Saturday, August 14, 2004

MENAFN - US Lawmakers want more control over Pakistan

MENAFN - Middle East North Africa . Financial Network: "Lawmakers want more control over Pakistan

Date: Friday, August 13, 2004 7:05:19 PM EST By ANWAR IQBAL, UPI South Asian Affairs Analyst

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Some U.S. lawmakers, not happy with the Bush administration's leniency in dealing with Pakistan, are urging Washington to tighten its control over Islamabad's nuclear program.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives referred to its committee on international relations a new bill that would place Pakistan in a difficult position over nuclear issues.

The nuclear Black Market Elimination Act, introduced in the House by Rep Tom Lantos, D-Calif., earlier this week, "seeks to impose sanctions on foreign entities that engage in certain nuclear proliferation activities."

Like Lantos, his co-sponsors, Rep. Gary L Ackerman, D-N.Y., Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., are all active participants in debates on South Asian issues, often supporting India on its disputes with Pakistan.

The proposed law specifically calls for sanctions against Pakistan if it fails to get a clean chit from the U.S. president on the nuclear issue.

The United States has opposed Pakistan's nuclear development since 1974, when India tested its first nuclear device spurring Pakistan to match India's nuclear program.

But U.S. pressure on Pakistan eased in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded and occupied neighboring Afghanistan. During the 10-year war (1979-89) against the Soviets, Pakistan served as conduit for weapons for Afghan guerrillas fighting the Russians.

Pakistan also provided training and launching facilities to Afghan rebels and sheltered more than 3 million refugees from Afghanistan. But in 1990, less than a year after the Afghan war ended, the United States introduced strict sanctions on Pakistan under a Pakistan-specific law called the Pressler Amendment.

The sanctions were removed again in 2001 when Pakistan joined the U.S.-led "war against terrorism" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

But in February this year -- following an intensive investigation by U.S. and British intelligence agencies -- Pakistan's now disgraced nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, confessed to secretly selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Explaining the operation, Vice President Dick Cheney told a recent election rally: "We knew ... through intelligence sources ... that a man named A.Q. Khan ... had developed the Pakistan nuclear weapons program, (and) after he'd finished that work for Pakistan, had then gone into business for himself.

"He was selling nuclear weapons technology to some of the worst regimes in the world -- the North Koreans, the Iranians and the Libyans, in particular. Moammar Gadhafi, in Libya, was one of his best customers," said Cheney.

Pakistan detained Khan but instead of putting him in the jail, Pakistanis authorities put Khan under house arrest. Khan enjoys a celebrity status in Pakistan as the father of the country's nuclear bomb and Pakistani authorities feared that putting him in the jail could hurt the government.

The U.S. government defended the Pakistani decision, saying that it was getting from Pakistan whatever information it needed to unravel Khan's network.

And earlier this week, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz indicated that the United States may not want to re-introduce sanctions against Pakistan since previously since such a move previously pushed Pakistan into the arms of Islamist militants rather than promoting U.S. interests.

"In a country where the military is one of the most important institutions, the United States severed the contact between our military and their military," Wolfowitz told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday.

Wolfowitz said he did not disagree with the U.S. policy of using economic assistance to push for change, "but you don't promote military reform in a country like Pakistan by cutting off education for Pakistani military officers here and pushing them into the one alternative, which is the Islamic extremists."

"It's not as though if we leave them alone, nobody else will go out to recruit them," he warned the U.S. policymakers.

The Bush administration, he said, realized the importance of restoring relations with Pakistan and increased U.S. assistance to Islamabad from $4 million in 2000 to $700 million requested for the next fiscal year.

But it this economic package -- $3 billion over a period of five years starting in 2003 -- that concerns the lawmaker pushing for new restrictions against Pakistan.

The bill they proposed says that before providing any financial help Islamabad in future, the U.S. president must make sure that Pakistan is fully sharing all information pertaining to Khan's proliferation network, besides providing full access to the scientist and his associates.

The bill also seeks proximity to any documentation, declarations, affidavits or other material that bears upon their proliferation network activities and contacts.

It requires the president to certify to the appropriate congressional committees that Pakistan has verifiably halted any cooperation with any state in the development of nuclear or missile technology. He would also have to affirm that Pakistan is not providing or exporting any material, equipment or technology that is useful for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Not later than 30 days after the enactment of this act, the president would have to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees, identifying any country that might have benefited from the Khan network.

Under the bill, the president would not be allowed to provide, in any fiscal year, more than 75 percent of U.S. assistance to Pakistan without issuing the required certification about the activities and impact of Khan's proliferation.

As in the Pressler Amendment, there is waiver authority in the proposed law. Under this provision, the president could certify to the appropriate congressional committees that waiving the required restrictions on Pakistan is in the vital interest of the U.S. national security. However, the president could not use the waiver in two successive fiscal years.

While issuing a waiver, the U.S. president could make the case that Pakistan's lack of cooperation is not significantly hindering U.S. efforts to investigate and eliminate the Khan network and any successor networks.

The bill would require the secretary of state to brief the appropriate congressional committees on the degree to which Pakistan has or has not satisfied the stipulated conditions.

It also would stipulate that the U.S. president would have to suspend all licenses for selling U.S. weapons to a country deemed to have received assistance from the Khan network.

A specific provision could also prevent Pakistan from receiving the benefits of a major non-NATO ally -- a status conferred on Pakistan two months ago -- which allows Islamabad to acquire excess defense equipment from the United States. It says that the United States may not transfer such "materials" to a country that has not provided written assurances that it will support and assist U.S. efforts to interdict items of proliferation concern."

The Vision Thing ( AMERICA ALONE: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order

The Vision Thing ( "The Vision Thing

Reviewed by Stanley I. Kutler
Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page BW05

The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order
By Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke
Cambridge Univ. 369 pp. $28

Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke are experienced, conservative foreign policy experts. Halper served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, and Clarke had extensive service in the British diplomatic corps. In America Alone they document the neoconservative capture of American (and British) foreign policy, under the guise of a War on Terror, to reorder Middle East politics and initiate a newly proclaimed doctrine of preemptive war. Halper and Clarke are insiders who know the players and the sources. Their thoughtful, insightful work spans ideological and partisan differences, a rare phenomenon in these times.

The authors understand the two-centuries-long history of American foreign policy. Detente, bipartisanship and respect for the views of allies are at the center of that history; they are not, as the neocons would have it, notions of weakness best replaced by a militant American world view and unilateralism. Halper and Clarke blend realism and idealism. For them, victory in the Cold War resulted from a firm U.S. adherence to the doctrine of containment and a moral authority rooted in fostering the idea of a free, open society. Now, the authors contend, President George W. Bush and a band of ideological zealots have put that moral authority at risk.

America Alone levels a broad indictment against the Bush administration, which in the name of the war on terror has launched the Iraq war, mounted an assault on personal liberties at home, engaged in a purposeful deceit of the media and the public (both of which suspended any critical judgment) and, above all, has inflicted terrible damage on U.S. moral authority and international legitimacy. The chief culprits for the authors are the neocons, who are depicted as conspirators who hijacked American foreign policy.

This is not exactly news, but the argument never has been put together so persuasively, so conclusively and so effectively. The authors' conservative critique is part of a steadily growing chorus of opposition. The Democrats now are emboldened to challenge the president. The Internet offers numerous libertarian Web sites that, for more than two years, have consistently exposed the fallacy of the Bush administration's arguments. Patrick Buchanan, too, has spoken out from the right, though some are uneasy with his overt hostility to Israel. The authors reflect the views of these and other critics from traditional Republican and conservative camps.

What Halper and Clarke have done is to meticulously dissect the neocon world view. They trace the neocons' beginnings to their roots as Democratic dissidents, uneasy with a perception of their party's growing isolationism, softness toward national defense and reluctance to assert America's moral authority. The neocons saw the Vietnam War as an unduly paralyzing event. They began as an intellectual movement, and their adherents moved from the academy and the media into positions of power and policy influence, particularly in the Reagan administration.

Today neocons are the key players in the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney; his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and his assistant Paul Wolfowitz. They are seconded by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and influential academic intellectuals and writers who preach warnings and celebrate their alleged triumphs. Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute has somberly described the French as a "strategic enemy." Max Boot, author of a book celebrating the United States' "splendid little wars," said that the American sweep through Iraq made "Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison." (Well, they were not fortunate enough to fight Saddam's vaunted Republican guard.) Boot loves war so much that he envisions a United States like the British Empire of old, always fighting some war, somewhere, against someone. And we thought that the British Empire collapsed under the weight of all that white man's burden.

The neocons have exalted values over interests in shaping American policy. To further their agenda, they have masked themselves as the true keepers of the Reagan flame, but Halper and Clarke will have none of that. The neocons, they bluntly charge, have "falsified history" and have inflicted a "historical mugging" on Reagan. Like George Orwell, the authors understand that those who control the past control the present and, eventually, the future.

The neocons have ignored Reagan's strong commitment to arms control, his summitry, his minimal use of military power and his rejection of the nuclear doctrines of their mentor, Albert Wohlstetter. They similarly ignore Reagan's China policy, his arms deal with Iran and his failed Lebanon intervention. They love Reagan's invasion of Grenada, which made the Caribbean safe for American medical students, but they insist that in doing so he thwarted a rising communist power. They were decidedly unhappy when Reagan lifted the grain embargo on the Soviets, a decision that he hoped would result in "meaningful and constructive dialogue which will assist us in fulfilling our joint obligation to find lasting peace."

The neocons' mobilization for the Iraq war lies at the heart of this book. Saddam Hussein's tyranny apparently gave them no pause during his 10-year war with Iran, waged with arms provided by the United States and England. But George H.W. Bush's Persian Gulf War in 1991 left them embittered when Bush prudently decided that occupying Baghdad would only complicate the American role and endanger the grand alliance he had constructed. The neocons were convinced that toppling Saddam would enable the United States to make Middle East politics more responsive to American wishes -- and, not incidentally, also to help the Israelis. The idea had its origins in the late 1990s, when Richard Perle and Douglas Feith offered a bizarre plan to Israel's Likud Party calling for American-Israeli cooperation to overthrow Iraqi and Syrian regimes with covert and overt American assistance. Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud's leader, wisely rejected this grandiose vision.

The neocons, apparently aided by the incumbent president's "higher Father," persuaded Bush that regime change was essential in Iraq, although in his few pre-presidential foreign policy utterances he had specifically rejected such a course. After Sept. 11, the neocons advanced "evidence" that Iraq played a crucial role in al Qaeda's worldwide terrorism plans. Halper and Clarke demonstrate that the neocons knew that the fundamentalist-dominated al Qaeda had no connection to the secular Saddam. They knew that Saddam was no threat to American interests or values. The Persian Gulf War taught him not to threaten his neighbors -- exactly as Richard Clarke argued, to no avail. The administration had very little evidence -- precious little, as we have learned -- that Iraq had nuclear, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. As Wolfowitz famously said, "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Halper and Clarke denounce the Bush administration for effectively co-opting "important allies and entire government agencies in a pattern of deceit." The administration, they believe, created "a synthetic neurosis," which it buttressed by exploiting the Sept. 11 attack. The price has been enormous, they say, with "substantial damage" to both core American political institutions and to American "institutional legitimacy." The president, his advisers and Attorney General John Ashcroft have fostered a climate in which Americans are expected to believe that "our natural state is war -- war with no dimensions, with elusive enemies . . . and no definition of what constitutes victory and thus with no end in sight." The Bush and neocon policy, with its contempt for international opinion, has, according to the authors, inaugurated a new phenomenon of "counter-Americanism." We certainly have retaliated against such intransigence: no more french fries in the dining halls of Congress.

Halper and Clarke argue in favor of a "golden mean" for American foreign policy, which, they believe, need not be re-discovered, for it is rooted in centuries of successful policy. Since 1941, that policy also can be characterized as consensual and bipartisan. Today foreign policy is bipartisan only to the extent that the administration has been blessed with blindly loyal congressional allies and a supine, often meaningless, opposition.

With an election campaign looming, President Bush now concedes that "like 11 Presidents before me, I believe in the international institutions and alliances that America helped to form and helps to lead." Alas, the president and his advisers have rediscovered American history and policy only as our financial and military resources have dwindled, our moral authority has evaporated, our allies have become alienated and, worst of all, our adversaries are newly energized.

Regime change in Iraq, as this book tells us, has substituted one order of chaos for another, but this time at the cost of substantial American blood and treasure. The war in Iraq was imposed amid a climate of fear and patriotic fervor, with manufactured deceptions about our purposes and the enemy's. Our leaders mislead us with distortions of historical events, twisting and trivializing them as precedents when they are not applicable. For example, former secretary of state Dean Rusk regularly invoked the Munich agreement and the folly of appeasing Hitler as a warning for us to resist Soviet and Chinese communism in Vietnam. Saddam Hussein was a brutal, ruthless tyrant, but he was no Adolf Hitler, and no realistic threat to the United States and the rest of the world, whatever George W. Bush and his neoconservative warriors tell us. •

Stanley I. Kutler is the author of "The Wars of Watergate" and editor of "The Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century.""

Iran Fighting Proxy War Against U.S. Through Iraqi Shiites, Hizballah -- 08/13/2004

Iran Fighting Proxy War Against U.S. Through Iraqi Shiites, Hizballah -- 08/13/2004: "Iran Fighting Proxy War Against U.S. Through Iraqi Shiites, Hizballah
By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief
August 13, 2004

Jerusalem ( - Iran is using the Hizballah and Iraqi Shiites linked to Muqtada al-Sadr to fight a proxy war against the U.S. in order to strike back against American efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Iraqi Shiite militia under the command of Iranian-backed militant al-Sadr launched a major rebellion in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf nine days ago.

On Friday, the city, which contains important Shiite Muslim sites, was reported quieter after American forces suspended a massive air and ground offensive announced a day earlier against al-Sadr's followers as Iraqi officials and the Shiite cleric's aides negotiated to put an end to the fighting in Najaf, amidst conflicting reports that al-Sadr himself had been wounded.

Iraqi officials have been blaming Iran for stirring up trouble in Najaf. Several Iranians were detained or arrested recently in Iraq including a diplomat who was accused of "stirring up sectarian strife," Arabic media reports said according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

The governor of Najaf, Adnan Al-Zarafi, also said earlier this week that Iraqi Security forces had confiscated a grenade launcher marked 'Made in Iran' from supporters of al-Sadr and that Najaf residents were reporting that mortar shells falling on civilian homes also had an Iranian label, according to MEMRI.

Iran denounced the U.S.-led offensive in Najaf on Thursday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asafi said that Iran was angered by what he called "American violations of Islamic shrines in Iraq and the escalation of aggression against the residents of Najaf and nearby Kut."

Iran also announced that it had conducted a successful test of a new version of its Shihab-3 missile on Wednesday. With a range of about 775 miles, the Shihab-3 is capable of hitting U.S. troops in the Middle East as well as Israel.

Iran's connection to the Shiite community in Iraq goes back decades, although not all Iraqi Shiites are pro-Iranian, said Dr. Ely Karmon, senior researcher of the International Policy Institute on Counter-Terrorism near Tel Aviv.

"The Shia Islamic revolutionary council was trained and supported by Iran for 20 years," said Karmon.

After the fall of the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the Shiite leaders returned to Iraq to "try to implement the dream of an Islamic regime." Al-Sadr's spiritual leader is also an Iranian, Ayatollah Khairi, Karmon said.

But the Iranian backing of the rebels goes beyond its promotion of Islamic aspirations.

The Iranian government is "very concerned" that the U.S. will attack Iran, said Iman Foroutan, from S.O.S. Iran, an American-based group that supports the Iranian people for removal of the Islamic regime in Tehran and the establishment of a democratic government in its place.

"The IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] is very afraid of being next, after Afghanistan and Iraq," said Foroutan in an email response to a query.

President Bush lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as three states that formed what he called the "axis of evil" because of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and particularly nuclear arms.

Iran and other regional players, such as the Iranian-backed Hizballah in southern Lebanon decided that the only way to fight America was to let it enter Iraq, believing that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would fight the Americans, which did not happen, said Karmon.

Now Iran is fighting the Americans in Iraq because of "American pressure on Iran to renounce its nuclear dream," which they are clearly not willing to do, Karmon said.

Iran recently defied an agreement with Britain, France and Germany and began assembling centrifuges, which could be used to enrich uranium needed for nuclear weapons.

Washington is pressing the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, due to meet next month, to send the matter to the U.N. Security Council, where sanctions could be slapped on Tehran for failing to forego its nuclear aims.

Tehran insists that a nuclear reactor, which Moscow is helping it to complete, will be used for purely civilian purposes. But the U.S. believes that it is a cover operation for the development of a nuclear weapons program.

Iran has also declared that it is raising up an army of suicide bombers to attack Americans in Iraq.

Hizballah Connection

The Iranian-backed Hizballah, on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, is the second prong of the Iranian attack against the Americans in Iraq, said Karmon.

According to American sources, there are some 90 Hizballah operatives in Iran, he said. Al-Sadr admires Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and most of al-Sadr's television appearances are also on Hizballah's Al-Manar television station, he added.

Nasrallah has organized several marches on behalf of the Iraqi militants. At one of those rallies, Nasrallah said that Hizballah was standing with its Iraqi brothers and standing on the side of Iran, Karmon said.

"As much our capability allows us [we are in] constant readiness and willingness for martyrdom," Nasrallah said. Karmon pointed out that "martyrdom" refers to suicide attacks.

More than 250 U.S. Marines were killed in Hizballah suicide bombings in Beirut in the early 1980s.

Although Iran and Hizballah are very cautious and are clandestine about their activities, Karmon said, he believes that the Americans made a conscious decision to attack al-Sadr.

"The Iranians passed a red line [in their eagerness] to counter the American presence in Iraq," he said. A year ago al-Sadr was given a "free hand" in Iraq and only lately in the spring of this year was he attacked, he added."

Iran Air plane emergency landings in Athens, Rome

Persian Journal Iran News - Latest Iran News, news Tehran Iranian News persian news web site sport irani news iranians site farsi women sport woman, newspaper football: "Iran Air plane emergency landings in Athens, Rome

An Iranian Airbus 310 from the national flag carrier Iran Air had to make two separate emergency landings in Athens and Rome late Thursday for what has been reported as engine failure. Athens airport officials told IRNA that the Iran Air plane had delivered passengers at the airport at 13:55 local time, and had accordingly taken off for Madrid.

However, they said, the plane had to land again 10 minutes later after developing a failure in one of its engines.
Furthermore, Chief of Iran Air office in Madrid Ali-Akbar Amiri said although the failure had been removed in Athens, the plane had tomake a second emergency landing in Rome after the pilot noticed an engine malfunction.

Amiri said this happened two hours after the plane -- which had 102 passengers and 17 crew aboard -- took off from Athens Airport. He added that all the passengers and the crew of the plane are nharmed, and have been transferred to a hotel in Rome until the failure is removed. "

Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.

Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.: "Iran Hails Calming Comments From Iraq P.M.
AFP: 8/14/2004
TEHRAN, Aug 14 (AFP) - Iran's official media Saturday hailed what it described as conciliatory remarks from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi following a spate of angry accusations from other members of his US-backed government.

In an interview with the state IRNA news agency in Iraq's Shiite holy city of Najaf, Allawi welcomed an invitation to visit Iran and said he looked forward to constructive relations between the former foes.

"We want establishment of good relations with neighbouring countries, especially Iran, and believe that our bilateral ties are based on common interests," IRNA quoted him as saying.

Allawi distanced himself from US-led accusations, voiced by some in his administration, of Iranian interference in the new Iraq, notably by abetting infiltration of militants across the border.

"If there are any complaints, they are pointing to unofficial figures. We do not accuse the Iranian government of interference in Iraq's domestic affairs," the premier said.

"Some individuals penetrate Iraqi territory through neighbouring states, and that is true for Iran too."

Relations between Tehran and Baghdad were severely strained earlier this month when Defence Minister Hazem al-Shaalan accused the Iranian authorities of trying to "kill democracy" in his country by fomenting unrest.

Shaalan also charged that Tehran had abandoned its longstanding favouring of the mainstream Shiite religious parties in Iraq and was arming the rebel militiamen of radical leader Moqtada Sadr in their deadly clashes with US-led troops.

IRNA also reported reassuring comments from Iraq's charge d'affaires in Tehran, Khalil Salman Al-Sabihi, about three of the news agency's journalists detained in Iraq.

The Iraq embassy is "following the affair closely," IRNA quoted the envoy as saying.

"We have asked the Iraqi foreign ministry for information about the circumstances of, and reasons for, the arrests, as well as the latest news" of the three detainees.

IRNA's Baghdad bureau chief Mostafa Darban and journalists Mohammed Khafaji and Mohsen Madani were detained by Iraqi police on Monday night.

The news agency's foreign editor Hassan Lavasani told AFP Saturday that he still had no idea why his staff had been detained.

There has been no word either on the fate of an Iranian diplomat who went missing on the road from Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Karbala on August 4 and whose kidnapping was later claimed by a Sunni militant group.

Relations between Tehran and Baghdad have also been inflamed over the past week by a US-backed offensive on militia strongholds in Najaf, which is revered by the Shiite majority in Iran as well as Iraq.

Iranian officials have warned of a furious reaction from Muslims around the world."

Aljazeera.Net - Milk for Iraq sold in Iran

Aljazeera.Net - Milk for Iraq sold in Iran: "Milk for Iraq sold in Iran
Saturday 14 August 2004, 17:07 Makka Time, 14:07 GMT

Smuggled milk powder is sold for $1 a kilogram

Large quantities of powdered milk donated by international aid agencies to Iraq are being stolen and smuggled across the border to Iran for sale at bargain prices.

"We have had to cut down on production because of the smuggled milk that is sold for 8,000 rials (about one dollar) per kilogram," a Iranian dairy executive, Husayn Chamani, told reporters on Saturday.

Domestic powdered milk retails at 40,000 rials a kilo in Iranian pharmacies.

Chamani blamed lax border controls and said about 3000 jobs in the milk industry would be in jeopardy if smuggled milk kept flooding the Iranian market.

There are also health concerns over the inappropriate packaging of the smuggled milk in 25- and 50-kg bags, he added."

Iranian Media: Iraqi PM Welcomes Invitation to Visit Iran "Iranian Media: Iraqi PM Welcomes Invitation to Visit Iran

Iran's official news agency reports that Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has welcomed an invitation to visit Iran, despite recent diplomatic tension between the two neighbors.
IRNA quotes the prime minister as saying Iraq wants "to establish good relations with neighboring countries, especially Iran" based on common interests. Both countries are predominately Shi'ite.

The news agency termed Mr. Allawi's remarks "conciliatory" following earlier comments by his defense minister accusing Iran of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

Iran is also eager to resolve the arrest of IRNA's Baghdad bureau chief and two of his Iraqi staff members. A fourth IRNA employee is unaccounted for, as is an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped August 4."

Jed Babbin on Iraq on National Review Online

Jed Babbin on Iraq on National Review Online: "Iran’s Sadr Strategy
This fight in Najaf is vital to victory.

The on-again, off-again military offensive to destroy Moqtada al-Sadr's "Mahdi militia" in the holy city of Najaf was on again Thursday. This outcome will be crucial to the competition between the conflicting goals for the future of Iraq: ours and Iran's. Ours is to defeat the insurgency and enable freedom to take root. Theirs is to prevent a stable democracy from governing Iraq, and to damage our tenuous relationship to half the Islamic world.

The Shia majority of Iraq, long oppressed under Saddam, was ripe for insurgency or even revolution long before Saddam fell. Iran's radical Shia kakistocracy has been funding, supplying — and in Sadr's case operating — the insurgency in Shia Iraq ever since Coalition forces began massing to attack Iraq in 2002. According to one estimate, there are at least 30,000 Iranian-funded insurgents in Iraq.

One of the Iranians' principal obstacles has been Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shia mullah in Iraq. Al-Sistani has called on Sadr to stop the fighting, but his power over Sadr is limited, and Sadr's is expanded greatly by his Iranian backers. When al-Sistani left Iraq for medical treatment in London, Iran and Sadr began the latest round of fighting in Najaf and in the "Sadr City" area of Baghdad, the huge slum that used to be known as "Saddam City."

There is important dissention among the new Iraqi government about whether American forces should be allowed to take the fight to Sadr in the heart of Najaf. Early Thursday, Ibrahim Jaafari, head of the Dawa party and one of Iraq's two interim vice presidents, called for all American forces to leave Najaf. If we and the Allawi forces fail in Najaf, the internal dissention could cause a split in the interim government that won't be healed soon. Al-Sistani, speaking from London, called for another ceasefire. If these pressures split the new Iraqi government, that alone would be a significant victory for Iran, which will stop at nothing to prevent the Iraqi democracy from taking root.

The Iraqi go-ahead against Sadr was given some time Wednesday, within some well-understood limits. The holiest site in Shia Islam is the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, and it is from this mosque and other sites in Najaf that Sadr and his militia have been launching their attacks. Imam Ali — who is buried in the shrine — is revered as the founder of Shia Islam. Ali was the six-year-old who took Mohammed's place in his bed on a night when Mohammed expected an assassination attempt, and is believed by the Shia to have had divine guidance. But the Shia radicals — and I still believe that term isn't redundant — see no inconsistency in using their holiest site as a base for terrorist activity. We've all seen the television coverage of them running out of the mosque, RPGs, and other weapons in hand, to engage American troops.

The shrine/mosque is only part of the problem. The "Valley of Peace" cemetery — the largest in the world with perhaps five million graves — is another favorite of the militia to hide within and fire at Coalition forces. The city itself, with about 600,000 people, is the typical Iraqi city of narrow, winding streets. The Marines are running the show, backed by the Army and both Air Force and Navy aircraft on call. They all are aware of both the dangers and the necessity of protecting the mosque. It is already a touch-and-go fight, and is evolving into the kind of urban warfare that we managed to avoid last year. It's August, which means temperatures of 120 degrees during the day in Iraq. Kicking down doors, fighting sometimes room-by-room, the Marines, God bless 'em, are doing their usual superb job. I've heard several reports of wounded Marines getting patched up and running back into the fight.

At this writing, American troops with armored vehicles, attack helos, and heavier air support, are trying to close the circle around the mosque, crowding Sadr and his fighters into a smaller and smaller area, diminishing their strength and numbers to the point that the Allawi forces can finish the fight. If we can do that, we will succeed. All Sadr — and Iran — need to do to succeed is to maneuver us into damaging or destroying the mosque. Sadr and his men are perfectly willing to destroy the holy site themselves in some way that makes us appear responsible. Al Jazeera will be there to stage-manage and broadcast the finale.

If the Imam Ali shrine is destroyed in a Coalition operation, the Iranians will use that fact to divide and discredit the Allawi government. They will try to raise all of Shia Islam against the American occupiers in Iraq and American interests everywhere. The Shia are the second-largest Islamic sect, with about 700 million adherents in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Syria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and parts of North Africa. It is quiet conceivable that the destruction of the Imam Ali mosque would trigger the clash of civilizations that Iran and Osama bin Laden have been working desperately to create. It could be a significantly destabilizing force in nations such as India and Pakistan where our influence and fragile alliances could easily wither and die. Too much hangs in the balance in Najaf. But the fight has to be made because Iran, and its Sadr proxy, are the two most significant obstacles to freedom in Iraq.

It is tempting, and wrong, to believe this fight is not worth the risk. Young Americans will die there in as important as any other fight has been for Iraqi freedom. Sadr's force is fighting for political advantage. It would be an easy fight for us to win if we weren't concerned with the repercussions from destroying the Imam Ali shrine or the number of civilians who might be killed. If we had somehow negotiated the cooperation of Ali al-Sistani in the year and a half since the Saddam regime fell, the fight wouldn't even be necessary. If we had been able to bring other Islamic forces in to join the Coalition forces, this fight could have been theirs if it had to be fought at all. But we didn't, and that risk and the cost is now ours.

The Najaf fight won't end today, tomorrow, or perhaps even next week. The Iraqi forces fighting with us against Sadr's men may not be sufficiently strong or dedicated to end the matter for days or weeks. Allawi, facing very strong opposition in his own government, may change his mind and demand we stop short of the necessary conclusion. But even if we win this fight without destroying Shia Islam's holiest site, even if the Iraqis manage to kill Sadr and defeat his force decisively, the Iranian interference in Iraq won't end. Until it does, there will be no peace in Iraq. The central point of the Iraqi insurgency is now — as it has been for more than a year — Tehran." Oil Mkts Oversuppy, Hike Not Needed-Iran

Latest Business News and Financial Information | "Oil Mkts Oversuppy, Hike Not Needed-Iran
Sat Aug 14, 2004 03:04 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Global oil markets are oversupplied by 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, meaning there is no reason for OPEC to increase production to bring prices down from 21-year highs, Iran's OPEC governor said Saturday.
'Now there are more than 2.8 million bpd of crude more than demand,' Hossein Kazempour Ardebili was quoted as saying on the Oil Ministry Web site.
'There is no reason for OPEC members to increase production,' he added.
Kazempour predicted that oil prices would continue to rise on the back of political and military tensions, ignoring market laws of supply and demand.
NYMEX September crude futures (CLc1: Quote, Profile, Research) closed at a scorching $46.58 Friday, after touching a fresh record high of $46.65. "