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Dissonance

The same folks who leaked info to Chalabi that got to Iran, seem to have leaked info about Iran to Israel. Meanwhile, we learn that Michael Ledeen's source for his "information" regarding the nefarious Iranian Conspiracy to Do Bad Things is none other than Manucher Ghorbanifar who has not once, but twice been "flagged" by the CIA as one with whom one should not do business on account of his unreliability. Ledeen and Ghorbanifar go back to the good old days of Iran-Contra.

Also in the mix, is Italian military intelligence, SISMI, which was present at the Ghorbanifar meetings. SISMI was also the conduit for the Niger forgery. More important, I think, than the Niger forgery was the other forged document. The reason the second document is more important is that it was less plausible. If what you really wanted to do was convince people that document one was real, you wouldn't have included document two. The only purpose of making it was to convince people that that stuff was true. And now we know that Ghorbanifar was, through Ledeen, acting so as to convince people that that stuff was true.

Conceptually, it's quite possible that there are two entirely different groups of people out there trying to convince the US government that Iran is somehow the architect of the global terrorist threat and that these two groups coincidentally both manage to run through Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon and, even more bizarrely, the Italian Ministry of Defense. In the real world, that would be a very strange coincidence indeed. Let's also note that besides all this, SISMI was also the source of early alarmist reporting about Iranian backing for Iraqi insurgents. And that information came to them from, where, exactly?

August 29, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

I'm sorry, I'm slow: what is document 2? I don't get it at all.

Posted by: Jeff L. | Aug 29, 2004 1:37:57 AM

Is it just me, or are we getting in to tinfoil hat territory? At least meaning that I mean were you to say all that what..a month ago? You'd be locked up in an asylum somewhere, and maybe rightfully so.

But...it all seems to be coming out this way. And I mean, it's all the same guys that these guys were warned about, all the old I/C players...I mean conservatives I don't think to this day think there was anything wrong with I/C, so I think that's why it gets by..

In a rational world the conservative establishment would be looking for blood+heads right around now.

Posted by: Karmakin | Aug 29, 2004 1:47:39 AM

Jeff -

The document about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger was paired with a document describing a secret Iran-Iraq alliance. It was the implausability of the second that was a big tipoff that the whole set was phony.

Posted by: EH | Aug 29, 2004 1:59:38 AM

I interviewed Ghorbanifar and co-authored the Washington Monthly piece linked above. There are two interesting threads that come together in this story, as far as I can see.

1) The FBI investigation of espionage of Larry Franklin, the DIA Iran analyst working in the office of undersecretary of defense Doug Feith, intersects with the story about Franklin and Harold Rhode, another official from Feith's office, having meetings wtih the Iran contra arms dealer Ghorbanifar, whom I interviewed.

2) Secondly, the Italian military intelligence organization Sismi's presence at the December 2001 meetings in Rome with Franklin, Rhode, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar intersects with the story about Sismi's role pushing the forged Niger uranium documents into the hands of western intelligence agencies via an Italian middleman. Sismi was a key player in both events.

The meetings described in this story connect all the stories.

Posted by: Laura | Aug 29, 2004 2:01:18 AM

I'm sorry to be difficult about this, but I have a simple question for Laura. The Washington Monthly does indeed connect all the stories via the meetings, but does not explain what the connections are, unless I am not reading carefully enough. Most spectacularly, how does Sismi's presence at the December 2001 meeting intersect with its role pushing the oirged Niger uranium documents, and what does all of that have to do with the FBI investigation? Simply put: were any of the Americans at the December 2001 meeting involved in the creation or transmission of the forged Niger document?

Thanks EH for the clarification above. Maybe my renewed slowness here can be addressed too.

Posted by: Jeff L. | Aug 29, 2004 2:18:38 AM

I'm sorry to be difficult about this, but I have a simple question for Laura. The Washington Monthly does indeed connect all the stories via the meetings, but does not explain what the connections are, unless I am not reading carefully enough. Most spectacularly, how does Sismi's presence at the December 2001 meeting intersect with its role pushing the oirged Niger uranium documents, and what does all of that have to do with the FBI investigation? Simply put: were any of the Americans at the December 2001 meeting involved in the creation or transmission of the forged Niger document?

Thanks EH for the clarification above. Maybe my renewed slowness here can be addressed too.

Posted by: Jeff L. | Aug 29, 2004 2:20:13 AM

Jeff L, as I understand it what we have at this point is a strong smell of gunsmoke and a glimpse of a very suspicious-looking piece of metal.

I hope that this will turn out to be a smoking gun, but it isn't quite that, yet. Just, we have a glimpse, and if it does turn out to be a smoking gun we can be pretty sure which end is the handle.

I can imagine being hopeful about this. Here's one possible way it might be going:

We're failing in iraq and that's likely to be obvious to everybody before the election. Who can Bush blame it on? The neocons and the Likudniks. It isn't his fault, they misled him with lies and forged documents etc.

He can afford to do it. He doesn't have to worry about the jewish vote, they're voting against him anyway. He doesn't have to worry about AIPAC money, he has money. And if the problems all this causes Likud in israel gets them out of power, he can make up with the new israeli regime.

All the hype we'd have about whose fault it is really, who's being antisemitic, how do we get the boys home, etc drive out all discussion of the economy, nonproliferation, nation-building, the deficit, vietnam, anything that might hurt him except that.

So if he can toss enough good one-liners and persuade enough voters that it wasn't his fault they fooled him once, then he can win the election. With Likud voted out in israel one of the two things preventing a two-state solution for israel would be gone. Get past the other one and he can keep his promise to the saudis. The road to Jerusalem really did run through Baghdad!

It isn't all that hopeful since even without the neocons and the Likudniks Bush would still be Bush. But it's a whole lot better than any other of my visions of a Bush win.

So, is this a bunch of FBI guys etc who hope they can make sure Bush loses the election, and then handle the punishment they'll get for it the rest of their lives?

Or are they fitting into a republican election strategy?

Or could it be apolitical government workers who just accidentally happened to reach this stage in their investigation and nobody thought to stop them?

Posted by: J Thomas | Aug 29, 2004 3:13:50 AM

Matt-

One thing that could solve your dissonance problem is if the Iranian dissidents were actually VEVAK agents.

In which case they gave Ghorbanifar a bunch of junk and in the process learned a lot about American intentions.

Now THAT would be a major fuckup, and it would hang nicely with the Chalabi story.

Apparently the Russians use to play us like this all the time, and Saddam may have played the same trick on the CIA with a guy named Khazraji before the war.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 29, 2004 3:26:20 AM

This may be tinfoil-hat, but I recall that Ledeen's daughter Simone was in effect the COO of the CPA's budgeting process on location in Bagdad. And I recall that many hundreds of millions of dollars are missing/unaccounted for among CPA-disbursed funds. And I recall that Ledeen himself is an innovator in funny transactions, like, say, arms for hostages and money for Contras. And, let's see, Ghorbanifar needs money to fund his "Iranian dissidents." Tinfoil hat stops getting good reception there.

Posted by: Holdyournoseandvote | Aug 29, 2004 9:23:32 AM

Now if we could just find some Central American death squads to pass the profits to.

Posted by: John Isbell | Aug 29, 2004 10:06:13 AM

I don't see how any of this will matter for the presidential election. If there's any truth to the stuff above about insiders trying to oust Bush, perhaps it's the type of thing that happens with weak, disengaged presidents, like Reagan and Bush Jr. Maybe enough voters on election day will soberly decide that we can't afford the additional chaos that a vacuum in the White House creates. They may not agree (or assume that they disagree based on Bush's negative ads) with Kerry's policies, but maybe they'll favor his relatively serious and thoughtful attitude. In this way, Bush's scare tactics can be used against him. At this point, Bush would be hard pressed to benefit from enough positive developments to outweigh all the negative ones over the past 44 months. Kerry had enough ambition to outlast the very ambitious Dean. If Kerry wages a credible endgame, at the very least we'll be able to see the full range of scorched earth tactics Bush will pull to gain another four years, unless Bush gives up the way his father seemed to.

Posted by: jsrutstein | Aug 29, 2004 10:06:31 AM

Lest anyone accuse me of plagiarism, I just read Matthew's piece below about the Administration infighting, and he said it first and better than I did. I still think Kerry could profit from this.

Posted by: jsrutstein | Aug 29, 2004 10:14:11 AM

For those that think that this story might not be interesting enough to capture public attention - this detail suggests otherwise. From the Jerusalem Post, via Juan Cole:

"The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaida operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1093674510896

If that turns out to be true, it seems like a potential bombshell. Pentagon officials trying to sabotage efforts to capture al-Qaeda operatives because those efforts might interfere with their private foreign policy? That's not the sort of thing that can be easily brushed aside.

Posted by: N V | Aug 29, 2004 11:02:02 AM

Michael Ledeen has deep, deep roots with Italy. It's more than just coworkers on Iran-Contra - he has written glorifiying the "good fascists" of Italy (even named his kid after one of them) and lamenting that the word fascist has become tainted and unusable by the association of it with Nazism.

This all fits in with the Straussians' glorification of a mythical version of Magna Graeca - you see it in the sanitized conservative fetishization of the neoclassical Founding Fathers, you see it in the love of the original fascists, the Roman Empire, you see it in the neocon devotion to Plato's Republic with its model of a top-down stratified society in which "the masses" are *supposed* to be stupid and emotional (but strong and brave like oxen or hound dogs) and Organized Religion is a good thing because it will keep them in line, just as will a National Mythology of patriotism.

Part and parcel with this is the myth of a past homogenous society as source of this glory, and a masculinism which reverences warfare (qv Jonah Goldberg, "War: What Is It Good For?", Sept 2002) as a means of purifying the weaknesses from society, and the need to expel all "unassimilated racial menaces" as per Samuel Huntingdon. Thus the glorification too of the Frontier Myths of the Wild West - and the dividing of the world into simple binary states, "Us/Good" vs "Them/Evil".

Part, I think, of the emotional fervor of the veneration for Zionism is that the Zionist myth is living out all these memes for them vicariously. They're very seductive, as I know too well - my mother was caught up in it to the point of teaching herself Hebrew and Yiddish so that she could go over and wield an Uzi in defence of the settlers who were "making the desert bloom." (Fortunately for me, she saw through it and got disillusioned before emigrating, but she never fully got over her romantic admiration, either, despite knowing consciously that the generals were cynically using the romantics.)

Posted by: bellatrys | Aug 29, 2004 11:19:10 AM

J. Thomas -- I've always thought that Wolfowitz and the neo-con crew would be scapegoated by Bush, but it's pretty close to the election to do that and I sort of doubt that it will happen. It should have happened months ago, to be followed by the installation of a new team and the proclamation of a lot of new slogans. One problem is that it's hard to scapegoat anyone while you're still bragging about your big success.

I think that a LOT of the trouble Bush is having comes from the resentment of the career people in State, the military, the CIA, and the FBI at the way Bush does try to get them to take the fall for stuff that political people like Perle or Feith or Cheney have done. Don't want to make the pros too mad.

For those of us, including me, wondering how much different Kerry's foreign-military policy would be than Bush's, this might be a clue. I'd expect Bush, once re-elected, to go after Iran (which was part of the original plan). There's have to be a massive transformation of American civilian life in order to do that, with a draft, bloody-shirt-waving, witch-hunts, and so on. I have no idea how he'd try to pay for it -- voodoo econics, presumably.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 29, 2004 11:21:05 AM

Voodoo ebonics, I mean. I mean voodoo economics.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 29, 2004 11:22:56 AM

NV Says: If that turns out to be true, it seems like a potential bombshell. Pentagon officials trying to sabotage efforts to capture al-Qaeda operatives because those efforts might interfere with their private foreign policy? That's not the sort of thing that can be easily brushed aside.

Oh, how I wish you were right. But the whole Iraqi venture was not only an NPAC "private foreign policy," the fact of NPAC instigation is now generally, widely known.

And the pro-war pro-Bush response? Boils down to " It doesn't matter who was driving policy on Iraq because war with Iraq was a good thing anyway."

I would bet serious money that'll be the same song sung if this story catches fire. Basically a "Yeah; so?"

Posted by: Ciel | Aug 29, 2004 12:23:16 PM

Zizka, I agree it's late for Bush to scapegoat the neocons. The way I could imagine it happening is that he planned to assert that we're winning in iraq, and he thought he could get away with that. But if things are getting so bad that the news *will* get out in 2 months, if something dramatic happens that actually gets coverage, then he needs that scapegoat even though he doesn't have time to maximise the benefits.

Posted by: J Thomas | Aug 29, 2004 12:47:25 PM

Matthew,

Would you please weigh in on this modified form of my original question: when you refer to "that stuff," I now assume you are referring to the forged documents other than the Niger documents. Is that correct? And did that document indeed bear on Iran-Iraq cooperation? As I recall, in fact the Niger document was mixed in with a whole bunch of documents that in fact were not forgeries. Could you, in any case, spin out the implications of your to me still enigmatic post. Please, thanks.

Posted by: Jeff L. | Aug 29, 2004 1:56:31 PM

Jeff L, I haven't heard that any of the other documents were forgeries, yet. I also haven't heard how many of them there were or whether any of them have been somehow verified.

Posted by: J Thomas | Aug 29, 2004 6:36:54 PM

Ghorbanifar has a long track record of misleading intelligence agencies to incite war. He was nudged Reagan into attacking Libya.

He may also have been involved in Reagan-Bush's infamous 1980 "October Surprise." This would be convenient, since Judge Silberman, the guy currently leading the investigation into "intelligence failures" in Iraq, was also involved.

Posted by: Dave | Aug 29, 2004 6:48:11 PM

"I'd expect Bush, once re-elected, to go after Iran (which was part of the original plan). There's have to be a massive transformation of American civilian life in order to do that, with a draft, bloody-shirt-waving, witch-hunts, and so on."

Look for a terrorist attack, perhaps even before the election, which Bush can blame on Iran, claiming to have secret info, etc. I'm not sure this would work, but I can see Bush & Rove thinking this would work.

Sorry if that's tinfoil territory, but I am getting really, really worried about democracy in this country.

Posted by: Andy | Aug 29, 2004 9:33:27 PM

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