Friday, September 03, 2004

Iranian general confesses to support for Al-Zarqawi 

Rob A. points to a fascinating post from Iraqi blogger Fayrouz (who blogs from the Lone Star State, but can translate Arabic as well as the rest of them). Fayrouz has translated an article by Ali Nori Zada that was published by an Iraqi newspaper. The Iranians are apparently confessing to one of the world's least well-kept secrets:
A reliable Iranian source confirmed that Brig. Gen. Qassim Sullaimani, the commander of Al-Quds corps in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, told a closed seminar that Iran provides facilities to the Jordanian extremist scholar, Abu Mosaab Al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi is accused of conducting most of the suicide operations and attacks in Iraq. Sullaimani justified this cooperation because Al-Zarqawi's activities in Iraq "serve the high interests of the Islamic Republic." Among these interests is the prevention of a federalist secular regime in Iraq that cooperates with the United States.

The source, who attended the closed seminar for students of strategic and defense studies at the university of Imam Al-Hussein told "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" newspaper that Brig. Gen. Sullaimani said, "Al-Zarqawi and members of his organization (Ansar Al-Islam) don't need prior permission to enter Iran. There are specific border points which stretch from Halabja in the north to Elam in the south where Al-Zarqawi and more than 20 Ansar Al-Islam commanders can enter Iran whenever they want."

Both Al-Zarqawi and Ansar Al-Islam have close ties to Al Qaeda (although the former is thought by some to have had a bit of a falling out with Al Qaeda's leadership in the last year or so).

It seems to me (and Rob A.) that this story, if true, begs several questions. First, it suggests quite strongly that the Iranians, at least, believe a "federalist secular regime" that supports the United States might take root in Iraq. They apparently are concerned enough about this possibility that they are willing to wage war against the United States -- make no mistake about it, that is what Iran is doing, and everybody knows it. Since, therefore, Iran is willing to run the considerable risk of waging war against the United States to avoid the prospect of a successful new government in Iraq, is that not probative evidence in support of the Bush Administration's argument that the new Iraqi government can, in fact, succeed? What better testimony is there than from the mouth of your enemy?

Second, the Shiites of Iraq clearly have it within their power, over the long term, to elect, or impose, a pro-Iranian government in Iraq. They represent a clear majority of the population, so over the long term (even a few years), there is very little we could do to prevent a pro-Iranian government if the Iraqi Shiites were generally united in that ambition. So why is Iran so worried that it is now doing business with the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda and its progeny? Could it be that the Shiites of Iraq are not so close to Iran as the critics of American policy have argued? Is there in fact a real prospect that Ayatollah Al-Sistani will lead the Shiites to cooperation in a reasonably representative and secular government?

Third, if this cooperation between the mullahs of Tehran and the extremist Sunnis of Al Qaeda is possible, why was it so unreasonable to be worried about cooperation between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda?

The Bush Administration has listened far too little to the clear statements of our enemies, but its critics on the left, in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and in the opinion-setting national media have listened to our enemies even less.


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