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Monthly Archives: December 2006

Who, Us? Fight this War Seriously?

December 25th, 2006 - 9:58 am

We have arrested some Iranians in Iraq, including “senior military officials.” The New York Times, which has often reported on Iran’s involvement in the terror war against us and the Iraqi people, broke the story last night, and obtained some alarmingly candid responses from the usual unnamed American “administration officials” and “senior administration officials.” If you want to understand the failure of the Bush Administration to understand the real war, a couple of quotations tell you everything you need to know.

The United States is now holding, apparently for the first time, Iranians who it suspects of planning attacks. One senior administration official said, “This is going to be a tense but clarifying moment.”

The heart jumps for a moment, wondering if, at long last, this “clarifying moment” will catalyze some sort of American effort to directly challenge the clerical fascist regime in Tehran. But then the heart sinks, as the senior official explains: it’s not about us at all. It’s all about the Iraqis. I’ve put in the boldface for the visually challenged:

“It’s our position that the Iraqis have to seize this opportunity to sort out with the Iranians just what kind of behavior they are going to tolerate,” the official said…“They are going to have to confront the evidence that the Iranians are deeply involved in some of the acts of violence.”

How bad is that? I conjure up an image of Rice or Hadley on the phone to Maliki and Talabani, telling the Iraqis that we’ve captured senior Iranian military officials (one will get you five we’re talking here about officers from the Revolutionary Guards Corps), and it’s just made the New York Times, and so Maliki and Talabani had better figure out what to do.

And then I imagine a parent of an American soldier in Iraq shrieking at Rice and Hadley “what do you mean, they? The Iranians are killing our kids, how dare you run away from this?”

Those killer quotes from the Times show once again the failure of strategic vision that has plagued us from the beginning of the war. We can only win the war–the real war, the regional-or-maybe-even-global war–if we stop playing defense in Iraq and go after regime change in Damascus and Tehran. Everyone in the region, above all, the Iraqis, knows this. And everyone in the region is looking for evidence that we might be able to muster the will to win this thing.

But dumping responsibility for dealing with Iran in the quivering laps of the Iraqi leaders is precisely the wrong thing to do. We have to lead this war, we have to go after the Iranians. Otherwise, surge or no surge, fifty or a hundred thousand troops more or less, we’re gonna lose. Because the peoples of the Mideast, who have seen many armies come and go over the centuries, are going to throw in with the likely winners. And we can’t win if we refuse to engage the main enemy, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Pfui.

Roger Puts Berger on the Couch

December 24th, 2006 - 8:53 pm

Only a great mystery writer could produce such a brilliant analysis of Sandy Berger, and the true horror he represents. There are lots of these types in all capital cities, capable of most any rottenness as long as it’s good for their own cause, and to hell with the rest of us.

If I were a decent novelist I’d make such a creature the centerpiece of my next book.

The Elections That Never Ended

December 24th, 2006 - 4:44 pm

I bet you didn’t know that ballot boxes are still magically disappearing and reappearing in the polls in Tehran. Have a look at the latest from the reformers at “Rooz.” These poor souls are scattered along the sad highway that leads from faith in the Islamic Republic to open opposition. They are the Iranian version of Kerensky, the sweet Russian reformer who was contemptuously removed by Lenin. I once met this thoroughly honorable man at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, still giving lectures on the virtues of gradual reform.

I like the crowd at “Rooz,” how can you not? In normal times, they’d be just the ticket to staff out a decent, moderate government. But these are not normal times, and those who advocate reform are, I think, just playing into the hands of the Khameneis and the Ahmadi-Nezhads. This is the time for the fighters, for the revolutionaries. And more often than not, the “reformers” do their best to discredit the bona fide enemies of the regime who scramble out of the Iranian hell and make it to this country.

Lenin had a good phrase for such folks: “useful idiots.” In the end, they don’t threaten the tyrants but they do undermine the resistance.

On a more personal note, I’d like to thank all of you who have taken the time to comment. With rare exceptions–duly deleted after reading–the comments have been good natured, thoughtful and very helpful to me and, I trust, to the others who have read them. Blessings on you every one. It’s been a happy launch for me.

The Mask Comes Off the Mullahs. Again.

December 22nd, 2006 - 12:23 pm

Con Coughlin is one of the best British journalists on the military/intelligence/national security beat, and he is privy to the thinking of top policy people and field commanders. In today’s “Telegraph” he picks up on a theme I raised yesterday: that both Washington and London are grudgingly coming to accept the fact that Iran is waging war against us in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Coughlin carefully spells out the implications of the accusation against a top British military aide in Afghanistan. Corporal Daniel James–the personal interpreter for the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan–is charged with giving the Iranians information that “prejudic(es) the safety of the (British) state.” No matter how this case is ultimately resolved, Coughlin writes, the fact that Iran is interested in recruiting such people confirms the mullahs’ desire to ensure the failure of our mission.

Until recently, as Coughlin notes, “NATO commanders have appeared reluctant to even discuss the possibility that the Iranians might have their own agenda in upsetting coalition attempts to establish an effective government.” And this reluctance was obviously peculiar to anyone who knew anything about Iran’s real activities in the region. Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan always knew that the Iranians had helped “orchestrate the roadside bombs that have killed and maimed so many soldiers,” and are “actively supporting and providing equipment to Taliban-related groups” in Afghanistan.

And so we have Prime Minister Blair openly denouncing the Islamic Republic in language not even President Bush has used.

It’s quite a change, and a welcome one, although there was never any excuse for the willful and deliberate refusal to see what Iran has been up to since 2001. For it was in December of that momentous year that the American Government received detailed information about Iranian plans to kill American forces in Afghanistan. I was present at meetings in Rome at which that information was given, and I took great satisfaction when I was later informed that the information was correct, and had undoubtedly saved American lives in Afghanistan.

But immediately thereafter, Secretary of State Powell and Director of Central Intelligence Tenet threw a hissy fit, and demanded an immediate and total end to all contacts with those people. In a grotesque confirmation that no good deed goes unpunished, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld even instructed his employees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to terminate all contacts with Iranians, especially “Iranian dissidents.” His man in charge of intelligence, Stephen Cambone–now blessedly on his way out–has refused even to reply to repeated requests to discuss the matter, even though the sources were proven reliable, and the information saved the lives of our troops. On this subject, there does not seem to have been any disagreement between Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Hadley, Hayden and Negroponte. None of them wanted to know about the murderous activities of the Iranians. Just ask Imad Mughniyah, the world’s most lethal killer. Our leaders didn’t want to know about Mughniyah’s plans to fly to Damascus with Ahmadi-Nezhad some months ago, and so the operational godfather of Hizbollah was untouched during his meetings with Syrian leaders and his counterparts from other terrorist gangs.

Why the refusal to see Iran for what it is? Coughlin explains it in a purely military context. He says that NATO troops have enough to do, fighting Taliban units in southern Afghanistan, and are just not prepared to extend their field of operations to the north and west. But, as he says, that would necessarily change if, as appears to be case, our leaders can no longer ignore the evidence.

I think the self-blinding of the West took place at a higher, and more political, level. I blame the intelligence community and the diplomats. They were the ones who refused to accept information from proven sources, because that information was in total conflict with the alternate version of reality they sold to the president: that Iran had been helpful to us in Afghanistan, that there were “moderates” in Tehran with whom we could work, and that a “grand bargain” could be struck, if only we made nice to the mullahs.

And of course I blame the president and his people–from his personal staff to the National Security Council people in charge of the region and the war–who bought the alternate reality. They had numerous opportunities to listen to the truth, and invariably declined.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said of Jimmy Carter that he could not distinguish between his friends and his enemies, and so he had ended by accepting his enemies’ view of the world. The same can be said of George W. Bush with regard to Iran.

And still we dither.

What Does it Take to Get us to War? Really.

December 20th, 2006 - 11:22 pm

I’ve been wondering what accounts for the sudden change in tone regarding Iran from London and Washington. Both Bush and Blair had been playing the mullahs’ game, taking military options off the board, talking with feigned optimism about the diplomatic strategy, patiently working for UN sanctions, and so forth. Then, all of a sudden, we started hearing very tough talk about Iran (and Syria) from the two leaders, and over here from Secretary Rice and National Security Adviser Hadley. Blair even delivered a very strong speech in Dubai, which is virtually an Iranian protectorate. How come? Had something happened?

Copley News Service reported a few weeks ago that we and the Jordanians had uncovered an Iranian-backed plot to assassinate Bush when he was in Amman. Copley told me the evidence is very good, even though the plot never came to anything, and nobody tried to kill the president. If the story is true, it would be a virtual replay of Saddam’s efforts to kill W’s father on a trip to the region while Clinton was president. Now, the London Telegraph reports the possible cause of Blair’s ire:

A military aide to the commander of British forces in Afghanistan appeared in court yesterday accused of spying. Cpl Daniel James, 44, is charged under the 1911 Official Secrets Act with “prejudicing the safety of the state” by passing information “calculated to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy”.

It was said he had communicated with a “foreign power” in the incident on Nov 2, believed to be Iran…The Daily Telegraph has learned that he acts as an interpreter for Gen David Richards, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and one of the most senior officers in the Army.

That might well do it, don’t you think? Here the Brits have been appeasing the mullahs, and all the gratitude they get is–if the story checks out–an Iranian spy getting information that would be used to kill Her Majesty’s soldiers. And notice the suppressed premise in this story: Iran is working with the (Taliban) terrorists in Afghanistan.

Leaders take these things very personally, as well they should.

More recent developments can only fuel this fire. On Wednesday, a politically bloodied but totally unbowed Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad told a crowd in Western Iran “The Islamic Republic of Iran is now a nuclear power, thanks to the hard work of the Iranian people and authorities.” Iran, he said, had “gained access to the nuclear fuel cycle.” He then trotted out the ritual language about “peaceful nuclear technology,” but few take this seriously. A nuclear power plant does not a “nuclear power” make, especially when the president adds, “the Iranian nation will continue in its nuclear path powerfully and will celebrate a nuclear victory soon.”

And on Monday, according to Haaretz, Israeli intelligence officials said that “dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Hamas militants recently left the Gaza strip to receive advanced military training in Iran.” They were set to get the same training course as that given to Hizbollah forces in Lebanon.

Not to belabor a point that should be obvious by now (but all too often isn’t): here we have Iranian Shi’ites working hand in glove with Afghan and Palestinian Sunnis, just as those Iranian Shi’ites have long worked with Fatah and al Qaeda. The presumed unbridgeable chasm between the two worlds of Islam is bridged most every day, Saudi princes to the contrary notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, those who insist there is no hope for a timely democratic revolution in Iran might be asked what they make of the outspoken students at a university in Tehran, seen all over the world calling for an end to the “fascist” regime in their country. And we should ask our leaders why they have not said a word in support of the students, nor for the countless other Iranians who protest almost daily against the mullahs. If the recent Iranian elections prove anything, they surely show deep divisions within the ruling class. The combination of an internal power struggle (as Supreme Leader Khamene’i’s health deteriorates visibly) with an energized national protest is precisely the sort of revolutionary brew that favors vigorous political support for the opposition.

And Iran’s heavy-handed support for the killers of American and allied forces in the region calls out for a forceful response. I do not want an American invasion of Iran, or a massive bombing campaign against the country’s nuclear facilities. But I think anyone who truly supports our troops must insist that we go after Iran’s and Syria’s terrorist training camps, and the facilities that produce the lethal bombs that are the single greatest cause of American deaths and casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is still no sense that we are at war, after twenty-seven years of unilateral killing by the Iranians and Syrians. It is indeed a grotesque replay of “The Gathering Storm.” As David Zucker so elegantly puts it, let’s hope we don’t lose another fifty million people because we failed to go after a crazy dictator again.

The Latest (Drooling) from al-AP

December 19th, 2006 - 4:24 pm

I’ll get to the Iranian “elections” in a few hours, but I couldn’t resist taking a swing at this slow ball from the Associated Press:

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is considering a buildup of Navy forces in the Persian Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the idea has not been approved…

What a “news service”! On this basis, any idiotic idea held by any idiot bureaucrat can be leaked and published. And if you tell Pauline Jelinek that “it hasn’t been approved” she’ll even cover your derriere for you.

See Naples and Drive

December 14th, 2006 - 11:24 pm

As of Tuesday, all the traffic lights in Naples, my favorite city, have been turned off. The Consortium in charge of maintenance hasn’t been paid all year, and the workers haven’t been paid for more than two months. A fine mess!

But put aside the thought that this will produce near-total chaos in the streets of Naples. Traffic lights never had the significance that they have here, or in places north of Naples. A few years ago there was an interview with the mayor on National Public Radio, and the interviewer asked him how his city would adapt to the mounting demands of European legislation. Traffic, for example.

“Well we have a different approach to traffic in Naples.”

The interviewer pressed on. Could he be more specific?

“Yes, of course. Everybody knows that green means ‘avanti, avanti…’ And red is a strong suggestion of caution. And the yellow, well, yellow is a cheerful color, I suppose it’s there for the gaiety.”

Red is a strong suggestion of caution, but not an absolute command. It is taken for granted in Naples that if you’re really in a hurry–say you’re about to miss your train–you’ll do everything possible to get there fast. And that’s proper, after all. So people will go through red lights, and other drivers have to be ready for it. Ergo, everyone is very alert at all intersections. Naples has a relatively low level of traffic accidents (although the real number may well be higher than the ‘official’ statistics, since reporting an accident to the authorities and the insurance company is generally considered a waste of time), and a relatively high level of serious injury per accident, as you’d expect.

The other ‘unusual’ fact about Neapolitan traffic is the attitude toward one-way streets. Most drivers consider them the usual meddling from on high in the affairs of man. I once got into a taxi at the Central Station and gave him my destination, in my grammatically fine but heavily accented Italian. He looked deeply into the rear view mirror. “You’re a foreigner,” he said, obviously concerned. “Right.” “But you speak Italian,” he continued. “Yes. I lived in Rome for many years.” “Ah,” he sighed. “Rome. Beautiful.” Pause. “How do you feel about going the wrong way on one-way streets?” “Usually the best way to get there, isn’t it?” Big smile. “Thank God,” he said, “because, you know, you get a lot of foreigners and when you go the wrong way sometimes they do the craziest things, yell, scream, I had one I thought was going to have a heart attack.” And off we went.

So Neapolitan drivers are quite ready to handle an entire city without traffic lights. It’s the same as usual. Except more so.

One Hand Behind Their Backs

December 14th, 2006 - 8:53 am

People with kids fighting in Iraq have, let us say, above-average interest in the Rules of Engagement that lay down the circumstances and the manner in which our soldiers are permitted to use lethal force. We tend to get upset when we hear that many of these decisions are made by lawyers, often in response to politically unpleasant headlines. We don’t like it when we hear from Iraq vets that they’re permitted to shoot BACK, but far less often to shoot. And we worry that, for example, whenever lethal force is used, the Marines are required to file a detailed report and, if possible, to photograph everything.

We don’t think they should have to linger on a battlefield just because some guy in the JAG might bring charges (or, worse yet, because the terrorists are odds-on to show up and reset the stage to make it look like a massacre…a deception almost guaranteed to get favorable coverage from certain mass media).

Herschel Smith, whose Marine son is now deployed to Iraq, has been working hard on this story, and he has some first-hand data from soldiers in the field.

Have a look

The Saudis Go to War (by paying others to die)

December 13th, 2006 - 5:03 pm

Surely the “shock news” of recent days is this, right?

Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

They seem to have delivered this frightening ultimatum to Vice President Cheney when he visited the Royal Family a few weeks back. I wonder how (if?) he held back a belly laugh. I hope he said “but Your Majesty, you’ve been doing that all along. Or have I missed something here?”

If Angleton were here, he’d say it was a preemptive cover story. They know we know what they’re doing, and they want to blame us for it.

Those Witty Fellows at al-AP

December 9th, 2006 - 1:17 pm

As the Associated Press fights for the cherished position of this generation’s version of The Goon Show (which, for you younguns, was a screamingly funny BBC radio show starring no end of brilliant British comics), we should pay attention to some of their better routines. Some day they will likely be quoted alongside Monty Python and Protein Wisdom.

They have a writer in Beirut named Scheherezade Faramarzi, and she has mastered the comic art of saying the most outrageous things with a totally straight face. On December 9th she wrote a brilliant satire of WashingPostSpeak. The opening line was a classic:

Iran could play a crucial role in curbing Iraq’s Shiite militias if the U.S. opens a dialogue with Tehran as recommended by the Iraq Study Group, many in the Mideast say.

HoHO! “Many” do say that. And not just in the Mideast. They say it in Europe, in the United States, in Canada even. I’ll even do the intriguing Scheherezade one better: I’ll say, on the record, that Iran could help curb terrorism in Iraq…even WITHOUT “dialogue.”

The gag continues:

But Iran’s cooperation would depend on how much it trusts Washington in any deal that was struck. And all observers agree that Iran alone, even with help from its ally Syria, cannot bring peace and that a collective effort of Mideast nations is needed.

The earnest, totally honest and transparent Iranians obviously have legitimate doubts about the tricky, secretive and untrustworthy Americans. And no doubt they are greatly annoyed that the satanic Bushiterlites haven’t been willing to accept the mullahs’ forthright cooperation on the nuclear question. They also seem quite annoyed at the recent remarks from Bushitler himself:

“Countries that participate in talks must not fund terrorism, must help the young democracy survive, must help with the economics of the country,” Bush said Thursday. “If people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is (sic) not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up.”

Leave it to the ugly Americans to screw up peace-in-Iraq. But kudos to al-AP and to dear Scheherezade–wouldn’t you love a photo? Don’t you wonder if she tells these great stories for a thousand and one nights? I sure do…–for a great belly laugh on a chilly Sabbath.