Outsourcing the Case for War With Iran

On the heels of President George W. Bush’s latest threats against Iran for its “murderous activities” in Iraq, the Weekly Standard has obligingly published a 30-page report by Kimberly Kagan, spouse of Surge co-architect and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Frederick Kagan and director of an entity called The Institute for the Study of War, entitled “Iran’s Proxy War Against the United States and the Iraqi Government” . The report seems intended to back up a series of Bush’s assertions from his American Legion speech in Reno Wednesday about alleged Iranian support for and arming of “Shia extremists.” The coincidence of the speech and the report suggests some co-ordination between the White House and the Standard since the report itself would be the kind of product that would normally be put out by the State Department and/or the Pentagon. It would not be surprising if Cheney alludes to it in his next public appearance or media interview.

Unlike the breathless disclosures of Stephen Hayes, the Standard’s correspondent who was used by Cheney’s office and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as a conduit for “authorized” leaks regarding the alleged relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, Kagan’s report, the sixth in a series of monthly analyses defending the “Surge” strategy, appears to be based primarily on published sources and Pentagon briefings, although its factual assertions often go beyond those of the sources on which she relies. (“The government of Iran has also exported rockets, sniper rifles and mortars to enemy groups in Iraq.”) Unsurprisingly, her conclusions imply that diplomatic engagement with Iran is counter-productive. (“These negotiations with Iran, including the establishment of a tripartite sub-ambassadorial level coordinating committee on security in Iraq, have coincided with a significant increase in Iranian support for violence in Iraq.”)

The main thrust of the report is stated by its title, and it presages a major push by the U.S. military against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq. While it stresses that it does “not offer policy recommendations,” it also concludes that, with Sunni insurgents supposedly increasingly under control, “Iranian intervention is the next major problem the Coalition must tackle.”

The Summary reads as follows:

“Iran, and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, have been actively involved in supporting Shia militias and encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq since the invasion of 2003 – and Iranian planning and preparation for that effort began as early as 2002. The precise purposes of this support are unclear and may have changed over time. But one thing is very clear: Iran has consistently supplied weapons, its own advisors, and Lebanese Hezbollah advisors to multiple resistance groups in Iraq, both Sunni and Shia, and has supported these groups as they have targeted Sunni Arabs, Coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi Government itself. Their influence runs from Kurdistan to Basrah, and Coalition forces, a dramatic change from previous periods that had seen the overwhelming majority of attacks coming from the Sunni Arab insurgency and al Qaeda.

“The Coalition has stepped-up [sic] its efforts to combat Iranian intervention in Iraq in recent months both because the Iranians have increased their support for violence in Iraq since the start of the surge and because Coalition successes against al Qaeda in Iraq and the larger Sunni insurgency have permitted the re-allocation of resources and effort against a problem that has plagued attempts to establish a stable government in Iraq from the outset. With those problems increasingly under control, Iranian intervention is the next major problem the Coalition must tackle.”

K. Kagan, who has accompanied her husband on some of his guided tours of Iraq (and indeed helped escort Bill Kristol on his trip there last month), is, like her husband, a military historian who, according to her bio, has taught at the U.S. Military Academy, Yale University, Georgetown University and American University and is currently an affiliate of Harvard’s John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, a department founded by Samuel Huntington is now headed by Steve Rosen. Rosen, as I noted in a recent post, is a prominent neo-conservative who is a member of Rudy Giuliani’s heavily Likudnik foreign policy advisory team and who also contributed to “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” the 2000 guide by Kristol’s Project for the New American Century (PNAC) to ensuring U.S. military dominance of much of the planet. Rosen, I understand, is not shy about granting affiliate status to like-minded scholars; he appointed Martin Kramer, another Giuliani adviser based in Israel, to a fellowship there.

Kagan’s Institute is something of a mystery. Its website, www.understandingwar.org, includes very little information about the organization, if that’s what it can be called. No mention of a board of directors or other associates or fellows besides Kagan herself. Only Kagan’s Iraq reports, her “courses, seminars, and lectures” and her “battlefield staff rides” which, so far as I can tell, have only to do with specific battles from classical Greek warfare  through Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Napoleonic Wars (minus Spain, the most relevant campaign to the Iraq war), the wars of German Unification, and World Wars I and II. How this establishes her expertise for assessing the Iraq war or the extent of Iranian involvement in that war is quite beyond me, but then Frederick Kagan’s expertise is in 19th century Germany military history whose relevance to counter-insurgency warfare in the post-colonial period is also unclear.

Kimberley’s doctorate from Yale University was in Ancient History, which must gladden the heart of her father-in-law, Yale classicist (and neo-conservative) who also specializes in military history, Donald Kagan, under whom I presume she studied. Of course, her brother-in-law is Robert Kagan, one of neo-conservatism’s leading thinkers. Which once again helps illustrate just how small and incestuous the neo-conservative elite is, what with the Kristol-Himmelfarbs, the Podhoretz-Decter-Abrams, the Kagans, the Gaffneys (Frank and Devon) siblings, and the Ledeens (Michael, Barbara, and Simone), to the most prominent. It’s no wonder that they are so susceptible to groupthink.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. The real problem here is with most so called “experts” in our society. Big shot think they no everything about everything because they read some books.How does being a military historian make you an “expert” on todays on-going military conflicts? Now i will admit you may be good at seeing and understanding somones military strategy they are trying to use, but as any idiot will know, what your strategy is and what actually happens on the ground, can be two very different things. Just because your strategy “could” work in “theory” does not neccessarily mean it will. The Strategists and policy makers in the White House should of all people know this. After all they are the “experts”, im just a young bonehead. Anyway im sure the few days they have spent in Iraq confined to small areas of heavily gaurded “safe zones” should rectify any of my doubts that they have a clear understanding of whats going on. I somewhat agree with Scott, it doesnt matter if they are Democrats or Republicans, with the exeption of a few, they are all the same. They screwed up Palestine, they screwed up Lebanon, they screwed up Iraq, and they will most definately screw up Iran. “Those who fail to learn from history, are cursed to repeat it.” They can study it all they want, but does its lessons really sink in???

  2. The Washington Post is doing its part to promote war with Iran.

    The lead editorial in the Washington Post on August 21st was: Tougher on Iran: According to the Pentagon, one-third of the U.S. troops who died in Iraq last month — 23 soldiers — were killed by “explosively formed penetrators,” sophisticated bombs supplied by Tehran. Iran also delivers rockets and other weapons to Shiite militias; on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that about 50 members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps were operating in the area south of Baghdad, where they are “facilitating training of Shiite extremists.”

    Major General Lynch on EFP’s in Iraq: We’re doing things like looking at tool marks on these EFPs and the source of the explosives and the manufacturing capability, and those EFP components are coming to Iran — coming from Iran into Iraq, and they’re killing Iraqis, and they’re killing the coalition soldiers. . . what we’re finding is distinct marks that could only be created by machinery and capabilities coming out of Iran. So there’s no doubt in my mind when I talk about EFP components being manufactured in Iran and coming into Iraq and then assembled inside of Iraq to attack our soldiers and Iraqi security force soldiers and innocent Iraqis . . And there are indeed manufacturing marks on these munitions that could only have come from a place like Iran, the only place they could have come. They couldn’t have been manufactured here in Iraq. They are being assembled here in Iraq.

    Major General Lynch on Iranians in Iraq: We assess that there are 50 or so Iranian and Iraqi operatives working for Iran in our area, about 20 of which who we are actively targeting. . . What I believe in my battlespace is I’ve got IRGC surrogates, people that have been trained by the IRGC in Iran who’ve come back in Iraq to conduct acts of violence, and I believe I got some members of the IRGC, some Iranians, who are working in our battlespace. And what they do is they transit the battlespace. They don’t come in and they stay, but they’re going back and forth. The primary concern, as I say, is the number 50; the good majority of those are IRGC surrogates. They’re operatives that have been trained by the IRGC. . . Having said that, I do believe that at any given time, I got up to about 20 Iranians working in our battlespace, you know, either training Iraqis to conduct acts of violence or conducting those acts of violence themselves, and we’re working detailed targeting on all those people.

    So we have General Lynch’s “distinct marks that could only be created by machinery and capabilities coming out of Iran” and “EFP components being manufactured in Iran” and “no doubt in my mind when I talk about EFP components being manufactured in Iran and coming into Iraq and then assembled inside of Iraq” converted by the WaPo to “”explosively formed penetrators, sophisticated bombs supplied by Tehran”.

    We also have General Lynch’s “50 or so Iranian and Iraqi operatives working for Iran” or “IRGC surrogates” or “some members of the IRGC, some Iranians” or “operatives that have been trained by the IRGC” or “Iranians” transformed by the WaPo into “about 50 members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps”.

    The lies concocted by the Washington Post have been picked up by other “news” sources and published nationwide, and on the EFP’s were a part of President Bush’s American Legion speech. We know why Bush wants war, but why does the WaPo want war with Iran?–must be good for business (advertising).

  3. unexpected “surge” supporters :

    not a long while ago, after touring damas and teheran, maliki suddenly came up with a renewed sunni support. of course it is not expected to last long, but it may hold until the congressional review…
    sadr annonces a pause in antiamerican resistance by its mahdi army….
    and, if the message wasn’t clear enough, ahmadinedjad claims (just as bush repetedly said) that iran stands ready to take the us’ place in irak should they leave !!!

    these pushes and pull should convince the congress that staying the course is the best of the present situation.

    but then, why does iran and syria decided that maximum us troops in irak are better for them than reduced numbers, contrary to what they’ve been telling all along ?

  4. lolo,

    How’s Iran going to “take our place” in Iraq.

    If you think they have that capability, I say let them. They’ll be tied down in an expensive, futile and debilitating occupation just like us. Then, strategically, you’ll have them rioght where you want them.

    Really, what the ever chaning rationale for war is now is to prevent any natural economic or political links to form between Iraq, whihc is majority Shia, and Iran, which is a Shia state.

    Any undergraduate could have told you that this would be the result of removing Saddam and the Sunni Baathists in Iraq. It was a gift to Iran.

    But, perhaps that was part of the plan. As the Shis forge cooperative links, that frees the neocons to spin it as a sinister and malevolent Iranian that needs to be resisted with more war.

  5. Scott Malensek’s defense of Douglas Feith and everything that is holy to the neocon/fascists and their program to install permanent war as the new American way of life is pure garbage. Even the Pentagon’s own
    inspector general’s report states that Feith’s briefing to the White House in 2002 “undercuts the Intelligence Community” and “did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.”

    The neocon war plan was not a product of the Democratic Leadership Council (even though many of them awakened to their undead state while still Democrats), it began in Sec. Defense Cheney’s office in 1992, when old Dick rejected the foreign policy of his own president, to not level Iraq, and had his poodle Wolfowitz draw-up a new more macho plan, Defense Planning Guidance. Their boys at PNAC foisted it upon Clinton in the Iraq Liberation Act and brought it to life with Lil Bush.

    As for the EFPs, that could only have been manufactured in Iran, the link below is about an Iraqi factory producing them, that was busted by our forces. Ignore the little neocon parrots as they push Bush to unleash new genocide against Iran, Lebanon and Syria.


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