05 July 2020
English Arabic

Iraq: Betrayed by the West. Time to ‘round up the militias’

Monday, 03 November 2014 14:40

Struan Stevenson EIFA President

Lebanon, An Nahar Newspaper/ By Struan Stevenson - A refugee camp next to Baghdad airport with 2700 trapped Iranians have been abandoned by the West who broke too many promises to protect them. Struan Stevenson is having sleepless nights over what would happen to these poor individuals if ISIS gets their hands on them although the former MEP, who often visited Iraq, still insists that the country is well shot of Nouri al-Maliki.

Since the Iraqi authorities took over the security of Camp Ashraf and later Camp Liberty, following the US withdrawal from Iraq, the 3,400 defenceless Iranian residents who occupied these camps were subjected to six different attacks. On 28-29th July 2009 in Camp Ashraf 11 residents were killed and hundreds injured; on 8th April 2011 in Camp Ashraf, 36 were killed and hundreds injured; on 9th February 2013, a missile attack against Camp Liberty left 8 killed and dozens injured; on 15th June 2013, a further missile attack against Camp Liberty left 2 killed and dozens injured; on 1st September 2013, 52 residents of Camp Ashraf were executed, all with direct shots to the head, while 7 others including 6 women were taken hostage and have still not been accounted for; on 26th December 2013, a missile attack against Camp Liberty killed 4 people and injured dozens.

Betrayed by the US, EU and UN
The first 400 Ashrafis were transported to Camp Liberty in February 2012. We were assured that they would quickly be interviewed by UNHCR, registered as refugees and then flown out to countries of safety in a 'revolving door' system. We were told that the tiny, half square kilometre prison with its flimsy portacabins was to be designated as a TTL – A Temporary Transit Location, because the residents would spend so little time there. Now, almost three years later, 2,700 men and women are still stranded there. Each has been interviewed and registered as a refugee. But the US, EU and UN have betrayed them. The have abandoned them to their fate in one of the most blatant and disgraceful acts of treachery in modern times.

These people have been murdered, tortured, starved, denied access to medical aid, imprisoned, prohibited from seeing their families, lawyers or political representatives and forbidden to have even the most basic means of protection. They are being imprisoned in a filthy concentration camp, surrounded by high fences and watchtowers with machineguns trained on them. 21 residents of Ashraf and Liberty have died because of the on-going medical siege. This is a fundamental breach of their rights as refugees under international law. Their treatment by the Iraqi Government under the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been a masterclass in suppression, all of it inspired and encouraged by his puppet-masters in Tehran. Maliki must be held to account for all of these crimes.

But the international community must also be held to account. How could these repeated massacres, kidnappings and torments have been allowed to proceed under the noses of the UN, US and EU? Why, despite repeated demands for independent enquiries into these gross breaches of human rights, has no enquiry ever been held? Why, against this background of suffering and anguish has the West failed to rescue these innocent, unarmed civilians?
Camp Liberty is right next to Baghdad Airport. It is on the front line of any potential attack by ISIS. The awful fate of the 2,700 refugees in Liberty at the hands of ISIS can barely be imagined. It is imperative that we mount a rescue attempt now and the British government should take the lead. This is a humanitarian crisis. No more back-pedalling, no more equivocation, no more weasel words. Get these people out of Iraq now.

al-Abadi must honour his agreement with the West
And in the meantime, the international community must tell Haider al-Abadi that the spotlight is on him, particularly in the area of respect for human rights and upholding Iraq's international obligations. The new Government of Iraq, in seeking the support of the international community, should respect its obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with the US and UN in which it guaranteed to protect the residents of Camp Liberty.

The crisis in Iraq right now was self-inflicted, resulting from failed political leadership by the despotic Nouri al-Maliki, who focused all of his efforts on remaining in power, relentlessly becoming more authoritarian and repressive and implementing sectarian policies that led directly to ethnic polarisation. By tightly controlling the military, security and intelligence forces from his own office, he guaranteed that the very forces that could have ensured stability and an end to conflict contributed to the exact opposite. He used those forces, with direct assistance from the fascist Iranian regime, not only repeatedly to attack, kidnap and murder the innocent and defenceless refugees in Camps Ashraf and Liberty, but also to launch a genocidal campaign against the Sunni population of Anbar Province.

Maliki also marginalised or openly discriminated against all non-Shia minorities, despite the fact they were supposed to be protected and have equal rights under the Iraqi constitution. The Christian population of Iraq has shrunk from over one and a half million 20 years ago, to less than 300,000 today, and many have been forced to flee from the Islamic State (IS) faced with an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special non-Islamic tax, or die. Soon, some people think one of the oldest Christian communities in the world may become extinct.

It was this murderous campaign against the Sunnis in Falujah and Ramadi that inevitably sucked in elements of ISIS from the Syrian civil war. They capitalised on the fear and loathing of Maliki by the Sunni population. In the face of this onslaught the Iraqi military collapsed. Thousands of Iraqi military personnel tore off their uniforms, dropped their weapons and fled. ISIS captured hundreds of tonnes of new weaponry, tanks, Humvees, rocket launchers and small arms. More importantly, they took control of rich oilfields and banks and became one of the wealthiest terrorist organisations in the world.

After five years as President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, from 2009 to 2014 and many visits to the country and discussions with its political leaders, I cannot now simply wash my hands and walk away. It is for this reason that I decided to set up the European Iraqi Freedom Association whose main motivation is to work towards the restoration of democracy, freedom and justice in that beleaguered country. The people of Iraq have been tortured, beaten, abused and robbed of their heritage and livelihoods by a long succession of corrupt and dictatorial leaders. They deserve a better future and the European Iraqi Freedom Association will be their voice in Europe.

Our objective is to see a non-sectarian government of national salvation that can unite the Shiias and the Sunnis in Iraq and bring together the many other diverse ethnic factions. The first imperative if this goal is to be achieved is for the eviction of the Iranian regime from Iraq. They relentlessly built up their influence and internal meddling in Iraq during the eight years of Maliki's dictatorship and progress towards national unity cannot happen until they are forced out.


Militias have to be rounded up
We have achieved one of our first objectives by seeing the departure of Nouri al-Maliki. We must now place our faith in Haider al-Abadi, the new Prime Minister and trust that he will not repeat the mistakes of his predecessor. If he unites the Shiias, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq and offers the hand of friendship to the many ethnic minorities and ejects the agents of the Iranian regime and its criminal militias from the political scene, he will be able to revive the tribes and lead a successful fightback against the Islamic State terrorists, driving them back to Syria.

He must begin rounding up the savage militias associated with the Iranian regime such as Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists, as well as other criminal gangs that have played a significant role in Maliki's rule and instigated the sectarian war in Iraq. He must purge the army of Iranian mercenaries and all those that Maliki has recruited under his sectarian policy, restoring patriotic officers and turning it into a professional and national army. Only such an army, supported by the tribes and the people will be able to confront extremist and terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS).

We have a lot to do to prevent the breakup of Iraq, evict the Iranians from its territory, defeat ISIS and rescue the 2,700 beleaguered refugees in Liberty. But together I am certain we can succeed. As the Irish Statesman Edmund Burke famously said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Struan Stevenson was a British Conservative Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He Chaired the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009-2014 and he has now set up and chairs the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

Read more: http://en.annahar.com/article/186140-iraq-betrayed-by-the-west-time-to-round-up-the-militias

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