The Iraqi Interior Minstiry has announced that Iraqi forces have given a six-month ultimatum to the Mujahidi Khalq Organization (MKO) to quit Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province after receiving control of the site where 3,500 members of the exiled Iranian opposition group is based.
According to media reports in Arabic, Gen. Abd al-Karim Khalaf has announced that the Iraqi government has “officially informed” the MKO of the ultimatum to depart.
The MKO was part of the revolutionary coalition in Iran that overthrew the government of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, but quickly split with the new regime and were forced into exile and maintained clandestine anti-regime activities in Iran.
The MKO was welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein, where it coordinated with the Iraqi regime in anti-Iranian activities during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. US forces disarmed the MKO, listed as a terrorist organization by the US government and several European states, and consolidated their members at Camp Ashraf after the 2003 invasion that deposed the Iraqi Ba'thist regime.
The fate of the exiled opposition group in Iraq has been a sticking point between the US and Iran, as well as between the US and elements of the pro-Iranian factions within the Iraqi government.
The handover of Camp Ashraf from American to Iraqi control comes as a part of the assumption of greater Iraqi control of areas of the restive Diyala province, Khalaf told reporters.
The Iraqi announcement of its ultimatum to the MKO was welcomed by the Iranian regime and its allies in the Iraqi government, according to reports in the Iranian media, while the human rights organization Amnesty International has issued a statement saying that any US-Iraqi action to repatriate MKO members to Iran where they may face torture or execution would violate the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Iraqi opposition leaders opposed to what they say is an undue Iranian role in Iraqi affairs denounced the handover of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi forces. Saleh al-Mutlaq, leader of the predominantly Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, painted the handover as a victory for the Iranian regime.