Dealing with the Iranian Threat in Iraq

Professor Daniel M. Zucker - 4/28/2007 After more than four years of war in Iraq, it is now clear that much of the continued violence in Iraq is due to the interference of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxy agents in the internal affairs of its western neighbor . Iran, through its support of the Shi‘ite fundamentalist parties— Moqtada al-Sadr’s Al-Daawa and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim’s SCIRI (the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq)--and their respective militias (Jaish al-Mahdi, and the Badr and Wolf Brigades) and through the deployment of its Sepah al-Qods (the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ most secretive, elite, and skilled unit, responsible for all terror attacks abroad), has effectively gained significant influence and control over Iraqi society, especially in the south around Basra. So too, through monetary and logistical support of alQa‘eda in Iraq, the IRI has managed to keep Iraqi Shi‘ites and Sunnis at each others throats and prevented the United States from succeeding in introducing a western style democracy to the region. Iraq is now the premier battleground in the war between Islamic fundamentalism as represented by both the Tehran regime and al-Qa‘eda, and those oriented towards a modern, nonfundamentalist, secular, democratic society, which in Iraq includes over half of the total population. Iran’s harmful interference being the root cause of so much of the violence in Iraq today, it is clear that one must deal with putting an end to it if any type of lasting peace and security, let alone democracy and freedom, is to be brought to that war-torn nation. Over the past four years (actually ten years, as deals with the American relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran) basically there have been and continue to be only a few options, which I would suggest are three in number: 1. Dialogue: Negotiations with Iran, 2. War with Iran, 3. Regime Change by the Iranian People. Let’s now examine the feasibility of each of these three options. Option # 1: Dialogue/Negotiations I would suggest that the option of negotiations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran–-the current level of success over the last decade having turned the term “negotiations” into a polite euphemism for appeasement–-has provided the US absolutely nothing positive. Ever since the Clinton-Albright administration accepted the mullahs’ request to list the main Iranian opposition groups, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) as terrorists—despite the lack of any legitimate proof of such— the Iranian regime has not lessened its involvement in terrorism but rather increased it. It certainly has redoubled its attempts to secure nuclear weaponry and to produce long range ballistic missiles. So too, it has expanded the export of its Islamic revolution through the use of terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan, the Palestinian territories (especially Gaza), Chechnya, and further. The Iranian regime always uses proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hizballah in Iraq, the Shi‘ite militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim’s SCIRI’s Badr and Wolf Brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), to serve Iran’s policies in one way or another. Iran has shown its unchanging contempt for the West and

those that would offer concessions to the mullahs. Appeasement did not buy peace for Europe in 1938—one would think that Madeline Albright had learned something from the tragic history of her birthplace Czechoslovakia—but apparently not. Appeasement did not buy peace for Lebanon when Hezbollah was brought into the government. Appeasement only whets the appetite of the tyrant for more. Appeasement acts like an appetite stimulant-- an hors d’oeuvre--for the power hungry. Hitler wanted more. Stalin wanted more. Nasrallah wants more. Ismail Haniyeh wants more, and both Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad definitely want more-–they have said as much on multiple occasions. Appeasement–-and let’s not kid ourselves, negotiation with the Islamic Republic of Iran and/or its proxies is appeasement-–appeasement is a slow form of surrender. Appeasement means capitulation, capitulation of the West to the Islamo-fascism of the Islamist fundamentalists. It’s a slow form of suicide for western democracy. Negotiation with the mullahs is appeasement, and appeasement is capitulation. Surrender to Islamo-fascism is not an option, plain and simple. And the sooner our foreign service and the foreign ministries of our European allies understand this point, the better! Option # 2: War With all due respect to my friends General Paul Vallely and General Thomas McInerney, and the brave men and women of our Armed Forces—the finest armed forces in the world—war is not as viable an option as we might think. Yes, we have the capability to send Iran back to the Stone Age, but do we really want to use nuclear weapons again more than six decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki? To talk of surgical strikes and the abilities of our special-ops teams along with the superiority of our F-22’s is to forget that Iran today is not like the Iraq of the Osirak strike of 1981. Nor should we believe that a limited military strike will dislodge the ruling junta. In fact, it might actually help to strengthen it since Iranians, as much as they despise the regime—and 90+ % of Iranians despise it—Iranians are nationalistic and would rally around the flag to repel any foreign invaders, even those that came ostensibly to free them. The lessons of the Iraqi insurgency should make that point very clear to us today. When we add the fact that Iran has worked very hard to conceal its nuclear program—as much as we know, we realize that much must still be hidden deep within bunkers and mountainside tunnels—it is obvious that the type of strike that Israel carried out on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in “Operation Tammuz” is not possible to replicate. A military strike would only serve to delay the Iranian nuclear project; it would not bring it to an end. So too, many important sites such as the uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, and the Lavizan-Shian reactor and Lavizan 2 Research Center, both in Tehran, are located in population centers where the collateral damage would be extensive—huge civilian casualties doing little to aid the cause of overturning the regime. Additionally, any strike on Iran would most likely elicit a response from the regime that might include attacks on American targets in Iraq and throughout the Middle-East, including military attacks on Israel and other American allies in the region. So too, we would need to anticipate attacks from sleeper-cells located worldwide, including here in the continental United States. The prospect of car-bombs being detonated in this country should give us pause. Any military strike upon Iran would come with a significant risk of the afore-mentioned retaliatory actions. Even an attack which sought to decapitate the Iranian theological and military leaderships would entail severe risks, since leaving any of the members of those groups alive likely would guarantee

retaliation. The United States and its allies weren’t able to decapitate the Nazi or Japanese leaderships in World War II; today the task would be similarly daunting in Iran. Option # 3: Regime Change led by the Iranian People Iran and Iranian religious fundamentalism, as much as it is a world problem, first and foremost is an Iranian problem. The people of Iran are the first and longest suffering victims of the brutality of the mullahs’ Islamic regime and its tyranny. It is the Iranian opposition—the antifundamentalist resistance—that is the proper antidote to the poison spread by the mullahs. Now, for those unfamiliar with Iranian politics, I can testify that Iranians have political opinions that cover the full spectrum from far right to far left, and everything in between. So the question that we should now ask is which opposition group ought we to support? Which group is capable —which group is the right one--to get the job done? Who can get rid of the mullahs’ government? As complicated as it may sound at first, there actually is a very easy way to identify the correct party to effect change in Iran and thereby allow Iraq to develop into a real democracy with equal rights for all its citizens. If one wants to know which group that is, one only need look and see which group the mullahs regard as their primary enemy. With a record of 28 years opposition to the corrupt, abusive reign of the ayatollahs, the number one enemy of the regime is the MEK— the Mojahedin–e Khalq--the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, and its political coalition partners in the NCRI, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The regime attacks the MEK 350% more often than all other opposition groups combined —because, despite all the extensive disinformation that the regime’s secret police—the VEVAK-–the Ministry of Intelligence and Security —puts out against the opposition—the MEK and NCRI are the oldest and most popular of all the opposition groups opposed to the regime. It is the MEK which has supplied much of the publicly-known information about the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, as well as information about Iranian agents working against the Multi-National Forces in Iraq. It is the MEK which has supplied the list of the 32,000 Iranian agents in Iraq , and it’s the same MEK which has brought moderate Iraqi Sunnis, Shi‘ites, and Kurds together at Camp Ashraf to dialogue and form a common front against Islamic fundamentalism. Although the divisions in Iraqi society run deep and peace remains illusive, there are steps that we can take that will have a profound effect on the situation. Few measures would exert as powerful an impact on the violence in Iraq as taking the NCRI and the MEK off of the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist List. Allowing the MEK to rearm so that it can protect the Iranian people from the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Pasdaran), the State Security Forces, and the Bassij morality militia would exert additional pressure on the Tehran regime. It is important to influence the European Union Parliament to do the same. Next, it is time to apply serious sanctions against Iran to speed the collapse of the regime. Sanction gasoline, oil, and all products that can be used in the missile and nuclear programs as well as any other military usage will. End all trade with Iran except for essential medical products. Divest from companies that do not adhere to the sanctions. Divest from companies that do business with Iran. Isolate the regime. Freeze the travel rights of all senior government officials and all senior members of the IRGC. And freeze their assets, most of which are sitting in Swiss bank accounts.


If these actions are carried out and there are no under-the table deals to aid the ayatollahs, the Iranian regime will collapse very quickly. The ability to effect positive change in Iran and Iraq is within our reach; do we have the discipline and courage to make it happen? Do we in this country and the West really believe in the sacred nature of our democracy? Do we believe that everyone is worthy of a life of dignity, freedom, and liberty? IF we answer yes, then we must support the Iranian people and those that lead the fight to establish a secular democracy in their homeland and amidst the region: the opposition groups NCRI and the MEK. REFERENCES
1. See Robert Burns, “General Sees Iran’s Hand in Iraq Fight”, Star Tribune, April 14, 2007. 2. See Phil Sands, “Claims of Training Insurgents Inside Iran”, The San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 2007; and also Alissa J. Rubin, “U.S. suspects that Iran aids both Sunni and Shiite militias”, The New York Times, April 12, 2007, and Kristin Roberts, “US general says Iran backs Iraqi Shi‘ites and Sunnis”, Reuters, Washington, April 19, 2007. 3. See Shahab Sariri, “Iraq’s Struggle against Tehran Sponsored Extremism”, Global Politician, April 14, 2007; see also NCRI, “Declaration by 5.2 m Iraqis condemns Iran Regime’s terrorist threats, supports PMOI”, , June 21,2006. 4. See “Regime Statements and Opposition Groups”, in Iran Policy Committee, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition, Washington, DC, 2006, pp 39-46. 5. See Neil Mackay, “Iran’s Spies”, The Sunday Herald, December 29, 2006; also see Nasser Taba, “The long arm of Iranian intelligence…reaching US?”, Iran Terror Database, June 1, 2005, and Daniel M. Zucker, “Iran’s VEVAK: Disinformation, Inc.”, Global Politician. September 17, 2006. 6. Jamey Keaten, “Iranian opposition group claims Iran has thousands of agents in Iraq”, Associated Press, Paris, January 26, 2007; see also Mohammad Mohaddessin, NCRI-FAC, “Untold aspects of the Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq”,, January 29, 2007. 7. See note 3 above: NCRI, “Declaration by 5.2 m Iraqis condemns Iran Regime’s terrorist threats, supports PMOI”, Ibid.

Professor Daniel M. Zucker is a Chairman of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East.