Monday, December 13, 2004

More from Stratfor

I finished reading America's Secret War. In an earlier post, I took some issue with the author's claim that:

We went into Iraq to isolate and frighten the Saudi government into cracking down on the flow of money to Al Qaeda.
I don't think that the book "proves" that this was the purpose of the war. In that earlier post, I conjectured that the strategic benefit of Iraq would have to be evaluated based on how it hastened the arrival of democracy in Iran. I read the book with this alternative in mind. On pages 250-1, the book suggests that we were in a deal with Iran--to obtain access to Iran's intelligence on Al Qaeda, we toppled Saddam in favor of a government that would have a Shiite majority. Here are the relevant two paragraphs:
Iran wanted the United States to invade Iraq. It did everything to induce the United States to do so. Its strategy was to provide the United States with intelligence that would persuade the United States that invasion was both practical and necessary. There were many intelligence channels operating between Teheran and the United States, but the single most important was Ahmad Chalabi, the Defense Department's candidate for President of Iraq. Chalabi, a Shiite who traveled extensively to Iran before the war, was the head of the Iraqi National Council, which provided key intelligence to the United States on Iraq, including on WMD. But what it did not provide the U.S. was most important: intelligence on Iranian operations in Iraq or on Iraqi preparations for a guerrilla war. Chalabi made it look easy. That's what the Iranians wanted.

The primary vector for Chalabi's information was not the CIA, but OSP under Abe Shulsky. OSP could not have missed Chalabi's Iranian ties, nor could they have believed the positive intelligence he was giving them. Bus OSP and Shulsky were playing a deeper game. These were old Cold Warriors. For them, the key to the collapse of the Soviet Union was the American alliance with China. Splitting the enemy was the way to go, and the fault line in the Islamic world was the Sunni-Shiite split. The United States, from their point of view, was not playing the fool by accommodating Iran's wishes on Iraq. Apart from all of its other virtues, they felt that the invasion would create a confluence of interests between the U.S. and Iran,
which would have enormously more value in the long run than any problems posed by the Iraqi invasion. From the standpoint of OSP--and therefore Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld--Chalabi's intelligence or lack of it was immaterial. The key was the alignment with Iran as another lever against Saudi Arabia. And there were more immediate threats as well.
Again, not proof, but an attempt to tell a coherent story in hindsight with still limited information on the government's internal decision-making. The excerpt also reflects the author's writing style, and the book makes for an interesting perspective on the War on Terror from its start through a few months ago.

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Jake said...

Tommy Franks in his book "American Soldier" deals with this subject.

He said that before the Iraqi war all Arab governments were paying Al Qaida extortion money to keep Al Qaida quiet in their country.

Franks went to each Arab government and asked them to help in the War on Terror. Each one said, "We would like to help you but you will cut and run." They all thought Bush would be like Clinton.

After the liberation of Iraq, Franks got cooperation from almost all of the Arab governments in going after Al Qaida. And it has had a devastating effect on them. Over 3000 Al Qaida have been killed in 102 countries.

The liberation of Iraq can be justified on this fact alone. But I think that WMD was the primary reason to liberate Iraq.

Mark Tempest said...

I think we've been here before and I agree with you that Saudi Arabian money, while important, is not as an mportant consequence of the overthrow of Saddam as is the impact on Iran of the freeing of Iraq.

Belmont Club has two superb posts(here and here that point out some of the advantages gained by the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran by encouraging a democratic Iraq.