A sea change is beginningto occur in Iraq: for the first time since the insurgency took off,the terrorists are starting to run.
This is occurring not because the United States has successfullypromoted political dialogue among Iraq’s torn communities,although a successful dialogue is certainly to be desired.
It is occurring not because the United States has given in to therecommendations of the Baker-Hamilton commission and others, who havesuggested a policy of unilateral capitulation to the terror-masterspulling the strings of the insurgency in Damascus and Tehran.
Nor is it occurring because we have suddenly become better at winning“hearts and minds” in Iraq, although such an effort, asdescribed by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, would appear to be soundcounter-insurgent policy.
The terrorists are on the run for one reason only: they fear theUnited States.
“In Tehran, they are now referring to the United States asmar-rouye domesh vastadeh – the Cobra standing on histail,” says Shahriar Ahy, an Iranian-born political analyst whohelped build the post-war broadcasting network in Iraq.
The sea-change began on January 10, when President George W. Bushannounced that the United States would no longer tolerate Iranian andSyrian intelligence officers using Iraq as a playground for theirmurderous games.
When he announced the troop surge in Iraq, Bush also put Iran andSyria on notice. “Iran is providing material support forattacks on American troops,” hesaid. “We willdisrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow ofsupport from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy thenetworks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies inIraq.”
Those weren’t idle words. That very night, U.S. forces raidedan Iranian intelligence headquarters in the Kurdish town of Irbil,capturing six Iranians. The Iranian government screamed that theywere diplomats, but apparently only one had any sort of diplomaticcredentials. My sources tell me this was Hassan Abbassi, a well-knownstrategist who is close to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The other five turned out to be Revolutionary Guards officers. Mysources identified three of them by name, and told me they wereproviding a treasure trove of intelligence to their U.S.interrogators (who appear to be receiving help from an intelligenceexpert from the opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq).
“They are key people in the Sepah Quds,” the overseasterrorist arm of the Revolutionary Guards, a former Iranianintelligence officer told me.
Iranian exiles and Kurdish sources identified another captive asBrig. Gen. Mohammad Djafari Sahraroudi, a Kurdish affairs expert whois wanted by Interpol for his involvement in the 1989 murder inVienna of Iranian Kurdish dissident Abdulrahman Qassemlou.
Also among those detained was Mohammad Jaafari, an aid to NationalSecurity advisor Ali Larijani, the sources said.
The raid in Irbil was in fact the second U.S. backed raid thatcaptured senior Iranian revolutionary guards officials recently.Shortly before Christmas, coalition forcesraidedthe headquarters of Shiite political leader Abdul Azizal-Hakim, just threeweeks after he was in the Oval Office meeting with PresidentBush.
During that raid, they captured documents which American EnterpriseInstitute scholar MichaelLedeen called “awiring diagram” of Iran’s terror networks in Iraq.
Iran is believed to be operating a number of intelligence offices inIraq similar to the one in Irbil, to plan terrorist attacks againstU.S. forces and supply money and equipment to insurgents.
“The mullah infiltration of Iraq is far more extensive than theU.S. has thought,” said Iranian exile Sardar Haddad. “Theyhave infiltrated every single ministry, especially the defense andinterior ministries, not just with one or two people, but massively.”
Referring to the Irbil incident, “It’s not five Iranianagents, but 5,000,” he added.
The U.S. is also investigating Iran’s alleged involvement inthe kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers near Karbala onJanuary 20, and reportedlyhas detained two high-ranking Iraqigenerals suspected ofcollaborating with the attackers.
I am told that those interrogations have turned up astonishinginformation, including documents sent by the Iranian regime to PrimeMinister Nouri Al-Malaki, offering to “welcome” anextended visit to Iran by Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr andtop members of his Jaish-al Mahdi militia.
According to one source, the generals revealed the names of nearly adozen top Iraqi politicians who were on the payroll of the Iraniangovernment, includinga Shiite member of parliamentconvicted and sentenced to death in Kuwait for his involvement in the1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait city.
Jamal Jafaar Mohammed is said to have fled to Iran in recent days,fearing U.S. forces would arrest him and send him to Kuwait. He waselected to parliament in 2005 as a member of Prime Minister al-Malaki’sDawa party.
Yesterday, U.S.forces arrested deputyhealth minister Hakim Zamili, accused of helping Shiite militiamen toinfiltrate his ministry. He was also accused of funelling money toShiite death squads loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr.
The U.S. Cobra is finally standing on its tail. This strategy isclearly working.
In Tehran, shortly after the January 10 speech by President Bush,Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set up two commissions,terrified that the policies of President Ahmadinejad were taking hisregime to defeat.
A domestic policy review board is examining Ahmadinejad’sdismal handling of the economy, which has led to increasedunemployment and runaway inflation.
A national security and intelligence review board led by Khamenei’sson Mojtaba and his chief of staff, Akbar Hejazi, is looking at Iran’snuclear face-off with the international community and its aggressiveposture in Iraq.
According to Iranian exiles who have been following these eventsclosely, a rift has developed between Ahmadinejad and seniorRevolutionary Guards “professionals,” who believe thePresident’s overheated rhetoric and behavior is endangering thesurvival of the regime.
“It’s not that these professionals want to make peacewith America and sing Kumbaya with the opposition,” saidShahriar Ahy. “Rather, they feel that Ahmadinejad has broughtin undisciplined amateurs who are riding roughshod” over theiragencies and “destroying all the work” the professionalshave accomplished over the past twenty years.
Tehran’s reaction to the more forceful U.S. policy in Iraqgives the lie to the U.S. politicians and analysts who have beenarguing that the United States must talk to Tehran.
In fact, it shows they were completely wrong.
Council on Foreign Relations Iran “expert” Ray Takeyh,Washington Post reporter Robin Wright, and pro-regime lobbyistHousang Amirahmadi have been saying for years that pressure on theregime in Tehran will be counterproductive, because it will unite thepeople behind the regime.
“They have even argued against using coercive diplomacy,”says Iran analyst Hassan Daioleslam.
But Daioleslam and others believe recent events have shown just thecontrary. When the U.S. squeezes the Tehran regime, they retreat.
“Coercive measures work against Iran. They worked in 1988 atthe end of the war with Iraq, and they worked again in 1996 whenEurope and the United States took a hard stance against Iran. Thehard-liners only got strong when the West was soft with them,”he says.
A strong faction has emerged in Congress arguing for the UnitedStates to “go soft” toward Iran once again. Among thebest known advocates of this policy are Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. JohnKerry, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Chuck Hagel.
But Daioleslam says the “pro-Iranians are wrong because theybase their policy on two false assumptions: first, that the people ofIran support the regime. Second, that the factions are united. Bothassumptions are just plain wrong as any reader who opens an Iraniannewspaper can see immediately.”
The Tehran regime understands the stakes in Iraq very well.
Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now a top advisor to theSupreme Leader, told the Iranian Student News Agency in August 2004: “Whatis happening in Iraq today will affect the whole region. If the Iraqipeople resist and finally force the invaders to leave Iraq, thatcould become a model for the entire world because the Moslems willsee that they could defeat the aggressors.”
Conversely, he argued, an American victory in Iraq could be fatal tothe Islamic regime in Tehran.
As the insurgency deepened last year, Iranian Majles member MojtabaNia noted, “Every car exploded in Iraq will delay a month theAmerican plot against us.”
Now we need to squeeze harder. It’s time for the U.S. Cobra tostrike at the heart of the Iranian terror networks in Iraq, and shutdown their supply lines once and for all.
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