Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Winning battles but losing the war?

While I have been critical of the folks at The Intellectual Activist in the past, I have to admit that lately their commentary on the war has been better in some respects, at least in the sense of recognizing the inadequacy of the Bush response to the Iranian threat. As Robert Tracinski and Jack Wakeland of TIA have been arguing for some time, while we appear to be defeating the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, we leave our bigger enemy untouched. In the April 18, 2006 TIA Daily Tracinski writes that "...[a]l-Qaeda has been shattered as a threat to the US leaving Iran revealed as the much larger, more dangerous Islamist enemy." This is certainly quite true. One wonders what we would have achieved by now had we taken an alternative approach to this whole conflict rather than the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" that Tracinski and company think is worth supporting. Nevertheless, the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq and Zarqawi in particular appear defeated is also tauted by the folks at strategypage.com where the following apparently summarizes our current situtation there with respect to Zarqawi:
Without much fanfare or publicity, American and British commandoes have taken apart al Qaeda's operation in Iraq. About the only non-Iraqi al Qaeda leader left in Iraq is military leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian. In the last few months, American commandoes nearly caught Zarqawi at least three times. On April 16th and 25th, raids killed and captured over twenty al Qaeda members. Interrogations of the captured men indicated that Zarqawi was in the area. Also captured, before it showed up on an al Qaeda web site, was a video of Zarqawi, holding an American M249 light machinegun. Several of these have been lost, usually from vehicles hit by roadside bombs, and abandoned by their crews. In the video, Zarqawi pleaded for Iraqi Sunni Arabs to support him and not, as more and more Sunni Arabs are doing, the democratically elected government. Zarqawi believes, as does al Qaeda, that democracy is un-Islamic. Only God, through self-selected clerics, can run a country.
Kudos to our military forces, the real heroes in all these events. I am not entirely convinced that Al Qaeda is completely dead but then again it is, strictly speaking, irrelevant. The real threat was never a specific organization or specific individuals (though both of these need to be hunted down and eliminated). The threat is an ideological religious movement (variously called "totalitarian Islam", "Islamism", "Islamic fascism") which is most perfectly embodied in a single country -- Iran (which of course has a strong ally in Syria, as well as something of a rival gang in Saudi Arabia). It is true that the September 11 atrocity was perpetrated by Al Qaeda but that does not change the fact that that it was certainly the example and inspiration (and possibly the material means as well) provided by Iran that made it possible.

With respect to Iran, Tracinski has written a strong essay encouraging the administration to "fight the real war." He concludes as follows:
The wars we have fought so far, against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baathist regime in Iraq—were necessary, but they left the largest, most dangerous Islamist regime untouched. The Iranians know it. Sensing American weakness, they are moving against us on all fronts—and any further delay in pushing them back will only make the task more difficult. We have to act—and we have to act now.

There can be no victory in the War on Terrorism until we confront—and defeat—the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the real war, and it's time we started fighting it.
One wishes of course that the administration had kept Iran in mind from the beginning but instead, other than the rhetoric of making it part of the "axis of evil" -- no action against Iran was taken. The result can be seen in the following blog entry from "Baghdad Burning" recounting the story of increasing Iranian influence and control ever since the US invasion:
It was around 9 pm on the 11th of April when we finally saw the footage of Saddam’s statue being pulled down by American troops- the American flag plastered on his face. We watched, stunned, as Baghdad was looted and burned by hordes of men, being watched and saluted by American soldiers in tanks. Looking back at it now, it is properly ironic that our first glimpses of the ‘fall of Baghdad’ and the occupation of Iraq came to us via Iran- through that Iranian channel.

We immediately began hearing about the Iranian revolutionary guard, and how they had formed a militia of Iraqis who had defected to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. We heard how they were already inside of the country and were helping to loot and burn everything from governmental facilities to museums. The Hakims and Badr made their debut, followed by several other clerics with their personal guard and militias, all seeping in from Iran.

Today they rule the country. Over the duration of three years, and through the use of vicious militias, assassinations and abductions, they’ve managed to install themselves firmly in the Green Zone. We constantly hear our new puppets rant and rave against Syria, against Saudi Arabia, against Turkey, even against the country they have to thank for their rise to power- America… But no one dares to talk about the role Iran is planning in the country.

The last few days we’ve been hearing about Iranian attacks on northern Iraq- parts of Kurdistan that are on the Iranian border. Several sites were bombed and various news sources are reporting Iranian troops by the thousand standing ready at the Iraqi border. Prior to this, there has been talk of Iranian revolutionary guard infiltrating areas like Diyala and even parts of Baghdad.

It is particularly ironic that Syria is blamed but not Iran. After all Syria is a close ally of Iran. If Iraq becomes an Iranian client state then we will have little to show for all the heroism of our soldiers there. Yet we continue to play the diplomatic game with Iran.

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