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Obama and the Mullahs

So it’s certainly correct to give the Islamic Republic of Iran a share of the blame for the terrible damage inflicted on Hamas by Israel.  And it’s also important to note that, once the fighting started, you didn’t see the Iranians rushing for the battle field.  The mullahs organized demonstrations by tens of thousands of self-proclaimed would-be martyrs, but they went home afterwards, not to Gaza.  This is in keeping with long-standing Iranian practice: trick the despised Arabs into blowing themselves up to advance Tehran’s interests.

The Iranians themselves know the whole thing was a mistake, and we can see it by looking at their actions rather than listening to their lies.  They’re carrying out a “lessons learned” analysis to figure out all their blunders.  There’s lots to figure out:

Iran...as The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this week, is conducting an urgent probe into Hamas's (that is to say, Iran’s own, ML)  failures in Operation Cast Lead.

Hamas has acknowledged some of them and Israeli security officials have detailed many more: Hamas did not expect Israel to respond to its escalated rocket attacks with a major offensive - not with general elections looming, and the scars of the Second Lebanon War still raw. It certainly didn't believe the air strikes of week one would be followed by the ground operation of weeks two and three - Israel was deemed to be too wary of international criticism and too cowardly to risk its young soldiers. Hamas anticipated more practical assistance from the Arab world. And it fully intended to kill and maim more Israelis.

It planned to fire more rockets, more deeply, into more Israeli towns and villages and moshavim and kibbutzim, to murder more civilians. It hoped its booby-trapped buildings and tunnels and roadside bombs would fell more Israeli soldiers, and that its familiarity with Gaza's camps and alleys would yield it greater success in close combat with the IDF.

The humiliating defeat of Iran’s proxy in Gaza comes hard on the heels of the catastrophic drop in petroleum revenues, which weakens the mullahs’ ability to finance terror, and alongside yet another blow from the U.S. Government, which froze the finances of four al Qaeda terrorists, including a long-time Iranian resident with a famous name: Saad bin Laden.

Saad bin Laden, along with daddy Osama and other members of his super-rich family, bailed out of Afghanistan during the American assault in late 2001 and took up residence in Iran.  It was a hush-hush operation, since the mullahs were then pretending to be super helpful to the United States, even though they were training assassins and then sending them to Afghanistan to kill Americans.   In relatively short order, the Iranian deceit was discovered.  The leading Spanish anti-terrorist judge, Balthazar Garzon, publicly stated that the AQ leadership had reconstituted itself in Tehran.  Eventually the evidence became too great for the mullahs to deny, and they concocted the story that they had “arrested” some important AQ personnel, and would consider trading them for people under American control.  Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage started saying that Iran was “a democracy,” and let it be known that we were very close to a deal, but of course we weren’t; the mullahs never had any intention of turning over any of their top proxies.  Iran remained a safe haven for AQ terrorists, from which they came and went according to the requirements of the moment.  Now, it seems, Saad bin Laden has gone to Pakistan.

The Wall Street Journal put it oddly:

The release or escape of Mr. bin Laden's son, Saad bin Laden, suggests possible collaboration between Iran and al Qaeda and the potential that Saad bin Laden is a go-between. Al Qaeda has been regrouping in Pakistan after the U.S. forced the group out of its base in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding there.

Saad bin Laden "has left Iran," said Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell at a farewell press briefing. "He's probably in Pakistan."

This suggests that Mr. McConnell accepts the notion that bin Laden Jr. either “escaped” or “was released,” which is silly.  It would be helpful if our intelligence “experts” just stuck to what they know, which seems to be that bin Laden Jr. went to another country.  And it would be helpful if the Wall Street Journal were more careful in its use of language.  After the U.S. drove AQ out of Afghanistan, its leaders spent several years in Iran, with, at a minimum, the full knowledge and apparent complicity of the Iranian regime.  Does anyone know enough to say that AQ leaders weren’t/aren’t happy in Iran?  Or, for that matter, does anyone know enough to deny what seems intuitively obvious: that Iran has been fully supportive of AQ?  The mullahs certainly went all-out to help al Qaeda in Iraq.  And they lost, bigtime.

Further down in the story, the Journal does better:

Saad bin Laden reportedly facilitated communications between al Qaeda's No. 2 official and the Iranian extremist Quds Force after al Qaeda's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen last year. He was part of a small collection of al Qaeda operatives who helped manage the terrorist organization from Iran, where he was arrested in 2003, according to the Treasury Department.

Earlier alleged activities include a prominent role in a 2002 suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue and facilitating travel for bin Laden family members from Afghanistan to Iran.

So he was “arrested” in 2003, which just happens to be when we invaded Iraq, and also just happens to be the year when, according to that infamous NIE from CIA, Iran “suspended” its “nuclear weapons program.”  It’s pretty obvious, I think, that Iran is surging ahead on nuclear weapons–even Mr. al Baradei, of the UN’s wishy washy oversight agency, has said as much recently–and one will get you ten that there was no “suspension” at all, but a program to deceive us into thinking that.  The story of the “arrests” is of a piece with that.  Otherwise, you’d have to explain why al Qaeda in Iraq got full support from the mullahs, but their top people back in Tehran were under lock and key.  Not bloody likely.

All of this confusion distracts us from the big story, which is that Iran is in a jam, defeated in Iraq and Gaza, facing a cash flow crisis, and the usual demonstrations raging on college campuses and factories all over the country.  If ever there were a fine opportunity for the United States to support Iranian dissidents, this is it.  But we’re apparently not going to do any such thing; we’re going to try to strike a deal, even though every president since Jimmy Carter has tried to do just that, and every one of them failed.

Obama’s even got a candidate to head the Intelligence Community who thinks he’s identified that most elusive creature, the “Iranian moderate.”  Admiral Dennis Blair sang from the official hymnal during his confirmation hearings last week:

"While policymakers need to understand anti-American leaders, policies and actions in Iran, the intelligence community can also help policymakers identify and understand other leaders and political forces, so that it is possible to work toward a future in both our interests."

There are certainly Iranians who disagree with the official doctrine that is best summarized in the street chant we see so often on the evening news:  “Death to America.”  In fact, there are probably 50-60 million of them.  They are the oppressed people of Iran, and we don’t need the Intelligence Community to identify them.  We see them in prison, we see them publicly executed in very brutal ways (including stoning), and we see their offices raided and smashed.  Those are the people we should be helping.

Even if the Obama people can’t bring themselves to openly support democratic revolution in Iran–which is what they should do–they can at least publicly and incessantly read out the long list of political prisoners every time they meet with an Iranian counterpart.  The President and Secretary of State Clinton, along with the various special envoys, should take a page from British TV and Film Director Ken Loach, who issued an open letter to the mullahs.

He says it very well:

I have read the information about Labour activists imprisoned in your country. These words express exactly the outrage of many people at your government's callous disregard for civil liberties.

I am writing to strongly protest against a new wave of arrests and repression of labour activists in Iran. According to the latest news, the current labour activists who are known to be in jails across Iran are as follows:

- Mr. Mansour Osanloo, the president of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Tehran and Suburb Bus Company...Mr. Afshin Shams, a member of "Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' organizations"... Mr. Farzad Kamangar, a 33 year old teacher and union and human rights activist from Kurdistan province. He has been sentenced to death by the Iranian government and has been severely tortured... Mr. Mohsen Hakimi, a member of the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers' Organization and a member of the Iranian Writers' Association...incarcerated in section 209 of the Evin Prison...Mr. Bijan Amiri, who is an auto worker and a member of workers' mountain-climbing board...incarcerated in section 209 of the Evin Prison...Mr. Ebrahim Madadi, the vice-president of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company...currently detained in Evin prison...- Mr. Pedram Nasrolahi, who is a member of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations in Kurdistan...Mr. Bakhtiar Rahimi, a labour activist in Kurdistan...

In addition, many labour activists in Iran are under suspended sentences or await trials and are suspended or expelled from their workplace as the result of their labour activities, including many member of the Vahed Syndicate in Tehran as well as five leaders of the Syndicate of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company Workers' Syndicate who were put on trial on December 20, 2008 and are now awaiting their verdict.

Therefore, I condemn all these arrests and repression of labour activists and organizations in Iran and demand the immediate and unconditional freedom of all incarcerated workers. I also ask the Iranian government to respect workers' rights to organize, assemble and strike, put an end to persecution of labour activists and not to interfere in the affairs of independent workers' organizations.

It would also be nice to hear words of this sort from the feckless leaders of the AFL-CIO, who keep whispering to me that they are actually doing a great deal to help their brothers and sisters in Iran.  They’re doing it privately, you see.  But this is the same failed tactic used for so long by the cowardly Western organizations who shrank from publicly denouncing the Kremlin during the Cold War, on the specious grounds that calling attention to the Communists’ crimes would only make things worse for Soviet dissidents.  We subsequently learned, from the dissidents, that the truth was just the opposite.  The dissident movement only gained real strength when President Reagan and Secretary Schultz openly and repeatedly demanded respect for the human rights of Soviet democrats.  There is every reason to believe a serious human rights campaign in support of the Iranian dissidents would have similar results.

A serious human rights campaign would not stop with Iranian workers, but would support all Iranians at the mercies of the arbitrary repression of their regime.  Above all, Iranian women need our support.  Their names have to be heard, their plight needs to be dramatized, and their freedom must be defended.  Condoleezza Rice was the perfect person to lead this campaign, but she abandoned her Iranian sisters.  Barack Obama has similar credentials, and Hillary Clinton would seem a natural in this role.

It’s a hell of a lot better than turning loose our failed spooks in the search for Iranian moderates.