Squeezing Iran

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Wall Street Journal – REVIEW & OUTLOOK: The United States has known for years that Syria and Iran are supporting Sunni insurgents and Shiite radicals in Iraq — support that has taken a heavy toll in American lives. On Wednesday, President Bush finally suggested he’ll do something about it. The Wall Street Journal

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

January 12, 2007; Page A12

The United States has known for years that Syria and Iran are supporting Sunni insurgents and Shiite radicals in Iraq — support that has taken a heavy toll in American lives. On Wednesday, President Bush finally suggested he’ll do something about it.

“We will disrupt the attacks on our forces,” Mr. Bush said. “We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Those sound like fighting words, and even before he spoke U.S. forces raided the Iranian “office of relations” in the Kurdish city of Irbil, arresting five of its employees and seizing documents and other property. That raid follows the arrest of two Iranian diplomatic officers in Baghdad last month; they were expelled to Tehran, but they were found with incriminating documents that probably led to yesterday’s raid in Irbil.

It’s about time, and we hope the Administration keeps showing Tehran that it will pay a price for continued subversion in Iraq. There’s certainly much more coalition forces can do.

Consider the problem of Iranian-manufactured improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, some of which are capable of penetrating M-1 tank armor. According to information provided by an Iranian opposition group with a track record for accuracy, many of those IEDs arrive in Iraq via the southern Shalamche and central Mehran-Badreh border crossings with the connivance of Iraqi officials friendly to the Iranian regime. At a minimum, coalition forces can police and seal those crossings.

The U.S. can also shut down the network of charities and “cultural institutions” that serve as front groups for Iranian terrorist activities. Iran’s so-called Qods (Jerusalem) Force, the terrorist arm of its elite Revolutionary Guards, operates in Iraq under the aegis of the Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf Al-Saqafieh Establishment, based in the city of Najaf and run by Iranian mullah Hamid Hosseini.

Arms deliveries are organized by the innocuously named “Headquarters for Reconstruction of Iraq’s Holy Sites,” which is supposed to work at rebuilding and preserving Shiite shrines but is said to be under the control of a Qods Force general. Money for these groups arrives in Iraq through a number of Iranian-controlled currency exchanges. Iran is also attempting to establish a branch of Hezbollah in Iraq even as it trains Iraqi Shiite militants at bases in Iran.

Less information is publicly available on Syria’s current support for the insurgency, but what we do know is damning. After the battle for Fallujah in November 2004, U.S. troops seized GPS systems “with waypoints originating in western Syria,” according to the Washington Post, while captured fedayeen reported receiving small arms and explosives training in Syrian camps. Syria is also suspected of harboring former Saddam loyalists such as Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri, King of Clubs on the card deck of Iraq’s most-wanted and now the self-declared successor to Saddam as President of Iraq.

We wouldn’t rule out incursions into either country, if military circumstances warrant. This does not mean another invasion, but Predator strikes or special forces raids against terror camps in either country are surely justified to protect American lives and help the new Iraqi government succeed. Syria’s Assad family has a long history of meddling in the affairs of its neighbors — not just Iraq but also Israel, Turkey and Lebanon. But the Assads also understand the language of force, as when they swiftly shut down the anti-Turkish terrorist PKK operations after Turkey threatened to invade in 1998.

Iran is also susceptible to U.S. pressure, both military and non-military. The President’s decision to deploy another carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf suggests he is prepared to counter any Iranian moves to interfere with maritime traffic in the area, as it did in the late 1980s. We are also heartened by signals from the Administration that it has all but given up on its mostly fruitless attempt to sanction Iran’s nuclear transgressions at the United Nations. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department designated state-owned Bank Sepah for its role in Iran’s missile procurement network; more can be done to freeze or seize the assets of key Iranian officials whose personal assets are usually parked abroad.

One failure of Mr. Bush’s war leadership has been to clearly define the enemy in Iraq, which for a long time has included Syria and Iran. The more we have shown forbearance, the nastier their actions have become. We hope Mr. Bush’s remarks Wednesday, and the actions in recent days, signal a new determination to take the battle to that enemy.

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