Feb. 19,. 2007

IRAN'S IRAQ MEDDLING: HANGING TOUGH AGAINST WEASELS

By KENNETH R. TIMMERMAN

February 19, 2007 -- THERE'S a new myth being pumped by the anti-Bush crowd, that somehow the president is once again "hyping" intelligence to make the case for war.

 This time it's Iran and the allegedly hyped intelligence concerns Iran's involvement in Iraq, as well as the administration's interpretation of Iran's motives and intentions.

 The anti-Bush crowd is concerned that Bush's new, hard-headed approach to Iranian terrorists operating in Iraq is actually beginning to show results, and it is desperate to sabotage any political benefit the president might derive from this success.

 "If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority," Sen. Hil- lary Rodham Clinton huffed on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

 The president's Jan. 10 speech announcing his new Iraq policy was followed by immediate action on the ground. That night, American and Iraqi forces raided an Iranian intelligence headquarters in the northern city of Irbil, nabbing six Iranians, including three top Revolutionary Guards commanders.

 These and other Iranians captured over the past 18 months have yielded detailed intelligence on Iran's penetration of Iraq and its supply of a new type of armor-piercing, improvised, explosive device to Iraqi insurgents.

 U.S. military briefers in Baghdad showed journalists some of the Iranian weapons and other intelligence material on Feb. 11. They revealed that the expeditionary forces of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, known as the Quds force, "trains extremists and insurgents in terrorist tactics and guerilla warfare" and "supports terrorism by providing advice, training and weapons to insurgents and terrorist groups."

 Within days, this information was challenged, with journalists pummeling the president at a news conference with allegations that all of this was somehow a "rogue operation" that bore no relationship to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 That's like saying that the 1,854 U.S. Marines on board the USS Boxer, now cruising in the Persian Gulf, have somehow appeared out of nowhere without the knowledge or approval of the U.S. government.

 The Quds force is an integral part of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and reports through the chain of command to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Its mission is terrorism.

 Quds force officers have been directly involved in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983, the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires in July 1994 and a host of other attacks.

 The Quds force also trains foreign terrorists in Iran and manages a far-flung commercial network around the world, including front companies in Germany whose purpose is to acquire high technology for Iranian weapons programs and to launder money for terrorist operations.

 The president was right to point the finger at the Quds force for the murder of 170 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and to order a crackdown. The results are already in: Renegade Iraqi Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr fled to Iran earlier this month, along with many of his top deputies.

 Iranian sources tell me that Khamenei "panicked" at the new U.S. policy, which he referred to as mar-rouye domesh vastadeh - "the cobra standing on his tail."

 By late January, a new, blue-ribbon security/intelligence committee recommended to Khamenei that Iran scale back its presence in Iraq. So Khamenei ordered some of the Quds forces officers to withdraw and sent a letter to al-Sadr "inviting" him to Iran.

 Last week, I learned from Iranian sources that Khamenei has now ordered the Quds force to reduce its exposure in other parts of the Persian Gulf, in particular in Bahrain. Iran has thoroughly infiltrated Bahrain's majority Shiite population and has repeatedly sparked demonstrations against the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

 The latest ploy by the anti-Bush crowd is the allegation that the White House ignored an Iranian offer in April 2003 to negotiate a "comprehensive settlement" with Iran. According to this fairy tale, the Iranians were willing to discuss their support for terrorist groups and their nuclear program and even recognize Israel but the Bush administration turned them down.

 The story is being hyped by rogue weasel Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer who quit government in May 2003 to become an adviser to the presidential campaign of John Kerry. The Iranian official who allegedly made the proposal, Sadeq Kharrazi, was subsequently arrested for "unauthorized contacts" with the United States.

 So much for an authoritative offer.

 What's clear in both these stories is that the Tehran regime fears a tough U.S. policy. In Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, it is already backing down under pressure. And when it comes to negotiations, we learn that the one thing the regime really wants is for the United States to cut off support for the pro-democracy movement and to provide security guarantees to the regime.

 The conclusion is simple: Hang tough. It's working.

Kenneth R. Timmerman, president of the Middle East Data Project, is author of "Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran."


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