If a picture speaks a thousand words, then the pictures and film footage of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki holding hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak volumes. “The two leaders walked in to an ornate meeting room holding hands,” noted one of several reports. This picture, only the latest evidence of an extremely close relationship between the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and the Iranian regime, appeared on the U.S. evening news broadcasts on Wednesday night.
It raises the question: what are we fighting for in Iraq if the government there is closely tied to, perhaps dependent for its survival on, the terrorist state of Iran?
Some observers are saying that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq is making a difference and that we might even “win” the war. But the key issue is the political character of the government in Iraq we are supporting. If the goal now is simply a stable Iraqi government, no matter how closely it is tied to Iran, then that outcome may rest in large part in the hands of the Iranian government. Are we now sacrificing our blood, sweat, tears and money to assure the survival of a regime that is or will become a satellite of Iran?
Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute warns, “Until Iran is defeated, Iraqi leaders will always cater to the edicts coming from Tehran.”
The pictures of Al-Maliki and Ahmadinejad holding hands serve to remind people that Al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government is closely tied to mainly Shiite Iran. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Arab state, regards Al-Maliki as an Iranian puppet and the Iraqi government as an Iranian client state. The Saudis refuse to meet with him for that reason. That is one reason why the Saudis have been underwriting the activities of Sunni militants in Iraq and causing even more problems for U.S. forces.
On the same day that Al-Maliki was in Tehran, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, a senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, disclosed that Iranian weapons were responsible for one-third of recent U.S. combat deaths in Iraq. That’s more than 25 killed by Iranian-supported weapons.
Odierno had briefed Accuracy in Media on January 13, 2006, demonstrating a keen knowledge of the enemy and the stakes involved in the war in Iraq.
Before Lt. Gen Odierno highlighted the Iranian role, Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, had charged that agents of Iran had helped plan a January raid in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed. He said that American intelligence indicated that “the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity.”
On the Lou Dobbs Tonight show on CNN on Wednesday night, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said that U.S. military commanders believe that “Iran is really on its own surge” in Iraq, “trying to make the security situation in Iraq look as bad as it possibly can before that September assessment” from General David Petraeus.
Starr added, “Now the U.S. says it’s doing everything it can. It’s going after the networks. It’s going after the insurgents, it’s trying to build these new armored vehicles that can defeat or at least resist these bomb attacks as much as they possibly can. But fundamentally, Lou, the bottom line is this―the U.S. has no intention of taking any military actions, direct military action, across the border in Iran. They say they are going to pursue the diplomatic option.”
Dobbs was furious. “Well Barbara,” he said, “the United States military then, is there any discussion in the Pentagon of simply withdrawing our troops from Iraq if they are going to permit Iran to provide these explosives and to be actively involved in killing American troops? I mean that’s outrageous that the Pentagon would say they have no response available to them.”
Starr explained that “What commanders are saying is they want the diplomatic option [left ] to the State Department, if you will, to hold Iran’s feet to the fire on this?”
Dobbs interjected, “I appreciate that our generals would be concerned about diplomacy. But those generals are charged with the safety of the troops they are leading in Iraq. It is inconceivable that American generals would accept the idea of that the diplomats should be holding a nation’s ‘feet to the fire’ rather than demanding an immediate cessation of support for anyone killing our troops. And that this commander in chief would permit such an utter travesty.”
More than a year ago, members of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) provided details of what they called the Iranian regime’s brazen efforts to fuel the insurgency and exacerbate sectarian violence in Iraq. The IPC said it knew the exact location of a roadside bomb factory in Iran that manufactures improvised explosive devices for shipment to Iraq.
When I raise the matter of Iran’s role in Iraq to staffers on Capitol Hill, they have no real explanation for why the U.S. lets Iran get away with it. All they can say is that U.S. diplomats are talking to Iran about the problem and have vowed to “squeeze them harder,” whatever that means. I was also told that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had a “heated and bitter exchange” with the Iranians over their interference in Iraq and killing of U.S. troops.
This is the “diplomatic approach” authorized by President Bush. One congressional staffer said it consists of “talking to the Iranians about playing a stabilizing role in a crisis they have helped create.” He said Iran increased its support for anti-American forces in Iraq after one such meeting with U.S. officials, making a mockery of the U.S. approach.
On the defensive, President Bush recently met with 10 conservative talk-radio hosts and argued that the U.S. strategy in Iraq was working. The hosts were Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Hugh Hewitt, Scott Hennen, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Lars Larsen and Janet Parshall.
Beck, for one, came away convinced the strategy was the right one. On CNN, where he also hosts a show, Beck declared that Bush “feels the pain of every wounded hero, every lonely, grieving parent this war has caused. He is a man who understands the heavy cost that we are paying, but who believes with every ounce of his being that we are in the fight for our very survival, a fight that’s importance can only be judged fairly decades from now, and I believe a fight he is willing to be judged harshly for until that time comes, even if he’s long dead.”
The U.S. military “surge” may be working, in the sense that the number of deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq dropped last month. By the same token, according to the Pentagon itself, the number of deaths attributed to the actions of Iran, mostly through supplying roadside bombs, is rising, too. So the Iranian “surge” is working as well. And now, the U.S. wants the United Nations to take a bigger role in managing the problem. This is not a hopeful sign.
Regarding the Shia terrorists in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Odierno told CBS News correspondent Lara Logan that “I think they’ve surged along with our surge and I think their surge has been Iran continuing to send additional money, conduct additional training and [put] additional weapons in here.”
Reporter Logan explained, “Odierno believes any decision on a U.S. withdrawal must consider Iran’s growing influence. This isn’t the war Odierno thought he was coming here to fight, but it’s clear he isn’t ready to give up yet.”
Odierno is perplexed. But Lou Dobbs is frustrated. One can understand Dobbs’ frustration with the conduct of this war. But it’s absolutely clear that the problem doesn’t lie with Odierno and other U.S. military commanders. Clearly, they recognize and want to do something about Iran. But the President, under the influence of the Department of State, has decided against an aggressive posture.
Another important point needs to be made about the conservative media, obviously considered by Bush to be very influential with the conservative base of the Republican Party. It is fine for Beck and the others, after a meeting with the President, to praise and support Bush. But those who object to what they perceive as the Democratic Party’s policy of surrender in Iraq need to be as adamant in calling for President Bush to confront Iran and win the war. That means authorizing and ordering the U.S. military to hit Iran hard on Iranian territory. If the President doesn’t make that move, he risks an American defeat and the sacrificing of over 3,600 lives in vain.