Election fever across the United States is reaching a climax. Top of the
agenda has been the national and international financial crisis, with polls
indicating Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama leads the way currently by
quite a distance in the fight for the White House.
Inhibited by the eight years of a Bush/Republican White House, the Republican
ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin finds itself in second place.
Though rattled by opinion polls one thing remains strong in the McCain corner:
When Americans fear an international crisis, they take the safe bet, preferring
to support what they know than what they may hope for. For Mr. Obama this may
well be a shortcoming in what up till now has been a clinically precise
Attacked in the early stages of his bid to become the Democratic nominee and
his current White House campaign, Mr. Obama has put such deficiencies behind him
with a powerful campaign that has hinged on unity of the Democratic Party. His
choice of Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate further indicated a need for
some experience beyond his own.
History always plays a significant role in U.S. elections, and this one will
be no different. International fears currently center on the Iranian regime and
all that surrounds this regime, including its terrorism and nuclear weapons.
The U.S. electorate remains deeply concerned about troops in Afghanistan and
Iraq and the further threat of a nuclear armed Iran. Such an outcome would not
be permitted by the most significant U.S. ally in the region, Israel, increasing
the possibility of a military strike.
In Iraq, the fight to retain control over the rogue insurgent elements
causing significant casualties to the Coalition will be the first major
international issue facing the future resident of the White House. This struggle
to help the fledgling Iraqi security maintain order in Iraq's towns will lead to
further confrontation with the Iranian regime, whose support for terrorist
groups through the provision of funds and weaponry is the current single
greatest danger to peace in Iraq.
Iranian influence in Iraq cannot be discussed without a mention for the
current residents of Ashraf City, a group of 4,000 strong members of the
People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI (or MEK as it is also
known) has found itself at the heart of the tug-of-war currently suffocating
The PMOI has long been dedicated to replacing the unelected fundamentalist
mullahs. The group is best known for exposing Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons
program in 2002, while the National Council of Resistance of Iran a coalition to
which the PMOI is a member, prides itself on being the Parliament in exile. Lead
by the charismatic Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI has become the apparatus of support
for many politicians across the United States.
Now, Iranian demands have centered on the transfer of the safety and security
of the PMOI in Ashraf City from Coalition troops to Iraq. This would undoubtedly
lead to placing PMOI members in grave risk of attack by agents of Iran.
Whoever ends up in the White House in January will almost immediately have a
knock on his door from the U.S. top commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno -
the PMOI will be on his agenda. Although an early decision to make by the
incumbent President, it could well be a critical one that will have a
significant impact on his years in charge.
The threat of Iran will loom large over the new president and were he to
decide to hand over security for Ashraf City to Iraq, the power balance in Iraq
would tilt heavily in Tehran's favor. This would not only inhibit the most
significant opposition to the mullahs, but could embolden the regime in its
daily interference as Iraq tries to grow democracy.
Any further increase in Iranian support for terrorism in Iraq and the regime
edging closer to a nuclear weapon will lead the world ever closer to military
confrontation with Tehran. Transfer of security for Ashraf City from Coalition
forces to Iraq would be a significant decision for the incoming U.S. president.
A failure to make the correct call could have disastrous consequences for a
region already beset by violence.
Robin Corbett, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, is a former Labor Party whip
in the British House of Commons (1984-'87), and chairman of the House of Commons
Home Affairs Select Committee (1999-2001). He now is chairman of the British
Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.