Friday, May 01, 2015

Mouth of babes





Moving on to another topic, let's note this exchange from yesterday:

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: Let me finish by saying that if you have any comments about Camp Liberty and those continued attacks if you want to include that and how we can work to better stop that I would appreciate the Chairman's indulgence and I thank you very much for your answers to these questions. 

Maryam Rajavi:  [. . .] And just very briefly about Liberty as I said to expect that the United States government will uphold its expectations which have been violated but and the US must really put Camp Liberty under its own protections soon and put an end to the barricade, to demand from the Iraqi government to lift the blockade and to recognize their rights as a protected person under the Geneva convention.

That exchange took place on Wednesday as the House Foreign Affairs on Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade held a hearing.  The Subcommittee Chair is US House Rep Ted Poe and US House Rep William Keating is the Ranking Member.

Maryam Rajavi is the President-Elect of the National Council of Reistance of Iran and she was testifying to the Subcommittee via satellite while former US Ambassador Robert Ford and Walid Phares of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counterterrorism testified to the Committee in person.

Camp Liberty is where the Ashraf community was relocated.  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  November 2013, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."

The Ashraf community at Camp Liberty is supposed to be relocated outside of Iraq.

If and when that ever happens, the US government's legal obligation will be over. The minor number that the US has helped relocate, for example, are no longer under the protected persons designation.

It is in the US government's own interest to get these refugees out of Iraq.

The administration of Barack Obama has shirked their legal obligations and only addresses the issues of these refugees when the world is aghast over an attack.  Such was the case in September 2013 and this led to the State Dept naming Secretary of State John Kerry's personal friend (who really had no qualifications for the job) to be the "Senior Advsior for MEK Resettlement."

Having no qualifications for the job, Jonathan Winer's failure at it was appalling.  Less than 3,700 refugees needed to be re-settled outside of Iraq.  They couldn't be sent to Iran (where they would face prison and torture for their dissent) but it's big world and there were plenty of other countries (including the US) where they could be restteled.

However, being John Kerry's roll dog means never having to do any actual work.

So Winer rewarded for his failures by being given a new post in May of 2014.

Maybe in the future, when John Kerry puts personal friends on the US payroll, he can make their payment conditional upon getting results.  The US taxpayers footed the bill for Winer -- which reportedly included many design modifications for his office -- from September to May and, during that time, he accomplished nothing.

In approximately 8 months he was unable to resettle 3,700 people.

Again, in the future, maybe when John Kerry puts his personal friends on the US taxpayer's dime, their salary should be conditions-based and, if they're unable to do the job they were hired to do, they can be paid minimum wage for a 40 hour work week and nothing more.  (Should payment in excess of that amount have been made to them, they should immediately be required to refund it or faces charges of defrauding the US government.  Just a suggestion of one way to bring accountability to the cronyism that is rampant in the State Dept currently.)

We'll note this exchange from the hearing:

US House Rep Judy Chu: I would like to address these questions to Mrs. Rajavi, I'd like to ask about Camp Liberty.  Camp Liberty is the military base that has become a permanent home for over 3,000 Iranian refugees but the conditions there are poor and freedom severely restricted.  Worse, there are reports that the Iraqi government is blockading the base preventing food, water and medicine from arriving, combined with the restriction on travel, this blockade has led to at least 25 deaths.  The most recent being Mr. Jalal Albadini on April 17th.  Can you give us a sense of living conditions in Camp Liberty in regard to food, medicine and decent housing?  

Maryam Rajavi:  Our primary concern about the residents of Camp Liberty is their safety and security. That is the main problem that they're facing in Camp Liberty now to the extent that since the protection of the residents were transferred from the United States to Iraq, 126 have been killed, 7 have been taken hostage and the residents are denied timely access to medical care for this reason so as you just mentioned 25 people have lost their lives while there was the possibility to save their lives I think it was 127 who have been killed during these attacks by the Iraqi forces.  They have no freedom of movement and enormous restrictions have been imposed upon them.  Just to give you one example, Camp Liberty is the elecricity is still not connected and since the Abadi government took office there have been no changes in the conditions and there is still a prison-like condition for the residents. And I think the new government must recognize Camp Liberty as a refugee camp and remove and lift inhuman restrictions which have been imposed on the Camp and put an end to the daily harassment of the residents.  In particular, it is very important that the camp management be changed because they are the same people -- the people who manage the camp are the same people who were engaged in the massacre and the killing of the residents in the past attacks and as you know the United States has made the written commitment to provide safety and security for these people but that obligation has been violated and I think Camp Liberty should be really under the protection of the United States or at least their personal weapons to be given so that if they're attacked by the militia or paramilitary groups that they could defend themselves.  And I expect that the United States would uphold its commitment to regular monitoring of Liberty.

US House Rep Judy Chu:  Let me ask now about do you have any confidence in the current government to improve conditions? And what is the future for the residents of Camp Liberty?  Is there a US role?

Maryam Rajavi: I think the US government can really demand and urge the Iraqi government to uphold its obligations. So far the government has not done anything that we could really trust them that they would do the right thing.  And, as I said, people are still living in a prison-like situation in Camp Liberty as a prisoner.  That's what I said, that the new government should recognize Liberty as a refugee camp and remove all the restrictions imposed on the camp and end the harassment of the residents. And I want to reiterate that it is very vital to change the camp management and do not allow the mullah's regime to send its agents for psychological torture of the residents and lay the ground for another massacre of Camp Liberty.  These are the actions that they can take. And I believe that the United States government is really in a position to call and demand from the Iraqi government to uphold these obligations. 

In the hearing, doubts were raised about the White House's plan or 'plan' for addressing the Islamic State.  We'll note this critique.

US House Rep Scott Perry:  President Obama declared his intention to defeat ISIS and developed a plan he believes can achieve his aims.  However, I have serious concerns with the strategy -- and I use the term loosely -- especially because the President doesn't seem to have a clear understanding of our enemy.  In the past year, President Obama has referred to ISIS as not Islamic and as al Qaeda's j.v. [junior varsity] team.-- statements that cause confusion about the group and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.  Denying that the US is at war with radical Islam makes it difficult to engage in a factual, honest, idealogical debate exposing ISIS' false narrative and to empower moderate Muslim voices.  Misperceptions and the lack of understanding about ISIS have consistently led to underestimating this rapidly expanding terror group.  

One of the witnesses, former US Ambassador (to Syria) Robert Ford felt the White House was on better footing than did Rep Perry.  This is from Ford's opening statement and he's discussing Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, etc.  This is the "Iraq snapshot" so I'm editing it so the focus is on Iraq (as always, any edits that leave our remarks between statements are noted by "[. . .]"):

Ambassador Robert Ford: The administration is right to understand that we have to confront the Islamic State and this is an organization wholly different from al Qaeda.  However, if we properly understand the ideology that drives the Islamic State, we would understand that it will never stop fighting in Syria and Iraq, or in other countries where it has a foothold.  It might eventually seek temporary truces but its absolutist interpretations means that eventually the Islamic State will choose to fight all other communities that do not recognize its authority.  Its severe, literalist interpretations of governance and justice alienate a great many of the inhabitants of territories it controls since many of those inhabitants enjoy aspects of 20th and 21st century living.  We have seen this in places like Raqqa and Dier Zour in Syria and in Mosul in Iraq. [. . .] Among jurisprudents in Salafi circles, the Islamic State has vulnerability about its declaration of its being a caliphate and the long-hoped for new caliphate.  If it loses territory so that it cannot govern -- and its judges cannot administer its brand of justice -- it loses some legitimacy of its claim to loyalty and allegiance.  The ground gains in Iraq are important, therefore.  [. . .] Finally, as we and friends fight against the Islamic State, it is extremely important to remember the original context -- aggrieved Sunni Muslim communities in places like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq who are angry at and afraid of Iran and the Arab Shia.  If we ally with Iran against the Islamic State -- directly or indirectly -- we play into the Islmaic State's narrative and will help its recruitment.

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