- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The deployment of 21,500 U.S. combat troops to Iraq is not sufficient by itself to accomplish our objectives. That goal can only be achieved through an overarching strategy designed to bring an ultimate stability to the region.

I am not talking about the sorts of simplistic, straight-line strategies that make for good sound-bites on the evening news (“Stay the course” comes to mind.) No, there must be flexibility and more important sophistication to our approach. Furthermore, we must be multifaceted, flexible, nimble and quick-witted. Capable, in other words, of adapting quickly so as to keep the enemy off-balance.

This modus operandi will require a mosaic of many different elements, starting with the application of overwhelming force applied with speed, surprise and violence of action in Baghdad and other Iraqi trouble spots.

Certainly, swift aggressive action by both U.S. and Iraqi combat troops will underpin the strategy. But economic elements, political maneuvering and behind-the-scenes diplomacy will be required, too. So will clandestine and covert support for local Iraqi groups, the Iranian opposition and other indigenous groups throughout the region — all of whom can help reduce the pressures from outside Iraq.

Indeed, the president’s order to kill or capture elite Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard personnel operating in Iraq coupled with the closing of the Iranian and Syrian borders has already shown some results.

It appears the radical cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr and some of his close associates have taken refuge in Iran. We should take advantage of his cowardice: By deserting his followers, he has left the Mahdi Army to fend for itself. We should capitalize on this power vacuum quickly and decisively.

On their own initiative, Iraqi police forces have already reportedly conducted unannounced raids, in one instance capturing a significant amount of arms at a mosque. More to the point, reports say the mosque’s imam was shocked by the raid. Why? Because he had not been notified in advance — as has been the custom until now. In separate actions, Iraqi forces also killed a key aide to the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and Iraqi and U.S. forces have been sweeping targeted areas in Baghdad to root out insurgents and restore order to the neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, across the border, 11 members of the elite IRGC — Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — were recently killed in southeastern Iran. The militant Sunni group Jundallah has claimed responsibility. There is palpable unrest in many Iranian cities and home-grown sabotage is damaging Tehran’s oil-producing capabilities. Certainly, these are all good efforts. But more needs to done in order to complete an overarching strategy.

For example, we now have hard evidence about the origin of many of the sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have caused heavy casualties to our coalition forces. There is no surprise here: They come from Iran. Reportedly, some of these deadly IEDs are produced at a munitions complex in the Nobonyad neighborhood, in north Tehran’s Lavigan district. Within this complex is a company called Sattari that specializes in making IEDs and receives many of its orders from the IRGC’s Quds Force.

The Sattari Co. needs to be eliminated. There are several viable tactical options available to accomplish this objective without putting any U.S. forces in harm’s way.

Furthermore, as part of an overarching strategy we should also review our support for opposition groups within Iran. For example, taking the Mujahideen-al Khalq (MEK) off the State Department’s terror list would send a definite signal to Tehran, especially if the MEK were suddenly funded and equipped.

Make no mistake, the MEK is no friend of America. In the past, they have targeted Americans. However, the MEK and other home-grown Iranian insurgent groups are fully capable of carrying out specific missions that would require the mullahs in Tehran to divert their attention and more importantly their economic and political resources from mischief-making in Iraq, their support for such terrorist groups as Hezbollah, their goal of hegemony in the Persian Gulf region, and their attempts to gain logistical beachheads in South and Central America by allying themselves with anti-U.S. leaders such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel and Raul Castro.

Iran’s hand has been exposed. We must now be ruthless in pursuing our objectives so an overarching strategy to stabilize the region can be achieved.

James Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the U.N. and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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