Monday, April 10, 2006

Iraq, Iran, AIPAC & the Pentagon: Reading makes a country great!

Ow, ow, ow, my achin' head! I was listening to Steve Clemons the other night on Majority Report Radio and he got me thinkin'...and then readin'...
...and then came the achin' head. I'm so confused. Clemons was talking about the unfinished business of the AIPAC spy affair. If you're like me, you're having trouble keeping your scandals straight. So let's allow Prof. Juan Cole to refresh our memory. First: what's AIPAC?
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money evenhandedly inside the U.S.
In late August 2004, CBS News reported that a member of the Sec. Defense's office (Pentagon) secretly passed on White House plans for Iran to AIPAC. The Defense Dept. official? One Lawrence Franklin. He plead guilty to passing information to AIPAC...a particularly good move, considering FBI had just raided his office. Who's Larry Franklin? Back to Juan Cole for some background (the password is: "Iran")...
Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst. He was an attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the U.S., and learned a little Persian (not very much – I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian).
[...]Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go-to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise Michael Ledeen for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way.
Here's where my head started to ache: Steve Clemons reminded me of the shadowy business in 2004--just after the Franklin/AIPAC story broke--where Ahmed Chalabi's INC office in Iraq was raided by CIA. Clemons talked about the Josh Marshall/Laura Rozen blockbuster piece connecting Franklin, Chalabi, Ledeen et al. to those old Iran Contra felons. Luckily (?!) I had bookmarked their 2004 piece: "Iran Contra II?" (Washington Monthly, Sept 2004)
Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.
[...]the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself.
Now here's where it really strains the ol' noodle: the Italian connection. Remember the Niger forgeries? SISMI? All that jazz?
The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. [...]The Washington Monthly has also learned from U.S. government sources that Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, attended the meetings, as did the Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino, who is well-known in neoconservative circles in Washington.
So where the fuck's Congress in all of this? Well, they got wind of it...
By the summer of 2003, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had begun to get wind of the Ghorbanifar-Ledeen-DoD back-channel and made inquiries at the CIA. A month later, Newsday broke the original story about the secret Ghorbanifar channel. Faced with the disclosure, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledged the December 2001 meeting but dismissed it as routine and unimportant.
Remember how the Senate Intell. Cmtte. was supposed to report on "Phase II" of the Iraq intelligence manipulation? And how they put it all off until after the November 2004 Presidential elections? Yeah. Of course you remember. Breaks your fuckin heart, don't it?
Over the last year [2003/4], the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted limited inquiry into the meetings, including interviews with Feith and Ledeen. But under terms of a compromise agreed to by both parties, a full investigation into the matter was put off until after the November election. Republicans on the committee, many of whom sympathize with the "regime change" agenda at DoD, have been resistant to such investigations, calling them an election-year fishing expedition. Democrats, by contrast, see such investigations as vital to understanding the central role Feith's office may have played in a range of a dubious intelligence enterprises, from pushing claims about a supposed Saddam-al Qaeda partnership and overblown estimates of alleged Iraqi stocks of WMD to what the committee's ranking minority member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) calls "the Chalabi factor" (Rhode and others in Feith's office have been major sponsors of the Iraqi exile leader, who is now under investigation for passing U.S. intelligence to Iran).
Oh. right. "the Chalabi factor." Back to him: "Chalabi Aides Suspected of Spying for Iran" [WaPo, May 22, 2004]
Members of the political organization headed by Ahmed Chalabi are suspected of providing information to Iran on U.S. troop positions in Iraq and of kidnapping a prominent physician from his home, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials familiar with three investigations into a group the Bush administration once favored to run postwar Iraq.
[...]The inquiries are focusing on allegations of corruption, kidnapping and robbery, and on a U.S. suspicion that one of Chalabi's closest advisers is a paid agent of the Iranian intelligence service, according to U.S., INC and Iraqi police officials. The adviser, Aras Habib, has a long working relationship with the Defense Intelligence Agency and is now a fugitive.
Aras Habib...ding ding ding ding!!!! Steve Clemons talked about him too...
We would not have suspected Franklin, in my view, if he was not quite visibly engaged in relationship building with an oddball roster of players in the Middle East. Douglas Feith, in my view, had created a culture where this exchange of information, including quid pro quo deals, were part of the way he and his team operated. After all, Feith -- who had deep and broad relationships with the senior echelon of Israel's defense and intelligence bureaucracies -- had also housed the Iraqi National Congress in his pre-DoD legal office. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress Chief of Intelligence Aras Karim Habib was apparently a sieve of information from Feith's activities and operation to Iranian intelligence.
In fact, one interesting question that few have seriously explored is whether Iran, Israel, Turkey and Chalabi were essentially colluding via Douglas Feith's operation for some time -- both before Feith went into government and after. (I will be writing more about this in a future post.)
NOTE: the link provided above was to Josh Marshall's TPM post on Habib: Marshall references a 1998 NYT article about the INS detention of Iraqi National Congress members on "secret evidence". Their lawyer? "former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was also a lobbyist for the INC."
Well fuck me...I don't know what to think of all of this. Tangled-mangled-new-world-order or Conspiracy Theory Rock?! As indicated above, Clemons promised to write more about this in the future. Yes! Yes, Steve Clemons! Write so we can read it! 'Cause reading makes a country great!
Ow, ow, ow, my achin' head. The cat & I are off to our sleeping basket now :(


Blogger servant said...

Just getting caught up on my H& pardon the late comment.

Well fuck me...I don't know what to think of all of this.

You said it.

Sincere thanks for working the Doug Feith vien. I was workin it for a while, hoping something would come out of Phase 2. Pat Roberts, Bush's cleaner on senate intelligence committee, has his finger in that hole in the dike - preventing Democratic committee members from interviewing anyone at DOD until the DOD::Inspector General completely sweeps everything under the carpet.

When Fred Hiatt came out with his Good Leak theory, I did a bit of backtracking on the Office of Special Plans, but then I give up. It's as if the media is in on it. There's nothing new coming out and no one is asking questions besides Seymour Hersh, bless his heart. Fred Hiatt et al just keep making more Kool-aid and the public just keeps drinking it. "The Lobby" is everywhere. Especially on the editorial boards of every major paper and television network in the US.

Oh yeah. There is no lobby. That was just a bunch of propoganda spread by anti-Semites.

We're screwed. No. We're so far beyond screwed it would take the light from screwed a hundred thousand light years to get here. - Roseann.

Keep up the good work. My favorite thing about H&O is that you're not out there surface feeding on today's headlines and you do history.

4/17/2006 9:01 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Thanks heaps for your comments, Servant!

Let's hope more pieces of this (rather obscene) puzzle fall into the open soon. Of course that doesn't stop rank-amateurs like me from rambling about it anyway :)

Many thanks for reading!
All the best,

4/19/2006 12:19 AM  

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