On the day the Iraqi Prime Minister goes to Washington DC for talks Lord Maginnis asks the Obama administration to push for the release of seven Iranian dissidents who have been captured

By Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

The United States is in the middle of a federal government shutdown that’s been brought on by the legislature’s failure to put away party differences to the extent required to pass a budget bill and vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The shutdown has put numerous government employees temporarily out of work, has closed public parks, and threatens the continued functioning of diverse government services.

 

Although the budget conflict and the seemingly irreconcilable differences in the Senate and House of Representatives are not a comfortable situation, few people seem to think that there is any serious threat of national default. House Speaker John Boehner has explicitly said that he will not allow the country to renege on its financial obligations. Aside from being a practical matter of governance and national security, it seems fair to assume that for many people in Washington D.C., the agreement to pay back debts is a moral issue. The United States does not shirk its agreed-upon responsibilities.

At least that is the case with financial responsibilities and other domestic issues. In the realm of foreign policy, US moral commitments have been rather less consistent. On October 3rd, the third day of the government shutdown, Senators John McCain, Robert Menendez, and others met with US Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in order to discuss the situation in Iraq relating to the MEK, or Iranian Resistance, and the 1st September Camp Ashraf Massacre of fifty-two Iranian refugees.

Senator McCain rightly challenged his government on the moral failing of both allowing this massacre to take place and failing to respond to it immediately and decisively. He pointed out that the United States promised protection to the Iranian exiles at Camp Ashraf in exchange for disarmament, but then left them under the thumb of an oppressive regime.

In response, Ms. Sherman acknowledged the seriousness of the situation but gave no tangible indication that the United States was prepared to make up for its former lack of action. There was absolutely no practical or immediate reality in her assertion that the solution for the 3,000 MEK members still living in Iraq, now at Camp Liberty, is permanent resettlement to other countries. The two questions remain as to what the US and the world community are going to do in the meantime and what progress they are making to accommodating these folk. Former Ashrafis remain at risk of another attack every moment they stay in Iraq without dedicated international protection that the U.N. simply fails to provide.

In the same meeting, Senator Menendez, the Chairman of the Committee said “America went to MEK disarm and we will protect you. And then we ultimately left and that protection has not been there. You can put up, I don’t care how many tons of sand bags, but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee toward their safety and it sends a message to others in the world that when we say that we are going to do that and we do not, that they should not trust us. And for one thing that this committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapons sales, is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapons sales to Iraq until we get this situation in a place in which people’s lives are saved.”

Senator Menendez went on to indicate that he believed the Iraqi Government knows where the seven hostages are and that, should they die, it would have far reaching consequences for the West.

The seven hostages, six women and one man, were captured at Camp Ashraf and taken into custody by the Iraqi forces. They are being held as political prisoners in Baghdad, but may be given over to Iraq’s allies in Tehran. And the Iranian regime is not shy about using torture or systematically murdering its political opponents, the MEK being chief among them. That, in essence, is the current relationship between Tehran and Baghdad – a relationship born of our foolish intervention.

But what is the moral standing of the United States if it fails to use its considerable power to intervene and prevent further murder of unarmed refugees? The fate of those seven vulnerable hostages will be the measure of that morality.

It’s hard to quantify how much of the United State’s integrity has been damaged by what has already occurred, but it certainly is vastly more than what it may lose in the infinitely less likely event that it chose to default on its debts. Let’s hope President Obama and his national security team understand that the time for action is now.

This article first appeared in PoliticsHome