Monday, June 9, 2008

Eye On Iran

It pays to always keep one eye on Iran - and this is an update of observations of late. Iran's theocracy is continuing its efforts to bring mayhem and death throughout the Middle East. Recent reports show Iran is behind the civil war in Yemen. In Iraq, Iran's proxies are feeling the heat as Iraqi and U.S. operational tempo has accelerated. Supreme Guide Ali Khameini and his sidekick, Ahmedinejad are waging an almost humorous propaganda offensive to sabotage the SOFA agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and Iraq. Lastly, Michael Ledeen writes a thought-provoking article on the nature of Iran's theocracy and the inexcusability of our failure to squarely meet this existential evil.

In the post Next Moves In An Existential Chess Match, I listed many of the ongoing acts of mayhem, war and destruction being committed by Iran's theocracy as it seeks to export its revolution throughout the Middle East and the world. To add to that list is Iran's role in Yemen. This from the Washington Post:

The boom of explosions swept across the high-walled compounds and minarets of this ancient Arab capital before dawn one day last week, as Shiite rebels battled for control of a mountain overlooking the city and its airport. . . .

"I believe this war is a proxy war," Yemeni lawmaker Ahmed Saif Hashed said in Sanaa, where civilians of the same Shiite sect as the rebels say they are facing increasing detentions, beatings and surveillance.

The rebellion is being mounted by Yemen's Hashemite Shiites, who ruled the country for more than a 1,000 years until an alliance of Shiite and Sunni military officers deposed them in 1962. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, belongs to the country's larger Shiite community, known as the Zaidis.

Giving the conflict a sectarian cast, his forces have been joined by Sunni tribesmen and extremists in battling the Hashemite rebels, whom the government says are supported by Iran. The rebels say they want only their share of development, resources and power.

"I think there is kind of a settling of accounts here against Iran," Hashed said.

This week, 22 clerics in Saudi Arabia published a statement equating the Hashemite rebels with the Shiite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon. "If they have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis," the clerics said, citing Iran and Iraq. "They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilize security in Muslim countries . . . such as Yemen."

Last year, Yemen's defense minister published what was widely interpreted as a fatwa, or binding religious decree, sanctioning Sunnis to use force against the northern Shiite rebels. The largely impoverished nation of 23 million is majority Sunni. . . .

Read the entire article. This is wholly in keeping with the pronouncement of Sec. Def. Gates a few months ago, that "[e]verywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents - Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. . . ."

Iran's proxy forces are under extreme pressure in Iraq of late. The pace of U.S. and Iraqi attacks against Iran's proxy forces in Iraq have accelerated with the capitulation of Sadr's two main bases in Basra and Sadr City.

As to Iran's increasing agitation over the SOFA agreement, first some background. If you have not read Col. H.R. McMaster's speech on Iraq and his comments on Iranian actions in Iraq, you will find it here. Some of the highlights include:

When I traveled through the south on a last couple of visits, what I heard – and this is again on the point of militias being increasingly discredited, and this is from Iraqi Shiite leaders who were saying things like Iran is the true occupier of Iraq. They would say jokingly that the Iranians are now all Iraqi nationalists, which is a thinly-veiled swipe at some of the militias in some of these areas.

. . . In the case of what Iran is doing in Iraq, it is so damn obvious to anybody who wants to look into it, I think, that is drop the word “alleged” and say what they’re doing, which is, we know for a fact organizing and directing operations against the government of Iraq and against our forces – the government of Iraq forces and our forces – we know they have done that, certainly in the past. We know that they are supplying them with weapons and the most effective weapons that they used to attack the Iraqi people and our forces and these include the long-range high payload rockets that have been coming in from Iraq as well as the explosively formed projectile roadside bombs that come from Iran.

We know that they have trained forces in the employment of these munitions - and in pretty large numbers. . . .

We know for a fact that they have directed assassination operations. . . .

We know that they ostensibly have supported this government but have armed, equipped and trained a militia that has been attacking the very government they ostensibly support. And this is not just something in Basra, this is last year. This is in Nasariyah, this is Samwa, this is in Diwaniyahm, this is in Amarah and it was in Karbala in August 26th and 27th of last year. And now again in Basra. . . .

Iran is doing all that it can to turn Iraq into Lebanon - both to export its revolution (the raison d'etre of the theocracy) and to end the single biggest threat to Iran's theocracy - a Shia dominated with real democracy on its boder that follows the traditional Shia school of quietism. The granite wall standing in between Iran and its goal to dominate Iraq is the U.S. military. Thus Iran is conducting propaganda offensive aimed at insuring that Iraq does not consumate a SOFA agreement. A SOFA agreement would establish the legal framework for the U.S. to maintain forces in Iraq after the end of the UN mandate in January. This from the WaPo today:

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a journalist for the Tehran-based magazine Shahrvand-e Emrooz (Today's Citizen), said Iran is trying to sabotage the U.S.-Iraqi agreement. "The Iranian authorities want this pact not to be signed and to fail to prevent Iraq from turning into a fortress for anti-Iranian forces."

The propaganda offensive and "carrots" Iran's Supreme Guide Khameini and his sidekick, Ahmedinejad, are dangling are none too subtle. Indeed, it is almost as if they are trying out for open mike night at a comedy club. The Washington Post is reporting that Iran is offering Iraq a military cooperation agreement as an alternative to the American presence. One would be hard pressed to imagine non-Sadrist Iraqis, facing no military threat other than from their east, containing their laughter over that Trojan horse. And there are several other side busters.

Mahmoud the Mouth has stated that the SOFA agreement is meant "to turn the Iraqis into American slaves." That is projection on a scale that our own far left ought to recognize. And from Supreme Guide, a little more honesty, at least - "Occupiers who interfere in Iraq's affairs through their military and security might ... are [Iraq's] main problems. . . . That a foreign element gradually interferes in all Iraqi affairs and expands its domination on all aspects of life is the main obstacle in the way of progress and prosperity of the Iraqi nation." Now that is honesty. I am sure many a non-Sadrist in Iraq was nodding their head at that one also, just not in agreement with Khamenei's identification of whom the "occupier" might be.

Lastly, Michael Ledeen wrote a very thoughtful article, "Iran and the Problem of Evil" in the WSJ several days ago. He believes, as do I, that Iran's theocracy is the true and modern embodiement of evil, no different in threat or determination than the Nazis and other murderous movements of the twentieth century that saw murder, mayhem, war and genocide as acceptable tactics to attain their end. This from Michael Ledeen:

Ever since World War II, we have been driven by a passionate desire to understand how mass genocide, terror states and global war came about – and how we can prevent them in the future.

Above all, we have sought answers to several basic questions: Why did the West fail to see the coming of the catastrophe? Why were there so few efforts to thwart the fascist tide, and why did virtually all Western leaders, and so many Western intellectuals, treat the fascists as if they were normal political leaders, instead of the virulent revolutionaries they really were? Why did the main designated victims – the Jews – similarly fail to recognize the magnitude of their impending doom? Why was resistance so rare?

Most eventually accepted a twofold "explanation": the uniqueness of the evil, and the lack of historical precedent for it. Italy and Germany were two of the most civilized and cultured nations in the world. It was difficult to appreciate that a great evil had become paramount in the countries that had produced Kant, Beethoven, Dante and Rossini.

How could Western leaders, let alone the victims, be blamed for failing to see something that was almost totally new – systematic mass murder on a vast scale, and a threat to civilization itself? Never before had there been such an organized campaign to destroy an entire "race," and it was therefore almost impossible to see it coming, or even to recognize it as it got under way.

The failure to understand what was happening took a well-known form: a systematic refusal to view our enemies plain. Hitler's rants, whether in "Mein Kampf" or at Nazi Party rallies, were often downplayed as "politics," a way of maintaining popular support. They were rarely taken seriously as solemn promises he fully intended to fulfill. Mussolini's call for the creation of a new Italian Empire, and his later alliance with Hitler, were often downplayed as mere bluster, or even excused on the grounds that, since other European countries had overseas territories, why not Italy?

Some scholars broadened the analysis to include other evil regimes, such as Stalin's Russia, which also systematically murdered millions of people and whose ambitions similarly threatened the West. Just as with fascism, most contemporaries found it nearly impossible to believe that the Gulag Archipelago was what it was. And just as with fascism, we studied it so that the next time we would see evil early enough to prevent it from threatening us again.

By now, there is very little we do not know about such regimes, and such movements. . . .

Yet they are with us again, and we are acting as we did in the last century. The world is simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes – from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahhabis – who swear to destroy us and others like us. Like their 20th-century predecessors, they openly proclaim their intentions, and carry them out whenever and wherever they can. Like our own 20th-century predecessors, we rarely take them seriously or act accordingly. More often than not, we downplay the consequences of their words, as if they were some Islamic or Arab version of "politics," intended for internal consumption, and designed to accomplish domestic objectives.

Clearly, the explanations we gave for our failure to act in the last century were wrong. The rise of messianic mass movements is not new, and there is very little we do not know about them. Nor is there any excuse for us to be surprised at the success of evil leaders, even in countries with long histories and great cultural and political accomplishments. We know all about that. So we need to ask the old questions again. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? Why do we treat them as if they were normal political phenomena, as Western leaders do when they embrace negotiations as the best course of action?

No doubt there are many reasons. One is the deep-seated belief that all people are basically the same, and all are basically good. Most human history, above all the history of the last century, points in the opposite direction. But it is unpleasant to accept the fact that many people are evil, and entire cultures, even the finest, can fall prey to evil leaders and march in lockstep to their commands. Much of contemporary Western culture is deeply committed to a belief in the goodness of all mankind; we are reluctant to abandon that reassuring article of faith. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we prefer to pursue the path of reasonableness, even with enemies whose thoroughly unreasonable fanaticism is manifest.

. . . None of the democracies adequately prepared for war before it was unleashed on them in the 1940s. None was prepared for the terror assault of the 21st century. The nature of Western politics makes it very difficult for national leaders – even those rare men and women who see what is happening and want to act – to take timely, prudent measures before war is upon them. Leaders like Winston Churchill are relegated to the opposition until the battle is unavoidable. . . .

Then, as now, the initiative lies with the enemies of the West. Even today, when we are engaged on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little apparent recognition that we are under attack by a familiar sort of enemy, and great reluctance to act accordingly. This time, ignorance cannot be claimed as an excuse. If we are defeated, it will be because of failure of will, not lack of understanding. As, indeed, was almost the case with our near-defeat in the 1940s.

Read the entire article. We have to deal with Iran's theocracy. It is a true force for evil in the world. Doing so today will likely cost us. Doing so tomorrow will only cost us more, and more dearly Time is our enemy while Iran is the enemy of civilization.

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