Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the Iraqi government on Friday to “show restraint” after security forces stormed an Iranian opposition refugee camp that had long existed under the protection of the U.S. and its coalition partners.
“We have been monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf in Diyala,” said Gates after a visit with American troops in Iraq. “We are very concerned with reports of deaths, of injuries resulting from this morning’s clash between Iraqi Security Forces and the MEK. I urge the Iraqi government to show restraint and live up to their commitments to treat the residents of Ashraf in accordance with Iraqi law and their international obligations.”
Gates said no American troops were involved in the attacks, but that medical assistance was offered.
The exiled MEK — also known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran — was given refuge in Iraq more than 20 years ago by the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, and has long been a thorn in the side of the Shiite dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The U.S. took responsibility for the camp’s security in 2003, but handed over control to the Iraqis in 2009. Iran, a close Shiite ally of Baghdad, has also been pressing for the expulsion of the group, which seeks the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical rulers.
Here’s the money quote:
“The group has had a checkered history with the U.S. — it backed the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran — and while it still is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, it has not been linked to any terrorist activity since it renounced violence in 2001.”
Here’s a background on the MEK:
Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) is the largest and most militant group opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Also known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, MEK is led by husband and wife Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. MEK was added to the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups in 1997.
MEK was founded in the 1960s by a group of college-educated Iranian leftists opposed to the country’s pro-Western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Although the group took part in the 1979 Islamic revolution that replaced the shah with a Shiite Islamist regime, MEK’s ideology, a blend of Marxism and Islamism, put it at odds with the postrevolutionary government. In 1981, the group was driven from its bases on the Iran-Iraq border and resettled in Paris, where it began supporting Iraq in its eight-year war against Khomeini’s Iran. In 1986, MEK moved its headquarters to Iraq where it received its primary support to attack the regime in Iran. During the 2003 Iraq war, U.S. forces cracked down on MEK’s bases in Iraq, and in June 2003 French authorities raided an MEK compound outside Paris and arrested 160 people, including Maryam Rajavi.
……The group has targeted Iranian government officials and government facilities in Iran and abroad; during the 1970s, it attacked Americans in Iran. While the group says it does not intentionally target civilians, it has often risked civilian casualties. It routinely aims its attacks at government buildings in crowded cities.
……In the early 1970s, angered by U.S. support for the pro-Western shah, MEK members killed several U.S. soldiers and civilians working on defense projects in Iran. Some experts say the attack may have been the work of a Maoist splinter faction operating beyond the Rajavi leadership’s control. MEK members also supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
It’s still considered a terrorist organization, but Gates and company really believe that they couldn’t possibly be a conduit for Iranian terrorists coming into Iraq.
I try real hard to make rare allowances for the “enemy of our enemy is our friend” shit, but when the government lends support to a muslim group that combines socialism with Islamic extremism and has a knack for engaging in terrorism against Americans, the idiots in charge of foreign policy need a fucking overhaul.