- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

The announcement of President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team on the heels of the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai (Bombay), India, should again dispel the myth that we can through negotiations achieve an acceptable compromise with Islamic fundamentalist fanatics.

The terrorist attack in Mumbai may have had a more focused objective of inciting open warfare between India and Pakistan on the South Asia Subcontinent, but Islamic extremists principally represented by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization and Iran’s Khamenei regime have a broader agenda. They have declared a total war on not only the United States but on every free democratic nation.

Unfortunately, many allies as well as some members of Congress fail to grasp the challenge. President Carter and his national security team did not comprehend the depth of the challenge represented by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rogue regime’s takeover of Iran. Nor did President Reagan’s defense secretary understand the depth of the challenge by Iran over the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 or the subsequent bombing of the U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983.

Our failure early on to address these challenges sent a signal that we were not prepared or incapable politically to respond. The failure to respond in any meaningful way culminated in the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result, we are now engaged in two ongoing wars.

Our U.S. forces led by Gen. David Petraeus have turned the corner in Iraq. The Bush administration has successfully negotiated a military and security agreement, which was recently passed by the Iraqi Parliament and there is now an end game in place.

In Afghanistan, the situation is less clear and has been allowed to deteriorate with no end game in sight. The Taliban has been able to reconstitute itself with outside support both in terms of funding, recruitment plus money from the opium trade.

What we have today in Afghanistan is an asymmetrical war. We need some ingenuity on reaching an accommodation with the tribal elders on both sides of the Durand line as we did in Iraq.

The Durand Line represents the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan but has never been accepted by Afghanistan nor have they accepted the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as part of Pakistan. The Durand Line artificially divides the Pashtun tribes and has festered for generations. It is a situation that is easily exploited by al Qaeda and the Taliban. Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri and Muhammad Omar are all believe to have been given sanctuary in the porous NWFP.

The Taliban leader, Muhammad Omar is in the minority. The tribes in the Frontier region are “Taliban” until something better comes along. As we have successfully done in Iraq, we need to use our special forces to go tribe by tribe negotiating arrangements that both sides are comfortable with. Similar operations, if already not in progress, need to be concluded with tribes on the Afghan side of the border. We need to offer more than al Qaeda and the Taliban - new roads, medical services including hospitals, schools, job opportunities and paying the warlords militias. Whatever we promise, we must deliver. We also need to train a Pakistani Frontier Unit in counterterrorism operations and imbed them with U.S. units.

With the Mumbai terrorist attack, the climate is Islamabad should be more receptive to such a proposal. Special Forces used in this role become a force multiplier.

We still need to address the Iranian nuclear weapon program. The Khamenei regime has caused thousands of U.S. military and civilian lives over the last almost 30 years from Lebanon to Iraq and Afghanistan. These lives must not have been given in vain. The Khamenei regime must be held accountable.

With much unrest among the general populace over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disastrous handling of the economy with at least a 30 percent inflation rate plus plans to eliminate subsidies on basic goods, this is not the time to weaken further our position with Iran by engaging in face-to-face negotiations without preconditions. Such negotiations would only serve to prop up Mr. Ahmadinejad’s status.

With the price of oil plummeting, we should with our allies in the EU-3 group and other willing partners press for more stringent sanctions, recognizing that those most likely will be ignored by Russia and China.

With the Khamenei regime’s record of state-sponsored terrorism with its use of proxies, trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to further its political agenda, an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons is totally unacceptable.

Operational plans to destroy their nuclear weapon infrastructure and other key industries, e.g. gasoline refinery, should be rehearsed so there can be no misunderstanding about our determination to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon capability. An aggressive information program should also be broadcast to the Iranian people so that they understand the serious consequences of their continuing to support the policies of the Ali Khamenei regime.

James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was 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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