US using opposition group to track Iranian influence networks in Iraq
Camp Ashraf which is occupied by the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group the Mujahedine Khalq Organisation (MKO) is sited more than 260km north of Baghdad.
This group resettled in Iraq in 1987 during the rule of Saddam Hussain. After Saddam was ousted in 2003, the US army gave protection to this camp which remains today.
The Iraqi coalition government headed by Shiite Ebrahim Al Jaafari and Nouri Al Maliki decided to expel MKO members from Iraq and close Camp Ashraf. However, none of these decisions have been implemented.
In this camp and in other Iraqi cities, there are between 4,000 and 5,000 MKO members and their families, with identities issued by the United Nations and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to facilitate their mobility inside Iraq.
Jalal Al Din Al Sagheer, a prominent figure in the Shiite coalition, has accused MKO members of supporting terrorist groups affiliated to the former regime.
He told Gulf News: "There is an Iraqi constitution which prohibits using the Iraqi territory to launch a series of cross-border attacks against neighbouring countries and we are committed to this position."
Leaders of Camp Ashraf move with heavy US forces’ protection inside Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. During visits of Iraqi officials to Tehran and their Iranian counterparts to Baghdad, the MKO group file was at the top of bilateral talks. It was said that Iran wants a settlement with Iraqis to end the MKO file in return for full security cooperation that guarantees stopping the infiltration of terrorist elements into Iraq from the Iranian borders.
Lubaid Abbawi, the undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Gulf News: "The MKO file must move fully to the responsibility of the Iraqi government and must not be a political agenda used by different politicians or parties."
In the light of American-Iranian conflict in Iraq and in the region it is unlikely that the American forces will submit Camp Ashraf to Al Maliki.
According to some leaks from Baghdad, Americans have begun to form special groups comprising MKO members to assist them to track Iranian intelligence networks in Iraqi cities, as well as to provide the US intelligence with a huge amount of information from inside Iran, especially with the escalation of the Iranian nuclear file. These measures came just after the launch of the new US strategy set by President George W Bush, which included reducing the Iranian influence in Iraq.
A MKO report published recently in Germany referred by name to more than 31,000 Iraqi agents working for the Iranian intelligence. This indicates that the next phase will witness greater convergence between the MKO and the American forces in Iraq.
Hadi Al Ameri, leader of the Badr Organisation of the Shiite Supreme Council, has accused the MKO of training terrorist elements and working to destabilise Iraq. Al Ameri affirmed the coming period will witness the exile of this Iranian opposition group from Iraqi territories.
The Al Maliki government works to exclude Iraq from any Iranian-American influence conflict and to ensure Iraq does not turn into an arena for settling accounts between the two countries.
The MKO group in Iraq has established political relations with prominent Shiite religious leaders who oppose the political process, the Mahmoud Al Hasani group in Karbala and the Jawad Al Khalisi group in Kadhimiya city, Baghdad.
Basil Adas, gulfnews – January 31, 2007