Iranian refugees in Iraq face humanitarian crisis

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Iran's revolutionary guard [safwat sayed/Flickr]

While the world’s attention has been fixed on the weak nuclear agreement signed in Vienna this week, a humanitarian crisis is brewing for thousands of Iranian refugees in Iraq, writes Struan Stevenson.

Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP for Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until 2014. During this time, he was president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq. He is now president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

Last week President Obama and the P5+1 nations (the permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany), with the direct involvement of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, bulldozed through a nuclear deal with Iran.

Determined to secure his footnote in history, Obama swept aside all warnings and fears, and signed an agreement that effectively ends sanctions on the Iranian regime and releases up to $150 billion of assets that were previously frozen. The West gets virtually nothing but empty promises in return.

This is a windfall for a regime whose biggest export is terror – a regime which funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal Shi’ite militias in Iraq. It is a windfall for the mullahs’ nuclear programme, which far from being suspended, will now be accelerated, and it is a windfall for Iran’s expanding ballistic missile programme, which has intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and striking targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia or even Europe.

Obama’s footnote in the history books may not make for comfortable reading. The only reason the talks took place at all was because Iran was bleeding to death. With rampant corruption and incompetence, the Iranian leadership has allowed large sections of the economy to collapse.

Welfare handouts are being savagely cut, food prices continue to rise; the black market is burgeoning. While the top leaders live a life of luxury, anger is building amongst the poor. Increased repression, mass arrests, public hangings and floggings have been the regime’s response, because what they fear more than anything is popular fury spilling over into a new revolution, sweeping the fascist ayatollahs and their henchmen from power.

Extinguishing the fires that are raging around the Middle East will not be achieved by handing a box of matches to the arsonist. By signing the agreement with Iran, the P5+1 nations have missed a unique opportunity to cripple a rogue regime and restore peace and stability to the region. As the number one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran will finance new military capability; they will invest in the terrorist Quds Force and the murderous Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which spread their brand of theocratic fascism across the zone.

It is a great irony that in the same week the EU bailed out a bankrupted Greece, the West has bailed out a bankrupted Iran. We have saved the birthplace of democracy in the West and simultaneously dealt a deathblow to democracy in the Middle East.

The horror fiction writer Stephen King said that ‘the trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.’ It is a good description for the horror story that has unfolded in Vienna. Why is it in the Middle East that we always get it so wrong?

We backed Nouri al-Maliki during his two disastrous terms as prime minister in Iraq, despite the fact that he was a puppet of the Iranian regime and laid the foundations for ISIS by waging a ruthless sectarian campaign against Iraqi Sunnis. Corruption was rampant during his tenure. Iraq earned over $550 billion in oil revenues since Maliki came to power in 2006, and yet most of it has simply disappeared.

Despite this, it took a Herculean effort to persuade the Americans that Maliki should not be allowed to continue as prime minister for a third consecutive term. Haider al-Abadi took over last year, but Maliki remains in high office as vice-president of Iraq and he still occupies the prime minister’s palace in the green zone in Baghdad.

By blocking every effort by the Abadi government to achieve national reconciliation, Maliki and his Iranian sponsors have actively contributed to the growth and expansion of ISIS and have increased the divisions between Iraqis.

Everyone knows that the solution for the future of Iraq has to be political. Without preventing the Iranian regime’s interference in Iraq, nothing will be solved.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of decisiveness and the ongoing appeasement policy of the United States and the EU towards Iran, the mullahs in Tehran have been given a free hand in Iraq.

Among the main victims of this attitude by the West have been Iranian refugees in Iraq, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI (or Mujahedin-e Khalq, MEK), who are residing in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad airport. They are all registered refugees by the UNHCR. Yet, despite all the assurances provided for their safety and security by the UN, US and EU, the 2500 defenceless Iranian dissidents have been subject to several massacres by the puppets of the Iranian regime in Iraq.

While they have been subject to an anti-human medical blockade by the Government of Iraq for some time, they have become subject to a cruel fuel and food blockade in the past few days. Given the smouldering heat in Baghdad in July, this is tantamount to all aspects of life coming to a standstill in this refugee camp.

This could lead to humanitarian catastrophe unless the UN, Washington and the EU intervene and expose the Government of Iraq, demanding an immediate end to the blockade. Haidar Al Abadi cannot dodge his responsibility and should be held accountable.

While we are fixated on the nuclear deal, the UN and EU cannot ignore their responsibility to the residents of Camp Liberty. Upholding our commitments and our humanitarian values should always be our first priority.

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