PR Newswire: A Rebuttal to the Los Angeles Times
“U.S. plans to move Iranian exile group out of Iraq hit snag” (The Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2013), we wish to make the following observations in response:
- The article refers to the “State Department’s decade-long effort to find a new home” for the main Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and European governments acknowledged that the U.S. State Department’s unjust terrorist tag against the MEK, which was revoked last September after 15 years, served as the greatest obstacle for the resettlement of the residents. The reference to a bogus “decade-long effort” conveniently glosses over the fact that not even a single resident in Camp Liberty already with refugee status in the U.S., including 66 individuals interviewed separately by the departments of State and Homeland Security, has been allowed to return to the United States.
- In 2003, in a quid pro quo with the Iranian regime, the United States bombed MEK bases in Iraq even though the group was neither a party to nor had fired a single bullet in the course of the Iraq war. The air strikes killed dozens and wounded scores more (The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2003; The Washington Post, April 18, 2003). In the aftermath of the war, after a 16-month investigation into the backgrounds of all residents of Camp Ashraf, the United States recognized the residents as non-combatants and “protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention” in July 2004 and gave a written commitment to protect them “until their final disposition” in return for their disarmament.
- In early 2009, the U.S. violated international law by transferring the responsibility to protect the residents to Iraq. As a result, 50 residents were killed and more than 1,000 injured in two massacres in Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011. Both attacks by the Iraqi army occurred under the watchful eyes of U.S. forces and while the then-U.S. Secretary of Defense was visiting Iraq.
- The MEK’s leadership never signed “an agreement with the U.N. and Iraq last year to abandon… Camp Ashraf.” The December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Iraq, and Iraq’s National Security Advisor without even the knowledge or consent of the residents. Kobler sent the residents to Camp Liberty, promising speedy resettlement, safety and security, and international humanitarian standards at the camp. In two opinions the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has described Camp Liberty as a prison.
- The assertion by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Beth Jones on May 22nd that the MEK leadership “was not cooperating in the departures, despite the risks to the members’ lives in Iraq,” is a rehash of Kobler’s claims and turns truth on its head and targets the victim instead of the henchman. It blatantly contradicts Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on April 18. “We have contacted countless countries [to resettle the residents]; we have been refused by countless countries,” he said. The residents of Liberty, their representatives and the NCRI office in Paris, have sent dozens of letters to the UN Secretary General and the U.S. Secretary of State, demanding the immediate transfer of all the residents to the U.S. or Europe, even on a temporary basis, adding that they will shoulder all necessary resettlement costs themselves. From February 17, 2012, when the relocation to Liberty began, until May 15, 2013, only eight were relocated to third countries, while eight other residents were killed in a rocket attack on February 9 and six more died due to lack of medical treatment. The rocket attack on Liberty prompted the introduction of House resolution 89, which called for the residents’ return to Ashraf for better protection until their resettlement outside Iraq. This resolution enjoys bipartisan support of nearly 100 Members of Congress.
- In early April 2012, the Iranian Resistance initiated negotiations with the Albanian government to accept all or a significant number of the residents. The U.S. and UNHCR joined this effort. In November 2012, Albania agreed to resettle 210 residents.
- The representatives of the residents have sent three lists to the UN and the State Department (March 21, April 12, and May 17, 2013 respectively), providing the names of 240 residents for resettlement in Albania with a written commitment to accept all costs pertaining to the residents’ transfer. At the same Senate hearing, Secretary Kerry had underscored, “170 [residents] have agreed to go to Albania.” In addition, on April 19, a list of 100 residents with German refugee documents was presented to the UNHCR for resettlement in Germany. To date, however, with the exception of the 14 residents transferred to Albania on May 15, UN has not resettled anyone else.
- The 100 residents at Camp Ashraf have remained there based on a quadrilateral agreement (involving the US, the UN, the Iraqi government and the residents) to watch over the residents’ moveable and immoveable assets worth more than 500 million dollars. On October 3, 2012, Agence France Presse quoted Ambassador Daniel Fried, Secretary Clinton’s special advisor on Ashraf, as saying, “Some 200 members of the group had been authorized by the Iraqis to remain in Camp Ashraf until the end of last month to sell off vehicles and property but that 100 were due to leave shortly… Asked whether there was a deadline for the last group of 100 to leave, he said there was ‘no time limit.'”
- Characterizing the MEK as “Marxist-Islamist” or a “cult” is merely the parroting of the oft-repeated propaganda disseminated by the regime’s intelligence services. A December 2012 report prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress for the Pentagon stated that the Iranian regime “considers the Mojahedin-e-Khalq to be the organization that most threatens the Islamic Republic of Iran,” adding that one of the main responsibilities of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence “is to conduct covert operations against the Mojahedin-e-Khalq and to identify and eliminate its members.” The report added that the regime’s spy agency recruits people claiming to be former MEK members and “uses them to launch a disinformation campaign” against the MEK. On July 5, 2010, Toronto Sun quoted John Thompson, head of the security think-tank the Mackenzie Institute, as saying, “He was offered $80,000 by a man tied to Iran’s mission in Canada. ‘They wanted me to publish a piece on the Mujahedin-e Khalq,’ he said. ‘Iran is trying to get other countries to label it as a terrorist cult.'”
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran