Sidelined Neocons Stoke Future Fires
by their failed predictions for Iraq and President George W. Bush's
efforts to reassure voters he is not a warmonger, prominent neoconservatives
and their Christian Right allies are nonetheless trying hard to
prepare the ground for future U.S. adventures in the Middle East.
increasingly threatening noises from the government of Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon about preventing Iran from developing a nuclear
weapon, neocons are calling for Washington to undertake covert action,
at the very least, to oust what some of them call the "terror
masters" in Tehran as part of a more general "World War
IV" against alleged Arab and Islamic extremism.
neocons are even complaining that if Bush had been serious about
the "war on terrorism," he should have taken on Iran after
Afghanistan, rather than Iraq.
we seen the war for what it was, we would not have started with
Iraq, but with Iran, the mother of modern Islamic terrorism, the
creator of Hezbollah, the ally of al-Qaeda, the sponsor of Zarqawi,
the longtime sponsor of Fatah and the backbone of Hamas," wrote
part-time Pentagon consultant Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI) this week.
article also reprised an argument he first made three years ago
that the Iranian people were already rising up against the
mullahs and needed only a little nudge from Washington to succeed.
are also busy stoking tensions with Syria, even amid indications
that Washington and Damascus are feeling their way toward some kind
of "modus vivendi" that may even include joint military
patrols along the latter's porous border with Iraq.
week they heard from a Syrian exile, Farid Ghadry, who apparently
aspires to become the Ahmed Chalabi the neocon boosted leader
of the exiled Iraqi National Congress whose standing in Washington
plummeted after it was alleged he passed secrets to Iran
of his homeland.
addition to lobbying for the pending Syria Liberation Act (SLA),
which would commit the U.S. government to "regime change"
in Damascus, Ghadry charged that the government of President Bashir
Assad was building "a new colony of terrorism" for youths
in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
neoconservatives, who led the charge to war in Iraq, have steadily
lost influence over U.S. policy in Baghdad since a year ago, when
U.S. troops found themselves welcomed by a serious and growing insurgency
rather than the flowers and sweets the neocons had predicted.
the same time, Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was reported
to have told unhappy war hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President
Dick Cheney's office, the two neocon strongholds, that Bush's reelection
prospects would be greatly enhanced if there was "no war in
by arch-realists Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, the
State Department gradually wrested control over policy toward Syria
and Iran. With U.S. troops bogged down next door, a policy of confrontation,
as advocated by neocons, not only risked another war, the realists
argued, but could also invite more damaging efforts by both Damascus
and Tehran to destabilize Iraq.
engagement with both countries has thus become official policy.
The recent visit by a high-level U.S. delegation to Damascus and
the invitation of European and Arab allies and Iraq's neighbors
to attend a U.S.-sponsored meeting on Iraq in Tehran later this
fall mark hard-fought advances in the State Department's agenda.
while the neocons may be down, they are by no means out. As more
than one foreign-policy analyst has noted, no neocon within the
administration has resigned or been fired, despite their responsibility
for the Iraqi quagmire and public calls by even some senior Republican
lawmakers and retired military officers that they be ousted.
analysts have argued the neocons remain in place only because their
departure now would amount to an admission by the administration
and thus Bush himself that serious mistakes had been
made. In this view, Bush would purge them in a second term, as he
continued along the State Department's "realist" line.
a growing number of observers, particularly in the State Department
and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are coming to the conclusion
that the neocons may actually enjoy greater influence if Bush wins
just the last few days, for example, an article, "The State
Department's Extreme Makeover," published by online magazine
Salon and attributed to an "anonymous" veteran
foreign service officer, made precisely this argument.
is in this context that neocons recent efforts to focus their fire
on Syria and Iran, in particular, should be seen.
spoke at an all-day symposium co-sponsored by the Committee on the
Present Danger (CPD), a predominantly neoconservative lobby group
set up in August, and by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
(FDD), a group created two days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks on New York and the Pentagon, whose views largely mirror
those of Israel's ruling Likud Party.
FDD's board of advisers are prominent neocons and Iraq war boosters,
including former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman and Ledeen's
sidekick at AEI, Richard Perle; AEI fellow Jeane Kirkpatrick; and
former CIA Director James Woolsey, who also co-chairs the CPD.
them are Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, whose own Project
for the New American Century (PNAC) first named Iran and Syria
as well as Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as targets
of the "war on terrorism," in an open letter published
just 10 days after 9/11.
conference was addressed briefly by telephone by former Secretary
of State George Shultz, the group's new co-chair, while Woolsey
announced that former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and
former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had agreed to head
an international chapter.
for the symposium, titled "World War IV: Why We're Fighting,
Whom We're Fighting, How We're Fighting," included Woolsey,
who has long spoken of the fight against "Islamofascism"
defined as including "the mullahs of Iran," the
Ba'athist parties of Iraq and Syria, and "the Wahhabis,"
of which the al-Qaeda terrorist group is a part as the equivalent
of a world war.
hand was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose participation
appeared not only to provide an official sanction of the radical
agenda, but also to confirm that the neocon faction within the Bush
administration is alive, kicking and unashamed despite the quagmire
godfather Norman Podhoretz, who has also used "World War IV"
as his favored description for the challenges Washington faces in
the Near East, in particular, made a rare public appearance.
called Israeli tactics in the occupied territories a "model
for how to fight this kind of war," and asserted that "Iran
is unquestionably on the agenda" of a second Bush administration.
have no doubt that we're going to have to do it and do it fast,"
he declared, noting there were "many different instrumentalities"
at Washington's disposal for dealing with the mullahs and their
whose son-in-law Elliott Abrams is the Middle East director on the
National Security Council (NSC) staff, also offered a sweeping vision
of what the region might look like when the United States triumphed.
the long-held Likud view that the nations of the region were artificial
creations forged out of the defeated Ottoman Empire, he suggested,
"what was done in the aftermath of World War I can be undone
in World War IV."
days later, FDD helped convene the Middle Eastern American Convention
for Freedom and Democracy to elaborate a foreign policy toward the
region by several dozen mostly sectarian groups, including the American
Coptic Association, the American Maronite Union, the Southern Sudanese
Voice for Freedom, the Assyrian American National Federation, the
Chaldean National Congress, the American Middle East Christian Association,
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, and the Washington
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service