July 19, 2004,
The Discovery of Iran
Are you sitting down? Iran is a terrorist state.
The organizers of the Council on Foreign Relations special task force to promote the appeasement of Iran must be cursing their uncommonly bad luck. They scheduled a meeting in Washington today to call for increasing normalization of relations between the United States and Iran. With a fine eye for dark comedy, the Council persuaded two relics of the catastrophic Carter years to appear: Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Gates. The principal advocate of the policy, however, is undoubtedly the president of the Council, Richard Haas, who has long seen rapprochement with the mullahs as an "historic opportunity" for the United States. Haas was the head of Colin Powell's Policy Planning Staff.
Whatever chances they had of successfully advancing appeasement were shattered over the weekend, as some talkative source at the 9/11 Commission told the old media (notably Time and Newsweek) that there was new evidence documenting the longstanding relationship between al Qaeda and Iran, including the fact that ten of the 9/11 terrorists had crossed Iran from Saudi Arabia the year before the attacks in this country, and the Iranians were careful not to stamp their passports, so that the Iranian connection could not be documented.
To be sure, the Commission leaker was careful to say there was no proof that the Iranians were witting of the 9/11 conspiracy, but that is hardly a surprise. Given the track record of CIA's "intelligence" on the role of the mullahs in the terror network, it would have been astounding if we had had any such evidence.
News stories on Sunday reminded readers that Richard Clarke had written that there was considerable evidence of collusion between Osama and the mullahs, and Asharq al-Awsat reported on the 15th that "more than 384 members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are present in Iran, including 18 senior leaders of Osama bin Laden's network." These terrorists were not, as the Iranians were quick to pretend, under arrest. Nor, as Iranian officials put it the day after, had the al Qaeda groups been destroyed. Many were living in villas near Chalous on the Caspian Sea, while others were in Lavizan, either in or near a big military base.
As luck would have it (and for this information I am indebted to the redoubtable Dan Darling), Chalous is the locus of a major underground nuclear facility that has been heavily reinforced of late, while Lavizan houses the Shiyan Technical Research Facility within one of the largest Revolutionary Guards bases in the Central Province.
What a surprise! Terrorists at Iranian military bases! Who ever would have imagined such a thing? Well, aside from NRO, which has long proclaimed Iran to be the safest of havens for Osama & co., the Iraqis not only imagined it, they knew it. Listen to the fine Iraq blogger at Iraq the Model early in July: "An Iraqi military check point...was subjected to Iranian fire on Friday.... Colonel Dhafir Savah Al Timemi mentioned that this was the 4th time the Iranians have opened fire on Shehan check point during the last week in addition to several other aggressions...Colonel Timemi said also that Iraqi border guards have captured 83 Iranians who were trying to cross Iraqi-Iranian borders illegally...."
And of course there is the ongoing slapstick routine at the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency, which constantly finds Iran cheating on its promises to tell all and show all about its atomic project, but never does anything to impose its will, bringing to mind Groucho's classic words, "I've got principles. And if you don't like them, I've got other principles."
This is all very inconvenient for Haas, Brzezinski, and the others who keep deluding themselves into believing that we can make a reasonable deal with the mullahcracy in Tehran. This is a very dangerous delusion, akin to Neville Chamberlain's conceit that he had achieved peace with Hitler, when, as Churchill put it, given the choice between war and dishonor, Chamberlain chose dishonor and got war. The Council is making the same humiliating choice.
Meanwhile, the mullahs and the other terror masters in the region quite sensibly continue to wage war against us. At the recent meetings in Tehran between a Syrian delegation led by President Bashar Assad and the Iranians, including Supreme Leader Khamenei and top deputies including strongman Rafsanjani, the head of intelligence Yunesi, several leading officials of the Revolutionary Guards, and Foreign Minister Kharazi, the two sides agreed on five key points:
A common strategy involving Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to thwart American plans for the democratization of the Middle East;
Coordination of joint operations against the Coalition and the interim government in Iraq;
Coordination of political strategy to influence groups and countries that oppose the American presence in Iraq;
Planning for revenge should Israel attack Iranian nuclear, chemical or missile sites, or Syria's chemical and missile sites, or Hezbollah bases;
Full cooperation to prevent the reelection of President Bush, including all possible measures (such as sabotage of oil pipelines and terminals) to drive up the price of oil.
Advocates of rapprochement with Iran should be running from their announced principles as fast as they can.
Those of you who have followed along these little therapy sessions of mine know of my despair regarding this administration's fecklessness concerning the mullahs. It has pained me enormously, especially because I still believe that this president has a solid understanding of the evil of the Islamic Republic, despite the efforts of the State Department even after the departure of Haas to convince him that a really good deal is just minutes away. I have been reduced to begging "faster, please," but I have long since recognized that nothing would happen until after the elections (a potentially suicidal policy). Now the London Times has found a nameless someone in the Bush administration who promises that a second term for W. would bring vigorous support of democratic revolution in Iran, and decisive action against the atomic project. It is beyond me why anyone would take seriously such claims, given the fact that after four years in office this administration still has no Iran policy, and the deputy secretary of State, Richard Armitage, has never backed off his claim that Iran is a democracy, nor has he been gainsaid by any other top official. I certainly hope the Times is right, but I have my doubts. I'm afraid we're not going to get serious about Iran without another 9/11.
In the 20th century we were often saved from our own isolationism and self-delusion by our enemies, who attacked us and thereby resolved our foreign policy debates in favor of honorable self defense. Check this one out with the Germans regarding World War I, with the Japanese regarding World War II, with Stalin regarding the Cold War, and with Saddam concerning two Gulf wars. Osama bin Laden made a terrible mistake on 9/11, sealing the doom of the Taliban and a goodly number of his own killers, and depriving the remnant of vital support. If the Iranians approved yet another attack on Americans or on American soil, they might, let's say it as delicately as possible, no longer benefit from the benevolent shelter offered by the Middle Eastniks in the CIA and State, supported by the likes of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Maybe that would finally produce an Iran policy worthy of the name: support for democratic revolution against the mullahs. But Khamenei's and Rafsanjani's experience with the United States leaves them pretty sanguine about that risk, because every time we come up with some devastating bit of information on Iran, we immediately follow it with "but that doesn't mean that the leaders knew about it, or that it was the actual policy of the regime." You find half of bin Laden's family and top assistants in Tehran? Not to worry, maybe the mullahs didn't know. You discover that that 9/11 band crossed Iran and were assisted by the border guards and customs officials? Not to worry, that wasn't necessarily the actual policy this from the lips of the acting director of Central Intelligence on Fox News yesterday. Scores of Iranian intelligence agents are found in Iraq, some in the act of preparing bombs? Some bright bulb in the intelligence community puts out the line that Iran is actually helpful to us, and has actually restrained Hezbollah. We find Iranian involvement in the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia? The evidence is quashed by the Saudis, with the complicity of State and large sectors of the intelligence community.
So why should the men in the blood-soaked turbans fret over the consequences of aiding and abetting yet another murderous assault against Americans? I'm unfortunately betting on the second half of October, based on their happy experience with the Spanish elections last March.
Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.