Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More on U.S. Support of Sunni Terrorists

Via Ken Silverstein, we learn of a CNN report alleging the U.S. government is protecting a Sunni terrorist group launching attacks into Iran. The story isn't getting much play:
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iraqi-based Iranian opposition group, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. Any American supporting the group can be charged with a crime. Yet the MEK “gets protection from the U.S. military despite Iraqi pressure to leave the country,” and “regularly escorts MEK supply runs between Baghdad and its base, Camp Ashraf.”

But you probably missed the story because (according to a reader who sent it to me) it was posted very briefly on CNN's front page and then quickly disappeared. No other major outlet (and very few minor ones) seem to have picked it up. The CNN story quotes Shirwan al-Wa'eli, Iraq's national security minister, as saying of the MEK, “We gave this organization a six-month deadline to leave Iraq, and we informed the Red Cross. And presumably, our friends the Americans will respect our decision and they will not stay on Iraqi land.”
The story's still there. But this connection was first reported almost a year ago:
One of the operational assets being used by the Defense Department is a right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which is being “run” in two southern regional areas of Iran. They are Baluchistan, a Sunni stronghold, and Khuzestan, a Shia region where a series of recent attacks has left many dead and hundreds injured in the last three months.

One former counterintelligence official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information, describes the Pentagon as pushing MEK shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The drive to use the insurgent group was said to have been advanced by the Pentagon under the influence of the Vice President’s office and opposed by the State Department, National Security Council and then-National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.

“We disarmed [the MEK] of major weapons but not small arms. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was pushing to use them as a military special ops team, but policy infighting between their camp and Condi, but she was able to fight them off for a while,” said the intelligence official. According to still another intelligence source, the policy infighting ended last year when Donald Rumsfeld, under pressure from Vice President Cheney, came up with a plan to “convert” the MEK by having them simply quit their organization.

“These guys are nuts,” this intelligence source said. “Cambone and those guys made MEK members swear an oath to Democracy and resign from the MEK and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them.”
These guys are no rag-tag band. Before we started taking advantage of their services, they were a well-armed and powerful component of Saddam Hussein's internal security forces:
The MEK was allied with the Iraqi regime and received most of its support from it. The MEK assisted the Hussein regime in suppressing opposition within Iraq, and performed internal security for the Iraqi regime.

By mid-May 2003 Coalition forces had consolidated 2,139 tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, air defense artillery pieces and miscellaneous vehicles formerly in the possession of the Mujahedin-E Khalq (MEK) forces. The 4th Infantry Division also reported they have destroyed most of the MEK munitions and caches. The voluntary, peaceful resolution of this process by the MEK and the Coalition significantly contributed to the Coalition’s mission to establish a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq. The 4,000 MEK members in the Camp Ashraf former Mujahedeen base were consolidated, detained, disarmed and were screened for any past terrorist acts.
That's right...tanks, and artillery pieces. And it appears that MEK members were screened not for any "past terrorist attacks" so much as their willingness to commit new ones against the "right" targets. For their trouble, the MEK is still considered a terrorist group by the State Department, though as the CNN article makes clear we are still largely protecting them at their camp in Southern Iraq pursuant to their status as a "protected people" under the Geneva Conventions:
"The coalition remains deeply committed to the security and rights of the protected people of Ashraf," U.S. Maj. Gen. John D. Gardner wrote in March 2006.

The group also enjoys the protection of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The ICRC has made clear that the residents of Camp Ashraf must not be deported, expelled or repatriated," according to an ICRC letter.

The State Department said Friday the Geneva Conventions protections apply only to MEK residents of Camp Ashraf, and the organization as a whole and its members elsewhere are subject to prosecution for terrorist or criminal acts.

"We still regard them as a terrorist organization," former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.
So, they are considered terrorists, but enjoy protection at their camp near the Iranian border. It would seem that so long as they're willing to stay there and not be too obvious about sneaking out (or being escorted out by American troops) to blow up targets in Iran, they'll continue to enjoy that protection.

Absurd? Just a little. Again, I understand that war makes for strange bedfellows. As I've already said, we were more than willing to give money to fighters in Afghanistan that later turned into terrorists who aimed their attacks at us. But this is splitting the hair a little too finely. Supporting a terrorist group's operations against our ostensible enemy is bad enough, but supporting a terrorist group that the Iraqi government is actually opposed to under humanitarian auspices, is just...bizarre.

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