime, in its media, quoted its ambassador to Iraq Hassan DanaiiFar, a senior commander of the notorious Revolutionary Guards – our modern Gestapo – as saying that he met with Kobler and was told that : “In meetings that the UN representative has had with members of this grouplet in Camp Ashraf, the majority of members…declared readiness to return to Iran but the terrorist commanders of this grouplet have not let them out of the camp and somehow have taken the members hostage.”

The mullahs’ ambassador said that the UN ambassador told him that at least 750 Ashraf residents are willing to go back to the mullahs’ rule. Many questions come to mind immediately. If the mission of the UN is solely humanitarian and to save the Ashraf residents, does the UN envision a humanitarian role for Iran in dealing with its arch enemies? It is the old fox and the henhouse story. According to the residents, the UN ambassador has only met Ashraf residents for 15 minutes. How was he able to make such an assessment that 750 of the residents want to go to their executioners?

The Iranian state press has had a field day with the remarks attributed to the UN’s top diplomat in Iraq. Actually, since the UN ambassador has not denied these remarks attributed to him, Tehran is inflating the original figures and the Fars news agency, on January 24, quoted the mullahs’ ambassador as claiming that he had been told that 1,260 of the residents are eager to go back to the mullahs. Further silence by the UN ambassador only allows Tehran to further exaggerate the figure.

Every day that goes by without a denial by Kobler increases the shadow of doubt. The ambassador should know that this would make his mandate murky. The UN Charter stipulates that one of its aims is to achieve international cooperation in “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms.” Assuming that this could be done by playing into the hands of an oppressor regime like the mullahs’ is not moral, ethical, or defensible. It is foolhardy and would cost lives of innocent people.

Lord King of West Bromwich is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/1416/un-hands-iran-propaganda-coup-over-ashraf-dissidents