A group called the Iran Policy Committee held a press conference on July 25 to declare that Iran, not the U.S., is winning the war in Iraq. The event featured the release of a new book, Baghdad Ablaze: How to Extinguish the Fires in Iraq.
Speakers agreed that while the Bush Administration has badly handled the Iraq war, giving Iran a chance to exploit the conflict and make tremendous gains, an immediate pullout of U.S. forces would make the situation worse, giving Iran even more power.
The book was written by Georgetown University Professor Raymond Tanter; Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, USAF (ret.); Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, USA (ret.); and R. Bruce McColm, the President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies.
Tanter and McColm, as well as William A. Nitze, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Jed Babbin, the editor of Human Events and former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, were at the press conference.
McColm said a key mistake was de-Baathification, a purge of Saddam loyalists in the Iraqi government and military forces, which led to a political and military vacuum in Iraq that Iran has exploited for its own purposes. Babbin said that one of the big mistakes the U.S. made was occupying Iraq for the long term, rather that just draining “the swamp” and deposing the Saddam regime.
Babbin said the administration’s War on Terrorism is misleading because it needs to be a “War Against States that Sponsor Terrorism,” adding that “Iran is the central terrorist nation in the world” and is not being adequately confronted by the U.S. for its military interference in Iraq and the region. He said, for example, that U.S. military commanders know that explosive devices coming into Iraq to kill U.S. soldiers are from Iran.
McColm said Iran’s objective is to create an Islamic Republic in Iraq, in order to complement and facilitate the activities of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. An Islamic Republic in Iraq would create a Shiite Crescent of influence and provide Iran with a direct land route to Syria to supply terrorists in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza with military equipment.
However, McColm said, Iran faces problems of its own. He said that because of its failure to modernize its oil industry, Iran may not be able to export oil by 2015. Hence, the regime could lose international influence and stature. In addition, the regime faces serious internal opposition and dissent at home.
In Iraq, he said, Iran funds religious schools and mosques, especially in the Shiite-dominated south. Iran has also provided medical, charitable, and welfare assistance to the local Shiite populations that are in desperate need of such services in the face of an ineffective Iraqi government. Iran has seven Arabic language television stations that broadcast pro-Iranian messages to Iraq and influence elections there.
McColm said U.S policy in the past actually encouraged Iranian influence in Iraq, mistakenly thinking this would help stabilize the country. McColm said U.S. policy should be to strengthen Iraq’s status as an independent nation and get it more involved in the global economy.
A big question is how U.S. forces could eventually be withdrawn. Tanter said there are several problems. One, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has become an excuse for terrorists to grow in power and influence. Two, Iraqis don’t like the U.S. occupation and want their own forces to provide security. And three, Iran is providing Sunni and Shiite insurgents with training, weapons and funding.
Internally, the big problems include the failure to devise a strategy to share the country’s oil reserves, creating a democratic government where people and not parties are represented, and dispelling years of distrust and violence between Sunni and Shiite. A failed state in Iraq could mean a more powerful Iran, and a Shiite Crescent that will supply Hamas and Hezbollah with the means and military might to strike against Lebanon and Israel.
In order for the U.S. to leave, speakers said, Iraqi forces must be bolstered and Iran’s infiltration of weapons, intelligence operatives, and radical ideology into Iraq must be stopped.
The Iran Policy Committee offered the following six steps to ebb the flow of violence, decrease Iran’s growing presence in Iraq, and eventually bring home U.S. troops.
1. Prevent Tehran from infiltrating its paramilitary and intelligence forces into Iraq by stopping them at the border and/or arresting them in Iraq.
2. Isolate the Iranian regime diplomatically and economically to constrain its influence in Iraq.
3. Enlist the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the Iranian opposition in Iraq and the only militia that supports the U.S., to wean Sunnis from the insurgency and break the cycle of sectarian violence.
4. Empower the Iranian people by de-listing Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations lists of the United States and the European Union.
5. Win Iraqi support to take down Iranian proxies in Iraq, including disarming the militias.
6. Support Iraqi economic growth, while decreasing Iran’s role in the Iraqi economy.
Step four appears to be a critical point. The Clinton Administration designated the MEK as a terrorist group, one of many concessions the U.S. made to Iran. But Tanter believes that U.S. support for the MEK can force Iran to back down in Iraq and help stabilize the situation there.
Some speakers suggested that Iran could also be confronted by its Sunni Arab neighbors.
In a statement released at the event, General Thomas McInerney (USAF, Ret.) and General Paul Vallely (USA, Ret.), said, “With renewed threats to the Sunni Arab world, blatant interference in Iraq, and a nuclear Iran on the horizon, there are signs of a Sunni Arab awakening. As proposed in Baghdad Ablaze, such a realization of the Iranian threat could be the basis for greater cooperation between the United States and the Sunni Arab world to isolate Iran. The Iranian threat to the Sunni world is approaching the same gravity as the threat to Israel.”