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Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2004 / 4 Shevat, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy | In the months leading up to the liberation of Iraq, I wrote that our great national debate was on the wrong subject, because we were obsessively focused on Iraq alone, rather than on the group of countries that sponsored terrorism. I warned that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria were plotting with Saddam Hussein to organize a combination of terrorist actions and political uprisings to drive us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I insisted that Iran was the keystone of the terror network — as the State Department had documented for many years — and was therefore the logical first target in our response to the Axis of Evil.

We are still engaged in that misleading debate. We are still focused on Iraq alone, although the president continues to say that the war involves a group of countries that support a network of terror organizations.

Bad analysis leads inevitably to bad policy, and our narrow focus on Iraq costs lives. Widespread terrorism and political demonstrations are not organized solely, or even primarily, by the shattered remnants of Saddam's Baathist regime, nor by the splintered pieces of al Qaeda. The war against us in Iraq and Afghanistan is an existential struggle guided, funded, and armed by tyrannical regimes in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, because they are convinced — rightly enough — that if we succeed, they are doomed to fall in a regional democratic revolution. Their plan, modeled on the strategy that drove us out of Lebanon in the 1980s, was prepared long before we attacked.

They made no secret of their intentions. Prior to the liberation, Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly called for a "Lebanon strategy," and in August, the head of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called for the entire Muslim world to join in a jihad against Americans in Iraq. Throughout, Iranian leaders and Saudi clerics have denounced the American actions in Iraq and joined the call for jihad.

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The cooperative strategy evidently included the secret transfer of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to neighboring countries. According to a recent statement by Nizar Nayouf, a brave Syrian journalist who was arrested and tortured for a decade after criticizing Hafez al Assad's brutalities, Iraqi WMDs were hidden in three primary locations in Syria. He has provided maps of the secret locations, which he says came from dissident elements at high levels of the Syrian military and intelligence services. (He has also claimed that billions of dollars from Saddam's personal stash were smuggled into Syrian and Lebanese banks, and these claims have been substantially verified). And last October, the CIA was indirectly approached by a man who claimed to have carried a quantity of enriched uranium from Iraq to Iran four years ago. He offered to take American inspectors to the secret underground laboratory from which the uranium was taken, but the CIA declined the offer. Someone might ask David Kay why, after initial enthusiasm, he changed his mind and decided not to look.

Shortly after the dreadful earthquake in Bam, Iran, the Syrians pretended to deliver emergency aid, but actually loaded their transport planes with Iranian money and weapons for Hezbollah, to be used against us in Iraq and against Israel from bases in Syrian-occupied south Lebanon. And earlier this month, evidence was presented in an Israeli court that showed that the Iranian regime routinely transfers large sums of money through puppet organizations into Syrian and Palestinian banks. The money is then rerouted to Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other terror groups. Another case of Iranian money moving through Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority to terror groups was announced on January 15 by Israeli security officials in Nablus, where three brothers involved in the scheme had recently been arrested.

Last November, Saddam's top missile expert, Modhr Sadeq-Saba, ran from Iraq to Iran, which is actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and intermediate-range delivery systems. And American officials on the ground in Iraq have seen abundant evidence of Iranian support for terrorist operations. The Associated Press reported on January 19 that "U.S. soldiers found a homemade bomb that they believe was left inside an unfinished house by a group of Iranians in Samarra." When Mujahid Ghul, the top al Qaeda thug in Iraq, was arrested last Friday, it was further confirmation of Iran's role. Ghul reported directly to Zarkawi, who has long operated out of Tehran (abundant evidence of which has been publicly presented in both German and Italian court proceedings against other members of Zarkawi's gang).

Meanwhile, the menace to the free world grows. Saudi Arabia is reportedly seeking nuclear weapons, and the AP tells us (January 20) that "Iran has reneged on a promise to fully suspend uranium enrichment."

In short, while Iraq is the current battlefield, the real war extends far beyond its borders, and we will remain under attack in Iraq so long as the tyrannical regimes in Damascus, Riyadh, and Tehran are left free to kill us and the embattled Iraqis. There is more at stake than human casualties, for it is unreasonable to expect Iraqi Shiite leaders to fully cooperate with Coalition forces until and unless they see that we are fighting the jihadists and protecting Iraqis from them. If you were the Ayatollah Sistani, and saw that the Iranians had arranged for the murder of two of your most distinguished colleagues (Ayatollahs Khoi and Hakim), would you not cater to Iranian desires in the political debates in Baghdad, especially if the Iranians promised (as I have been told) millions of dollars for your religious community? If you saw thousands of Iranian-sponsored operatives all over your country, and listened to more than a dozen Iranian-operated radio and television stations in Iraq, while the Americans had yet to provide a single effective channel for the country, would you not take out insurance and call for a quick transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis? Jerry Bremer is a very convincing man, but he is leaving in a few months, and Sistani and the others will have to deal with murderous mullahs and ambitious Syrian Baathists next door.

The terror masters do not limit their jihad to Iraq. Late last month, the Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami published an open call to the Egyptian people to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak, whom the paper — which speaks for "Supreme Leader" Ali Khamenei — called "the butcher of Cairo." Turkish authorities captured one of the organizers of the suicide bombings in Istanbul last December as he was trying to cross the border into Iran, and it is now generally acknowledged that top al Qaeda figures, including bin Laden, Zawahiri, and the usual Zarkawi, have long stayed in and operated from Iranian territory.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush promised to relentlessly pursue the war against terror. He has proven to be a man of his word, and the Saudis, Syrians, and Iranians are no doubt praying for his defeat in November. This suspicion was reinforced over the weekend in Davos, where Senator Joe Biden was granted a conversation with the Iranian foreign minister, while Senator Elizabeth Dole had earlier been told to stay out of Iran, even though she was carrying medicine and food for earthquake victims and Biden had received tens of thousands of dollars from a pro-Iranian lobby. They are happy to talk to a Democrat, but locked out a Republican.

The mullahs know their best chance for survival is to defeat us in Iraq before we vigorously support their own people against them. Both our national interest and our national values demand that we give that support — political support, not further military action — now, before Iraq gets much worse.

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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.


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