Iraqi Troops Raid Iranian Dissident Camp, in Nod to Tehran – WSJ.com

1 08 2009

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces stormed a camp of more than 3,000 members of an Iranian dissident group that until recently had been protected by the U.S. military, in the biggest unilateral operation since American forces withdrew from Iraq’s cities a month ago.

Iran has long demanded that Iraq take action against the group, the Mujahedin e-Khalq, or MEK, but the U.S. had stood in its way.

The willingness to go ahead with the raid appears to point to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s balancing act between his two most important allies, as the U.S. gradually pulls out of the country and neighboring Iran seeks to expand its influence.

[In this image provided by the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, Iraqi police clash with protestors opposition group's camp northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, July 28, 2009. ] Associated PressIn this image provided by the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, Iraqi police clash with protestors opposition group’s camp northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday.

Iraqi forces seized control of the camp by force after the camp’s leaders refused requests by Iraqi police to enter the camp peacefully to establish a police station there, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and a spokesman for Prime Minister Maliki.

The raid was within Iraq’s rights, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday, and the Iraqi government has assured it that no member of the group in Iraq will be forcibly transferred to a country where he or she fears persecution.

“This is really a matter for the government of Iraq to handle. This is completely within their purview. But we are closely monitoring it,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

The MEK, whose name means People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has been based in Iraq since the early 1980s, when Saddam Hussein gave members refuge along with formal military training and arms. The MEK staged attacks against Iranian officials, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was left partially paralyzed by an MEK attack.

It also targeted U.S. officials in Iran in the 1970s, and the group is designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
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