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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Walid Phares

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Walid Phares

Last Build Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2007 23:30:07 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Losing the War in Congress--Not in Iraq

Mon, 23 Apr 2007 23:30:07 -0600

Under the pounding of a media that thrives on sound bites and not on calm analysis, if read quickly, the statement cut through. But then, if one reflects on what the highest figure in the Senate has said, one would conclude that he and other like-minded politicians defy the implacable reality of logic. Consider this: How can the move towards victory in an ongoing war be measured by the mere existence of violence or by its intensity? While a war is taking place, it is - of course and of necessity - comprised of violent acts. Yet because the question raised by Senator Reid had been about whether we had been victorious in the war, he made an unnecessary and confused statement. Yes, the war is not yet over, America has neither won nor lost decisively, and it is precisely for that reason that one must expect to see the violence one sees in wartime. But in Mr. Reid's statement, he misguidedly concluded that the US-led coalition had utterly lost the war in Iraq, just because the enemy still attacks and counter-attacks. Historians would certainly disapprove of Reid's logic and examples abound. When the 101st Airborne division was cut off and surrounded by German forces in the Battle of the Bulge the Allies weren't losing WWII, the Nazis were. One could have perceived that we were losing the war at that point, but the reality was entirely different. Mr. Reid and many other politicians, academics and commentators, in a gesture derived from farce, took it upon themselves to decide that progress towards victory in the war in Iraq will be measured only if no shots are heard and no car bombs explode. But if that were to occur, we would find ourselves at the end of the war, not in the middle of the war pursuing, and moving towards, victory which is where we are. Until the Iraqi state is up and running, the neighboring regimes threatening peace countered, with a strong anti-Jihadist movement leading the resistance against terrorism in the region having taken root, the enemy will of course be waging counter strikes relentlessly. Thus, measurement of our success in this war is about these factors, not about the mere evidence of violence which proves only that we are engaged in a war. A more comprehensive and worthy analysis of the war in Iraq should factor in the direction of the global confrontation between the forces of democracy and the Jihadist-authoritarian camp in the region. Since 2003, a brutal regime - genocidal in essence - has been brought down in Iraq; the Kurds have reached a survival level; the Shiites were saved from the savage Baathist regime, and the liberal element among Sunnis has had a chance to emerge. Yes, and it should have been predicted, the Iranian regime is penetrating Iraq, Syrian strongman Bashar Assad is sending the Jihadists through the borders and al Qaeda is attempting to seize the control of the Sunni Triangle. Therefore, one stage of the war was accomplished, the removal of Saddam; the other stage, the Syro-Iranian and Jihadi counter-offensive, is evolving. It doesn't really take a Middle East expert to understand this. If Senator Reid and his colleagues were to engage in a serious discussion of Iraq, if Congress were to debate the best strategies to contain the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and if the legislators were to invite more Muslim dissidents instead of Islamist radicals to the Hill, then the road to victory in the war on terror would be paved with meaningful evidence. Unfortunately, instead of proposing a better map towards strategic victory, leading politicians - influenced by faulty expertise - are missing the whole logic of the War on Terror: its global dimension. And to add egregious insult to intellectual injury, a congressional panel recently voted to ban the use of the phrase, the "Global War on Terror." In this context, Mr. Reid's statement needs to be understood differently. Indeed one war is being lost by America today; it is the war of ideas, not the war in Iraq. Ironically, the former is being lost by the very group of people elected to defend America, its citizens and[...]

Admedinejad's "Plan B" - The Circus Continues

Fri, 06 Apr 2007 10:30:30 -0600

1.) The basis behind this punctual operation was systematically eroded in one week: Analysis exposing the role of the Iranian intelligence in Iraq, the defection of Iranian military officials, and the rise of protests inside the country helped expose what the regime was trying to dodge with this orchestrated hostage crisis. The surfacing of this charade both in Western and Arab media stripped the Iranian PR machine of its subterfuge. More around the world were growing increasingly incredulous of the mullahs' professed concern about the breach of Iranian sovereign waters. Hence the "Psy-ops" architects quickly ordered a change in direction. 2) In addition, the Iranian management of the hostage operation was starting to unravel in the eyes of their professional publicists. Showing the detainees on TV, parading them, forcing the female soldier to wear a scarf, and then forcing the captured sailors to write letters and deliver televised speeches were the worse possible actions the captors could have done. The direction taken by the managers of the hostage crisis was becoming untenable to the regime. They were losing international sympathies for the Iranian story of sovereignty. Instead, the international community was growing frustrated with Ahmedinijad's coordinated propaganda operation. 3) Once the real objectives of the operation began to circulate widely, the margin for Iranian maneuvering shrunk dramatically. When the reality of what the mullahs wanted to do with the hostages over time was understood, the regime's ability to surprise the public with circus-like actions collapsed. Since most of the potential future acts were exposed in advance, Khomeinists lost the ability to be creative: options such as having more pro-regime students staging demonstrations, releasing more videos, and inviting Western "mediators" to Tehran to blast London and Washington became obsolete. While it is true that Tehran won the first round of the match by shifting international focus to the hostage crisis instead of its nuclear program, because of his speedy recourse to circus stunts, Ahmedinijad was about to lose the entire propaganda war with his enemies. Thus, the PR advisors behind Tehran's propaganda stunt sounded the alarm: Stop the operation and revert to Plan B. 4) And what urged the change of direction as well was that the Iranians were made to understand that any action taken against the British sailors, especially since the latter were operating under UN mandate, would be considered a breach of international law. Any mistreatment, blatant abuse of rights, or even kangaroo court procedures would be considered as cause for action against the regime. Iran's PR advisors know that such a development would be very dangerous for business. 5) And in the larger picture, as I argued in my previous assessment of this crisis, playing brinkmanship with the U.K., U.S., and regional forces opposed to the Tehran elite, was highly risky. The price for detaining 15 sailors, with all the additional circus tricks Tehran had been preparing, wasn't worth any international extension of support to the four major ethnicities inside Iran and to various democratic movements opposed to the regime. The situation had to be modified to fit the changing circumstances and chart a new direction. So what is the new direction? First, Ahmedinijad had to detach the regime from the sailors, but in the most sumptuous way: Hold a major press conference, during which the regime extends awards to the captors while embracing the captives. The sailors apologize again, greet the regime, smile to the cameras and are shipped back to their country. That is what the international media wanted and that is what it would get. Second, the "liberation" of hostages would allow Ahmedinijad to use the closing statements prepared for the long captivity immediately. Instead of a gift to the British people for Christmas, it was revamped as an "Easter Gift." Theologically, Ahmedinejad was clumsy here: Christians don't usually give "gifts" for Easter, and[...]

The Mullahs' Next Steps

Tue, 03 Apr 2007 09:30:27 -0600

Framing the incident In the aftermath of the media rush to describe the details of the "crime's" location, it is simply forgotten that Iran's behavior is the big story. Had the vessels entered Kuwaiti waters by error, for instance, the principality navy would have alerted the British unit as to its current location and asked them if they needed help to correct their sailing. At the very least, a regime that brags about the "dialogue of civilizations," such as the Ahmadinejad elite, should have behaved better. Had the Khomeinist Navy been "international" in its behavior, its men should have informed the British sailors that they were in Iranian waters (the legality of the issue to be resolved by governments, not by military capture of the boat) and demanded them to leave the area immediately. That would have been the case, had an Iranian warship been spotted within Saudi or Omani waters. Ironically, the spokespersons of the Iranian regime are framing the incident as a British act of war. Psychologically, this is very revealing: It shows that the mullahs decided to frame the incident as an "act of war" to begin with, and then open the field for negotiations, giving London only one choice: to apologize and hasten the pull out from the area. It's a classic Machiavellian maneuver: Changing the game from UN sanctions on Iran to UN mediation between Tehran and London to free the sailors. Prisoners show Against all stipulations of international law, the Ahmadinejad regime has used these POWs in propaganda operations: Parading the 14 male detainees on national and international TV, then singling out the female prisoner and abusing her individual rights: to separate the British female sailor from her companions for the purpose of propaganda, to force her to wear a black headscarf (a sign of ideological submission) and other outfits not appropriate with her status as a British citizen is against the Geneva Conventions. And above all it is illegal to show the abducted service persons in any way other than to present the evidence that they are alive and well. Any and all other "cinema" manufactured by the Ahmadinejad regime is a violation of international law. The Jihadi letters Stage three is the classical fascist extraction of "confessions." While the Iranian regime has been very astute lately in external propaganda, the airing-of-letters drama seems to be a resurgence of the old methods, instead of the sophisticated suggestions the international PR advisors Iran has hired would put forward. Forcing the detained servicewoman to send a letter to her parents asking for the British withdrawal from Iraq is rarely seen these days. Videotaping the other male sailors "apologizing" for the incursion is reminiscent of old Nazi and Communist propaganda. However, what is interesting is that Tehran is giving its own official TV channel, al Aalam, the exclusivity of the initial broadcast. This means the regime is eager to play this propaganda in the Arab world and score mileage with it. More interesting is the fact that al Aalam TV, which is airing material in breach of international law, has offices in London and Washington, D.C. The old 'students show' As in the 1979 U.S. embassy hostage crisis, the lead is given by the regime to "students." In the West, the image of students is reminiscent of the 1968 college uprising in France and the U.S., thus touching a domestic cord. If students are upset with the "colonial powers," explained Western academics at the time, then it is the future generations of these countries that we need to take into consideration. However, liberal democratic elites have had a hard time understanding that fascist-type propagandists use whatever is dear and sensitive to their enemy. The "students" of the Iranian revolution in the 1970s ended up becoming members in the oppressive Pasdaran corps, a Khomeinist version of Hitler's SS. Those students who seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran were the same ones who crushed the bones of freedom-seeking students in [...]

Royal Navy Incident: Iran's Plan to Drag the US and the UK

Sun, 25 Mar 2007 23:30:58 -0600

1) Iran's domestic front is putting pressure on the Ahmedinijad regime.

From internal reporting, dissidents and anti-Ahmedinijad forces from various social sectors are practically in slow motion eruption against the authorities. Students, women, workers and political activists have been demonstrating and sometimes clashing with the regime's security apparatus. Western media didn't report proportionally on these events over the past few weeks. In addition, ethnic minority areas have been witnessing several incidents, including violence against the "Revolutionary Guards," including in the Arab and Baluch areas. And last but not least, the defection of a major intelligence-military figure early this month to the West was, according to internal sources, a "massive loss" to the regime and a possible first one in a series.

2) The regime "need" an external clash to crush the domestic challenge.

As in many comparable cases worldwide, when an authoritarian regime is faced with severe internal opposition it attempts to deflect the crisis onto the outside world. Hence, Teheran's all out campaign against the US and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and the region is in fact a repositioning of Iran's shield against the expected rising opposition inside the country. Hence the Khomeinist Mullahs plan seem to be projected as follow:

a. Engage in the diplomatic realm, to project a realist approach worldwide, but refrain from offering real results

b. Continue, along with the Syrian regime, in supporting the "Jihadi" Terror operations (including sectarian ones) inside Iraq

c. Widen the propaganda campaign against the US and its allies via a number of PR companies within the West, to portray Iran as "a victim" of an "upcoming war provoked by the US."

d. Engage in skirmishes in the Gulf (and possibly in other spots) with US and British elements claiming these action as "defensive," while planned thoroughly ahead of time.

3) The regime plan is to drag its opponents into a trap

Teheran's master planners intend to drag the "Coalition" into steps in engagement, at the timing of and in the field of control of Iran's apparatus. Multiple options and scenarios are projected.

a. British military counter measure takes place, supported by the US. Iran's regime believe that only "limited" action by the allies is possible, according to their analysis of the domestic constraints inside the two powerful democracies.

b. Tehran moves to a second wave of activities, at its own pace, hoping to draw a higher level of classical counter strikes by US and UK forces. The dosing by Iran's leadership is expected to stretch the game in time, until the departure of Blair and of the Bush Administration by its political opponents inside the country's institutions and public debate.

In a short conclusion the "War room" in Tehran has engaged itself in an alley of tactical moves it feels it can control. But the Iranian regime, with all its "political chess" expertise, may find itself in a precarious and risky situation. For while it feel that it can control the tactical battlefield in the region and fuel the propaganda pressure inside the West with its Petro-dollars, it may not be able to contain the internal forces in Iran, because of which it has decided to go on offense.

The Ahmedinijad regime wishes to crumble the international consensus to avoid the financial sanctions: that is true. But as important, if not more, it wants to be able to crush the revolt before it pounds the doors to the Mullahs palaces.