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Monthly Archives: April 2007

From the Wonderful Judith Klinghoffer

April 29th, 2007 - 3:08 pm

She is so smart.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer

In Diplomacy at its Worse, Nicholas Kristof takes the administration to task for not accepting a May 2003 Iranian “Grand Bargain” proposal. “It was not clear to me that a grand bargain was reachable, but it was definitely worth pursuing – and still is today.” Well, the not particularly enticing proposal came when Iran was still reeling from the American victory in Iraq and given the administration decision to stop with Iraq, it was a significant miss. But to assume that a similar bargain is available today ignores the enormous shift in the American – Iranian balance of power since. War may be a continuation of diplomacy but diplomacy is also a continuation of war. Neither are static.

Just note the cool reception Congress and the country gave to General Petraeus. I am no great fan of the general. His previous assignment was to rebuild an Iraqi army. Enough said. But I do not believe any general would have fared better. The truth, as Brian Michael Jenkins explained yesterday is that we are all paying a heavy price for faulty strategic decisions taken by a military leadership determined to avoid another Vietnam by constructing an army suited for fighting successfully other armies but unsuited for fighting an insurgency. Counter insurgency education was downgraded. Weapon systems, marine and army unites suited for such struggle were not developed.

Once in Iraq, its generals continued to dismiss the importance of the emerging insurgency. Nothing exemplifies that dismissive attitude than the military’s adherence to a 9 month rotation cycle which virtually insured that vital knowledge about the enemy painstakingly gathered by the unit leaving the battlefield just at the moment it finally began to get a grip on the situation. This attitude doomed whatever small chance of securing Iraq the US might have had.

None of this takes the political leadership off the hook nor does it mean that the US must declare the war lost. The American army was not better prepared for the civil war or W.W.II and its loses at the beginning of those wars were far more devastating. The difference was that in 1860 and 1941 the presidents became one dimensional “Win the War” presidents. The same cannot be said about any of the post World War II presidents. Consequently, the US has not won a decisive military victory since then. Soaring Reaganite rhetoric aside, the Cold War was not a military victory and the conclusion of Desert Storm was less than awe inspiring.

George W. Bush fits neatly into his predecessors’ mold. Following 9/11 he punched back but never opted for a decisive knock-out. I remember a short exchange I had with Al Haig some months following the toppling of Saddam. I asked him if he knew where we are going next. He said he did not. I asked if he thought the administration knows. He said they better. “What if they don’t,” I persisted. “Then we lose,” he replied. It was the answered I feared.

Yesterday, John McCain and Joe Lieberman tried to explain to reporters and scholars that a thinly stretched army is far superior to a defeated one. US military and civilian leaders operate with a huge margin of error. They may still have time to refocus and turn the war around. But the Sharm Al Sheikh conference will not do it nor will Rice’s newly expressed willingness to discuss Iraq with Iran. The idea of creating a democratic Iraq in a sea of authoritarian Middle East has never been any more viable than the creation of democratic France would have been in the middle of a Fascist/Nazi Europe. Whatever remote chance of success it had was annulled by the inept US military response to the developing Iraqi insurgency.

All the bench marks and attempts to blame the Iraqis are just diversionary tactics (also used in Vietnam) which fool no one. The real question is will the current military/civilian leadership accept a Vietnam style defeat in the hope of finding another way to counter the Islamist threat or will they opt for victory by opening a second front? Much is in the balance.

George Tenet and Moi

April 29th, 2007 - 2:16 pm

You may have noticed that George Tenet devoted several pages of his new book to a weird version of a meeting I attended in Rome back in December, 2001. There’s an Italian expression that well describes his efforts: “more errors than pages.” The poor man just can’t check a fact. Nor can his publisher, apparently. As a result, he gets it all wrong.

And that’s not the only thing he gets wrong. I’ve treated this at greater length on NRO, it should be up tomorrow (monday).

Meanwhile I am headed off for vacation, and will blog from time to time, but surely not as frequently as I do when I’m in Washington. But I’m tired, having finished two books in the last four months, and corrected one set of copyedits already…for “The Iranian Time Bomb,” coming out in September from St Martin, bless him.

Another Dying Ayatollah

April 29th, 2007 - 12:28 pm

Last October, I wrote here about the courageous protest of Ayatollah Hossein Kazameini Boroujerdi, which attracted world-wide attention. Thousands of people defended him (or took him as a rallying point around which to show their opposition to the regime).

Now I am told by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzin that one of his supporters, Alireza Arbobi, who was arrested along with Boroujerdi and then released on bail, has been telling anyone who will listen that Boroujerdi has been reduced to a piteous state, and desperately needs medical treatment. For his efforts, Arbobi has been arrested once again.

Perhaps the good folks at Amnesty or others who concern themselves with the victims of tyranny will do something. They certainly should.

More Trouble for Mahmoud’s Dress Code

April 27th, 2007 - 6:53 pm

It seems the students don’t like it:

Tehran, 27 April (AKI) – Students at the university of Lorestan, in western Iran, are carrying out an all-out protest, following the example of their peers in the capital Tehran, in Babol near the Caspian sea, and Shiraz in the west, who are rallying against new government measures imposing strict new dress codes and opening hours on campus as well as restrictions on political activity. For the past three days about 1,000 students have been occupying the campus.

The deputy dean of the university of Lorestan, Abedin Darvishpour, has also stepped down to express solidarity with the students.

“It is not possible to transform university in military barracks and demand blind obedience from the students,” Darvishpour reportedly told the protesters.

The head of Tehran U caved in to student demands. So maybe it’s a race: the regime is arresting as many people as it can, and the remainder are demonstrating.

And still the secretary of state is shamefully begging for a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister.

Yet Another Al Qaeda Meeting in Iran

April 27th, 2007 - 11:59 am

This just in from NBC:

WASHINGTON – An Iraqi suspected of being a senior al-Qaida commander has been captured and is now in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, the Pentagon said Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the captive is Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, adding that he was caught as he tried to return to Iraq.

U.S. intelligence sources told NBC News that al-Hadi was taken into custody in late 2006 and has provided the CIA with hundreds of leads into al-Qaida operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whitman said that “Abd al-Hadi was trying to return to his native country, Iraq, to manage al-Qaida’s affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against Western targets.” He added that the terror suspect also met with al-Qaida members in Iran.

With all their money, wouldn’t you think they could find a nicer place for their lunches?

Petraeus on Iran in Iraq

April 26th, 2007 - 2:41 pm

General Petraeus says he’s learned a lot in the last month about Iran’s activities in Iraq. I’m glad he’s learning, but in truth the sort of thing he’s talking about–although not these specific details–have been known for years. Eli Lake and Rich Miniter heard all about it from the Kurds in recent days, too.

So here’s Petraeus at his press conference this morning:

GEN. PETRAEUS: The Iranian involvement has really become much clearer to us and brought into much more focus during the interrogation of the members — the heads of the Qazali network and some of the key members of that network that have been in detention now for a month or more. This is the head of the secret cell network, the extremist secret cells. They were provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition, in some cases advice and in some cases even a degree of direction. When we captured these individuals — the initial capture, and then there have been a number of others since then — we discovered, for example, a 22-page memorandum on a computer that detailed the planning, preparation, approval process and conduct of the operation that resulted in five of our soldiers being killed in Karbala. It also detailed — there are numerous documents which detailed a number of different attacks on coalition forces, and our sense is that these records were kept so that they could be handed in to whoever it is that is financing them. And there’s no question, again, that Iranian financing is taking place through the Quds force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps. As you know, there are seven Quds Force members in detention as well. This involvement, again, we learned more about with the detention of an individual named Sheibani, who is one of the heads of the Sheibani network, which brings explosively formed projectiles into Iraq from Iran. His brother is the Iranian connection. He is — was in Iraq. And that has been the conduit that then distributes these among the extremist elements again of these secret cells and so forth. Those munitions, as you know, have been particularly lethal against some of our armored vehicles and responsible for some of the casualties, the more tragic casualties in attacks on our vehicles. So I think that’s what has taken place.


Q May I formally ask you: What is your assessment at this point? Do you believe that the central government of Iran, Ahmadinejad himself, perhaps, is, number one, aware of this, supporting it, directing it? What is the central government involvement? Could this level of activity possibly take place without the Iranian leadership knowing about it? And just as another point, do you see any involvement beyond EFPs? Are they now involved in these spectacular suicide car-bomb attacks?

GEN. PETRAEUS: I don’t think we have found a link to the spectacular car-bomb attacks, which we believe are generally al Qaeda and elements sort of connected to al Qaeda. Typically, in fact, still we believe that, oh, 80 to 90 percent of the suicide attacks are carried out by foreigners. That’s a network, again, that typically brings them in through Syria and is again a major concern and certainly a hope that Syria will crack down on the ability of people to come through their airport and so forth and then be brought into Iraq. With respect to how high does it go and, you know, what do they know and when did they know it, I honestly cannot — that is such a sensitive issue that — and that we do not — at least I do not know of anything that specifically identifies how high it goes beyond the level of the Qods Force, Commander Suleiman. Beyond that, it is very difficult to tell — we know where he is in the overall chain of command; he certainly reports to the very top — but again, nothing that would absolutely indicate, again, how high the knowledge of this actually goes. So–

There were some followups later on, in which Petraeus was pressed on the “how high up the Iranian line does this chain of command go? And he repeated that we know that some of the people we’re interrogating report to General Sulemaini, the head of the Qods Force, but beyond that we don’t know.

As I’ve said before, this is lawyer-talk, not intelligence talk. And of course the journalist’s question betrays the usual lack of knowlege of the Iranian chain of command. The Revolutionary Guards, of which Qods is the foreign arm, report to the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), NOT to the president. So the reference to Ahmadinejad shows the journalist’s ignorance. But to believe that a Qods campaign is being conducted without Khamenei’s approval is as silly as the belief that a Special Forces campaign could be conducted without White House approval. No way.

Finally, notice the data he provides on suicide attacks: eighty to ninety percent are carried out by foreigners via Syria. Put that together with the knowledge that the most dangerous explosives are coming from Iran. Then ask yourself why so many people keep talking about “insurgency,” which implies a domestic reaction to the presence of coalition forces on Iraqi soil.

And the answer is: because it’s all about Vietnam.

ADN Kronos, which despite its name is Italian, not Greek, and which has been one of the best news services on the subject of Iran, reports that one of the leaders of the anti-Ahmadi-Nezhad demonstrations at the Polytechnic University in Tehran has been thrown into prison:


ehran, 25 April (AKI) – The spokesman of the Muslim Students Association at a Tehran polytechnic was arrested on Wednesday, Iranian news agency ILNA reports. Babak Zamanian was reportedly arrested because of interviews he gave to Farsi language radio stations that broadcast outside Iran. The students of the Amir Kabir Polytechnic made front page news around the world last December when they managed to prevent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a visit to their campus, from making his speech. It was the first time since his landslide victory in June 2005 that Ahmadinejad had been challenged in public.

The demonstrations took place at a time when the United States had sent carrier groups into the Gulf, and named an admiral at the head of CENTCOM. The deep thinkers were placing bets on just when Bush was going to launch the American attack.

The arrest takes place at a time when the secretary of state is virtually begging for some Iranian to talk to, when Iran has thumbed its long nose at the UN, and when the Europeans are chirping sweet sounds of concession.

That’s the way it works.

From NRO today

April 25th, 2007 - 10:10 am

April 25, 2007, 9:22 a.m.

Did Condoleezza Rice Try to Make a Secret Deal With the Mullahs?
A tense confrontation within the Bush administration over the release of the Irbil 5.

By Michael Ledeen

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose tenure at Foggy Bottom began with such energy and fine language about support for freedom in the Middle East, is begging the Iranian foreign minister to come to a “future of Iraq” conference in Egypt next week. She told the Financial Times that it would be a “missed opportunity” if Minister Mottaki didn’t show up.

In the same interview, she denied ever thinking about regime change in Iran. Our Iran policy, according to the secretary, is to “have a change in regime behavior.” Some day she will perhaps explain how any rational person can believe this cast of characters capable of changing behavior that has been constant for 28 years.

We are back to the days when Madeleine Albright went to international meetings hoping to get a one-on-one with an Iranian minister so she could apologize for past American sins and get on with the glorious business of striking a grand bargain with the mullahs. When that didn’t work, President Clinton did the public apology, and his administration trotted out a number of unilateral concessions. His vice president even made a secret deal with the Russians permitting them to sell weapons and supply expertise for the Iranian nuclear program. All for naught; the mullahs spat in our face and continued as before.

The delusion that one can settle our little disagreements with the Islamic Republic, if only the right people sit around the right conference table, has seized every administration since Jimmy Carter. Every president has sent emissaries to talk, and every administration has made demarches to Tehran. To date, the net result is hundreds of dead Americans. And yet the delusion persists. Each time it fails, the deep thinkers at Foggy Bottom manage to convince the secretary of State of the moment that we are just one small concession away from success, and by and large the secretary goes for it, just as Secretary Rice has.

That is part of the background to her public pleading for talks with the mullahs. The other part has to do with the release of the British sailors and marines from captivity in Tehran. It was obvious to anyone familiar with the methods of the Islamic Republic that the British hostages were ransomed; the only question was the dimension of the payoff to Iran. Part of the answer emerged almost immediately, when an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps magically appeared safe and sound somewhere in Iraq, and hotfooted it back home. Within hours, Iraqi officials were publicly hinting that the incarceration of the “Irbil 5” — more top IRGC intel officers captured by American forces, along with extensive documentation of their murderous activities in Iraq — would likely end quite soon. Why were they saying that?

The answer may be found between the lines of a story written shortly afterwards by one of Secretary Rice’s favorite journalists, Robin Wright of the Washington Post. It didn’t attract nearly the attention it deserved, perhaps because it was printed on Saturday, April 14 (full marks to Allahpundit over at Hot Air for spotting it). Here is what Robin Wright said:

After intense internal debate, the Bush administration has decided to hold on to five Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents (sic) captured in Iraq, overruling a State Department recommendation to release them, according to U.S. officials.

I’ve been told that “intense internal debate” is exactly right — it was one of the most contentious debates in quite a while. Wright reports that Vice President Cheney led the charge against Rice’s position, and I am told that Secretary of Defense Gates was equally adamant. This is reinforced by a statement by General Petraeus, to the effect that we intended to keep them and keep interrogating them as long as we had food and they had things to say. Moreover, I am told that the intensity of the debate was due to the fact that Rice was not merely recommending the release of the Iranians, but had informed the mullahs that we would release them.

That makes sense to me, because that promise — if indeed it was made — would help explain the release of the Brits. It would constitute the kind of swap the Iranians like to make, and it would have been a significant triumph for the mullahs: They had lost some of their key players in Iraq, and we would have paid them off as a favor to our British pals. Tony Blair would be able to claim straight-faced that he had made no concessions, and Condoleezza Rice would be able to claim, as she has of late in private conversation, that the Iranians had backed off.

You can be quite sure that the back-channel traffic between Washington and Tehran is full of new promises, if only the Iranians will come to Egypt and sit down with us. That would enable the secretary of State to save face when she makes her next concession. After all, we’re talking, aren’t we?

It’s too clever by half, and has obviously confused the president, who, in an interview with Charlie Rose, said we wouldn’t talk to them, but then again, perhaps we would (and Allahpundit spotted it again):

“What I’m not willing to do is sit down bilaterally with the Iranians,” he told PBS’ “The Charlie Rose Show.”

Later, he said Rice and Iran’s foreign minister might have bilateral conversations at the conference. “They could. They could,” Bush said.

President Ahmadinejad was quick to pounce on the confusion. Never mind the talks in Egypt; he pronounced himself ready to meet with Bush, and with journalists in the room.

It’s worse than too clever. It’s retreat and appeasement, and the Iranians know it. It flows from denial that the mullahs are at war with us, and lapses into the belief that this war can be resolved by the tried and failed methods of traditional diplomacy. It won’t work, as our soldiers know full well. Surge or no surge, Iraq cannot have decent security unless it is protected against the Iranians and their Syrian puppets bordering the other side of the country. The Irbil 5 know a whole lot about Iranian/Syrian activities, and hence about the terror network in Iraq — in fact, they ran it — and that knowledge can help us and the Iraqis. The very idea that those intelligence officers should be sprung is a slap in the face to every coalition soldier, and Gates and Cheney were quite right to fight it.

A small victory, to be sure. But it’s a lot better than it would have been if the secretary of State had had her way. Years from now she may be grateful for it.

Iran and al Qaeda

April 23rd, 2007 - 1:47 pm

I’ve just posted a comment on NRO, noting that American generals are “shocked” to discover the extent of Iranian involvement in the Iraq terror war. That surprise goes hand in hand with what the London Times reported yesterday about al Qaeda plans for a spectacular attack on the West:

AL-QAEDA leaders in Iraq are planning the first “large-scale” terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.

Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on “a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki” in an attempt to “shake the Roman throne”, a reference to the West…

The report, produced earlier this month and seen by The Sunday Times, appears to provide evidence that Al-Qaeda is active in Iran and has ambitions far beyond the improvised attacks it has been waging against British and American soldiers in Iraq.

There is no evidence of a formal relationship between Al-Qaeda, a Sunni group, and the Shi’ite regime of President Mah-moud Ahmadinejad, but experts suggest that Iran’s leaders may be turning a blind eye to the terrorist organisation’s activities.

I’d suggest to the British spymasters that “the Roman throne” is probably not a reference to “the West,” but to the Vatican, but that’s not my main point here. I’m interested in that last graph: “no evidence” of an Iran/al Qaeda relationship, but maybe the mullahs are ignoring all that al Qaeda activity in Iran.

Feh. No evidence? How about the East African bombings? Or Khobar Towers? Or all those 9/11 terrorists flying with Imad Mughniyah to Europe via Tehran? Or Ramzi Binalshibh, the logistics officer of the 9/11 attacks, heading for Tehran just six days before? Or the fact that Zarqawi organized his terror network from Tehran?

And that claptrap about “turning a blind eye.” I’ve heard this cop-out for decades, it’s spook-speak they use when they don’t want trouble with a regime that they know is paying our gravediggers.

More later.

The Feds have arrested a man in LA who worked at a nuclear power plant in Arizona, quite his job, and went to Iran. Once there, he downloaded the floor plan of the facility. Here’s most of the AP story, and please stay with me:

PHOENIX – A former engineer at the nation’s largest nuclear power plant has been charged with taking computer access codes and software to Iran and using it to download details of plant control rooms and reactors, authorities said.

The FBI said there’s no indication the plant employee training software had any terrorist connections.

Mohammad Alavi, who worked at the triple-reactor Palo Verde power plant west of Phoenix, was arrested April 9 at Los Angeles International Airport when he arrived on a flight from Iran, authorities said.

Alavi, 49, is a U.S. citizen and denies any wrongdoing, said his attorney, Milagros Cisneros of the Federal Defender’s Office in Phoenix.

He is charged with a single count of violating a trade embargo that prohibits Americans from exporting goods and services to Iran. If convicted, he would face up to 21 months in prison.

According to court records, the software is used only for training plant employees, but allowed users access to details on the Palo Verde control rooms and the plant layout. In October, authorities alleged, the software was used to download training materials from Tehran, using a Palo Verde user identification.

The FBI said there was no evidence to suggest the software access was linked to the Iranian government, which has clashed with the West over attempts to develop its own nuclear program.

“The investigation has not led us to believe this information was taken for the purpose of being used by a foreign government or terrorists to attack us,” said Deborah McCarley, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Phoenix.

What gets me, once again, is the FBI’s rush to non-judgment. First, no evidence that there’s any connection to the Islamic Republic. Second, no reason to think that the data might be used to attack us.

Riiiight. Internet use in Iran is dangerous; the regime monitors and filters it. You can get tortured for going to sites of which the regime disapproves. So this guy got the floor plan for our biggest nuclear reactor. Why would he want THAT?

Maybe so a sleeper cell could go blow it up? Why else? Do tell, FBI. You’re the same folks who were quick to tell us that an Egyptian shooting people standing in line at LAX to checkin with El Al certainly wasn’t a terrorist, aren’t you?

Can’t the Bureau just do its work and let us know when they’ve finished? Good grief.