West must remember threat from Iranian regime while fighting ISIS

The West must not ignore the serious threat to regional peace from the Iranian regime while fighting against the Islamic State terror group ISIS, a British peer has urged.

Lord Alex Carlile of Berriew wrote on the al-Jazeera news website: “Fighting against the Islamic State group is commendable, but it shouldn’t lead Western powers to think that other threats in the region are diminished in either importance or seriousness.

“The problem touches upon many different groups and extends from Baghdad to Basra and far beyond that, especially to the regime in Tehran.”

He said it was the Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq that provoked the massacre of 52 Members of the Iranian opposition in Camp Ashraf last year, as well as repeated rocket attacks on Camp Liberty.

Washington and London should now honour their promises to relocate the 3,000 residents of Liberty to a place where they will no longer be under threat from the Iranian regime.

Lord Alex Carlile writes: “September 1 marks the one year anniversary of the Camp Ashraf massacre, an under-reported incident that showcases the extent of Iranian influence in the Iraqi government, the seriousness of its consequences, and the cost of turning a blind eye to regional developments or holding onto the naive belief that everything will work out on its own.

“It was apparently such a belief that led directly to last year’s massacre, which claimed the lives of 52 Iranian dissidents living in exile in Iraq, led to the abduction of seven others, and has been followed by endless aftershocks in the form of rocket attacks and repressive measures against the surviving dissidents in their new home of Camp Liberty.

“In a testament to the short-sightedness of US policy towards both Iraq and Iran, the people at Camp Ashraf were left alone and defenceless under the watch of Maliki’s forces after the US pulled out of the country. This wholesale abandonment came in spite of the fact that during the occupation, the dissident community had been granted Protected Persons Status and assured by the State Department that they would be kept out of harm’s way.”

The Liberal Democrat member of the UK House of Lords and co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF) added: “If the Obama administration and our own government could not anticipate the deaths of the 52 members of that organisation at Camp Ashraf, they should have at least learned a few essential lessons from the incident.

“Washington and London can help fulfil their own obligations by speeding the relocation of the 3,000 residents of Camp Liberty to some place or places where they will no longer be under threat from an Iranian regime that is poised to boost its military presence in Iraq.”

The US must now ensure that Iran neither holds sway in Iraq’s new administration nor controls Shia militias operating in Iraq, he said.

Lord Carlile added: “The political situation that led to the Camp Ashraf massacre also doomed Iraq to instability and a lack of both democracy and civic freedom.

“It was neither Maliki nor the Islamic State group alone that robbed the country of those things, and they won’t be reclaimed unless the US recognises the need for true Iraqi autonomy, which rejects Iran both as a friend and as an ally of convenience. Only then will recent changes in Iraq mean internal unity, plurality, victory over extremism, and the start of a new era for the Iraqi people.”

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