Tom Ridge to US government: Recommit to the safety and security of the residents of Camp LibertyPublished by International Liberty on May 4, 2015
In an article published in the Forbs Magazine website, Tom Ridge, US’s first Secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Pennsylvania stressed the need for an overhaul of US policy in the Middle East in order to reduce Iran’s growing meddling and terrorism that is tearing apart the fabric of civil societies in the region.
After describing the actions of the Iranian regime and inaction of the US government Mr Ridge suggested that: “For several years now, Tehran has had more influence in Baghdad than Washington, even in light of American blood and treasure. It is time to redress this imbalance.
“U.S. policymakers should have revisited America’s policy, particularly because the early warning signs were plenty in Iraq. Just a month before Maliki’s visit, 52 members of the main Iranian opposition were killed by Iraqi forces at Camp Ashraf. After the 2003 Iraq War, the residents had been guaranteed protection by US forces and later by the Iraqi government when the U.S. withdrew. But the Malaki government, acting with the encouragement and support of Iran, repeatedly violated their agreement.
Today, about 3,000 former residents of Ashraf have been moved to Camp Liberty near Baghdad. They have endured repeated violent attacks, signaling both Tehran’s influence over the Iraqi military and security apparatus, as well as the American abdication of important responsibilities to the people of that country.
“So far, 25 Camp Liberty residents have lost their lives after being deprived of timely access to needed medical care. About 1,300 are still coping with injuries from previous attacks. Last month, another resident, Safar Zakery, was taken hostage under the pretext of being involved in a minor traffic accident, for which he was not at fault. After being held for one month, he was only released after his colleagues posted a $30,000 bond. Turning a blind eye to these grave human rights violations will encourage the Iranians to sustain physical and psychological pressure against Camp Liberty residents. At the same time, pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq are flaming the fans of sectarian strife.
“The administration has a responsibility to ensure that Prime Minister Abadi will take home the message that Washington will not collude or cooperate with Tehran, and neither should Baghdad. Abadi’s visit has been a crucial opportunity for the President to reaffirm the obligation that the U.S., the UN and Iraq made to the residents. It is not too late for the U.S. to join its Arab allies in simultaneously standing up against the Islamic State and its Shiite counterpart ruling in Tehran.
“The U.S. can forge a stronger relationship with the new Iraqi government and in doing so it can also restore our credibility in the region. It should direct our efforts to reduce Iranian influence throughout the region, and recommit both governments to the safety and security of the residents of Camp Liberty. This is what is required by a prudent and realistic Middle East policy that truly promotes peace and stability.”