United Nations faces a difficult time in Iraq, apparently because of a conflict of interest of "familial" nature.
Early morning February 9 some 40 missiles and mortars were fired into a crowded camp near Baghdad harbouring unarmed Iranian dissidents belonging to the Moujahedin-E-Khalq organization (MEK). Seven people were killed and tens were injured. More missiles discovered in the vicinity revealed a Tehran-guided plan to massacre its opponents, not without official Iraqi complicity.
The 3,300 Iranian opposition members moved to the facility nicknamed camp Liberty during 2012, under pressure from Tehran and by UN intermediary action undertaken by UN Secretary General’s special representative in Iraq ambassador Martin Kobler. The dissidents were reluctant to leave their thirty-year old camp called Ashraf fearing a lack of security measures in the new place. While assuring them on security, Mr Kobler claimed the place would be no more than a TTL (Temporary Transfer Location) before resettling them in third countries.
Although dwindling since some time, as only 7 people have thus far left Iraq through the so called TTL, the whole UN plan for relocation seems now torpedoed by the missile attack.
Refusing to even pay a visit to the site after the attack on security grounds, ambassador Kobler only created more frustration. No less than former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani criticized his record after the event: "Martin Kobler assured the Camp Ashraf residents that they would be safer at Liberty because it was near Baghdad and its airport. I believe every single thing he said was a lie. He has proven himself to be a professional liar."
Mr. Guiliani proposed to the UN: "If the UN wants to do the right thing Martin Kobler should be removed immediately. He is doing the dirty work of the Iraqi and Iranian governments."
Mr. Guiliani was not the only harsh critic.
Struan Stevenson, Chairman of European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq said he was now urging everyone involved to stop co-operating with Martin Kobler.
"The treatment of the residents of Camp Liberty is evidence of the 'systemic failure' of the United Nations, and exposes its representatives in Iraq as ‘paid agents' of the Baghdad government," former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton declared.
UN's deputy on its Human Rights Advisory Committee Jean Ziegler declared that "Martin Kobler should be charged with crimes against humanity over the deadly attack on Camp Liberty."
The international fury comes at a time when Mr. Kobler is also accused of non-neutrality by Iraqis because of his alleged backing of the Iraqi government in the face of anti-government protestors. A petition is being signed asking the UN to remove him on those charges.
Martin Kobler's dubious behaviour has created confusion among observers, who cannot stop looking for the reasons of such one-sided action, at a time when NGOs as well as foreign ministries in various countries, including the US, have condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the attack.
The dilemma came under some light when Germany's position on the issue, expressed through its ambassador to Iraq Mrs. Britta Wagner, was particularly hailed by the Iranian official media. The Iranian State-run ISNA news agency announced on Feb 22: “By commending efforts of Government of Iraq with regards to Camp Liberty, Britta Wagner announced that her country supports UN’s efforts for expulsion of MEK from Iraq.”
But that was when everybody was finger pointing the Iraqi government for its complicity and inaction in the whole affair.
Now it happens that Britta Wagner is no other than Mr. Kobler's wife! The obvious conflict of interests, between that of a European country eying stronger relations and presence in Iraq, as well as maintaining privileged relations with Iran, and the needed neutrality on the part of the UN seems to be damaging the international organization's image in a region where the latter has already a deficit of credibility.
Jean Ziegler affirmed in Geneva: "Martin Kobler is one of 53 UN Secretary General’s special representatives around the world, all with specific mandates. His wife is the German ambassador to Baghdad. It is clear that when you are ambassador in a country, whatever country, you have to maintain the best possible relations with the local government. So evidently Mrs Wagner would do anything not to anger Maliki. And not wanting to damage his wife’s carrier, her husband is normally dragged into complicity, this time of a murderous nature, with a Prime Minister who is simply a follower of Tehran."
The disaster is that innocents’ lives are at stake in this familial conflict of interests.