Thursday, February 23, 2012

Camp Ashraf, another al-Sistani cleric attacked and more

Starting with the United Nations. Al Rafidayn reports United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Iraq's spokesperson Claire Bergoa issued a statement in which she declared there are 5.1 million internally displaced Iraqis (internal refugees) and that 3.1 million became displaced in 2006 or after. The statement on internal refugees comes as the Sadr bloc lashes out at Iranian refugees in Iraq. Ahlul Bayt News Agency quotes Rassem al-Marvani, Cultural Advisor of the Sadr bloc, stating that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "is actually implementing other's policies which are against Iraq's freedom and independence since there is no law that allows Ban Ki-moon to comment on the presence of the MKO in Iraq or their leaving the country." He's referring to Camp Ashraf residents. He accuses Ban Ki-moon of being in league with the US and Europe.

Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,000 people -- 400 were moved to Camp Liberty last week). 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 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." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

Yesterday afternoon, international law attorney Allan Gerson (Huffington Post) addressed the planned relocation of all Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty:

In 1932, the eminent theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote "Moral Man and Immoral Society" warning of the tendency of institutions to lose their sense of humanity. How better to explain today's actions of the US State Department in toying with the lives and hopes of over 3000 Iranian dissidents being "voluntarily" relocated from Camp Ashraf , a small city 40 miles north of Baghdad, where they have lived for the last 25 years? From there they are being moved to a small isolated section of Camp Liberty, an abandoned American base, looted by the Iraqis, with no basic amenities and under the watchful eyes of Iraqi police who have viciously attacked them before.
In the State Department's view, they are doing these dissidents, members of the MEK (The Mujahedeen-e Khalq), a favor and are not dishonoring a solemn commitment made to them by the US Army in July 2004 when it promised that they would be treated as Protected Persons under the Geneva Conventions in return for the MEK's surrendering their means of self-protection. But, sad to say, the State Department's benevolent view is seriously flawed.
In reality, it has, as Niebuhr warned, lost its sense of humanity and has shown instead that US assurances of protection cannot be taken seriously in the face of institutional interests.

In other news, Al Mada reports an Iraqi exile -- one who left Iraq in the eighties -- recently returned from Paris for a visit, hoping to see the home he knew in Baghdad. Instead, what he found shocked him and he declared he was troubled to see Baghdad, the city of art and science, now become a city of sorrow and ignorance and the concept of flirtation has returned to the Dark Ages (in his time, he states, young women spoke throughout Baghdad, fanning themselves with fans in the doorways of restaurants and clubs). He is returning to Paris and states of Baghdad, 'This is not my city."

Al Rafidayn reports
that a cleric of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was targeted for assassination yesterday with a hand grenade as he finished morning prayers and was leaving a mosque in Najaf. He wasn't harmed in the attack. This attack comes after a series of attacks over the weekend on al-Sistanti clerics. Friday Kitabat reported that Supreme Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani accused party officials of widespread corruption -- financial and administrative. Saturday Kitabat reported that six homes in Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah Provinces belonging to representatives of al-Sistani were attacked with hand grenades and bullets. No one was harmed in the attacks which would appear to indicate the attacks were not to harm but to send a message. A warning could be sent for any number of reasons but it is curious that he decries corruption among politicians and the next day homes of his representatives are attacked. Aswat al-Iraq noted 2 of the homes attacked in Diwaniyah Province and that a mosque in the area was also attacked.

Of today's widespread violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains Sunnis were targeted (not just Shi'ites) and quotes Iraqi Body Count's Hamit Dardagan stating, "The situation is worsening [January's count of over 400 dead] shows a constant level of violence that doesn't seem to let up." Al Arabiya notes the death toll from today's attacks has risen to 70. No one's tying in the violence to the ongoing crackdowns in Iraq. That ongoing crackdown would include the 92 people Al Sabaah reports Nouri had arrested yesterday. In addition, Yasser Talal (Dar Addustour) reports that more warrants are coming and that Nouri's claiming there's a plot to assassinate him. Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq and chief drama queen.

Turning to politics (assuming the Nouri ordered arrests weren't politically motivated), Dar Addustour expresses hopes that today the Parliament will finally pass the 2012 federal budget. They also note that the body's Security and Defense Committee wants to investigate the US keeping and using 9 tanks on Iraqi soil. Nouri lashed out at many members of Iraqiya in the last months, none more so than Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi whom he accused of terrorism. Last week, 9 judges from Nouri's kangaroo court in Baghdad declared al-Hashemi guilty (despite not having had a trial and despite what Article 19 of the Iraqi Constitution dictates: All are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law). Al Sabaah cites unnamed gossips in Parliament who are insisting that, in three more sessions, Parliament will be declaring a death sentence for al-Hashemi. This despite the fact that Parliament's not holding a hearing and most likely doesn't have the votes to put that forward?

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