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Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2003 / 15 Elul, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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You can't make peace until the war is won | Many of us who have admired President Bush for his amazingly good instincts in foreign policy are now afraid that he has lost his compass. In part, this may be due to political considerations. He may think that it's time for a pause in the war against the terror masters, and we should therefore take a moment for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for diplomatic reason with Israel and the Palestinians. In all likelihood he is hearing that he suffered politically from the military exertions in the first two campaigns of the war, and that the American people, along with public opinion in traditionally allied countries, want a breather.

He has also been told — indeed we have all been told, by everyone from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice — that the Middle East has indeed been transformed by the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that we can now advance the cause of freedom by less-violent means. Thus, Powell is stronger and Rumsfeld is weaker, we are turning to the U.N. to bless our peacemaking efforts, and even cooing in the direction of La France.

There is a certain logic to this view, but only if you ignore the facts on the ground. As Amir Taheri has well explained, the fall of the Taliban and the liberation of Iraq have indeed had a profound effect on the rest of the region, but it is not yet a fait accompli. It is a great start but not yet a great accomplishment. The same potential existed at the end of the Gulf War, but we threw it away by abandoning the Iraqi people and those others in the region who dreamed of newfound freedom, in the name of good diplomacy and sweet reasonableness. We can do it again, by making the same mistakes George W.'s father and his current secretary of state made in 1991: stopping too soon, and failing to support our friends and defeating our enemies.

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President Bush has said from the beginning that this is a broad war, and we will have to fight several enemies with several strategies. Yet listening to his speech Sunday night, one did not hear much of this. One heard about Iraq, with a few throwaway lines about Afghanistan. That suggests a narrowing of the administration's vision, and it is a very dangerous phenomenon, because there are still several regional enemies — with potent allies within Iraq — who know that the war is not yet over, and they are still fighting to win. We have seen those enemies at work in Iraq in recent weeks: big-time bombings of the Jordanian embassy and U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, and the assassination of Ayatollah Hakim in Najaf, outside the shrine of Ali.

Our response to these assaults has been unsatisfactory. Instead of empowering Iraqis of proven democratic conviction and pro-American action over more than a decade, we turned over at least part of security in Najaf to the so-called Badr brigades, who were trained in Iran by our enemies. Some of the Badr fighters are working for the mullahs rather than for a free Iraq, and the Iraqi people know that. Our willingness to strengthen our enemies sends a chilling message to Iraqis hoping for a purge of their oppressors (why has there still been no Nuremberg trial for Saddam's henchmen?) and an active campaign against the thousands of terrorists entering Iraq from Iran.

The lack of action against the Iranian-backed terror campaign is all the more perplexing since the facts are widely accepted. Sunday's Washington Post caught up with an excellent article detailing plans by al Qaeda, before the liberation of Iraq, to launch a terror war against us in Iraq. This reportage is doubly encouraging. First, since it depends on governmental sources, it means that analysts in the executive branch are beginning to understand the central role of Iran in the events in Iraq. And second, it helps the journalistic community catch up with events. Perhaps we will hear more about the Iranian campaign (and, in time, about the Syrian and Saudi support for the terrorists) than about the presumed vast Baathist underground, operating on its own against Coalition forces and NGOs. There are certainly Baathists at work in Iraq, but a good deal of their potency depends on the mullahs.

Which brings us back to the Hakim assassination, which was an event of considerable importance. People who grew up with Hakim, and remained in contact with him during his years in Iranian exile, speak of a man who knew he was under house arrest in a foreign country, who hated the mullahcracy, and who swore that, if he ever had the chance, he would help Iraq resist the forces of the Islamic Republic. He may have gulled the mullahs while he was in Iran, but they recognized an enemy when they saw one, and eliminated him as quickly as they could. As in the case of the Ayatollah Khoei, who was killed at war's end in Najaf, the vulnerability of moderate Shiite clerics to jihadists is terrible for the morale of religious leaders we should be supporting and protecting.

Instead of this sensible policy, we are piously pronouncing our evenhandedness. Our top people in Iraq constantly repeat their official mantra: "We don't play favorites." Thus, while Iran and Saudi Arabia are pouring millions of dollars into the country through a network of Shiite philanthropic organizations, our allies get little or nothing. The anti-American religious organizations are rolling in cash, and they buy support with it, while our friends go begging. This leads ordinary Iraqis to conclude that we either don't know our friends from our enemies, or we don't care about our friends. Either answer is bad for morale.

But none of this is as alarming to our prospects for winning the war by transforming the Middle East, as our recourse to the United Nations. Whatever our diplomats may think, this gambit is viewed as a sign of weakness and fecklessnss all over the region. It is viewed as a deliberate dilution of our power and a first step toward disengagement. It terrifies our allies, and encourages our enemies. You can be sure that the tyrants in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh are now purring with pleasure, telling themselves that they were right all along about the Americans: no stomach for a long, tough fight. Keep killing them, and they will go home.

I have a strong premonition of new attacks against us, at home and abroad. The Osamas and the Mughniyahs feel vindicated, and smell blood. They will now go all-out to press what they see as their advantage.

As for the problem so many in the administration believe is the central issue in the Middle East (the peace process, whatever its current label), recent events should have demonstrated that we should devote our energies to winning the war against the terror masters, and not waste time and effort trying to unscrew the unscrutable. You can't make peace until the war is won. Never could, never will.

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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.


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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.
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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
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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?
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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
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09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
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09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
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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?
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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
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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
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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