Politics & Policy

Countering Iran’s Designs

As Americans wonder how to cope with Iran, Iran keeps killing Americans. The primary battleground is Iraq, where agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards fund and arm the Shiite extremists whose IEDs pierce the armor of U.S. soldiers and whose bombs massacre Iraqi civilians. Within the next few days, four senators will introduce legislation that faces these facts unflinchingly and calls on America to win.

The resolution — an amendment to a defense appropriations bill — is sponsored by Jon Kyl, Joseph Lieberman, Norm Coleman, and Lindsey Graham. It expresses the sense of the Senate that the U.S. should “combat, contain, and roll back” Iran’s “violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq.” It counsels doing so “through the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of [U.S. power], including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments.” It also urges the administration to designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

No great imagination is required to predict the Left’s attack on the amendment. “Needlessly provocative,” they will say. “What we need is more diplomacy.” And, “If you don’t like American soldiers dying from Iranian-made IEDs, bring them home.”

The last is of course another way of saying, “Surrender” — not a bad policy, if you don’t mind giving an Islamist, terrorist-sponsoring, nuclearizing theocracy the dominant role in the Middle East. There can be no question that this is what Iran’s rulers intend. Sometimes they’re even nice enough to tell us so. “The political power of the occupiers [a.k.a. the United States] is collapsing rapidly. Soon we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course we are prepared to fill the gap.” That’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a little over three weeks ago. Perhaps the faculty of Columbia University can get further details when they roll out the red carpet for his visit to their campus. But you don’t have to take his word for it. Simply cast your eyes toward any of Iran’s proxies in the region — Hamas lobbing missiles at Israel, Hezbollah doing its best to destroy Lebanon, Syria serving as a transit hub for banned weapons — and what you see is the handiwork of an aspiring hegemon.

That last item — the Syrian connection — especially bears watching in light of the Sept. 6 Israeli air strike on a target in Syria. U.S. government sources have confirmed to the Washington Post that the strike came after intelligence sharing with the U.S., and that the target was a suspected nuclear site set up in cooperation with North Korea. Syria is of course a client state of Iran, and the Islamic Republic has a long history of cooperating with North Korea on banned weapon technologies. Iran’s membership in this axis makes it an even greater threat to the United States, and to global security generally, than it would be on its own.

Of course, the stakes within Iraq are high enough, which is probably why Iran has been intensifying its proxy attacks on U.S. troops. That isn’t a partisan opinion, but the conclusion of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus document prepared by the U.S. intelligence organizations: “Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants . . . since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.” And a Sept. 18 Defense Department report to Congress projected that, once final tallies are available, the number of EFP attacks in Iraq for the period from June to August will have risen by 39-percent over the period from March to May.

In that vein, let us pause and give thanks for the fruits of “talking to Iran.” Since May, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has talked to his Iranian counterpart twice. “The impression I came [away] with . . . is that the Iranians were interested simply in the appearance of discussions,” Crocker recently explained to Congress. “I haven’t seen any sign of earnest[ness] or seriousness on the Iranian side.” We’ll take Crocker’s word on how the talks went. As for signs of seriousness, we think that 39 percent rise is a good one, though it isn’t exactly what the Baker-Hamilton Commission had in mind. Iran’s shielding of al Qaeda leaders, and its weapons shipments to Taliban forces in Afghanistan (one of which was intercepted earlier this year), make its intentions perfectly clear as well.

What emerges from these details is a simple story: Iran is striving mightily to defeat the U.S. in Iraq because it knows that only by doing so can it impose its designs on the Middle East. Those designs include the rollback of American influence in the region, the formation of alliances to challenge U.S. power, the expansion of rule by sharia, and the destruction of Israel. Iranian dominance within this order is to be guaranteed by the atomic bombs that no one seriously doubts the mullahs are trying to build. Today’s Senate amendment won’t do a lot to stop all that. But it will give senators a chance to tell us whether they think it should be stopped.

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