Iraq's Terror Sources Reside Next Door
March 03, 2004
The New York Sun
What does the terrible slaughter in Karbala and Baghdad demonstrate?
Just ask Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite religious leader: It shows that the Americans are unable to protect the faithful, to close the borders, to stop the terrorism. Or, you could ask the Iranian interior minister and the foreign minister, who for perhaps the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic were hard at work on one of the holiest days in the Shiite calendar. They, too, blamed America for the massacre of the Shiite faithful, of whom the great majority in Najaf were Iranians.
Everyone in Iraq knew that these days would be very dangerous, and they knew it without having read the now-celebrated "Zarqawi letter" that laid out the terrorists' design of fomenting a religious war in Iraq in order to be able to mobilize large numbers of people against the American-led coalition. And the Iraqis also know, even if they will not always say so, that the driving force behind the terrorists sits outside Iraq's borders, hence Mr. al-Sistani's condemnation of our failure to control his borders.
Those borders divide Iraq from Syria and Iran. And, as luck would have it, just a couple of days ago the two countries signed a mutual "defense" pact. In a way, it was redundant, since Damascus and Tehran have long cooperated in the terror war against us in Iraq, and, in another bit of bravado, they told us in advance that they were going to do it. The formal agreement was a bit of braggadocio, a defiant spit in the eyes of the coalition, followed by this latest horror.
There have been many complaints that Iraqi leaders, religious and secular, have a tendency to "tilt" toward the Iranian view of some matters. But suppose that you were an Iraqi public figure. You know that there are Iranian agents all over the country. You see that many of your colleagues from Ayatollah Khoi to Ayatollah Hakim to several members of the Provisional Authority to countless local officials, have been gunned down or exploded by the holy martyrs. You know that suicide terrorism was unknown in Iraq before its liberation, while Iran has made a cottage industry out of it. Would you make denunciation of Iran the cornerstone of your policy? There are few people brave enough to do that, even if Jerry Bremer fumes when they protect themselves against the assassins. Mr. Bremer is leaving soon; they're not so sure about the mullahs.
We will never have true freedom and stability in Iraq until the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus have been defeated and removed from power.
Iraqi leaders will necessarily and quite reasonably be intimidated by the terror masters until and unless we demonstrate that we are serious about the war against terrorism, and that we are determined and capable of taking the struggle to Damascus and Tehran.
It is a strategic error of enormous dimensions to focus all our attention on Iraq, thereby leaving the Iranian mullahs and the Syrian Baathists a free hand. It has just cost hundreds of lives in Baghdad and may well cost many more. If all goes badly, it may yet lead to our defeat in the region.
Our greatest weapon against the terror masters is not military, but political. Yesterday, as news of the Iraqi carnage reached Iran, thousands of people poured into the streets to demonstrate against the tyranny of Ali Khamenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani. At this writing, there are only scattered reports, but many of the demonstrators seem to be accusing the regime of orchestrating the massacres. They know what many Western leaders and pundits seem unable to grasp: that the mullahs are happy to arrange for the mass murder of their own people in order to advance their cause. And it has a delicious side benefit, at least in the eyes of the tyrants: they can then claim that they are victims of Al Qaeda.
Last night French television reported that "Iranians" had been arrested in Iraq in connection with the bombings. These early reports are often mistaken, but the French instincts in this matter are certainly sound. The targets, the timing, and the operations themselves (a sequence of suicide bombers at separate locations, and then grenades thrown from neighboring buildings) bear the imprint of a ruthless, professional intelligence service. This was not the work of leftover Saddam followers. It was part of the broader war, in which we are the major target but not yet a fully engaged protagonist. http://www.nysun.com/