Camp Ashraf in Iraq belongs to the terrorist group Mujahidin-e Khalq (MEK), and recently the plight of the inhabitants of the camp has been used as a smokescreen to advance the argument to take the group off of the foreign terrorist organization list. Barbara Slavin relates the main issues concerning the camp:
American diplomats have been trying to arrange new homes for the camp residents but have been hampered by the fact that their leaders refuse to accept refugee status.
Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist imprisoned in Iran after disputed 2009 presidential elections, said the MEK needs to keep the camp to maintain control of its foot-soldiers. He said that US officials feared a “Jonestown in Ashraf” if attempts were made to remove camp residents by force. He was referring to the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978 of hundreds of fanatical followers of a self-styled prophet, Jim Jones.
Bahari, speaking at a conference in Washington on Thursday sponsored by the National Iranian American Council, a non-partisan group that advocates for Iranian Americans and opposes the MEK, expressed sympathy for MEK members but said it would be a mistake to take the group off the State Department list at this time.
Jasmin Ramsey wrote a long article on the push to de-list the MEK, and she explains why it is wrong to link the issues of de-listing with the treatment of the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf:
However, even the Bush administration had ignored neoconservative entreaties to delist the MEK, which would make it strange for Obama to adopt a position that his predecessor found too risky. The humanitarian concerns at Camp Ashraf are legitimate, but they could be resolved through the assistance of organisations like the ICRC and UNHCR. To conflate this issue with the decidedly political question of delisting may only exacerbate the already fragile US-Iran relations.
Daniel Larison, American conservative