One hundred years ago this summer, the German Chancellor reacted with shock and dismay when the British ambassador brought him news of his country’s declaration of war. Germany had invaded Belgium, a country whose independence Germany had pledged by treaty to respect. The Chancellor was distraught. He said he could not believe Britain would go to war over “a scrap of paper.”
Americans this summer are not so much war weary as war wary. We certainly do not want any further entanglements in the Mideast. But we do know that great countries keep their word. If they don’t keep their word, they cease to be great countries. Our pledges must not be “a scrap of paper.”
We have a situation at Camp Liberty in Iraq where some 3,000 refugees from Iran, all of whom are opponents of the brutal Mullahs’ regime in Tehran, are being held. These refugees are being told to sever their ties to a group called MeK before they can be considered for asylum in the U.S. or Europe. They are being ordered to renounce their beliefs.
But it is their beliefs and their loyalty to MeK (Mojahedin-e Khalq) that have led many of these Iranian dissidents to sacrifice their very lives. It is this commitment that has caused the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki to repeatedly attack these disarmed Iranian resistance fighters.
MeK was blacklisted for a time by our own State Department as a terrorist group. But numerous investigations have shown that this listing resulted from an extensive and false disinformation campaign in the West run against MeK by the Mullahs in Tehran. It is the Mullahs who are truly the world’s leading exponent of terrorism. But, fueled by oil revenues, they can bribe or beguile credulous journalists here. MeK has been taken off the list of sponsors of terrorism. But the Obama administration continues to block resettlement of any of these Iranian resistance fighters in the U.S.
In preparation for a recent Paris Congress of the Iranian Resistance movement, thirty-eight distinguished Americans came together to sign a joint letter to President Obama. We respectfully asked the president to support H.R. 3707 and to sign this bill when it comes to his desk.
Our joint letter [PDF] was itself something of a miracle. Its signers include Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, retired senior military officers, and many national security and homeland security experts.
In Washington in these days of gridlock, they say you couldn’t get the two parties to agree on yesterday’s weather report. But in our Joint Letter to the President of the United States, we signers have joined hands across the aisle and across the partisan divide.
We want President Obama to honor his word and our word to these Camp Liberty dissidents. It is a bitter truth that these refugees agreed to disarm if given a Protected Person certificate by the U.S. occupying authorities in Iraq. Now, with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country, some of these same Protected Persons have been murdered by Nouri al-Maliki’s elite, U.S.-trained military units.
The purpose of H.R. 3707 is to allow a portion—certainly not all, or even a majority—of the 3,000 Iranian dissidents to be re-settled here. If the U.S. says yes to its fair share of these opponents of the Mullahs’ regime, we can press Europe to accept the greater part of them.
This is not a welfare scheme. Most of these regime opponents are highly educated and will bring skills America can use. More than that, they can bring vital intelligence about what is going on in the Iranian nuclear program and their terror networks. In doing justice to the Iranian refugees, we can benefit ourselves. In 1939, Albert Einstein sent a letter to President Roosevelt alerting him to the danger of Hitler and his capacity to develop a nuclear weapon. FDR turned to his military aide, Gen. Edwin “Pa” Watson and said: “Pa, this requires action.” Thus was born America’s nuclear deterrent.
Albert Einstein was forced to flee from Hitler’s brutal Jew-hating regime. We gave him asylum and we Americans were blessed by doing so. We must not allow our solemn promises, our Protected Persons certificates, given and accepted in good faith by the Iranian resisters, to become mere “scraps of paper.” America’s word must be respected. By giving asylum to a number of the Mullahs’ Iranian resisters, we may find we have helped ourselves once again through mercy and justice.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.