10 years, 3 months ago
The U.S. is at a strategic and unique point in history, with Iran and Syria among the top reasons that stability has not been brought to Iraq, Iran aggresively pursuing nuclear weapons, and both countries fomenting the spread of jihadism throughout the region. Decisions made at the highest levels of government over the coming months will have deep and lasting impacts on civilization for many generations to come. It is apparent that the general public does not comprehend the momentous and watershed events upon us, and it is equally apparent that this administration is not girded for the struggle.
Recent Data on U.S. & Iran
We are still seeing the ripples of Bush’s address on Iraq. In a joint press conference with Khalilzad, outgoing General George Casey said that we are “going after” the networks of Iranian and Syrian agents in Iraq. Casey was backed up at home by the full power of the administration:
The belief that George Bush’s troops “surge” policy in Iraq is also aimed at confronting Iran was strengthened yesterday when the White House declared that it was “going to deal” with the actions of the Tehran regime.
In a series of interviews, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, struck belligerent notes on Iranian activity inside Iraq. Mr Hadley did not rule out the possibility of US forces striking across the border.
Discord continued between America and Iraq over the arrest by US forces of five Iranians in Arbil, the Kurdish capital. The US claims they are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and have been funding Iraqi insurgents. The Revolutionary Guards, said the US military was “known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilise the government of Iraq and attack coalition forces”.
The Multi-National Force web site, where press releases customarily point to military operations, has a rather odd press release on what at least some forces are doing in Iraq at the present:
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces continue investigations into the activities of five Iranian nationals detained in Irbil on Jan. 11. Preliminary results revealed the five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces.
According to Coalition Force officials, efforts will continue to target all who break the law, attack the Coalition Force or attempt to undermine the Government of Iraq.
The facility in which the detention took place has been described by various Iraqi officials as an Iranian liaison office, but it did not enjoy the diplomatic status of a consulate according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.
The Multi-National Force, in keeping with U.S. policy, will continue to disrupt logistical support to extremists that originate from outside Iraq. These initiatives are part of a broader plan including diplomatic efforts designed to support the Iraqi government, protect the Iraqi people, and seek assistance from neighboring nations, according to coalition officials.
Military sources have said that U.S. forces will ‘go after’ both the Sunni insurgents and the Shi’ite extremist leaders. According to the Strategy Page, this isn’t bluster:
In the last month, Iran has become aware that the U.S. is deliberately hunting down Iranian agents inside Iraq. For most of the last year, Iran believed that it’s high ranking contacts in the Iraqi government gave its men immunity. Certainly the Iraqi police would not touch them (the head of the national police, and Interior Ministry, was a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia). But the Americans simply brush aside any Iraqi troops or police who get in the way, and grab Iranians. This is being done without much publicity at all. It’s as if the Americans were just collecting evidence and building a case. A case for what?
Finally, in addition to activity by ground forces, there is a naval buildup taking place to demonstrate resolve to remain in the region for a “long time.”
Assessment and Commentary
Ostensibly, the administration has finally fully engaged in the war that Iran and Syria are conducting on the U.S. by proxy fighters. Or have they? Any threat by Iran to conduct conventional warfare against the U.S. is likely a hollow threat, and their biggest threat is still assymetric warfare. They are conducting this with ease and without apology. As I have discussed in The Broader War: Redefining our Strategy for Iraq, Iraq is part of a regional problem and thus will require a regional solution. Iran is part of the problem, not a part of the solution.
Yet after issuing sanctions on Iran, some members of the EU want a more nuanced approach to support for nuclear programs from the IAEA to Iran, believing that this will once again engage Iran rather than “forcing them into a corner.” Inside Iraq, a top Shi’ite politician, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, strongly criticized the U.S. detention of the Iranian agents, literally calling it an “attack on Iraq’s sovereignty.”
Kuwait has made known their desire that the U.S. engage in talks with Iran, and Iraq’s foreign minister increased the pressure yet again on the U.S. by promising to Iran’s foreign minister to free the detained Iranians. Iran has all but dismissed any potential hit on its nuclear facilities, telling the world not to take seriously the possibility that the U.S. will follow through with such plans.
In the most ham-handed diplomatic move since the beginning of the war, it seems that the administration cannot retreat fast enough from Bush’s threats to Iran.
Sen. Joseph Biden, now Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman (and a Dem presidential contender), sent a letter to Bush after a question-and-answer confrontation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Biden said Rice had been evasive on whether Bush’s statements meant that U.S. military personnel could cross into Iran or Syria in pursuit of insurgent support networks. He also asked whether the administration believes the president could order such action without first seeking explicit congressional approval—as Biden thinks he must.
Note that crossing the Iranian and Syrian borders in search of safe havens for insurgents and their networks comports exactly with my earlier recommendations, the result of which would be:
- regime destabilization
- denial of safe haven for insurgents, and ultimately
- fomenting of regime change
But regardless of how far the President has authorized U.S. forces to go in search of rogue elements, the administration cannot even seem to muster the resolve to allow the Iranians to think that we will enter their territories. Continuing,
… administration officials (anonymous due to diplomatic sensitivities) concede that Bush’s Iran language may have been overly aggressive, raising unwarranted fears about military strikes on Tehran. Instead, they say, Bush was trying to warn Iran to keep its operatives out of Iraq, and to reassure Gulf allies—including Saudi Arabia—that the United States would protect them against Iranian aggression. A senior administration official, not authorized to speak on the record, says the policy is part of the new Iraq offensive. “All this comes out of our very detailed, lengthy review of strategy from last fall,” he says. Recent intel indicates the government of Iran, or elements in it, have stepped up interference in Iraqi political affairs and the supply of weapons to Iraqi Shiite insurgents, say several U.S. intel and national-security officials, anonymous when discussing sensitive material. “The reason you keep hearing about Iran is we keep finding their stuff there,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace said Friday. Two of the officials, however, indicated Bush had not signed a secret order—known as an intel “finding”—authorizing the CIA or other undercover units to launch covert operations to undermine the governments of Iran and Syria.
At a time when the world is watching for resolve, the President’s handlers are denuding the story and handing him the worst foreign affairs blunder in recent memory. With a softer approach to counterinsurgent warfare in Iraq possible, along with a strangled story as soon as it leaves the President’s lips, we are kicking the proverbial can down the road in the hope that we do not finally have to deal with it. But that can will only be kicked so far. Time is ebbing away. Failure to engage in the epic battle of this millennium against jihadism might mean that a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles is more than just an interesting story line on a television show.