was responsible for the Najaf
bombing, in which 125 people were
killed – including the
leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)?
of this writing, there are at least six versions of the truth
to choose from: one fingers two
Iraqis and two Saudis, another blames "two Iraqis
from Saddam Hussein's fallen regime and two Arab nationals,
categorized as Sunni Muslim radicals." An Australian report
has two Saudis arrested in Najaf on account of an email in
which they triumphantly wrote "The
dog is dead," while the Gulf Daily News cites Haidar
Al Mayyali, the governor of the Najaf area, as saying:
are several suspects, none of whom has citizenship other than
Iraqi. The number of those now arrested is not greater than
the number of fingers on one hand."
that 12 suspects are being held in connection with the
bombing, while ABC News is reporting 19 in the hoosegow,
citing an anonymous police official who claims they're mostly
foreigners, and that "all
belong to the Wahhabi sect (of Sunni Islam), and they are
all connected to al-Qaeda."
anonymous police official – cited in several of the above
reports – sure gets around. The problem is that he dished
out several different versions of his story. Arab nationals,
former officials of the regime, Saudis, Al Qaeda terrorists:
at one time or another all are named by him – or someone who
sounds very much like him as being among the culprits.
So far, only Reuters
and the New York Times are going with what seems to
be the official police explanation, which denies
any proven link to the former regime or foreign involvement:
suspects were detained, the police said, but they rejected
reports quoting anonymous police sources that the suspects
had been carrying identification cards from the former intelligence
services or were foreigners."
pick your favorite culprits, according to your political prejudices
or by just guessing.
for me, I tend to believe the Times-Reuters version,
if only because they don't rely on that anonymous and oddly
omnipresent police official. But there are other reasons to
Al Qaeda-did-it scenario. To begin with, the idea that
Osama bin Laden and Ba'athist remnants hooked up to attack
a mosque is just as implausible as the Bush administration's
pre-war claims of Saddam's links to Al Qaeda. If this is how
the administration is seeking to retroactively justify the
war, it won't work.
political goal of the Najaf mosque bombing was to limit
Iranian influence in Iraq. The Ayatollah
Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, killed in the blast, and his
SCIRI organization were harbored
for years in Iran, and received direct military and
financial aid from Tehran. SCIRI's goal is to set up an Iranian-style Islamic
republic, and institute a legal system based
on Sharia law.
to all the guff being written
about how al-Hakim was a "moderate"
somehow allied with the U.S., SCIRI was unique among Iraqi
opposition groups – indeed, unique on the planet Earth, as
far as I can tell – in firmly rejecting U.S. offers
of a subsidy. They agreed to sit
on the U.S.-sponsored Governing Council, but this hardly
makes the group either moderate or pro-American. SCIRI announced
their opposition to the occupation before the shooting ever
started, and the Ayatollah
was always quite clear about his own position:
forces are welcome in Iraq as long as they help the Iraqi
people get rid of Saddam's dictatorship, but Iraqis will resist
if they seek to occupy or colonize our country'…. Such resistance,
the Shiite leader told a news conference in Tehran, would
include 'the use of force and arms.'"
the dust settles, the political meaning of this horrific terrorist
act could not be clearer. Iran
loses big, and, with the main challenge to U.S. dominance
out of the picture, the Americans win. Ignore the caterwauling
about "chaos" and the
losing control: they never had control to begin with.
The Shi'ites comprise some 65 percent of the population, but
politically the opposition is fragmented, weak, and leaderless:
militarily, it is no match for the occupation forces.
all this, the hard-line faction of the Iranian regime is floating
a not entirely implausible theory, which, for all its vituperative
predictability, may contain a grain of truth. The Iranian
newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami avers:
plot to assassinate Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim... was
undoubtedly planned by the US and implemented by local mercenaries
under US control. As far as local US mercenaries are concerned,
one should not forget the role of the Monafeqin [hypocrites,
pejorative reference to the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation]...
As they are Shia Iranians, the Monafeqin can easily infiltrate
Iraqi Shia circles."
the U.S. government is sowing chaos where it is supposed to
be keeping order is indisputable. That it is doing so intentionally
seems highly improbable. But it is undeniable that the one
group most opposed to the extension of SCIRI's influence throughout
Iraq is the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK),
the "Monafeqin" so disdained by Jomhuri-ye Eslami.
history of this weird
grouplet including its apparent sponsorship
by the neoconservative faction in the U.S. government
– implicates it as a prime suspect in the Najaf blast.
the MEK Marxist, militantly feminist,
and linked by an umbilical cord of financial and political
support to the old Ba'athist regime is the antipode of
SCIRI, which is Islamist, militantly anti-modernist, and for
all intents and purposes an agent of the Iranian regime. If
the Ayatollah al-Hakim had lived to establish an Islamic Republic
of Iraq, there would have been no place in it for the MEK.
known as the Peoples Mujahideen, or the Iranian National Liberation
Army (INLA), the MEK started out as a "left" faction of the
Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah
and installed the Ayatollah Khomeini
as the supreme power in Tehran. The U.S., as the
Shah's sponsor and chief ally, became the principal target
of MEK terrorism. A State Department report notes:
were the Mojahedin's weapon of choice, which they frequently
employed against American targets. On the occasion of President
Nixon's visit to Iran in 1972, for example, the MKO exploded
time bombs at more than a dozen sites throughout Tehran, including
the Iran-American Society, the U.S. information office, and
the offices of Pepsi Cola and General Motors. From 1972-75
… the Mojahedin continued their campaign of bombings, damaging
such targets as the offices of Pan-American Airlines, Shell
Oil Company, and British organizations."
MEK also participated in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy
in Tehran. After the fall of the Shah, the MEK fell out with
the orthodox Shia clergy, and was attacked by the Revolutionary
Guards. They began to launch terrorist attacks against the
Iranian government, in which civilians were targeted. During
the Iran-Iraq war, they made an alliance with Saddam Hussein,
who funded them and gave them sanctuary on Iraqi territory,
a tactic that succeeded in completely isolating them from
the Iranian people.
pact with Saddam also made them plenty of enemies inside Iraq.
The MEK were used
to put down
the Kurdish rebellions in the north, and they were also sent
crush the 1991 Shi'ite uprising in the south – where they
faced what is today the SCIRI on the battlefield, and drove
them over the border into Iran. After Saddam's fall, the SCIRI
returned, with Ayatollah al-Hakim at their head. But his moment
in the sun didn't last too long....
the U.S. invaded Iraq, there was a big debate within
the administration over what to do about the MEK. The
the Pentagon and around Douglas
Feith and the Office
of Special Plans want to use the Marxist terrorists as
a club to bash Iran
in the next phase of their war to "democratize" the Middle
East. Leading neocons such as Daniel Pipes and Arnold Beichman
tout the MEK as a U.S. ally, the latter hailing it as "a legitimate
force for democracy and regime change in the Middle East."
That's an odd way to characterize a totalitarian cult whose commitment
to "democracy" consists of having unilaterally proclaimed
wife of the group's military leader, Masoud Rajavi
"President Elect"of Iran.
is the only terrorist outfit that I know of with a huge constituency on Capitol
Hill: 150 members of Congress signed
on to a letter in response to the
banning of MEK and its front groups from the U.S.
accounts closed, the MEK public relations machine still
managed to put out a
full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the
crackdown. The Mujahideen e-Khalq has become a symbolic issue
in Washington, a rallying point
for the radical neocons and their congressional
State Department, having designated MEK
a terrorist organization, opposed
utilizing the group against Tehran. U.S. diplomats were trying
to convince the Iranians to hand over Al Qaeda operatives
reportedly on their territory, but Tehran wouldn't agree unless
MEK was disbanded. The mullahs were furious because a formal
agreement was signed with MEK leaders,
enabling the group to "remain
fully armed, but nevertheless effectively quarantined,"
as one analyst put it.
channel negotiations between Iran and the U.S. over Al
Qaeda members held in Iran are opposed by the neocons, who
see more "regime change" as the logical next step in the war
on terrorism. They have gone
so far as to meet
with Iran-Contra figure Manucher
Ghorbanifar, a discredited arms merchant, in order to
derail U.S.-Iranian cooperation.
cabal that lied us into the Iraq war is not above using
the MEK terrorist cult to provoke Tehran
and trigger a new conflict. The news that the U.S. is now
Mukhabarat, Iraq's hated secret police, in order to boost
the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the occupation
government is more than a case of strange bedfellows. It points
directly to the prospect of a rapid escalation of the war,
with the U.S. clearly preparing to expand operations into
Iran. As the New York Times recently
al-] Hamed, a Mukhabarat officer since 1976, said he refused
to join the revived unit when former co-workers told him that
it would be cooperating with the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's
Mujahedeen, an Iranian opposition group that is on the State
Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Mr.
Hamed said he had worked with the group during the Iran-Iraq
war and called them butchers, adding that he had seen bodies
of people they had executed."
characterizing the MEK as "mercenaries under U.S. control,"
Jomhuri-ye Eslami may not be too far off the mark.
That is, if by "under U.S. control" they mean under the control
of the parallel intelligence
service set up by the neocons to carry out their own private
American troops disarmed MEK, "President Elect" Maryam Rajavi fled
to France, where her group was raided by the police and now
faces expulsion from the country. The French charged the MEK
compound was a
terrorist nerve center, where acts of violence were being
planned against Iranian targets and dissident members throughout
Europe. Masoud Rajavi, husband
of the "President Elect" and commander of the group's armed
wing, remained in Iraq,
where he had been living
in the home of Iraqi Gen. Ali-Hassan al-Majid, better
known as "Chemical Ali."
Rajavi Islamo-commies may be banned in the U.S., but in Iraq
doubtless carry on their 35-year battle in another form.
We may have seen the first results already. If so, it wouldn't
be the first time MEK has carried out terrorist activities
and around Najaf.
the Mujahideen be useful?" asks Daniel Pipes, recently appointed to the board of
the "U.S. Institute of Peace," a government-run think-tank.
Western spy agencies are short on 'human intelligence' meaning
spies on the ground in Iran, as distinct from eyes in the
sky. Coalition military commanders should seek out the Mujahideen
for information on the Iranian mullahs' agents in Iraq."
the possibility that the MEK might be doing more than merely
gathering information in post-Saddam Iraq was prefigured in
an interesting piece
in the Beirut Daily Star [June 6, 2003]. Ed Blanche
observed the "alarm" of the Americans at the appearance of
the 15,000-strong Badr
Brigades, the military wing of the SCIRI, and noted:
leader Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, whose family was decimated
by Saddam's secret police, announced May 31 that his movement
had given up its heavy weapons although it doesn't seem to
have handed them over to the Americans to focus on the political
struggle. But the Badr Brigades and the INLA are mortal enemies,
and the Americans may just find it useful to use the Mujahideen
as a counterweight to the Iranian-backed Shiites in the stormy
days ahead. The Mujahideen face final collapse if they are
subdued in Iraq, or forced to disband. But given the power
of Rumsfeld's Pentagon right now, they could live to fight
their enemies another day, under one guise or another."
Mystery Terrorists of Iraq, masters of a thousand guises –
who knows what they'll morph into next? The war is young,
and we have a lot to look forward to: the Zoroastrian
Liberation Front, the Turkmen Freedom
Fighters, the Assyrian Assassins. Iraq
is teeming with disgruntled grouplets – for sale, cheap.
our old friend, the anonymous "police official" cited above,
spreads confusion about the Najaf massacre story throughout
the Western media, his
Iranian doppelganger, described by the Tehran Times
as "an Iraqi analyst," adds his own spin to the mix, claiming
that "traces of Mossad agents were found at the Najaf blast
site." As to whether they left a calling card, this "analyst"
does not say. He merely passes along rumors that the Mossad
has lately made a point of "infiltrating" certain unnamed
"organizations in southern Iraq." He does, however, name the
MEK as having "helped Zionist operatives in this mission."
In any case, he speaks with as much ersatz authority as his
Western cousins, who attribute the massacre to Al Qaeda, Ba'athists,
not ruling out the hand of the extremist groups such as al-Qaeda
in the massive blast in Najaf, he noted, 'Of course I think
the massive propaganda by some Western-minded media and an
emphasis on blaming al-Qaeda or remnants of the Baath party
is to be considered a conscious effort to hide the role of
Zionist and occupying forces in this abominable atrocity.'"
beneath the thin veneer of anonymity, competing interests
spin rival versions of the same story. Adding to the cacophony
and the confusion is the news that Saddam, or a voice purporting
to be him, denies having anything to do with the Najaf
atrocity. Anyone who scoffs at the idea that we're in a quagmire
just isn't paying attention: we're stuck in a news quagmire,
sunk in the yawning abyss between truth and fiction.
in the neocons’ crosshairs: make no mistake
about that. And they are moving quickly.
It’s the perfect diversion from the disaster unfolding in
Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction Saddam never had have
migrated eastward, or so we’re told,
and the logic of intervention is carrying along the Bush administration
– and us -- like a leaf in a torrent. Weather forecast for
the rest of the year: stormy, with darkening war clouds punctuated
by thunderbolts of warmongering rhetoric. If Israel doesn’t
bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – and they’re
putting out broad hints that they just might -- then don’t
expect George W. Bush to be deterred by an election year.
IN THE MARGIN
am pleased to announce an exciting addition to Antiwar.com’s
stable of columnists: Ivan
Eland, the director of the Center
on Peace and Liberty at the Independent
Institute, where he is a Senior Fellow. You are going
to be very interested to read his weekly contribution to the
ongoing foreign policy debate, and we are thrilled to give
him a platform. I mean, here is a guy whose resume includes
such items as:
Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office
(national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General
Accounting Office, and
for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
duty! Ivan’s smart, but he’s also an excellent writer,
with a brisk, informative style that’s a welcome relief from
show-offs like me. Polemics are fine, but they must be based
on a command of the facts -- which Ivan wields very effectively.
the author of Putting
"Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security
in the Post-Cold War World and The Efficacy of
Economic Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Tool. His articles
have appeared in such venues as Arms Control Today, Issues
in Science and Technology (National Academy of Sciences),
and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
been angling to get him on board, and we’re very happy to
have landed him. If I were the War Party, I’d run for cover.
So, check out his first column. If you’re looking for intellectual
ammunition in the battle for peace, then
this is the place to stock up.
this point, we've gotten over 200 letters on the subject of
my recent column on Howard Dean,
and I must say I was somewhat
taken aback by the vehemence of the Dean camp. Like their
leader, they do not take criticism well. Well, that's tough,
because they're going to get a lot more of it, and not only
from me. Dean can't credibly claim the allegiance of anti-war
voters while saying we must put more troops in Iraq and stay
longer. Either the war was a mistake, and we must end the
occupation a.s.a.p., or else it wasn't a mistake, and we're
in for the long haul.
don't buy for one minute the lame excuse of "we broke their
country so now we're obligated to fix it." Obligated – to
whom? If the answer is the Iraqi people, then why not ask
them? A real anti-war candidate would call for an Iraqi plebiscite,
but Dean – the anti-anti-war candidate wants
to impose a government on the Iraqis in which "Americans
have to have the final say." A more sure-fire formula
for a protracted guerrilla war in Iraq would be hard to imagine.
I'm awful glad Dean is calling for national health insurance
to cover the medical costs of every American – because our
wounded and maimed-for-life soldiers coming back from Iraq
are sure going to need it.
received a number of letters accusing me of "ignoring" Dennis Kucinich, a charge to which I plead
only partially guilty: it seems most of the rest of the country
is also ignoring him, as he doesn't even come
up as a blip in the polls. However, courtesy of CSPAN,
I did notice his recent appeal, at the Philadelphia
AFL-CIO candidates' debate, for "a workers government."
With this kind of platform, I wonder why he has adopted "Power
to the People" as his campaign slogan, when "All power to
the Soviets!" is so much more timely.
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