Friday, January 26, 2007

Fighting Back At Last

Part of the new strategy in Iraq involves taking the Iranian threat a lot more seriously.

When I read that President Bush authorized our forces to kill or capture Iranians supporting terrorism inside Iraq, my first thought was "we couldn't do that already?"

Apparently not. We caught and released them in the hope that Iran would get "the message."

But sending messages never works the way we intend. The message Tehran got was that we weren't serious. They kill us. We catch and release them. Message received and understood.

But now it seems we are serious about taking down the Iranian and Syrian networks inside Iraq that supply the terrorists.

And there is more:

The new "kill or capture" program was authorized by President Bush in a meeting of his most senior advisers last fall, along with other measures meant to curtail Iranian influence from Kabul to Beirut and, ultimately, to shake Iran's commitment to its nuclear efforts. Tehran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, but the United States and other nations say it is aimed at developing weapons.

The administration's plans contain five "theaters of interest," as one senior official put it, with military, intelligence, political and diplomatic strategies designed to target Iranian interests across the Middle East.

The White House has authorized a widening of what is known inside the intelligence community as the "Blue Game Matrix" -- a list of approved operations that can be carried out against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. And U.S. officials are preparing international sanctions against Tehran for holding several dozen al-Qaeda fighters who fled across the Afghan border in late 2001. They plan more aggressive moves to disrupt Tehran's funding of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and to undermine Iranian interests among Shiites in western Afghanistan.

In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. The policy does not extend to Iranian civilians or diplomats. Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.

The wide-ranging plan has several influential skeptics in the intelligence community, at the State Department and at the Defense Department who said that they worry it could push the growing conflict between Tehran and Washington into the center of a chaotic Iraq war.

Senior administration officials said the policy is based on the theory that Tehran will back down from its nuclear ambitions if the United States hits it hard in Iraq and elsewhere, creating a sense of vulnerability among Iranian leaders. But if Iran responds with escalation, it has the means to put U.S. citizens and national interests at greater risk in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Officials said Hayden counseled the president and his advisers to consider a list of potential consequences, including the possibility that the Iranians might seek to retaliate by kidnapping or killing U.S. personnel in Iraq.

It is good that we go after the enemy. And those who worry that the Iran-America conflict could spread seem to ignore the fact that we are under attack already and this just represents fighting back. Are the worriers saying that we should let Iran literally get away with murder in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

This is a good start both in targeting Iranians and Syrians inside Iraq and in countering the regional effort of Iran to harm our allies and regain lost ground.

If we are really serious, Coalition and Iraqi special forces backed by precision air and rocket strikes will go after Iranian and Syrian assets across the border, too.

And I can't help but remember that it would be good to nullify Iranian terrorist assets in the region to deprive Iran of the ability to counter-attack should we take down the mullah regime by supporting a revolution or should we strike Iranian nuclear targets in the near future.

But remember, with parts of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure likely outside of Iran, in part, regime change is the only way to know for sure that no mullah atomic bombs will threaten us.

We are still on offense. And a good thing, too, since we have a long way to go in this Long War.