November 18, 2017

Iranian group asks US to take control of Iraq camp


PARIS (AP) – An exiled Iranian opposition group urged the international community today to assume control of a camp housing some of its members outside Baghdad, after an Iraqi raid last month killed at least six of its residents.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran wants the United States to re-establish temporary control over Camp Ashraf, where some 3,500 of its members have been confined since being disarmed by U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said Maryam Rajavi, leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — an umbrella group that includes the People’s Mujahedeen.

Iraqi authorities raided the camp on July 29 with the aim of setting up a police station inside, according to officials in Baghdad. They said six people were killed and 35 people were detained after the exiles resisted the effort and provoked a riot.

The National Council, however, accused the Iraqis of staging the raid at Tehran’s request, and said nine people were killed and some 500 injured, while 36 people were detained. It also alleged the Iraqis were denying medical help to seven people seriously injured, and blocking food and medical supplies to the camp.

Iraqi government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iraqi forces took over the camp’s security from the U.S. military on Feb. 20 as part of a security pact. The U.S. military had pledged that the camp’s residents would be treated as ”protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions.

The raid on Camp Ashraf reflects the challenge Iraq faces in meeting U.S. expectations while maintaining a friendly relationship with neighboring Iran, which has long pressed for the camp to be closed down.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, which is committed to toppling Iran’s regime, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, though it has provided the Americans with intelligence on Iran. The European Union removed it from its terror list this year.

The group set up Camp Ashraf in 1986, and some residents have residency or citizenship in Western countries, including reportedly in the United States.

Rajavi urged the United States to take control of the camp, and asked that the United Nations set up a long-term mission there.

Rajavi also called on Washington to prevent any camp members from being extradited to Iran — as the U.S. military had assured.

”The international community and Western countries must react immediately,” Rajavi told The Associated Press after holding a news conference in Paris.

U.S. officials said at the time of the raid that the Iraqis had not informed them of their plans.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran was founded by Iranian leftists opposed to Iran’s U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group took part in the 1979 Iranian Revolution that brought a clerical regime to power, but its blend of Marxism and secular Islamism eventually pitted it against the mullahs.