OpinionEditorialArming a dictator

Arming a dictator

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Iran Focus: How would it go down with the American people to hear that President Obama had just ordered the sale of U.S. arms to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to massacre his opponents? Well, the Obama administration has done just that in Iraq. 

Iran Focus

Editorial

How would it go down with the American people to hear that President Obama had just ordered the sale of U.S. arms to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to massacre his opponents? 

Well, the Obama administration has done just that in Iraq. On Wednesday it authorised the sale of 24 Apache attack helicopters to Iraqi dictator Nuri al-Maliki to use in his months-long military onslaught against towns in the Sunni region of al-Anbar.

Maliki, who is facing a Sunni rebellion over his sectarian policies and his support for the Iranian regime, has ordered his military to pound residential neighbourhoods in the Sunni city of Fallujah with mortars, resulting in mass casualties. For several months he had been pressing the Obama administration to approve the military sales to use in his ‘war on terror’.

The Sunni Grand Mufti of Iraq, Dr Rafe Al-Refaei, last week told a European Parliament meeting: “Maliki is following a heinous policy of indiscriminate bombings of innocent people. Maliki’s forces attacked the peaceful rallies. They have bombarded the houses of innocent people. When Maliki launched his so-called war against terrorists in the desert in Anbar province not a single combatant of al-Qaeda was killed. The only people killed were innocent shepherds. What is happening in Fallujah is genocide. 1000 civilians have been injured. Events in Iraq have taken a very dangerous turn. It could lead to a civil war in which all Iraqi people will lose. We’ve been handed on a golden platter to the Iranian government.”

Saleem Abdullah Al-Jabori, Chair of the Iraqi Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, told the same meeting: “Investigators use torture to obtain confessions. We need to adopt legislation that will put a stop to violations of prisoners. A person can be detained for years on false accusations.”

Despite coming to power with U.S. backing, Maliki has increasingly become a puppet of the fundamentalist regime in Tehran.

In September, his SWAT forces carried out a massacre of 52 Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf. Another 3,000 Iranian dissidents, members of the main opposition group PMOI (MEK), have repeatedly faced deadly rocket attacks in Camp Liberty, Baghdad, where they are being kept as de facto prisoners on Maliki’s orders despite being recognised as ‘asylum seekers’ by the UN Refugee Agency. In 2003, the U.S. recognised the dissidents as ‘protected persons’ under the Geneva Conventions and promised to protect them in return for voluntarily handing over their weapons to U.S. forces.

There are more recent signs of Maliki’s strong alliance with Iran.

The Reuters news agency reported from Baghdad on Monday that Iran had signed a secret deal to sell Iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million – a move that would break a U.N. embargo on weapons sales by Tehran.

While the U.S. State Department is all too happy to put a lid on the eleventh hour embarrassment before its own arms deal with Iraq goes through, a number of bi-Partisan U.S. lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, urged President Obama to reconsider the deal.

Senior Americans are growing increasingly critical of the Obama administration for supporting the Iraqi dictator and failing to keep the U.S.’s promise to protect the Iranian dissidents in the Liberty prison camp.

“It was a deal. It was a bargain, and the United States has never lived up to that bargain,” Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, told a forum of Iranian-Americans at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 22.

Former Democratic congressman Patrick Kennedy declared that U.S. policy toward Iran “must change, and it must change now.”

President Obama ought to listen to these voices of America’s conscience and adopt a principled policy on Iraq and Iran. He should immediately halt the weapons sale to Iraq and he should refer the human rights abuses of both regimes to the UN Security Council for binding measures. It’s time to move human rights higher on the administration’s foreign policy priorities.

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