Al Qaeda's new base

What should be done about al Qaeda's new home in Iran?

". . .What to do? As with other major decision points since 9/11, the current debate is between the aggressive, comprehensive war strategy of the president and some of his top aides, and the cautious, incremental view of many of the military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials responsible for carrying it out. These officials tend to see most issues raised by the war as discrete and separable. Their views have a veneer of expertise and sophistication. Sunnis are not Shiites, they point out. Arabs are not Persians. Governments are not terrorist movements. Islamists don't like secularists. All very true, and yet Islamist warriors are today infiltrating into Iraq to fight side-by-side with Baath restorationists.

"So, elements of the U.S. government, and of other governments, do not want to hold Iran accountable for allowing al Qaeda to establish a new global headquarters within its borders. So, the Saudis pursue diplomatic channels demanding extradition of the al Qaeda commanders, while our State Department delivers protests to Iran's utterly powerless president, Mohammad Khatami. Needless to say, these efforts get nowhere, and the excuse given is that the Jerusalem Force, the branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps tasked with sheltering the al Qaeda high command, is said to be somewhat independent of the rest of the Iranian government. Meanwhile, the State Department is described by the Post as 'eager to renew talks with Iran on a variety of issues.'

"Amazingly, this polite, bureaucratic approach is supported by many of the same people who said, more than two years ago, that we needed a polite, bureaucratic approach in Afghanistan. The argument always had elements of truth: Al Qaeda was somewhat independent of the Taliban, after all. In the end, of course, these interesting but diversionary arguments were swept aside when President Bush ordered a full-scale air bombardment on the Taliban units defending Kabul. But while the U.S. military and State Department agonized over how soon and how thoroughly to bomb the forward positions of the Taliban's army, and how challenging it was going to be for the Northern Alliance to represent Pashtun tribal interests in the event of a swift military victory, precious days were wasted and al Qaeda commanders found plenty of time to escape.

". . .The president has repeatedly argued that the nexus between Islamist terror and potentially nuclear-armed rogue states poses the gravest of all dangers to the American people and their safety. If his past performance is any guide, the president will soon turn up diplomatic, political, and--if necessary--military pressure on the Iranian mullahs to break this nexus."

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