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Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2004 / 19 Shevat, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!" | Unless you depend on CNN for information — CNN totally and stunningly transformed the story, as Instapundit informs — by now you have heard of the New York Times story about the discovery of a 17-page letter from Abu Musab al Zarkawi, written from Iraq in the middle of last month to the leaders of al Qaeda. It's an extremely explosive story.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]According to the Times — whose correspondent, Dexter Filkins, saw both the Arabic original and a military translation, and "wrote down large parts of the translation" — the letter is a sort of jihadist primal scream. It says that the jihad against the Americans in Iraq is going badly. The Iraqis are not signing up for martyrdom or jihad, they do not even permit the jihadis to organize their terrorist attacks from local houses, and, worst of all, the Americans are not afraid of the terrorists. With that charming neglect of logic that seems to define much of the radical terrorist "mind," Zarkawi says both that the Americans "are the biggest cowards that God has created," and that "America...has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes."

And he adds, "we can pack up and leave and look for another land, just like what has happened in so many lands of jihad. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases."

If we had a government capable of advancing its case to the world at large, those phrases would be broadcast around the world, because they constitute an admission of defeat by a man in the forefront of the campaign against us in Iraq.

If that were all it said, it would be sensational for most Americans, although certainly not for NRO readers. I pointed out a couple of months ago that the terror masters in Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh were undoubtedly gnashing their teeth, because their grand design for mass slaughter of Americans and bigtime insurrections all over Iraq, had failed. They had expected a bloodbath of epic proportions, and the same sort of "revolutionary" demonstrations that they had used so effectively against us in Lebanon in the 1980s and against the Israelis a decade later. But instead, they have discovered that the Iraqis don't like them (can we all finally put a nail in the coffin of that idiotic "they're all Shiites so they will all work together" myth?), and that the country is, indeed, headed toward democracy. Zarkawi even uses the word, as he gasps, "by God, this is suffocation!"

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But there is more. He says the only chance for victory in Iraq is to provoke a Sunni/Shiite civil war, and the best way to do that is to unleash jihad against the Iraqi Shiites — referred to as "the perverse sects" — expecting that they will blame the Sunnis for it. The civil war would then "awaken the sleepy Sunnis..."

I have said for some time that the strategy of terror masters — above all, the mullahs in Tehran — was to foster civil strife in Iraq. They have been trying very hard to foment Kurdish/Turkamen, Sunni/Shiite and intertribal conflict for at least the past few months. But they greatly underestimated both the savvy of the Iraqis — who have seen the hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers and their al Qaeda allies swarming all over the country, guiding the suicide bombers, organizing the radio and television broadcasts, and intimidating the locals whenever possible — and the slow but deliberate progress of the American armed forces. We aren't nearly as stupid as we look, and, as Zarkawi has discovered to his dismay, we don't run from a fight. At least not so long as this president is confidently in charge.

At the same time they underestimated us and the Iraqis, they overestimated their own capabilities. Iranian leaders have been told for months by their operatives in Iraq that large-scale destruction and major political action was just around the corner. But with every passing week, they realize they've been the victims of their own fantasies.

Although Zarkawi has often operated from Iran — as proven by court documents in Italy and Germany, and by information gathered by both our military and our intelligence folks in Europe and the Middle East — he is not Iranian. He's a Jordanian Palestinian, whose basic mission is the overthrow of the Hashemites in his native land. To judge by this letter, he is not particularly sophisticated about the requirements of the mullahcracy back in Tehran. They cannot "pack up and leave and look for another land," for, as President Bush rightly said in his Sunday session with Tim Russert, they are mortally threatened by the spread of democracy in the Middle East. They will have to play every card they have to drive us out, and, as Zarkawi's letter shows, they realize they are on a tight schedule: Once an Iraqi government is in place in June, "the sons of this land will be the authority...This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts."

So we can expect to see a desperate campaign against us and against the Shiites in the next several weeks.

Meanwhile, back in Iran, the natives are reading the various auguries, wondering what the primal forces of world history have in store for them. On the one hand, the parade of appeasers added a distinguished figure from the country that coined the word itself. Britain's very own Prince Charles sneaked off to Tehran to meet with the impotent President Khatami in yet another effort to make a deal that would save the tyrants from their doom. On the other hand, a handful of parliamentarians, mostly those rejected by the regime and thus denied high status and a guaranteed monthly wage, went to the universities to join in the boycott of the February 20 general elections. Their support is hardly necessary — a government poll in Tehran a week ago produced a truly amazing statistic: More than 90 percent do not intend to vote — but they deserve high marks for personal and political courage. Most Iranians expect that the regime will install a new Stalinism once the elections have been held, leading judicial figures have publicly scolded the parliamentarians to expect punishment, and the regime's thugs have launched a preemptive war on student leaders all over the country.

Nonetheless, demonstrations continue all over the country. Demonstrations in Kerman a couple of weeks ago were so large that the regime was forced to bring in helicopter gunships to mow down the protesters, and the usual thugs were unleashed on student demonstrators in Tehran and Shiraz in the last few days. Despite the calls for appeasement from the State Department and a handful of our elected representatives, the Iranian people can see what is going on in Iraq, and they must take a measure of comfort from it. And the regime was so upset by President Bush's passing reference to Middle Eastern tyrants who feel threatened by the liberation of Iraq (this weekend), that on Monday the official news service reported that Bush had threatened Iran with the same treatment he had delivered to Iraq. I can hear the Iranians sighing, "oh, if only it is true."

We do not need to fight a war to liberate Iran, but we must liberate Iran in order to win the terror war in Iraq. Zarkawi is part of a terror network that is based in Iran, and receives enormous support from the mullahs. If Iran were a free country, Iraq would be immeasurably more peaceful. It is time for Secretary Powell to call an end to the shameful efforts at appeasement, and throw his enormous personal prestige behind the just cause of the Iranian people. He disappointed them last summer, when he proclaimed that we did not wish to get engaged in the Iranian "family squabble." But it is not that; it is part of the life-and-death struggle in which we are now engaged. The longer we wait to support freedom in Iran, the more Americans, Italians, Poles, Japanese, Dutch, Romanians, Spaniards, and others, will be killed in Iraq.

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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.


02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
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