• State Department Fibs About Camp Liberty and MEK

    February 24, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    The problem of the MEK people in Iraq has a long and complex history. You can read a bit about it here if you are unfamiliar with the mess the US has gotten themselves into vis-vis the MEK in Iraq.

    Short version is that the US and the UN brokered a deal to move the MEK people from their unsafe and politically volatile Camp Ashraf location to the old US Camp Liberty, where the UN would supposedly process them as refugees. As part of the deal, the US would monitor conditions at Camp Liberty to ensure the MEK were treated well.

    In fact, back in December, Ambassador Daniel Fried, Special Advisor for Camp Ashraf for the State Department, made this exact promise:

    Embassy Baghdad will visit former Camp Liberty on a frequent basis to provide robust observation. The US seeks a safe, secure, humane resolution. Our interest is humanitarian.

    It seemed reasonable for diplomats to make the 45 minutes trip out to Camp Liberty once in awhile, in that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) comes with the World’s Largest price tag, some $3.8 billion (about $2.5 billion of that is for security) a year in operating costs, about a fourth of all State’s yearly costs. The idea of US diplomats visiting MEK completes the circle: the US Dips will be surrounded by massive security to protect them from the Iraqis the US liberated while at the same time using their own presence to protect the MEKs from the liberated Iraqis. It all added up to freedom somehow.

    It seems however that the State Department fibbed about those visits. Here instead are the conditions out there at Camp Liberty as described by Allan Gerson, former Counsel to the US Delegation to the United Nations:

    Camp Liberty has no serviceable water supply let alone drinking water.

    The trailers in which new arrivals are to be housed are worn-out and extremely dirty to the point of being un-inhabitable. There are only 80 trailers and most of them lack electrical wiring and thus there is no light and no heating.

    The sewage system is not functioning and thus the lack of hygienic facilities is likely to cause serious health problems, with raw sewage in open areas of the residential quarters.

    The police headquarters is situated northwest of the camp, next to section where the residents are located. In addition there are four other police stations and checkpoints with one situated on the pathway to the dining facility so that every resident going to the dining facility must pass the police checkpoint. More ominously, the police commander in charge of the camp appears to be the same commander responsible for incursions into Camp Ashraf which on two occasions left a total of more than 40 unarmed civilians dead and hundreds wounded.

    Apparently 16,000 State Department staffers at the cost of $3.8 billion at the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad does not buy too many “robust” inspections, as was promised to assure the safety of the MEK. That money also does not buy much credibility.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq

    Robust Briefing on Camp Ashraf and the Robust MEK

    December 31, 2011 // Comments Off on Robust Briefing on Camp Ashraf and the Robust MEK

    Holding what might be the worst job at the State Department other than whatever is in store for me in 2012, Ambassador Daniel Fried is the Special Advisor for Camp Ashraf. He is tasked with overseeing a nice ending to a problem the US (and Iraq) have conveniently put off for almost nine years during the Occupation.

    The MEK people are still living in Iraq, at a place called Camp Ashraf, and Iraq would generally prefer that they all die, or disappear or die and disappear. The US has run the gamut of emotions and policy positions on MEK (it’s complicated), but prefer that they just disappear without the being massacred by Iraqis part. That would upset the whole illusion of democracy thing for sure.

    The UN has come up with a solution that might work. The MEK people will move from distant, tainted and often rocketed Camp Ashraf into the recently-abandoned Camp Liberty. Once the home of Iraq’s largest PX store during the Occupation, Liberty now has lots of openings for new residents. The nice thing is that Liberty is pretty close to the World’s Largest Embassy (c) and so the US can play a “monitoring” role, basically visiting once in a while to deter the Iraqis from just rolling in and killing everyone one night. The UN is later supposed to arrange something for the 3,200 MEK folks– refugee status, immigration, Publisher’s Clearing House prize, anything to get them out of Iraq before they all are ground into sausage meat by the democracy there.

    There will be “bumps” in the road. On the day the MEK agreement was signed, rockets hit Camp Ashraf. The attacks repeated on the following nights. A statement by people in Camp Ashraf said that as a first step, a group of 400 are ready “to move to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings on December 30.” The transfer, however, did not happen as the Iraqi government stepped in to require that people did not carry more than a travel bag to the new looted camp which now lacks basic infrastructure and drinking water.

    Ambassador Fried (his real name) held a briefing at the State Department that was quite informative, with a transcript now online. Among the many complications, he reveals that there are at least two (Iranian-) Americans among the Camp Ashraf residents. The briefing sidesteps the messy question of MEK’s status on the US terrorist list and keeps the focus on the humanitarian side, which is probably the best way out.

    Sorry but minus three points for the Ambassador for using the word “robust” three times, twice in the same paragraph, to describe the planned State Department monitoring of the MEK people at Liberty. Can you find another adjective in the New Year, please?

    Here are some suggestions:

    healthy, strong, able-bodied, athletic, boisterous, booming, brawny, built, concentrated, fit, full-bodied, hale, hardy, hearty, hefty, husky, live, lusty, muscular, peppy, potent, powerful, powerhouse, prospering, prosperous, roaring, rugged, sinewy, snappy, sound, stout, strapping, sturdy, thriving, tiger, tough, vigorous, vital, well, zappy, zippy

    (P.S. Go with “zippy” or “brawny.”)

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq