[FREE IRAN Project] In The Spirit Of Cyrus The Great Forum Index [FREE IRAN Project] In The Spirit Of Cyrus The Great
Views expressed here are not necessarily the views & opinions of ActivistChat.com. Comments are unmoderated. Abusive remarks may be deleted. ActivistChat.com retains the rights to all content/IP info in in this forum and may re-post content elsewhere.
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Islam and Terrorism by Michael Ledeen

Post new topic   Reply to topic    [FREE IRAN Project] In The Spirit Of Cyrus The Great Forum Index -> Noteworthy Discussion Threads
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message

Joined: 03 Feb 2005
Posts: 1455
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 5:11 pm    Post subject: Islam and Terrorism by Michael Ledeen Reply with quote

Islam and Terrorism
Free Inquiry Interview with Michael Ledeen
Posted: Monday, June 20, 2005
thru regimechangeiran
Free Inquiry
Publication Date: June 1, 2005

Free Inquiry: You have written, “Our prime enemies are the terror masters--the rulers of the countries that sponsor terrorism.” Which countries? Why do these countries sponsor terror?

Michael Ledeen: Since the liberation of Afghanistan, I thought the four biggest and baddest terror masters were the despotic rulers of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. There are others who play this game, and Libya was deeply involved for many years. (It turns out that Libya had the most advanced nuclear program of any of the Arabs and Persians, along with a very sophisticated biological program.) But the big four dominated the terror network. If we are able to liberate those countries and replace those regimes with something approaching free societies, we’ll have broken the back of the terror network. I think we should want to say to the Muslim world, “You have now tried both extremist versions, the Sunni in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Shi’ite in Iran. In all cases, they wrecked the country, alienated the people, and provoked humiliation and defeat. Do not listen to these false prophets; follow the proven path to freedom and fulfillment. Live like free men and women.”

FI: Will we need different strategies to bring down the different terror masters? Could you briefly describe what these should be?

Ledeen: Yes, we will certainly need different strategies, and, to his credit, U.S. President George W. Bush has said so from the very beginning. The most potent weapon against the terror masters is democratic revolution, most recently seen in all its power and glory in the Ukrainian and Iraqi elections. If we could bring down the Soviet empire without firing a shot, we should be able to do the same in Iran, where we know that the overwhelming majority of Iranians hate the regime. I think that Syria and Iran are joined at the belly button and that, if Iran succumbs to democratic revolution, Syria will follow suit.

The power of this revolution can be seen today in virtually every country in the region. Even the Saudis have had their little elections--participated in by men only, of course, and obsessively controlled, to be sure--but the fact that they felt they had to do something along those lines shows you how strongly the winds of freedom are now blowing across the Middle East.

I think we should be in a position to issue a quiet ultimatum to the Saudis: shut down your Wahabbi assembly line of little terrorists, or we’re going to come after you. No need to stipulate how; there are very many ways, of which the most dramatic would be the seizure of the oil fields. As luck would have it, the oil fields are in a part of the kingdom that hates the Wahabbis, being overwhelmingly Shi’ite. So we’ve got a lot to play with.

FI: You have called Iran “the mother of modern Islamic terrorism.” Could you briefly outline the history of modern Islamic terrorism? Why did Iran take this step? What part does Islam play in all this?

Ledeen: That Iran is the mother of all terrorism is documented each year by the State Department, which publishes a list of state sponsors of terror. Iran is always number one. I’m not the most knowledgeable person on the history of Islamic terrorism, but, as far back as I can remember, there have been Islamic groups in the terror network. Until the fall of the Soviet empire, there were also secular/Marxist terror groups that received support from Moscow. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) never fell neatly into either category, since Arafat came out of the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood, and he created Abu Nidal’s Black September group. The PLO wasn’t what we would call today “jihadist,” although that component was always present. Arafat got along very well with Khomeini and trained the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the seventies. In the eighties, the major development was Hezbollah, an Iranian creation that received support from Syria as well. Iran ran the movement, Syria controlled the territory—Hezbollah has always been based in Lebanon. Encouraged by the “success” of Hezbollah, the Iranians then created Islamic Jihad, a Sunni variation on the Hezbollah theme.

Al Qaeda famously emerged from the war against the Red Army in Afghanistan, and, along with groups like the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Zawahiri’s people, the assassins of Sadat), brought a much more grandiose vision to Islamic terrorism. Although the anti-Western core of the Middle East terrorists was always clear, bin Laden and Zawahiri gave it a messianic dimension by calling for the overthrow of corrupt Muslim regimes and the establishment of a new caliphate.

FI: Would you say that a major fault in analysis was to see the Middle East only in the context of the anticommunist struggle and not as a problem unto itself?

Ledeen: No doubt we viewed the world through the lens of the Cold War. How could it have been otherwise? Plus, the Soviet Union supported the terrorists, which made it even harder to get outside the Cold War context. It all seemed part of a (communist) whole. And when the Soviet empire was defeated, there was a notable drop in terrorism, so there was even less urgency than before to deal with it.

I think there was also a “racist” component, in the sense that lots of policy makers and analysts thought it was somehow normal for Middle Easterners to blow up themselves and their enemies and that it was silly to imagine such people to be able to govern themselves rationally. The U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency were and are full of people who think that rule by thugs is the normal state of affairs in the Middle East and that the role of the experts is to identify “our thugs” so that we can maintain the vaunted stability (that is, tyranny) that so appeals to the “realists.”

FI: Is it not scandalous the way the media has ignored the growing dissatisfaction of the Iranian people in recent months? What is the reason for this?

Ledeen: Scandalous indeed. A couple of years ago, when a big demonstration was expected after a soccer match, I was live on the BBC, and they reported that hundreds of thousands of people were shouting in the streets. The BBC moderator said to me, “Well, but we have soccer hooligans in England, too.” And I said, “Yes, but your hooligans aren’t burning pictures of Tony Blair.” But hers was the view of the mainstream media.

There are several reasons for the refusal to see the rage of the Iranian people. One is professional, so to speak. Reporters in Iran know they will be expelled, or maybe even beaten and killed, if they report the ugly truth about the repression of the Iranian people. That’s normal for journalists in oppressive countries. Just think of the New York Times during Stalin’s reign--the Walter Duranty scandal, for example.

Then, there is an anti-American, or anti-Bush component. It “helps” Bush, in the eyes of many journalists, to confirm that the mullahs really are evil, so they shy away from those stories. And finally, there is the moral equivalence doctrine that is, alas, linked to the current version of multiculturalism. Reporters “go native”: they are entranced by the Iranians, they make friends, they develop a real sympathy for the place, and they see their role as “explaining” (which often means justifying) the behavior of the regime. The same thing happens to some of our diplomats.

FI: What sort of a government would the people elect were there elections? What kind of a constitution? Secular? Islamic? What is your evidence?

Ledeen: I think the only sure thing is that the Iranians are sick of theocracy and will not want a continuation of the Islamic Republic. That’s why I’ve been calling for a national referendum, in which the people can answer a simple question: Do you want an Islamic Republic, yes or no? They would vote “no” in big numbers, according to all accounts. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. A republic? A monarchy? A constitutional monarchy? I don’t know. I don’t particularly care; it’s their problem. I have every confidence they will put together a reasonable system. They excel at constitutions; the 1906 Iranian Constitution is pretty good, in fact. A little tweaking. . . .

FI: What should the U.S. government be doing to bring down the Iranian regime? You suggested a referendum for the people of Iran, but if the mullahs do not agree, what then?

Ledeen: I don’t understand why our leaders are so reluctant to say that we want a free Iran and that this regime has to go. The Santorum bill in the Senate and the Ros-Lehtinen bill in the House both say that (more or less), so, if they pass, the administration will have to take a tougher line. Maybe Congress wants to be pushed: that wouldn’t surprise me. The president is a poker player, after all, so a bit of misdirection would be congenial to his thinking.

If the call for referendum becomes powerful, and the mullahs reject it, then we should proceed to empower the opposition in all the usual ways: a drumbeat of criticism of the regime, especially its support for terrorism and its murderous treatment of the Iranian people; support for the workers’ organizations, for a free press, for the freedom to assemble; help with communications (very important), so that groups in different cities will know what’s going on elsewhere. And some guidelines to successful strategies in nonviolent conflict. As Peter Ackerman reminds me, just because the opposition isn’t using guns, the confrontation is not less conflictual. The goal is to bring down the regime and that will take discipline, courage, and very large numbers.

FI: On January 23, 2005, you addressed Iranian students in an Internet conference, emphasizing the need for a popular referendum on the theocracy.[1] Do you believe a student movement could lead the way to secular democracy in Iran?

Ledeen: I don’t know how many people heard it, and I doubt they were as sociologically defined as you indicate. I rather think they were people from many different walks of life. The “student” part of it was on this side of the link: it was organized by the Iranian student group that is based in Texas, the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran.

As I keep saying, it is impossible from this distance to judge who can/will lead a democratic revolution in Iran. Students no doubt can/will play a role, as they have in the past. But I do not think that it will be a “student revolution.” It will be a popular movement that includes most of Iranian society, from clerics and soldiers to lawyers and intellectuals to students and workers.

FI: Do pundits like you and those at the American Enterprise Institute have any influence with the administration?

Ledeen: Whatever influence we have results from what we publicly say and write. If we have more influence than others--and I have no reason to think we do--it is because we are more convincing.

FI: When can we realistically hope to see the last of the mullahs?

Ledeen: I’ve always believed that, if we were serious, the Iranian people ought to be able to win their freedom within a year or two. With a bit of luck, even faster.

Michael A. Ledeen is Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he serves as a policy expert in the areas of terrorism, Iran, and the Middle East. During the Reagan years, he served as an adviser to the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, and his influence on Karl Rove in the current Bush administration has been widely reported. A Ph.D. in philosophy and history, Ledeen has written over ten books on U.S. foreign policy, de Tocqueville, Machiavelli, and terrorism. The latest is The War Against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened, Where We Are Now, How We’ll Win.

Ledeen was interviewed by Ibn Warraq, a Center for Inquiry research fellow specializing in Islam and the author of books including Why I Am Not a Muslim.


1. “U.S. Scholar and Political Strategist Communicates with Iranians,” SMCCDI Information Service (January 26, 2005).

Source Notes: This interview originally appeared in the June/July 2005 issue of Free Inquiry. Copyright 2005. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

You can find this online at: http://www.aei.org/publication22711
The Sun Is Rising In The West!Soon It Will Shine on All of Iran!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    [FREE IRAN Project] In The Spirit Of Cyrus The Great Forum Index -> Noteworthy Discussion Threads All times are GMT - 4 Hours
Page 1 of 1

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group