No Longer Protected by U.S. Forces, Iranian Camp within Iraqi Borders Brutally Sieged – With Iran’s Approval
(CBS) – When the U.S. began turning over security to the Iraqis, it stopped protecting some valuable allies – thousands of Iranian exiles living in Iraq. Left alone, their camp outside Baghdad is now under attack.
For two days, Iraqi police have beaten the resident and no food or doctors have been allowed in – all with the approval of Iran’s government as CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reports.
It started peacefully and quickly turned violent, with Iraqi police using wooden sticks against a group of unarmed civilians.
The civilians were Iranians living inside Iraq – members of an Iranian opposition group, known as the MEK.
It was the MEK that provided the U.S. with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Were it not for the MEK, the world would not be in the position to find out about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the mullahs may have had the bomb,” said Ali Safavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The MEK have lived in Camp Ashraf – a quiet community featuring fountains and manicured gardens – for decades, providing intelligence on Iran. The Iranian government wants them expelled and accuses them of being involved in the recent unrest in Iran.
Since the U.S. invasion, the camp’s roughly 3,000 residents have been living under U.S. protection. But that ended in January when the Iraqis took control under the security agreement.
Now the U.S. appears to have washed their hands of the people of Ashraf.
“It is a matter now for the government of Iraq to resolve,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Images captured by residents inside Ashraf, showed the dead and wounded. Not even the women were spared. Residents told CBS News at least 11 people were killed, hundreds wounded and 30 arrested. The numbers are impossible to verify because the Iraqi government has sealed off the camp.
The attack was the latest sign that American influence in Iraq is waning, just as Iranian influence rises. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki and his government are becoming increasingly pro-Iranian.
“The Iranians would have to cross the border to get at them directly, because Camp Ashraf is clearly over the border,” said Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, “but they have an obviously willing ally in Prime Minister Maliki willing to do their bidding/.”
In Iran, the government praised the Iraqi action, saying, “It is appreciated that they have decided to clean up the Iraqi land from the filthy existence of terrorists.”