Politics & Policy

The Latest Horrors

Still organized.

Anyone who has worked on terrorism for the past 20 years will recognize the murderous techniques employed in the most-recent monster bombings at the Jordanian embassy, the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, and the shrine of Ali in Najaf. They all bear the imprint of Hezbollah’s infamous chief of operations, Imad Mughniyah, the same man who organized the terrible mass murders at the U.S. Marine barracks and the American embassy in Beirut in the mid-1980s, and also, in all probability, the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires a decade later. And this conviction is strengthened by the news that Mughniyah — who has changed his face, his fingerprints, and his eye color, since he knows he’s one of the most-hunted men on earth — has been in Iraq for several weeks.

There is great reluctance in high quarters of Western governments to come to grips with the fact that the Lebanese Hezbollah is engaged in such actions, because they have convinced themselves that Hezbollah is primarily a social-welfare organization, and that its military arm has not operated against Americans for nearly two decades. They have not accepted the fact that there are many Hezbollahs, one of which is now growing in Iraq, under the leadership of the young Sheikh Muqtada al-Sadr, who was named chief of Iraqi Hezbollah by Iran’s strongman Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani several months ago. And, as luck would have it, the young sheikh just happened to be absent from Friday prayers at the shrine of Ali when the car bombs went off.

The terror network is more complex, and far more united, than most of our analysts have been willing to accept.

Prior to moving into Iraq, Mughniyah had been closeted with his various allies in Tehran, where he met with other members of the terror galaxy, including al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and Saad bin Laden (and most likely with his dad, Osama), and also Abu Musaf Zarkawi, the Jordanian named by Secretary of State Colin Powell as an example of the coordination between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda. Zarkawi has also moved into Iraq in recent days, as has the legendary Anis Naccache, who organized the assassination of former Iranian President Shahpour Bakhtiar in the 1980s, and was graciously released from prison by the affable government of France.

Many of our analysts are currently falling into one of those linguistic traps that Ludwig Wittgenstein used to warn us about. They constantly ask, “which organization do these terrorists come from?” But they should be asking the empirical question: “Does it still make sense to talk about separate terrorist organizations?” I have been arguing for the better part of two years that we should think of the terrorists as a group of mafia families that have united around a single war plan. The divisions and distinctions of the past no longer make sense; the terror mafias are working together, and their missions are defined by the states that protect, arm, fund, and assist them: Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

The best mafia killers are all operating in Iraq, from Mughniyah (constantly on the move) to Naccache and Zarkawi (both in Baghdad as of the end of last week). They are getting support from the three surviving terror masters in Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh, as well as increasing assistance from our old friend, Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi. In the last ten days of August, more than 3,000 terrorist operatives crossed from Iran to Iraq, despite recent Coalition efforts to “seal the border.” Some of them have been detected by Iraqi security forces, who have found that the Iranians have co-opted members of some of the organizations we have nominated to govern the country. According to the London Times (August 28):

Members of two leading Shia parties in Iraq’s United States-appointed Governing Council are helping to smuggle thousands of Iranians into Iraq in an illegal trade that has opened the frontier to terrorists, border police say…SCIRI and Islamic Dawa…set up floating border posts in the desert and were providing guides to ferry pilgrims past official border controls to reach the holy Shia cities…

A man described by the Times as a “senior Iraqi former exile” grimly remarked that “Iran is winning this war, not America” and asserted that Iranian Shiites were working hand-in-glove with armed Sunni groups. And a Mr. Dawoud (head of customs at Munthriya) agreed: “We didn’t get rid of Saddam just to give Iraq to these people….Nobody is stopping them. Soon it will be too late.”

Similar stories could be told about Syria and Saudi Arabia, but Iran remains the lynchpin of the terror network, and its leaders are engaged in a life-or-death struggle with us in Iraq, knowing that if we succeed, they are doomed. Once upon a time, the mullahs were known for their elegant cunning, but with the passage of time they have become palpably more desperate and thus more rigid. Nothing shows their desperation more clearly than the celebrated murder of the Canadian/Iranian journalist, Zahra Kazemi. She had been taking photographs of the demonstrations in Tehran in June, and was arrested by the regime’s thugs. They raped and beat her to death, and what passes for the international community demanded justice. The mullahs responded by organizing a quick funeral in Tabriz (forbidding her son to take his mother’s body back to Canada), and arresting two low-level functionaries. But over the weekend, the charges were dropped, and a new investigation was promised.

Such Iranian promises are as reliable as their recent undertaking to send al Qaeda terrorists back to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud announced on August 30 that none of the Saudis detained in Iran have been sent to Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, none of the al Qaeda terrorists we have been asking for have been seen this side of the Caspian Sea, nor will they until and unless the mullahs are removed from power.

Which leaves us with the usual questions for the secretary of state and his henchmen who are supposed to design an effective Iran policy: Why are you still negotiating with this evil regime? How many Iranians, Iraqis, Americans, and Englishmen have to be murdered by the mullahs before you accept the plain facts about the Iranian regime, and commit this country to the liberation of the Iranian people? Or do we have to await even greater catastrophes, and then have to confront religious fanatics armed with atomic bombs?

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.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...

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