By DAVID WADDINGTON, UPI Outside View Commentator
LONDON, May 10 (UPI) -- On camera and before the world's eyes, last month Iraqi armed forces stormed Camp Ashraf and shot dozens of unarmed civilians in cold blood. Others were deliberately run over with armored Humvees.
A total of 35 Iranian refugees, including eight women, were killed despite their status as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Scenes of the slaughter posted by the People's Mujahedin of Iran on the YouTube Web site are simply shocking with pictures of armed Iraqi soldiers in full military gear gunning down unarmed women.
The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, U.S. State Department, European Union, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Arab League all condemned the attack on members of the main Iranian opposition group PMOI; an attack that was ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The attack was a startling sign of the influence Iran has over the Maliki administration. There isn't the slightest doubt that it was carried out at the behest of the Iranian regime which fears the PMOI's calls for democratic change in Iran.
The vast majority of Iranians demand and support regime change and the mullahs who rule them have had to resort to brute force to stifle calls for democracy. Like other dictators in the region facing domestic unrest, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei senses his regime's impending demise and so needs to eliminate the main force calling for complete change.
Maliki, himself in trouble with weekly protests by ordinary Iraqis over poor basic services, cannot afford to lose Iran's backing and so feels obliged to target Camp Ashraf.
By ordering this military attack and other similar deadly incidents against unarmed and defenseless civilians, Maliki has shown utter contempt for the rule of law and human life and he should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and war crimes at the international criminal court. U.S. President Barack Obama should support this call.
Some 1,000 Iraqi armed forces remain in and around Ashraf and a new attack could occur at any moment. Britain and the United States should urgently press for a U.N. force to take over protection of the camp from the Iraqis and compel Baghdad to withdraw from the camp. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq should set up a permanent monitoring and protection team at the camp and break the two-year siege imposed by Iraq.
As many in Iraq will tell you, the outcome at Ashraf is a likely indicator of the prospects for democracy taking hold in Iraq following the departure of U.S. troops at the end of December.
Without international action in all likelihood there will be a far deadlier massacre in Ashraf in the near future. And that could well determine the way in which Maliki treats all his opponents in Iraq.
Obama should now urgently condemn the massacre in Ashraf and commit U.S. troops, as part of a U.N. force, to take over Ashraf's protection, while supporting international punitive measures against Maliki to stop an emerging dictator in his tracks.
(David Waddington, QC, is a former U.K. home secretary and leader of the House of Lords.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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