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Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 / 13 Nisan, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran | The battle for Iraq is drawing to a close, but the war against terrorism has only just begun.

As President George W.Bush has said since the first days after the September 11 attacks in the U.S., this will be a long war, involving many terrorist organisations and many countries that support them.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was never the most threatening of those countries. That dubious honour belongs to Iran, the creator of modern Islamic terrorism in the form of Hezbollah, arguably the world's most lethal terrorist organisation.

And then there is Syria, which has worked hand-in-glove with Iran to support Hezbollah both in its terrorist garb (Hezbollah trains in the Bekaa Valley in Syrian-occupied Lebanon) and its political and philanthropic costume, in which Hezbollah members sit in the Lebanese parliament.

Today, both Iran and Syria are engaged in a desperate terrorist campaign against coalition forces in Iraq.

And neither country has been reluctant to announce its intentions. Just over a week ago, for example, the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad incautiously told an interviewer that just because Iraq was conquered did not mean the coalition had won. He said the enemies of Britain and the U.S. would have to be patient, just as they were in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, driving the U.S. and Israel out of the country by means of terrorist attacks.

And Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, announced publicly that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq would be even worse than that of Hussein, arguably the man most hated by Iranians.

Their strategy of a second Lebanon was worked out over many months, and in the run-up to the coalition invasion both Syria and Iran facilitated the movement of terrorists into Iraq.

The joint strategy seems counter-intuitive to those who believe it is next to impossible for Sunnis and Shi'ites to co-operate, and that Iran could never co-operate with the Hussein regime. But both Syria and Iran have good reason to contest the coalition victory. Assad and Khamenei have both heard Bush's reference to the Axis of Evil, and they have studied the many White House statements over the past 18 months. They have concluded that once the coalition victory in Iraq is consolidated, they are next on the hitlist.

So the Syrians and the Iranians are going to fight now in Iraq. They are not going to send their armies against us, but rather a swarm of terrorists, from Hezbollah to Islamic Jihad, Hamas, al-Qa'ida, Ansar al-Islam and the rest of the jihad mafia.

Meanwhile, warnings in recent days from U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell have signalled something quite new in the U.S.'s war against terrorism. The State Department and the CIA have until recently argued in favour of a sort of strategic engagement of both Damascus and Tehran. Top diplomats and intelligence analysts had maintained the U.S. and Syria had common interests in fighting terrorism, since Osama bin Laden had condemned the Assad family's secular tyranny. And despite Bush's harsh condemnations of Iran (an unelected regime defying the Iranian people's clearly expressed desire to be free), the State Department had continued to work for better relations with the mullahs.

But when both Powell and Rumsfeld come out swinging against the mullahs and the Assads, it is safe to assume they have solid and abundant information to show the "second Lebanon strategy" is being implemented.

So we can forget about the happy dream of being able to destroy the Baathist regime in Iraq, democratise the country and then turn our attention elsewhere. We are in a regional struggle, and we are compelled to deal with it.

Now what?

The short answer is: regime change.

It is impossible to win the war on terrorism so long as the regimes in Syria and Iran remain in power. The good news is that both are vulnerable to political attack.

The soft underbelly of the Syrian regime is the very place Bashar Assad hailed as the model for the terrorist campaign against the coalition, namely Lebanon. The world knows Lebanon is a military colony of Damascus, and that despite its parliamentary fig-leaf, it is governed by the Syrian intelligence service.

We should unleash the full panoply of political weapons on behalf of Lebanese freedom: a vigorous human rights campaign, attention to the many stories of brutality and abuse coming from the lively Lebanese diaspora, political observers at every Lebanese election, demands for shutting down the infamous terrorist training camps in the Bekaa Valley, and investigations into the state of religious freedom.

Meanwhile, big brother should get similar treatment. Assad should be forced to account for the occupation of Lebanon. Perhaps one of those sanctimonious judges in Belgium or The Hague might have a look at the domination of Syria by an unelected regime from a minuscule sect.

I do not believe the Syrian people welcome dictatorship any more than the Iranians do, and the Iranians have made clear their hatred and contempt for the vicious mullahcracy that has wrecked their country over the past 23 years. In Iran, we have a seemingly irresistible political card to play: give the people the same sort of political support we gave the Yugoslavs under Milosevic, the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs under the Soviet empire, and the Filipinos under Marcos. We, and the Iranian people, want a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. There is even a suitable leader for the transition period: the late shah's son, Reza Pahlavi, widely admired inside Iran despite his refreshing lack of avidity for power or wealth.

As Bush has said, this war has a variety of targets and requires a variety of strategies. No one I know wants to wage war on Iran and Syria, but there is now a clear recognition that we must defend ourselves against them. They are an integral part of the terror network that produced September 11. Left undisturbed, they will kill us in Iraq and Afghanistan and mount new attacks on our homelands.

But unlike Iraq, there is no need for a military campaign. Our most potent weapons are the peoples of Syria and Iran, and they are primed, loaded and ready to fire. We should now pull the political lanyards and unleash democratic revolution on the terror masters in Damascus and 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.


04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen