Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Iran arming Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists

ABC News has the story out that explosives seized at the Iran-Iraq border have the hallmarks of the Iranian military-arms production industry. Where the insurgents and terrorists had to resort to improvising weapons out of pre-existing explosive ordnance at the start of their attacks, they are now being supplied with made-to-order stuff including highly sophisticated shaped charges. These munitions were simply beyond the ability of the insurgents to produce and, frankly, beyond most terrorists’ ability to even envision beyond whatever wet dreams they have when they think about attacking American troops. The Iranian arms industry, however, is in a completely different position.

Is this an act of war? That depends largely on how you define a war, and that’s not the subjective thing it appears to be on first blush. In WWI and WWII there were various cooperative defense treaties in place. The whole reason WWI became a “world war” was because, like dominos falling, when 1 country declared war on another not only did that country reply in kind, every country that had a mutual defense treaty in place with the “target” of that declaration also declared war on the original declarant. Of course, any country with a similar treaty with the original declarant was required by those treaties to declare war on any country that had done so. And so on, and so on. You can imagine that the tangled web of treaties got everyone involved very quickly. The bottom line, however, is that there were very specific triggers to those declarations. In diplomacy, those triggers are called “causus belli.”

The question to be asked at this point is whether the act of providing sophisticated weapons to our enemies is to be considered a causus belli. Then, is there anything the Iranians can do to mitigate it without American bombs plowing up Iranian soil?

I think it is clearly a causus belli to be caught supplying advanced weaponry to one side of a conflict, especially when you’ve been warned explicitly to not interfere. This is completely different from the Iranians providing medicine or food or any other material that might be used to relieve the hardship of war from the civilian population. The Iranians are providing material that has no other purpose than to attack our troops and our allies. So, then, to question #1 the answer is a resounding “yes.” Can the Iranians make amends?

Aside from halting all aid to our enemies in Iraq, providing every shred of intel on who got what arms, when and where, and providing us verifiable methods of determining they won’t do it again, I can’t see how the Iranians can wiggle out of this one without coming under American fire. I worry that the reaction of dropping bombs on Iran is what the Iranian government is hoping for in their efforts to lie further to their own people. That, however, is an acceptable risk to me. Iran is a very different enemy than Al Qaeda. AQ has no factories to bomb, no power grid to shred, no communications infrastructure to disrupt. Iran has none of these advantages. We know where they are and we know where these weapons are being manufactured. We should make a huge effort to get the word to the Iranian people that we’re responding to their government’s support of our enemies in Iraq. Then, we should mount up attack and bomber strike packages and turn a few factories into parking lots.