Friday, June 30, 2006


Know Your Enemy

Michael Ledeen offers a timely lesson on terrorism and Iran’s role, in terror, and in Iraq, in his latest NRO piece.

Ledeen’s thoughts on Iranian proxies in Iraq:

Al-Reuters speaks of “Iranian fighters” mixed in with “Shi’ite militiamen.” But lots of Shiite militiamen entered Iraq from Iran around the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and many of those had originally fled Iraq in the early 1980s to join Iranian forces in the war against Saddam. We’re talking big numbers here. Millions of Iraqi Shiites went to Iran, and tens of thousands of them (and, later, their children) were trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. They are ideal for infiltration — into Shiite or Sunni militias — since they speak Arabic with an Iraqi accent.
I have been saying for years now that those who have been insisting that the “insurrection” is primarily an internal, Iraqi phenomenon, have missed this basic analytical conundrum: are those people Iraqis or Iranians? Should we call them “Iranian agents” (or as al-Reuters prefers, “Iranian fighters”)? Or should we call them Iraqis who spent time in Iran? Who are they?
The important thing is that they are working for Iran; their ultimate national allegiance is irrelevant in terms of understanding the nature of the terror war. They respond to the terror masters in Tehran.

In contrast, Ledeen’s observations about Iraqi Shia, and why many of our analysts and decision-makers get it wrong:

The single greatest distortion of reality in the war is that old chestnut about the profound hatred and total incompatibility between Sunnis and Shiites. The truth is that Sunnis and Shiites happily cooperate when it comes to killing Americans, Europeans, Jews, Christians, Suffis, Bahais, and anyone else who can be defined as an infidel and/or crusader. This has been going on for a very long time. In the early Seventies, for example, the (Shiite) Revolutionary Guards were trained in Lebanon by the (Sunni) Fatah of Yasser Arafat.
Obsessed by this great distortion, our analysts have lost sight of the profound internal war under way within Shiite Islam, the two contending forces being the Najaf (Iraqi, traditional) and the Qom (Iranian, heretical, theocratic) versions. Tehran fears ideological enemies inspired either by democracy or by Ayatollah Sistani’s (Najaf) view of the world, which is that civil society should be governed by politicians, not mullahs.
Thus it is a mistake to assume–as it is so often—that Shiites in Iraq are automatically pro-Iranian. No matter how many times smart people such as Reuel Gerecht detail the intra-Shiite civil war, it just goes in one ear and out the other of the intelligence community and the policymakers.

Ledeen makes the critical argument here that:

We are wrongly focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, which is obviously worth worrying about, but this excessively narrow focus has distracted us from the main threat, which is terrorism.

It always helps to know who your real enemies are. In the case of radical Islamic terrorism, there is a primary state sponsor for such activities, who for too long has acted through various proxies to fight against the US and drive us out of the Middle East, by whatever means they can make that happen.

Aided and abetted, of course, by our own natural reluctance to sustain a long term war, and those political forces that constantly squeeze out partisan advantage with every negative event or operational setback.

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