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Jewish World Review
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/ 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
Iran & W.: What does the president know, and when did he know it?
We’ve got a lot of issues with Iran,” President Bush told a news conference last week. “The first is whether or not they will help this young democracy succeed,” he said, referring to Iraq. He said the “second issue” was whether Iran would help the Lebanese government, and that the “big issue” was “whether or not Iran will end up with a nuclear weapon.”
The heart sinks. Can anyone — let alone the president — possibly believe that the mullahs might help Iraq succeed? The only “success” they are interested in is the humiliation of America and the domination of Iraq. Can anyone possibly believe that Iran might help the Lebanese government? The only thing they care about is the destruction of that government, the slaughter or domination of the Maronite Christians, and the creation of an Islamic Republic under the thumb of Hizbollah. And finally, how can anyone possibly believe that the “big issue” is whether or not Iran will get nukes? The issue is American lives, now being taken in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iranian weapons, killers, and managers. This is not new; it has been going on for 27 years, and we have yet to respond.
As I warned both before and after the liberation of Iraq, the Iranians and their Syrian allies, fearing their doom if we succeeded in creating a free Iraq, unleashed a terror war against us and the Iraqi people, just as they had done 20 years before in Lebanon. There is abundant evidence, as Bob Woodward tells us in his latest book, State of Denial.
Here are three examples (actually two; the first and third appear to be the same, albeit 60 pages apart):
Pages 414-415: “Some evidence indicated that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was training insurgents to build and use the shaped IED’s, at the urging of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That kind of action was arguably an act of war by Iran against the United States. If we start putting out everything we know about these things, Zelikow felt, the administration might well start a fire it couldn’t put out...”
Page 449: “The components and the training for (the IEDs) had more and more clearly been traced to Iran, one of the most troubling turns in the war.”
Page 474ß: “The radical Revolutionary Guards Corps had asked Hizbollah, the terrorist organization, to conduct some of the training of Iraqis to use the EFPs, according to U.S. Intelligence. If all this were put out publicly, it might start a fire that no one could put out...Second, if it were true, it meant that Iranians were killing American soldiers — an act of war...
It’s not the first time we have had information about Iran’s murder of Americans. Louis Freeh tells us that the same thing happened following the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. On page 18 of Freeh’s My FBI he reports that Saudi Ambassador Bandar told Freeh “we have the goods,” pointing “ineluctably towad Iran.” The culprits were the same as in Iraq: Hezbollah, under direction from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. And then there was a confession from outgoing Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani to Crown Prince Abdullah (at the time, effectively the Saudi king): page 19: “the Khobar attack had been planned and carried out with the knowledge of the Iranian supreme ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei.”
As Freeh puts it, “this had been an act of war against the United States of America.”
Clinton famously failed to respond to Iran’s act of war. Instead, he attempted to achieve a modus vivendi with the mullahs, the kind of negotiated surrender now so fervently proposed by “realists” of the Brent Scowcroft/Richard Haass/James Baker school, supported by Henry Kissinger on his pessimistic days. This sort of appeasement has always encouraged enemies like the Iranian theocrats to intensify their attacks on us and on those of their own people who dare to call for freedom, and so it has proven ever since.
Is it possible that President Bush is not aware of this history? Just barely. Woodward’s account shows that there were at least some policy makers (he cites Zelikow, but there are no doubt others as well) who were very reluctant to pass this information up the line to a president who could be expected to take action after he learned about it. The secretary of State, Colin Powell, was famously unwilling engage the United States involved in support of Iranian dissidents (“We don’t want to get involved in an Iranian family squabble”), and his Deputy, Richard Armitage, actually argued that Iran was a “democracy.” They would not have wanted the president to know that there were daily Iranian acts of war against the United States.
What about the intelligence community? Are they not obliged to inform the president of Iranian acts of war? Indeed they are, but they, too, were concerned about the president’s muscular foreign policy. I was asked by a high-ranking intelligence officer to “take it easy on Iran,” because, he thought, “things were going along nicely,” and in a decade or so we could expect an Iranian democracy. But if we got engaged, “God only knows what will happen.” I suppose he is now one of the happy thinkers who say that Iran won’t have nukes for another decade or so. Worse yet, in December, 2001, Iranians meeting secretly with American officials in Rome, informed the United States about Iranian plans to kill coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. The information was correct, and the killers were eliminated. But in short order, orders were given to terminate all such contacts with Iranians, even though the Rome meeting had produced life-saving information. I can well believe that the preside nt was never told about the Iranian-sponsored killers.
According to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Bob Woodward had eight hours with the president. Did he ever ask if we were at war with Iran? Given the explosive evidence provided in State of Denial, he certainly should have. But if he did, there is no record of it in his book.
Perhaps the question was not asked for the same reason the policymakers and spooks didn’t want it known that Iran was waging war on us: fear of the consequences. For once you put the Iranian question in that context, it’s really impossible to pretend that our “issues” with the mullahs consist of trying to convince them to help freedom in Iraq and Lebanon, and getting them to cooperate in dismantling their nuclear program. Once you are forced to address the facts, all sorts of “issues” drop into the background.
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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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