In the present case, the Iran-backed Shiite militia known as the Al-Mukhtar Army has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Xinhua News Agency. The PMOI’s parent organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran has also reportedly identified some of the missiles utilized in the attack. They include the Falaq series of missiles produced by Iran and apparently supplied to its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East. The NCRI claims that approximately 80 missiles landed on the camp in Thursday’s attack.
This incident is the fourth such deadly attack on Camp Liberty, and it follows upon three similar massacres on Camp Ashraf including a military assault in September 2013, which killed more than half of the 100 residents who had remained at the evacuated camp under the terms of the relocation agreement, in order to settle property issues. Five other residents were taken hostage in the raid and were allegedly transferred to Iran, reinforcing the notion that each of these attacks have been undertaken with direct input from or at the behest of the Iranian regime.
The consequently unresolved property issues prevented essential medical equipment from being transferred from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, making the latter’s conditions more like those of a concentration camp. Several of the wounded from Thursday’s rocket attack have been transferred to hospital in Baghdad, but prior to this the community’s sick and wounded have been subject to a medical blockade that has resulted in several preventable deaths.
It remains to be seen whether survivors of the attack will have continued access to medical treatment beyond the borders of Camp Liberty, and the answer to this question will surely depend in large part upon the persistence of the international response and the resulting pressure upon the government in Baghdad.
The US State Department was quick to condemn the attack, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement insisted that the US was working closely with its Iraqi allies to encourage them to identify the perpetrators and hold them to account. The UN High Commission for Refugees issued a similar statement.
The website of the NCRI published the State Department’s remarks along with press releases from a number of American and European politicians and groups that have championed the cause of the PMOI and relocation of the Camp Liberty refugees in the past. But the NCRI’s coverage of the incident also included harsh words for the White House and the UN. The organization’s president, Maryam Rajavi accused these entities of being aware of the role of Iranian agents in this and the six previous attacks.
Rajavi added that her organization had previously warned of the possibility of more such attacks, and that these warnings had been repeated by 26 members of the US House of Representatives, 32 other prominent American political and military figures, and 70 members of the French National Assembly. These and other supporters of the PMOI have insisted that Western powers and especially the US have a responsibility to facilitate the relocation of the threatened residents of Camp Liberty.
Such statements have generally been supported by pointing out that the US government provided all of the residents of Camp Ashraf with official documentation of Protected Persons Status, but effectively withdrew actual protection when US forces left the area under the care of the Iraqi government, which was then, and apparently still remains closely aligned with Tehran.
In the wake of the most recent attacks, the PMOI claimed that the militia attack was carried out with support from within the Iraqi government. Iraqi forces have been permanently posted outside the perimeter of the camp. From there they have helped to prevent residents from leaving the camp even in cases of medical emergency. But they have neither thwarted rocket attacks coming from near that perimeter, nor provided warning of the presence of militant forces.
Thus, the PMOI and its supporters have tended to respond with skepticism to State Department comments like the latest, which promises to work with the Iraqi government. From the perspective of the victims of this and previous attacks, the current Iraqi government is part of the problem and cannot be trusted to take action on its own to prevent future attacks or prosecute their perpetrators.
The official position of the NCRI has long been that various crises in the Middle East, including the ongoing threats to Camp Liberty, cannot be resolved until the Iranian regime is evicted from areas beyond its borders.
While the State Department press release gives no indication of a program to confront Iranian influence directly or to pressure Baghdad to act contrary to it, it does express commitment to relocating the remaining Camp Liberty residents out of the conflict zone. “The Department, through its Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, will remain actively engaged in the international effort to relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent locations as soon as possible,” the statement said.
But the White House has been criticized in the past for failing to take sufficient action on this point, either by accepting the refugees into the borders of the US or by providing financial or diplomatic incentives for close European allies to take them in. To date, the primary recipients of PMOI refugees have been small countries like Albania, which have relatively low capacity and no past responsibility for the situation facing PMOI exiles in Iraq.