THE HILL – By Brian Binley, MP 02 May, 2011
As it emerged that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was being replaced by current CIA Director Leon Panetta as part of a wider shake up by President Obama of his entire national security team, questions will be asked as to the legacy that Gates left in the Middle East and specifically in Iraq. Unfortunately for him, the legacy is not a commendable one.
In a Middle East landscape which, since the turn of the year, has changed beyond recognition, Gates and Obama have seemed lost in the mire of protests. The administration has been lukewarm in its condemnation of Middle East governments cracking down on protestors and left the international community wondering where Obama’s administration stands on the entire democratic movement in the region.
The picture in Iraq is less rosy still. Nuri Al-Maliki’s close ties with the Iranian regime and that regime’s stranglehold over the Iraqi Prime Minister has meant that Iraq is teetering towards becoming a proxy of the Iranian regime, not least in the way that Iraq is dealing with Camp Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the Iranian Opposition, the PMOI, in Iraq.
On 8th April Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and carried out a massacre, leaving 35 residents killed and over 350 wounded. Young men and women were shot in the back of the head, in the spine, in the neck and in the lungs and heart in a clear shoot-to-kill policy. A policy supported by weaponry which one would only expect to see in armed conflict against an enemy force, not a camp of unarmed refugees. The massacre was in fact the culmination of two years of deliberate harassment which the Camp Ashraf residents have endured since the U.S. military handed over control of the camp to the Iraqi authorities.
British members of Parliament and U.S. politicians have described the murder of 35 unarmed civilians by Iraqi forces as a “Gestapo-style massacre” and a crime against humanity for which the perpetrators must be punished. Nuri Al-Maliki has the blood of 35 murdered Camp Ashraf residents on his hands and he must be brought to justice to answer for the crimes he has committed.
More deeply worrying is the thought that Robert Gates was in Iraq at the time of the attack, as he was in 2009 when a similar massacre was carried out, leaving many believing that he had full knowledge of the pending attack and in essence provided the Iraqi authorities with the go ahead to carry out the massacre thanks to his silence.
Since the attack the U.S. has granted medical treatment to just 7 of the wounded, some 2% of those who require treatment. With Iraq denying the wounded the necessary medical attention more could die and that shames Robert Gates personally.
Robert Gates has to date left a deeply disturbing legacy in Iraq but even at this late hour he can salvage some honour by ensuring that the U.S. military provides all necessary treatment to the Camp Ashraf wounded and guarantees the safety of the residents from further Iraqi attack by taking control of the security of the camp together with a U.N. presence. Act now and Robert Gates can leave with some semblance of decency, fail and he will forever more be remembered as the U.S. Defense Secretary who stood by as refugees were massacred on his watch.
U.S. military personnel surely did not shed their blood to allow Iraq to fall ever deeper into the hands of the corrupt regime in Tehran. Their sacrifice deserves better.
Brian Binley is a member of Parliament from the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party.