In an article on Fox News’ website, former Bush administration officials Michael Mukasey and Tom Ridge and former FBI director Louis Freeh claim that in his apparent rush to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, President Obama is abandoning the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen-e Khalq’s (MEK):
[I]n a panicked haste to exit from Iraq, the Obama White House is abandoning the 3,400 members of the MEK — including young men, women and children — who are living in exile in a camp near Baghdad and intends to leave them to the indelicate mercy of Iraq’s new Shia prime minister, the Mullahs’ good friend Nouri al-Maliki.
There’s so much wrong with this brief clip of their piece that it’s difficult to know where to start.
To begin with, Obama is hardly in a “panicked haste to exit from Iraq.” As news reports have indicated over the past months, the Obama administration has been pressuring the Iraqis to strike a deal to allow U.S. troops to stay past the end of 2011, a deadline imposed by a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) struck by George W. Bush in 2008 despite warnings that the deal could constrict the next president’s policies.
Indeed, Freeh, Mukasey and Ridge acknowledged this fact five paragraph’s later in the same article:
The Obama administration is, of course, eager to complete a formal agreement with Prime Minister Maliki concerning the status of American troops remaining in Iraq after 2011.
Attacking Obama for wanting to rush out of Iraq seems just as disingenuous as the authors’ charge that the administration “intends to leave [the MEK adherents in Ashraf] to the indelicate mercy of…the Mullahs’ good friend Nouri al-Maliki.” The notion that Iraqis — who have officially wanted the MEK off their soil since 2008 — need to be pressured by the Iranians into harsh actions against Ashraf is absurd. As CAP analyst Matt Duss recently noted, the MEK, which is designated as a terror group by the U.S., is “despised…by many Iraqis for having aided Saddam [Hussein] in his crackdowns on Iraqi Shiites and Kurds.” Earlier this year, Duss explained:
The MEK also fought alongside Hussein’s forces after the 1991 Gulf War to put down the Shia uprising in Iraq’s south and the Kurdish uprising in the north. They were driven by MEK leader Maryam Rajavi’s infamous command to “Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”
The New York Times also recently noted that the Obama administration — far from abandoning the MEK members in Iraq — has been engaged in active diplomacy to get them out of harm’s way, eventually hoping to relocate them to a third country outside Iran (where they’re also likely to face persecution) or Iraq. However, the diplomacy, reported the Times, has thus far hit a dead end because “the residents are refusing to leave, and no countries have come forward to welcome them.”
That the three conservative officials-turned-pundits would make disingenuous attacks on Obama is no surprise. Their skewed perspective absolving the MEK of its role in blocking solutions to its predicament might also be easy enough to explain, though: Freeh, Mukasey and Ridge are among a coterie of top former U.S. officials who have been paid by groups that support the MEK, advocate for removing them from the U.S. terror list, and in some cases urge U.S. support and recognition as an Iranian government in exile despite the lack of any meaningful MEK political constituency within Iran.