Monday, October 31, 2005

The Swamp 

Today Peter Brookes highlights the marriage of convenience between Iran and al Qaeda. Another excellent reason for all of us to prepare intellectually for a major conflict with Iran. A sample:

So al Qaeda "refugees" from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, North Africa and Europe — including senior military commander Saif al Adel, three of Osama's sons and spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith — now operate freely from Iran.

In fact, just last week, the German monthly magazine Cicero, citing Western intelligence sources, claimed that as many as 25 al Qaeda thugs are living in Iran under the protection of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Cicero cites a "top-ranking" Western intelligence official saying, "This is not incarceration or house arrest. They [al Qaeda members] can move around as they please." The IRGC even provides logistics help and training to al Qaeda.

Some readers will undoubtedly wonder how many conflicts can we endure? I think the answer is we need to endure as many conflicts as are required to vanquish Al Qaeda, to drain the swamp. We did not start the war with these people. But we should, and will, end it.


By Blogger honestpartisan, at Mon Oct 31, 06:21:00 PM:

The New York Post? Is it possible to find a better source?

It makes no sense for the Iranian government, which has notable influence with a goodly part of the Shi'a figures currently in ascendency in Iraq for understandable reasons, to offer succor to Al-Qaeda types whose mission in great part has been to do everything possible to undermine that very Shi'a power in Iraq -- not to mention killing as many Shi'a as possible.

There's a lot more about this ostensible alliance that makes no sense, but I won't go into it more except to say that I'm going to be pretty skeptical until I see a more credible source that explains these contradictions.  

By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Mon Oct 31, 06:49:00 PM:

How many conflicts? There is only one. It may crop up in different areas, but it is stil the same conflict.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Nov 01, 08:09:00 AM:

HP - the other day I lauded you for an intelligent, non partisan comment that belied your handle. Now I'm going to point out that you made two stereotypical errors associated with lefty elitists.

1) Actually, Murdoch has done an excellent job with the op-ed section of the Post. If you are interested in reading conservative commentary, I recommend it. Regualr contributors include Dick Morris, John Podhoretz, Michael Barone, George Will, Ralph PEters, Amir Taheri and Peter Brookes. Brookes, in particulay, previously worked in the DOD and CIA. He know what he's talking about. So he is an excellent source and his facts tend to be spot on.

Hopefully, that debunked ignorant ocmment number 1.

On to ignorant comment number 2). Persian shi'ites have both fought against and supported sunni arabs depending on the context. They are delighted to align themselves against a common enemy - the US and Israel stand out. Shi'ite dominated Iran has consistently supported sunni palestinian arabs, for instance, with weapons, resources, training and safe haven. They are unquestionably providing financing, weapons and training to all manner of factions in Iraq which are opposed to its democratization, from Al Sadr to Zarqawi (principally via their satellite in Syria, Hezbollah). It has long been understood that Iran was providing safe haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda elements which escaped from Afghanistan. Iran is a safer place than Pakistan for them, as the captrure of several senior al qaeda in Pakistan makes clear. Money and common enemies create convenient alliances.

Your comments reflect stereotypical pap which belie a relatively dangerous ignorance of the region.


By Blogger honestpartisan, at Tue Nov 01, 09:10:00 AM:

The Iranian government has aligned itself with lots of bad people in the past, but not those associated with the Al Qaeda/Taliban axis, and you haven't provided a source of authority for your remarkable statement. Most of the anti-Israel activity sponsored by the Iranian government goes through Hezbollah, which is a Shi'ite group based in Southern Lebanon.

I would refer you Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban", written before 9/11, that documents how Iran indeed nearly went to war with the Taliban on a few occasions, partly on the issue of their treatment of Shi'ite Hazaras there. Indeed, they were actively supporting the Northern Alliance before the U.S. was. I would also refer you to Yaroslav Timorov's great book "Faith at War", where he depicts the predictament of Shi'a in Saudi Arabia who happen to live around where all the oil there is. It was fear of Iranian support for these Shi'a (and in another oil-rich Gulf state Bahrain, which is 75% Shi'a) that caused Gulf States, including both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to heavily finance Saddam Hussein in the '80s when he was fighting a war with Iran.

Timorov demonstrated in his book how the Saudi Shi'a are under siege by their government, but that's not good enough for the Al Qaeda types, who see Shi'a as idol worshippers for their reverence for the twelve imams at places like Ali's shrine in Najaf. It was the violation of what they see as the most basic tenet of Islam -- that there is one god and his last Prophet is Mohammed -- that inspired Wahab in the 1700s to start the so-called Wahhabi movement in the first place (see "The Kingdom" by Robert Lacey).

Cleansing the Arabian Peninsula of non-believers was the primary cause of Osama Bin Laden's jihad in 1990, which presumably includes the Saudi Shi'a: Zarqawi himself apparently cited similar sentiments regarding Iraq's Shi'a.

So we're asked to believe that probably the most extreme anti-Shi'a organization in the world and the most extreme Shi'a state, Iran, are teamed up. Not to mention the fact that the very Shi'a running what constitutes Iraq's government now have comfortable ties with the Iranian government. Why would Iran have any interest in supporting Zarqawi's disruption of a Shi'a state next door to it, where they have a better chance of influence than ever before? I suppose that it's not impossible, but you're going to need stronger authority than your assertions or an op-ed in the New York Post to overcome my suspicions that this makes no sense.

There are certainly elements of support for Al Qaeda among certain factions of the Saudi royal family or Pakistan's ISI (intelligence services) which are a lot better documented then any ties to Iran that I've seen. That doesn't implicate the entirety of the Saudi or Pakistani government, but if tendentious strands or connections are your standard, then you'd have to condemn Saudi Arabia or Pakistan in stronger terms.

And I don't see why such disagreements necessitate ad hominem attacks ("elitist", "dangerously ignorant", "stereotypical pap") that don't address the merits of the issue. It can't be the case that I'm only an honorable person because I happen to agree with you on a particular issue.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Nov 01, 05:38:00 PM:

HP - a much more thoughtful response. If you address my sources disrespectfully HP, you will hear me respond to you in similar fashion. And your initial comment was both disrespectul and reflective of a stereotype. So not only did I disagree with you, but I found your response to be way off the mark. You rmore recent response is understandable, but I still find it wonting and disagree.

It is true that iran and the Taliban nearly came to blows on a couple of occasions. It is also true that Pakistan's ISI elements had been more reliable in the past as al qaeda allies that Iran. This is no longer true. The capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed changed that, and subsequent cooperation which Pakistan has offered the US has made Pakistan an unreliable safehouse. Iran has openly acknowledged that it is holding a number of al qaeda members -- and implied that they are being held captive. More recent intelligence suggests in fact that they are free to move about within Iran. Again, they are allies of convenience viz. America and Israel, in my judgment. The argument which says the persian shi'ites and arab sunnis won't work together is similar to the notion that saddam wouldn't harbor al qaeda. It is based on a flawed understanding of what these people are -- FASCISTS. They aren't religious in any true spiritual sense. They decapitate teenage girls and fly planes into buildings. And the iranian fascists will align themselves with the arab fascists, the north korean fascists, and anybody else who will help them fight the west. Hitler and Tojo didn't have much in common and netiher did FDR, Churchill and Stalin. But war makes for unusual alliances. And both Iran and Al Qaeda recognize their shared adversary, in my view.

You also asked a specific question about why Iran via Hezbollah would help Zarqawi -- in my view, to destabilize Syria and Iraq is within the interests of Iran, especially if it cause the US trouble. This is a region which absolutely is littered with people who beleiv in the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We cannot rely on notions of a religious "dichotomy" to serve our interests.  

By Blogger honestpartisan, at Tue Nov 01, 06:09:00 PM:

I assume that by "disrespect" for your sources, you're referring to my dismissal of the New York Post. Let me try to help you understand my reaction to the New York Post: if I supported an argument by citing Michael Moore, I doubt that you would give it much credit -- and you'd have a point. Some sources are so ideologically driven that they are not going to be persuasive to the other side, particuarly on an assertion as counter-intuitive as the one made here.  

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