Iranian Interests in Iraq after US Withdrawal: Camp Ashraf
The question still remains: after nine tumultuous years, what became of the treasure and blood, both American and Iraqi that was sacrificed in Iraq? With 2011 behind us, and US forces out of Iraq, new crises have erupted in Iraq - both on a political and security level. A new round of explosions has reaped of hundreds of lives among the innocent population of Iraq; and the cycle has yet to relent. All fingers are pointed at Iran. Leaders from Iraq's opposition blocs, who have voiced concern over Iranian intervention, are openly despised by the nation's Prime Minister, Noori al-Maliki, and eliminated arbitrarily under varying pretenses.
This new wave of eliminations is by no means limited to Iraq's elite or its people who are fed up with rampant instability and an encore invasion by the Iranian mullahs. 3400 Iranian dissidents, who for the past 25 years have been living in a camp north of Baghdad known as Ashraf, members of the only organized and democratic opposition struggling against the regime in Iran, are another group of people who are being targeted by Tehran and Baghdad.
Plans to close camp Ashraf and relocate its residents to a new location called camp Liberty which is hastily being turned into a prison are in essence aimed at destroying the only opposition force struggling against the mullahs and prolonging their rule amidst a whirlwind of global and domestic crises. It is very unfortunate that the UN Secretary General Special Representative in Iraq (SGSR) is, in his own words, knowingly or unwittingly, facilitating such a sinister plan.
In a 7 point plan, presented to the Iraqi Prime Minster in private and public meetings, Khamenei the Iranian Supreme leader outlined its two crucial objectives. First, all American forces must withdraw from Iraq. Secondly, the 3400 MeK affiliates living in camp Ashraf must either be eradicated or extradited to Iran. The Iranian regime pursues a single strategic goal with these two objectives. The withdrawal of US forces helps Tehran consolidate its hegemony in Iraq; allowing it to fill in the power gap, and closing camp Ashraf will allow the mullahs to eliminate the only democratic alternative and, with them, any hope for causing true change by toppling the dictatorship ruling Iran.
The exact timing of the US troop's withdrawal with the deadline to close Ashraf is not a coincidence. By pulling out all American forces from Iraq, President Obama fulfilled the first of the mullahs two demands. The December 31 deadline to close camp Ashraf, however, was postponed thanks to global campaign in defense of Ashraf in Europe and the US. Knowing what big of a price an assault on Ashraf would exact, Noori Al-Maliki was left with no choice but to back down and postpone the fictitious deadline for another 6 months.
While this development was widely welcomed across the globe, it spurred the wrath of the mullahs in Tehran. Based on documents obtained by the Iranian resistance from within the Iranian regime, according to plans camp Ashraf was to be closed December 31 after a coordinated assault launched by the Iraqi Army and brigades from the terrorist Quds force, dispatched from Iran to supplement the Iraqi forces.
Soon after the deadline was postponed, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between UNSR Martin Kobler and the Iraqi government. Although this memorandum addressed the fate of camp Ashraf residents and plans for their relocation to camp Liberty, they were not a party to the MoU and the document was signed without their presence. Agreements were made without the consent of the residents and as a necessary first step for UNHCR to begin its process to determine the new status of the residents and their eventual resettlement in third countries.
In spite of the fact that leaving Ashraf was against the wishes of the residents, on December 28 Madam Rajavi, the president-elect of NCRI, and in response to Secretary Clinton's December 25 statement, Secretary Ban Ki-Moon's December 26 statement and Martin Kobler's letter to the residents, announced that as a goodwill gesture, the first group of 400 residents are prepared and willing to immediately go to camp Liberty with their personal belongings and vehicles.
NCRI has obtained many reports and documents which clearly show that the Iranian regime and its Iraqi proxies are openly conspiring to frustrate efforts to reach a peaceful plan for the crisis in Ashraf - which has been stressed upon both by Secretary Clinton and Mr. Ban Ki- Moon. Reports indicate that camp Liberty is currently being turned into a prison under the guise of the UN. The overall area of camp Liberty, initially specified as 40km² in the MoU, has been reduced to only a half square kilometers. Hindrances such as these are what have halted the relocation of 400 residents to camp Liberty.
The full scale of the conspiracy against the residents was revealed on January 12 when the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nori Maliki, in an exclusive interview with Iranian state-sponsored news outlets announced: "We are no longer going to tolerate the MeK on Iraqi soil. This is an organization which has been classified as a terrorist organization and ostracized internationally. This organization is not only responsible for killing political and religious personalities in Iran; it also has a bloody history in Iraq and cooperated with Sadam Hussein and the Baath party. The MeK has committed heinous atrocities in Iraq. As we speak there are some 126 arrest warrants against MeK elements currently in camp Ashraf for the horrendous crimes they have committed." (The semi-official, English language PressTV)
Entangled in a whirlwind of sanctions and with an ongoing uprising in Syria, the mullahs in Tehran are struggling to keep their ship afloat by a covert effort to obtain nuclear armament on the one hand and on the other hand by conspiring to eliminate their main opposition with the help of their proxies in Iraq.
The US and the UN bear responsibility for protecting the residents of camp Ashraf. As Governor Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the U.S. Democratic Party said in a major intentional conference on Ashraf in Paris on January 6, "there is no doubt, not one scintilla, not one iota of doubt, that the United States has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf are protected in every way until each and every one of them is relocated on foreign soil."
Ambassador John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN said in the same conference, it should be clear to the UN that their "principal responsibility is not making the government of Iraq happy, it's protecting the residents of Camp Ashraf."
For a policy to succeed in dealing with the threat of the mullahs, it must factor in the fate of their main opposition force. The MeK and its members residing in camp Ashraf have proven to be the Achilles heel of the regime in Iran and they petrify the mullahs.