Monday, August 17, 2009

Is the Iraqi government aligning itself with Iran?

There are signs that it may be so. Consider the recent massacre of Iranian dissidents that took place in Iraq:

Iran’s hand is seen behind camp massacre
KIRKUK, IRAQ // Residents at an Iraqi camp for Iranian dissidents have started a hunger strike to protest against alleged human rights abuses inflicted by Iraqi security forces this week, amid fears that the Iranian regime’s influence is growing in the Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, Iraqi police entered Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, where, according to residents, they attacked an unarmed group of people with machine guns and batons, killing 12 and seriously wounding 500.

Iraqi security forces initially denied the casualty figures, but on Thursday, Ali al Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, acknowledged that six Iranians had been killed and promised an investigation.

“We were empty-handed, with only slogans,” Shahriar Kia, a camp press officer, said. “We were shouting that Ashraf is a city of peace, and they started shooting and beating us.”

Iraqi police are now in position at junctions within the camp, which is around six square kilometres, and in control of the squares and public places, he said. They were restricting movement, said Mr Kia. “They don’t let people move around. They have shot car windows and tyres as people were driving.”

Mr al Dabbagh said a police station had been set up and that there were 1,000 Iraqi troops inside the camp. It was the setting up of a police post inside the camp that sparked the first clashes on Tuesday.


Residents claim that since Iraqi forces took charge, food and medical supplies have been restricted, and visiting family members and lawyers have not been allowed in.

The clashes this week have stoked fears that the residents will be evicted from the camp and returned to Iran, where they would probably face arrest amid an extensive clampdown on the opposition movement since the disputed June 12 election.

“This is the Iranian regime who is trying to survive by destroying opposition,” said Mr Kia. “The same thing is happening here as on the streets of Tehran – killing and beating.”

Residents had begun a hunger strike, he said, which they would maintain until the UN and other international groups came to Ashraf, and residents were allowed to see their lawyers.

“I think that the Iranian government, which is facing a summer of discontent back home, is using its influence over the Iraqi government to send a message that it is still in control,” said Maysun al Damluji, an MP of the secular National List coalition.

The Iranian authorities, she said, were trying to ensure that parties sympathetic to them win in Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2010. They will, she said, “do everything in their power to bring Iraqi political entities that are loyal or close to Iran’s conservatives to power in Iraq … they will also rid Iraq of all of Iran’s opponents, not only in Ashraf, but even outside it.” She described Ashraf as a “simple exercise of muscle flexing”.

Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, has welcomed the seizure of the camp, describing the action as “praiseworthy” albeit “rather late”. [...]

If religious extremists in the Iraqi government join forces with the religious extremists currently ruling Iran, we would have the worst of both worlds.

Other news in Iraq:

Gay men attacked, executed in Iraq, rights group says
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Hundreds of gay men have been tortured and killed in Iraq in recent months, some by the nation's security forces, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

Interviews with doctors indicate hundreds of men had been killed, but the exact number was unclear because of the stigma associated with homosexuality in Iraq, the New York-based watchdog group said in its report.

"Iraq's leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi."

Four victims who spoke to CNN gave accounts of the attacks, which they say have intensified in the past few months.

"In 2004, militias and unknown groups started to go after the gays ... but the peak was six months ago," said Qaisar, who uses a pseudonym for fear of reprisal. "It has become wide scale war against gays in Iraq." [...]

The more we withdraw from Iraq, the more it acts like Iran. If Iraq becomes just like Iran, and joins forces with them, we will have achieved nothing, at great cost to ourselves.

Also see: Iran's pressing needs and Iraq's vulnerability.

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