Saturday, June 11, 2011

Iraq Going Its Own Way - Rohrabacher and the MEK

McClatchy's Roy Gutman reports on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-Calif.) hissy-fit in Iraq, where he is a member of a visiting US delegation that  has been meeting with Iraqi government representatives.  Acting out with the kind of hubris reminiscent of George W. Bush's era of cowboy diplomacy, Rohrabacher had the gall to demand (during what was called a "very frank" exchange) from Iraqi government an accounting of the killing of almost 40 members of the MEK (Mujahideen i Khalq), an Iranian dissident group that opposed the Islamist takeover there in 1979 and supported Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), during which they lived in exile in Iraq.

From then until as late as 2000, the MEK continued to undertake terrorist activities against the Iranian regime, and in 1997 were listed as a terrorist organization (right up there with Hamas and Hezbollah) by the US State Department, no less.  But because the scene of their terror attacks was Iran, the MEK drew considerable support from US congressmen, especially those who (like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) have harped long and loudly about the Iranian threat to Israel.  Among those who wanted the MEK removed from the list of terror groups and accounted as allies of the US were Dick Cheney and neocon godfather Richard Perle.  (For a useful chronology of the US's actions in re the MEK, see this.)

After the US invasion of Iraq, in 2003, the newly Iran-friendly  Iraqi government ordered the MEK (who had, after all, supported Saddam Hussein) to leave, and then had them interned outside Baghdad at Camp Ashraf.  That Iraqi PM Maliki unleashed his forces against them at Camp Ashraf is undeniable, and surely regrettable.  But for Rohrabacher (and other members of a Congressional committee) to start frothing about the Iraqi government's "crime against humanity" beggars credulity - especially when Rohrabacher and others of his stripe were so eager to launch an invasion amounted to massively greater crime against humanity.

(And would you believe that Rohrabacher - bless his heart - also had the temerity to suggest to the Iraqi government that
"once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country" it would give
"some consideration" to "repaying the United States some of the
mega-dollars we spent here the last eight years."?
The response of his Iraqi interlocutor?
"Thank you very much for liberating Iraq, but sorry, you're not going to get a cent."

Rohrabacher has announced that his committee will now begin an investigation of the Camp Ashraf incident - at a time when the Pentagon is hoping and praying that the Iraqi government will ask the US military to stay on.
It is highly unusual for a congressional
committee on an official visit to another country to announce an
investigation of the host government's actions on its own territory, and
it's equally rare for an official delegation to be told to leave. In
effect, Rohrabacher's move propelled an incident that the U.S. Embassy
and State Department had sought to play down into a dispute between the
two countries.

The Maliki government's response?
al-Maliki asked the U.S. Embassy to remove the U.S. delegation from
Iraq immediately, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said on Alhurra
It will be interesting to see how the Fox/Limbaugh bunch spin this.  Will they call Rohrabacher an all-American hero for standing up for human rights?  Or gently hint that his timing stinks?  From an on-line Fox outlet:

Iraqi authorities asked for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) to leave
the country Saturday after he called for Baghdad to repay part of the
money spent by the US since the 2003 invasion.

remarks at a news conference in Baghdad stood in stark contrast to those
by senior US officials, who have pressed Iraqi officials to decide soon
whether they want US troops to stay beyond a year-end withdrawal

"We called the US embassy yesterday [Friday], and we
told them to ask the congressmen to leave Iraq," government spokesman
Ali al Dabbagh said. "We don't want them here. What they said was

UPDATE: The NYT reports, in the wake of Rohrabacher's request that Iraq pony up some payback to the US:
Aliya Nasaif, a member of Parliament, said she would demand the Foreign Ministry seek compensation from the United States for the damage done to Iraq over the last eight years.
The same article reports on the deaths of 11 more Iraqis in Mosul at the hands of bombers and assassins (plus 48 injured, god knows how badly) and the assassination of an Iraqi schoolteacher and his family in Tikrit.

At last report, Rohrabacher's office had not dispatched condolence cards.

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