Iraq, Iran, al-Qaeda, and the United States

Behind the curve again, but I really wanted to see how the reactions of the media, Congress, and the public would be to President Bush’s speech in which he laid out plans for Iraq before I threw in my 2 1/2 cents worth in a long post…

Last week, President Bush announced that there would some 22,000 troops sent to Iraq to stabilize the region and to assist the Iraqis in securing their country. Is this too little, too late? Many people out there think that this could be the case, and that opinion includes all the political spectrum – left, right, conservative, liberal, and everyone in between. One poll stated 60% opposed, and another stated 70%.

In many respects, it depends on how the troops are deployed, and what “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) they would have to follow. Considering that the previous ROE handicapped our troops in protecting themselves and restricted what they could do, the new ROE is a welcome relief. But our troops will still need to watch their backs as the media & arm-chair generals second guess every move that they make & every round they fire while ducking sniper fire & IED explosions.

I’ve stated in previous posts that I am not thrilled that we are in Iraq, but in some respects, it was inevitable that the United States would be drawn into the Middle East in some sort of prolonged military action. What!?! No, I’m not kidding, but very serious. Lest you forget, the United States is extremely concerned about the stability of the Middle East. Besides the new terrorist concerns, there is still the energy sources of the Middle East that the economy of the United States (and the majority of the world) depend upon. Of course, this is only one person’s opinion, but bear with me.

Those of you may remember that in 1979, the Shah of Iran fled the country as Islamic revolutionists established the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Shah ended up in the United States for treatment of cancer, and the newly established Iranian government demanded that the Shah be extradited to Iran for trial and execution. This led to the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran as the United States refused to hand over the dying Shah. A rescue operation was mounted By President Carter, but it failed miserably. On January 20, 1981, twenty minutes after the newly elected President Reagan’s inaugural address, the hostages were released after having spent 444 days in captivity.

Iran was having other problems besides worrying about what President Reagan would do about the hostages. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, seeing the political turmoil in Iran and sensing weakness, attacked Iran in September 1980. The land war was extremely brutal, with massive casualties being incurred on both sides due to chemical weaponry and human wave attacks. Also, Iran and Iraq both attacked shipping in the Persian Gulf, and the United States conducted military operations in order to protect the shipping of neutral nations as well as that of United States concerns. The war between Iran & Iraq lasted 8 years, and set up the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq 2 years later.

The Iran/Iraq war devastated the economies of both countries. According to Wikipedia, Kuwait heavily financed Iraq in the war with Iran in the amount of a $14 Billion loan. Iraq was not in a position to repay the loan, and Kuwait was not going to forgive the debt. Wikipedia further states:

Iraq’s civil and military debt was higher than its state budget. On the other hand, with its vast oil reserves, Kuwait was regarded as one of the world’s wealthiest and most economically stable countries. The Iraqi government clearly realized that by occupying Kuwait, it will be able to solve its financial problems. Due to its relatively small size, Kuwait was seen by Baghdad as an easy target.

Thus, Iraq invaded Kuwait as a move calculated to erase its debts, and secure the revenue generated by the Kuwaiti oil fields. Of another concern would be an expanded access to the Persian Gulf through port facilities.

Saudi Arabia was understandably nervous with potentially hostile Iraqi troops on its border. Armed with a United Nations resolution and the Saudi government’s blessing, a United States led coalition began deploying to Saudi Arabia to defend Saudi Arabia from invasion and to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

It was during this time that Osama bin Laden, a seasoned leader of Mujahideen from Afghanistan, offered the services of his organization to the Saudi government to repel any invasion by the Iraqi forces. He was turned down as the Saudi government went with the United States led coalition. Wikipedia goes on to say:

Bin Laden considered this a treacherous deed. He believed that the presence of foreign troops in the “land of the two mosques” (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. After speaking publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops he was quickly forced into exile to Sudan and on April 9, 1994 his Saudi citizenship was revoked….Shortly afterwards, the movement that came to be known as al-Qaeda was formed.

So now at the end of the first Gulf War, we have three known enemies in the Middle East: Iraq (for driving them from Kuwait), Iran (for military activities during the Iran/Iraq War), and al-Qaeda (for defiling the Islamic homeland). A dangerous mix, indeed…

During the time leading up to September 11, 2001, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at the world by violating numerous United Nation resolutions, genocide via chemical weapons, etc… In 1993, the first World Trade Center bombing occurred, which was financed by al-Qaeda. Iran, I believe, was quietly funding terrorist organizations like Hamas to provide distraction from it’s own agenda of developing nuclear weapons and this missiles to deliver them. Various terrorist attacks such as those on the USS Cole in 2000, nightclubs frequented by US servicemen, and bombings of US embassies around the world were largely ignored even though there were casualties. That was about to change…

September 11, 2001 changed everything about how the Middle East was viewed, especially when linked to terrorism. No longer could these violent acts be swept under the rug as before – the attacks had come to our neighborhood. The War on Terrorism had begun.

Fast forward to today’s events: The United States is in Iraq, having replaced Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship with a fledgling democracy. Iran is saber-rattling with the threat of developing nuclear weapons and has it’s eye on Iraq. And al-Qaeda is in the background, quietly planning the next attack.

So here’s the bottom line:

The United States must succeed in Iraq, i.e., to leave Iraq with a fully functioning government able to defend itself from enemies within and outside of its borders. There are several reasons why the above must be achieved:

1) National and international pride and credibility. There, I’ve said it. For a superpower to enter into an engagement such as this and not complete the job destroys our credibility with the international community. Being defeated in an effort that we claim to be at the core of our country, i.e., the pursuit of freedom and self-determination, will render the US as a 2nd rate country with a cap pistol.

2) If the US does not succeed, this country will be perceived by our enemies as being weak. That will embolden terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to redouble their efforts to disrupt the activities of this country (private and governmental) through increasing attacks on US assets in both international and domestic locations.

3) Iran chomping at the bit to take over Iraq (or at least make it a puppet government) is a frightening prospect. If they succeed, this action would further destabilize the Middle East. It’s bad enough that Iran has nuclear ambitions and an apocalyptic leader stating that another country/people should be wiped off the face of the earth. But could you image the territory and natural resources that Iran would then control? If you thought gas prices were bad last summer, get ready for some severe pricing increases both here and abroad. And the rest of the Middle Eastern countries would be forced to cater to Iran’s will.

4) We’ve already seen Sunni and Shiite violence under these conditions, but could you imagine if there were absolutely no authority, no law, no government for keeping the peace? Civilian casualty counts would skyrocket as religious fighting would increase by leaps and bounds. The killing fields of Cambodia come to mind…

5) Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda could find homes in which to establish training camps. This would allow them to plan, plot, and train in relative peace & security to inflict casualties upon the rest of the world.

Yes, it is in all of our interests that the United States succeed in Iraq. This will mean keeping our troops there for some time, and whether or not an extra 20,000 or so will make a difference will depend on how they are deployed and the ROE that they can operate under. The United States cannot fail, not only for our sake, but for the sake of millions of people in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The real question in much of this is:

Will our politicians, our duly elected leaders, grow backbones, have the intestinal fortitude, and suck it up, i.e., put aside political agendas, to do the right thing for the United States and the rest of the world?

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About Tom Roland

EE for 25 Years, Two Patents - now a certified PMP. Married twice, burned once. One son with Asperger's Syndrome. Two cats. Conservative leaning to the Right. NRA Life Member.
This entry was posted in Iraq, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism, The UN. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Iraq, Iran, al-Qaeda, and the United States

  1. Tom says:

    Nice retrospective to keep us grounded. Thanks. We not only need to win. We need to win decisively.
    Conservative Dad | Homepage | 01.15.07 – 10:48 am | #

    Great post, Tom, and also right on target. We have to wake up; not only in regard to the middle east but here at home too. The Muslims are fighting us on all fronts; they are infiltrating this country and using our freedoms against us. They use the court system at the drop of a hat and are even getting into politics. This is the way they always work and they’ve been very successful in France and England. We’d better get off the pot and get off of it in a hurry.

    Blessings!
    Gayle | Homepage | 01.16.07 – 11:58 am | #

    I am not going to hold my breath. I have kids to raise while their father is in Iraq.
    Teresa | Homepage | 01.17.07 – 4:58 pm | #

    With this:

    “For a superpower to enter into an engagement such as this and not complete the job destroys our credibility with the international community.”

    I can agree. Unfortunately, I think we’re already there. We destroyed credibility going in and now that we can’t gracefully exit or “win,” we’ve further destroyed our credibility.

    There’s thousands of “insurgents” in Iraq who are probably poorly trained and funded. Our nearly 200,000 troops (ours and our allies) and hundreds of billions of dollars are not succeeding against them.

    What would we do in the case of a real threat?

    With much of what else you’ve written, I’d have to respectfully disagree.

    But, as they noted on Saturday Night Live last week, if it’s vital that we “win” in Iraq, why don’t we send in a million? Two million? Why just an extra 22,000?

    It’s a flawed plan and now we’ll have to figure out some way to clean up our mess.
    Dan Trabue | Homepage | 01.18.07 – 2:16 pm | #

    Conservative Dad – Thank you!

    Gayle – I can see a great many things happening in the name of fairness and freedom which will be used against the country. It’s happening in Canada with Sharia courts trying to operate outside of the Canadian justice system. I’m just waiting for the ACLU to jump in with both feet.

    Teresa – For the kids sake, I hope he comes through it unscathed.

    Dan – There’s evidence that the insurgents are not poorly trained or underfunded as you have stated. Iran & Syria have been linked to training and arming militias and other insurgents. I personally think that the troops were handicapped from doing their jobs from the initial occupation by well-meaning but politically-correct “people” who were more interested in promoting their own agendas than securing the country. You can disagree with me all you want, but I believe that my position will be justified in the light of history (we’ll see in a few years, won’t we?)
    Tom | Homepage | 01.18.07 – 7:07 pm | #

    “I personally think that the troops were handicapped from doing their jobs from the initial occupation by well-meaning but politically-correct “people”….”

    You mean people who don’t want us to bomb innocent people? People who want us to not exacerbate a problem but work to stop terrorism at its roots? People who want us to follow our own laws?

    Those people are called the majority. It’s just the way it is, right or wrong. US citizens don’t want to see innocent people killed by our bombs. Call us crazy.
    Dan Trabue | Homepage | 01.20.07 – 3:54 pm | #

    Bombing innocent people – no.

    Bombing bad people – yes.

    Allowing our troops to defend themselves by disarming the militas operating outside of the Iraqi government – definitely yes!

    But the last is exactly what the previous ROE did not allow. And I believe that this is one reason why Iraq has not progressed further down the road to peace, and Iraq remains a dangerous place for our troops and the Iraqi civilians.

    Suggest that you follow this link that appears to support my post. Wonder if he read it…

    Also look at this one and see if I’m off my rocker.
    Tom | Homepage | 01.20.07 – 4:21 pm | #

    I understand that you think the best way to bring peace to the region involves killing many innocent people (even accidentally) along the way. I understand that you think this is the greater good.

    I, and I believe the majority of Americans, don’t agree. Bush had his turn and although he didn’t go as far as you (and maybe he) would have liked because his “hands were tied” by our laws and beliefs as a people, he had his shot at it and the US and the world is rejecting his way.

    Bush and his supporters will have to get used to that fact. We believe there are better ways to combat evil than the Old Ways such as nuking Hiroshima or firebombing Dresden.

    Killing innocents deliberately is terrorism and that is what the world stands opposed to – even if it is in the effort to fight terrorism.
    Dan Trabue | Homepage | 01.21.07 – 7:56 am | #

    Dan, you are absolutely wrong! I do not believe that the killing of the innocent is for the “greater good.” Such actions diminish us all. However, there will be casualties of the innocent that get caught in harms way, whether they are there by accident or by design (i.e., the human shields used by Hezbollah in Lebanon). This is the nature of all battles and conflicts, great and small. History has documented this countless times.

    Hiroshima and Dresden were part of the philosophy of total war, of where countries were slugging it out for survival. There is no comparison from then to now. Indeed, our military takes great pains to target only and only those installations that are necessary to achieve the mission. Otherwise, Baghdad would have been carpet-bombed to dust a long time ago.

    What I believe that the American people wanted was for Saddam to be toppled and the Iraqi people to immediately form their own government. After years of oppression, fear, and abuse from Saddam and his ilk, that’s taking longer than expected. Along with interference from Iran & Syria, it’s going to take much longer. If you look at the history and situation of Iraq outlined in the Iraq Study Group’s report, the resolution of the situation in Iraq will be extremely difficult. Whether our politicians want to support the fledgling Iraqi democracy or not remains to be seen.

    Dan, I know that you support peace, and that is admirable. My concern is that you would want peace at all costs. If you are a student of history, then you should know at what cost that would ultimately be. Sometimes you have to fight for peace and freedom. And freedom really isn’t free – there is a price to pay.

    I would really like to know more about how to combat evil without confrontation. Somehow, I don’t think talking to evil will change its nature from evil to good…
    Tom | Homepage | 01.21.07 – 9:04 am | #

    The quakers have a pretty good resource on how to overcome evil with good:

    http://www.fcnl.org/ppdc/
    Dan Trabue | Homepage | 01.22.07 – 5:58 am | #

    Briefly read some of the material on the link. It would work if both sides were interested in ending their conflict peacefully. However, I don’t think that organization(s) behind terrorist attacks such as 9/11 are interested in peaceable solutions.
    Tom | Homepage | 01.23.07 – 2:40 pm | #

    Actually, one point behind Just Peacemaking theory is that peace need not be something desired by both sides. For instance, in Nicaragua, the Contras were terrorists trying to overthrow the Ortega presidency. They didn’t care about peace, they went around killing, raping and “disappearing” those who stood in their way.

    But while they didn’t care about peace, they DID have their own interests at stake. THAT’s the primary idea behind Just Peacemaking theory. Every entity has their own interests at stake. The idea is, find their interests and make them see that it is not in their own best interests to continue down the paths of violence.

    In Nicaragua, the Contras were receiving funding from the US. So, peacemakers realized that if US and world citizens were in the villages being attacked by the contras, the contras would not be likely to attack. Not because they cared a thing about American peacemakers, but because they were aware of political realities enough to know that if they killed Americans, their funding (already tenuous) would certainly go away.

    It’s actually fairly cool. Even if you’re not a pacifist, this approach makes a great deal of sense if you want to avoid the expense of war (it was a whole lot cheaper to have the Witnesses for Peace go to Nicaragua than it would have been to fund an army to fight the Contras – and more effective).
    Dan Trabue | Homepage | 01.23.07 – 9:48 pm | #

    And what if the terrorist’s aim is to wipe out another people or race, i.e., Israel? At the moment, those people or countries don’t care a whit except wiping out that country and it’s people. The same could be said for those countries in Africa that routinely practice genocide within their own borders.

    Yes, Dan, I agree that there are some instances that this tactic will work. There are others in which it won’t. It is in those cases that there will be conflict and/or war. That’s what we all need to be aware of and guard against.
    Tom | Homepage | 01.24.07 – 5:30 pm | #

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