The Federal Government And War With The American People

Herschel Smith · 27 Mar 2018 · 11 Comments

Every time a new contract is issued for weapons and ammunition, the typical cacophony of comments follow.  Those who think that the FedGov has too many guns and too much ammunition weigh in, and invariably (perhaps some of them are trolls or paid commenters?) some people weigh in with support. Terrorism.  Bad people.  Every agent with a gun needs range rounds and personal defense (PD) ammunition (JHP or whatever).  Think of how many rounds you shoot per year, and multiply that times the…… [read more]

More Confusion on Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

We have covered rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, both at the micro- and macroscopic levels, i.e., from room clearing operations to the use of munitions delivered from air.  In this coverage we have challenged not only the written rules, but the in-situ application and communication of them.  Rather than using MSM reports, we have done original investigative reporting, conveying the stories of at least two NCOs who were recently in Iraq.  We have received thousands of visits to these articles from military network domains, including CENTCOM, the Pentagon, NCTC, Army, Marines and others.  There was a promise by the administration to revise the ‘overly-restrictive’ rules of engagement upon announcement of “the surge.”  Yet there continues to be obvious indecision and confusion regarding both the application and communication of ROE, the most recent instances of which involved kinetic operations in a Mosque and university in Baghdad.

As a contextual background to the most recent issues, in Rules of Engagement and Indecision we discussed the ~200 Taliban, in formation for a funeral, and who escaped without being engaged by a predator drone because of bureaucracy and indecision on rules of engagement.

Every airstrike, whether from a manned aircraft or a Predator, must be at least approved by commanders at the regional Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC. If an intended target is particularly sensitive, the decision could go all the way up to a general officer serving as top combat commander … The current rules of engagement, likely developed by senior Pentagon officials, do not rule out an attack on religious gathering but do generally prohibit an attack on a religious site such as a cemetery or mosque, military analyst and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs told MSNBC TV.

Ramadi combat action has seen U.S. forces finally engage insurgent fire coming from Mosques, after “Militants inside the Al Qadir Al Kilami mosque fired small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at U.S. forces.”  In this instance, there was hesitation, and it took direct attacks against U.S. forces from the Mosque to provoke engagement by the U.S.

In the recent security operations, Maliki has allegedly directed robust action against the tactics of using Mosques as defense by the insurgents.  “We are full of hope. We have no other choice but to use force and any place where we receive fire will not be safe even if it is a school, a mosque, a political party office or home,” he said. “There will be no safe place in Iraq for terrorists.”

The U.S. has indeed recently raided Mosques in kinetic operations.

Two suspects were detained when members of the 10th Mountain Division “Commandos” conducted a search of the Khashab mosque in western Baghdad on Jan. 12 aimed at capturing insurgents believed responsible for assassinating the governor of Baghdad. Insurgent propaganda was found in the mosque.

The search was planned based on intelligence gathered from numerous citizens in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, officials said. Residents witnessed insurgents leaving from the mosque then fleeing to the mosque after the assassination.

There is even more recent action inside Mosques, followed on by a confused statement from the Multi-National Force:

Coalition forces detained three suspected terrorists during a raid in Baghdad Sunday morning.
The targeted suspected terrorist, who was detained on the scene, is reported to be involved in the procurement and distribution of weapons, including explosives to conduct improvised explosive devices attacks against Iraqi citizens and Coalition Forces.
While conducting the raid, Coalition Forces entered a mosque where the targeted suspect was hiding.  Coalition Forces detained the targeted suspect along with two other suspected terrorists.
During the operation, one local Iraqi woman received wounds to her thigh and head.  Coalition medical personnel treated her onsite and she was transported to a local hospital for further care.
“Coalition forces soldiers respect the sanctity and holiness of all places of worship and exercise the utmost restraint when planning for and considering the conduct of operations in and around mosques,

Iran Poised to Strike as the Intelligence Community Wonders

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

In Critical Errors in Assessing Iran as we have done previously, we pointed out that Iran is currently engaging in covert war with the U.S., both inside and outside the borders of Iraq.  The U.S. intelligence community has had difficulty with this idea, questioning on the one hand whether the so-called “highest levels” of Iranian power knew and approved of the activities of al Quds, and on the other hand even taking the view early on that Iran actually sought and desired a stable and secure Iraq.

At a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence … the outgoing director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, said the old view was that Iran does not want a civil war in Iraq. But he said this assessment was changing.

“One has to wonder why it is that they have increased their supply of these kinds of lethal weapons to extremist Shia groups in Iraq, provoking violence, attacks on coalition forces, and others. And one wonders if their policy towards Iraq may not have shifted to a more aggressive posture than it has been in the past,” he said.

Concerning the most recent meeting in Baghdad, it is not clear what if anything would be accomplished, because the U.S. has met discretely with Iran for years.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we discussed the Iranian al Quds forces, and later in The Covert War with Iran we detailed some of the Iranian activities inside Iraq.  Yet there is even more current evidence against Iran concerning weapons in the southern portion of Iraq, and specifically Basra.  Data on Iranian involvement in Basra attacks against British forces has been compiled.

The Sun, 5 March – British troops in Iraq are being bombarded by new rockets and mortars supplied by Iran.

The missiles have caused 30 casualties so far at one large base in Basra alone.

The Sun has seen remnants and duds from the giant cache that prove they could NOT have been made in Iraq.

They are freshly painted, dated “2006

Michael Fumento Takes on Boosterism

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

In Michael Fumento’s latest post he takes on boosterism.

A lot of people like AEI Scholar Robert Kagan’s reports on Iraq because he says what they want to hear. He’s a booster. Thus, for example, he writes in his latest column in the Sunday Washington Post that “NBC’s Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure.” Actually, I’ve seen that Ramadi is safer than it had been. Alas, it has no airport. It hasn’t since the war began. It has landing zones for helicopters but not even a strip of runway on which C-130s can land. Brian Williams, having been to Ramadi would know that and indeed a search of his writings turn up no mention of any Ramadi airport.

Okay, so Kagan committed a faux pas. But it doesn’t enhance one’s credibility to say a place that doesn’t exist is “more secure.” Nor does it help his overall theme as expressed in the title of his column “The ‘Surge’ Is Succeeding.” It’s way to early to make any such pronouncements. What we’ve seen so far is that as American forces increased, Sadr apparently just slipped across the border to a safe haven in Iran and has clearly told his men to lay low for the duration of the “surge.” When the tide ebbs, he plans to reclaim the beach. It is a good plan, which isn’t to say it will work. Our best hope is that his men can’t take it anymore and defy Sadr, giving us the chance to kill and capture them. But that clearly hasn’t happened yet and it may never.

Defeatism certainly doesn’t help anything, but boosterism is just a temporary feel-good shot in the arm. It did not help that in May of 2005 Vice-President Cheney claimed the insurgency is “in it’s last throes.” It did not help that Karl Zinsmeister, than also with AEI (and somebody who actually has been to Iraq), published an article in his own magazine a month later declaring “The War is Over, and We Won.” Only realistic assessments of the war will lead to realistic actions, and only realistic actions can lead to salvaging something resembling victory out of this war.

At the AEI I closely follow only Michael Ledeen (and to some  lesser extent Michael Rubin), so I cannot claim to know anything about Robert Kagan.  But I would still like to offer up a few comments on Michael’s main thesis.  Michael Fumento is always clear-headed and sensible, and I admire not only his prose, but his powers of analysis.  I do not consider myself to be a ‘rah rah’ blogger.  There are enough of those, and in my opinion they hurt the war effort almost as much as the biased and highly negative reports from the MSM.

From the very beginning of my short career in blogging, I have called out what I believe to be the more manifest errors of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including inadequate force size, overly-restrictive rules of engagement, open borders with Jordan, Syria and Iran, failing to see the larger implications of the regional war that is occurring, failure of the State Department and the entire administration to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for funding some of the terrorist activities inside Iraq, and imposition of a foreign political system into the Iraqi way of life, the very system itself (parliamentary) creating the inability to hold its largest voting bloc accountable.

There is incredible bravery in Iraq, and just as incredible cowardice at home.  There are victories on the battlefield and terrible losses in hospitals in Iraq and back in the states, with awful costs to our young men such as traumatic brain injury.  There have been huge successes in OIF, with counterinsurgency failures that have been just as stunning in OIF2 and OIF3 as the victories were in OIF1.  I operate under the philosophy that the truth is always the best thing to purvey to the readers.  So does Michael Fumento, who writes on a grander scale than I.

Regional Wars in the Middle East

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

There are insurgencies and counterinsurgencies taking place throughout the region of the Middle East, focusing first on Iraq.  In “The Surge” and Coming Operations in Iraq, we discussed no less than eight significant wars occurring in and near Iraq, involving the Shi’a Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, foreign fighters flowing in from Syria, AQI and AAS, suicide bombers or jihadists, Iran, Syria, and finally internecine warfare among the Anbar tribes.

Not only are Syria and Iran meddling in Iraq, but it has become clear that Jordan and especially Saudi Arabia are as well, and this has directly involved U.S. deaths.

What the American authorities are reluctant to admit, however, is that there are signs that the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and their allies – including Jordan – have been equipping and training Sunni extremists in Iraq for some time now. Critically, not all the weaponry and munitions have been used against the militants’ Shia and Kurdish Iraqi enemies. Some of them – including lethal roadside bombs – have been aimed at US forces.  “The growth of the official and unofficial Saudi and Jordanian support for the militants is one of the most worrying developments,” a senior British officer said privately after a visit to Iraq.

Conventional combat operations also have the potential to increase dramatically in the coming months.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1, we observed:

Israel has asked the U.S. for permission to use Iraqi air space in an over-flight to target Iranian nuclear facilities.  Note well that Israel requested permission from the U.S., not Iraq.  The U.S. is under what the U.N. security council calls a ‘security partnership‘ with Iraq.  Sovereignty over the air space is questionable at this point if we have regard for the U.N. resolution (a position which I am not advocating).  But Israel, assuming that the U.S. will grant the permission, is on the clock.  They know that the troops will be coming home, and then there is no appeal.  The Iraqi government will not grant access to attack Iran.  In fact, they will warn Iran of the impending strike.  The current administration is in power for two more years, and Israel will not wait until after they leave office.  Olmert has likened Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon to a second holocaust, and he is relatively dovish compared to his possible successor Netanyahu.

We continue to believe that this position has merit, and we will stand by our prediction.  While time may be ebbing away for the erstwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu ever to be such again, it doesn’t matter.  Even the dovish Olmert understands the stakes, and Israel will not, in our opinion, let the matter of a nuclear Iran slip into the next U.S. administration.  Israel may not have an ally in the next U.S. administration, and that may spell doom for Israel should she tarry.  The world has a window of opportunity of less than two years to avert catastrophy, with the powderkeg of the Middle East exploding with ramifications into the rest of the world.  An air war may be avoidable, and Netanyahu made an apperance on FNC to plead for economic boycotts of Iran by the world markets.  We agree with Netanyahu, though, when he said “if your enemy is implacable and in possession of mad ideologies, whether you talk to him is a secondary issue.  The first issue is how much pressure you bring to bear.”

True to this counsel, the intelligence wars are heating up in the Middle East, with Iraq directly in the middle of the Middle East.  In Important Undercurrents in Iraq, we cited the explosive DEBKAfile report which exposed the disappearance of high ranking Iranian Defense Minister until 2005, with the report strongly hinting that the DEBKAfile believes that he was kidnapped:

Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 – and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Alireza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asquari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

Other reports were soon issued that hinted to the contrary, saying that a defection was possible, and pointing to cracks in an Iranian intelligence network in such a condition that would allow something like this to happen without their knowledge.  In fact, it has been suggested that Israel is responsible for the defection of the Iranian general, and this has caused Israel to go on worldwide alert for all of their foreign installations in preparation for possible retribution by Iran.  The Washington Post has directly reported that the Iranian general defected, pointing to an intelligence coup resulting from the information he has divulged.

So the Sunni fight the Sunni in Anbar depending upon which tribe they are in, the Shi’a fight the Sunni and vice versa, the Kurds fight the Iranians and Turks, the Iranians, Syrians and Saudis foment violence in Iraq, AQI and AAS snipe from behind women and children, and jihadist suicide bombers blow up people in the marketplace, while al Quds, CIA, Israeli and other international intelligence forces from around the world battle it out on Iraqi soil and nearby, and all the while Israel studies how to bomb Iranian nuclear sites fearing for her very survival.

Important Undercurrents in Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

In Sand Berms Around Haditha and Security and WHAM: Getting the Order Right, we discussed in some detail the methodology that had been enacted to win back Haditha.  It involved strong leadership, limitations on movement, and complete cuttoff from the infiltration of the rogue foreign fighters from Syria by means of sand berms.  Subsequent to our articles, Stars and Stripes published a very similar article entitled Unit sees efforts stabilize city, drive back insurgents.  In the dangerous land that is Anbar, security is paramount, and without it, “winning the hearts and minds” of the population has proven to be next to impossible.

Also in Hope and Brutality in Anbar, we reiterated that the primary procedure used by AQI, AAS and the foreign fighters has been threats, torment, torture and houses of horror.  The threat made by the terrorists is that without cooperation of the people of Anbar, there will be no security since retaliation is a mainstay of the terrorist strategy.  Without conscience, the insurgents are willing to carry out their threats in houses of horror.  This tactic, in addition to scaring some of the population into submission, also has as its very nature a tenuous balance, where the very tactic itself is seen by the population as a lack of security.

The counterinsurgency continues, and with coalition forces unwilling to relent, the acts of holding women and children hostage during gunbattles, hiding in the people’s houses during combat operations (only to invite a direct hit by a JDAM), bullets flying freely through the streets due to sniper operation, and innocent people dying in torture sessions can turn the tide against the insurgents.  In fact, this is happening with greater regularity.

The tactics have not changed, and yet another torture house was recently discovered and shut down near Fallujah.  But tiring of such things, the tribes are reacting against the brutality.  Azzaman reports:

Some Arab tribes in the central and western parts of the country seem to have been fed up with the violence Al-Qaeda operatives are causing in Iraq.

At least one chieftain of the powerful Dulaimi tribe in northern Baghdad has decided to wage an open battle against al-Qaeda.

Mahmoud al-Fahdawi, head of Dulaimis in Tarmiya, Dhaloiya, Balad and Taji, some of the most violent areas in Iraq, is reported to have ordered his tribesmen to wage war on Qaeda.

Fahdawi’s men have captured three Saudi Nationals who reached the area a month ago and started setting up Islamic courts.

“The Saudi nationals sentenced innocent people to death on the pretext of cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi troops,

Important Undercurrents in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago


The Arab League has called on the United Nations Security Council to set a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.  Continuing with the demands, in a request that might be humorous if it weren’t so sad, “the list also includes a call for the fair distribution of wealth and the disbanding of all militias.”

The fair distribution of wealth is certainly a laudable goal, and one that might help in bringing some stability to the government.  It is the next demand that catches the eye: “disbanding all militias” – as if the U.N. was capable of causing such a thing to happen.  As we have noted before, Coalition Forces (primarily U.S.) are finally targeting Sadr City in the security sweeps, but still mainly engaging the so-called death squads and assumed rogue elements of the Madhi army.  But by attacking the “rogue” elements, the U.S. may be tacitly admitting defeat before the surge becomes fully engaged.

The Iraqi security forces and police are heavily infiltrated with Sadrist elements, and there is no question at the moment who controls Baghdad.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city’s population and the front line of al-Sadr’s campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr’s militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they’ve trained and armed.

“Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,” said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia’s Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. “People (in America) think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory” …

“All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the `Day of Death’ or something like that,” said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. “They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.”

“Honestly, within six months of us leaving, the way Iranian clerics run the country behind the scenes, it’ll be the same way here with Sadr,” said Quinn, 25, of Cleveland. “He already runs our side of the river.”

We have previously noted the necessity to defang the Mahdi army and kill or capture Moqtada al Sadr, or at least, prevent his return to Iraq.  The strengthening of the radical Shi’ites and Iran is not at all a trivial concern, and the connection between the Mahdi army and Iran is not accidental any more than Sadr’s presence in Iran during the “surge” is accidental.  Iran is still training the Mahdi army, with some recent “deployments” of the Mahdi army directly from Iranian training camps.

500 members of the Mahdi Army have allegedly returned to Iraq during the last two days after receiving training in neighboring Iran, the Haqq Agency reports. Unnamed sources told the agency that several hundred Mahdi Army militiamen have been training in Iranian camps in areas bordering the Maysan Governorate, south of Iraq, for the last three months.

We have discussed the need to view OIF as a regional conflict, along with recommending full engagement in the covert war with Iran.  There seems to be significant action on this front.

Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 – and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Alireza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asquari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

The Turkish foreign ministry said only: “It is a very sensitive intelligence matter and the Interior Ministry is dealing with this issue.

Intelligence Bulletin #2

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the second entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #2 covers the following subjects: [1] victories and violence in Sunni areas, [2] Baghdad security operations: promise and problems, [3] Iraq awash in munitions, [4] distributed operations and snipers on the roof tops, [5] HUMINT and information warfare in Iraq, [6] update on Austrian sniper rifles in Iraq, [7] U.S. military preparedness degraded (special ops to grow?), [8] hard times at Walter Reed and the VA, [9] U.S. funding Iranian insurgency, and [10] update on international legal war against the CIA.

Victories and Violence in Sunni Areas

There is indication that AQI — and those who have chosen to align with them — may be wearing out their welcome in Iraq.  On Wednesday there was significant combat action near Fallujah, and the remarkable thing about this action was that it didn’t involve U.S. forces.

Iraqi security forces killed dozens of al Qaeda militants who attacked a village in western Anbar province on Wednesday, during fierce clashes that lasted much of the day, police officials said on Thursday …

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said foreign Arabs and Afghans were among some 80 militants killed and 50 captured in the clashes in Amiriyat al Falluja, an Anbar village where local tribes had opposed al Qaeda.

A police official in the area, Ahmed al-Falluji, put the number of militants killed at 70, with three police officers killed. There was no immediate verification of the numbers.

A U.S. military spokesman in the nearby city of Falluja, Major Jeff Pool, said U.S. forces were not involved in the battle but had received reports from Iraqi police that it lasted most of Wednesday. He could not confirm the number killed.

Another police source in Falluja put the figure at dozens.

“Because it was so many killed we can’t give an exact number for the death toll,” the police source told Reuters.

Witnesses said dozens of al Qaeda members attacked the village, prompting residents to flee and seek help from Iraqi security forces, who sent in police and soldiers.

Stars and Stripes gives us a similar recent report on population involvement in defeating the insurgency in the Sunni town of Hawijah.  It is so significant that large portions are reproduced below.

… even for a city with a “roughneck

Critical Errors in Assessing Iran

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 1 month ago

There is a growing chorus of voices urging talks with Iran to stop interference in Iraq and the rush to the status of world nuclear power, and the U.S. has recently agreed to high level talks with Syria and Iran concerning the future of Iraq.  When assessing these things, there is a real danger in framing the problem within the context of our own worldview — where the boundary conditions for our conclusions (incorrectly) become our own cultural, historical and religious heritage.  This is a critical error in judgment, and as one means of avoiding it, there is utility in listening to the enemy.

In the Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2007, Volume XIV, Number 1, Ali Alfoneh has written an excellent assessment of the meteoric rise to prominence of the Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha-ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz), an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank that has been instrumental in promulgating the formation of suicide brigades in Iran.

Its director, Hassan Abbasi, has embraced the utility of suicide terrorism … He announced that approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers) were ready to carry out suicide operations against “twenty-nine identified Western targets” should the U.S. military strike Iranian nuclear installations.

Such threats are not new. According to an interview with Iran’s Fars News Agency released on Abbasi’s weblog, he has propagated haras-e moghaddas (sacred terror) at least since 2004. “The front of unbelief,” Abbasi wrote, “is the front of the enemies of God and Muslims. Any deed which might instigate terror and horror among them is sacred and honorable.”  On June 5, 2004, he spoke of how suicide operations could overcome superior military force: “In ‘deo-centric’ thought, there is no need for military parity to face the enemy … Deo-centric man prepares himself for martyrdom while humanist man struggles to kill.”

Alfoneh continues by pointing to the formalization of these ideas within the context of the Iranian intelligence forces and using religion as the backdrop.

The organization’s prominence continued to grow throughout the year. On June 5, 2004, the reformist daily Shargh granted Mohammad-Ali Samadi, Headquarters’ spokesman, a front page interview.  Samadi has a pedigree of hard-line revolutionary credentials. He is a member of the editorial boards of Shalamche and Bahar magazines, affiliated with the hard-line Ansar-e Hezbollah (Followers of the Party of God) vigilante group, as well as the newspaper Jomhouri-ye Eslami, considered the voice of the intelligence ministry.  Samadi said he had registered 2,000 volunteers for suicide operations at a seminar the previous day.  Copies of the registration forms  show that the “martyrdom-seekers” could volunteer for suicide operations against three targets: operations against U.S. forces in the Shi‘ite holy cities in Iraq; against Israelis in Jerusalem; and against Rushdie. The registration forms also quote Khomeini’s declaration that “if the enemy assaults the lands of the Muslims and its frontiers, it is mandatory for all Muslims to defend it by all means possible [be it by] offering life or property,” and current supreme leader Ali Khamene’i’s remarks that “[m]artyrdom-seeking operations mark the highest point of the greatness of a nation and the peak of [its] epic. A man, a youth, a boy, and a girl who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the interests of the nation and their religion is the [symbol of the] greatest pride, courage, and bravery.”  According to press reports, a number of senior regime officials have attended the Headquarters’ seminars.  The Iranian officials appeared true to their word. During a September 2004 speech in Bushehr, home of Iran’s declared nuclear reactor, Samadi announced the formation of a “martyrdom-seeking” unit from Bushehr while Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the official daily Keyhan, called the United States military “our hostage in Iraq,” and bragged that “martyrdom-operations constitute a tactical capability in the world of Islam.”

In The Covert War with Iran we briefly detailed some of the Iranian activities inside Iraq.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we discussed the Quds Forces regarding the obvious equivocation of the U.S. intelligence community in assigning responsibility for their actions to Iran’s leaders.  But regardless of the loosely coupled nodal power structure in Iran, the Mullahs are at the top of the organization chart.  The evidence for al Quds activity continues to accumulate, most recently with the arrest of a Pasdaran commander inside Iraq.  Giving us some of the more statistical and useful data, Strategy Page has a recent commentary on Quds, assigning them the role of special forces of Iran.

Iran has its own Special Forces, the secretive al Quds Force, which belongs to the IRGC (the Iranian Republican Guard Corps.) Also known as the Pasdaran, the IRGC is a paramilitary force of about 100,000 full timers that insures (sic) that any anti-government activity is quickly eliminated. To assist the Pasdaran, there is a part-time, volunteer force, several hundred thousand Basej, which can provide additional manpower when street muscle is required. The Basej are usually young, Islamic conservative men, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. If opponents to the government stage a large demonstration, it will often be broken up by Basej, in civilian clubs, using fists and clubs.

The Quds Force is a full time operation, of men trained to spread the Islamic revolution outside Iran. The Quds force has a major problem in that they are spreading a Shia Islamic revolution, while only 15 percent of Moslems are Shia. Most of the rest are Sunni, and many of those consider Shia heretics. In several countries, there is constant violence between Shia and Sunni conservatives. This has been going on long before the clerics took control of Iran in 1979 ( al Qaeda showed up in the 1990s).

The core operatives of the Quds force comprises only a few thousand people. But many of them are highly educated, most speak foreign languages, and all are Islamic radicals. They are on a mission from God to convert the world to Shia Islam, and the rule of Shia clergy. The Quds Force has been around since the 1980s, and their biggest success has been in Lebanon, where they helped local Shia (who comprise about a third of the population) form the Hizbollah organization.

The control that the Mullahs exhibit over Iran is firm and fixed, and international conversation has been a strategic tool used by the religious rulers for thirty years.  The appearance of vacillation and irresolution has been used as tactical leverage as part of this international conversation, and this behavior should not be seen as an actual willingness to forego a nuclear weapons program or relinquish their aims of regional domination.  Their ally, Moqtada al Sadr, is an analogous example of this tactic.  In Just How Long is Haifa Street?, we pressed the question of al Sadr, asking if the Baghdad security plan went directly to the doorsteps of Sadr’s house?  Al Sadr is currently believed to be in Iran, and the security crackdown in Baghdad is targeting rogue elements of the Mahdi army (the so-called death squads, although it should also be noted that the protracted period of time between the announcement of the crackdown and the implementation of it has reportedly allowed many members of the death squads to escape or melt away into the population).

Speculation on inside jobs and so-called house cleaning of insubordinate elements of the Mahdi army should not cause a loss of focus regarding the questions ‘who is al Sadr? and ‘what are his aims?’  Al Sadr has come out strongly against the Baghdad security plan, admonishing his followers to distance themselves from it, and saying that since it is being implemented by “occupying enemies” it is doomed to fail.  Not allowing the opportunity to escape, al Sadr’s aid recently opined that poor Sadr was misunderstood, and didn’t really mean what he seemed to say.

Since Iran is actively spreading terror across the globe, their special forces should be and are capable of functioning not just as military or paramilitary fighters, but as terrorists.  The New York Police Department has been concerned for several years about the possibility of Iranian terrorism within their city.

NYPD officials have worried about possible Iranian-sponsored attacks since a series of incidents involving officials of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. In November 2003, Ahmad Safari and Alireaza Safi, described as Iranian Mission “security” personnel, were detained by transit cops when they were seen videotaping subway tracks from Queens to Manhattan at 1:10 in the morning. The men later left New York. “We’re concerned that Iranian agents were engaged in reconnaissance that might be used in an attack against New York City at some future date,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told NEWSWEEK.

As we discussed before concerning negotiations with enemies, we are not opposed to talking about Iraq with other countries, even Syria or Iran.  But the proper thought-framework must bound the discussions and expectations.  Romantic notions of international behavior changes that will make the radical clerics willing to change their vision don’t account for the fundamental religious differences that divide Iran with the rest of the world.  Expectations of dismantling the suicide and terror brigades don’t account for how deeply embedded the cult of death is in this radical thinking.

Conversely, Wes Clark’s approach, posing the question “cannot the world’s most powerful nation deign speak to the resentful and scheming regional power that is Iran?,” is to trifle with a dangerous movement, this movement being sponsored and promulgaged by a dangerous and powerful country.  Neither romantic notions of friendship nor insulting trivialization is helpful.

Talk if we must, be remember that talk is precisely what the Iranians want.  While many in the U.S. believe it to be the solution, Iran trusts in this and uses it as a strategic tool of their vision.  In the end, the real question will not be whether war with Iran is inevitable.  Rather, it will be how we engage the Iranians.  They are already at war with us.

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