Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2004 / 12 Shevat, 5764
Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
To underline one of my favorite themes, notice that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's arrival in Iraq last week was, as usual, welcomed by massive suicide bombings, this time in the north. At least sixty Kurds were killed in Irbil by simultaneous attacks on the two big political parties, and hundreds were injured, some of whom will likely die. This sort of message you come, we kill you and your allies is well understood in the Middle East, although not so well back here. Last time he was in Iraq, they tried to kill Wolfowitz, when he was unaccountably put in one of the terrorists' favorite target areas, the al Rasheed hotel in Baghdad.
Anyway, Agence France Presse quoted Mr. Tachlo Khodr Najmeddine, the official spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan the attractively acronymned PUK as convinced that Iran was involved. "We (the two Kurdish groups) have a common enemy: the terrorists who come from Iran and other countries, and we must face them."
On January 29, our excellent General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said that "al Qaeda's fingerprints have been here in Iraq (for months)." He said that their methods had been evident at least since the suicide attacks against the Italian carabinieri in Nassiriyah last November.
Apparently nobody thought to ask him from which planet the terrorists had entered Iraq, although Mr. Najmeddine had undoubtedly shared his concerns with the leader of Task Force 7. In any event, General Sanchez knows full well where the operations are staged, for he named Abu Musab Zarkawi as the ringleader, and Zarkawi has long worked out of Tehran (and briefly from Baghdad, according to Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom).
Not that Iran limits itself to organizing suicide missions. The pattern is, in fact, distinctly multicultural: They send non-Iranians to blow themselves up, but their own people get easier duty. On February 2, an Iranian and an Afghan were arrested planting bombs in a major oil refinery in Baghdad. And, in darkest Africa: "An Iranian has been arrested by Nigerian police for taking photographs of what they say are strategic buildings in the capital, Abuja." Iranians including official diplomats have previously been caught taking pictures of Jewish community centers in London, and the New York City subway system. While Iranians are brilliant moviemakers, it is unlikely that these guys were planning to enter an artistic competition.
These are the gentle souls with whom our diplomats and a handful of their willing handmaidens in Congress wish to "improve relations." One can only imagine the negotiations that have already taken place, the only results of which have been broken Iranian promises regarding al Qaeda terrorists "held" in Iran and concerning the ongoing Iranian nuclear program. The mullahs are not models of consistency. Just the other day, President Mohammed Khatami delivered himself of a line worthy of George Orwell at his finest. "We have reached a deadlock with the Guardians Council regarding the qualifications of candidates" he was quoted by the official news agency, the student news agency and several other media outlets. But a few hours later his office produced the Orwellian masterpiece:
"In the official and quotable comments of the esteemed president, this sentence and comment does not exist." This sort of inelegant lie should be a warning to anyone who tries to understand Iran through the words of their spokesmen. You have to watch their feet, not their lips. Thus, for example, the pathetic charade over the upcoming elections a charade that has produced an incredible quantity of misreportage has been portrayed exactly as the mullahs want: as an important power struggle between "hard liners" and "reformers." The "hard liners" dissed several thousand would-be candidates for the February 20 parliamentary elections, including some sitting "reformers," and many of the parliamentarians have been protesting. On occasion, they have announced their resignations (although they are still there, debating and protesting).
If you ignore the rhetoric and just watch the behavior, you will see that it all signifies nothing, as the Iranian people know full well. Foreign journalists have been baffled by the near-total indifference of the populace to what the journalists see as a really big story, but their bafflement only bespeaks their own lack of understanding. There is no real power struggle, because all effective power is in the hands of the two main thugs: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchman Akhbar Rafsanjani. The others, most decidedly including the esteemed president, do not matter at all. They hold no power, they can do nothing for the oppressed Iranian people, and the people know it. Recent polling in Tehran suggests that less than 15 percent of the electorate plans to go to the polls on election day, and even that number may be high.
The most likely explanation for the passionate protests is quite mundane: In a country reduced to economic misery, where workers are not paid for months on end, a government job is a miracle well worth fighting for. Has no one noticed that some 9,000 people signed up to run for a few hundred seats in the Majlis? Why such an enormous number? Because those are paying jobs, and paying jobs in Iran nowadays are hard to come by.
Despite the cheery words from Foggy Bottom and the eager appeasement from Capitol Hill, the Iranian regime is at war with us. The talk about "improved relations" has a double objective: to delay our support for democratic revolution in Iran, and to discourage the democratic revolutionaries b showing them that even the ferocious Bush administration is seeking a modus vivendi with the regime itself.
Our diplomats have it wrong. Sanchez and Najmeddine are the reliable sources. We will never get a firm grip on Iraq until the regime is changed in Tehran.
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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Michael Ledeen