Sunday, September 01, 2013


Iraq was slammed with violence today -- that includes Camp Ashraf.  We'll zoom in on Ashraf in a moment.  Let's start by nothing the other violence.

National Iraqi News Agency notes a mortar attack on an Amiriyat police station left 1 police officer dead with three more and one Iraqi soldier left injured,  a Ramadu suicide car bomber claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left five more people injured, a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured, "3 Civilians killed and 6 others wounded in blowing 5 towers of Asiacell Communication Company, north of Tikrit," 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul car bombing left three brothers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing has left five people injured, another Mosul roadside bombing left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead and a fourth injured, a Tuz Khurmatu sucide bomber claimed the lives of 2 people (and his own) and left sixteen injured,  a Hilla roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured, and a Baquba roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured.

 Before even getting to Camp Ashraf, that's 16 deaths and 49 injured.

Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decried an attack in Iraq via a statement:

The Secretary-General deplores the tragic events in Camp Ashraf today that have reportedly left 47 killed.  He expresses his sorrow and extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
The Secretary-General reiterates his full support for and his absolute confidence in the relentless work of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  He appeals for the urgent restoration of security in the Camp as it is the responsibility of the Government of Iraq to ensure the safety and security of the residents. The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Iraq to promptly investigate the incident and disclose the findings.

 What is Camp Ashraf?

Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who 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."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

Under court ordrer, the US State Dept evaluated their decision to place the MEK on the terrorist list and, September 28th, they issued the following.

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 28, 2012
The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.

After that determination was made another attack took place.  February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked.  Trend News Agency says 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reports, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."

Many have moved to Camp Hurriyah (Camp Liberty).  We continue to call them "Ashraf residents" due to the fact that there was an international movement built around them -- calling for that protection.  Right or wrong, it was assumed that the move from Ashraf to Hurriyah was in part due to a hope that the Ashraf residents could be obscured from the public eye.  They built their name as Ashraf residents and until they are all safely out of Iraq, that's how we will refer to them here.

For a change, the US State Dept actually issued a statement about the residents' mistreatment and victimization:


Press Statement

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 1, 2013

The United States strongly condemns the terrible events that took place at Camp Ashraf today, which according to various reports resulted in the deaths of and injuries to numerous camp residents. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims and those who were injured in today’s violence.
We are deeply concerned about these reports and are in regular contact with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), as well as Government of Iraq officials. We support UNAMI's efforts to conduct its own assessment of the situation and call on the Government of Iraq to fully support those efforts.

We further call on Iraqi authorities to act with urgency to immediately ensure medical assistance to the wounded and to secure the camp against any further violence or harm to the residents. We underscore the responsibility of the Government of Iraq and all relevant stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of residents at both Camp Ashraf and Camp Hurriyah, and we affirm the call by UNAMI for a full and independent investigation into this terrible and tragic event. Those found to be responsible must be held fully accountable.

 What happened today?

As Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, it's not clear.  He notes, "The Iraqi security officials said 15 people in the camp had been killed and more than 30 wounded, while representatives of the group, known as Mujahedeen Khalq, or the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, said more than 50 people had been killed."  Reuters adds:

An advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said reports that security forces had opened fire on the residents were baseless and said that Maliki had ordered an investigation into what had happened.
"We want to know the truth," advisor Ali al-Moussawi said. He said it was unclear what had caused the blast in the morning. Residents could have been killed in the explosion or through infighting at the camp, he said. He gave no casualty figures.

Oh, goody.  Another announced investigation by Nouri.  We're still waiting on the results of his investigation into the April 23rd massacre  --  when Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in and killed adults and children.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  What happened to that investigation, Nouri?   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Gyorgy Busztin, the deputy U.N. special envoy to Iraq, said UNAMI would use "all possible means" to conduct its own investigation into the attack.

"The priority for the Iraqi government is to provide immediate medical assistance to the injured and to ensure their security and safety against any violence from any side," Busztin said in a statement issued Sunday.

Becky Bratu covers the story for NBC News.

I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

 The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.

The latest from Third went up earlier:

This is holiday weekend.  Kat's downstairs working on a review that'll go up tomorrow.  Ruth is exploring doing a radio report.  Isaiah will do at least one comic between now and Monday evening. Beth and I are about to do a Q&A for here and I'll do at least one entry on Iraq tomorrow.  At least two more things will go up in addition to that.  The e-mail address for this site is