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The Fears of The Terror Masters
If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs.


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Michael Ledeen

Late on the night of June 24th-25th there was an “accident” in southeastern Iran, near Zahedan, in that fascinating area of “Iranian Baluchestan” down where Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan merge. According to Agence France Press, quoting local Red Crescent sources, a fuel truck “lost control and crashed into a police post, with the explosion engulfing other trucks, cars and buses.”

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But the pictures of the incident are not those of a truck out of control. It all took place at a border crossing, at a customs inspection station. At the time of the explosion there were eleven trucks parked there, and several of them were carrying explosives for the construction of bombs. They were headed for Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they would be delivered to the forces of Gulbadin Hekhmatyar, the terrorist chieftain who has long killed on behalf of the mullahs.

The explosion engulfed the entire column, which is why–as some of the pictures show–the columns of the customs building were shattered. Friends of mine in Iran insist that the trucks were deliberately blown up by Iranians hostile to the regime. In any event, the next day–the 25th–Pakistani border police arrested some 18 men trying to sneak into Pakistan. Fifteen of them were traveling on false Bangladeshi passports; the other three were Iranian agents. All are currently being interrogated by Pakistani authorities.

Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities have rounded up eight Iranian intelligence officers in Najaf, and one other–a high-ranking officer in the Revolutionary Guards–was caught while attempting to sabotage an oil pipeline.

As you see, the Iranians are frantically increasing their efforts to drive Coalition forces out of Iraq, to wreck the Iraqi economy–and especially to inflate oil prices, which the mullahs hope will bring down the Bush presidency–and to destabilize the fragile Karzai government in Afghanistan. They, and their Syrian and Saudi allies, are doing this because the liberation of Iraq is indeed threatening the authority of the remaining terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and Riadh. The entire region is bubbling from the heat of democratic revolution, and you can see the fears of the terror masters as they steadily increase the repression of their own people. Syrians can now listen to accurate news broadcasts and calls for freedom from the new radio station launched by the Syrian Reform Party, which has prompted new crackdowns from the Assad regime. And in Iran, despite the unfortunate claim of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage that the mullahs preside over a democracy, one international organization after another has exposed the monstrosities carried out daily by the murders who govern the Islamic Republic. Hands of Cain, an organization fighting capital punishment everywhere, awarded the People’s Republic of China its award as top executioner for 2003, with Iran solidly in second position. Hands of Cain noted that 98.7 percent of all executions in the world last year were carried out by dictatorial, illiberal, or authoritarian states.

Just as in the case of terrorism, if you want to win the war against the world’s leading executioners, you must fight for the spread of freedom.

The same holds for an independent press. According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran again wins the laurels for the greatest enemy of a free press. More than 120 newspapers have been banned since 2001, more than 50 journalists have been detained and 11 are still in detention, making Iran the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East,” the organization wrote in a letter to the European Union, which has appeased the mullahs for years. The letter bitterly continued. “One wonders what to make of the Iranian government’s remark on 20 June that it is the European Union that should learn from Iran about human rights.”

And, of course, there is the question of the Iranians’ crash program to produce atomic bombs. It seems that no quantity of evidence, and no number of lies from Tehran, will convince France, Germany, and Great Britain to take any serious steps toward preventing this great catastrophe. Even our own leaders–by far the most aggressive in the so-called Western world–are only calling for stricter inspections and possibly a few additional sanctions, measures that would not seriously cripple the Iranian atomic project. But such proposals are indigestible to the feckless Europeans.

Western intelligence agencies are playing along. Just a year ago, our own experts along with those in Europe and Israel, were warning that Iran might conceivably produce an atomic bomb in three to four years, and possibly even less. I was warned by Iranians I respected that the ayatollahs had demanded a bomb by the end of last year, but that was clearly wrong. Now I am being told that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been promised success within a few months. Meanwhile, Western agencies have become more optimistic. They are now saying that Iran can’t produce nuclear weapons until–at the worst–the end of the decade.

It is academically interesting, perhaps, to log the benchmarks so that we can evaluate the quality of such “intelligence,” but it’s madness to assume that we can fine tune this one. We have always been surprised at the speed with which others can build nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and South Africa all joined the nuclear club much faster than we anticipated. The Iranians are fully capable of fulfilling this project, and their deceptive abilities are extraordinary. No Western leader should rely on the projections of his spymasters. We elect governments to protect us against worst-case scenarios, not sooth us with cheery forecasts.

Whatever the timing of the bomb, the dimensions of the Iranian threat are already clear enough for all to see. We now believe that Abu Musab al Zarkawi is the deus ex machina of the terror war against us in Iraq. He is working hard in Iran where he has created yet another organization for the ongoing jihad. It is called Jamiat al Jihad wa Altawheed (the Jihad and Unity Society). Watch for it, it’s a growth industry.

If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs. There is no other way.

Faster, please.

Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.



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