An Ineffective, Inappropriate 'Grand Bargain'
Monday, July 19, 2004; Page A16
The idea discussed by David Ignatius of swapping nearly 4,000 members of the Iraq-based Iranian opposition Mujahedeen-e Khalq for members of al Qaeda detained by the Iranian regime ["Lost Chances in Iran," op-ed, July 9] is inhumane, illegal, unrealistic and strategically counterproductive.
That "grand bargain" is another name for the repeatedly failed policy of appeasement toward Iran. It suffers from the same old false notion that one can make a deal with a regime that arrests, tortures and executes dissidents and uses terrorism and diplomatic blackmail as instruments of advancing its foreign policy. Iran shows a disregard for any international agreement, treaty or convention. It was just a few weeks ago that Tehran broke its agreement with France, Germany and Britain and vowed to resume enriching uranium.
Further, the interim government is now the sovereign power in Iraq, and any decision about the status of the Mujahedeen in Iraq falls under its jurisdiction.
Appeasing terrorism and terrorist regimes never works. These lessons should not be forgotten so soon.
The writer is executive director of the U.S. Alliance for a Democratic Iran.
As counsel to the families of individuals at Camp Ashraf, Iraq, I was appalled by David Ignatius's July 9 op-ed column.
The Mujahedeen-e Khalq has been branded a "foreign terrorist organi- zation" under U.S. law. But no one at Ashraf stands accused, much less tried or convicted, of terrorist offenses anywhere.
Although the U.S. executive branch links the organization to terrorism, its members may not be summarily executed. The people at Ashraf are "protected persons" in law and civilians in fact whose forced repatriation would violate the Geneva Conventions.
Mr. Ignatius attributes to the president the remark, "Why not [send them back to Iran]? They're terrorists." After all, the Iranian government has "pledged to grant amnesty to most" of those at Ashraf.
That is reassuring. We know that the mullahs always keep their word, especially in protecting the human rights of accused criminals (membership in the Mujahedeen is a capital offense in Iranian law).
My clients' loved ones at Camp Ashraf should not be used as currency in an amoral "grand bargain" with Tehran. They are human beings. To this administration's credit, during their presence in Iraq, they have been treated as such.
STEVEN M. SCHNEEBAUM
© 2004 The Washington Post Company