Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Saturday, July 31, 2004

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich: "Ledeen: So we have to get back to the basic mission, which is bringing down the various tyrannies.

Gingrich: Michael Ledeen is a former White House national security advisor, he would add Syria and more to the evil axis list.

Ledeen: The common denominator of our enemies in the Middle East is tyranny. The terror masters are all tyrants. So Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq are all tyrannies. And I believe until these tyrannies are brought down we will continue to have terrorism.

Gingrich: So you would include Syria and Saudi Arabia with Iran and Iraq?

Ledeen: Yes, I think those four countries. You can't any longer -- maybe it was possible once upon a time to pick them off one at a time. Right now Iran, Iraq, and Syria are bundled. They've all been talking to one another, they've all been making contingency plans, each has made promises to the other two, if you're attacked we'll do this. So they're all ready to go. So wherever we start now, we're going to get all three at once.

Gingrich: But, why Saudi Arabia, America's chief Arab ally in the Gulf War, and sponsor of the most recent Middle East peace plan?

Ledeen: The Saudis finance all the terror. The Iranians design it, the Iraqis support it, and the Saudis finance it. And the Saudis are the producers of the basic non-Shiite doctrine. There are two schools of Islam, so there are two kinds of terrorism, there's Shiite terrorism and Sunni terrorism. Wahabi terrorism, Wahabi terrorism is Saudi, it's a Saudi invention, it's a Saudi product, it's preached in Saudi mosques, it's spread around the world in Saudi textbooks, even in the United States. We know, for example, that, what's it's called, the Saudi Islamic Academy of Fairfax, Virginia, uses textbooks printed in Saudi Arabia, and they teach the same kind of hate that we read every day in the newspapers about what the Saudi newspapers are printing. Kill the Jews, kill the Christians, be a martyr, go to heaven, 72 virgins, the usual.

Gingrich: But, whether it's Saudi Arabia or Syria, Iran, or Iraq, the consensus among all the analysts we spoke to seem to be, those states that support terrorism in the Middle East threaten America as well.

Ledeen: Once you move beyond Iraq you're going to have to look at Iran, you're going to have to look at the Hezbollah and Syria, because when we talk about terrorism in general what we're really talking about is Islamic radicalism. And that the terrorist threats that come elsewhere are really quite small compared to that which issues forth from the Middle East.

Gingrich: So you mentioned Syria, which was not on the president's axis of evil list, how would you compare Syria with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea?

Ledeen: Syria is more of a host. Once upon a time Syria was more of an engine of terror, I don't think that's the case now. Syria has got very real political concerns, the primary concern is maintaining control of Lebanon. Now, one of the factors in that control is the relationship with the Hezbollah, which is the militant Shiite group, which is in the southern part of the country, actually it goes all the way to Beirut. I think the Hezbollah are now what you might call the preeminent holy warriors of the Middle East, with the possible exception being Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. The Syrians, if they wanted to, could clamp down on Hezbollah, but I don't think they want to because it would cause them a great deal of domestic unrest inside of Lebanon. And also, I think the Syrians fundamentally agree with the Hezbollah, and that is they'd rather not have Israel exist. And Hezbollah churns up, keeps the temperature up, and works to Syria's advantage.

Gingrich: In your mind you would not see Syria as being the same kind of active threat that you would see, say, Iraq being?

Ledeen: No, Syria does not have the resources to be. Only Iraq and Iran, those are the two preeminent countries of the Middle East, Turkey excepted. And those are the ones who really drive terrorism, they drive it internationally, and certainly vis-a-vis the peace process, with the Israelis and Palestinians.

Gingrich: But, are Iran and Iraq the same kind of terrorist state?

Ledeen: Well, Iran is a different case, because I think Iran is, in many ways, it's the most politically advanced of all countries in the Muslim Middle East. There is really a democratic movement in Iran. The clergy is very much aware of it, to some extent the clergy is a product of it. And there is no doubt -- I mean, every time, for example, the United States -- U.S. soldiers get near the Iranian border, in the case of Afghanistan, before that in the case of the Gulf War, the domestic temperature in Iran starts to rise. It almost starts to boil. We start seeing pro-American demonstrations. I think that if the United States were to go into Iraq, and to work to establish a democratic system inside of Iraq, the repercussions inside of Iran would be enormous, and I suspect they would even be immediate.

Gingrich: And you expect them to be Iranian, that is, that it's the local people, not an American intervention, or an American involvement, but actually that the younger population is just dramatically pro-democracy, and anti-dictatorship?

Ledeen: Absolutely. I think the clerical regime has been a wonderful antidote for the Iranian infatuation with Islamic radicalism, with Islamic militancy, with clerical dictatorship. I mean, they have lived it now since 1979 and they don't like it. And I would suspect that if, in fact, the United States could ratchet up the pressure outside of the country, certainly in Iraq, that you would see tremendous pressure develop inside of Iran, for more significant change, and you would see the reform movement which I think people then correct identified with President Khatami, which is in fact more a product of that reform, of that movement, he is by no means the cutting edge of it, you would see that reform movement gain tremendous speed. And it would not be unlikely that you would see what I would call productive turmoil inside that country in the movement for a greater democratic system.

Gingrich: You know, there are reports that there are riots on a regular basis in Tehran and other major cities, are those primarily just in reaction to soccer matches, or do they have an underlying political/cultural significance?

Ledeen: No, they're not. I mean, soccer matches are interesting, because whenever you have a soccer match what you have, essentially, is a large group of young men to get together. And that's what the regime fears most, because up until the death of Ayatollah Khomeini they could largely depend upon the young men as being the base of their regime, they can no longer. They fear soccer matches because you get a group of young men together, and in fact their emotions come forward. And it is representative, I think, of the country as a whole. And certainly if they cannot maintain the support of young men, then they know very well they may not be able to control the support of these same type of young men who serve in the army, who serve in the Revolutionary Guard corps, and the other organizations that allow the clergy to rule the country.

Gingrich: In the case of Iran, you really see us more in a diplomatic, psychological, political offensive, trying to ally ourselves with younger Iranians, rather than in the kind of military operation that we might need, say, in Baghdad.

Ledeen: Absolutely, I think the only justification for a military strike against Iran, and even then I think it would be a limited one, if you were to catch the Iranians, again, in some type of terrorist act against the United States. In that circumstance I think you should respond, the United States should respond, and respond forcefully, because if you don't you'll send the wrong signal to the Iranians.

Gingrich: But, like Gerecht, Ledeen feels it would take little more than a taste of democracy to fuel a regime change in Iran, even if it came from across the border in Iraq.

You think if the United States moves to replace Saddam we would actually face a confrontation with Iran?

Ledeen: Yes, automatically. Don't believe for a second that the Iranian people would permit the Iraqi people to be free and not be free themselves. They couldn't put up with that.

Gingrich: So what would the Iranians do?

Ledeen: They would rise. They're probably going to rise anyway. Right now Iranian leaders are talking about insurrection. And the editor of a newspaper recently shut down in Tehran gave a speech a couple of days ago in which she said the scenario of the Soviet Union is about to be now repeated in Iran.

Gingrich: But the rising would be against the ayatollahs, not against the United States?

Ledeen: No, it's against the ayatollahs.

Gingrich: So would you expect the ayatollahs to attempt to confront the United States if we started to take out Saddam?

Ledeen: Yes, they have to, because the first sign of success of the United States in Iraq would generate exactly their death scenario in their own country. So they have to.

Gingrich: So our military preparations have to take into account the potential of both a Syrian and an Iranian coalition with Iraq.

Ledeen: Yes, I think that's automatic. I think there's no escape from that. If we had continued right away, after Afghanistan, when they were all uncertain and living in dread in Baghdad, and Damascus, and Tehran, I think probably we could have chosen one of the three and done it. But, not any longer, we've waited too long."

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