Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Iraq and its neighbors

Iran borders Iraq from the east. Among the issues between the two countries are salty water flowing from Iran to Iraq and harming Iraq's water supplies and marshes, border disputes that will most likely require the resources of a highly talented cartographer and the issue of Camp Ashraf.

Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents 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. 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 attacked twice. 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 8th of this year 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." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) writes, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers."

Louis Charbonneau (Reuters) reports Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General is calling on countries to accept the Camp Ashraf residents and is quoted stating, "In order to find a durable solution for the camp residents, it is essential that potential third countries indicate their willingness to receive them for resettlement." Meanwhile David Alton, of England's House of Lords, weighs in at UPI:

Ashraf residents have shown all kinds of flexibility; they have agreed to the European Parliament's plan to be transferred to third countries, despite their obvious right to remain in Ashraf, where they have lived for a quarter century.
But they cannot allow themselves to be dispersed and forcibly displaced inside Iraq -- and they surely cannot volunteer to be slaughtered. If their displacement is ordered, they will have no option but to resist. Who would agree to be forced from his home to be killed in a quite dark alley?
Time is running out for the United States, United Nations and European Union to take a stand.

The US State Dept was supposed to be reviewing the issue of the status of the MEK. It would be very embarrassing for the foot dragging State Dept if other countries claimed they couldn't take in the residents because the US considered them a terrorist group.

Syria borders Iraq on the northwest. Nada Bakri (New York Times) reports, "Syria said Monday that it would agree to allow an Arab mission of military and civilian observers into the country as part of an Arab League proposal to end months of bloodshed there, but it attached a number of conditions, among them the cancellation of economic sanctions decreed by the league." Meanwhile Al Mada notes that the Iraqi Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony today that a civil war in Syria could spill over into Iraq. In addition, MP Nada Jubouri is quoted stating that a Syrian intervention by the US would result in a negative situation and that she fears Syrian insurgents would cross over into Iraq should that happen. Her comments about a civil war echo those made my Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq, who declared this week, "The killing or removal of President Bashar in any way will explode into an internal struggle between two groups and this will have an impact on the region. It will end with civil war and this civil war will lead to alliances in the region. Because we are a country that suffered from the civil war of a sectarian background, we fear for the future of Syria and the whole region." Turkey connects at Iraq's northern border. Engin Duzgun and Burcu Kiranci (Mondaq) offer an analysis which includes:

Iraq intends to be impartial in this chaos due to its new reconstruction process. Iraq's impartiality to the embargoing decision of Arab League to Syria will make Iran's attack to Syria more difficult and prevent gonig to the war with Iran. Because Iraq has Access demand of energy in contrast with its energy resources. Largest energy companies of the World (including Turkey) invest in Iraq. ABD, Turkey, England and European countries shall endeavour to prevent Iraq from a probable war and protect their investments. This proves that Iraq will have a strategic situation perspectively.
Turkey is the key country of these geopolitic and strategic plans. In opinion, Turkey is expected to be coordinator country in new world order. Yet, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared in 2010 that he was the Co-chair of Greater Middle East Initiative. Turkey is a model for Islamic countries which have energy resources in particular, on the ground that its close relationship with eastern countries, democratic and secular construction despite its Islamic nature, its role as terminal for energy transportation as well as its agricultural and water resources.

Kuwait borders Iraq from the south-east. AP notes that Kuwait's Emir, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Saah, has "dissolved parliament." CNN adds, "The dissolution of parliament comes a week after al-Sabah accepted the resignations of the former prime minister and the cabinet. Former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said 'negative practices' of a minority of members of Parliament made progress impossible."

We'll close with this from International Law expert Francis A. Boyle, "O Little Town of Bethlehem:"

Israel, Palestine and American Christian Hypocrites
It was December of 1991 and I was serving as Legal
Advisor to the
Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations in Washington DC. The Israelis were stalling,not even negotiating in bad faith, and the Americans under Baker and Ross were doing nothing to get the negotiations started.
This had been going on for 3 weeks and Christmas was fast approaching. Those of us on the Palestinian Team who were Christian were wondering if we were going to be able to get home for Christmas--many Palestinians are Christian, the original Christians, going back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles themselves. I would periodically check in with my wife and 2 sons at the time--little boys. My poor, sweet wife had to do all the Christmas
preparations by herself without me.
So the weekend before Christmas I called her up to say I still did not know if or when I would be coming home. My oldest son who had just turned 5 talked to me on the phone:
"Daddy why aren't you home for Christmas?"
"Well son, I'm trying to help the Palestinians."
"Daddy, why are you doing that?"
Hard to explain the entire Middle East conflict to a 5 year old, so I put it into terms he could understand:
"Son, you know that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem don't you?"
"Yes Daddy."
"Well I am here with the Mayor of Bethlehem and some other Palestinian leaders. They are my friends and I am their lawyer. I am working with the Mayor of Bethlehem to help all the Palestinian Children have a merry Christmas."
"Ok Daddy."
We got the word we could go home for Christmas on December 23 and I got on
the first flight out of DC. getting home just on time for Christmas Eve with
my family.
Periodically I had attended UCC Christmas Season Church Services in town with my family. When it came time for prayers from the congregation, I always got up and asked everyone to help the Palestinians along the following lines: "...Bethlehem is cut-off and surrounded by the Israeli army--the Church of the Nativity too. The Israelis are inflicting ethnic cleansing upon all the Palestinian, both Muslims and Christians. They are also pursuing a policy of deliberately forcing Palestinian Christians out of Palestine as part of a perverse strategy to turn a war of national liberation into a religious crusade, figuring it would play better in the United States. And these are the original Christians, going back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Meanwhile, the United States government is financing it all to the tune of $5 billion per year. Everyone in this Congregation has gifts given to them by God. So go out and do something to help the Palestinians!"
Despite my best efforts over many years, that UCC Congregation refused to lift one finger to help the Palestinians. So several years ago, I quit their Congregation and severed all ties with them. They are just a gang of moral cowards and hypocrites. They have nothing to teach me or anyone else about Christianity, let alone about peace, justice and human rights. They constitute the paradigmatic example of what the anti-Nazi martyr and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Cheap Grace

Francis A. Boyle, Champlaign, IL.
Professor of International Law
Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the
Middle East Peace Negotiations (1991-93)

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