Monday, December 24, 2007

The State Department's Unilateral Foreign Policy

Until a few weeks ago, I was under the misapprehension that our State Dept. existed to further the foreign policy of the Executive Branch. The first major clue as to how wrong I was came with the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Through the disingenuous use of labels and some incredible sleight of hand in their very selective choice of inferences – see here - three State Department personnel who oversaw the writing of that NIE managed to turn what should have been an objective intelligence assessment into a policy document undercutting the President by positing:

1) Iran’s current nuclear enrichment is part of a "civilian" program - despite the fact that Iran has no possible use for the fuel its enriching;

2) Iran’s theocracy is rational by western standards; and

3) The use of force or threat of the same is not necessary to effect Iran’s decision making process. Talks with Iran, if accompanied by other diplomatic measures, is the appropriate way to proceed.

It was a successful coup that portrayed Iran as far less of a threat than that country actually is. And now we have our State Department acting similarly to portray the Iranian theocracy’s actions as peaceful and cooperative as regards Iraq. This is in contradiction of the facts on the ground. The only possible explanation is that this is an attempt to set the stage for unilateral talks with Iran.

What Iran has been doing for some time now is to duplicate in Iraq the same basic game plan that Iran has followed in Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere. Iran develops a group of proxies - trains them, arms them, funds them - and then turns them loose to cause as much murder and mayhem as possible in the host country. Based on the models in Lebanon and Gaza, it can be assessed that the ultimate goal of Iran is to have their proxies become a political and military force in the host country beholden to Iran. Iran’s actions have been incredibly destabilizing – and deadly - in Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East. There is a phrase that appropriately describes Iran's actions in Iraq, though it does not appear to be in the State Dept. lexicon. That phrase is "acts of war."

According to General Petraeus in an interview on December 17, 2007:

. . . Q: Another factor that has seriously threatened the formation of a stable and secure Iraq is Iran. Lately Tehran seems to have decreased its interference in Iraq. Would you agree to that assessment?

P: There may be Iranian reduction in exporting violence to Iraq. I say "may" because it really is a may. There is not an apparent reduction in training because we have detained individuals in recent months and weeks who recently received training in Iran as late as late October or early November. . .

And from our Dept. of Defense assessment issued earlier this month:

. . . There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi’a militias in Iraq. Tehran’s support for Shi’a militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress towards stabilization. The Iranian Islamic Revolu-tionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) provides many of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups, to include Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM). Although Sadr’s late August 2007 freeze on JAM activity is still in effect, some elements continue to attack Coalition forces with Iranian weapons. The GoI and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq have made it clear to the Iranian Government that IRGC-QF’s lethal activities must cease.

But none of this is true according to the senior State Department official on Iraq, David Satterfield. He is claiming as fact the very dubious inference that Iran’s mullaocracy has somehow decided to put the hold on its deadly meddling in Iraq.

The Iranian government has decided "at the most senior levels" to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, a move reflected in a sharp decrease in sophisticated roadside bomb attacks over the past several months, according to the State Department's top official on Iraq.

Tehran's decision does not necessarily mean the flow of those weapons from Iran has stopped, but the decline in their use and in overall attacks "has to be attributed to an Iranian policy decision," David M. Satterfield, Iraq coordinator and senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said in an interview.

. . . Satterfield agreed that Iran was not acting out of "altruism" but rather from "alarm at what was being done by the groups they were backing in terms of their own long-term interests."

At a news conference Friday, Rice sidestepped an opportunity to criticize Iran. The United States, she said, remains "open to better relations" with Iran, adding, "We don't have permanent enemies."

. . . But "we have seen such a consistent and sustained diminution in certain kinds of violence by certain kinds of folks that we can't explain it solely" by internal factors in Iraq, Satterfield said. "If you add those all together, your calculus doesn't come out unless you also add in that the Iranians at a command level must have said or done something, as well."

He declined to discuss specific evidence. "We are confident that decisions involving the strategy pursued by the IRGC are made at the most senior levels of the Iranian government," Satterfield said, referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The administration has used that formulation in the past to insist that IRGC training and supplies for militias in Iraq were ordered by Tehran's highest clerical leaders.

Read the article here. As to Sec. of State Rice's statement that we have "no permanent enemies," that's a great soundbite, but highly naive. The Iranian theocracy defines the core of its legitimacy by its enmity to the U.S., and the theocracy has been at war with the U.S. since its inception in 1979. While wanting better relations with Iran is laudable, ignoring the history of our relations with Iran's theocracy will do absolutely nothing to advance those relations.

As mentioned in this blog previously, that decline in Iranian sponsored mayhem and murder can be attributed to the effects of the surge, including the targeting of IRGC agents inside Iraq, the targeting of Iran's "special groups" proxies, and the interdiction of Iran's supply channels. See this report by Bill Roggio specifically addressing this issue. All of that is ignored by our State Department who prefer, solely on the basis of a dubious inference, to paint Iran’s mullaocracy as peaceful and cooperative.

This is suicidal insanity. Whether we should hold unilateral talks with Iran is open to legitimate debate. But we have no chance of dealing with Iran, whether in such talks or by any other means, if our State Department is falsely portraying Iran's actions and intentions. It is akin to justifying the handling of rattle snakes by simply asserting that they are really not dangerous. If one wants to survive an encounter with such a snake, the first thing that must happen is to approach it with the full acknowledgment of its nature.

We now have multiple people at the highest level's of the State Department who have acted to utterly minimize the very real threat posed by Iran. The only conceivable purpose for these acts is to set the stage for unilateral talks. Our State Department is advancing its own unilateral foreign policy agenda. The first step to dealing effectively with Iran is to reign in an out-of-control State Department.

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