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Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2004 / 12 Shevat, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs | To underline one of my favorite themes, notice that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's arrival in Iraq last week was, as usual, welcomed by massive suicide bombings, this time in the north. At least sixty Kurds were killed in Irbil by simultaneous attacks on the two big political parties, and hundreds were injured, some of whom will likely die. This sort of message — you come, we kill you and your allies — is well understood in the Middle East, although not so well back here. Last time he was in Iraq, they tried to kill Wolfowitz, when he was unaccountably put in one of the terrorists' favorite target areas, the al Rasheed hotel in Baghdad.

Anyway, Agence France Presse quoted Mr. Tachlo Khodr Najmeddine, the official spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — the attractively acronymned PUK — as convinced that Iran was involved. "We (the two Kurdish groups) have a common enemy: the terrorists who come from Iran and other countries, and we must face them."

On January 29, our excellent General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said that "al Qaeda's fingerprints have been here in Iraq (for months)." He said that their methods had been evident at least since the suicide attacks against the Italian carabinieri in Nassiriyah last November.

Apparently nobody thought to ask him from which planet the terrorists had entered Iraq, although Mr. Najmeddine had undoubtedly shared his concerns with the leader of Task Force 7. In any event, General Sanchez knows full well where the operations are staged, for he named Abu Musab Zarkawi as the ringleader, and Zarkawi has long worked out of Tehran (and briefly from Baghdad, according to Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom).

Not that Iran limits itself to organizing suicide missions. The pattern is, in fact, distinctly multicultural: They send non-Iranians to blow themselves up, but their own people get easier duty. On February 2, an Iranian and an Afghan were arrested planting bombs in a major oil refinery in Baghdad. And, in darkest Africa: "An Iranian has been arrested by Nigerian police for taking photographs of what they say are strategic buildings in the capital, Abuja." Iranians — including official diplomats — have previously been caught taking pictures of Jewish community centers in London, and the New York City subway system. While Iranians are brilliant moviemakers, it is unlikely that these guys were planning to enter an artistic competition.

These are the gentle souls with whom our diplomats and a handful of their willing handmaidens in Congress wish to "improve relations." One can only imagine the negotiations that have already taken place, the only results of which have been broken Iranian promises regarding al Qaeda terrorists "held" in Iran and concerning the ongoing Iranian nuclear program. The mullahs are not models of consistency. Just the other day, President Mohammed Khatami delivered himself of a line worthy of George Orwell at his finest. "We have reached a deadlock with the Guardians Council regarding the qualifications of candidates" he was quoted by the official news agency, the student news agency and several other media outlets. But a few hours later his office produced the Orwellian masterpiece:

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"In the official and quotable comments of the esteemed president, this sentence and comment does not exist." This sort of inelegant lie should be a warning to anyone who tries to understand Iran through the words of their spokesmen. You have to watch their feet, not their lips. Thus, for example, the pathetic charade over the upcoming elections — a charade that has produced an incredible quantity of misreportage — has been portrayed exactly as the mullahs want: as an important power struggle between "hard liners" and "reformers." The "hard liners" dissed several thousand would-be candidates for the February 20 parliamentary elections, including some sitting "reformers," and many of the parliamentarians have been protesting. On occasion, they have announced their resignations (although they are still there, debating and protesting).

If you ignore the rhetoric and just watch the behavior, you will see that it all signifies nothing, as the Iranian people know full well. Foreign journalists have been baffled by the near-total indifference of the populace to what the journalists see as a really big story, but their bafflement only bespeaks their own lack of understanding. There is no real power struggle, because all effective power is in the hands of the two main thugs: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchman Akhbar Rafsanjani. The others, most decidedly including the esteemed president, do not matter at all. They hold no power, they can do nothing for the oppressed Iranian people, and the people know it. Recent polling in Tehran suggests that less than 15 percent of the electorate plans to go to the polls on election day, and even that number may be high.

The most likely explanation for the passionate protests is quite mundane: In a country reduced to economic misery, where workers are not paid for months on end, a government job is a miracle well worth fighting for. Has no one noticed that some 9,000 people signed up to run for a few hundred seats in the Majlis? Why such an enormous number? Because those are paying jobs, and paying jobs in Iran nowadays are hard to come by.

Despite the cheery words from Foggy Bottom and the eager appeasement from Capitol Hill, the Iranian regime is at war with us. The talk about "improved relations" has a double objective: to delay our support for democratic revolution in Iran, and to discourage the democratic revolutionaries b showing them that even the ferocious Bush administration is seeking a modus vivendi with the regime itself.

Our diplomats have it wrong. Sanchez and Najmeddine are the reliable sources. We will never get a firm grip on Iraq until the regime is changed in Tehran.

Faster, please.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen