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Embassy Row: Iraqi responsibility

Posted by on September 25, 2013

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations this week demanded that Iraq’s prime minister rescue seven Iranian hostages held near Baghdad and protect more than 3,000 other dissidents from attacks.

The warning from Sen. Robert Menendez to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the latest development in a campaign by the dissidents’ supporters to pressure the Iraqi and U.S. governments to investigate a Sept. 1 raid that left 52 unarmed exiles dead at Camp Ashraf, a compound north of Baghdad.

“This latest act underscores the constant threat of violence that looms over this community, and I ask in the strongest possible terms that you and your government ensure their safety,” the New Jersey Democrat said Monday in a letter to Mr. al-Maliki.

Mr. Menendez reminded Mr. al-Maliki that Baghdad is responsible for the seven kidnapped dissidents.

Many of the victims killed in the raid were shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs. The dissidents blame Iraqi gunmen operating under orders from Mr. al-Maliki, who has developed close ties with Iran. His government denies any involvement in the massacre and the kidnapping.

Mr. Menendez is the highest-ranking U.S. official to demand action from Baghdad.

Iraq assumed responsibility for the dissidents after the U.S. turned over authority for their protection in 2009. The dissidents, the former armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, surrendered their weapons to U.S. troops in 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Other supporters of the dissidents have taken the campaign to cable TV news shows.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appeared Tuesday on Fox News to call for U.S. protection for the dissidents.

Mr. Giuliani suggested the U.S. airlift the refugees to a safe haven. He said the gunmen appeared to be following orders from commanders speaking Farsi, the language of Iran.

Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey are among dozens of former officials who have long supported the dissidents.

About 40 members of Congress recently brought pressure on Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cut off funds to Iraq until Baghdad arrests those responsible for the attack. The State Department has condemned the attack and endorsed U.N. efforts to protect the dissidents.

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