The wonderful Tom Joscelyn noticed that al Qaeda’s putative No. 2, Ayman al Zawahiri, has called on all Muslims (not just all Sunnis) to unite behind al Qaeda and specifically behind Mullah Omar, the grotesque chief of the Taliban. It is indeed noteworthy, for at least two reasons. First of all, it goes hand in hand with the calls for Muslim unity issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on the eve of the Hadj and on subsequent occasions. Second, as Allahpundit muses, one could infer from this that Osama is no longer around, which I have believed for some time. After all, we haven’t seen a video of The Tall One for more than two years. I rather suspect that al Qaeda ceased to exist after we liberated Afghanistan, and that, ever since, these unsavory characters have been under more or less effective control by their Iranian hosts.
Of course, the Iranians deny it all. Even though the Washington Post announced last week that the Iranians were offering to deliver their al Qaeda “prisoners” to us, if only we’d make nice, the regime nixed the very idea in one of its most authoritative publications, Beztab. Indeed, they said that there aren’t any al Qaeda personnel in Iran at all. Maybe the earlier scoop came from Walter Pincus, who recently failed to distinguish between Carl Levin and the Pentagon’s inspector general.
The last bit of news from Iran is the unsurprising but still significant retreat of Moqtada al Sadr to his safe haven across the border, where the mullahs will feed him, at least for a while. For those who have convinced themselves that Moqtada is primarily an Iraqi patriot, rather than an Iranian agent, this ignominious abandonment of his troops should — although it won’t — peel the scales from their eyes. And it also underlines the nervousness in Tehran. Khamenei probably knows he’s going to die without any of the great victories he has pursued: Lebanese democracy has not yielded, there is no Islamic Republic in Iraq, and Israel is still there. Indeed, the small adjustment to our behavior in Iraq — a handful of arrests of Iranians — must send chills through his malignant body, since it shatters the great lie in which he and his followers had so passionately believed: that America has no stomach for war, and will break and run when attacked systematically.
All this adds to the intensity of the War of the Persian Succession, and effectively creates a power vacuum atop the Islamic Republic of Iran. I’ll bet you that our intelligence services in Iraq are getting a lot of Farsi-speaking walk-ins these days, as many of them will calculate that the tide may be turning and they’d best take our insurance with the Americans.
But the really big Iranian news came from Europe with the announcement that the EU’s experts have concluded that they have totally failed to deter the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program. “At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons program,” according to an internal EU document quoted by the Financial Times. As the FT glumly reports, all EU governments have been informed of this conclusion, along with the (obvious) analysis: “the problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.” Or by economic bribes, either. The EU, along with the U.S., have offered all manner of seductive goodies to the mullahs, but it didn’t work, as they surely knew from the beginning. Everybody knew.
Or did they? One has to wonder whether the president and the secretary of State knew it would fail. They certainly gave it unrestrained rhetorical support. If you buy the theory that W’s foreign policy is simply the application of winning poker to geopolitics, then you will think that, just as in the run-up to Iraq, he simply outwaited the Europeans. Knowing diplomacy had no chance, he let them play out the string. Now they must fold, and he is ratcheting up the ante against the mullahs.
This would also explain the timing of our newfound toughness. With the failure of the EU initiative, there was reduced concern that the Europeans would attack us for stepping up the pressure on the Iranians. This is reflected in a series of economic measures taken by European financial institutions, which will make life in Iran even more difficult. It would be really great if somebody found where Khamenei and the other oligarchs have stashed their private loot (I think a lot of it is in China, by the way)…and put it in escrow for a free Iran.
One can dream, can’t one? One can even dream that we will act faster. Please.