Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Myths Of The Left - Iraq Has Increased Terrorism Worldwide and Made Iran Stronger

We have heard for years the arguments that the American invasion of Iraq has only increased worldwide jihadi recruitment and, as repeated most recently by Obama, that Iran is stronger today because of the "failed policies of Bush and McCain." But a look at both arguments in light of today's situation shows both to be demonstrably false.


A long favored claim of the left is that the Bush administration's war on terror and its invasion of Iraq has increased jihadi recruitment world wide. Human nature being what it is, that was probably true two years ago. One would expect that those with jihadi sympathies were energized by the 9-11 attack and then responded to bin Laden's calls when the U.S. fought back. Indeed, two years ago, it appeared that they were backing a "winning horse," to use bin Laden's words. But this is not 2006.

As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker noted in their recent Congressional testimony, both believe that the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq and the successful rejection of al Qaeda by the Sunni Awakening Movements are playing a signficant role in discrediting jihadism world-wide. While its impossible to verify that with the certainty of a Pew poll, the downward trajectory of jihadi attacks world wide strongly supports their argument. This from Reuters:

A study released on Wednesday reports a decline in fatal attacks of terrorism worldwide and says U.S. think-tank data showing sharp increases were distorted due to the inclusion of killings in Iraq.

"Even if the Iraq 'terrorism' data are included, there has still been a substantial decline in the global terrorism toll," said the 2007 Human Security Brief, an annual report funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Britain.

For example, global terrorism fatalities declined by 40 percent between July and September 2007, driven by a 55 percent decline in the "terrorism" death toll in Iraq after the so-called surge of new U.S. troops and a cease-fire by the Shi'ite militant Mehdi Army, the brief said. . . .

Read the entire article.

The second myth of the left is that Iran has been made stronger by the Bush administration's prosecution of the war on terror. That was Obama's message a few days ago. Certainly, as things stood in December, 2006, that was correct. Iran indirectly benefited from having the U.S. remove two implacable enemies, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, from its borders. Further, Iran had deeply invested in support for its creations, the Mahdi Army of Sadr and the Badr Brigades of SICI. As Michael Ledeen explained in an article written during the dark days of 2006, Iran was on the cusp of "Lebanizing" Iraq as the U.S. withdrew.

But then something happened on the way to the mosque. The President rolled the dice with the surge and all has been changed - Iran's incredibly bloody proxy war in Iraq has been exposed, the SICI changed its loyalties from Iran to Iraq's traditionalist Grand Ayatollah, Ali Sistani, and now Sadr's militia has been decimated. With the fall of both Basra and Sadr City, Iran's proxy is left without a base.

The greatest threat to Iran today comes from a democratic Iraq on its border that honors the traditional Shia practice of quietism - i.e., maintaining a wall between mosque and state, to put it in American terms. Iran is a deeply troubled country of 60 million people held under the rule of a medieval theocracy by ever greater repression. The theocracy itself is illegitimate when looked at in terms of a millenium of apolitical Shia tradition - a tradition shredded in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini and his velyat-e-faqi, a new philosophy justifying and requiring theocratic rule. And indeed, the most popular religious figure in both Iraq and Iran is now Grand Ayatolah Ali Sistani, an adherent to the quietist school. This is deeply problematic for Iran. As Reuel Marc Gerecht explained recently:

Although conscious of the fleeting loyalty of Iraqi Shiites who once took refuge in Iran from the wrath of Saddam Hussein and are now blessed with ever-larger Iraqi oil revenues, Tehran probably didn't anticipate how quickly Shiite sentiment in Iraq could change. The Iranians didn't see the rapid rise of the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has become the most popular ayatollah in Iran as well as the most powerful cleric in Iraq. Iranian and Iraqi clerical ties are old, complicated, intensely personal, and often quite affectionate--all of which now plays powerfully against the Iranian ruling elite's cynical politics in Mesopotamia.

It is a very good bet that Sistani and other prominent Iraqi clerics have remonstrated vociferously with their Iranian interlocutors in Qom against Iranian-fed violence among Iraqi Shiites. We can see the Iranian side of this in former president Mohammad Khatami's accusing [Iran's Supreme Guide] Khamenei virtually by name of spilling Shiite blood in Iraq and turning Iran's Islamic revolutionary message into a call for violence and upheaval beyond its borders. Khatami's recent speech at Gilan University is an astonishing sermon from a man not known for boldness.

Read the entire article. Since 2003, Iran has won tactical victories in both Gaza and, just days ago, Lebanon. But in Iraq, the theocracy of Iran is facing a mortal threat to its legitimacy and an enticing example of democracy to its deeply troubled populace that, not a decade ago, appeared on the edge of a counter-revolution. Obama's claim that Iran is stronger now could not be more false. Indeed, unless the U.S. leaves Iraq and allows the Iranians to resume their Lebanization of Iraq - something that would happen if troops are withdrawn too soon, as General Petraeus noted days ago in written testimony to the Senate - Iran's theocracy is far more threatened by their peaceful neighbor than by Saddam Hussein or the Taliban. Obama and the left need to find new arguments. The decision to invade Iraq may yet achieve its initial promises of reducing terrorism and provide a dangerous example of a Muslim democracy both in the heart of the Middle East and on the border of Iran.


Robert said...

Elegant and accurate analysis. Linked on today's Seraphic Secret

GW said...

Thank you for the kind words and the link.

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here:

Anonymous said...

Hogwash. This is one of my least favorite things about republicans. Their willingness to use the most delusional leftist tactics to make their point seem logical. Conservatives can't even remain relevant if defending past mistakes by republicans becomes more important than doing a better job tomorrow than you did yesterday. Yes, the war in Iraq gave jihadis in the region something concrete to do, something to focus on, and thus gave the global jihad something to focus on. You act as if since it's no longer 2006, 2006 didn't happen. And can we please get over the fact that we invaded Iraq when in hindsight, we shouldn't have? Iran has profited immensely from our being mired in this fiasco. I'm no democrat, we came and we should stay. But only an idiot would try to claim that this hasn't been an orgy of bungling from the beginning. Can we discard the torturous exercise of "logic" and start dealing with reality? Otherwise, we'll still be trying to make this out to be Bill Clinton's fault somehow while Iran becomes a nuclear power with more friends in the region than we will ever have.

GW said...


Your reply is vehement but incoherent. I have no idea what I have written in this post to which you object. Perhaps if you could be more specific, I'd be more than happy to argue the facts and reasonable inferences.

Do you want to declare the Iraq war a failure because of what occurred in 2006 irrespective of the growing mass of evidence that America is not only winning there, but it appears to be having a much larger impact. Iraq was certainly a gamble going in. It will only be a mistake if we withdraw before a we have ensconced a stable and sustainable democrcy.

If you think my argument Iran is false state facts. You argue with nothing but rhetorical devices. Your comments are weak and your argument non-existant. Try again please.