AFTER BAGHDAD, TEHRAN, DAMASCUS, RIYADH
Michael A. Ledeen
New York Sun - March 19, 2003
The battle for Iraq is about to begin, and in all likelihood it will involve us in the broader war about which the president has been speaking ever since September 11, 2001. Once upon a time, it might have been possible to deal with Iraq alone, without having to face the murderous forces of the other terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and Riad, but that time has passed. We have given them more than a year to prepare for this moment, and they are ready.
The Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi tyrants know that if we win a quick victory in Iraq and then establish a free government in Baghdad, their doom is sealed. It would then be only a matter of time before their peoples would demand the same liberation we brought to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, they must do everything in their power to tie us down in Iraq, bleed us on the ground, frustrate our designs, and eventually break our will.
This strategy has been developed in months of frenetic discussions among the political, military, and intelligence chieftains of the key countries, with outside participation from the North Koreans. Our military and intelligence services know that Iran has sent hundreds of suicide bombers into Iraq, along with battle-tested Hezbollah fighters armed with whatever nasty weapons the Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian laboratories have been able to produce. Terrorists from Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the others have infiltrated Iraq, both north and south, and they will move against American and British targets of opportunity once we are on the ground. Kamikaze pilots have been trained to fly the old Iraqi jets that were moved into Iran during the first Gulf War, and will be sent against land and sea targets, and some of those aircraft have been transformed into guided missiles, packed with chemical and biological agents.
This broader context has been lost in the long obsession with Saddam Hussein, and the two diplomatic diversions--first the Saudi "peace plan" and then the United Nations' gambit--that have cost us a full year in the war against terrorism. Indeed, some of our top diplomats are willfully ignorant of the nature of the war: Just a few weeks ago, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage pronounced in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that Iran was "a democracy." By this standard, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini would also qualify as model democrats. In recent interagency discussions, State Department officials have dismissed concerns about the movements of Hezbollah terrorists into Iraq on the grounds that they are going to defend Iraqi Shi'ites.
If we understand this war correctly, the Iraqi Shi'ites will fight alongside us against the Iranian terrorists, for the Iraqis want freedom, and they know they will not get any from the mullahs in Tehran. But our diplomats and intelligence analysts have long insisted that there is an unbridgeable chasm between Shi'ites and Sunnis, even when there is overwhelming evidence of intimate cooperation of the sort that has been going on ever since Afghanistan. Just two weeks ago, for example, Hezbollah's founder, Mohtashemi Pour, traveled to Beirut and Damascus to coordinate the terror strategy, and then returned to Tehran where he met with Iraqi representatives. The terror network today is right out of The Godfather. The heads of the five families have met and agreed upon a war strategy.
It would be a terrible humiliation for America and Britain to fall prey to needless bloodshed because we blinded ourselves to the larger war in which we are now engaged. Iraq is a battle, not a war. We have to win the war, and the only way to do that is to bring down the terror masters, and spread freedom throughout the region.
Rarely has it been possible to see one of history's potential turning points so clearly and so dramatically as it is today. Rarely has a country been given such a glorious opportunity as we have in our hands. But history is full of missed opportunities and embarrassing defeats.
We'll know soon which destiny we will achieve.
Michael A. Ledeen holds the Freedom Chair at AEI.
In the Spotlight
"There has been a distinct carefulness in the language of many senior Bush administration officials whenever the 'd-word' comes up. The boldness of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz-'If we commit . . . forces, we're not going to commit them for anything less than a free and democratic Iraq'--has not often been repeated."