The Chessboard Series of the Middle East - Update
by MAJ. GEN. PAUL E. VALLELY, US ARMY (RET)
January 24, 2011
Iran Has Changed the Balance of Power in Lebanon
What is striking about the Chessboard moves by Iran and the current crisis in Lebanon is that the efforts to resolve it are being made by countries in the region. Why are there no serious initiatives on the part of Western countries that enable Iran and Syria to continue to stir the pot unmolested? Iran no longer hesitates to state publicly that its forward defense line now passes through "Lebanon and Palestine." In practice, the Lebanese-Israeli border is in fact Israel's border with Iran.
For Iran, Hezbollah serves as a live and successful model for revolutions, one which is reflected in other organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terror organizations, as well as extreme Shiite organizations in Iraq trained by Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah is nourished by the growing strength and power of Iran and draws upon its successes. Both parties recognize that the fall of one also signifies the demise of the other. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the Hariri murder, which is about to publicize its findings, may offer an opportunity for the West to reverse the trend and take the initiative to reduce Iranian influence in Lebanon, and weaken the power of Tehran.
It appears that our State Department and White House still remain asleep at the switch while the Iranians are very busy and fastidious in resetting the chessboard in the Middle East to their liking. What has Iran been doing in addition to moving their nuclear program forward, becoming the hegemonic power of the Middle East and supporting the international jihad? The Iranians (unlike the United States) are very clever at using proxies to do their dirty work.
Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs seem to achieve some victory on every front weekly in orchestrating the activities in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Syria not to mention their support of Hamas, Iraqi Shiites, and the Taliban (and, oh, let us not forget Al Qaeda and the Bin Laden family). Iran has planned a larger, bolder strategy for the demise of Israel? Russia and China (and their proxy North Korea), somewhat remaining in the background, supply sophisticated technology and military systems to Iran and Syria and languishes in the diminution of the United States influence in the Middle East.
Iran is the Chessboard puppet master now as my friend Jim Woolsey briefed a group in Washington last week. No UN sanctions or resolutions seem to matter and the IAEA is toothless. Iran pulls the strings of the powers that matter and has effectively changed the argument. By orchestrating activities in Lebanon, even as the Saudis flood opposition to Hezbollah with money, they have changed the definition of who is and is not Lebanese. They have supported the Shiite Hezbollah to the point that even the media refers to them as Lebanese people.
Lebanon’s roots are virtually gone now, replaced by Shiites who are very close to making Lebanon an Islamic State in totality. The silent 2008 coup they orchestrated on the government is almost complete now. And now, the International investigation into Rafik Hariri’s assassination is a complete farce. Hopefully the International Court will come forth shortly with a factual indictment of those responsible for the assassination Hariri and others. Or will they be too cowardly to deal with the facts and conclusions in fear of Iran?
Iran has been planning major preemptive actions against Israel from southern Lebanon for many years now and they are now capable of implementing multiple strikes on major Israeli commercial and military airports, facilities/installations, cities, and towns. These strikes will not be the feeble ones of 2006, but far more lethal.Hezbollah and Iran with the help of Syria have effectively set much in place, specifically, a plan that now appears ready for launch. Any invasion, attack, or even successful victory there would only embolden the Iranians, Syrians, and others to act on other unknown plans. Remember, Hezbollah declared victory the last time because any success is all they need for their propaganda machine, and if all goes well for them, surprises may abound worldwide. Iran is also the behind the scenes on the Palestinian initiative to declare statehood in 2011.
Iran, the puppet master has set the chessboard of the Middle East in such a manner that they control almost all of the attack points, and a feckless west is doing nothing thus appearing to have no power to change the tide. The pawns are strong and their ability to move has been changed. They are more akin to Rooks and Bishops now and they are ready to pounce. The Israelis have been effectively set into a corner, and the west is not a friend anymore. Feeble talks have been nothing less than the usual failure they have always been, and repeated trips to Damascus by non-Hezbollah Lebanese leaders have resulted in diminishing them to mere pawns. The change in the pieces on the Chess Board is virtually complete and the puppet master has won because of the weakness of the west and the political correctness of the current administration here in the US.
The chessboard has been set by Iran that now forces Israel to fight a multiple front war with little help expected from the west. If the air attack plan against Iran is launched, then the Israelis must simultaneously fight the Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon as well as other attacks emanating from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel understands this is the new chessboard; US authorities do not seem to understand.
Now, in Afghanistan, we learned that the Iranian Government provides sacks of cash to Karzai, President of Afghanistan, as well as Taliban jihadists to kill American soldiers and destroy their equipment. Karzai states…. “They do give us bags of money - yes, yes, it is done… We are grateful to the Iranians for this”. In addition, Iran has been secretly supplying explosives to the Taliban for years and most recently through the western province of Nimruz where trucks labeled as Kitchen Supplies and Toys turned out to be explosives. More and more supply convoys meet their fate of destruction coming through the Pakistan lines. Simultaneously, the Taliban forces in Northern Afghanistan strengthen as NATO/ISF forces further rely on supply convoys coming out of the “Stans”.
The Taliban previously stated that Iran was paying them for killing American soldiers and destroying U.S. military vehicles. According to the Taliban treasurer, Iran is paying bonuses of $1,000 for killing an American soldier and $6,000 for destroying a U.S. military vehicle. So Iran is financially supporting the Karzai Government and the Taliban in Afghanistan as Karzai reaches out to the Taliban for a negotiated settlement The U.S. government denies that we are directly involved with these settlement talks but confirms that we are well briefed on them.
Iran is not getting distracted by its ongoing efforts to undermine the U.S. troops and interests in Afghanistan on one side and Iraq on the other, nor in Syria and Lebanon. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently returned from his late 2010 trip to Lebanon to show support for Hezbollah. A few days later he welcomed Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez to Iran where according to the Associated Press they signed 11 agreements promoting cooperation in areas including oil, natural gas, textiles, trade and public housing. Iran’s state TV quoted both leaders as calling their relationship a “strategic alliance” saying that “they are united in efforts to establish a new world order that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.”
The United States must now finally support the Iranian Opposition forces with the first step to delist the MEK from the terrorist list. The MEK is not a Terrorist Group. In the January 10, 2011 National Review, four Republican former decision makers (Mike Mukasey, Tom Ridge, Rudi Giuliani, and Fran Townsend) contributed to a burgeoning conversation about the nature of an unwarranted terrorist tag on a principal Iranian opposition organization—the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). Let us bring all the diverse Iranian opposition groups together. A real new breakthrough strategy.
Their basic argument is sound: The designation is unjustified because the Clinton administration placed the MEK on the list of terrorist organizations for nonterrorist reasons, e.g., to encourage Tehran to engage with Washington; and the Bush administration mistakenly kept the MEK on the list out of fear that the Iranian regime would send additional arms to Iraq for killing American soldiers, which Tehran did in any event. Moreover, the United Kingdom and then the European Union removed the MEK from their respective terrorist lists after being prompted by the Courts, which conducted a thorough review of open and classified evidence. As a result of such actions, the terrorist tag seems unjustified by historical circumstances.
The reasonable argument of the four former policymakers can be corroborated with direct evidence that the terrorist designation is without merit; indeed, the historical evidence affirms their conclusion that the designation is problematic.
As input to the UK and EU decisions to overturn the MEK designations, one British court found that, “there have been no offensive operational attacks by PMOI [MEK] operatives inside Iran since August 2001.” And the UK Court of Appeal upheld that finding and concluded that classified material bolstered the idea that the Government could not have reasonably maintained that the MEK intended in the future to resort to terrorism. Building on the European findings, the Iran Policy Committee searched three huge electronic databases for evidence of whether the MEK deserved to be listed as a terrorist organization:
- National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Worldwide Incident Tracking System (WITS)
- Global Terrorism Database, (GTD), University of Maryland
- RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents
The Iran Policy Committee (IPC) study concluded that:
- In three major public databases on terrorism, there are no confirmed and credible reports labeling the MEK as a perpetrator of any military incident after 2001.
- Because MEK members in Iraq were under U.S. military round-the-clock monitoring and protection between 2003 and 2009, the plausibility of the MEK engaging in terrorist activities, or having capacity to commit terrorism is close to zero during this period.
- In the Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) 2007, 2008, and 2009, the 2006 accusation that the MEK has “capacity and will” to commit terrorism or terrorist activities does not reappear, suggesting there is no public basis for the Secretary to assert the MEK retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorism and terrorist activities.
Terrorist Tag - To maintain the designation of a group absent terrorism or terrorist activity in the past two years, the State Department must show “current” capability and intent to carry out terrorism or terrorist activities that would threaten the national security interests of the United States or the security of U.S nationals.Capability and intent, such as planning, training, and arming, also relates to the past two years.
Although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held that the MEK continues to be a foreign organization that engages in terrorist activity or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, there is no basis in the public record to justify such a conclusion.
It is unreasonable to believe terrorist capability and intent were hidden from the watchful eyes of U.S. military monitors who also protected the MEK in Camp Ashraf Iraq during the period of Secretary Rice’s January 2009 reconsideration of the designation; consequently, the credibility of the classified record would have to be beyond challenge to justify redesignation. In fact, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit questioned the credibility of classified sources used by the Secretary when the Court remanded the designation to State for further review consistent with due process of law procedures.
It is ironic for the State Department to appease the Ayatollahs of Iran by designating as terrorist one of their main opponents about which there is no public evidence of military incidents; terrorism or terrorist activities; or capability and intent not only during the legally binding time for the designation to be valid, but also in the last 10 years.
On the basis of a designation based on nonterrorist criteria; lack of evidence in the public record of MEK involvement in terrorism, terrorist activities, or current capability and intent; as well as doubts expressed by the Federal Appeals Court of the credibility of classified sources used in the redesignation, the terrorist tag on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is problematic at best and perverse at worst.
By correcting this unwarranted designation now, President Obama would be in a much stronger diplomatic position before nuclear talks resume with Iran on January 20.
We must begin to focus U.S. policy toward Iran in a way that better promotes our national security interests and strengthens our resolve to face this growing threat. We must change our strategy and soon before more of our men and women die for naught.
So the chessboard is set by Iran. They have the puppet strings on all the chess pieces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Lebanon; all while Russia, the USA, China, and western nations posture. Iran is an adept Puppet Master now and the Chess Master (and we and others have allowed it to happen!).
Next move…. CHECKMATE!
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Paul E. Vallely, Major General (USA/Ret.) is an author, military strategist and Chairman of Stand Up America and Save Our Democracy Projects. Dr. Raymond Tanter is an Affiliate of Government Department, Georgetown University, Adjunct Scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan. He is also President of the Iran Policy Committee.Thomas McInerney is a retired Lieutenant General from the United States Air Force, with experience of more than 4,100 flyinghours. He flew 407 combat missions in Vietnam and is now a contributor on Fox News. He is also a member of the Iran Policy Committee.