LONDON, July 26 (UPI) – By ROBIN CORBETT – Attacks by Iraqi forces on Camp Ashraf, home to pro-democracy Iranians, have seen 47 residents killed and 1,071 injured leaving the United States guilty of ignoring its responsibility to protect residents and prevent these war crimes.
The United States has so far ignored calls to assert its authority via the United Nations, leaving its hapless envoy Lawrence Butler, appointed to help resolve the matter, to make things even worse and aid preparations for another murderous assault on the defenseless refugees. Butler’s biased comments about the People’s Mujahedin of Iran resistance in an article in The New York Times (July 23) puts him on the side of the Iraqi prime minister’s forces as, under Iranian orders, they plan another attack.
It was expected that following the last attack against Ashraf in April, the United States and Butler would publish the report of a visit by American political, military and medical personnel to the camp, their observations on the bodies of the murdered and the state of the injured, denied adequate medical assistance. It was also expected he would not obstruct visits to Ashraf by members of the European Parliament and U.S. Congress.
Instead, Ambassador Butler, after three months of negotiations with the camp leadership breached a pledge to keep the talks confidential by smuggling a New York Times journalist into Ashraf, whose article helped justify the failure of the United States to prevent another massacre and further crimes. Astonishingly, Butler rounded on residents asserting they were guilty of “crimes” and lying, were dangerous and “had blood on their hands.”
No one told him that in 2003 U.S. security officials individually interviewed the 3,400 residents clearing them of any breaches of U.S. law and issuing them with cards confirming their status as “protected persons” under the 4th Geneva Convention. That lasts until their future has been secured.
Tehran’s mullahs could not have been more pleased with Butler’s comments.
“Washington is trying extremely hard to save the members of the PMOI and Camp Ashraf, but these efforts have been without result so far” chorused the state-run media.
And the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department echoed this by describing the PMOI as “a dangerous group.” This, despite the fact, that a branch of the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal, ruled that the proscription of the PMOI was “perverse” in the light of the evidence and the government’s refusal to de-proscribe the group and ordered them to do so in 2008. The European Union followed suit.
Butler tries to excuse the executioner of the Ashraf outrages and blames the PMOI for the blood spilled so far, and that which is to be shed, as Iraq uses whatever force is needed to demolish the camp by the end of the year on the orders of Iran.
The New York Times article by Butler’s mouthpiece Tim Arango, reported: “Butler is keen to puncture what he believes is the false narrative that is spouted around the group since the American invasion (of Iraq in 2003) which has helped it secure such prominent support” without a shred of evidence — which in any event the U.K. court said did not exist — Butler is quoted as saying, he thought out of earshot of PMOI representatives, “They have blood on their hands.”
Butler is quoted as asserting that the PMOI never provided any useful intelligence about the Iranian government or its nuclear program and that for six years it provided unreliable information to the Defense Intelligence Agency that amounted to “a slew of lies.”
Strange then that a former U.S. president, vice president, secretary of State and national security adviser acknowledged Iran’s atomic projects were revealed for the first time by the PMOI as well as details of Iran’s murderous meddling in Iraq.
Butler’s proposal to resettle Ashraf residents elsewhere in Iraq seems to have only the backing of Iraq and Iran. The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, the European Parliament, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and 4,000 parliamentarians around the world say this would simply expose residents to even greater risk. The U.N. secretary-general at the Security Council urged member states to support a resolution agreed by Iraq and Ashraf residents.
The winners in all this are the mullahs in Tehran. This cannot be what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants and she should recall Butler and replace him with an envoy who backs the widespread calls to resettle residents in third countries.
While the fundamentalist Iranian regime has stepped up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and its lethal meddling in the Middle East, current U.S. policy is deeply harmful. Its continuation incites Iran and endangers the interest of the West and those millions inside Iran who cry freedom.
Lord Robin Corbett of Castle Vale, is a member of the U.K. House of Lords and chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.