Politics & Policy

The Jihadis’ Primal Scream

Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"

Unless you depend on CNN for information–CNN totally and stunningly transformed the story, as Instapundit informed us yesterday–by now you have heard of the New York Times story about the discovery of a 17-page letter from Abu Musab al Zarkawi, written from Iraq in the middle of last month to the leaders of al Qaeda. It’s an extremely explosive story.

According to the Times–whose correspondent, Dexter Filkins, saw both the Arabic original and a military translation, and “wrote down large parts of the translation”–the letter is a sort of jihadist primal scream. It says that the jihad against the Americans in Iraq is going badly. The Iraqis are not signing up for martyrdom or jihad, they do not even permit the jihadis to organize their terrorist attacks from local houses, and, worst of all, the Americans are not afraid of the terrorists. With that charming neglect of logic that seems to define much of the radical terrorist “mind,” Zarkawi says both that the Americans “are the biggest cowards that God has created,” and that “America…has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes.”

And he adds, “we can pack up and leave and look for another land, just like what has happened in so many lands of jihad. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases.”

If we had a government capable of advancing its case to the world at large, those phrases would be broadcast around the world, because they constitute an admission of defeat by a man in the forefront of the campaign against us in Iraq.

If that were all it said, it would be sensational for most Americans, although certainly not for NRO readers. I pointed out a couple of months ago that the terror masters in Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh were undoubtedly gnashing their teeth, because their grand design for mass slaughter of Americans and bigtime insurrections all over Iraq, had failed. They had expected a bloodbath of epic proportions, and the same sort of “revolutionary” demonstrations that they had used so effectively against us in Lebanon in the 1980s and against the Israelis a decade later. But instead, they have discovered that the Iraqis don’t like them (can we all finally put a nail in the coffin of that idiotic “they’re all Shiites so they will all work together” myth?), and that the country is, indeed, headed toward democracy. Zarkawi even uses the word, as he gasps, “by God, this is suffocation!”

But there is more. He says the only chance for victory in Iraq is to provoke a Sunni/Shiite civil war, and the best way to do that is to unleash jihad against the Iraqi Shiites–referred to as “the perverse sects”–expecting that they will blame the Sunnis for it. The civil war would then “awaken the sleepy Sunnis…”

I have said for some time that the strategy of terror masters–above all, the mullahs in Tehran–was to foster civil strife in Iraq. They have been trying very hard to foment Kurdish/Turkamen, Sunni/Shiite and intertribal conflict for at least the past few months. But they greatly underestimated both the savvy of the Iraqis–who have seen the hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers and their al Qaeda allies swarming all over the country, guiding the suicide bombers, organizing the radio and television broadcasts, and intimidating the locals whenever possible–and the slow but deliberate progress of the American armed forces. We aren’t nearly as stupid as we look, and, as Zarkawi has discovered to his dismay, we don’t run from a fight. At least not so long as this president is confidently in charge.

At the same time they underestimated us and the Iraqis, they overestimated their own capabilities. Iranian leaders have been told for months by their operatives in Iraq that large-scale destruction and major political action was just around the corner. But with every passing week, they realize they’ve been the victims of their own fantasies.

Although Zarkawi has often operated from Iran–as proven by court documents in Italy and Germany, and by information gathered by both our military and our intelligence folks in Europe and the Middle East–he is not Iranian. He’s a Jordanian Palestinian, whose basic mission is the overthrow of the Hashemites in his native land. To judge by this letter, he is not particularly sophisticated about the requirements of the mullahcracy back in Tehran. They cannot “pack up and leave and look for another land,” for, as President Bush rightly said in his Sunday session with Tim Russert, they are mortally threatened by the spread of democracy in the Middle East. They will have to play every card they have to drive us out, and, as Zarkawi’s letter shows, they realize they are on a tight schedule: Once an Iraqi government is in place in June, “the sons of this land will be the authority…This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts.”

So we can expect to see a desperate campaign against us and against the Shiites in the next several weeks.

Meanwhile, back in Iran, the natives are reading the various auguries, wondering what the primal forces of world history have in store for them. On the one hand, the parade of appeasers added a distinguished figure from the country that coined the word itself. Britain’s very own Prince Charles sneaked off to Tehran to meet with the impotent President Khatami in yet another effort to make a deal that would save the tyrants from their doom. On the other hand, a handful of parliamentarians, mostly those rejected by the regime and thus denied high status and a guaranteed monthly wage, went to the universities to join in the boycott of the February 20 general elections. Their support is hardly necessary–a government poll in Tehran a week ago produced a truly amazing statistic: More than 90 percent do not intend to vote–but they deserve high marks for personal and political courage. Most Iranians expect that the regime will install a new Stalinism once the elections have been held, leading judicial figures have publicly scolded the parliamentarians to expect punishment, and the regime’s thugs have launched a preemptive war on student leaders all over the country.

Nonetheless, demonstrations continue all over the country. Demonstrations in Kerman a couple of weeks ago were so large that the regime was forced to bring in helicopter gunships to mow down the protesters, and the usual thugs were unleashed on student demonstrators in Tehran and Shiraz in the last few days. Despite the calls for appeasement from the State Department and a handful of our elected representatives, the Iranian people can see what is going on in Iraq, and they must take a measure of comfort from it. And the regime was so upset by President Bush’s passing reference to Middle Eastern tyrants who feel threatened by the liberation of Iraq (this weekend), that on Monday the official news service reported that Bush had threatened Iran with the same treatment he had delivered to Iraq. I can hear the Iranians sighing, “oh, if only it is true.”

We do not need to fight a war to liberate Iran, but we must liberate Iran in order to win the terror war in Iraq. Zarkawi is part of a terror network that is based in Iran, and receives enormous support from the mullahs. If Iran were a free country, Iraq would be immeasurably more peaceful. It is time for Secretary Powell to call an end to the shameful efforts at appeasement, and throw his enormous personal prestige behind the just cause of the Iranian people. He disappointed them last summer, when he proclaimed that we did not wish to get engaged in the Iranian “family squabble.” But it is not that; it is part of the life-and-death struggle in which we are now engaged. The longer we wait to support freedom in Iran, the more Americans, Italians, Poles, Japanese, Dutch, Romanians, Spaniards, and others, will be killed in Iraq.

Faster, please.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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