Congressional Bi-Partisan Panel Demands Prevention of Forced Dispersing of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, Delisting of MEK

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by the Iranian American Community of Northern California:

A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The View from Congress” pressed on the Administration to ensure protection for Camp Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and remove the MEK from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives, praised the unanimous adoption of a language to H.R. 2583 to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”

 The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former United States Senator; and Professor Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.

Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen said, “We are all residents of Camp Ashraf” while praising the language about Ashraf in the H.R. 2583. She said, “Now, the government of Iraq knows full well what the position of the U.S. House of Representatives is as stated by our committee … and it’s time for the Obama administration to follow suit and to make sure that Ashraf residents receive the protections that they were promised, that they are entitled to.  There is no time to waste.”

The Florida lawmaker added, “There’s no guarantee that the government of Iraq and their security forces will not repeat their past unacceptable behavior [the April 8 massacre] because they have paid no price for it in the international community. The safety of the residents of Camp Ashraf is in jeopardy.  It’s in jeopardy right now, right this moment.  It will be in jeopardy until the international community says that this is unacceptable.  This is the critical time for the U.S. to stand up and do the right thing.”

Ambassador John Bolton said, “I didn’t see anything when I was in the government that justified them [MEK] being on the list. We’ve had very senior officials in our American intelligence and counter-terrorism activities that have talked about the work they’ve done with the MEK.  We have repeated testimonials by senior American military officials during the days of the American military presence in Iraq  … who have talked about their cooperation and the renunciation of terrorism, the disarming of Camp Ashraf and the work that was done to help the United States during that period.”
He concluded his remarks by saying, “Let’s have the United States abide by the commitment it made to protect on the residents of Camp Ashraf.  Let’s follow through on the important amendment that the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted last week.”

Congressman Filner concurred: “We are trying to make sure that this nation and this world does not forget about Camp Ashraf and does not forget about the brave people who are there standing up for democracy and human rights. I look at Camp Ashraf, not only in and of itself, but as a microcosm of things this nation and this world better do before the final pullout from Iraq takes place, because … we’ve produced an enormous sacrifice of American treasure and blood and we cannot leave there and have Iran take it over.”

The Caucus Co-Chair stated that delisting of MEK is a pre-curser to the safety and security of Camp Ashraf residents, adding, “Our protection of Ashraf is a protection of Iraq and it is a symbol of resistance to Iran.”
In reference to reprehensible remarks by Ambassador Lawrence Butler about Ashraf residents, Attorney General Mukasey said, “We see the spectacle of an American ambassador representing his country by saying that the people of Ashraf have to deal with me.  I’m running this.  This guy could have sold beer for Al Capone. He missed his calling.”

“How is it that the Iraqis could be so emboldened to do what they did [on April 8] and how is it that an American ambassador could be so wrong headed, so reckless as to do and say what he did … What permits those things to happen is the continuation of MEK on the list of foreign terrorist organizations.  That’s what emboldens the Iraqis.  The cure for this is to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, and that cure is not difficult to administer … They don’t fulfill the requirements of the statute.”

Representative Poe highlighted the significance of the legislative language, saying, “It sets a marker for where the United States stands in dealing with the issue of Camp Ashraf.”

“I have seen everything that they [State Department] have to offer and I am not convinced that the MEK should stay on the foreign terrorist organization list. So I introduced a resolution, along with about 80 cosponsors — republicans and democrats — to delist the MEK.  It’s time to do that because as long as the MEK is designated as an FTO it will be harder to preserve freedom for those people in Camp Ashraf. [Iraq’s Prime Minister] Mr. Maliki and his government and the Iranian government both use that designation by the United States as a reason to oppress those residents,” the Texas lawmaker added.

Noting that “The people of the MEK and their outstanding leaders demonstrated that the people of the MEK could be trusted to be allies in the war on terror,” Mr. Card said, “As chief of staff to a President of the United States and I watched as America’s word was given.  It’s important that we keep that word. The word that was given was that we would protect the people of Camp Ashraf.  We promised that they would not only be protected by the United States, that we would work with the United Nations to make sure that they were designated a protected people.”

“We have an obligation to protect them.  We have an obligation to make sure that when they stand and call for attention the world listens and does not find an excuse to ignore only because the MEK is on an archaic list that they shouldn’t have been put on in the first place … The MEK is not a terrorist organization,” Mr. Card added.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee added, “Let’s call it like it is.  Iran is interfering and running Iraq and it is causing the violence that is happening as we speak, and that is why Camp Ashraf is in the condition that it is … We’re also asking that we move quickly on the determination of the MEK to have the ability to be free and to advocate and not to be characterized in a way that they have been characterized.”

John Sano stated that, “The situation in Camp Ashraf and the recent massacre which occurred there only three months ago is the perfect example in terms of what the MOIS [Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security] is able to do in attempting to shape world opinion. It’s been their consistent maligning of the MEK as a subversive and terrorist organization.  This in direct contravention of the reports of here in the United States and internationally that have provided the true story behind the massacre … and the reality of the MEK as peace loving, pro democratic, nonviolent organization seeking only to promote a system with freedom of speech, assembly, and political parties, as separation of church and state and gender equality.”

As regards the recent anti-MEK smear campaign, Mr. Sano said, “It’s no surprise that the regime not only publicly supports the idea of displacement in Iraq, but actively lobbies for it in Baghdad and elsewhere.  Much of this so-called lobby is orchestrated by the MOIS through provisions on misleading, actually completely erroneous information disinformation … Disinformation campaigns basically are feeble attempt to convince the United States and its organizations, the State Department, even Congress, as well as the international observers, that the residents of Ashraf should be displaced and further that the MEK should remain on the foreign terrorist organization list.”

A Co-sponsor of H.RES. 60, Congressman Lungren noted, “The unwillingness of the State Department to even consider re-evaluation of the status of such an important element of the Iranian resistance [MEK], is both shortsighted and detrimental to our interests. … They [State Department] aren’t even willing to talk to a member of Congress who has a different point of view and believes that maybe we ought to reassess as was suggested, not for political reasons but for factual and real-life reasons.”

Congresswoman Chu stressed, “The United States must continue to do what it can to protect the camp inhabitants and to fight any forced relocation of this camp.  We cannot let these brave men and woman be forced out of homes and into the arms of enemies. We must do everything that we can to fight for their freedom and the freedom of the Iranian people. One of the best things that we can do is to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.”

“It’s very important to see the situation of the delisting and the situation at Ashraf as intimately linked,” Professor Schneebaum said, adding, “Prime Minister Maliki was indicating explicitly that he finds support for the people of Ashraf in the designation here in Washington of [MEK] as a foreign terrorist organization.  And I suspect that that is precisely the same justification that sustains Ambassador Lawrence Butler who was quoted extensively in Saturday’s New York Times as having repeated virtually every cliche, virtually every lie, virtually every old story about the [MEK] that any of us have ever heard,” he said.

The panel’s moderator, Senator Torricelli, said, “I don’t know anything that speaks more to the problem of legitimate discourse in American public policy than the repeating of these hollow charges and empty lies about the MEK. If you have something to say about why the MEK should not be delisted, if there is a case for not protecting the people of Camp Ashraf where they are located, if there’s a case to be made against the MEK on some basis in the interest of the United States, let’s hear it.”

“Seeing to the demands of the mullahs in Tehran accomplishes nothing.  Of course, they want the camp [Ashraf] badly.  Of course they want people to move. Of course they want the MEK disbanded.  But does anyone believe if you give them those things, if everyone in Ashraf has moved, if another hundred people are killed, if the organization is disbanded, if there was no opposition to the mullahs anywhere on this earth, does anyone believe that’s the last Iranian [regime] demand?” he concluded.

SOURCE Iranian American Community of Northern California

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