Opening Statement by Ranking Member Jack Reed, SASC Hearing on Iranian Influence in Iraq and the Case of Camp Liberty
OPENING STATEMENT OF U.S. SENATOR JACK REED
RANKING MEMBER, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
TO RECEIVE TESTIMONY ON IRANIAN INFLUENCE IN IRAQ AND
THE CASE OF CAMP LIBERTY
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Welcome to our witnesses this morning. Senator Lieberman, it is good to have you back with the Committee, even if on the other side of the witness table. General Jones, you also are no stranger to this Committee, having repeatedly testified both as Commandant of the Marine Corps and as Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Colonel Martin, I believe this is your first appearance, so let me thank you for your military service to the nation. Again, welcome to all our witnesses.
This morning’s hearing focuses on Iranian influence in Iraq and the plight of the nearly 2,400 residents at Camp Liberty, Iraq, members of the Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK. The Iranian dissidents at Camp Liberty are in an increasingly perilous situation, having repeatedly come under attack. These horrific attacks, which have killed more than 100 MEK members since 2009, clearly indicate the threat to this group from Iran and Iranian-backed militia seeking to eliminate and silence these dissidents. The deteriorating security situation in Iraq only highlights the urgent need to find safe refuge for these individuals outside that country.
The United States has had a special relationship with the MEK residents dating back to the height of the Iraq war in the mid-2000s. This stems in part from the MEK’s agreement, at the U.S. military’s request, to disarm and move into Camp Ashraf in northeastern Iraq. The U.S. military extended protections under the Geneva Conventions to the Camp Ashraf residents. However, as the United States drew down its forces, consistent with its obligations under the 2008 Security Agreement signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki, U.S. forces were no longer in a position to provide for the safety and security of the Camp Ashraf residents.
In December 2011, the Government of Iraq signed a memorandum with the United Nations, in which the Iraqi Government committed to ensure the safety and security of these residents as part of the process of relocating them to Camp Liberty outside Baghdad to facilitate the resettlement process. However, the United States, through the State Department, has had to repeatedly press the Government of Iraq to live up to its obligations to provide for the safety and well-being of the Camp Liberty residents. And camp residents remain in fear that the Government of Iraq will extradite them to Iran at Tehran’s request.
The State Department now is the lead U.S. Government agency advocating on behalf of the Camp Liberty residents. The State Department is working with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to find resettlement options for these residents outside of Iraq. It is my understanding that as of the beginning of this month, nearly 800 Camp Liberty residents have been processed by the UNHCR and resettled outside of Iraq. Unfortunately, this resettlement process has dragged on for years, and much more still needs to be done to find homes abroad for the remaining Camp Liberty residents. I would urge all participants in the resettlement process to cooperate fully to advance the relocation of these vulnerable residents.
One issue that I expect will arise this morning is whether the United States should accept more Camp Liberty residents for resettlement. While the MEK was removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2012, group members continue to be barred from admission to the United States because of their “Tier III” status under U.S. anti-terrorism laws. Nonetheless, I understand that the Administration has adopted a policy that would allow Camp Liberty residents to be paroled into the United States if they renounce their affiliation with the MEK. Under this policy, some 29 Camp Liberty residents have ultimately resettled in the United States, making the United States one of the larger recipient countries.
I hope the testimony of our witnesses this morning will help shine a light on what more can be done to accelerate the resettlement process so that the residents of Camp Liberty can be brought to safety outside Iraq once and for all.
Again, welcome, and I look forward to your testimony.