Iran: The Next War
by James Bamford
Rolling Stone, July 24 2006
Even before the bombs fell on Baghdad,
a group of senior Pentagon officials were plotting to invade another
country. Their covert campaign once again relied on false intelligence
and shady allies. But this time, the target was Iran.
How did the Bush administration sell the
Iraq war? Is war with Iran unavoidable?
I. The Israeli Connection
A few blocks off Pennsylvania Avenue,
the FBI's eight-story Washington field office exudes all the charm
of a maximum-security prison. Its curved roof is made of thick
stainless steel, the bottom three floors are wrapped in granite
and limestone, hydraulic bollards protect the ramp to the four-floor
garage, and bulletproof security booths guard the entrance to
the narrow lobby. On the fourth floor, like a tomb within a tomb,
lies the most secret room in the $100 million concrete fortress
- out-of-bounds even for special agents without an escort. Here,
in the Language Services Section, hundreds of linguists in padded
earphones sit elbow-to-elbow in long rows, tapping computer keyboards
as they eavesdrop on the phone lines of foreign embassies and
other high-priority targets in the nation's capital.
At the far end of that room, on the
morning of February 12th, 2003, a small group of eavesdroppers
were listening intently for evidence of a treacherous crime. At
the very moment that American forces were massing for an invasion
of Iraq, there were indications that a rogue group of senior Pentagon
officials were already conspiring to push the United States into
another war - this time with Iran.
A few miles away, FBI agents watched
as Larry Franklin, an Iran expert and career employee of the Defense
Intelligence Agency, drove up to the Ritz-Carlton hotel across
the Potomac from Washington. A trim man of fifty-six, with a tangle
of blond hair speckled gray, Franklin had left his modest home
in Kearneysville, West Virginia, shortly before dawn that morning
to make the eighty-mile commute to his job at the Pentagon. Since
2002, he had been working in the Office of Special Plans, a crowded
warren of blue cubicles on the building's fifth floor. A secretive
unit responsible for long-term planning and propaganda for the
invasion of Iraq, the office's staffers referred to themselves
as "the cabal." They reported to Douglas Feith, the
third-most-powerful official in the Defense Department, helping
to concoct the fraudulent intelligence reports that were driving
America to war in Iraq.
Just two weeks before, in his State
of the Union address, President Bush had begun laying the groundwork
for the invasion, falsely claiming that Saddam Hussein had the
means to produce tens of thousands of biological and chemical
weapons, including anthrax, botulinum toxin, sarin, mustard and
VX nerve agent. But an attack on Iraq would require something
that alarmed Franklin and other neoconservatives almost as much
as weapons of mass destruction: detente with Iran. As political
columnist David Broder reported in The Washington Post, moderates
in the Bush administration were "covertly negotiating for
Iran to stay quiet and offer help to refugees when we go into
Franklin - a devout neoconservative
who had been brought into Feith's office because of his political
beliefs - was hoping to undermine those talks. As FBI agents looked
on, Franklin entered the restaurant at the Ritz and joined two
other Americans who were also looking for ways to push the U.S.
into a war with Iran. One was Steven Rosen, one of the most influential
lobbyists in Washington. Sixty years old and nearly bald, with
dark eyebrows and a seemingly permanent frown, Rosen was director
of foreign-policy issues at Israel's powerful lobby, the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee. Seated next to Rosen was AIPAC's
Iran expert, Keith Weissman. He and Rosen had been working together
closely for a decade to pressure U.S. officials and members of
Congress to turn up the heat on Tehran.
Over breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton,
Franklin told the two lobbyists about a draft of a top-secret
National Security Presidential Directive that dealt with U.S.
policy on Iran. Crafted by Michael Rubin, the desk officer for
Iraq and Iran in Feith's office, the document called, in essence,
for regime change in Iran. In the Pentagon's view, according to
one senior official there at the time, Iran was nothing but "a
house of cards ready to be pushed over the precipice." So
far, though, the White House had rejected the Pentagon's plan,
favoring the State Department's more moderate position of diplomacy.
Now, unwilling to play by the rules any longer, Franklin was taking
the extraordinary - and illegal - step of passing on highly classified
information to lobbyists for a foreign state. Unable to win the
internal battle over Iran being waged within the administration,
a member of Feith's secret unit in the Pentagon was effectively
resorting to treason, recruiting AIPAC to use its enormous influence
to pressure the president into adopting the draft directive and
wage war against Iran.
It was a role that AIPAC was eager
to play. Rosen, recognizing that Franklin could serve as a useful
spy, immediately began plotting ways to plant him in the White
House - specifically in the National Security Council, the epicenter
of intelligence and national-security policy. By working there,
Rosen told Franklin a few days later, he would be "by the
elbow of the president."
Knowing that such a maneuver was well
within AIPAC's capabilities, Franklin asked Rosen to "put
in a good word" for him. Rosen agreed. "I'll do what
I can," he said, adding that the breakfast meeting had been
a real "eye-opener."
Working together, the two men hoped
to sell the United States on yet another bloody war. A few miles
away, digital recorders at the FBI's Language Services Section
captured every word.
II. The Guru and the Exile
In recent weeks, the attacks by Hezbollah
on Israel have given neoconservatives in the Bush administration
the pretext they were seeking to launch what former House Speaker
Newt Gingrich calls "World War III." Denouncing the
bombings as "Iran's proxy war," William Kristol of The
Weekly Standard is urging the Pentagon to counter "this act
of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear
facilities." According to Joseph Cirincione, an arms expert
and the author of Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical
Threats, "The neoconservatives are now hoping to use the
Israeli-Lebanon conflict as the trigger to launch a U.S. war against
Syria, Iran or both."
But the Bush administration's hostility
toward Iran is not simply an outgrowth of the current crisis.
War with Iran has been in the works for the past five years, shaped
in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senior Pentagon
officials attached to the Office of Special Plans. The man who
created the OSP was Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense
for policy. A former Middle East specialist on the National Security
Council in the Reagan administration, Feith had long urged Israel
to secure its borders in the Middle East by attacking Iraq and
Iran. After Bush's election, Feith went to work to make that vision
a reality, putting together a team of neoconservative hawks determined
to drive the U.S. to attack Tehran. Before Bush had been in office
a year, Feith's team had arranged a covert meeting in Rome with
a group of Iranians to discuss their clandestine help.
The meeting was arranged by Michael
Ledeen, a member of the cabal brought aboard by Feith because
of his connections in Iran. Described by The Jerusalem Post as
"Washington's neoconservative guru," Ledeen grew up
in California during the 1940s. His father designed the air-conditioning
system for Walt Disney Studios, and Ledeen spent much of his early
life surrounded by a world of fantasy. "All through my childhood
we were an adjunct of the Disney universe," he once recalled.
"According to family legend, my mother was the model for
Snow White, and we have a picture of her that does indeed look
just like the movie character."
In 1977, after earning a Ph.D. in
history and philosophy and teaching in Rome for two years, Ledeen
became the first executive director of the Jewish Institute for
National Security Affairs, a pro-Israel pressure group that served
as a flagship of the neoconservative movement. A few years later,
after Reagan was elected, Ledeen had become prominent enough to
earn a spot as a consultant to the National Security Council alongside
Feith. There he played a central role in the worst scandal of
Reagan's presidency: the covert deal to provide arms to Iran in
exchange for American hostages being held in Lebanon. Ledeen served
as the administration's intermediary with Israel in the illegal-arms
deal. In 1985, he met with Manucher Ghorbanifar, a one-time Iranian
carpet salesman who was widely believed to be an Israeli agent.
The CIA considered Ghorbanifar a dangerous con man and had issued
a "burn notice" recommending that no U.S. agency have
any dealings with him. Unfazed, Ledeen called Ghorbanifar "one
of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known."
The two men brokered the arms exchange - a transaction that would
result in the indictment of fourteen senior officials in the Reagan
"It was awful - you know, bad
things happened," Ledeen says now. "When Iran-Contra
was over, I said, Boy, I'm never going to touch Iran again.'"
But in 2001, soon after he arrived
at the Pentagon, Ledeen once again met with Ghorbanifar. This
time, instead of selling missiles to the Iranian regime, the two
men were exploring how best to topple it.
"The meeting in Rome came about
because my friend Manucher Ghorbanifar called me up," Ledeen
says. Stout and balding, with a scruffy white beard, Ledeen is
sitting in the living room of his white-brick home in Chevy Chase,
Maryland, smoking a Dominican cigar. His Airedale terrier, Thurber,
roams the room protectively. In his first extensive interview
about the covert Pentagon operation, Ledeen makes no secret of
his desire to topple the government in Tehran. "I want to
bring down the regime," he says. "I want the regime
gone. It's a country that is fanatically devoted to our destruction."
When Ghorbanifar called Ledeen in
the fall of 2001, he claimed, as he often does, to have explosive
intelligence that was vital to U.S. interests. "There are
Iranians who have firsthand information about Iranian plans to
kill Americans in Afghanistan," he told Ledeen. "Does
anyone want to hear about it?"
Ledeen took the information to Stephen
Hadley, the deputy national security adviser at the White House.
"I know you're going to throw me out of the office,"
Ledeen told him, "and if I were you I would throw me out
of the office too. But I promised that I would give you this option.
Ghorbanifar has called me. He said these people are willing to
come. Do you want anybody to go and talk to them?"
Hadley was interested. So was Zalmay
Khalilzad, then the point man on Near East issues for the National
Security Council and now the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. "I
think we have to do this, we have to hear this," Hadley said.
Ledeen had the green light: As he puts it, "Every element
of the American government knew this was going to happen in advance."
III. The Meeting in Rome
Weeks later, in December, a plane carrying
Ledeen traveled to Rome with two other members of Feith's secret
Pentagon unit: Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, a protégé
of Ledeen who has been called the "theoretician of the neocon
movement." A specialist on Islam who speaks Hebrew, Arabic,
Turkish and Farsi, Rhode had experience with shady exiles like
Ghorbanifar: He was close to Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi dissident
whose discredited intelligence helped drive the Bush administration
to invade Baghdad. According to UPI, Rhode himself was later observed
by CIA operatives passing "mind-boggling" intelligence
to Israel, including sensitive information about U.S. military
deployments in Iraq.
Completing the rogues' gallery that
assembled in Rome that day was the man who helped Ledeen arrange
the meeting: Nicolò Pollari, the director of Italy's military
intelligence. Only two months earlier, Pollari had informed the
Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had obtained uranium from
West Africa - a key piece of false intelligence that Bush used
to justify the invasion of Iraq.
To hide the shadowy rendezvous in
Rome, Pollari provided a well-protected safe house near the noisy
espresso bars and busy trattorias that surround the Piazza di
Spagna in central Rome. "It was in a private apartment,"
Ledeen recalls. "It was fucking freezing - it was unheated."
The Pentagon operatives and the men from Iran sat at a dining-room
table strewn with demitasse cups of blackish coffee, ashtrays
littered with crushed cigarette butts and detailed maps of Iran,
Iraq and Syria. "They gave us information about the location
and plans of Iranian terrorists who were going to kill Americans,"
Ledeen insists the intelligence was
on the mark. "It was true," he says. "The information
was accurate." Not according to his boss. "There wasn't
anything there that was of substance or of value that needed to
be pursued further," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later
conceded. "It went nowhere."
The men then turned their attention
to their larger goal: regime change in Iran. Ghorbanifar suggested
funding the overthrow of the Iranian government using hundreds
of millions of dollars in cash supposedly hidden by Saddam Hussein.
He even hinted that Saddam was hiding in Iran.
Ledeen, Franklin and Rhode were taking
a page from Feith's playbook on Iraq: They needed a front group
of exiles and dissidents to call for the overthrow of Iran. According
to sources familiar with the meeting, the Americans discussed
joining forces with the Mujahedin-e Khalq, an anti-Iranian guerrilla
army operating out of Iraq.
There was only one small problem:
The MEK had been certified by the State Department as a terrorist
organization. In fact, the White House was in the midst of negotiations
with Tehran, which was offering to extradite five members of Al
Qaeda thought to be of high intelligence value in return for Washington's
promise to drop all support for the MEK.
Ledeen denies any dealings with the
group. "I wouldn't get within a hundred miles of the MEK,"
he says. "They have no following, no legitimacy." But
neoconservatives were eager to undermine any deal that involved
cooperating with Iran. To the neocons, the value of the MEK as
a weapon against Tehran greatly outweighed any benefit that might
be derived from interrogating the Al Qaeda operatives - even though
they might provide intelligence on future terrorist attacks, as
well as clues to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
Ledeen and his Pentagon cabal were
not the only American officials to whom Ghorbanifar tried to funnel
false intelligence on Iran. Last year, Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican
from Pennsylvania, claimed he had intelligence - from an "impeccable
clandestine source" he code-named "Ali" - that
the Iranian government was plotting to launch attacks against
the United States. But when the CIA investigated the allegations,
it turned out that Ali was Fereidoun Mahdavi, an Iranian exile
who was serving as a frontman for Ghorbanifar and trying to shake
down the CIA for $150,000. "He is a fabricator," said
Bill Murray, the former CIA station chief in Paris. Weldon was
furious: The agency had dismissed Ali, he insisted, "because
they want to avoid, at all costs, drawing the United States into
a war with Iran."
After the Rome rendezvous, Ledeen
and Ghorbanifar continued to meet several times a year, often
for a day or two at a time. Rhode also met with Ghorbanifar in
Paris, and the Iranian phoned or faxed his Pentagon contacts almost
every day. At one point Ledeen notified the Pentagon that Ghorbanifar
knew of highly enriched uranium being moved from Iraq to Iran.
At another point, in 2003, he claimed that Tehran was only a few
months away from exploding a nuclear bomb - even though international
experts estimate that Iran is years away from developing nuclear
weapons. But the accuracy of the reports wasn't important - what
mattered was their value in drumming up support for war. It was
Iraq all over again.
IV. On the Trail of Mr. X
Such covert efforts by Feith's team
in the Pentagon started to have the desired effect. In November
2003, Rumsfeld approved a plan known as CONPLAN 8022-02, which
for the first time established a pre-emptive-strike capability
against Iran. That was followed in 2004 by a top-secret "Interim
Global Strike Alert Order" that put the military on a state
of readiness to launch an airborne and missile attack against
Iran, should Bush issue the command. "We're now at the point
where we are essentially on alert," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson,
commander of the 8th Air Force. "We have the capacity to
plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less."
But as the Pentagon moved the country
closer to war with Iran, the FBI was expanding its investigation
of AIPAC and its role in the plot. David Szady, then the bureau's
top spy-catcher, had become convinced that at least one American
citizen working inside the U.S. government was spying for Israel.
"It's no longer just our traditional adversaries who want
to steal our secrets, but sometimes even our allies," Szady
declared. "The threat is incredibly serious." To locate
the spy sometimes referred to as Mr. X, agents working for Szady
began focusing on a small group of neoconservatives in the Pentagon
- including Feith, Ledeen and Rhode.
The FBI also had its sights on Larry
Franklin, who continued to hold clandestine meetings with Rosen
at AIPAC. Apparently nervous that the FBI might be on to them,
the two men started taking precautions. On March 10th, 2003, barely
a week before the invasion of Iraq, Rosen met Franklin in Washington's
cavernous Union Station. The pair met at one restaurant, then
they hustled to another, and finally they ended up in a third
- this one totally empty. As an added precaution, Franklin also
began sending faxes to Rosen's home instead of to his AIPAC offices.
A few days later, Rosen and Weissman
passed on to Israeli-embassy officials details about the draft
of the top-secret presidential directive on Iran, saying they
had received the document from a "friend of ours in the Pentagon."
They also relayed to the Israelis details about internal Bush-administration
discussions on Iran. Then, two days before the U.S. invasion of
Iraq, Rosen leaked the information to the press with the comment
"I'm not supposed to know this." The Washington Post
eventually published the story under the headline "Pressure
Builds for President to Declare Strategy on Iran," crediting
the classified information to "well-placed sources."
The story mentioned Ledeen, who helped found the Coalition for
Democracy in Iran, a pressure group dedicated to the overthrow
of the Iranian government, but gave no indication that the leak
had come from someone with a definite agenda for planting the
That June, Weissman called Franklin
and left a message that he and Rosen wanted to meet with him again
and talk about "our favorite country." The meeting took
place in the Tivoli Restaurant, a dimly lit establishment two
floors above the metro station in Arlington that was frequently
used by intelligence types for quiet rendezvous. Over lunch in
the mirrored dining room, the three men discussed the Post article,
and Rosen acknowledged "the constraints" Franklin was
under to meet with them. But the Pentagon official placed himself
fully at AIPAC's disposal. "You set the agenda," Franklin
In addition to meeting Rosen and Weissman,
Franklin was also getting together regularly with Naor Gilon,
an Israeli embassy official who, according to a senior U.S. counterintelligence
official, "showed every sign of being an intelligence agent."
Franklin and Gilon would normally meet amid the weight machines
and punching bags at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club, where
Franklin passed along secret information regarding Iran's activities
in Iraq, its missile-testing program and even, apparently, New
York Times reporter Judith Miller. At one point, Gilon suggested
that Franklin meet with Uzi Arad, Mossad's former director of
intelligence and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign-policy
adviser. A week later, Franklin had lunch in the Pentagon cafeteria
with the former top Israeli spy.
V. Iran's Double Agent
Larry Franklin, it turns out, wasn't
the only person involved in the Pentagon's covert operation who
was exchanging state secrets with other governments. As the FBI
monitored Franklin and his clandestine dealings with AIPAC, it
was also investigating another explosive case of espionage linked
to Feith's office and Iran. This one focused on Ahmed Chalabi,
the head of the Iraqi National Congress, the militant anti-Saddam
opposition group that had worked for more than a decade to pressure
the U.S. into invading Iraq.
For years, the National Security Agency
had possessed the codes used by Iran to encrypt its diplomatic
messages, enabling the U.S. government to eavesdrop on virtually
every communication between Tehran and its embassies. After the
U.S. invaded Baghdad, the NSA used the codes to listen in on details
of Iran's covert operations inside Iraq. But in 2004, the agency
intercepted a series of urgent messages from the Iranian embassy
in Baghdad. Intelligence officials at the embassy had discovered
the massive security breach - tipped off by someone familiar with
the U.S. code-breaking operation.
The blow to intelligence-gathering
could not have come at a worse time. The Bush administration suspected
that the Shiite government in Iran was aiding Shiite insurgents
in Iraq, who were killing U.S. soldiers. The administration was
also worried that Tehran was secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Now, crucial intelligence that might have shed light on those
operations had been cut off, potentially endangering American
On May 20th, shortly after the discovery
of the leak, Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided Chalabi's
home and offices in Baghdad. The FBI suspected that Chalabi, a
Shiite who had a luxurious villa in Tehran and was close to senior
Iranian officials, was actually working as a spy for the Shiite
government of Iran. Getting the U.S. to invade Iraq was apparently
part of a plan to install a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad,
with Chalabi in charge. The bureau also suspected that Chalabi's
intelligence chief had furnished Iran with highly classified information
on U.S. troop movements, top-secret communications, plans of the
provisional government and other closely guarded material on U.S.
operations in Iraq. On the night of the raid, The CBS Evening
News carried an exclusive report by correspondent Lesley Stahl
that the U.S. government had "rock-solid" evidence that
Chalabi had been passing extremely sensitive intelligence to Iran
- evidence so sensitive that it could "get Americans killed."
The revelation shocked Franklin and
other members of Feith's office. If true, the allegations meant
that they had just launched a war to put into power an agent of
their mortal enemy, Iran. Their man - the dissident leader who
sat behind the first lady in the president's box during the State
of the Union address in which Bush prepared the country for war
- appeared to have been working for Iran all along.
Franklin needed to control the damage,
and fast. He was one of the very few in the government who knew
that it was the NSA code-breaking information that Chalabi was
suspected of passing to Iran, and that there was absolute proof
that Chalabi had met with a covert Iranian agent involved in operations
against the U.S. To protect those in the Pentagon working for
regime change in Tehran, Franklin needed to get out a simple message:
We didn't know about Chalabi's secret dealings with Iran.
Franklin decided to leak the information
to a friendly contact in the media: Adam Ciralsky, a CBS producer
who had been fired from the CIA, allegedly for his close ties
to Israel. On May 21st, the day after CBS broadcast its exclusive
report on Chalabi, Franklin phoned Ciralsky and fed him the information.
As the two men talked, eavesdroppers at the FBI's Washington field
office recorded the conversation.
That night, Stahl followed up her
original report with "new details" - the information
leaked earlier that day by Franklin. She began, however, by making
clear that she would not divulge the most explosive detail of
all: the fact that Chalabi had wrecked the NSA's ability to eavesdrop
on Iran. "Senior intelligence officials were stressing today
that the information Ahmed Chalabi is alleged to have passed on
to Iran is so seriously sensitive that the result of full disclosure
would be highly damaging to U.S. security," Stahl said. "Because
of that, we are not reporting the details of what exactly Chalabi
is said to have compromised, at the request of U.S. officials
at the highest levels. The information involves secrets that were
held by only a handful of very senior intelligence officials."
Thanks to the pressure from the administration, the public was
prevented from learning the most damaging aspect of Chalabi's
Then Stahl moved on to Franklin's
central message. "Meanwhile," she said, "we have
been told that grave concerns about the true nature of Chalabi's
relationship with Iran started after the U.S. obtained, quote,
'undeniable intelligence' that Chalabi met with a senior Iranian
intelligence officer, a, quote, 'nefarious figure from the dark
side of the regime, an individual with a direct hand in covert
operations against the United States.' Chalabi never reported
this meeting to anyone in the U.S. government, including his friends
and sponsors." In short, the Pentagon - and Feith's office
in particular - was blameless.
VI. The Cabal's Triumph
Soon after the broadcast, David Szady's
team at the FBI decided to wrap up its investigation before Franklin
leaked any more information. Agents quietly confronted Franklin
with the taped phone call and pressured him to cooperate in a
sting operation directed at AIPAC and members of Feith's team
in the Pentagon. Franklin, facing a long prison sentence, agreed.
On August 4th, 2005, Rosen and Weissman were indicted, and on
January 20th, 2006, Franklin, who had earlier pleaded guilty,
was sentenced to twelve years and seven months in prison. In an
attempt to reduce his sentence, he agreed to testify against the
former AIPAC officials. The case is set to go to trial this fall.
So far, however, Franklin is the only
member of Feith's team to face charges. The continuing lack of
indictments demonstrates how frighteningly easy it is for a small
group of government officials to join forces with agents of foreign
powers - whether it is AIPAC or the MEK or the INC - to sell the
country on a disastrous war.
The most glaring unindicted co-conspirator
is Ahmed Chalabi. Even top-ranking Republicans suspect him of
double dealing: "I wouldn't be surprised if he told Iranians
facts, issues, whatever, that we did not want them to know,"
said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who chairs the House subcommittee
on national security. Yet the FBI has been unable to so much as
question Chalabi as part of its ongoing espionage case. Last November,
when Chalabi returned to the United States for a series of speeches
and media events, the FBI tried to interview him. But because
he was under State Department protection during his visit, sources
in the Justice Department say, the bureau's request was flatly
"Chalabi's running around saying,
'I have nothing to hide,'" says one senior FBI official.
"Yet he's using our State Department to keep us from him
at the same time. And we've got to keep our mouth shut."
In the end, the work of Franklin and
the other members of Feith's secret office had the desired effect.
Working behind the scenes, the members of the Office of Special
Plans succeeded in setting the United States on the path to all-out
war with Iran. Indeed, since Bush was re-elected to a second term,
he has made no secret of his desire to see Tehran fall. In a victory
speech of sorts on Inauguration Day in January 2005, Vice President
Dick Cheney warned bluntly that Iran was "right at the top"
of the administration's list of "trouble spots" - and
that Israel "might well decide to act first" by attacking
Iran. The Israelis, Cheney added in an obvious swipe at moderates
in the State Department, would "let the rest of the world
worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."
Over the past six months, the administration
has adopted almost all of the hard-line stance advocated by the
war cabal in the Pentagon. In May, Bush's ambassador to the United
Nations, John Bolton, appeared before AIPAC's annual conference
and warned that Iran "must be made aware that if it continues
down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible
and painful consequences." To back up the tough talk, the
State Department is spending $66 million to promote political
change inside Iran - funding the same kind of dissident groups
that helped drive the U.S. to war in Iraq. "We may face no
greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared.
In addition, the State Department
recently beefed up its Iran Desk from two people to ten, hired
more Farsi speakers and set up eight intelligence units in foreign
countries to focus on Iran. The administration's National Security
Strategy - the official policy document that sets out U.S. strategic
priorities - now calls Iran the "single country" that
most threatens U.S. interests.
The shift in official policy has thrilled
former members of the cabal. To them, the war in Lebanon represents
the final step in their plan to turn Iran into the next Iraq.
Ledeen, writing in the National Review on July 13th, could hardly
restrain himself. "Faster, please," he urged the White
House, arguing that the war should now be taken over by the U.S.
military and expanded across the entire region. "The only
way we are going to win this war is to bring down those regimes
in Tehran and Damascus, and they are not going to fall as a result
of fighting between their terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon
on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Only the United States
can accomplish it," he concluded. "There is no other
James Bamford is the author of A Pretext
for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies.
His story for RS on consultant John Rendon, "The Man Who
Sold the War" [RS 988], won the 2006 National Magazine Award