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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Seeing Iran Plain

June 27th, 2010 - 9:27 pm

The apologists for the Iranian regime generate so much nonsense that a whole crew of fact checkers could be gainfully employed simply exposing them. Let’s take two: “the Islamic Republic has never invaded anybody,” and, “the regime is in control, the opposition is dead.”  The first is invoked to silence anyone who wants to take action, even limited political action, against the Islamic Republic. The second is used to discredit those of us who have been calling for our governments to help the Iranian people in their urgent efforts to gain freedom.

In fact, Iran is one of the world’s principal aggressors. On the one hand, the regime has unleashed its proxy forces — most significantly, the revolutionary guards, but also Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda — throughout the Middle East, East Africa, and South America.  Americans have been the primary victims of this proxy war, from the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983 to the current campaign against our soldiers and diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Saudis can testify to attacks by Iranian proxies on numerous occasions, as can the Argentines, who have indicted several Iranian leaders for mass murder in Buenos Aires.

But Iran does not limit its aggression to the use of proxies. Virtually unnoticed by the chattering classes, Tehran is waging open war against Iraq.  More precisely, against the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iranian campaign involves both ground troops and air assaults, and seems to be carried out in tandem with their new Turkish allies.  Here’s the beginning of the UPI  report:

SULEIOMANIYAH, Iraq, June 24 (UPI) — The Turkish military has mounted several attacks on Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq in recent days as Ankara’s 26-year war with its troublesome minority, one of the world’s longest-running guerrilla conflicts, swells yet again.

At the same time, Iran has intensified its operations against its own Kurdish separatists holed up in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq, including incursions across the rugged border.

This two-pronged assault on the groups sheltering in Iraqi Kurdistan has put Baghdad in the middle of a fight involving two of its neighbors, both of whom seek to influence events in the oil-rich country as U.S. forces withdraw.

And here’s Le Monde:

Iranian troops, like the Turkish ones, do not hesitate to enter Iraqi territory to track down the (Kurdish) rebels and to conduct cross-border operations, either alone or with Ankara…

Since early June, Iranian soldiers have multiplied their incursions beyond their borders. Already in May a helicopter crossed the line to attack a village. In December, 2009, Tehran had partially occupied the Fakka oil field inside Iraq…

Back in the Clinton years, I  remarked that it seems to be a fixed principal of American foreign policy to betray the Kurds at least once every 10 years, and we have certainly respected the rules. But this is considerably worse, for not only do we leave the Kurds at the mercy of the two big Islamist countries;  we have failed to guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq, which is a much more serious matter.

So I think it’s fair to say that anyone who claims that Iran has not launched military attacks outside its territory is either misinformed or dissembling. Quite the contrary;  the Islamic Republic has conducted lethal military operations all over the world for decades.

And as for the presumed strengths of the regime and the death of the opposition, here too reality is quite different from the conventional wisdom. Anyone looking at the behavior of the Iranian regime today has to be astonished at the deep cracks among the leadership, and the increasingly explicit condemnation of the regime from all sectors of the opposition.

Hardly a day goes by without open conflict among the leading darknesses of the regime. Take for example the counterintuitive debate over women’s clothes.  You might have thought there was no room for disagreement on this subject, as any woman showing too much hair or skin has been rounded up and turned over to the sadistic beasts in the prison system.  But you’d be wrong;  of late, one of the top leaders — President Ahmadinezad himself — has been calling for easing the dress code.  Imagine!  And he’s been savaged by the hard-liners, his own people.  Why is he doing it?  I wouldn’t venture a guess.  The important thing is that there are now angry debates within a regime that clearly does not know what to do.

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Iran Wimps Out

June 25th, 2010 - 7:11 pm

As I told you a while back, they’re not going to take on Israel by sending ships — with or without the Revolutionary Guards — to challenge the Gaza blockade.  The details are delicious.

Iran Cancels “Aid” Ship to Gaza

(AFP) Iran has cancelled sending an aid ship to the Gaza Strip which had been scheduled to set sail for the Palestinian territory on Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported. Skip related content

“The trip is not going to happen,” Hossein Sheikholeslam, secretary general of the International Conference for the Support of the “Palestinian” Intifada, an Iranian body set up by parliament, told reporters on Thursday, IRNA said.

He said the ship had originally been due to depart on Thursday, but “due to restrictions from the occupying Zionist regime, it was decided that this ship would leave on Sunday. But now the trip is not going to happen.”

Sheikholeslam, speaking in the northern Iranian city of Rasht, said that the aid supplies that had been collected for the voyage will be sent by other means to Gaza.

“The Zionist regime has made the blockade a political issue and we do not wish to politicise this kind of humanitarian aid because the most important thing for us is to break the blockade of Gaza,” he said.

He said the voyage was cancelled as Israel “had sent a letter to the United Nations saying that the presence of Iranian and Lebanese ships in the Gaza area will be considered a declaration of war on that regime and it will confront it,” IRNA quoted him as saying.

“In order to deprive the Zionist regime of any excuse, the aid collected for the oppressed people of Gaza will be delivered to them by other means without mentioning the name of Iran.”

That’s clear enough, isn’t it?  Israel said that if any Iranian ship tries to enter Israeli waters, it will be treated as an act of war.  So the Iranians bagged it.

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Now comes Fareed Zakaria to denounce the “fantasy” of an Iranian revolution.  His main target is Sen. John McCain, but while he’s at it Zakaria unloads on Reuel Gerecht, Bret Stephens, and “the neoconservatives.”  He is so pessimistic about the prospects for the Green Movement that he is willing to entertain the possibility that Ahmadinejad actually won the phony elections of June 12, 2009, and he rejects the very idea that the Greens represent the majority of the Iranian people.

He isn’t very convincing. Indeed, Zakaria’s tirade isn’t even supported by his own evidence. He cites Mr. Akbar Ganji, who was recently honored by Zakaria and others at the Cato Institute in Washington, as an authoritative voice on things Iranian.  Which is a bit peculiar, since Ganji disagrees with him:

Iran is the only country in the region that if fair, free, and competitive elections were held today, democratic forces that believe in the separation of religion from the state would be victorious.

Which would seem to effectively demolish Zakaria’s claim that the Iranian government speaks for the majority of the people. Zakaria goes on to argue that there will be no revolution in Iran in the near future, and that any comparison with the likes of the “velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe” is just plain wrong, because, while the Europeans had nationalism, religion, and democracy on their side, the Iranian Greens only have democracy.

Does he not know that leading ayatollahs are in open revolt against the Iranian regime? Does he not know that even many Grand Ayatollahs — yesterday the late Ayatollah Montazeri, today Ayatollahs Boroujerdi and Sane’i — are vilified by the regime? Does he not know that the leaders of the opposition speak in the name of Islam?

Apparently not.

Zakaria isn’t very careful with the targets of his scorn, either.  He seems to think that those of us who support democratic revolution in Iran want to bomb the place, or at least strangle it with sanctions.  “ …Those hoping to liberate Iranians are the same people urging punitive sanctions and even military force against Iran.” But this, too, is false.  I have always opposed the use of military force against Iran, and Sen. McCain was very clear that he wanted America’s moral power, not our armed forces, deployed in support of the Iranian revolution.


The Fatal Follies of Containment

June 17th, 2010 - 7:13 pm

Cliff May has an outstanding piece arguing, correctly I think, that containment will not work with a nuclear Iran. It would be too costly to maintain, involve too many countries with conflicting interests, and require us to fight an endless series of small wars, with the very fractious internal political battles that we have already seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Michael Anton has analyzed the costs of containment at greater length here.    And Bret Stephens does his usual thoughtful job in Commentary.

It’s grim news that geopolitical “experts” are thinking deeply about what to do after Iran gets the bomb, both because it means that they have already accepted the inevitability of Iran-with-nukes, and because they continue to skim over the basic facts about the world and the war in which we are so deeply engaged.  The debate about Iran should not revolve around nukes, but about the war Iran is waging against us right now.

There is an amazing unwillingness to grant that American soldiers are being killed every day by Iranian proxies and by Iranian fighters (mostly from the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force), mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Those killers are trained in Iran, funded by Iran, armed by Iran, and provided intelligence from Iran. They do not need nukes to kill us, but the experts obsessively focus their attention on the nuclear question.

Why do they refuse to talk about the real war? Why do they focus their attention on a problem that does not (yet) exist, rather than a terrible problem that does exist? To put the matter as brutally as possible, why don’t they — and our leaders — care about evil people who kill Americans?

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Censoring the Churchillian Cigar

June 16th, 2010 - 3:03 pm

If you want to see how thoroughly we are in the grips of PC censorship, just read this horrifying story from the Telegraph. It has the evidence:  the famous pic of Churchill, and the cleaned-up version now on display in a British museum.

It’s part of a larger problem, one that existed long before Soviet airbrushes and Reuters photoshops:  the battle for control over the past.  He who writes history manipulates contemporary consciousness in order to affect the future.  As Voltaire nicely put it, “History is a bag of tricks we play upon the dead.”

Which brings me to the central crisis in America today:  increasingly, our people don’t know much of anything about the past.  Look at the history curricula at the top universities, and marvel, as I do, at the near-total lack of courses in military history.  It’s been airbrushed out.  I can’t help believing that this is purposeful.  The academic elites don’t want Americans to know that the history of man is basically the history of war.

Peace has many dangers, including the potentially fatal belief that all disputes can be negotiated.

And including the somewhat less dangerous conceit that real men don’t smoke cigars.  Pfui.

Mozart, Marshall and Me

June 8th, 2010 - 2:01 pm

Basic Books has sent me a long but highly readable and at times scintillating book by an old friend, Norman Stone.  The Atlantic and its Enemies is quite long — well over six hundred pages — and although Norman calls it “a history of the Cold War,” it’s much more than that, and it’s full of useful information, witty insights and some very thoughtful analysis, especially of post-war Germany, East and West.

I thought Norman might have read some of my work on West European Communism, and so I turned to the Index to check references to “Ledeen,” and found two, which turned out to be very different from what I had anticipated.  They’re not about my scholarly work, but rather about my alleged activities on behalf of the Marshall Plan in 1948. “As a young CIA man of the time, Michael Ledeen said (European) films, wines and women were endlessly fascinating and stood at great contrast to the tea and cookies on offer at home,” he writes at one point, and then later on, referring to CIA involvement in the Italian elections in the spring of ’48, “activity by men  such as Michael Ledeen…who knew the country well.”

For which I am most grateful, since, if Norman is right, I was a talented American agent at the age of six.  Which would make me, as it were, the Mozart of American espionage.

A great deal of nonsense has been written about my imagined career as a master spy — most recently by imaginative former CIA officers with Italian last names like Giraldi and Cannistraro — but this is one of the nicest to date, and I hope it establishes a template for the future.  Just think, I was a precocious six-year old, already a talented womanizer and connoisseur of wines and films, fighting communism in the streets of Europe.

So far as I know, I have never been a “CIA man” and to the best of my memory my seventh year was mostly spent in Albany, New York, with a few happy months in Pasadena, California.  But my memory is imperfect, and Norman is a fine historian, and he may be right.

I sure hope so.

Iran Joins the Flotilla…NOT

June 6th, 2010 - 10:47 am

The Iranians have announced that “if the Supreme Leader gives the word,” the Iranian Navy will accompany future flotillas to Gaza.

You can be quite certain that the Leader is not about to give that word (and between you, me and the lamp post, I have my doubts about how quickly that order would be carried out, if at all).  Ali Khamenei’s idea of war-fighting has to do with rounding up his critics, or sending Arab (not Iranian) suicide terrorists into the fray.

He’s not going to start a real fight that he’d quickly lose, thereby precipitating the fall of his regime.

What about the Turks?  Daniel Jackson thinks Erdogan is serious about using the flotilla incident as causus belli and that Turkey is preparing to go to war against Israel.  I am no expert on Turkey, but I am prepared to consider the possibility that the Iranians have urged him to attack, and that they swear to Allah that they’ve got his back.  It would be folly to believe the mullahs, who love to gull others into doing their dirty work, but Erdogan might be dreaming crazy dreams about being the great liberator, taking back the Holy Land, and reconstituting the Empire/Caliphate.

Yes it’s crazy.  But the world is full of crazies.  And the United States is absent, thereby giving the crazies license to act on their nutty visions.