July 17, 2006 | National Review Online

Course Correction

Israel's war against Hezbollah is a watershed in the war on terror. As long as we understand that it's not just Israel's war. And it's not just against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is Iran. It is Iran's wholly owned proxy warrior. It is fighting Israel. It is an enemy of the United States, because its master, Iran, is an enemy of the United States. This is our war. The same war we finally engaged five years ago. That, it is worth remembering, was the war on terror — World War IV, as Norman Podhoretz aptly dubbed it. Democracy promotion is a worthy long-term aim, but the immediate imperative of this war is to defeat America-hating jihadists.

As far as Iran is concerned, we have disserved that imperative from the beginning of our response to the 9/11 attacks. One is tempted to say, “from the beginning of the war on terror,” but that would be wrong. There is a big difference between the beginning of the war on terror and the point in time when the United States finally conceded it was at war with Islamic extremists and responded accordingly. Iran has been at war with the United States from the beginning. And it has principally fought the war through its proxy warrior. Hezbollah.

In June 1998, before our embassies were attacked in Kenya and Tanzania, before the U.S.S. Cole was bombed in Yemen, before nearly 3,000 of us were slaughtered on September 11, the Justice Department obtained an indictment against Osama bin Laden — indictments being the dubious counterterrorism strategy in vogue at the time. That indictment charged, among other things, that bin Laden's “Al Qaeda forged alliances with … the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.”

Yes, even in 1998, before the worst of its anti-American onslaught, al Qaeda was already collaborating with the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, Iran, and the world's most deadly efficient terrorist organization, Hezbollah. That collaboration — involving the recruiting, training, funding, and harboring of jihadists — was a huge part of what made al Qaeda the force that it became.

Bin Laden drank deep the lessons of Hezbollah. So did his confederates, such as his deputy Ayman Zawahiri (the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman (the leader of Egypt's Islamic Group, who brought the jihad to America and whose acolytes bombed the World Trade Center in 1993). They all pointed, again and again, to a cataclysmic moment in the war on terror. They pointed to 1983, to Lebanon. It was then that Hezbollah — Iran's button-man — murdered 241 United States marines by a massive bombing against their barracks. They pointed to how the United States disastrously reacted by pulling up stakes and going home.

Bin Laden and his ilk drew from the well of Lebanon, and from Afghanistan, where the mighty Soviets had abandoned the battlefield after a decade of frustration. These were shining examples, they assured their followers, that the so-called superpowers were paper tigers. That they were no match for the jihadists' vision of Islam. If terrorists were committed enough, and ruthless enough, they could win.

Hezbollah has never stopped believing that. Iran has never stopped believing that. And we've given them plenty of good reasons to be confident.

When Iran killed 19 members of the United States air force in the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia we did … nothing — that act of war, probably in collaboration with al Qaeda, didn't even rate an indictment until years later, after 9/11.

When the 9/11 hijackers needed safe passage to do their dirty work, Iran made its borders a no-risk gateway.

When we bestirred ourselves to crush bin Laden in Afghanistan, Iran opened its back door, giving safe harbor to top al Qaeda operatives (see, e.g., here and here).

Since we've invaded Iraq, Iran — without consequence — has made war against us and our British allies, arming terrorists in the South with explosives, lending their expertise. Iran and Hezbollah enjoyed cordial relations with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the recently departed emir of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Iran is joined at the hip with Moqtada Sadr and his terrorist militia. Its destabilizing, virulently anti-American influence pervades the new “democracy” to whose creation we have subordinated the mission of crushing jihadists that was the principal reason for putting American forces in harm's way.

And yet, with all that, our tack with Iran has been … to offer concessions and accommodations.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at the West Point commencement, the president reaffirmed the Bush Doctrine, insisting America would be resolute in treating terror states just like the terrorists they abet. Even as he said those words, however, the State Department was moving toward a break with the moral clarity of our long-standing policy not to deal directly with the evil, murderous, tyrannical Iranian regime. Apparently, State perceived an opening when Iran … threatened to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.

And what was the substance of our policy sea-change? A package of goodies for the mullahs if they would just, please, pretty-please, give up their atomic-power ambitions — a package offered jointly with our “partners” like Russia and China, who have no intention of enforcing the carrots with any sticks.

But forget that embarrassing dodge. Forget for a moment even the fact that Iran has absolutely no intention of foregoing its zealous pursuit of the jihadist nuke.

The concessions offered to the world's leading terror-monger by the folks who brought you the Bush Doctrine are all about nukes. Nothing about terror. Nothing about Hezbollah. Nothing about aiding Iraqi insurgents. Nothing about al Qaeda. Or Khobar.

It's time for a course correction. Iran is our enemy. This is our war. Israel is doing our heavy-lifting.

It's time to stand with our real partners.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.



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