Fox News “Special Report” with Shannon Bream
Special Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Steve Hayes, Charles Krauthammer
MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Now these people are in a camp where they are defenseless, and the United States troops have pulled out with the result that they are now at the mercy of the Iraqi government which is really doing the biding of the Iranian government. They’ve attacked them twice, both times when the U.S., then U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, was in country.
SHANNON BREAM, GUEST HOST: That is former Attorney General Michael Mukasey talking about a group of Iranian dissidents who actually live in Iraq, and now they’re losing their space where they’ve felt protected and they are moving elsewhere. Let’s talk about it with our panel. We’re back with Steve, A.B., and Charles. A.B., this Camp Ashraf situation is very delicate at this point.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL : This is really going to put us in a terrible position because we are going to get dragged into it. I mean, the U.S. government is trying to continue to partner with Iraq to secure — for their own security. But we’re trying at the same time to stay out of the sectarian tension and political chaos that is mounting there. We find the prime minister now, he wants these people out. They’re going to be moved to a temporary place, Camp Liberty, which is a former U.S. base. There is no final home. There’s plans for a transfer, or what they call resettlement, without U.S. troops, U.N. monitors. Everyone is concerned that they won’t be safe there. There will be violence. Do the residents of the camp even want to be moved to the interim place? He’s defending the sovereignty of Iran throughout.
This is going to be a mess, and we’re going to find ourselves having to take a side, and it’s going to be a very tough situation as we try to take this kind of hands-off approach now whenever trouble erupts in Iraq, as it did within days of us leaving.
BREAM: And this camp currently it sits 50 miles from the Iranian border inside Iraq. And as Jennifer Griffin did in her excellent reporting earlier tonight, talked about the fact the U.S. had an understanding for protection for these folks, Steve.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: This is one of the reasons that I think this is such a problem. There’s a human tragedy element to it and then there’s also the political implications of this. The human tragedy is obvious. If we don’t protect them, they could be very well the victim of collusion between these two governments. That would be tragic.
On the political side of thing, the United States unfortunately has a history doing this in Iraq. I mean, remember back to 1991 when George H.W. Bush went on the radio, and people throughout the country heard him, said rise up against your government, we’ve got your backs. The Shiites did this and the Kurds did this in the north, and then we walked away from them.
We can’t do this. If we want people to act on our own interests and our perceived interests, we need to be able to keep our word when we ask people to do things for us and when we make promises. It looks like in this case we’re not keeping a promise.
BREAM: The prime minister, al-Maliki said we’re not going to hand them over to Iran; we’re not going to kill them. We don’t want to oppress or starve them, but their presence here is illegal and illegitimate.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What’s happening, it’s another event that we’re seeing as a result of the full evacuation that Obama decided on against the generals who wanted a residual force in Iraq that would be a counterweight essentially to Iranian influence. This is entirely Iranian influence.
The group that we are talking about are fanatically anti-regime in Tehran. They have actually helped us. They are the ones that revealed the information about the secret enrichment in Natanz. They have agents inside of Iran, and they are now defenseless.
Why we keep them on the terror list, I don’t understand. They have not engaged in terror in over 15 years, 30 year, and not against the United States. They are an asset. And as we heard in the report earlier in the show, we’ve given them written assurances of protection in return for them turning in their weaponry, of which they had a lot.
So I think it’s a matter of honor, a matter of strategic necessity. The least that we can do is to get them into these camps away from the border with Iran where Iran actually is shelling them occasionally, and to help them resettle. But you can’t do that. They’re officially listed as terrorists, so we have to take them of the list and at the least resettle them.
BREAM: And Steve, more broadly overall the environment in Iraq, a lot of violence in the last few days.
HAYES: Yeah look, Iraq is falling people. There’s no way to dress it up. That’s what’s happening. This is the logical consequence of three years of neglect. That’s what happened with the Obama administration. Phone calls from the Iraqi leaders went unreturned, requests went unfulfilled.
You had an administration, you had a president, a candidate, then Barack Obama, Senator Barack Obama, who ran against Iraq, wasn’t interested, had called it the dumb war. And now you have a president in Barack Obama who neglected this war from the beginning. He handed it off to his vice president who believed that Iraq should be partitioned and split into three different countries. This is the logical consequence of those policy choices.
And I think unfortunately we’re looking at a situation that it’s hard to imagine getting better. You’ve seen this kind of violence and it’s hard to imagine it getting better and probably will get significantly worse over the course of the spring.
STODDARD: It is true, now that we’re gone, Iran will continue to mettle. There’s all this Sunni-Shiite tension, that we’ve lost our leverage. However, leaving Iraq remains popular with the American people. So as things deteriorate throughout 2012, as we expect them to, there’s going to be a debate about whether or not that was the right thing to do. At this moment though, President Obama receives high approval for leaving completely. And so we’ll see if it changes at all.
KRAUTHAMMER: I suspect history be a lot less kind. The tragedy here is that he was handed a won war. The surge had succeeded. Even the Shiite government had taken on the Shiite militias and destroyed them. We had a country that had an election that had representation of Sunnis and Kurds and Shiites. In three years, this administration had one task, work out an arrangement where at least America remains in a noncombat role as we were for the last year-and-a-half to exert pressure, and we did not do that. And to have a won war kicked away as a result is truly tragic.
BREAM: All right, panel, thank you very much.