When there’s no good answer, people sometimes – actually often – try to obfuscate with false information. That surely was the case at the recent U.S. Court of Appeals hearing involving the terrorist designation of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). I was present during the hearing and was stunned with how the Government handled this case.
This case has been dragging on for almost two years, as the State Department continues to block efforts by the PMOI to have the wrongful listing removed. Similar efforts in the UK and EU were successful years ago, but the U.S. – for reasons still unknown – continues to resist.
Finally, on May 8, the judges of the appeals court for the District of Columbia, asked the State Department lawyers why they should not issue a writ of mandamus implementing the court’s earlier ruling to review the terrorist designation.
Simple question – but astonishing answer.
The State Department’s lawyer replied that the U.S. had not had the opportunity to inspect Camp Ashraf, the home in Iraq to 4,300 Iranian dissidents, and claimed that the U.S. military was not allowed to confirm if the residents there had been disarmed.
There’s that “big lie” technique again; the bigger the lie, the more likely it may be believed. But this disingenuous answer begs belief. In 2003, after the U.S.-led coalition forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, American officials interviewed every single person at Ashraf, inspected the site, and accepted responsibility to assure security there under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Many American military commanders who had responsibility for Ashraf all have attested to the fact that Ashraf has been disarmed and was peaceful, and indeed thriving, until the U.S. turned over control of the camp to the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki, who by then was totally under the thumb of the mullahs in Tehran. Gen. Raymond Odierno (then 4th ID commander) in a video teleconference from Baghdad on June 18, 2003, stated that MEK ‘have been completely disarmed. We have taken all small arms and all heavy equipment.”
To be blunt, the State Department lawyer contradicted all the facts about what has happened over the past nine years. No wonder then that a representative of Ashraf residents, after hearing these total misrepresentations, wrote to Secretary Clinton asking her to send inspection teams to once again inspect Camp Ashraf.
In a joint statement, Brig. Gen. David Phillips (ret.), former commander of all police operations in Iraq, which included the protection of Camp Ashraf until 2006; and Col. Wesley Martin (ret.), senior antiterrorism/force protection officer for all coalition forces in Iraq who served at Camp Ashraf in 2006, who attended the oral hearing with me, as well as Lt. Col. Leo McCloskey (ret.), commander of Joint Interagency Task Force at Camp Ashraf until January 2009, described the remarks by the State Department attorney Robert Loeb as "absurd" and a "denigration of the admirable work of thousands of American service-people who protected Camp Ashraf and verified its inhabitants were unarmed."
"Having served at Ashraf during several tours of duty in Iraq, we repeatedly inspected the entire camp without any hindrance and found no sign of weapons or ammunition, nor any plans or intentions to acquire weapons or use violence," the officers emphasized. "These inspections were undertaken impromptu and without prior notice. At all times and during every inspection, the leaders and residents of Ashraf cooperated fully with the U.S. commanders and forces," they added.
The irony is that the U.S. has been very happy to accept the intelligence gathered by the Iranian Resistance, especially concerning its nuclear program. The PMOI/MEK has served as the world’s eyes and ears regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, export of terrorism and its infiltration of the Iraqi government.
Yet, to keep the ruling mullahs in Iran happy, the State Department remains two-faced in this situation. When the Ashraf residents began moving to Camp Liberty, despite its horrendous conditions, the U.S. guaranteed to protect them. But it has done nothing to improve living standards in this prison-like facility or prod the UN to move along the process of granting the residents refugee status so they can be transferred to third countries.
Secretary Clinton also said she would see the move to Camp Liberty in a positive light regarding the terrorist listing. The time to follow-up on these promises is at hand.
If the State Department and U.S. Army want to re-inspect Ashraf that’s fine. But it must be done quickly so the mullahs’ regime or Iraqi forces cannot use the latest misstatements as an excuse to commit further crimes against residents of Ashraf and Liberty.
The statement by the representative of the residents added: "The residents of Ashraf are prepared to provide all necessary facilities, at their own cost, for the entire U.S. forces in the course of inspection. If this invitation is not accepted, it clearly shows that the remarks by the government’s lawyer are an unjustifiable excuse, simultaneous with the nuclear negotiation, to appease the mullahs’ regime.
It’s time for the State Department to unshackle the MEK. Such action would finally allow the Iranian Resistance to work to free its homeland, and set the world free from Tehran’s nuclear threat.
Any continued effort to assist the mullahs’ regime in its struggle against the MEK is to the detriment of regional peace and security and freedom of the Iranian people.