Faster, Please!

What's Up With Gates, Anyway? Covering for the Mullahs?

Just doing what he’s told, I suppose.  After all, he came into the Bush Administration expecting to supervise the retreat from Iraq and the Grand Bargain with Iran, only to find that the president wanted to up the ante in Iraq and challenge the mullahs on the ground.  So Gates duly supported the surge, and perforce cracked down on Iranian activities in Iraq.

Now comes Obama, who is all about smashing al Qaeda, and making the Grand Bargain with Iran.  So Gates duly blames the upsurge in violence in Iraq on al Qaeda–thoughtfully leaving Iran out of it, although they are in it up to their turbans–and warning that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear program wouldn’t really do much good.

Gates was quite categorical in testimony earlier this week to the Senate Armed Services Committee:

“The judgment of the commanders is this is an orchestrated effort on the part of al-Qaida to try and provoke the very kind of sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart in 2006.”

One wonders which commanders he’s been talking to, since a report just a few days ago from American military sources on the ground in Iraq was equally categorical in claiming that “the US has found evidence of Iranian-backed Mahdi Army leaders conducting attacks that were designed to mimic al Qaeda suicide bombings.”  And the intelligence that underlies that claim was convincing enough for American forces to act, which annoyed the Iraqi Government:

The US military broke up an Iranian-backed terror cell associated with Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army during a raid in Al Kut in central Iraq. Iraqi officials are claiming the US military conducted the raid without approval.

Coalition forces killed one Iranian-backed terrorist and captured six others during a raid that targeted a financier that supports both the Mahdi Army Special Groups and the Brigade of the Promised Day.

Although the Maliki Government was upset by the American raid in Al Kut, the Iraqis are well aware of stepped-up Iranian attacks.  As Bill Roggio reports, Iraqi forces have been rounding up Mahdi Army terrorists for weeks of late around Basra, from which the Brits are now exiting.

None of this seems to have found its way into Gates’s testimony.  Had he spoken about such things, it would have inconvenienced the gaggle of Obaman czars and special envoys currently flooding several back channels to the mullahs in search of the evanescent Grand Bargain.  For those who worry about politicizing intelligence, leaving out inconvenient details is often a sign that the intelligence is being shaped to fit the desires of the policy makers.

Then there’s the question of the Iranian bomb.  Here again, Gates was quite explicit.

Use of the military option to force Iran to halt its nuclear program would only yield temporary and ineffective results, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Sanctions would make more sense, he said.

Gates said a military attack on Iran would merely send the country’s nuclear program further underground. Instead, the United States and its allies must convince Teheran that its nuclear ambitions would spark an arms race that would leave the Islamic republic less secure.

I’ve always opposed a military attack on Iran, but Gates’ statement is pretty thin gruel, especially for the former director of central intelligence.  I don’t think anyone can possibly speak confidently about the consequences of an attack on Iranian facilities;  I think that is unknowable, and I think people like Gates damage any hope of a serious debate by making such claims.  Does it not depend on the effectiveness of the attack?  And does anyone know how the Iranian people would react to it?

Gates’ other two statements–first, that sanctions are a better bet, and second, that we have to “convince” the mullahs that nukes are actually bad for them–are even sillier.  I don’t think sanctions have ever deterred an enemy from actions they deemed valuable, and I don’t know a single serious person who believes that we’re going to talk the Iranians into abandoning their quest for the bomb.

So I’m shaken by Gates’ testimony.  I’ve always admired him, and back in the days when I spoke to him with some frequency, I was impressed with his mind, his humanity, and his professionalism.  I hope I’m wrong about his catering to the president’s desire for a deal with Iran;  the president is entitled to hear the facts, even if they are unpleasant.

Meanwhile, other U.S. Government agencies are catering to Tehran’s wishes.  Take the Justice Department, for example:

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit against Iran filed by Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran 30 years ago.

The request comes in a $6.6 billion class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. Fifty-two American diplomats and military officials were held captive for more than a year at the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency by a group of Islamist students who supported the Iranian revolution.

Justice argued, as the State Department has long maintained, that such lawsuits are banned by the so-called Algiers Accords, a legacy of the Carter Administration, which agreed to various Iranian demands in order to ransom our hostages at the moment Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as president.  Over the years I’ve asked various Justice Department officials about the status of that agreement, and I’ve always been told that it wasn’t a treaty, it was an executive agreement, and  any president who wished to do so, could simply announce that we weren’t going to abide by it any more.

President Obama doesn’t want to terminate it, at least for the moment.  He’s looking for ways to seduce the mullahs.  At the beginning of his administration, all key agencies were asked to suggest things we could give the Iranians, and no doubt Justice came up with this disgraceful slap in the face of the American hostages in Tehran.  We’ll no doubt see more such acts of appeasement before long.