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The Ledeen Paradox

Juicy as allegations of neoconservatives passing classified information on to Israel may be, the links between American neoconservatives and elements of the Sharon government are fairly well-known as a general matter, and the super-tight US-Israeli alliance, whether wise or not, is firmly supported by US public opinion. Much weirder -- and much more shrouded in darkness -- are neoconservative links with Iran. In that vein, Steve Clemons has thrown intellectual property law to the wind, and posted Michael Ledeen's 1987 account of the origins of the "arms for hostages" scandal in meetings involving himself and Manucher Ghorbanifar. As a result of the FBI investigation into Larry Franklin, we've learned that the information Franklin allegedly passed to Israel via AIPAC had something to do with recent meetings involving Franklin, Ledeen, and Ghorbanifar. It's clear from Ledeen's '87 account that he regards Ghorbanifar as a reliable person who is in contact with some sort of elements of the Iranian government who want to change Iranian policy and improve relations with the American government.

Now it's possible, in principle, that Ledeen's right about this. I don't know Ghorbanifar and don't have secret insights into what lies within his soul. At the same time, I do know that the CIA has -- repeatedly -- expressed its view that this is not the case and that Ghorbanifar is not to be trusted. Ledeen would tell you, I suppose, that this -- like the FBI investigation -- reflects the vast conspiracy within the US government to stifle him and his brilliant national security proposals. Again, perhaps. But on the other hand I have never encountered or heard of a credible professional Persianist who believes that the sort of saber-rattling Iran policy Ledeen favors is an efficacious means of effecting the sort of changes Ledeen says he wants to see. For that matter, all the Iranians I know who've lived in the country recently (as opposed to exiles who left during the revolutionary period) believe Ledeen-style policies are unlikely to be efficacious.

In general, it's very odd, in light of Ledeen's hardline views on Iran, that so many of his associates (Ghorbanifar and Ahmed Chalabi) are believed by professionals in the US intelligence community to be unreliable persons who more likely than not are agents of the Iranian intelligence services. I don't think anything more needs to be said about this except that either the CIA or Ledeen is badly mistaken about the state of play.

I also remind readers that the Ledeen-Ghorbanifar-Franklin meeting took place in Rome and involved Italian military intelligence (SISMI). SISMI is also the soruce of some information that Iran hawks have been pushing around town indicating that, contrary to the assessments of US intelligence, Iran is the key mover behind the Iraqi insurgency. Last but by no means least I note that SISMI was the mechanism by which two forged documents -- one alleging Iraqi purchases of uranium in Niger, the other alleging an Iran-Iraq anti-American conspiracy -- found there way into the hands of US intelligence and the eager beavers working for Doug Feith in the E Ring. Either something a bit . . . odd is afoot, or else there's a hell of a wacky coincidence going down in Rome.

September 7, 2004 | Permalink

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Tracked on Sep 9, 2004 2:50:59 AM