Fox in the Henhouse: Obama's Newest Middle-East Mistake
The recent major offensive of the Sunni Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) jihadis upon Mosul and central Iraq and subsequent drive towards Baghdad, with the goal of a theoretical toppling of the regime of the Shiite Nouri al-Maliki, has served at least to awaken Washington, D.C. Fearful that the al-Qaeda breakaway might succeed, the Obama administration decided to broker a deal with the devil: the State Department was instructed to contact the Iranian regime and suggest that the president was amenable to Iran’s sending units of its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Sepah-e Qods (Qods Force) to reinforce the Iraqi defenses of Baghdad and the Shiite sacred cities such as Samara, Karbala, and Najaf.
If the Iranians were neutral, the move might have been justified. But the Iranian regime has been actively fighting the United States – overtly and covertly – for the last thirty-five years, literally from its inception. It has changed neither its rhetoric nor its anti-Western, anti-American posture for one moment during all that time.
Obama’s illusions about flipping Iran to our side seem logical only after consuming a boatload of cannabis. While Iran is only too happy to renew its war with the Sunnis, we should be under no illusion that either the Sunni jihadis of ISIS or the Shia jihadis of the Sepah-e Qods are in any way our friends – even temporarily. Both wish to destroy this nation and both wish to eventually dominate the world. They differ only in which branch of Islam is the rightful claimant to world dominion in the name of the prophet.
With our typical lack of foresight, we have sanctioned that Iran send its special black-ops forces to protect Baghdad. How conveniently we have “forgotten” that on Baghdad’s western flank, a kilometer north of the Baghdad International Airport, sits Camp “Liberty,” where some 3,000 Iranian refugee opponents of the Tehran regime reside – in what was supposed to be a temporary domicile as they were processed for resettlement out of the region. The Iranian government of Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei regards this group – the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, MeK) – as its greatest enemy and has used numerous occasions in the past two years to attack the residents. Last September’s attack on the remaining occupants of Camp Ashraf left 52 dead, including six women. An earlier attack resulted in 36 fatalities.
The State Department and the White House seem to have forgotten several important facts about the PMOI. The group was falsely accused of terrorism against this country during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. As a result, eighteen years later, because of political considerations – a failed attempt to get the Iranian regime to defrost relations – the group was placed on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The PMOI renounced violence in 2001 and following “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – in which its camps were attacked by allied forces and yet the PMOI did not return fire – was disarmed in May 2003. Its members were cleared of any ties to terrorism and granted “Protected Persons” status in November 2004. The PMOI used the American court system to exonerate itself – all during its “terrorist” status, it never once harmed a single U.S. citizen, and in 2012, it finally was removed from the list, following similar victories in the courts of the United Kingdom and the European Union.
This group, while residing in its home base of Camp Ashraf, was responsible for bringing Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders to sit down with Shiite and Kurdish leaders already in 2006 and 2007. The Sunni “Tribal Awakening” that led to the defeat of al-Qaeda in 2008 would not have been possible without the groundwork done by the PMOI in bringing the Iraqi factions together to oppose terrorism and fundamentalist Islamic sectarian rule.
If the U.S. hopes to keep Iraq from splitting irrevocably into sectarian regions, it must not allow the Iranian regime – itself or through its proxies in the Bader Organization or any other proxy Hezb'allah-Iraq creation of the IRGC – to harm the PMOI membership residing in Ashraf and Camp Liberty. No other group was able to foster discussion and cooperation among the Iraqi faction. And we must not forget that the Iranian regime dearly desires to execute the PMOI's leadership and imprison its rank and file.
It is time for the United States to exercise some moral leadership once again. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants American aid to fight ISIS. A minimum price tag on that aid should include ironclad guarantees for the safety of the PMOI, and an improvement in their current living conditions at Camp Liberty. Swift passage of House Resolution 3707 will help facilitate the safety of the PMOI members still located in Iraq.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker is founder and chairman of the board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching the public and its elected officials of the need to promote genuine democratic institutions throughout the Middle East region as an antidote to the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.