Revocation of the Terrorism Listings of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published the article below, Now the cards are on the table, on 28 September 2012 in its online and print editions as an insert in the International Herald Tribune in Israel. On the same date, the U.S. State Department formally announced revocation of the designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and related groups from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Likewise, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control revoked comparable designations from its Specially Designated Nationals List.

The State Department announcement included the following:

Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.

Below is the article commenting on the revocations by Professors Tanter and Sheehan.

Now the cards are on the table

In the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change there as a priority.

By Raymond Tanter and Ivan Sascha Sheehan
28 September 2012

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL POST IN HAARETZ (Note: Must have subscription to read full article on the Haaretz website)

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s September 21 announcement that she will remove the Mujahedeen-e Khalq from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations is an important step toward correcting Washington’s Iran policy and an occasion for Jerusalem to adopt a fresh approach toward the Iranian opposition.

Delisting Iran’s primary opposition organization that rejects clerical rule is, in and of itself, a threat to the Iranian regime. Removal from the list is therefore an opportunity to assess and reset American and Israeli policy toward Tehran.

Removing the MEK’s terror designation plays on Tehran’s suspicions that an “unholy alliance” of Jerusalem, Washington and the MEK is colluding to launch covert attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. If there were such an alignment, it would also contribute to deterrence of Iranian assaults against Israeli diplomats and serve as a check on Iranian aggression.

In a September 23 Washington Post article that proposed a fictive scenario involving an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, analysts imagined how Israel might be accused of working with the MEK. They speculate that the MEK will be widely perceived as reinforcing Israel’s air assaults with military operations on the ground in Iran: “Within hours, Twitter is alight with reports of explosions in various parts of Iran. All seemingly can be traced to one source: the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e-Khalq.”

That the group stokes the regime’s fears by mobilizing broad political support in the expatriate community and holding massive rallies around the world does little to quiet the regime’s anxieties. A 2005 study found that the MEK was given 350 percent more attention by Iranian state-run media than all other opposition organizations challenging the regime.

The disproportionate number of protesters who were arrested or sentenced to death during the 2009 uprising because of their association with the MEK is also indicative of the regime’s intent to block the group’s political influence on the Iranian street.

The MEK is the largest dissident organization in the Paris-based de facto parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It has long failed to meet the statutory criteria necessary for terror tagging under U.S. law. That it remained on the list can be attributed to persistent lobbying by the Iranian regime and miscalculation by successive U.S. presidents that concessions would appease Tehran’s theocrats and eliminate state-sponsored proxy violence.

If Clinton had failed to delist, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington would in any event have removed the organization from the list on October 1. By taking the initiative rather than hiding behind the judiciary, Washington signals to Tehran that regime change from within is on the table. Iran has threatened to curtail its negotiations with the West when it takes actions that favor the MEK; Clinton’s removal of the group’s designation thus acknowledges that engagement with Iran is no longer a top priority, although sporadic and unproductive nuclear talks might continue.

Removal of the terror designation in the midst of a hotly contested presidential election confirms that U.S. counterterrorism policy remains unpoliticized. Strong bipartisan support for the MEK on Capitol Hill, where Israel also commands strong backing, is further indication that the shift was not partisan.

American and Israeli officials should follow the delisting of the Iranian resistance with efforts to empower the opposition and support calls for democratic change. Free of the terror label, supporters can now put their money where their mouth is and embrace the opposition in its campaign for democracy.

In light of last week’s announcement by Secretary Clinton, here’s what can be done to help reset policy toward Tehran.

First, the worldwide pro-Israel community can help push back against the Iranian regime’s disinformation campaign against removal of the MEK from the State Department’s terror roster. The Iranian lobby in Washington is as well funded as it is deceptive and the opposition is enemy number one. Consider the unsubstantiated allegation made by Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. On February 9, 2012, Larijani alleged to NBC-TV News that the Mossad and the MEK were jointly responsible for the targeted killing of Iranian scientists. Though never backed up with evidence, this sensational accusation was frequently repeated to justify the group’s terror designation in the lead-up to the delisting.

Second, because the heat will be turned up by the pro-Iranian Iraqi government on the 3,000 MEK dissidents housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq, the pro-Israel community should speak publicly about the safety of the residents and press humanitarian concerns.

Third, in the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change in Iran as a priority. Support for the Iranian opposition would give further credence to threats to take military action and complement sanctions meant to coerce Tehran. Unless the survival of the regime is on the table, Iran will continue to pursue its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons as well as threaten Israel and the United States. The removal of MEK’s terror classification rings an alarm bell among the theocrats in Tehran that their illegitimate reign is coming to an end.

__________________

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House, and is president of the Iran Policy Committee. Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the negotiation and conflict management graduate program in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

22 August 2012, Sadegh Sistani, “US State Department: When Its Enemy Becomes its Savior,” Global Politician.

An article in the Global Politician describes Sadegh Sistani as a “political prisoner who escaped Iranian dungeons in April 2011 and has endured 17 years and 8 months of torture and interrogation by the Iranian Intelligence service.”

Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition, IPC

The Sistani article makes an interesting case for the U.S. State Department to refrain from appeasing the Iranian regime by placing its main political opposition that rejects clerical rule on the Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. In this respect, Sistani reinforces the argument made in an IPC book, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy. One reviewer states that the book provides:

“an excellent discussion of how the past policies of appeasement and engagement with the Iranian regime have only made it more aggressive. The book provides many examples, especially for the Khatami (the “moderate” president) era and the U.S. administration’s attempts to appease the mullahs, hoping for reforms and moderation inside Iran.”

“The result was exactly the opposite. The Iranian mullahs internal repression was extended (as evident from the brutal repression of the student movements), many authors were assassinated during serial killings, substantially more women were stoned to death, Iran’s nuclear program accelerated, and guess who, after the “moderation” era, became Iran’s “president” — yes, Khatami paved the road for Ahmadinejad. The fact is: both Khatami and Ahmadinejad bow to Khamenei. Khamenei rules. There is no room for moderation.

“The only viable solution for a free, democratic Iran is to stop appeasing the mullahs, and to support the Iranian people and their resistance. The book provides a compelling argument why the Mojahedin [Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)] cannot be ignored and the role they will inevitably have to play in the future of Iran.”

The Sistani article also discusses the siege of MEK residents by Iraqi Security Forces in Camp Ashraf as the residents await transfer to Camp Liberty and an opportunity for resettlement outside of Iraq. in this respect, the article supports the argument that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm put forth in an IPC post,

Iranian Dissidents Languish in Iraq

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon popularized the “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm by well-armed states. The responsibility to protect principle (R2P) holds nations responsible for shielding civilians in their midst from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity. 

According to the secretary general, the doctrine “requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.” Washington is now stepping up to the plate with its offer to protect the Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

But others have shirked their roles in monitoring the situation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acknowledged it has not visited the Iranian oppositionists as of the end of 2011 because “the situation . . . is being monitored by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq [UNAMI].”

Yet monitoring by UNAMI has not restrained Iraqi military and police forces. They violated a signed December 2011 memorandum of understanding between the UN and Government of Iraq by mistreating Iranian dissidents during their transfer from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya, formerly Camp Liberty, Iraq.

Since the publication of the “responsibility to protect” article, the situations in Ashraf and in Camp Liberty have deteriorated even further.

Struan Stevenson, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq stated that an assault on Camp Ashraf had occurred on 27 August 2012,

 “…causing injury to 20 residents, [and] once again reveals the ominous intentions of the Iranian regime and its collaborators in Iraq. According to pictures and video clips, Iraqi SWAT forces (wearing all-black uniforms) attacked the defenceless residents, who had gathered with their personal belongings to be inspected before moving to Camp Liberty at the specific request of the US and UN.”

For additional IPC commentary on the situation in Camp Liberty at the end of August 2012, see:

Iranian American Community of Northern California: Bi-Partisan Panel lauds Iranian dissidents in Iraq, urges Secretary Clinton to de-list the Iranian opposition, MeK, and ensure the peaceful resettlement of all Camp Ashraf residents in third countries

Iranian American Community of Northern California: Bi-Partisan Panel lauds Iranian dissidents in Iraq, urges Secretary Clinton to de-list the Iranian opposition, MeK, and ensure the peaceful resettlement of all Camp Ashraf residents in third countries

Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization by Raymond Tanter

The press release below summarizes in multimedia format a conference in Washington DC on 25 August 2012 of high level former American officials. Each hyperlink on the press release contains a presentation of a particular speaker.

An overall theme of the conference is linkage between designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) on the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations list and difficulty in resettling residents who are members of the MEK and who reside in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, Iraq to third countries.

In the context of removal of the MEK from the U.S. terrorist list, Iran Policy Committee (IPC) research reported in Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization, indicates an increased likelihood that third countries will accept the residents.

Meanwhile, two days after the August conference in Washington, members of the MEK in Camp Ashraf submitted to a search by Iraqi forces as condition for the MEK to travel to Camp Liberty en route to possible resettlement outside of Iraq.

During the search, there is evidence that an Iraqi army intelligence officer with a prominent role in the July 2009 and April 2011 Iraqi attacks against Ashraf residents began threatening them. When police and soldiers began pushing the residents, they protested, which resulted in rock throwing by the Iraqis. See photo below of Iraqi policemen throwing rocks at the residents of Ashraf.

Camp Ashraf residents being attacked

27 August 2012, Iraqi soldiers attacking Camp Ashraf residents as they stand in line to be transported to Camp Liberty in 100 degree weather

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In a symposium at the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday [August 25, 2012, former senior U.S. officials urged the State Department to delist the main Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), and protect its members in Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq.

In his opening remarks, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy  made a reference to the 6th group of 400 of the residents of Camp Ashraf who were preparing to go to Camp Liberty from Ashraf: “As the sixth convoy leaves and because of the leadership and goodwill gesture of Madam Rajavi, it’s appropriate that we call on the Iraqi government, that we call on the United Nations and Mr. Kobler to finally do the right thing and …to honor the humanitarian issues that have been pointed out in the Memorandum of Understanding.”

General James Jones, President Obama’s former National Security Advisor and former Commander, Supreme Allied Command-Europe, who could not attend the conference, said in a written message, “The right thing to do, the humanitarian thing to do, is for the United States to remove the terrorist listing currently ascribed to the people of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, and to champion a program of third country repatriation as soon as possible.”

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey described Secretary Clinton’s linkage of cooperation in the closure of Ashraf and the de-listing of the MeK as being “completely lawless, because it’s got nothing to do with standards under the statute.” He added, “The continued listing of MeK is the main obstacle to resettlement and the MeK has done all in its power to comply with even the irrelevant demand that Ashraf be closed.  Enough is enough.” Judges Mukasey concluded that the residents of Camp Ashraf “have already put their lives on the line yet again by trying to organize yet another convey and have been frustrated in that effort; it is not time to urge further accommodation by the residents, it is time to urge common sense on the State Department.”

Former CIA Director Porter Goss added, “My job is to find terrorists…We looked at Camp Ashraf but we didn’t find any… Nobody has been able to find any; we sent the FBI, we sent the military.”  Former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato agreed, “MeK has been the sworn enemy of the corrupt Mullahs who are there now.  Let’s make them our friend… Let’s bring down terrorism.”

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the focus should be to make sure that MeK is de-listed. “If that happens, it takes away the issue of Ashraf.  It takes away the issue of Camp Liberty and gives people the opportunity to be repatriated to a country of their choice.”  As to the impact of the voice of Congress so far, Mr. Hastert said, “I think it puts the State Department in a tenuous situation in the reticence that they’ve had in not de-listing the MeK. If the State Department doesn’t do its job, Congress can withhold part of the funding for the State Department.”

“What is not difficult,” former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, said “is this question of de-listing MeK… From a justice perspective, it would appear to be the only thing that we could do.”  Gov. Ritter added, “After watching the promises made in 2003 to the residents of Camp Ashraf, not just by the United States Government and the United Nations, but by the international community, in many respects those have been really unilaterally broken.” “This notion of transferring from Ashraf to Liberty and that it would be in a sense a transition, for the American people a transition from one place to a worse place on your way to a better place is not a just transition,” he added.

Former Coalition Forces Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, said, “A nuclear weapons capable Iran with its present government would be a traumatically destabilizing factor for not just the Gulf but for the greater region. Where does it stop?” General McNeill added, “I do advocate replacing such a repressive government, by plebiscite and popular demand, it would far better.  It would also set an example for others in the region.”

[Another speaker at the conference, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, said] “When I talk to the State Department, they say, oh, these are the MeK, as if somehow or other they’re terrorists.  Well, prove it.  The court compelled you to prove it and I sat in that court hearing room.  And I didn’t hear anything.  Where is the proof?  I heard nothing from my friends in the [State] Department. I keep asking the Treasury Department, where is the proof?  I get no answer from the Treasury Department.  I asked the Justice Department, where is the proof that this is a terrorist organization?  I can’t even get the benefit of a reply,” noted former senior White House advisor Ambassador Ginsberg.

Iran Policy Committee: Whistleblower Charges UN Collusion with Baghdad against Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On 23 August 2012, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) examined three sets of events regarding Iranian dissidents in Iraq, who are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and concluded in a press release that certain actions are necessary to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe as well as to correct wrongs. These events include: 1) A 21 July interview with as well as a 22 July article by a high level whistleblower who is a former official of the UN in Iraq and whose job was to monitor the condition of the Iranian dissidents; 2)  The whistleblower’s allegations and his comments on remarks made by a State Department spokesperson on 25 July about the status of the dissidents; and 3) A “goodwill gesture” offered on 17 August by the dissidents to send 400 additional residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq.

Nonviolent, unarmed Iranian female dissidents resist Iraqi military forces in Camp Ashraf, Iraq

Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former assistant vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force; and Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific interviewed the whistleblower, Tahar Boumedra, who had charged that actions of the United Nations against the Iranian dissidents were “a shameful story of hiding the truth and looking the other way when we knew there were violations … complicity with wrongdoers, and neglect of human rights and humanitarian responsibilities.”

Because the Boumedra accusations are in accord with research on Iraq that McInerney and Vallely conducted, they said, “We concur with the allegations of Boumedra and condemn the UN for failure to protect the unarmed innocent civilian Iranian dissidents; going beyond Boumedra, furthermore, we charge the Department of State with colluding against the unprotected to curry the favor of Baghdad and Tehran.” McInerney and Vallely called for “an independent investigation of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), to look into the allegations by Boumedra with special reference to discovering if prosecutable offenses may have occurred under international humanitarian law.”

American-made Iraqi Humvees patrol within Camp Liberty, as if Iranian dissidents were prisoners instead of asylum seekers to be protected

As former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment in the Reagan and Bush administrations and member of the Advisory Board of the Iran Policy Committee, William A. Nitze, interviewed Boumedra and said, “I concur with the call for an investigation of UNAMI in light of specific charges by one of the most senior UN officials in that part of the world.”

General McInerney applauded the “goodwill gesture” on 17 August by the dissidents to send 400 additional residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq. “What is not clear,” McInerney added, “is whether there would be a reciprocal move by the State Department regarding the designation of the MEK on the Department’s foreign terrorist organizations list.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former senior member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, stated that, “Although IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by 1 October 2012, the Department of State has an opportunity to act now, and do what some 100 bipartisan Members of Congress have asked it to do, i.e., to delist the MEK,” added Tanter.

Tanter asked Boumedra for a response to remarks of 25 July by the State Department spokesperson. Victoria Nuland who stated, “The Government of Iraq has recently taken constructive steps … On July 15, it transported from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya [Liberty] a cargo convoy of 300 additional air conditioners, several large water tanks, additional generators, and other goods to improve the residents’ quality of life at Camp Hurriya … We commend the Government for these positive measures and for its stated commitment to a peaceful resolution of this issue, which is the only acceptable outcome.”

Boumedra responded by saying, “Such statements contradict Iraq’s officially announced policy of making lives of Ashrafis ‘unbearable.’ Documents are available. It also does not correspond to my own firsthand experience of three and a half years dealing with this matter.”

Boumedra added, “Furthermore, whatever improvement registered, if any, during the last six months in Camp Liberty, they did not happen thanks to the generosity of the Iraqi Government. They are the achievements of Ashrafis at their own expense, despite imposed restrictions on their freedom of movement and contact with the outside world.”

State Department and UN officials concede that living conditions at Camp Liberty are significantly lower than that of the former home of the dissidents in Ashraf. On 1 August 2012, however, the State Department claimed, “Allegations of dire humanitarian conditions at Hurriya [Liberty] are inconsistent with observations made by U.S. Government officials who have visited Hurriya, as well as reporting from UN monitors. Based on these reports, and other information, it is clear that the quality of life at Hurriya exceeds accepted humanitarian standards.”

Notwithstanding Department of State claims, Boumedra said in an interview that the head of the UN in Iraq had “directed his staff to cover up the prisonlike conditions of a relocation camp for Iranian dissidents in reports to the world body.”

On a broader note, Boumedra said, “Camp Ashraf residents have been evicted from their settlement residence of 26 years without due process of law. It is an arbitrary eviction. UN rules on this matter hold that when an eviction takes place, it should be done according to due process, and the State must compensate with similar standards or higher—in any case not lower.”

Members of the U.S. Congress Recommend State Department Press Baghdad for Humanitarian Conditions for Iranians at Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq, says Iran Policy Committee

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In the course of research on Iranian dissidents, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) reviewed letters sent by a Senator and Members of the House of Representatives to the Secretary of State on the status of Iranian dissidents in Iraq. IPC also participated in a briefing by Members of the House. IPC research is consistent with views expressed in these letters and at the briefing.

In a June 12, 2012 letter, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to express his dismay over the lack of action by the Department of State to reach a decision on the status of a revocation petition filed by the main Iranian opposition group that rejects clerical rule, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Senator Levin wrote: “I have requested repeatedly that the Department of State proceed expeditiously to make a determination regarding the designation of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a foreign terrorist organization…” The Senator is the latest among U.S. lawmakers to criticize the delay by the Department on the status of the MEK. The Senator also questioned the process that the State Department pursues to determine the status of the petition by the MEK.

Entrance Gate of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, which provided residents a serene, livable environment

Iraqi forces point guns at Camp Ashraf, where exiled Iranians are now are under siege

A letter of August 2, 2012 from Members of the House spearheaded by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade stated, “We respectfully request that the Department of State seek the Iraqi government’s agreement to and implementation of a number of humanitarian measures. Until these measures are implemented, further voluntary relocation of Camp Ashraf residents would only exacerbate the current dreadful living conditions in Camp Liberty.” A bipartisan group of 79 Members of Congress signed the letter.

During a briefing by Members of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 1, 2012, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), a senior member of Committee on Homeland Security blamed Baghdad for “lack of clean water” at Camp Liberty. Also at the briefing, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called for removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a group to which the Iranian dissidents belong, from the U.S. terrorist list to facilitate their speedy resettlement outside of Iraq, without relocation from Ashraf to Liberty.

Through independent research, the IPC determines that residents of Liberty are only seeking minimum humanitarian improvements in their quality of life. These include ensuring satisfactory access to clean water via measures to connect Liberty to the Baghdad water network and transfer of water purification equipment from Ashraf to Liberty or acquisition elsewhere of such items; improved electrical equipment to operate air conditioners, potentially through transfer of large generators from Ashraf to Liberty; authority to construct adequate ramps and related safety infrastructure for residents of Liberty, including those who are suffering from disabilities; and transfer of forklifts from Ashraf to Liberty to facilitate handling of heavy items.

Armed Iraqi police at a checkpoint inside Camp Liberty, which has a prison-like status

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a statement on implications of diplomatic maneuvering about the status of the Iranian dissidents in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific; and Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret) said, “We are concerned that statements implying Iranian dissidents in Iraq are responsible for any delay in relocating play into the hands of those in the Government of Iraq intent on forcible relocation; on the contrary, our research finds that Baghdad is responsible for such delays because of failure to provide minimum humanitarian assistance to the dissidents. In this respect, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ambassador Martin Kobler, told the Security Council on July 19, 2012 that, “Time is running out to find a sustainable situation,…[and he urged] the Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm commented on a statement of August 1, 2012 by Patrick Ventrell, Department of State Acting Deputy Spokesperson. Ventrell called on “…the Ashraf leadership to immediately resume cooperation with the relocation of residents to Camp…[Liberty].The continued intransigence of the residents’ leadership in placing preconditions and making demands prior to any agreement to relocate…[additional] Ashraf residents is unacceptable…” McColm said “Ventrell’s statement blames the victim rather than the cause of the delay—Baghdad.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration, inferred Baghdad’s hidden agenda for denying minimum humanitarian life support: “1) Provide a rationale for forcible relocation within Iraq of remaining Ashraf residents by the Iraqi military; 2) Wear down resolve of Liberty residents so they ‘voluntarily’ repatriate to Iran rather than resettle to friendly third countries where they can continue as a political force that threatens survival of the clerical regime in Tehran; and 3) Evacuate Ashraf but keep former residents at Liberty to give space and time for the Iraqi military to place weapons in Ashraf to reinforce the false claim the MEK maintains an intent to commit terrorism and justify its continuation on the U.S. terrorist list. Such a hidden agenda based on fabricated premises is an illegitimate basis for denying minimum humanitarian life support to individuals listed as asylum seekers by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refuges.”

Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), steams alongside the British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) in the Persian Gulf on April 9, 1998.  DoD photo by Airman Robert Baker, U.S. Navy.

Stringer/Iran/Reuters – Military personnel place a flag on a submarine during the Velayat-90 war games by the Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran December 27, 2011. Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines.

 

In “Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran,” Michael Eisenstadt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recommends ways to reinforce American diplomacy regarding Iran, and thereby diminish the prospects of military confrontation with Tehran. He suggests the United States intensify intelligence operations and use the military instrument in ways it has not been willing to thus far:

Successful diplomacy may well depend on the administration’s ability to convince Tehran that the price of failed negotiations could be armed conflict. To make this threat credible, Washington must first show Tehran that it is preparing for a possible military confrontation—whether initiated by Iran or a third country—and that it is willing and able to enforce its red lines regarding freedom of navigation in the Gulf and the regime’s nuclear program.

Eisenstadt concludes:

If nuclear diplomacy with Tehran is to succeed, Washington must be prepared for the kind of brinkmanship it has not engaged in since the Cold War. This means ratcheting up pressure, while, backstopping diplomacy with preparations that underscore its readiness for a confrontation, in order to deter Iran from additional steps toward a nuclear breakout. To this end, Washington should reinforce three key notions in Tehran: that the Iranian nuclear program has been penetrated by foreign intelligence services, that the regime would not be able to conduct a clandestine breakout without getting caught, and that if it does try to build a nuclear weapon, the United States will destroy its nuclear infrastructure. In this way, the administration would make clear to Tehran that the only way to obtain sanctions relief, escape from its growing isolation, and avert the possibility of war is through a diplomatic solution—one that meets Iran’s desire for peaceful nuclear technology without allowing for the possibility of a breakout.

While IPC research is in line with most of the recommendations of Eisenstadt, the research also suggests:

Removal of Iranian opposition groups, such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations list to send a signal to Tehran that survival of its regime is on the table.

Enhanced use of Iranian dissident information as “lead intelligence” to complement surveillance information based on United States, Arab Gulf States, and Israeli services to make it more difficult for Tehran to plan or implement retaliatory action in the event of Israeli or American military strikes.

MAR 2012, Image of police presence in Camp Liberty

Employment of maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on the Government of Iraq for it to implement minimum humanitarian life support requirements to facilitate departure of residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq. The residents are members of the largest unit with the NCRI—the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), and it is critical for them to survive as an indication the Iranian regime’s survival is at stake.

Iran Policy Committee: Violations of Human Rights of Iranian Dissidents in Iraq and the Unwarranted Terrorist Designation of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin

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WASHINGTON, July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On 17 July 2012, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) issued a press release. A State Department teleconference on 6 July 2012 prompted the release. Briefing the media were Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin as well as Special Advisor to the Secretary on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried. They briefed on the situation at Camp Ashraf, Iraq and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) designation. Developments over the past few days also stimulated the release.

Regarding human rights, Ambassador Benjamin stated, “The Iraqi Government and the United Nations continue to encourage the secure, humane relocation of residents to Hurriya [Liberty] for refugee status determinations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Benjamin added that because no other convoys of the residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Liberty since early May, “…the patience of the Iraqi Government is wearing thin.”

Special Advisor to the Secretary of State on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a joint statement taking issue with Ambassador Benjamin’s assertions about Baghdad and the UN encouraging secure and humane relocation: Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former assistant vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force; Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific; and Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret).

McInerney, Vallely, and Nash stated, “As former members of the U.S. military, we are concerned that Ambassador Benjamin’s statement will be read as a signal by Baghdad to launch a third attack against Iranian dissidents in Ashraf. Based on IPC research, we believe the Government of Iraq is engaged in serious violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq. With the acquiescence of U.S. diplomats, dissidents’ rights as asylum seekers in their quest for refugee status are being violated on a systematic basis by Baghdad.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm joined Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration to comment on the situation of the dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty.

Ambassador Fried described the relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty as “successful,” because during the transfer there were no “roadside bombs or attacks.” Ambassador Fried added, “I’m more impressed by the progress that has been made than concerned by the problems that remain. This is Iraq…we’re doing all right so far.”

Tanter said, “Such a statement by Fried is in stark contrast to remarks of 71 Members of the Iraqi parliament, who find, ‘Conditions at Liberty are far from humane and have every character of a forced relocation.'”

Tanter  stated, “On 30 June 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Iraqi National Movement informed the UN Secretary General that Camp Liberty was a ‘prison’ for the residents because they are collectively punished with their deprivation from basic humanitarian needs at the behest of the Iranian regime.”

On the basis of IPC research, McColm pointed out examples of necessary equipment to ensure basic human rights, especially for the disabled and to solve the water shortage in Liberty:

Transfer of specially-designed vehicles and specially-designed trailers for the disabled from Ashraf to Liberty and about 50 passenger cars, which would mean one car for about every 40 residents, a minimum in the hot weather for wounded and disabled residents

Permission for construction, including the building of pavements, porches, canopies, ramps, special facilities for the disabled, and permission to build green areas and recreational facilities

Removal of large power generators owned by the residents from Ashraf to Liberty, an adequate number of forklifts to Liberty, and ability to sell their movable and immovable assets in Ashraf to fund their relocation and resettlement abroad

“Having the residents to deliver water on a daily basis from 12 kilometers away by tankers was not a way to meet minimum humanitarian needs,” said McColm.

McColm also stated, “Connecting Liberty to a municipal water network, which was repeatedly promised by Iraqi officials and confirmed by the State Department and UN representatives, would be one solution to the water shortage problem.”

“To improve the life support infrastructure of Camp Liberty to an acceptable level is an absolute necessity for the State Department to live up to its promises made to every resident of Camp Ashraf and deprive Iran from its desire to wear down its opposition into submission in prison-like conditions at Camp Liberty,” said IPC president, Professor Raymond Tanter.

With respect to the terrorist designation of the MEK, on 6 July 2012, Ambassador Benjamin said, “With such a [violent] history, cooperating fully with the UN’s efforts in Iraq would be a tangible demonstration that the MEK has left its violent past behind and that it no longer retains the capability and intent to engage in acts of terrorism.”

Tanter stated, “IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by October 2012; the Court ignored or rejected such linkage when presented by the State Department representative in briefs and oral argument prior to the June ruling.”

In addition, Tanter said, “Legal criteria for inclusion on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list are that a group must be a foreign organization; engaged in terrorist activity or retain the capability as well as intent to engage in terrorist activity; and that activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or its national security. Thus, cooperation in a relocation process is not a legal criterion for designation or continued listing.”

Tanter also stated, “The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 holds that even if an organization is engaged in terrorist activities or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, national security considerations may warrant removal from the terrorist list. The law, however, does not provide for the reverse—that is, maintaining a designation for non-terrorist reasons. Relisting the MEK because of alleged noncooperation in Iraq would be an example of a non-statuary rationale and legally impermissible.”

McInerney, Vallely, Nash, McColm, and Tanter concluded, “Violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Iraq and linkage of their relocation within Iraq to what several national and international courts have found to be an unwarranted  terrorist designation of the organization to which they belong—the MEK—is a recipe for another violent crackdown by Iraq on the Iranian oppositionists. As the 20 July unilateral Iraqi deadline for perhaps forcibly evacuating the remaining dissidents from Ashraf to Liberty approaches, the international community has a responsibility to pressure Baghdad to improve humanitarian conditions so they can safely relocate within Iraq as prelude to humane resettlement in friendly countries.”

Responsibility to Protect Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

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WASHINGTON, February 19, 2012, A humanitarian tragedy unfolds as the Iraqi military and police harass and threaten 397 Iranian dissidents relocated to Camp Hurriya, a former American military base [as shown in image on the left]. They are the first of 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf. How Iraq, UN, EU, and the United States act is a litmus test for whether the rest of the residents of Camp Ashraf relocate.

Professor Raymond Tanter, former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush White House and President of the Iran Policy Committee, stated, “The UN shares with Washington responsibility to protect Iranian dissidents from being harmed by Iraqi authorities. At the UN World Summit, September 2005, over 150 countries adopted ‘responsibility to protect’ populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.”

Professor Tanter said, “The United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) formally recognized on 13 September 2011, and reiterated on 1 February 2012 residents of Ashraf as “asylum seekers,” with rights and protections based on international humanitarian standards. According UNHCR, “International law requires that asylum-seekers must be able to benefit from basic protection of their security and well being. This includes protection against any expulsion or return to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedom would be threatened.”

Professor Tanter added, “But the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) works at cross purposes with UNHCR. While UNHCR stands ready to conduct Refugee Status Determination to resettle the dissidents in other countries, UNAMI colludes with Iraqi authorities, providing a pretext for Baghdad to harm them, contrary to international humanitarian standards.

UNHCR emphasizes protecting Iranian dissidents stating, “Any relocation outside Camp New Iraq [Ashraf] [should] proceed on a voluntary basis, with freedom of movement the most desirable state at the site of relocation.” But according to reports, Iranian dissidents are barred from taking their personal belongings, even items like wheelchairs, microwave ovens, and satellite dishes for Internet access. Contrary to UNHCR, the dissidents have no freedom of movement. Journalists are kept away, and neither lawyers nor families can observe or visit Camp Hurriya; in disregard of dissidents’ rights, UNAMI paid no attention to Iraqi harassment, intimidation, and insult to them upon arrival to Hurriya.

Washington is also accountable for failure to provide effective diplomatic pressure on Iraq to ensure safe relocation, often called the “American plan” because it stems from a Christmas Day statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are encouraged by the Iraqi government’s willingness to commit to this plan, and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities, especially [to] provide for the safety and security of Ashraf’s residents.”

Because of the Clinton statement, the dissidents accepted the relocation plan, which is now being violated by Iraqi authorities. A subsequent announcement by the Department of State “commends the decision by the Ashraf residents to begin to relocate to Hurriya, where the United Nations will begin a process aimed at facilitating their eventual departure from Iraq,” a commendation that enhances U.S. stake in the plan and responsibility to protect the dissidents. By praising the former residents of Ashraf for the first time, the pronouncement also implicitly commends their leadership in Paris for its constructive role in averting human tragedy.

The Way Forward

In a statement of 7 February this year, 23 former senior officials of the U.S. Government expressed concern about relocation, “We are very troubled by the official position of the Iraqi Government that the residents of Ashraf will have no freedom of movement while in Camp Liberty.”

First, the IPC concurs with a recommendation of our former colleagues in the U.S. Government for American Embassy Baghdad to obtain assurances for security of dissidents now relocated in Camp Hurriya and as incentive for the 3,000 who remain in Camp Ashraf to relocate: “We believe an operational protocol must be developed through dialogue among all relevant parties, including the representatives of Camp Ashraf and the Iraqi Government.”

Second, the UN might inform dissidents of rights as asylum seekers. The IPC is dismayed to learn that Iranian dissidents in Camp Hurriya have no minimum assurances from either the UN or Washington about their security or rights under international human rights law.

Third, the Secretary General needs to bring operational practices of UNAMI in accord with humanitarian standards of asylum seeker status provided by UNHCR. If the Iraqi police were outside Camp Hurriya and UNAMI monitors inside, UNHCR humanitarian standards are more likely to be followed.

Without such steps, a calamity is likely, spilled blood of the Iranian asylum seekers will be on the hands of those with responsibility to protect, and appropriate legal action against accountable parties is likely in international and national tribunals.

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