What next for Baghdad-Tehran ties as MEK leaves Iraq?

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

What’s next for Baghdad-Tehran ties as last MEK members leave Iraq?

On Sept. 10, commenting on the news that the last batch of Iranian dissidents affiliated with the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) had left Iraq and were heading to Albania in a deal that the United States mediated and the United Nations supervised, the Iraqi government declared it had “closed the book on the Baathist regime.”

The last group of Iranians was composed of 280 dissidents. They had lived in Camp Liberty refugee camp (pictured) in Baghdad since 2012, after the Iraqi government transferred them from Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, along the Iraq-Iran border, in which they had lived for almost three decades.

On Sept. 12, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his happiness about the MEK members’ departure from Iraq and escaping the danger that was threatening their lives there, saying, “Their departure concludes a significant American diplomatic initiative that has assured the safety of more than 3,000 MEK members whose lives have been under threat.”

Kerry added, “[Camp Liberty] had on many occasions been shelled. There were people killed and injured. And we have been trying to figure out a way forward. … After steady progress over a period of months, I visited Tirana earlier this year and I discussed with the Albanian government how to assist in facilitating the transfer and the resettlement of the last group of MEK members from Camp Liberty. … I’m very proud that the United States was able to play a pivotal role in helping to get this job done.”

Every now and then, Camp Liberty, which had sheltered MEK members for four years, would be bombed with mortars and rockets by armed groups close to Iran. For instance, Watheq al-Battat, a leader for the armed faction Hezbollah in Iraq who was reportedly killed in 2014, claimed responsibility for carrying out an attack against the camp in 2013, killing seven people and wounding 100 others.

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