We will shortly learn more about the documents we found accompanying the high-level Iranian terrorist leader we briefly arrested in Hakim’s compound in Baghdad some days ago, and what we will learn–what many key American officials have already learned–is stunning. At least to those who thought that Iran was “meddling” in Iraq, but refused to believe that it was total war, on a vast scale.
Several good journalists are working on this story (see, for example, today’s article by Eli Like in the NY Sun), and the outlines are pretty clear. First, we had good information that terrorists were in Baghdad, and had gone to the compound. We did not know exactly who they were. We entered the compound and arrested everybody who looked like a usual suspect. One of them told us he was the #3 official of the al Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a particularly vicious group. He was carrying documents, one of which was in essence a wiring diagram of Iranian operations in Iraq. That wiring diagram included both Shi’ite and Sunni terrorist groups, and was of such magnitude that American officials were flabbergasted. It seems that our misnamed Intelligence Community had grossly underestimated the sophistication and the enormity of the Iranian war campaign.
I am told that this information has reached the president, and that it is part of the body of information he is digesting in order to formulate his strategy for Iraq. If he sees clearly what is going on, he must realize that there can be no winning strategy for Iraq alone, since a lot of ‘Iraqi’ activity—not just lethal materiel such as the latest generation of explosive devices, now powerful enough to penetrate the armor of most of our vehicles—is actually Iranian in origin. We cannot ‘solve’ the Iraqi problem without regime change in Iran.
We have been fighting to secure a nation that is being attacked by a neighboring nation. Impossible. They stage in the saftey and security of Iran. That is where we must take the fight. And now we come to the way forward:
The two policies you list (run away or invade Iran) are only two among many. In Tracinski's article, he quotes Michael Rubin on behalf of what Tracinski calls "Cold War II." That is, support democratic revolution in Iran. Again, I've been arguing in support of that since before we started Operation Iraqi Freedom. I think it's the best option, I think it will succeed if it is well done, and I think this is an excellent moment for it, since Khamenei is dying (as I was the first to report; it is now all over the Iranian blogs) and there is an intense internal power struggle at work. You probably noticed that the justice minister was killed in an automobile crash the other day, and it is noteworthy that an amazingly high percentage of important Iranians die in car and air "accidents."
I have also argued for a long time that our troops in Iraq should defend themselves against Iran and Syria. I think we should attack terrorist training camps in both those countries, and I think we should also go after the facilities where the terribly lethal new generation of IEDs is produced and assembled.
General Abizaid, and many in the Intelligence Community, have long resisted the plain fact that we are in a regional war. He has said he does not want to engage in a two-front war, but this is like saying you do not want to live in a world where the sun rises in the East and sets in the West; it does. And the war in Iraq is part of a larger war, and we need a strategy to win that war. I do not believe we can ever achieve decent security in Iraq so long as we limit our activities to Iraq alone, which is why I do not favor the "surge." I think it's both too little and too much, and I think it addresses the wrong problem.
Striking only military targets in Iran is without a doubt a minimalist military undertaking as compared to Hussein style regime change, but it is better than biting off more than we can chew and it is completely justified. We can not be expected to allow Iran to wage a terrorist incursion with the goal of aborting Iraq's fledling democracy. The case must be made. The goals must be clear. We must cripple Iran's ability to undermine our efforts in Iraq. There is no other way forward.