RESETTLING THE MUJAHEDEEN-E KHALQ OF IRAQ
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Some background: Saddam Hussein allied with the MeK (also known as the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or PMOI) against their common enemy in Tehran. Following the U.S.A.-led conquest of Iraq in 2003, MeK members living in Iraq acquired "protected persons" status and entered a political limbo, neither friend nor enemy of the occupying powers. With the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and increasingly close ties between the Iraqi and Iranian governments, MeK circumstances worsened to the point that in April, 2011, Iraqi troops attacked Camp Ashraf, its Iraqi home since 1986, killing 34 people and injuring 325.
Cooler heads prevailed after this dangerous flare-up. With U.S. government approval, Baghdad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations in December, 2011. In it, the Government of Iraq committed to the relocation of Camp Ashraf (now renamed Camp New Iraq) residents to a temporary transit facility where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would begin the process of transiting MeK members in Iraq to refugee status, a necessary first step to resettle them outside Iraq.
Toward this end, about 400 MeK members voluntarily left Camp Ashraf on February 18, 2012, and moved to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base. Their transfer, however, was marred by threats from Iraqi forces, harassment from elements of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and inhospitable living conditions and constant police surveillance within Camp Liberty.
This move cast doubts on Iraqi government intentions and set a worrying precedent. Further, there is no clear sense how the MeK members will all be processed as refugees within the next two months, much less of their ultimate destination for resettlement outside either Iraq or Iran.
Here follow some practical recommendations for Washington, which must not abandon the organization most feared by the tyrants in Tehran:
Pressure the UNHCR to get the refugee processing done quickly.
Remove the unwarranted terrorist tag from the MeK, as the European Union has already done. Government and private sources alike reveal no evidence that the MeK engages in terrorist activities or has the capability and intent to do so. The discredited "terrorist" description, however, has real-world consequences. For example, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has linked ill-treatment of Iranian dissidents to the MeK's designation as a terrorist group; and the terrorist label, understandably, makes third countries reluctant to resettle MeK members.
Seek out culturally similar hosts for MeK members; perhaps Persian-speaking countries (such as Tajikistan or Afghanistan) or Muslim Middle Eastern countries hostile to the Islamic Republic of Iran (such as Saudi Arabia or the Persian Gulf statelets).
These steps offer a way to resettle MeK members and resolve an urgent impending human tragedy in advance of the looming April 30 deadline.
© Daniel Pipes 2012
Originally Published in National Review Online, February 28, 2012
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from Daniel Pipes.org, February 28, 2012
The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
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Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
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Islamist International Terrorism &
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Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is Founder and President of the Middle East Forum, Publisher of Middle East Quarterly, Founder of Campus Watch, Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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