The Iran We Cannot Avoid
There is no escape from the war Iran is waging against us, the war that started in 1979 and is intensifying with every passing hour. We will shortly learn more about the documents we found accompanying the high-level Iranian terrorist leader we briefly arrested in Hakim’s compound in Baghdad some days ago, and what we will learn–what many key American officials have already learned–is stunning. At least to those who thought that Iran was “meddling” in Iraq, but refused to believe that it was total war, on a vast scale.
Several good journalists are working on this story (see, for example, today’s article by Eli Like in the NY Sun), and the outlines are pretty clear. First, we had good information that terrorists were in Baghdad, and had gone to the compound. We did not know exactly who they were. We entered the compound and arrested everybody who looked like a usual suspect. One of them told us he was the #3 official of the al Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a particularly vicious group. He was carrying documents, one of which was in essence a wiring diagram of Iranian operations in Iraq. That wiring diagram included both Shi’ite and Sunni terrorist groups, and was of such magnitude that American officials were flabbergasted. It seems that our misnamed Intelligence Community had grossly underestimated the sophistication and the enormity of the Iranian war campaign.
I am told that this information has reached the president, and that it is part of the body of information he is digesting in order to formulate his strategy for Iraq. If he sees clearly what is going on, he must realize that there can be no winning strategy for Iraq alone, since a lot of ‘Iraqi’ activity–not just lethal materiel such as the latest generation of explosive devices, now powerful enough to penetrate the armor of most of our vehicles–is actually Iranian in origin. We cannot ‘solve’ the Iraqi problem without regime change in Iran.
Those of you who have borne with me for the last few years will not be surprised to hear this; what’s new is the apparently irrefutable evidence that has now providentially fallen into our hands. The policy makers will not like this evidence, because it drives them in a direction they do not wish to go. I am told that, at first, there was a concerted effort, primarily but by no means exclusively from the intel crowd, to sit on the evidence, to prevent it from reaching the highest levels. But the information was too explosive, and it is now circulating throughout the bureaucracy.
I have little sympathy for those who have avoided the obvious necessity of confronting Iran, however I do understand the concerns of military leaders, such as General Abizaid, who are doing everything in their considerable power to avoid a two-front war. But I do not think we need massive military power to bring down the mullahs, and in any event we now have a three-front war: within Iraq, and with both Iran and Syria. So General Abizaid’s objection is beside the point. We are in a big war, and we cannot fight it by playing defense in Iraq. That is a sucker’s game. And I hope the president realizes this at last, and that he finds himself some generals who also realize it, and finally demands a strategy for victory.
In passing, it follows from this that the entire debate over more or less troops in Iraq, surge or no surge, Baghdad or Anbar Province, all of it begs the central question. As long as Iran and their appendage in Damascus have a free shot at us, all these stratagems are doomed.
As it happens, this is a particularly good moment to go after the mullahs, because they are deeply engaged in a war of all against all within Iran. I wrote in NRO two weeks ago that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been carted off to the hospital–a major event, of which the Intelligence Community was totally unaware–and his prognosis is very poor. That information has now trickled out, and I found it today in the Italian press and on an Iranian web site. The mullahs are maneuvering for position, and Ahmadi-Nezhad’s ever more frantic rhetoric bespeaks the intensity of the power struggle, which includes former president Rafsanjani, Khamenei’s son, and Ahmadi-Nezhad’s favorite nut ayatollah. We should propose another option to the Iranian people: freedom.
Freedom is what most Iranians want, and, unlike their neighbors in Iraq, they have considerable experience with self-government. The Iranian Constitution of 1906 is remarkably modern, and Iranian intellectuals have in fact been debating the best form of government for their country for many years. Iranian workers are in open revolt against the regime, along with such minority groups as the Kurds, the Balouchis, the Azeris, and the Ahwazi Arabs. In other words, most of the Iranian people. It is long past time for us to speak clearly to them and support their cause.
Just as the likes of General Abizaid need to be replaced with generals who are prepared to attack targets like the terrorist training camps (especially those used by Hizbollah) in Iran and Syria, so we need civilian leadership that will attack our enemies politically. We need new men and women at VOA, at the Board of Broadcasting Governors (Ken Tomlinson, in particular, should be given a medal and replaced), and at the State Department (we should know by now that the touchy-feely approach thus far championed by Karen Hughes is not effective).
This country is loaded with talent, and the mullahs do not have a big constituency here. It cannot be hard to find a critical mass of talented people who want to support democratic revolution in Iran. We lack only the will of the president.