EurActiv.com: Camp Ashraf, a refugee camp in Iraq’s Diyala province, used to be an oasis of technology and agriculture, but its UN-led resettlement proved to be a nightmare, writes retired US Army Colonel Wesley Martin. EurActiv.com
By Wesley Martin
The mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) comes up for renewal at the UN Security Council today. This is an opportune time to reflect on the past performances of its representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler. Despite what he will claim in his testimony to the UN Security Council, the fact remains each of UNAMI’s prescribed major objectives has failed to be achieved.
Why does all matter to EU states one could wonder. The answer is rather straight forward. The EU and its member states are the UN’s largest financial contributors.
Actually in 2007, the EU provided almost 40% of the UN budget. The EU also supports the UN’s values of freedom, democracy and human rights and the preamble to the EU’s treaty cites the UN Charter’s human rights articles.
As such, it should be very important for the EU and its member states on how the UN functions and how it spends its resources. What makes the case more pertinent is the fact that the UN representative to Iraq, the individual who was tasked with upholding UN values, until now has been a German diplomat.
But Martin Kobler’s behaviour has caused several prominent Iraqi political leaders to demand his removal from Iraq. Ambassador Kobler’s most blatant act against humanity concerns the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK), the primary opposition to the religious fundamentalists controlling the government of Iran. Trapped in Iraq by the US-led invasion and consolidated at Camp Ashraf, a modern town that Iranian dissidents built with their own resources and efforts in 25 years. These 3,200 people worked for six years with American forces until 2009 when their control and security were turned over to the pro-Iranian government of Iraq.
Built up from the barren desert of Iraq by the MeK, Camp Ashraf became an oasis of technology and agriculture. This beautiful camp became the envy of the Iraqi government. The annihilation of its populace became the obsession of the Iranian government. Martin Kobler proved himself very capable of supporting both ambitions.
As the UN representative in Iraq, he brokered and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding the transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf to a former US Army compound near Baghdad called Camp Liberty. He deceived the international community on the conditions in Camp Liberty by showing doctored photographs. Kobler promised the residents safety and protection in this new place. The camp was also promised to be a temporary location pending quick resettlement to safer parts of the world. Each of Kobler’s empty promises proved to be parts of a giant hoax.
Camp Liberty has been hit by rockets twice by Iranian Qods and Iraqi military forces working together. Since the transfer of the residents from Ashraf to Liberty, no less than 10 have been killed and 170 wounded. There can be no doubt that Kobler paved the way for the 9 February and 15 June 2013 massacres at Camp Liberty. The daily life of the residents has been one of continual psychological torment, harassment by Iraqi military, and living in the harshest of conditions.
“Liberty” has now been described as a prison by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, said it best as he recently addressed a crowd of some 100,000 people who went to Paris to show support for the Iranian resistance: “Liberty was a concentration camp to begin with. It has been turned into a killing field.”
Ambassador Kobler did not start out trying to do the right thing, only to have the situation turn bad. From the very beginning, he involved the Iranian regime in the Ashraf and Liberty dossier. Tahar Boumedra, a senior UN official who was in charge of the Ashraf dossier in UNAMI for over three years, resigned in May 2012 in protest to Kobler’s biassed actions and his involvement of the Iranian regime in this file.
Boumedra testified to this under oath before the US Congress on 13 September 2012. He stated that from November 2011 until the beginning of 2012, he was present in Kobler’s meetings with the Iranian regime’s ambassador, who is also commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force, the extraterritorial branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, implicated in innumerable acts of terror the world over. On each occasion, the primary item on the agenda was MeK.
Today the UN Security Council needs to stop accepting the lies and twisted truths of Martin Kobler. He needs to be completely removed from UN service. It is time to start correcting the problems he has created throughout Iraq. Specifically for the residents of Liberty, it is time for immediate and complete transfer to safe countries. It’s long past time to close out this despicable chapter in UN history.
The EU should urge the UN to stick with its declared values of freedom, democracy and human rights, when it comes to the fate of Iranian dissidents and the UN’s function in Iraq.
Wesley Martin, a retired US Army colonel, served as the senior antiterrorism and force-protection officer for coalition forces in Iraq and commander of Camp Ashraf.