After Saddam

From a moral point of view, it is hard to imagine a fair trial reaching any other verdict.

saddam hanging 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
saddam hanging 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
It is difficult to speak of justice in the case of Saddam Hussein's execution. This is not because the trial was flawed or the punishment too severe. On the contrary: how can a civilized incarceration followed by a swift death and a marked grave compare with the fate this man imposed on tens of thousands of his victims? There has been much criticism of Saddam's trial, and the same is now true regarding his speedy execution following the rejection of his appeal just last week. Some, like the Vatican, have criticized Saddam's execution, calling it "tragic." MK Ahmed Tibi called it a "sadistic act." We do not know if there might have been better ways to organize Saddam's trial or to manage his execution. On its face, the trial seemed to provide ample opportunity for the accused to defend himself. It is true that process, not just the outcome, is important in evaluating a system of justice. Yet, from a moral point of view, it is hard to imagine a fair trial reaching any other verdict. We can now hope that Saddam's followers will give up any dreams they might have had of being restored to power, and that this will aid efforts to improve security in Iraq. This hope, however, is a slim one; clearly much of the terrorism there has been driven by motives other than a realistic expectation of restoring Saddam's regime. The most important source of Iraq's instability can be found in another event last week that has already slipped from the public's consciousness. On Friday, the Iraqi government decided to expel two senior Iranian operatives who had been captured by American forces. According to The Washington Post, "One of the commanders, identified by officials simply as Chizari, was the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigade, the unit most active in aiding, arming and training groups outside Iran, including Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, US officials said. The other commander was described as equally significant to Iran's support of foreign militaries but not as high-ranking." The report continued: "US defense officials familiar with the raids said the captured Iranians had detailed weapons-lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information. "Officials were particularly concerned by the fact that the Iranians had information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq, weapons that have been used in roadside bombs to target US military armored vehicles... "US military officials have long said they believed Iran was responsible for sending such weapons - along with others, such as advanced sniper rifles - into Iraq to help insurgents and militia groups." If this sounds familiar to Israelis, it should. This past summer we fought a war against Hizbullah, which was essentially - in terms of training, financing and weaponry - an Iranian division stationed in Lebanon. And now security officials charge that Hizbullah is paying thousands of dollars to Palestinians to shoot Kassam rockets at our civilians, and paying more if those missiles kill Israelis. The lesson should be clear. Iran is supporting terrorist militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere. This activity is meant both to directly promote Iranian objectives - such as the failure of democracy in Iraq and of any peace process with Israel - and to intimidate the West into abandoning its half-hearted efforts to impose sanctions on Teheran. As with Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the Iranian regime is following a straightforward path of testing the resolve of free nations. Teheran will continue to signal, on the one hand, that just one more concession or negotiation will lead to better behavior; and on the other, that resistance will only lead to escalating aggression. Also as in Hitler's case, appeasement will only lead to further attacks and, eventually, to war. At the same time, the fact that so much instability originates from a single regime presents an opportunity. Using a fraction of the diplomatic, economic, and, if necessary, military tools at its disposal, the West can force Iran to abandon its path of nuclearization and terror, or risk losing its grip on power. And if that happens, the seemingly insoluble conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon, and with Palestinians will become considerably more tractable, and the world a safer and freer place.