Mr. Chairman, and members of Parliament, I greatly appreciate the honour to once again testify before you on the situation in Camp Ashraf and the former National Liberation Army of the MeK and the many events that have transpired since our last meeting on December 8.
As you are aware, the December 31 arbitrary deadline for all former NLA to be out of Iraq was postponed by its generator, Prime Minister al-Maliki. This was not an action of his choice, but a reaction to the pressure and attention created by North American and western European governments. Al-Maliki had his forces in place and was ready to move against the camp. Every member of the MeK appreciates the involvement of the Canadian government in preventing the disaster that was most certain to happen at Camp Ashraf if al-Maliki had not found himself under international scrutiny.
Not without determination to consolidate his ever-growing power inside Iraq, al-Maliki turned his attention to his two most senior Sunni government officials, Deputy Prime Minister Mutlaq and Vice-President Hashimi. Immediately after U.S. troop withdrawal and al-Maliki’s visit to the White House, arrest warrants were issued for both officials under the charges of supporting terrorist activities. Tariq Hashimi, who for a long time has called for proper treatment of the MeK, has been accused by Maliki of operating death squads. I personally worked with Vice-President Hashimi and personally witnessed his commitment to protecting both Shias and Sunnis from death squads. The charges against Vice-President Hashimi are nothing more than tools being used by Maliki to eliminate political rivals.
The invasion of Iraq only succeeded in replacing one brutal dictator with another. As with Saddam during his early days of power, Maliki has the support of the United States government. Unlike Saddam, every day Maliki aligns himself closer with Tehran while the U.S. administration downplays this connection. To claim that Iranian influence is anything less than significant is a discredit to all coalition forces, Iraqi citizens, and the residents of Ashraf, who have paid the price of that influence with their blood and their lives.
To be part of the solution and show good faith in the UN refugee determination process, MeK leadership agreed to the transfer from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya, formerly known as Camp Liberty. In the past four months, approximately 2,000 former NLA members have completed the move, with 1,200 more pending transfer. Camp Hurriya is located immediately to the east of Baghdad International Airport. The reason stated by the Iraqi government for the transfer was to ease the UN vetting process.
This location has come with numerous problems. Continually the call is rendered by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department that this relocation requires cooperation of all parties concerned. Unfortunately, the party always conceding has been the MeK. The Iraqi government has created one difficulty after another. It should not be forgotten that it was the Iraqi government that prevented the UN from traveling to and conducting the process at Camp Ashraf. Furthermore, the officer in charge of this transfer mission is the same person who commanded the 2009 and 2011 Iraqi military attacks on Camp Ashraf, General Qassim.
Camp Hurriya, less than one-half square mile in size, is correctly referred to by Rudy Giuliani as a concentration camp. Before the arrival of the first bus from Ashraf, Camp Hurriya had already been looted by the Iraqi military. Cabinets that could have been used for storage were intentionally damaged. The black water storage tank ruptured the first day due to lack of maintenance. The water treatment plant built in 2006 by U.S. forces had been stripped by the Iraqis. Now the MeK must pay for water to be shipped in. The quantity of water has never met the needs of the growing population.
Often part of the problem has been UN Ambassador Kobler himself. He has proven himself to be very quick to accept Maliki’s words on most everything, even assuring everyone involved that Hurriya was in good shape. The pristine photos he provided to support his claim did not show the same facilities the Ashraf residents found upon arrival. He criticized the residents for the black water tank breaking down and blamed them from bringing in trash to Hurriya to stage a photo opportunity of unsanitary conditions. In doing so he overlooked the fact that it was U.S.-generated trash. His theory also required it to have been overlooked in the multiple Iraqi searches of the Hurriya-bound convoys.
Even getting from Ashraf to Hurriya has been loaded with obstacles. The Iraqi government has not honoured the formal agreements for what may be brought forward to Hurriya. This includes generators for power, vehicles for transporting disabled people, medical equipment and supplies, and personal items.
Having worked with both the Iraqi government and the former NLA, I can understand what is happening. The denial of supplies and equipment will make life that much more difficult for the residents. Also, the more that is left at Camp Ashraf means the more property Iraqi officers will be able to claim for themselves once Ashraf is clear of MeK.
On the very last convoy, two trucks of personal clothing disappeared. When MeK leadership directly questioned General Qassim about this, he responded that the clothing belonged to the prime minister’s office.
The very searches of the convoys and people, prior to departure, have been exercises in harassment and brutality. What has been searched gets searched again and again. That process lasts for a day and a half without rest. It was from this process that a 48-year-old engineer, Baardia Amir Mostofian, died of a stroke. In another incident, the Iraqi military commenced beating Ashraf residents with batons, resulting in 29 MeK members injured.
There have been meetings between the Iraqi military and the MeK. The meetings have addressed all the problems mentioned here and in each case the Iraqi military response is either a pledge to look into the issue or a flat-out refusal of correction. The person sent to the meetings by the Iraqis does not have the authority to promise or change anything. He is a lieutenant. In Middle Eastern protocol, sending the most junior officer possible to a meeting is an intentional snub. Even before the meeting starts, Iraqi military representation by a lieutenant is a message in itself, specifically that you are not worthy of senior officer attention.
Secretary Clinton and her department blatantly ignore the three standards set by the U.S. Congress in 2004 as to what constitutes a foreign terrorist organization, an FTO. First, it must be foreign to the U.S. The MeK satisfies that one standard. Second, it must also be a threat to the U.S. or its citizens. Third, it must have the means to carry out that threat. Neither of these are anywhere close to being achieved.
Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army has been directly responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. and coalition warriors and has never been identified by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. Hypocrisy runs deep at Foggy Bottom and intentionally fails to consider what has really caused the loss of American blood.
For Secretary Clinton to associate the move from Camp Ashraf to Hurriya as being a criterion for the de-listing, violates the congressional mandate and somehow assumes that the former NLA is capable of breaking through the Iraqi military perimeter around Ashraf to launch an attack, with resources it does not have, on the U.S. or its citizens. One of the most disturbing things about Secretary Clinton's position is that the MeK served beside U.S. forces in Iraq.
Not to be outdone by his boss, in April State Department Ambassador Benjamin stated before Congress that the foreign terrorist determination is dependent upon seeing what weaponry the MeK still has at Ashraf. He claimed to Congressman Poe that the U.S. has not had a chance to see what was at Ashraf.
To this, General Phillips, Lieutenant Colonel McCloskey, and I wrote an editorial that every one of us conducted multiple inspections. Of note, I have all the photographs of the real estate that Ambassador Benjamin said we never had access to. I took those photographs myself. While it may have been an expedient opportunity for him to escape further questioning from Congressman Poe, to make such a statement was misinformation at best.
On May 8, in presenting his oral argument to the U.S. Court of Appeals, State Department representative Robert Loeb continually repeated this claim of Ashraf never having been searched. He even validated this claim by presenting Ambassador Benjamin’s testimony to Congress as being the source of accurate information. This use of logic is quite similar to the issue that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that we can use Colin Powell's testimony before the United Nations to justify the fact that Saddam did have the weapons.
Not only was Camp Ashraf searched multiple times by U.S. forces, but also by Iraqi forces in 2009 with the use of canine. All the results came out the same—no weapons were found at Ashraf.
In his presentation to the Court Of Appeals, Robert Loeb stated that the Secretary needed to receive the results of the search after all Ashraf residents have departed. What will happen after all the Ashraf residents have departed is that we will see throw-down weapons of a mass group put at Camp Ashraf.
Meanwhile, the State Department continues to ignore the congressional standards on what constitutes a foreign terrorist organization, but the legislative branch is not alone. In July of 2010, the judicial branch ruled against the State Department. The result was a mandate that within six months due process of the FTO listing will be implemented. That was over 22 months ago. The United States spent less time in World War l than it's taking the State Department to make that one decision. Yet, the State Department continues to stumble along, offering appeasements in exchange for dialogue that always goes nowhere. The ultimate victims of these appeasements are the Iranian people, and right now the 3,200 former NLA members trapped inside Iraq when U.S. forces invaded.
Somehow, State Department bureaucrats think that continuing to demonize the MeK as terrorists will dissuade the Iranian government from becoming more difficult. I fail to understand this logic. Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability, planned to kill the Saudi ambassador on American soil, is the primary supporter of the brutal Syrian government, is determined to destroy Israel, kidnapped American hikers for a half a million dollar ransom for each one, sentenced a Canadian citizen to death for alleged spying, sentenced 12 Iranian Christians to death on Easter Sunday, and the list goes on. It's time to stop appeasing the fundamentalist Government of Iran and start supporting humanity.
Concerning Ashraf, in achieving that goal the best thing Canada and the United States can do is to remove the MeK from the terrorist lists, hold the Maliki government accountable for its misconduct, and bring the former NLA members out of Iraq to safe locations.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you and look forward to your questions.