The Magazine

We Have Met the Enemy . . .

And it is Iran.

Oct 26, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 06 • By MICHAEL LEDEEN
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Speaking publicly about the role of Iran in Afghanistan--which is substantial, and about which we have considerable information--seems to be taboo for our current leaders. This is neither new nor surprising. Iranians, and Iranian-trained terrorists from organizations such as Hezbollah, have been killing Americans for years. The Bush administration, for example, had similar information about Iran's role in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and top officials did their best to suppress it. According to reporter Bob Woodward, a top State Department official knew that Iran had committed "acts of war" against our troops in Iraq and kept that information from the president, fearing a forceful response.

Nonetheless, we learned a lot about Iranian activities against our troops, both because the basic elements in the lethal roadside bombs were traced to Iran, and because Iranian military officers (from the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force) were captured in Iraq and provided details of the mullahs' training, arming, funding, and protection of insurgents sent to kill Americans and other coalition forces.

This information was not limited to Iraq. During the initial assault against the Taliban following 9/11, Special Forces found Iranian assassins operating against us, and by late 2007, there was abundant public testimony about Iran's activities in Afghanistan.

Former White House counter--terrorism official Richard Clarke pointed out in the summer of 2007 that the Taliban were using heavy arms, C-4 explosives, and advanced roadside bombs. "It is inconceivable," he said, "that it is anyone other than the Iranian government that's doing it."

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said at the same time, "There's irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this. It's certainly coming from the government of Iran."

General Dan McNeill, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, announced that "the Iranian military was involved in a shipment of sophisticated explosive devices intercepted [in September 2007] .  .  . in western Afghanistan."

The Iranians' attacks on American forces were nothing new; they were only the most recent in a war that began in 1979 with the Islamic Revolution's seizure of power in Tehran. Soon thereafter, Iran raced to the top of our list of state sponsors of terror, and it is still there today. Those well-known chants of "Death to America!" are not slogans for domestic consumption; they describe the central thrust of Iranian foreign policy. The mullahs are now part of a global anti-American alliance that includes Syria, Russia, Eritrea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, along with terrorist organizations from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad to the Colombian FARC.

Therefore, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, no matter how well we do, no matter how many high-level targets we eliminate, no matter how many cities, towns, and villages we secure, unless we defeat Iran we will always be designing yet another counterinsurgency strategy in yet another place. We are in a big war, and Iran is at the heart of the enemy army. Alas, no American president since the Islamic Revolution has been willing to face the consequences of Iran's war against America. Most of the time, our leaders have refused to accept the fact that Iran will do everything possible to dominate or destroy us. Instead of trying to defeat the mullahs, every president has sought rapprochement, just as Obama is doing now.

Another element of continuity between Obama and his predecessors is the refusal to support the Iranian regime's domestic opponents. For nearly 30 years, American experts and policymakers have dismissed the idea that a democratic revolution in Iran is possible and have done virtually nothing to encourage one or to support Iranians who risk their lives to bring one about.

In recent months, however, it has become clear to all but the most cynical observers that a large and disciplined opposition to the regime exists. Late in Ramadan, two enormously significant events showed the dimensions of the challenge to the regime. First, at least 15 leading Shiite ayatollahs, from both Iran and Iraq (including such revered figures as the Ayatollah Montazeri in Qom and Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf) denounced the leadership of Supreme Leader Khamenei, thereby depriving him of the religious authority that provides the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. Other leading clerics have followed suit.