Camp Ashraf has been home to 3400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq for the past 25 years. The residents, men and women, are members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the principal Iranian opposition movement.
After the 2003 U.S. led war, every one of the residents, in return for their voluntary disarming, signed an agreement with the U.S. guaranteeing their protection until final disposition. The plight of the Iranians began in 2009 when the U.S. reneged on its commitment and turned over the security of the Camp to Government of Iraq. As a result of two massacres of defenceless residents by the Iraqi armed forces, at the behest of Iranian regime, almost 50 of the residents were killed and about 1,000 seriously wounded.
Subsequently, the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, vowed to close Camp Ashraf as a favour to his allies and political masters in Tehran.
As a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq and assurances provided by the U.S. Secretary of State to Ashraf residents and the charismatic leader of Iranian opposition, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, in late December 2011, Ashraf residents agreed to move to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad to be interviewed by the UN refugee agency as a prelude to their transfer to third countries.
The majority members of the U.S. House of Representatives and dozens of the most prominent former U.S. national security officials have defended the rights of Ashraf residents and have been critical of the U.S. for reneging of its legal, political, and moral obligation to the residents.
Actually, on February 7, an impressive group of senior former officials and military commanders volunteered to go to Iraq at their own expense to monitor the transfer of the first 400 Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty as impartial observers; a call that got no heed from neither the U.S. nor Iraq.
Despite all the assurances, when the first convey of 400 of the residents got to Camp Liberty, they noticed that the difference between what they were promised and the reality, was the difference between heaven and hell.
With no running water, no electricity at night, vipers roaming free, no access to doctors or lawyers, and excrement from the broken sewage plant running around the dwellings like a stream, any comparison between Camp Liberty and hell was wholly appropriate.
The residential area of Liberty is surrounded by 4 meters-high concrete walls and Iraqi armed forces roam all over the area around the clock. The place fits the description for a prison perfectly.
Despite all these, in order to prove their good will beyond any doubt, upon the insistence of Mrs. Rajavi, the second group of 400 Ashraf residents moved to Camp Liberty on March 8.
When the world community and the American dignitaries began to protest and asked for observation of the commitments given to Iranian dissidents by the U.S., and kept seeking answers to scores of unanswered questions regarding the conditions at Liberty, what was the response?
Instead of speaking out about the truth and being critical of the Government of Iraq for its violations of the MoU, an anonymous U.S. official lambasted the group of U.S. dignitaries, that includes three Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, an attorney General, two Directors of CIA, a Secretary of Homeland Security, and a Director of FBI, just to name a few of the U.S. officials who have called for adhering to the U.S. commitments and principles.
As a new page on this slur campaign, the official who did not dare to provide his name even called these dignitaries "the MEk's worst enemies."
The US State Department has apparently a skeleton in the cupboard that has prompted it to unleash a salvo of attacks against the very individuals who made the most serious national security decisions for the U.S. for the past 30 years. This is not an insult to these individuals. It is an insult to collective prestige of the U.S. national security establishment.
If the State Department had nothing to hide, why it did not condone and facilitate the visit of Camp Liberty by the 21 senior U.S. officials and dignitaries who had requested to go there?
Is the State Department claiming that Camp Liberty met the humanitarian standards and had running water, electricity, proper swage system, ... when the residents arrived there?
Is the State Department denying that the residents of Liberty have no freedom of movement and cannot leave the Camp and have no access to lawyers, journalists and their relatives?
It is time for the State Department to stop tarnishing the prestige and valour of some of the most distinguished officials in order to appease the clerical regime in Tehran and their puppets in Baghdad.
May be some at the Foggy Bottom should be reminded that the time for pulling wool on American people's eyes is over.