WP - Iraq Threatens to Expel Iranian Rebels. Exile Group Has Protected Status Under Soon-to-Expire U.N. Mandate.
"BAGHDAD, Dec. 21 -- Iraqi officials say they intend to expel members of an Iranian exile group living in a camp north of Baghdad that is protected by the U.S. military. The expulsion, which the Shiite-led government has long sought, is expected to become feasible once the U.N. mandate that regulates the presence of U.S. troops -- and which gave the Iranian opposition group protected status -- expires at the end of the year."
Actually, it's the Geneva Conventions and the laws of land warfare that give the PMOI "Protected" status, but only the presence of U.S./Coalition forces that make it a reality.
"The (Iraqi) government informed the group that it would soon assume responsibility for security at Camp Ashraf and that residents would be repatriated unless they find a third country willing to take them. The U.S. military currently protects Camp Ashraf, which is 40 miles north of Baghdad.
"Staying in Iraq is not an option for them," the government said in a statement issued Sunday. The Iranian government has long called for the group's expulsion."
The Iranian government would like to give them a fatal homecoming.
"The Shiite-led Iraqi government, which has close ties to Iran, has for years threatened to shut down Camp Ashraf because it regards the MEK, also known as the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, as a terrorist organization.
The European Union and the U.S. State Department have also labeled the group a terrorist organization."
(Richard at EU Referendum ("To discuss issues related to the UK's position in Europe and the world") just posted something on Sunday about the EU's terrorist labeling of the PMOI being in violation of EU laws.)
"(M)embers could be executed if they are forced to return to Iran. The group has aggressively lobbied U.S. and European lawmakers and has relentlessly sought sympathetic coverage in the Western news media.
The MEK was founded in the 1960s as an opponent of the late shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was accused of carrying out several attacks in Iran, including some targeting U.S. officials."
That's targeting as in killing-them-dead targeting. They also took place in the late-mid 1970's, and were considerably overshadowed by the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (in which they may have taken part).
"Shortly after the 2003 invasion, the U.S. military persuaded the MEK to disarm and offered to protect the group. The arrangement was awkward because it tasked the U.S. military with sheltering a group that remains on the State Department's terrorism list."
A discussion of how and why the PMOI got on the State Department's terrorism list, while of historical interest, gets into domestic U.S. politics as well. I'm not going there today.
The PMOI went out of their way to avoid any military engagements with U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, even after U.S. forces bombed one (more?) of their camps. This has enabled them to remain consolidated and more-or-less intact at a single facility, Ashraf Camp, and while fully (2004?) disarmed, under the protection of U.S. and Coalition (Bulgarian Army?) forces ever since. They present themselves as a uniformed body of troops, under a recognizable chain of command operating under military discipline. Since the U.S. pays considerably more than lip service to the Geneva Conventions, they've presented quite a conundrum.