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Jewish World Review May 6, 2003 / 4 Iyar, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list | As everyone knows by now - the press loves to report catfights - Secretary of State Powell clawed Newt Gingrich on Sunday, accusing the former Speaker of the House of having taken a shot at him but missing, and hitting the president. Powell endorsed Deputy Secretary Armitage's nasty snarl at Gingrich, and made it clear he'd approved it.

If only he were as tough with our nation's enemies as he is with his domestic critics! Tim Russert asked him what he intended to do about Iran, which, as Russert observed, had once again topped the State Department's terrorist list, and fully met all the president's conditions for the sort of nation we would "confront." Powell replied:

"We have made it clear to Iran that they cannot expect a better relationship with the United States or to be included more fully in the international community as long as they continue to support terrorism and as long as they continue to move in a direction with their nuclear development programs that suggests they are still interested in developing a nuclear bomb."

But Iran isn't looking for "a better relationship" with us on such terms. They think we're a terrible evil force, a great Satan, and they have just sent thousands of terrorists into Iraq to kill us, they have organized Iraqi Shiites to demonstrate against us, and they are speeding ahead on their program to develop a nuclear weapon.

Then Powell alluded to the hatred of the regime by the young people of the country. "We believe," he said, there are ways to communicate with the people of Iran to convince them that the policies their leaders have been following have been inappropriate."

But it's quite unnecessary to do that. The people of Iran are already fully convinced that the regime stinks, and they are already desperate to be rid of it. Just last week, a Le Monde reporter went around Tehran asking people what they thought of the American occupation of Iraq. The most common answer was "Why have they stopped there? Why don't they send some marines over here to liberate us?"

Then comes the grand finale: "But there are opportunities for cooperation with respect to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is a threat to Iran, to everyone else. They should not allow any al Qaeda activity to take place in Iran; and if there are al Qaeda individuals in Iran, they should be turned over to people who know how to deal with al Qaeda individuals."

It's hard to parse, I know. Just why Powell thinks al Qaeda is a threat to Iran is beyond me, given that the two have been cooperating for many years, and Iran served as a haven for al Qaeda terrorists (probably including bin Laden himself - almost certainly for members of his family) after we attacked Afghanistan. Powell knows all about this, and the most charitable decryption of his remark to Russert is that he took the opportunity to "send a message" to the mullahs back in Tehran, warning them that they'd better stop their work with the terrorists.

It's all of a piece with his trip to Syria, where he says he explained to Bashar Assad that things have changed in the Middle East, and Syria would do well to get with the program. Assad apparently gave Powell some reason to hope that Syria would take some steps to calm our nerves, and let's pray something good comes of it. But these diplomatic demarches - as Gingrich said, perhaps with excessive exuberance - are really not what the Middle East needs. (It needs a democratic revolution.) This is the time to press ahead, and confront the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus.

Instead of dancing around the issue, Powell should have thought of Iran and Syria as even worse than Newt Gingrich, and expressed himself with the same clarity he devoted to the Speaker. He might have said, "Well, Tim, the president has said that Iraq was just one more battle in a long war, and we will certainly have to confront Iran, probably sooner rather than later, because it's clear they are committed to fight us in Iraq. We can do that politically and economically, rather than militarily, but there is no question that the Iranian regime is an enemy of ours, as the president has made clear. And if President Assad listened carefully to my words in Damascus, he'd have heard a similar message: You'd better change if you can, because otherwise there's going to be real trouble."

One last point: Powell seems to believe that his words, and those of Armitage, are always in tune with what the president believes. But on at least two recent occasions, Armitage directly contradicted the president. The first was when the president announced we would not have bilateral talks with North Korea. Armitage quickly said we would welcome them. And the second was when Armitage stated (and was pleased to confirm the statement was intentional, not a slip of the mind) that Iran "is a democracy," even though the president had repeatedly condemned Tehran's tyrannical regime.

Maybe the president changed his mind, and decided that Armitage's versions were better than his own. But that remains to be demonstrated, and, in any case, is not what Powell suggested. Meanwhile, it would serve everyone's interest if serious policy matters were debated seriously, and not reduced to big egos scoring debating points against one another in public. We're at war, these are big issues, and they warrant mature debate.

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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.


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