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The Vast Persian Conspiracy

Jim Henley, not being a professional journalist, can afford to use his blog to engage in irresponsible speculations based on circumstantial evidence. Those of us in a different position must decline to follow in this path, but if you put a gun to my head and forced me to guess what explains this all, well, then that would be a different story.

UPDATE: To spell this out a bit, if you search around here you'll see that the last time Michael Ledeen was meeting with Ghorbanifar on behalf of the US government, the latter represented himself as acting on behalf of moderate elements within the Iranian regime that wanted to improve relations with the US. In fact, he was working for the regime plain and simple. So now Ledeen's gone again to meet with Ghorbanifar, who's again representing himself as the man who can put people in touch with dissident elements in the Iranian government. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

August 30, 2004 | Permalink


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Posted by: Carleton | Aug 30, 2004 11:54:53 PM

Dude, I soooooooooo said that in comments here yesterday.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 30, 2004 11:57:22 PM

Are you saying that post makes sense to you despite the irresponsibe speculation?

Posted by: monday warrior | Aug 30, 2004 11:58:49 PM

Let me expand a bit.

This would solve Matt's dissonance problem regarding Chalabi, hang together with our understanding of Ghorbanifar as a non-assassinated invetarate liar, and gel with the idea that Larry Franklin is a complete naif and Ledeen is obsessed and incautious.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 31, 2004 12:00:17 AM

You *know* that's not how it goes!

It goes like this:

"Fool me once... shame on... you. Fool me twice... fool... you... --we won't get fooled again!!"

Posted by: Brad DeLong | Aug 31, 2004 12:03:49 AM

Here's one question: why would it be in Iran's interest to give Ledeen a bunch of documents showing complicity with Al Qaeda?

For leverage?

Posted by: praktike | Aug 31, 2004 12:05:40 AM

[holds head in his hands...]

Arrrggghghhh! What's that line you like to use, Prof. DeLong? "Why are we ruled by these idiots?"

Posted by: JP | Aug 31, 2004 12:13:59 AM

Yesterday I came across this Newsweek piece from last December which includes this:
[Ghorbanifar] says his contacts know where Saddam Hussein hid $340 million in cash. With American help, he says, this money could be retrieved and half used to overthrow the ayatollahs. (The other half would be turned over to the United States.)

Does anyone else wonder if Ledeen is hot on the trail of riches trapped in Nigeria following the military coup?

Posted by: a | Aug 31, 2004 4:47:39 AM

Fool me once, put me in a cushy "think-tank" sinecure; fool me twice, give me a senior DOD appointment.

Posted by: Dave L | Aug 31, 2004 7:16:21 AM

professional journalist, but isnt this matthew's page? i hear a few professional journalists actually have guns put to their head at this very moment. an unfortunate confluence of images, id say.

Posted by: some dink | Aug 31, 2004 7:26:17 AM

He does give a reason for Franklin to go through AIPAC instead of some random spy. If he gives it to AIPAC there's a much better chance it will get to israel.

And the reason to give AIPAC a draft policy statement is obvious. If he doesn't think the statement is worded right, he can tell his boss who might tell *his* boss etc. But if AIPAC gets the right wording from Likud and proposes it to the administration, the administration will pay attention.

Posted by: J Thomas | Aug 31, 2004 7:55:02 AM

Here's one question: why would it be in Iran's interest to give Ledeen a bunch of documents showing complicity with Al Qaeda?

To establish the bona fides of their agent, of course.

Posted by: cmdicely | Aug 31, 2004 11:26:08 AM

J Thomas writes: If he gives it to AIPAC there's a much better chance it will get to israel.

Why? You don't think someone from a Pentagon office dealing specifically with Iran can get a meeting with the Israelis by just asking?

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Aug 31, 2004 11:37:25 AM

Why? You don't think someone from a Pentagon office dealing specifically with Iran can get a meeting with the Israelis by just asking?

Well, yeah, but since it would be illegal for him to give it to the Israelis, that's probably not the most intelligent route to take.

Posted by: cmdicely | Aug 31, 2004 11:51:16 AM


So you're saying the that passing classified material to AIPAC, if that is indeed what he did, is somehow a "more intelligent" route to take?

Isn't it illegal to give classified material to AIPAC - or anyone else not cleared for it, for that matter - too?

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Aug 31, 2004 11:57:14 AM

I don't think Ledeen was fooled at all.

Maybe it was all connected.

The quid pro quo is Iran gets US codes through Chalabi, Israel gets the lowdown on the Iranian nuke program and the US gets shafted.

Posted by: absynthe | Aug 31, 2004 12:38:53 PM

So you're saying the that passing classified material to AIPAC, if that is indeed what he did, is somehow a "more intelligent" route to take?

In that he probably doesn't have to report meeting with AIPAC reps, so doesn't have to commit one violation that is more likely to be discovered and raise questions to cover up another crime that is less likely, on its own, to be discovered, but more serious.

Posted by: cmdicely | Aug 31, 2004 2:11:47 PM

You don't think someone from a Pentagon office dealing specifically with Iran can get a meeting with the Israelis by just asking?

That might actually have been smarter. Just copy the secret documents on the office copier, stick them in his briefcase and take them to the israeli embassy. Or maybe fax them to the israelis. If the FBI or anybody gets after him, say "You can't be serious, israel is our bosom buddy, closer than any mere ally, and if you complain about it before your boss's cabinet officer talks to my boss's cabinet officer, you're going to be in a lot of trouble." Then if they mention Jackson Pollock, still in prison after all these years, say that everything is different since 9/11 and insist again they pass the buck upward.

I was trying to repeat the claim that somebody who *wants* to pass secrets to israel would do better to go through AIPAC than through somebody who appears to be an israeli spy. Because what they think is an israeli spy could be a spy for anybody. Even somebody they once knew was an israeli spy could have been turned by some other power.

For that matter, as we saw with Pollard any secrets the israelis get that might be useful to somebody else are likely to get traded to them. It's a friendship that only goes one direction.

Posted by: J Thomas | Sep 1, 2004 8:43:39 PM

J Thomas: It's a friendship that only goes one direction.

Hardly. Pure Buchananist propaganda. Yet you called me the "secret Republican." Are you a "secret Paleoconservative"?

Israel has cooperated with us on many efforts, militarily and scientifically, including building the most effective anti-Missle defense system available - the Arrow.

And we sell advanced weapons to many of Israel's enemies, including Saudi Arabia while blocking them selling any weapons to countries we consider hostile to us (read: China) - for which Israel could make a lot of money.

But I know you've made up your mind about the whole situation - I don't think you have all the facts though. Not that they would sway you.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Sep 1, 2004 9:05:04 PM

Socal, thank you for examples where israel has cooperated with us. I've heard that israel sells our weapons on the black market to get the sales we don't want them to have, and I've tended to believe it. And how many of the israeli engineers etc for the Arrow were US-trained? For that matter, I haven't seen evidence that the Arrow is actually effective. If ours is even more ineffective that still isn't much of a talking point.

My concern has been more with Mossad, which sold US secrets to the USSR and others. in exchange Mossad gives us disinformation about arabs. Weren't they were confirming Chalabi's people about Saddam's WMDs? Their info hasn't generally been useful or correct, though it's been another zionist talking point.

Their military cooperation has been worse than useless.

It has looked entirely one-way to me, but of course I haven't seen the whole picture. Maybe they are doing good things for us in secret. And maybe they harbor good feelings for the USA in their hearts.

Posted by: J Thomas | Sep 2, 2004 1:20:09 AM

I think it's probably fair to say that many Israelis harbor better feelings towards the U.S. than many Americans themselves do.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Sep 2, 2004 9:42:48 AM

Successful Arrow anti-Missile defense Test - just this past July:


Posted by: SoCalJustice | Sep 2, 2004 9:44:24 AM

Socal, your link gives no details. There have been many successful Patriot tests, and I vaguely remember we even had a successful test of our own ABM missile, the one that's getting deployed after failing tests. I haven't kept up with the topic, but as I remember it the last failure involved failing to hit the incoming missile when the incoming missle had a transponder on it to make it easier to find. There were lots of things done to make it easier to succeed at the test -- which is reasonable, because these tests aren't so much to prove it works as to find out how to improve it. They learn the most when there's a reasonable chance of success.

So hearing that one of twelve tests of the Arrow "succeeded" isn't much help. Maybe it's doing better than similar american projects. To find out we'd ideally have the data, apart from the hype.

But if the israeli missile guys were still american we'd hardly be any worse off than having them emigrate to israel and then we do joint projects with them.

Posted by: J Thomas | Sep 2, 2004 11:02:13 PM

I think its safe to say that many Israelis benefit from US foreign policy more than many Americans themselves do.

By the way, Ledeen and Bryen are both on the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, so don't think that China's back door access to defense tech systems components is closed. If the price is right...

I know it would be unseemly for some to visit counterpunch.org to get some information on this stuff rather than peddle Iranian conspiracy theories, so I'll save you the trouble.

Stephen Green:
"What is so striking about the Ledeen-related documents which are part of the Iran-Contra Collection of the National Security Archive, is how thoroughly the judgements of Ledeen's colleagues at NSC mirrored, and validated, Noel Koch's internal security concerns about his consultant.

-- on April 9, 1985, NSC Middle East analyst Donald Fortier wrote to National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane that NSC staffers were agreed that Ledeen's role in the scheme should be limited to carrying messages to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres regarding plans to cooperate with Israel on the crisis within Iran, and specifically that he should not be entrusted to ask Peres for detailed operational information;

- on June 6, 1985, Secretary of State George Shultz wrote to McFarlane that, "Israel's record of dealings with Iran since the fall of the Shah and during the hostage crisis [show] that Israel's agenda is not the same as ours. Consequently doubt whether an intelligence relationship such as what Ledeen has in mind would be one which we could fully rely upon and it could seriously skew our own perception and analysis of the Iranian scene."

- on 20 August, 1985, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense informed Ledeen by memorandum that his security clearance had been downgraded from Top Secret-SCI to Secret.

- on 16 January, 1986, Oliver North recommended to John Poindexter "for [the] security of the Iran initiative" that Ledeen be asked to take periodic polygraph examinations.

- later in January, on the 24th, North wrote to Poindexter of his suspicion that Ledeen, along with Adolph Schwimmer and Manucher Ghorbanifar, might be making money personally on the sale of arms to Iran, through Israel.

During the June 23-25, 1987 joint hearings of the House and Senate select committees' investigation of Iran-Contra, Noel Koch testified that he became suspicious when he learned that the price which Ledeen had negotiated for the sale to the Israeli Government of basic TOW missiles was $2,500 each.

Upon inquiring with his DOD colleagues, he learned the lowest price the U.S. had ever received for the sale of TOWs to a foreign government had been a previous sale to Israel for $6,800 per copy. Koch, professing in his testimony that he and his colleagues at DOD were not in favor of the sale to begin with, determined that he--Koch--should renegotiate the $2,500 price so that it could be defended by the "defense management system." In a clandestine meeting on a Sunday in the first class lounge of the TWA section of National Airport, Koch met over a cup of coffee with an official from the Israeli purchasing mission in New York, and agreed on a price of $4,500 per missile, nearly twice what Ledeen had "negotiated" in Israel.

There are two possibilities here--one would be a kickback, as suspected by his NSC colleagues, and the other would be that Michael Ledeen was effectively negotiating for Israel, not the U.S."

Green seems to have different impressions of what's going on and he also has better sources!

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