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Winning in Iraq and Iran

The Bush Administration’s new policy of talking to and dealing with Iran over its nuclear weapons program has gotten favorable reviews in the press. But Michael Ledeen, one of the toughest conservative foreign policy thinkers in town, is not a fan. He thinks the new Iran policy is a betrayal of the old Bush doctrine of confronting evil regimes. What’s more, he thinks the new Iran policy threatens the prospect of victory in Iraq.

“If you want to win the war in Iraq, you have to bring down the regime in Iran,” he told a group of conservatives recently in Washington, D.C.

Ledeen, author of the book, The Terror Masters,  said the appeasement policy is being implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has gone so far as to undermine the effort of Senate conservatives, led by Senator Rick Santorum, to put some financial resources into a pro-democracy movement in Iran that could threaten the power of the ruling Mullahs. In order to derail Santorum’s amendment, Ledeen said, Rice appealed to Senator Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and told him that such a move might undermine negotiations with Tehran.

The details were provided by Eli Lake of the New York Sun, who noted that Biden said that he had spoken with Rice and that she “authorized me to say, unequivocally, the administration opposes this amendment.” Lake reported that a letter from the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Jeffrey Bergner, opposed Santorum’s amendment on the ground that it “would shift unified international attention away from Iran’s nuclear activities and create a rift between the U.S. and our closest international partners.”

It is still possible, Ledeen said, that Santorum’s push to expand U.S. efforts on behalf of anti-regime elements could be successful. Santorum’s bill, the Iran Freedom Support Act, had 60 co-sponsors before Rice undermined the effort to get its provisions passed into law. A similar piece of legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has already passed the House. 

Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the evidence is overwhelming that Iran is behind the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. But negotiating with Iran, an approach previously rejected by the Bush Administration, is foolish and dangerous, he suggested. Iran has been at war with the U.S. for over two decades, he said, and it makes no sense for the U.S. to ignore this critical fact.

Speaking to the same group, foreign policy expert and author Jed Babbin declared that war with Iran was “inevitable” and that U.S. policy toward Iran should be to take out the regime, not just its nuclear weapons. But Babbin also said he fears that the Bush Administration has “run out of gas” and won’t pursue a policy of confronting the regime.