Saturday :: Aug 9, 2003

Rummy/Cheney/Rice Take Foreign Policy Back To The Iran/Contra Days

by Steve

A story that got little notice in the last twenty-four hours has troubling but not unexpected portends for our foreign policy. In a page stolen from the scandal-plagued 1980’s of Iran-Contra, Newsday revealed that the Bush Administration has condoned competing foreign policies towards Iran within its own Cabinet. While the State Department was carrying on behind-the-scenes backchannel talks with the moderate elements of Iran’s government, Donald Rumsfeld and his out-of-control deputy Douglas Feith were permitted by the White House to submarine those talks by openly talking with a discredited Iran-Contra arms trader about overthrowing the regime, in an effort to incite the conservative ayatollahs to break off the talks with the moderate leadership of President Khatami.

Worse yet, the Administration admits that it had another earlier meeting with the Iranians and the discredited arms dealer after 9/11 when the Iranians approached us with information that may be of help, but Rummy says the information wasn’t worth following up on. Yet we have since threatened to topple the Iranians because they allegedly haven’t helped us in getting Al Qaeda?

The original story in yesterday’s Newsday reflects that State, the CIA and other parts of the Administration complained of Defense’s attempts to run a second foreign policy towards Iran and undercut the backchannel work with the moderates.

The administration officials who disclosed the secret meetings to Newsday said the talks with Ghorbanifar were not authorized by the White House and appeared to be aimed at undercutting current sensitive back channel negotiations with the Iranian regime.

"They [the Pentagon officials] were talking to him [Ghorbanifar] about stuff which they weren't officially authorized to do," said a senior administration official. "It was only accidentally that certain parts of our government learned about it."

The official would not identify those "parts" of the government, but a former intelligence official confirmed they are the State Department, the CIA and the White House, itself.

The senior official and another administration source who confirmed that the meetings had taken place said that the ultimate policy objective of Feith and a group of neo-conservatives civilians inside the Pentagon is regime change in Iran.

This second official said, "United States policy officially is not regime change, overtly or covertly," but to engage Iranian officials in dialogue over contentious issues, such as Iran's nuclear weapons program, and to press the regime to extradite al-Qaida operatives.

He said that the immediate objective of the Pentagon hardliners appears to be to "antagonize Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden U.S. policy against them."

He confirmed that Secretary of State Colin Powell complained directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld several days ago about Feith's policy shop conducting missions that countered U.S. policy.

A spokesman for Feith's Near East, South Asia and Special Plans office, the controversial intelligence office that sources said played a key role in the Ghorbanifar contacts, did not respond yesterday to an e-mailed inquiry about those contacts. Newsday's inquiry was e-mailed at the spokesman's request.

The senior administration official identified two of the Defense officials who met with Ghorbanifar as Harold Rhode, Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's office.

Rhode recently acted as a liaison between Feith's office, which drafted much of the administration's post-Iraq planning, and Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile disdained by the CIA and State Department but groomed for leadership by the Pentagon.

Rhode is a protege of Michael Ledeen, a neo-conservative who was a National Security Council consultant in the mid-1980s when he introduced Ghorbanifar to Oliver North, a National Security Council aide, and others in the opening stages of the Iran-contra affair.

A former CIA officer who himself was involved in some aspects of the Iran-contra scandal said that current intelligence officers told him it was Ledeen who reopened the Ghorbanifar channel with Feith's staff.

Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and an ardent advocate for regime change in Iran, would neither confirm nor deny that he arranged for the Ghorbanifar meetings. "I'm not going to comment on any private meetings with any private people," he said. "It's nobody's business."

Ghorbanifar, who is said to live in Paris, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ledeen once described him as "one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known." But the CIA, noting he had failed four polygraph tests administered during the arms-for-hostages deals, warned its officers not to deal with him, asserting he "should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and nuisance."

The senior administration official said he was puzzled by the resurfacing of Ghorbanifar after all these years. "It would be amazing if anybody in government hadn't learned the lessons of last time around," he said. "These guys [including Ledeen] should have learned it, 'cause they lived it."

If in fact the White House didn’t authorize Rummy and Feith’s meddling, and Powell and the CIA are on record complaining about this, why hasn’t Feith and ultimately Rummy been fired for this? Either because if was in fact authorized by Cheney or Bush, or because Bush runs an out-of-control White House, and likes it that way. Why does Powell continue to serve when it is clear that Rummy/Cheney/Rice have been allowed to undercut and humiliate him like this continually? And why does Rummy/Cheney/Rice see no problem with foreign policy being led by a loon like Michael Ledeen from the AEI?

Send an email to Joe Biden, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and ask him to raise a ruckus over this. Biden would love to use an issue like this for his possible presidential campaign, since Biden was involved in the Iran-Contra mess the first time around. Biden can be reached at

Or you can send a fax to Tony Blinken, staff director for Biden’s committee staff, at 202-228-3612

Dick Lugar has always been a straight-shooter on foreign policy, and even though he is the GOP leader of the committee, I cannot imagine that he would be pleased at this development. You may want to rattle his cage about this as well by emailing him at

You may also want some of the foreign policy or CIA reporters at the Washington Post to look into this. You can contact Jim Hoagland at, or Walter Pincus at

You have to assume after seeing a story like this that our foreign policy has returned to the dark days of the 1980’s, with any extra-constitutional activities possible and condoned by a president and vice-president who see nothing wrong with undercutting the Secretary of State and running a second foreign policy. If Rummy/Cheney/Rice are comfortable doing this, what else is going on that we do not know about?

Steve :: 3:24 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!