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Dr. Ledeen: Coalition of Evil

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 11:08 am    Post subject: Dr. Ledeen: Coalition of Evil Reply with quote

July 27, 2005, 8:05 a.m.
Coalition of Evil
The big picture of our war.

By Dr. Michael Ledeen

The al Qaeda watchers have a new chant: They tell us that the once-centralized terror organization is now largely decentralized, and that the separate cells have a great deal of autonomy. Osama bin Laden may still provide the ideology, but the locals do their own planning and operations. Thus, the Washington Post found that the expert consensus on the London attacks was that, yes, these people might be linked to al Qaeda in a broad, political/religious/ideological way, but the operation itself, like many in the recent past (Madrid, for example), was a local product.

To be sure, this claim is carefully hedged with language like “but bin Laden (or Zawahiri or Zarqawi or whoever) still has a great deal of influence,” so that if it turns out that AQ is more centralized than not, they can still say “I told you so.”

Nice to have that sort of flexibility. And they’re right to be flexible, because there is every reason to believe that both statements are correct: There are plenty of independent cells (indeed, there are plenty of terrorist groups), but there is intimate cooperation, which runs through the terror masters of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

Some of the smartest AQ watchers, like Peter Bergen, have always said that the organization is like a decentralized corporation, not a military style top-down structure. So the notion of highly independent cells is old hat, neither an analytic breakthrough nor, in fact, a recent development.

Many of the watchers have earned their credentials and are entitled to our respect, but they’re groping pieces of the animal, not sensing its overall shape. Shortly after the liberation of Afghanistan, I wrote that it no longer made sense to talk about al Qaeda as the primary organizing force of the terror network, because al Qaeda had been shattered and had lost its operational base with the defeat of the Taliban. I suggested that there were many different terrorist groups — the most important of which was, and is, Hezbollah — and they would cooperate on a rough division of labor, depending on local capacity, expertise, connections, and so forth. But I also argued that there was now a new operational base: Iran, where bin Laden and several others had fled from Afghanistan. And I insisted that there would be considerable coherence in terrorist actions, because the mullahs would insist on overall guidance.

The centrality of Iran in the terror network is the dirty secret that most everyone knows, but will not pronounce. Our military people in both Iraq and Afghanistan have copious evidence of the Iranian role in the terror war against us and our allies. Every now and then Rumsfeld makes a passing reference to it. But we have known about Iranian assassination teams in Afghanistan ever since the fall of the Taliban, and we know that Iranians continue to fund, arm, and guide the forces of such terrorists as Gulbadin Hekmatyar. We know that Zarqawi operated out of Tehran for several years, and that one of his early successes — the creation of Ansar al Islam in northern Iraq, well before the arrival of Coalition forces — had Iranian approval and support. We also know that Zarqawi created a European terror network, again while in Tehran, and therefore the “news” that he has been recycled into the European theater is not news at all. It is testimony to his, and the Iranians, central role in the terrorist enterprise. And we know — from documents and photographs captured in Iraq during military operations against the terrorists — that the jihad in Iraq is powerfully supported by Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh.

The insistence that “al Qaeda” — defined as the main enemy — is highly decentralized has a lethal effect on designing an effective antiterrorist policy, for it reinforces the strategic paralysis that currently afflicts this administration. If we conceive the war against the terrorists as a long series of discrete engagements against separate groups in many countries, we will likely fail, beginning with Iraq. We have killed thousands of terrorists there, and arrested many more, and yet we clearly have not dominated them. I quite believe that we are gaining support and cooperation from the Iraqi people, and I am in awe of the bravery and skills of our military men and women. But we are fighting a sucker’s war in Iraq, because the terrorists get a great deal of their support from the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians, all of whom are rolling in oil money, all of whom are maneuvering desperately for survival, because they fear our most potent weapon: the democratic revolution that is simmering throughout the region, most recently in a series of street battles in Iranian cities.

We can’t win this thing unless we recognize the real dimensions of the enemy forces, and the global aspirations they harbor. The battle for Iraq is today’s fight, but they intend to expand the war throughout the Western world. Indeed, that was their plan from the very beginning. From 9/11. Here is a story (thanks to Captain Ed at “Captain’s Quarters”) that should make the matter clear to all of us. It appeared in the London Times on July 24:

Mohammed Afroze was sentenced (in Bombay, India) to seven years after he admitted that he had a role in an al Qaeda plot to attack London, the Rialto Towers building in Melbourne (Australia) and the Indian Parliament.

Afroze admitted that he and seven al Qaeda operatives planned to hijack aircraft at Heathrow and fly them into the two London landmarks. The suicide squad included men from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Afroze said. They booked seats on two Manchester-bound flights, but fled just before they were due to board.

If that’s right — and I would have expected a feeding frenzy over this court judgment, wouldn’t you? — then 9/11 was conceived as a global extravaganza, not just an attack against the United States. And I wonder if the “cells” in India, Australia and Great Britain were all that decentralized. After all, they were coordinated for a specific date, weren’t they?

I have long believed that when we finally unravel the 9/11 plot, we will find a great number of terrorist organizations involved, each playing its role in supporting the enterprise. I don’t believe it’s sensible to believe that these various groups, scattered around the world, could have coordinated such an undertaking only by their own efforts; we have seen too many terrorist screw-ups to take that one seriously (if Mr. Afroze is to be believed, for example, he and his guys chickened out at the last moment, just like numerous other suicide terrorists have).

President Bush’s original instincts were right: We are at war with a series of terrorist groups, supported by a group of nations, and it makes no sense to distinguish between them. We’re fighting fiercely against the terror groups, and we’re killing and defeating lots of them. But we’re not nearly as vigorous as we should be in speeding up the fall of the mullahs, the Assads, and a Saudi royal family that has played the leading role in spreading the doctrines that inspire the terrorists.

Can we move a bit faster, please?

— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

Last edited by cyrus on Wed Jul 27, 2005 11:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 11:14 am    Post subject: A Tipping Point for Tehran Reply with quote

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Tipping Point for Tehran

July 27, 2005
The Wall Street Journal
Nir Boms and Reza Bulorchi

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112241365654196557,00-search.html?KEYWORDS=Iran&COLLECTION=wsjie/archive

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's "elected" president, will officially assume his post next month. The elections, no doubt, were a sham and the controversy about voting irregularities is far from settled. Iran's opposition sources revealed that the national ID cards of about five million dead people were provided to regime supporters, enabling them to vote multiple times at multiple locations.

So Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory had little to do with the fact that he campaigned as the "populist" son of a blacksmith and hoisted the flag of class warfare against the "wretched rich and corrupt." Instead, his victory can be attributed solely to his loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) top brass. A former commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force in the IRGC -- tasked with the planning and execution of terrorist plots and assassinations abroad -- Mr. Ahmadinejad was catapulted to the presidency by Iran's ultraconservative faction.

Even before he has taken office, Mr. Ahmadinejad's presence is already felt in the political circles and the streets of Tehran, showing a policy course that must raise serious concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. In the last three weeks alone, under the banner of a "second" Islamic revolution, the clerical regime has hanged 11 people in public, including two reportedly homosexual teenagers, and sentenced three others to death.

The real story of this election is the metamorphosis of the IRGC from an ideological army to an omnipresent political and military powerhouse. With Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory, the IRGC is now able to spread its wings over all key centers of influence in Iran. This is the most serious power realignment within the ruling theocracy since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.

The first success of the IRGC's resurgence took place during national municipal elections in February 2003, when Mr. Ahmadinejad, leading a conservative block of winning candidates, became the mayor of Tehran. Then, in the February 2004 parliamentary elections, at least 40 former IRGC commanders were elected. Shortly thereafter Mr. Khamenei appointed a top IRGC general as head of Iran's national broadcasting corporation, which runs all radio and television stations in Iran and is the mullahs' primary vehicle for spreading their fundamentalist propaganda at home and to neighboring countries.

Currently, the IRGC has full control over Tehran's terror network and has won the admiration of Mr. Khamenei for "running effective intelligence and diplomatic operations" in Iraq. Mr. Khamenei has also put the IRGC in charge of Iran's nuclear program. Last week, Ali Larijani, a former senior IRGC commander, was appointed to replace Hassan Rowhani as the new secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Also last week Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, a top general of the IRGC and the No. 2 in the IRGC-run paramilitary Bassij Force -- the shock troops primarily deployed to crackdown on protesters -- was appointed as Iran's new police chief. The appointment of Mr. Moghaddam, who once said "a country where liberal ideas rule will get nowhere," brings Iran's regular police force under the domination of the IRGC and signals a growing readiness to rein in social and political dissent.

Soon after assuming his new post, Mr. Moghaddam called on the security forces to deal "decisively with criminals" and use live bullets if necessary. In recent weeks, the state security forces have already used extreme force to crush political protests -- considered a crime by the mullahs -- throughout the country.

And earlier this month, Al-Arabia TV reported that the so-called Global Headquarters for the Commemoration of Islam's Martyrs has recruited nearly 40,000 human "time bombs" ready to carry out "martyrdom operations to liberate Islamic lands." The group bills itself as an NGO but in fact enjoys the full backing of the IRGC -- the top commanders regularly attend its meetings -- and thrived under Mayor Ahmadinejad, who provided their terrorist training centers with access to state resources. It would do even better under President Ahmadinejad.

Lastly, and as an opening to next month's nuclear talks with Europe, Iran's Supreme National Security Council, has announced that "even if the West provided us with all economic, political and security incentives, Iran would not drop its nuclear fuel program."

In the absence of any feasible chance of success for political engagement or a military action to neutralize the clear and present threats posed by Tehran -- other alternatives must be considered in the Euro-American-Tehran policy equation. Partnering with Iranian people -- and not their tyrant rulers -- would be a good start.

A housewife in Tehran told Reuters news agency that she believes an Ahmadinejad presidency would hasten the regime's collapse since there are no "fake reformers" anymore to hide behind. "This is the best result....The moment of real change has just got much closer," she said.

This Iranian woman seems to have recognized a possible strategic implication of Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency that has escaped many Iran observers: Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory may, against his own wishes, help the success of the democracy movement in Iran. In the end, only a regime change in Tehran can ultimately rid Iran and the region of the ayatollahs' menace and the nuclear weapons that may soon be at their disposal. And this is also where EU's policy toward Iran needs to gravitate. It is a security and policy imperative.

Mr. Boms is vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East. Mr. Bulorchi is executive director of the U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran.
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