Iraq: Mujahedeen Khalq camp attacked by rockets

OK, the last we heard Mujahedeen Khalq or the People’s Mujahadeen Organization of Iran (as the with the spelling of “Qaddafi,” the media can’t settle on a single rendering, variously presenting the acronym as MEK, MKO or PMOI) had just been dropped from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list and moved from their Saddam-era headquarters at Camp Ashraf, where they had been protected by the dictator, to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near Baghdad, pending resettlement in an unnamed third country. Months later, they appear to still be at Camp Liberty—and Al Jazeera reports Feb. 9 that unknown militants fired Katyusha rockets down on them there, killing at keast five of their followers.

Martin Kobler, the top UN official in Iraq, told Al Jazeera that he was “shocked” by the attack, adding: “These people have to be protected.” The Mujahedeen Khalq leadership in Paris said they suspected the attack was carried out by Iran’s Quds Force—an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards. The New York Times quotes the leadership saying in a press statement: “The residents and their representatives have warned about a massacre by the Iranian regime and the Iraqi forces, and demanded several times from the secretary general of the United Nations and US officials to return to Camp Ashraf, where concrete buildings and shelters are available.”

What a nice little labyrinth of irony this story is. A cultish cadre of ultra-left militants exiled from Iran, Mujahedeen Khalq were sponsored by Saddam Hussein to make trouble for the Tehran regime. Because they were sponsored by Saddam, they were considered a “terrorist organization.” After Saddam fell, they became anathema to the new regime—both because they had been the dictator’s pawns, and because they oppose the Tehran regime, which the new Shi’ite-dominated Baghdad regime views increasingly favorably despite being installed in power under US auspices. But now that the Saddam factor is absent, they have become irresistable to Washington for use as a pawn against Tehran, and thus were removed from the “foreign terrorist organizations” list. (We are a little skeptical about claims that they have been disarmed and renounced violence.) Yet even in rehabilitation, no third country seems willing to take them in, so a decade after the US invasion of Iraq, they are still languishing in a camp outside Baghdad (except the leadership core in Paris). And it appears that Tehran’s feared Quds Force have a free hand to operate with impunity in Iraq, which the US expended so much proverbial blood and treasure to “liberate”…