Originally published in The Hill
Former senior American officials joined members of Congress attending a memorial on the Hill to pay respects to 24 defenseless Iranian refugees who lost their lives in a massive rocket barrage that left catastrophic destruction in their camp in Iraq. This has raised voices inside Iran as officials see U.S. lawmakers expressing support and sympathy to these innocent Iranian dissidents, members of Iranian opposition MEK, that they want dead.
On Oct. 29 2015, 80 enhanced rockets slammed into Camp Liberty, a deserted former U.S. military camp where these Iranian dissidents were transferred from their previous home in Camp Ashraf of Diyala Province back in 2012. The U.S. government, United Nations and Iraqi government promised they would enjoy protection in Liberty adjacent to the heavily fortified Baghdad International Airport. However, to this day these refugees have been the targets of 4 deadly missile attacks, leaving 38 dead and hundreds of others injured.
State media in Iran is furious over the support these refugees enjoy in Congress, especially since the U.S. has for years now delisted the Iranian opposition group they belong to, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. It is worth noting that the U.S. continues to describe Iran as the main state sponsor of terrorism, and Tehran simply finds the status quo intolerable.
Emphasizing the attack was predictable, Ros-Lehtinen made strong remarks in saying the UN and Iraqi government should be held to account.
A long list of former American officials and leaders across the globe have called on the U.S. and UN to guarantee protection for these refugees, as they have promised, and failed to do so to this day.
Unlike various other camps in Iraq, these Iranian refugees have no means to defend themselves and more attacks in the future are imminent. Seeking a solution, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, has proposed the U.S. extend its air cover from the airport in Baghdad to also provide protection for Liberty.
Taking part in the ceremony former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R), America’s first secretary of Homeland Security, joined voice with McCain urging Washington to “take the first step in protecting the survivors of Camp Liberty. And the first step would be to expand the air perimeter around the airport to make sure that this camp is not subject to further attacks by artillery or mortars.”
The State Department has to this day refused to conduct any probe into the attack, and most likely won’t as it continues its appeasement policy with Tehran. State Dept. officials have said Liberty is too dangerous to pay a visit, raising criticism from residents inside the camp and politicians across the globe.
In response, Poe made an interesting point: “If it’s too dangerous for the State Dept. to investigate it, don’t you think it might be too dangerous for the folks in Camp Liberty to be there?”
There is one other interesting factor that needs to be taken into consideration. If Iran is so furious about Congress holding a memorial service for these innocent Iranian refugees, this should act as a wakeup call for policy makers in the U.S. If Tehran is so sensitive about this group, why not consider supporting it to pursue a more muscular policy by Washington and the West to force Iran to its knees to terminate its nuclear program completely, bring an end to Tehran’s lethal regional meddling that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced, and finally improve the appalling human rights situation inside Iran.
If these measures are truly taken, the Iranian people and their organized resistance will be more than capable of bringing about true change in Iran and ending the despotic rule of the ayatollahs, without needing a dime from the outside world.
Heshmat Alavi writes on Iran and the Middle East and tweets at @HeshmatAlavi.