The best analysis of the war on terrorism that I have come across was a
speech delivered on November 16, 2002 by former CIA director R. James
Woolsey. The title of that speech was simply "World War IV."
Woolsey may have been appointed by Bill Clinton, but don't let that
fool you. He understands the war on terrorism with a clarity that few
can match and none can surpass. He understands the implications,
challenges, nature and importance of this struggle and he has been at
the forefront of those who support this war effort and want to see it
through to its proper end: victory.
In his speech, Woolsey identifies three adversaries in this war and
right now we are fighting all three in a low-intensity conflict in
post-Saddam Iraq. It is important to understand who these three
adversaries are because it helps us realize that Operation Iraqi
Freedom and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein were clearly part of a
The three adversaries that Woolsey correctly identifies are: militant
Shi'te Islamic fundamentalists, militant Sunni Islamic fundamentalists,
and Arab nationalist/neo-fascist Baathist party militants. And, as
Woolsey says, all three have been at war with us for quite some
time--very nearly a quarter century in fact. When we finally end the
last of the fighting in Iraq and install a better system of government
there, we will continue to face these adversaries on battlegrounds
elsewhere in the Middle East and throughout the world, including,
unfortunately, the United States.
In Iraq, the Baathists who are conducting hit and run attacks and
sabotage on US forces are the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Saddam was a Baathist and ruled the party in Iraq with an iron fist.
Former members of his Special Republican Guard are said to form the
backbone of these elements. Some claim that Baathists are strictly
secular and do not cooperate with militant Islamic groups. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Baathist-ruled Syria has been
supplying and training Hezbollah (Party of God) terrorists for a
quarter century. The Baathists in Iraq are mainly active in the Tikrit
area, Saddam's hometown.
Sunni extremists have also been conducting harassing attacks on US
forces in Iraq. Reports have trickled in of low-level al Qaeda
operatives being captured in the Sunni areas of central Iraq. It is not
at all surprising that only lower-level operatives have been
apprehended in Iraq. Al Qaeda's leadership has never been "big" on
fighting themselves. The only time they have actually been involved in
direct combat is when the US took them by surprise and went after them
in Afghanistan. But just as soon as the shooting started, the leaders
fled to Pakistan and Iran. No doubt, some, perhaps even many, of the al
Qaeda operatives in Iraq arrived after the war, or at least after the
war started. Their leaders did not accompany them into battle. Al Qaeda
hopes to force US troops out of Iraq over time using tactics similar to
those that they used in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. By inflicting
casualties on US forces, they hope to turn the US media and public
opinion against the war efforts, forcing the withdrawal of US forces,
opening the way for a Taliban-like theocracy in Iraq.
In southern Iraq, Shi'ite extremists have attacked British Army units.
Intelligence reports shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein regime
indicated that Iran, the leading radical Shi'ite Islamist theocracy,
was infiltrating operatives into five southern Iraqi cities near the
Iran-Iraq border. These militants are very likely members of Hezbollah,
the infamous Islamist terrorist groups known as the "A" team of
terrorism. Iran has a vested interest in the US campaign against
terrorism not being successful since they are the world's biggest
sponsor of radical Islamist terrorism. The idea of US military forces
in both Afghanistan to the east and Iraq to the west is something that
makes the Ayatollahs very nervous. Evidently, the Ayatollahs and
Hezbollah believe that they can use the same formula they used in 1983
in Lebanon to force US troops out of Iraq. Using the then relatively
new tactic of suicide bombing, Hezbollah destroyed both the US embassy,
killing 18, and the Marine barracks, killing 241. Shortly thereafter,
the US people lost their stomach for the mission and US troops were
There is no way that the US can possibly allow that to happen in Iraq.
On the contrary, we must remain in Iraq for as long as it takes to
defeat all three of these enemies. It does no good to pull out.
After we pulled out of Lebanon, did the terrorism stop? Hardly. US
citizens have remained the target of radical Islam ever since. As
recently as 1996, Hezbollah carried out a suicide bombing attack on the
US Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia--in yet another attempt to
force a US withdrawal.
After we pulled out of Somalia, did the terrorism stop. No. It
escalated. More attacks were conducted which were designed to get the
US to withdraw from the world stage and open the way for an Islamist
revolution. There were the horrific bombings of the US embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, followed by the attack on the USS Cole in
2000 (clearly designed to force the US Navy from the Persian Gulf). And
we all know what happened on September 11th, 2001.
If our presence in Iraq has them this hot and bothered, then we must be
doing something right. Every time they commit an atrocity and we
withdraw, the Islamists are merely emboldened. We must not play into
their hands and make their mission a successful one. There is no
substitute for victory, in Iraq and beyond.
Christopher Holton is the Publisher of www.WorldTechTribune.com and serves on the World Tribune Board of Advisers.