Wednesday, September 26, 2007

US general defends arrest of Iranian in Iraq

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

BAGHDAD - The US military had no choice but to arrest the Iranian whose detention last week infuriated Baghdad and prompted Iran to close its frontier with Iraq, an American general said on Wednesday.

‘We have an obligation, it’s our responsibility to operate against such individuals,’ US military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told a news conference in Baghdad.

‘He’s a Quds Force officer who has been directly involved with a network that is providing resources, in training and funding sophisticated weapons that are targeting Iraqi people, Iraqi forces and coalition forces,’ said Bergner.

US troops raided a hotel last Thursday in Sulaimaniyah in Iraq’s northern Kurdish autonomous region and seized Iranian Mahmudi Farhadi, claiming he was a member of the Quds Force, the covert operations arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Iran and the Kurdish regional government, however, say that Farhadi is a businessman who was part of a commercial delegation visiting Sulaimaniyah.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday called the arrest illegal and demanded his release, while Iran on Monday shut its frontiers with Iraq in protest, causing mayhem at the border and major economic losses to traders in the Kurdish region.

‘We have great respect for President Talabani and the Iraqi leadership,’ Bergner said.

‘We have an obligation to share and inform on what we have on this individual. We have updated the Iraqi leaders on what we have learnt about this officer, and I think there is an increase of awareness in the government of Iraq about who this individual really was and exactly what he was involved in.’

The responsibility of the US military, the general added, was to ‘take the necessary means to improve, to help the government achieve a safe and secure environment.’

There was an understanding in the Iraqi government, he added, ‘that there is Quds Force operation in Iraq that is fuelling Special Groups and other extremists, that are providing sophisticated weapons with destabilising effects,’ he said.

‘It is clear that Quds Force officers are going to operate in Iraq. We have an obligation, it’s our responsibility to operate against those who belong to these networks.’

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Iraqi opposition leaders call for eviction of Iranian regime from Iraq

Saturday, 15 September 2007

NCRI - Members of the U.S. Congress from both sides of the island took part in a meeting entitled, “Best solution for Iran and the prospects in Iraq” which was held at the Cannon Building in the Congress. The meeting coincided with the two-day hearing at the beginning of the week in the U.S. Senate where the Commander of the Multi-National Force – Iraq and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq presented their accounts of the situation in Iraq.

Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Co), member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Republican presidential candidate; Congressman Bob Filner (D-Ca), chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Congressman Ed Towns (D-NY) were among distinguished sponsors of the meeting which was attended by over 100 congressional experts and aids to members of the Congress and the Senate.

Bob Filner invited the participants to listen to a video message by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, to the meeting where she called on members of the Congress to help remove the terrorist tag off the main Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. The Iranian people and their resistance could contribute to democratic change in Iran as well as to regional and international peace. She also called for efforts to evict the Iranian regime from Iraq, a demand shared by majority of Iraqis.

Speaking about the solution to the problem in Iraq, Congressman Filner who recently led a delegation of the House members to Iraq reiterated that the problem lies with the regime in Iran which should be dealt with.

Bruce McColm, a senior member of the Iran Policy Committee, appreciated the PMOI’s role in Iraq combating fundamentalism and terrorism exported by the clerical regime. He underlined the importance of PMOI’s presence in that country to establish stability and called on Iraqi progressive forces to defend the rights of PMOI members as political refugees in Iraq.

Ayad Jamaledin, a Shiite clergy and a member of the Iraqi National Assembly who represented the National Accord led by Dr. Ayad Alawi, referred to Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq and explained that the war in that country is a war against terrorism by the whole world. He denounced the mullahs’ regime taking advantage of religion to reach its political objectives. He emphasized the regime's support for armed militias and reiterated that the situation in Iraq and the region would not be resolved unless the international community takes on the Iranian regime.

During the meeting Dr. Saleh Mutlak, leader of the National Dialogue Front and Sheikh Khalaf Al-Alyan, leader of the Council for National Dialogue joined the meeting via telephone. They both described the government of Nuri Al-Maliki as the main problem in Iraq which advocates sectarianism.

Dr. Nadim Jaberi, General Secretary of the Iraqi Fazilat Party with 15 seats in the National Assembly addressed the issue from Baghdad by stressing on the threats of the mullahs in his country. “One of the main problems in Iraq is the influence of the Iranian regime. The solution is to have all Iraqis represented in the government. Maliki is backed by the Iranian regime and it should not be recognized by other countries,” said Dr. Jaberi.

Dr. Adnan Doleimi, President of the Iraqi People’s Congress highlighted the destructive role of the Iranian regime and called for its eviction from Iraq. He also called for the formation of a true national army.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tribal leaders call for an end to mullahs’ meddling in Iraq

Saturday, 08 September 2007

NCRI - Over 1000 tribal leaders in Iraq denounced Iranian regime’s meddling in their affairs and supported the alternative offered by Dr. Iyad Allawi, former Iraqi Prime Minister to the current catastrophic situation. Reporting the statement signed by the tribal leaders, the Iraqi news agency said, “Parallel to debates within the international political circles on the future of Iraq, more than 1000 tribal leaders from all over Iraq signed a statement to demand an end to the current disastrous situation and find a way to establish a national and democratic government under the leadership of Iyad Allawi.”

The Iraqi news agency quoted the tribal leaders’ statement declaring, “The Iranian regime at the cost of daily killings of hundreds and relying on militias and death squads has tried its best to intimidate the Iraqi people and deflect them from their main enemy. It has also tried to destabilize the political forces and make our people pay for its survival. The regime benefited tremendously from disunity among Iraqi forces and has temporarily imposed its own alternative on Iraqi society.”

The statement continued, “The Iraqi society has displayed its great national potential to fight terrorism and Islamic fascism even though it has serious wounds on its body. The most vicious crimes have not been able to break our resistance and to defeat us. We believe that national and democratic forces should join hands and create a powerful alternative under the leadership of Dr. Iyad Allawi. They should also encourage the regional and international powers to support the Iraqi alternative instead of joining with the Iranian regime’s allies. At the present, this is the best option to save our country.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Take inside track in trying to keep Iran in check

Detroit Free Press
By Paul Welday
September 05, 2007

As America anticipates the reports next month from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the current military and political status of our efforts in Iraq, more and more attention is being paid to the destabilizing and deadly role being played by Iran in this conflict. And rightfully so.

Having worked closely for the past year with the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington-based think tank focused on U.S.-Iranian policy, my colleagues and I have watched a steady, provocative escalation of Iran's arming, training and financing of insurgents in Iraq. This involvement has cost the lives of American military men and women, and Iran shows no sign of backing down.

The Bush administration has stepped up its warnings to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the extreme fundamentalist Islamic clerics who control him. This strong response comes none too soon. In addition to its deadly role in Iraq, the Tehran regime is a prime sponsor of Hamas, Hizballah and Al Qaeda terrorist activity worldwide. Most significantly, Iran is also actively pursing a policy of uranium enrichment to develop a nuclear weapon in 1-3 years.

But what options are available to U.S. policymakers? Until recently, it was thought our only two choices were economic sanctions and diplomacy, or military intervention. Both options have their place, but taken independently neither is likely to accomplish the goal of getting Iran out of Iraq. Diplomacy with Iran, or the "Appeasement Policy" as some call it, has failed miserably. Iran is more bellicose today than ever before, even after years of sanctions. Military strikes may succeed in taking out nuclear facilities, but the long-term consequences of military engagement in Iran can hardly be predicted with certainty.

So the United States and its Western allies must consider utilizing a "Third Option" against the Iranian government: Empower the Iranian people by unleashing strong, vibrant, moderate opposition groups to bring about change from within the country. Only by forcing the mullah regime to look over its shoulder and face the very real forces of change that exist both inside and outside of Iran will we slow or stop the reckless intervention being waged by that government worldwide. Only domestic pressure will force the Iranian government to tend to its own backyard.

One such opposition group that could play an important role in isolating the Iranian regime and bringing together sectarian groups to forge a political consensus is the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. The MEK and its umbrella organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, are the principal opposition groups facing the mullah regime in Tehran and are poised to bring real pressure to bear against the government.

But there is a significant problem to the incorporation of the "Third Option." The MEK and the NCRI are currently listed by the U.S. State Department as foreign terrorist organizations. There is considerable history associated with the MEK that dates back to the overthrow of the shah in the late 1970s. Some of it is not ideal, but by the standard set by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, there is no way to legitimately label the MEK as terrorists.

Many believe that the MEK was designated as a terrorist organization during the Clinton administration simply to gain favor with Tehran as a precursor to the establishment of a U.S.-Iranian dialogue.

In 2003, the New York Times reported that the 1997 proscription of the MEK was done as "a goodwill gesture toward Iran's then newly elected reform-minded president, Mohammad Khatami." The policy continued through the Bush administration in the hopes of containing the Iranians prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In short, the MEK has been used as a bargaining chip in a high-stakes poker game that has come up short for the United States.

In actuality, the MEK can play a constructive role in Iraq by serving as a trusted mediator between the U.S. military, Sunnis, Kurds and moderate Shiites. Bitterly hated by the mullah regime in Tehran, the MEK can be a catalyst for the organization of political opposition within Iran. And, while not perfect, the MEK can provide a toehold for the West in the struggle to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Continuing to follow an ineffective policy toward Iran will not bring about change in the world's most dangerous region. Deploying a "Third Option" is a strategy the United States must seriously consider if we expect to see a positive conclusion to the war in Iraq -- and the titanic struggle against the growing threat of radical Islamic extremism.

PAUL WELDAY, 48, of Farmington Hills, is president of Strategic Federal Affairs and a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills, and Oakland County Republican chairman.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Iraq, MEK and US retreat

Human Events
By James Zumwalt

September 04, 2007

For 17 years before the US invasion of Iraq, a lion roamed the border, foraging into Iran on occasion before returning to its Iraqi safe haven. Its prey was the Iranian mullahs' elite military force -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It enjoyed tremendous hunting prowess, growing in size and strength. But during the 2003 invasion, US forces attacked, de-clawed and caged the beast in an effort to placate those who feared it most -- Tehran's leadership. As anti-war critics insist upon a quick US withdrawal from Iraq, they show little concern, if any, for the lion's fate in the wake of such a departure. We must not ignore the lion's fate now less its subsequent slaughter, in the event of a US withdrawal, becomes yet another post-war holocaust for which our actions were responsible.

The "lion" is the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) -- also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq or "MEK," first organized in 1965 by students at Tehran University opposed to the Shah's rule, who objected as well to fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. Following Iran's 1979 revolution that brought the brutal Ayatollah Khomeini regime to power, MEK was gaining popular support. A peaceful MEK-sponsored demonstration in 1981 against Khomeini's brutality led to one of Iran's most severe human rights abuses. Security personnel, on Khomeini's orders, opened fire on half a million demonstrators, arresting many who were later executed in prison. MEK's response to this violence was violent as well, attacking IRGC elements and numerous Iranian government officials involved in the torture and execution of Khomeini's critics. As Khomeini cracked down on MEK's membership, its leadership fled to France.

However, MEK's residency in France was short-lived. In a deal made between Paris and Tehran to effect the release of French hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1986, the French government ordered MEK out of the country. Homeless, it re-located to Iraq where, in spite of its Iranian membership, it was tolerated by Saddam Hussein who saw MEK as a buffer to Iran. Its goal ever since 1979 has been single-minded -- to bring about a regime change in Iran to one respectful of individual rights. It was able to build an impressive liberation army by capturing hundreds of tanks and other military equipment from the IRGC.

The issue of determining whether the lion was friendly or not to the US was muddled when -- at the request of the Iranian regime -- the Clinton Department of State listed MEK as a terrorist organization. Various accusations against MEK have included involvement in terrorist attacks against US citizens working in Iran under the Shah, cooperating with Saddam to put down the post 1991 Gulf war uprisings, and so forth.

An independent group, represented by former Congressman Dick Armey, has assessed these allegations and the evidence upon which State relied in reaching its decision, finding State's decision was "fundamentally flawed." Far from being terrorists, Armey found MEK to be "a pro-democratic organization that for more than 40 years has worked to bring democracy and freedom to Iran...The MEK has repeatedly been a pawn…sacrificed in US-Iranian and Franco-Iranian relations." Ironically, it was put on the terrorist list in 1997 as a "goodwill gesture to Iran" -- the greatest state sponsor of terrorism. Clearly fearing MEK, Iran managed to run an effective propaganda campaign to paint MEK in a terrorist light. Meanwhile, as MEK spends its tenth year on the list, State has yet to similarly list Iran's IRGC whose Qud's Force fuels the war in Iraq.

A fundamental difference in beliefs exists between MEK and Iran's clerics -- the former believe in man's right to exercise free will; the latter totally oppose it. And, as contrasted by Iran's Islamofascist views which subjugate women to male rule, MEK women occupy the top positions in government and the military.

Recently revealed secret communications between Washington and Tehran, initiated by the latter, occurred at a time Iran feared both the US and MEK -- before and immediately after Baghdad's collapse. The focus of those communications was on MEK. In exchange for Washington removing the MEK thorn from Iran's side, Tehran promised to behave in Iraq. This pact led to US attacks against MEK during the Iraq invasion. In what is perhaps the most revealing of tests of this lion's demeanor, however, MEK refused to retaliate against US forces. Thus, while the US abided by its side of the pact with Iran, Tehran failed to abide to its side.

In one final act of contrition by the MEK, they agreed to being disarmed and their freedom of movement restricted. MEK surrendered all weaponry to the US; it submitted its members to extensive US investigation to ascertain if any were involved in terrorist activity (no charges against a MEK member were ever filed); and, finally, the MEK agreed to be caged. Limited to free movement only within the confines of Camp Ashraf in volatile Diyala Province, MEK was granted "protected persons" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But this protection is provided by the lion's handlers -- the US Government. Only a handful of members are allowed out under close US supervision and protection. Meanwhile, MEK has been winning over local tribesman in Iraq's Diyala Province -- once considered one of the most violent areas but now considered one of the least. The local tribes also extend protection to MEK. Tehran fears MEK's presence in Iraq as the lion has unified moderate Iraqis and been effective in conducting US/Sunni mediations. MEK's very positive contribution to peace and stability in the region was recently recognized in a petition signed by more than five million Iraqis.

If anti-war critics prevail in demanding a US withdrawal from Iraq, what will happen to MEK? "Protected persons" receive international recognition as such for only so long as an occupying force is in Iraq. Thus, upon a coalition force withdrawal, MEK loses this protective status. When asked about such an outcome, MEK Secretary General, Ms. Mojgan Parsai told Fox News in May 2007, "If the US withdraws from Iraq before democracy is established in this country, it virtually means that it would hand over Iraq to the Tehran mullahs who are the godfather of terrorism; if a democratic government is in power in Iraq, then we should have no problem with the US forces leaving."

It is doubtful Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki -- closely connected to Iran's mullahs -- would do anything to help MEK. And, thousands of displaced MEK would generate a tidal wave of refugees, receiving little support from neighboring countries already overburdened by a continuing flow of Iraqi refugees. Rest assured too, as soon as Iran felt brazen enough to do so, it would target MEK for total destruction, either directly through the IRGC or indirectly through Iranian-supported Iraqi Shiite militias.

Also to be considered is whether we give the MEK the arms we confiscated so it could defend itself when US forces withdraw from Iraq. The answer is obvious -- for not to do so would result in a massacre of MEK by Iranian forces. And just as critical is the timing of the weapons return. It is unknown whether regular maintenance has been performed on the weaponry. Just like an unused sword loses its sharp edge, so too does a MEK army denied use of its weapons and equipment for training. This army needs to be given the capability to prepare for the fight of its life -- and with adequate time to do so.

If there is any "grand bargain" with Iran as US forces leave Iraq, the protection of MEK members is a responsibility we must meet. For such a bargain to abandon the MEK members -- at least 3000 of them in Camp Ashraf -- would be to sentence them to death.

The fate of MEK is one of but several considerations that must be well thought out prior to conducting a US withdrawal. Those politicians suggesting short term timetables for this are clearly failing to consider the full impact. Many Iraqis who have been loyal to the US will also pay the ultimate price for having backed the wrong horse.

Because US forces today protect it, the lion sleeps tonight. But with the withdrawal of US caretaker forces tomorrow a possibility, the de-clawed lion may well be slaughtered as easily as the sacrificial lamb.

James Zumwalt is a retired Marine who served in the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He has written opinion pieces on foreign policy, defense and security issues for dozens of newspapers. He is president of his own security consulting company.