The Iraqi government was right to take action against a People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) camp north of Baghdad, as it did not want to tolerate a group on Iraqi territory operating outside Iraqi control. The left-wing Iranian opposition group has been fighting the Islamic Republic of Iran from several bases in Iraq since the early 1980s, when they were encouraged by the then president Saddam Hussain, who was at war with Iran.
Until the American led invasion in 2001, the PMOI was well armed with a wide range of weaponry including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and it conducted continual operations against Iran. The PMOI renounced the armed struggle in 2001 and handed over all its arms. Its members then benefited from loose American protection, which lapsed last year when the US handed security control back to Iraq earlier this year.
Once Iraqi control is re-imposed on the camp, it is important for humanitarian reasons that the residents of Camp Ashraf are not deported to Iran, where they would face death for their armed opposition to the regime, or imprisonment . The Iraqi government has made several statements since 2003 that the Mujahideen will be expelled from Iraq, since they see their presence in Iraq as a deep embarrassment and a real hindrance to any improvement of relations between Iraq and Iran.
Deep fears of deportation and concern at losing control of their political fate led the PMOI members to resist the Iraqi forces when they entered the camp to impose Iraqi authority, which led to serious clashes leaving seven of the Iranian dissidents dead. The Iraqi government should come forward with a clear statement on where it thinks these people should go, and make it their responsibility to bring this anomaly to an end.