Pakistan, Iran and Bush’s Last Months
By: Jed Babbin
HumanEvents.com | Tuesday, August 05, 2008
For the next 169 days, George W. Bush will be President of the United
States. For ninety-one of those days, our attention will be focused
more on the contest to succeed him than on what Bush can and should do
in his remaining days in office.
But as the President prepares
for his trip to join in the staging of China’s internet-censored
Olympics, the mood in his White House is uncertain. His administration
is doing its best. But will it be enough?
Last week the
calendar of a senior administration official had an entry for a meeting
with “responsible skeptics” to talk about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
and Iran. I was among them.
We talked, for an hour, about how the progress in Iraq has gone -- in
the opinion of General David H. Petraeus -- from “tenuous and
reversible” to some measure of permanence. That enormous good news is
overshadowed by the administration’s admission that we are fighting
Iran’s proxies in Iraq, and that terrorists have massive “safe havens”
As the rubble that had been the World Trade
Center towers still burned on September 11, 2001, I wrote a column for
the Washington Times that demanded we pursue those who
committed these attacks wherever they would go, deny them any sanctuary
in any nation, and destroy both them and their allies.
the next day, the column said, “Nations that sponsor or harbor
terrorists are our enemies. We have to treat them accordingly. We must
act against them, using whatever force is necessary to destroy the
threat…We will have to take on other nations and other terrorist
networks. We cannot let them have a moment's peace…There must be no
safe place for them to hide, and no hesitation to attack them or those
who give them shelter.”
Since then, we haven’t denied terrorists safe haven in Iran, Pakistan and too many other places.
remarked to the senior administration official that in Baghdad, in
December 2005, I was briefed by a senior commander on the Iranian
activities in Iraq, including the manufacture and smuggling into Iraq
of the most deadly weapon used against our troops, the
“explosively-formed penetrator.” In the nearly three years since, Iran
has not stopped. Though we have disrupted some of its operations and
captured some of its senior operatives -- including members of the
“Qods Force” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps -- they still
move with relative impunity across the border organizing, training,
funding and supplying the terrorist insurgents.
I asked, how
can we defeat the enemy if we only fight his proxies? The senior
administration official gave me a bleak look and said, “That’s hard.”
He asked if I wanted to bomb terrorist training camps, risking that we
might only hit empty land, to bomb their IED factories, which we don’t
usually locate in time, or something else?
administration is apparently not prepared to do anything like that.
They are focused on Iraq, and too little else. But what about
Pakistan, which is home to terrorist safe havens? One senior official
at the meeting said these safe havens were, “the most severe safe
havens problem on the planet.” There are, he said, “…millions of
Pashtun militants who sometimes fight in Afghanistan who live and train
in Pakistan.” Millions.
I asked if the President is content to leave office with those safe havens intact?
answer was “no,” and that the administration would “deal with it.” Are
decisive actions being taken against them, or is the President going to
tolerate them as he has done for years? The Pakistani government has
placed constraints on what we can do and how we can do it. Pakistan’s
role in international terrorism affects not only us and Iraq, but
beyond the Middle East and into India.
Last week’s reports on
terrorist bombings of the Indian embassy in Kabul said that the CIA
concluded that Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence agency -- the ISI,
which actively helped create the Taliban regime in Afghanistan -- was
directly involved in the attacks which killed 54. Pakistan and India
-- both armed with deployable nuclear weapons -- have been in a
fifty-year armed standoff over Kashmir. India has repeatedly accused
Pakistan of harboring terrorists who attack India’s people and
territory. Both nations have put their nuclear arsenals on alert when
the confrontation over Kashmir heated up.
Even if the
Pakistani government gave us a free hand against the terrorist networks
in its territory it is unlikely to the level of improbability that the
Bush administration will do anything to materially change the situation
there. The ISI is a government-within-a-government in Pakistan. If
President Bush chooses to take action against that “most severe problem
on the planet” the ISI will do whatever it can to thwart us.
January 20, 2009, we will inaugurate the 44th President of the United
States. He will inherit the most severe problems on the planet. And
not only in Pakistan.
In Iraq, the President is betting on the
Maliki government to continue the development of democracy. Bush is
ready to go “all in” (in the words of one senior administration
official) on the provincial elections that will probably be held in
December. He is counting on an Iraqi nationalism to overcome sectarian
rivalries, Syrian and Iranian interference, and an Iraqi politician
whose support for America’s presence is only as deep as his personal
Mohamed el-Baradei, head of the UN’s
usually-blind nuclear watchdog agency, said recently that Iran could
produce a nuclear weapon in as little as six months. Iran refuses to
even discuss cessation of nuclear enrichment. But the President
continues to rely on UN sanctions against Iran to block its nuclear
Over two years ago, I asked a now-former senior
administration official why we weren’t taking military action against
the Syrian sources of terrorists entering Iraq, against the Iranians’
smuggling of weapons, people, weapons and funds into Iraq. He said we
weren’t prepared to go to war against some nations. Which meant the
President would not authorize action. We now face the results of that
President Bush must not let his term of office expire
without taking effective action against the terrorist safe havens and
Iran’s nuclear weapons program. To say “it’s hard” is to substitute
excuses for essential actions. To go “all in” on Maliki and Iraq’s
election is French courage behind the Maginot Line.
covertly, cross-border action must be taken to destroy the terrorist
safe havens and – in Iran – arm and enable opposition to the regime.
In Pakistan, the new government must be under the most severe pressures
we can mount to allow more strikes such as the one we mounted last week
that reportedly killed several al-Queda leaders. The Pakistanis must
be told that we will protect democratic elements as best we can while
we attack -- again overtly and covertly -- the safe havens, the ISI and
its terrorist allies.
Against Iran, much more can and must be
done. The Mujahideen e-Khalk -- an Iranian opposition group -- was
declared a terrorist organization by the Clinton administration at the
request of the Iranian regime. MEK -- feared by the mullahs in Tehran
-- should be removed from our terrorist list and enabled to operate in
To continue to rely on UN sanctions to prevent Iran from
achieving nuclear weapons is folly. As Churchill said, “It’s no use
saying ‘we are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what
Will President Bush do what is necessary to succeed? Color me mightily -- but responsibly -- skeptical.
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