WT - Iranian influence
By James Morrison
He survived 14 assassination attempts as governor of Iraq's Diyala province and is ready to risk his life again as a candidate in the parliamentary elections expected in December.
Dr. Abdullah Rasheed al-Jabouri, a dentist by profession, also learned about dirty politics when his opponents on the provincial election commission blocked him from running in the January elections by leaving his name off the ballot.
Dr. al-Jabouri, who made enemies among Islamic extremists by governing as a secular leader, only learned about the stunt on election day when the ballots were made public.
"There was cheating and deception. It was not a fair election," he said over lunch yesterday at The Washington Times.
His one-year term ended in March, and he returned to England to resume his dental practice. However, he is already planning his political comeback, and he plans to travel to Iraq soon to open his campaign.
Dr. al-Jabouri was in Washington to talk about the threat facing Iraq from its old enemy, Iran, which shares a border with Diyala province, and to urge the United States to remove the Iranian resistance from a blacklist of terrorist groups on which they were included during the Clinton administration.
This is an interesting proposal from an Iraqi politician. My impression thusfar was that the Iraqi government wants little or nothing to do with the Iranian resistance.
"There's question today that Iran is behind many terrorist attacks, especially against civilians and anti-fundamentalist politicians," he told a congressional hearing this week.
This is even a question?
"In Diyala province ... we managed to capture many Iranian agents or Iraqi and foreign nationals who were on Iran's payroll and had received training in terrorist activities."
Dr. al-Jabouri told the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus in the House that the United States made a mistake in 2003 when U.S. forces bombed the camps of the military wing of the resistance, the People's Mojahedin, which had operated from Diyala since 1986. He said they provided security against Iranian infiltration.
That's one way of putting it. The PMOI are blood enemies of the Badr Corps, also known as the Badr Brigade, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia which has gained a certain amount of, call it, respectability, in post-war Iraq. They also have a bone to pick with agents of "the evil mullah regime."
"I believe the bombing of the Mojahedin camps at the outset of the war was a major blunder, even more so was the U.S. decision to disarm them," he said.
What was absolutely brilliant was the PMOI command-enforced decision to not return fire, to not engage U.S. forces, and to seek an accommodation, in this case initially a ceasefire, as soon as possible.
"This left the entire province wide open to Iranian meddling and interference." Also at the Tuesday hearing, two Army officers who dealt with the Mojahedin testified about their cooperation and professionalism. The officers pointed out they were offering their personal opinions.
One might mention the concentrated "charm offensive" waged by the PMOI upon their U.S. guards.
Lt. Col. Thomas Cantwell, who commanded a military police battalion, guarded the Mojahedin at Camp Ashraf, where all of the resistance fighters were consolidated. He called them "cooperative" and "very disciplined, as a paramilitary force should be."
LTC Cantwell was very much a target of the PMOI charm offensive, as he was at least for a period of some months the commander of the MP battalion responsible for securing and protecting the PMOI compound at Ashraf Camp. He was aided in this by a company of Abrams tanks. I'm not saying he's wrong in his opinions, just that he was, like all U.S. officers who came into contact with the PMOI, presented with the best face of the PMOI.
Capt. Vivian Gembara, the Army lawyer who negotiated the Mojahedin disarmament agreement, said the United States should make "maximum use of the assets and potentials of this ally." "As a soldier and a lawyer," she said, "I believe it's time to change their classification as a terrorist organization."
The PMOI still being detained in Iraq were classified as having "Protected" status under the Geneva Convention. In my own, admittedly somewhat subjective, non-lawyer opinion, they meet those criteria under the Geneva Convention. Whether the U.S. recognizes the NCRI as a government-in-exile of Iran (we don't), their armed forces (the PMOI) go much further towards fulfilling the status of lawful combatants than did most Taliban forces in Afghanistan or most of the insurgent terrorists in today's Iraq. Except that they took great pains not to become belligerants against us.
It's not necessary that we recognize them as an army so long as they behave like one. And in most respects, they meet those criteria. That gets them protected status.
The classification as a terrorist organization comes from the State Department and dates back to the Clinton Administration.
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