State Sponsored Terrorism in Iran and Pakistan

America has taken the fight to the terrorists, successfully forcing Al Qaeda to be on the run by killing or capturing many of their leaders.  However, the threat of state-sponsored terrorism, specifically in Iran and Pakistan, has come to the forefront.  American Thinker interviewed national security specialists for their opinions.

Last week, elements of the Iranian government were accused by the US of plotting to commit terrorist acts on US soil by assassinating the Saudi ambassador to Washington, and bombing the Israeli and Saudi embassies within America and abroad.  The captured naturalized American citizen, Arbabsiar, acknowledged being recruited and funded by senior officials in the Quds Force, an elite division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.  Yet, this is not the first time Iran has used terrorist tactics against Americans.   All interviewed agree with former CIA Director, Michael Hayden, who had actionable intelligence that "It is the policy of the Iranians, approved by the highest levels of the Iranian government, to facilitate the killing of American and coalition soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

This recent plot has elements of being both absurd and stupid.   Hayden sees it as being "weird and troubling.   Unfortunately, weird and true are not mutually exclusive."   He believes there are two possible scenarios: "either the Iranian governments decision making process is acting irrationally or the operation was a bit rogue and did not get approval from the top leaders.  The conclusion to the second scenario is that the Iranian decision making process is dysfunctional." Furthermore, he believes that the reason it might appear that the tactics have changed is because this is the first operation attempted on US soil. 

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, agrees with Hayden's first scenario.  He bluntly stated that "This is a nation that supports terrorism and has US blood on their hands which started with the bombing of the US embassy in Lebanon. In this recent case the foreign agent was clearly acting in the interest of the Iranian government."  His opinion is that "The director of the Quds Force has one boss, the Supreme Leader, this came out of that shop.  There is no way you can convince me or anyone who looks at this for a living that there is not some connection to the very senior elements of the Iranian government."  A former high-ranking CIA official agrees, citing the tensions between the Supreme leader and Ahmadinejad, and that the Iranians make decisions in closed rooms where the Supreme leader is never challenged.

Pete Hoekstra (R), the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sees this as a result of the Obama Administration's failed policy.   He cites the Cairo Speech, giving a tip of the hat to the Muslim Brotherhood, and staying on the sidelines during Iran's Green Revolution that has "The Iranians seeing Obama as being weak.   This is the price for demonstrating weakness.   They have totally misunderstood and miscalculated including trying to work with this Iranian regime."

The Obama Administration has emboldened the Iranian government by not responding harshly to their rhetoric and possible actions.   This year the Iranians have threatened to send vessels through the Suez Canal, stationing themselves off the coast of Israel, and two weeks ago stated that they were going to position ships off the US coast.   Hoekstra is hoping that the Obama administration's silence is due to the fact that they are attempting covert operations to destabilize this regime.  If the Iranian government was actually involved, then Hayden believes that America needs "to be more aggressive across the board, and stop trying to change the minds of a government that is either irrational or dysfunctional in its decision making.  The Iranians think they can get away with this kind of behavior when they don't have a nuclear weapon, what do they think they can get away with when they do?  What are the dangers they will be making dysfunctional or irrational decisions with one of those weapons?"

Is Pakistan following in Iran's footsteps, turning to the 'dark side?' Outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has accused Pakistan's spy agency, ISI, of being a "veritable arm" along with the Pakistani government for supporting the Haqqani Network, which runs a safe haven for al-Qaeda and kills American soldiers in Afghanistan.  A former high-ranking CIA official believes that we are not at that point yet but agrees that US and Pakistan are more estranged.  He fears that those who are more sympathetic with the Islamic extremists might gain some power in an election. 

Hayden is "very dark about Pakistan.  The Pakistanis cannot or will not do what we would like them to do. The common space between Pakistan and us is getting quite small."  Pakistan appears to be turning more radical, more fundamentalist, more anti-American, more dysfunctional, and less Democratic.   Rogers faults the Obama administration since they had no strategy for defeating the Pakistan Taliban and crippling the Haqqani Network.   He explained that President Obama rejected his Generals' plan to send NATO troops to the Pakistani border, giving the coalition forces a significant presence and impact.  He as well as the others interviewed wanted the surge troops to stay through the next fighting season, to ensure that there was a large enough military footprint to go along with special forces and the CIA that would have given the enemy "one heck of a wallop." 

A successful approach in dealing with the Haqqani Network and the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to Hayden, is to have a strategy that is "longer but lighter.  Special ops and the CIA will certainly be a very strong flavor but isolated counter-terrorism forces on their own won't be sufficient.  I don't think you can do this with surgical strikes and a very limited number of forces. We will need to stay with a substantial but reduced amount of forces because it appears that we will have to do more on our own."

Everyone agrees that America should continue to engage the Pakistanis and make sure they understand that they need the US.   Rogers insists as "we move forward with them we ought to be a very tough partner considering their activities."   No one is worried about China's influence since they will not be capable of providing to the Pakistanis what America friendship would provide.  In fact, Rogers wants China and Russia to realize that they must stand with the international community against those regimes that support terrorism.

The Obama Administration needs to understand that these serious problems cannot be fixed by the power of the President's personality. Rogers summarized it best, "both Pakistan and Iran understand strength.  When you negotiate with these countries from a position of weakness it is not going to achieve the outcome you want. The Iranians need to feel some pain.  Countries need to understand we are not fooling around."  

America needs to negotiate from a posture of strength, where rules of engagement should be based on what is in America's best interest. Since a clear signal needs to be sent everything should be left on the table, including the use of drones.