- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The “surging” of combat troops to Iraq must be viewed from a much broader perspective than simply curbing sectarian violence. Obviously, additional forces are required to eliminate the Mahdi Army and its leader Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr. It is also clear we must use overwhelming force to decimate al Qaeda in Iraq. But while we certainly have can accomplish these things, doing so does not solve the problem.

The problem is radical Islamic fundamentalism. Be they Wahhabis, or Salafists, be they Sunni or Shia, the radical Islamist fundamentalists’ goal is to subjugate the world under Shariah law, create a Caliphate, and destroy all traces of modernism, democracy and Western culture. To confront this assault on our values we must initiate a broad, proactive and, most critically, a pre-emptive strategy. Anything less hands the initiative to the Jihadis, leaving us in reactive mode.

Radical Islamic fundamentalism has many faces. But the one that we must first confront because it directly affects our Iraq mission is the renegade regime in Iran. Just recently, two high-ranking Iranian agents were captured by U.S. forces inside the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shia leaders. Mr. Hakim, incidentally, met with President Bush and other administration officials in December. One of the captured agents is the third highest-ranking official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps al-Quds Brigade, which actively funds, arms and trains groups including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Because of the capture, U.S. forces gained a wealth of information, including a detailed weapons list, documentation on weapons being shipped to Iraq; organizational charts, telephone records, maps and other sensitive intelligence. Further, the two Iranians had important information concerning the importing of specially shaped explosives (IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices) into Iraq. These IEDs have been used so successfully to target U.S. military armored vehicles.

But the Iraqi government, following directions from the prime minister, decided to honor Tehran’s claim that the IRGC agents had diplomatic immunity. The excuse? Iraq, it was claimed, had to maintain good relations with its neighbor.

How absurd. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is either a blind appeaser or is already in Tehran’s pocket (and I choose to believe the latter). Worse, instead of raising hell with their Iraqi counterparts, U.S. officials, it was reported, took comfort a “strong message” that there would be consequences to Iran’s provocation had been sent to Tehran.

Strong message? Consequences? Let’s face facts. Strong messages have been sent to Iran since November 1979, when radical Islamic fundamentalist “students” sacked our embassy and held our diplomats captive for 444 days. And how much impact have all our strong messages, demarches, United Nations resolutions, and other diplomatic efforts had on the mullahs? Zero. And what consequences has Tehran suffered for its acts of war against the United States; acts in which hundred of Americans have died? Again, zero.

In fact, on Jan. 2, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly scorned the U.N. Security Council sanctions, telling his hometown crowd Iran had “humiliated” the United States in the past — and would again.

It is time Iran faced consequences for its radical Islamic fundamentalist war against America and the West. Iran today has a raft of serious financial and domestic problems. Iran is not meeting daily oil quotas and their petroleum infrastructure is in a serious state of disrepair. Further, it is reported that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini is seriously ill with cancer and no longer capable of holding office.

With all the unquestioned documentation we hold implicating Iran in acts ranging from the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing, the destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, to the Khobar Towers bombing, we can no longer fail to face up to Iran’s challenges. We need to put Iran back in its box as a first step in confronting and defeating radical Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorism that is but one of the weapons in the Jihadi arsenal.

In Iran, we can accomplish our goals through the combined efforts of U.S. air and naval power coupled with the surge of additional U.S. combat forces into Iraq. That way, closure can be accomplished in Iraq — but on our terms and at the same time put Islamists on the defensive.

James A. Lyons Jr. is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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