THE HILL(Congress Blog) – By Brian Binley MP
The situation I set out below might seem imaginary to you, but it is stark reality for a group of Iranian exiles who trusted the U.S. and now are in danger of being slaughtered.
Imagine for a moment that you are a resident of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, one of some 3,400 defenseless Iranian dissidents who were classified as a “Protected Person” under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the United States in 2004 – only after numerous reviews by various U.S. intelligence and investigative bodies.
Then consider that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with unparalleled links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has twice attacked your camp – once in July 2009 and again in April 2011 – killing some 50 unarmed men and women and wounding hundreds of other unarmed residents. Subsequently, al-Maliki and his government and its close associates have unequivocally stated their desire to annihilate Ashraf residents and close the camp by the end of 2011.
Now, residents of Ashraf, who among other things are facing an inhumane blockade against their camp and are not even allowed minimal medical access for their wounded or ailing residents, are suddenly receiving advice from no less than U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Butler, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He proposes that camp residents be relocated elsewhere in Iraq.
The question is: “Should you buy his advice or not?”
Let’s look at Butler’s proposal. Yes, you heard it right! His suggestion is meant to counter that of the European Parliament, which calls for voluntary relocation of Ashraf residents to other countries, where they would be safe from the criminal attacks of al-Maliki and his forces, who seemingly act at the behest of Khamenei and the other mullahs in Tehran.
So, how will being moved from Ashraf to other undisclosed locations inside Iraq bring more safety to Ashraf residents? The U.S. ambassador doesn’t have an answer, or maybe, he doesn’t care enough about thousands of human lives to come up with a rational suggestion. Listen to General Hugh Shelton, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was in Washington on July 17 and said about the Butler plan:
“His idea that Ashraf residents should be relocated somewhere else in Iraq without any assurance or even any apparent concern for their safety or providing rationale as to why this is a good idea, other than saying it moves it further away from the Iran border, is appalling. It causes me to stop and wonder: What is this man drinking.”
Such a dislocation is indeed a recipe for Ashraf residents being terrorized and killed by al-Maliki’s forces, who have shown they are capable of premeditated murder of unarmed women and men.
Obviously, neither you nor anyone else would want to accept the ambassador’s advice, especially if you consider the resolution passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee as an amendment to H.R. 2583 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2012. The resolution, introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), stipulated that the U.S., among other measures to support Ashraf residents, should “take all necessary and appropriate steps in accordance with international agreements to support the commitments of the United States to ensure the physical security and protection of Camp Ashraf residents; and to take all necessary and appropriate steps to prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and to facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) in Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”
How can one conceivably advise Ashraf residents to accept the idea of relocation inside Iraq when an important U.S. Congressional committee unanimously rejected this very same notion as being dangerous to their physical security and protection of Ashraf residents?
The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, said unequivocally at the European Parliament on July 13:
“We support the European solution of resettling the residents in third countries, and if they can be transferred to Europe, it will be a logical solution. A plan proposed by the Americans to displace them inside Iraq has been rejected by all parties and we regard it unacceptable, and we back the solution of third countries. We hope that the human rights of these political refugees would be respected and we regret what happened to them. “
Ambassador Butler’s plan to displace Ashraf residents to unknown areas under al-Maliki’s control runs the risk of creating further horror and should be rejected immediately.
The U.S. has a signed agreement with every Ashraf resident to protect them until their final disposition; thus it has compelling and undeniable legal, moral, and political responsibility.
The State Department should heed the bipartisan call of the Congressional committee and continue to guarantee the protection of Ashraf residents or support the European Parliament plan to relocate them to third countries.
Secretary Clinton and surely President Obama do not want their slaughter as their legacy.
If the State Department believes that the irresponsible option championed by Ambassador Butler could allow the U.S. to wash its hands of its responsibility to protect Ashraf residents, it has made a serious miscalculation and the warning bells would toll: “Caveat Emptor!”
Brian Binley is a Member of Parliament from the United Kingdom.