George W. Bush is now attempting to justify a long term American occupation of Iraq by citing non existent parallels between that country and South Korea. The two cases have nothing in common, as Juan Cole details. But Bush's outrageous claim only serves to underline the incredibly wrong headed policies of the Bush administration.
If more is needed, check out the Op-Ed page of the International Herald Tribune, a piece entitled "The Follies of Bush's Policy." The authors call for the Bush administration to immediately terminate the clandestine distribution of $75 million dollars to opponents of the Iranian government. The funds were requested by the Bush administration last year and authorized by the U.S. Congress to "bring" democracy to Iran. Ironically, the attack on the administration's policy is being made by two Iranians who oppose the Tehran regime. One of them is Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and is the lawyer for Haleh Esfandari, the Iranian-American scholar currently under arrest in Iran.
Some of the U.S. millions are funneled to Iranian exile groups, but not all. The entirely predictable results of that secret dole has been to tarnish all opposition groups including those in Iran, leaving them open to the charge that they are paid lackeys of America. In short, say the authors, the program has "backfired" One of its consequences, the recent detention of several Iranian-Americans in Iran such as Haleh Esfandari . Another: "It has made it more difficult for the more moderate factions within Iran's power hierarchy to argue for an accommodation with the West."
"Iranian reformists believe that democracy can't be imported, it must be indigenous. They believe that the best Washington can do for democracy in Iran is to leave them alone. The fact is, no truly nationalist and democratic group will accept such funds."
One of the more violent opposition groups that has been backed by the United States is known as Jundallah or "God's Brigade." According to ABC News, which cited unnamed US and Pakistani intelligence sources, most of God's Brigade are drawn from the predominately Sunni Muslim Baluchi tribe. Though the U.S. supposedly provides no direct funding to the group, it has been "secretly encouraged and advised" by the American government since 2005. Funding would require an official presidential "finding" and congressional oversight. Instead, money has been provided by Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.
If pushed to the wall, Dick Cheney or Bush might defend this action as a vital part of America's War Terror. But you want terror? "God's Brigade" has claimed responsibility for bombings, kidnappings, and televised beheadings that have killed more than a dozen Iranian troops and officials.
Indeed, there is an appalling, underlying theme to the so-called "war against terror" from the Mediterranean Coast to Central Asia. Many of the forces arrayed against America and its ally, Israel, are movements that those two countries and their cronies themselves helped create.
In began with Iran. In 1951 the Iranian parliament elected a fiery, determined Mohammed Mosadegh as Prime Minister. He promptly infuriated the British by nationalizing their vast oil interests. No longer having the power to act themselves, the British enlisted the U.S. in their cause, painting Mosadegh as a communist menace. In 1953 the obdurate Iranian leader was overthrown by a U.S. organized coup. Most Americans quickly forgot the matter. Not the Iranians.
By closing off the democratic, nationalist route of Mosadegh and instead backing the dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlevi, the U.S. intervention set the stage for the violent Islamic explosion of Khomeini in 1979. Ever since, the nightmare of Washington and its allies in the Gulf is that the revolutionary Shiite religious fervor unleashed by Khomeini would spread throughout the region.
Ironically, nothing has fueled that Iran's drive for preeminence more than the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. By toppling Saddam Hussein -- who had been the major buttress against Iran in the Gulf -- and then dismissing the Iraqi army and firing all the top ranking civil servants, the U.S. flung the door open to Iraq's Shiites, who represent a majority of the country's population.
Because of Saddam's repression, most of the major Shiite leaders had spent years in exile in Iran, developing close ties with Tehran's militant leaders. None of this was secret. As Robert Dreyfuss writes in American Prospect, well before the U.S. invaded Iran, the White House was warned that the consequence of toppling Saddam could be a great expansion of Shiite power in the region. Either the folks in the White House didn't listen; or didn't care.
Ironically the one major Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtadr Al Sadr, who the United States reportedly once attempted to assassinate because of his strident anti-Americanism, is also the leader most likely to resist any Iranian attempts to dictate policy in Iraq. No matter. His militia commanders continue to be targeted by U.S. Special Forces.
Meanwhile the Israelis are targeting Hamas -- killing or arresting the radical Palestinian group's leaders, including cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, despite the fact that they were chosen in free elections, and annihilating Hamas targets in densely populated Gaza with Amerian F-16s -- with nary a peep from the U.S. Washington agrees with Israel that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas, for its part is firing makeshift rockets into Israel, and vows to destroy the Zionist State.
Again the irony of it all is that it was Israel after 1967 that helped establish the fundamentalist movement that eventually became Hamas. At the time the Israelis thought the group with its radical Islamist views would counteract Arafat's Al-Fatah. They were right. Hamas' networks of mosques , charities and schools spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza and ultimately the group beat Al Fatah in popular elections.
We will not dwell on the origins of the most notorious of those "blowback" movements, Al Qaeda.
You would think after witnessing so many disastrous attempts to manipulate events in that part of the world, those calling the shots in the Bush White House might have learned that dabbling in the region's convoluted politics was a fool's game -- a sure way to get your head handed to you. But previous debacles only seem to have wet their appetite.
In Lebanon, for instance, the U.S. has attempted exactly the same fatal gambit that the Israelis tried with Hamas. The name of the group is Fatah al-Islam, a radical Sunni sect, linked with Al Qaeda, that infiltrated a Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli over the past few months. Most if not all of its members are not Palestinians, but Sunni jihadists from other Arab lands.
According to Seymour Hersh, Fatah al-Islam has been recruited, financed and armed by the Saudis -all part of a scheme drawn up months ago by Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser, Elliot Abrams, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security advisor. Their not so novel idea was to undermine Iran, Syria and their Shiite allies by backing radical Sunni jihadists across the region-be they terrorists or not. In Lebanon, the theory went, Fatah al-Islam would counterbalance the Shia Hezbollah. Unfortunately, things got out of control--or as Donald Rumsfeld might have put it, "stuff happens." Now Fatah al-Islam has to be liquidated.
The U.S, is supplying the arms to do just that.