April 23, 2004
Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.\"\;
One of the problems with the way I think is that I accumulate bits of information from many different sources, and then a conclusion pops out. Reconstructing the trail of logic and inference - even reconstructing the sources of information in the first place - that got me to a particular conclusion can be difficult to near-impossible. As a result, I hope you will forgive the tendency of some posts to have no or few links when making assertions. If you want to call me on them, feel free and I'll do my best to justify my assertions with evidence. This is going to be one of those almost link-free posts, though. You might start with this recent Belmont Club post if you're interested in tracking down background for this, or with reading Regnum Crucis.
It's been pretty obvious for some time that Syria is heavily involved in Iraq, trying to hinder US efforts to liberalize the country. Iran has been an obvious actor, but its actions have been less obvious than those of Syria. Until now.
Syria is likely behind the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. If not directly involved in operations, Syria is at least the logistical provider for these operations, and is likely involved in the planning and prioritization aspects of the operations in this area. It is in addition possible that Syria has actual possession of some of Iraq's chemical stocks; there were persistent and credible reports of their movement to Syria by truck in January 2003.
Iran has been cannier to this point, and less apparently involved except in a moral sense. While Muqtada al-Sadr almost certainly is a puppet of the Iranian ayatollahs, Iran has not been providing large and open support to Sadr's organization. This has apparently changed. There is now not only an apparent influx of money (in the tens of millions of dollars per month) and war supplies, but there have also been reports that some of the forces actually fighting on Sadr's behalf are IRGC and Hezbollah troops, who are respectively Iranian religious troops and a terrorist organization funded and controlled by Iran.
It appears to me that we may now be at the point where Mountain Storm will turn out to be our major Spring offensive. While this is useful, in that there are still dangerous folks along the Afghan-Pakistani border who need to be killed, it is not as powerful a stroke as taking out Hezbollah in Lebanon would have been. But if we are now at the point that we cannot do this, there are still some things that we can do that would be effective.
One thing I would do, and right now, were I in charge would be this: bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, the IRGC HQ, any Iranian or Syrian offices related to operations or intelligence in Iraq and, for good measure, the camps in Syria and Iran near the Iraqi border which have been sheltering and training fighters coming into Iraq to battle the coalition forces there. I would simultaneously have a press conference, explaining in detail the targets that we're hitting, why we're hitting them, and laying out the intelligence in some detail to support accusations of Syrian and Iranian involvement. What are they going to do, fight us in Iraq?
The point is, there are some times that a message needs to be sent, and in the Middle East, it is often the case that the only message that is heard is the one that hurts. If Iran and Syria are truly involved as deeply in Iraq as they appear to be (and as deeply as logic dictates they should be), they need to be hurt. If we can't actively occupy them, due to lack of forces available for the job, we can at least make their day a little darker.
Yes, we'd take a drubbing in the press, but let's face it: we're going to take a drubbing in the press regardless of what we do or don't do. That at least should be clear from the 9/11 commission, with the loudest press voices against Bush stating that President Bush should have pre-empted the 9/11 attacks, while on the very next page of their papers they are after President Bush for having suspected terrorists on no-fly lists now. So another thing I'd do if I were in charge is follow Clinton's lead: take your case over the heads of the press and straight to the public. That's a message, too.