July 27, 2006
Rolling Stone

Iran: The Next War

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.

by James Bamford

I. The Israeli Connection

. . . 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. . . .

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. . . .

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,"

. . . the war in Lebanon represents the final step in their plan to turn Iran into the next Iraq.


Julian Borger, "The Spies Who Pushed for War," Guardian, July 17, 2003

Enver Masud, "Iran Has an 'Inalienable Right' to Nuclear Energy," The Wisdom Fund, January 16, 2006

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby," London Review of Books, March 23, 2006

Paul Krugman, "Yes He Would," New York Times, April 10, 2006

[Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009. By this time, Iran could have had sufficient time to prepare the other components of a nuclear weapon, although the weapon may not be small enough to be deliverable by a ballistic missile.

This result reflects a worst-case assessment for arms control. Iran can be expected to take longer, as it is likely to encounter technical difficulties that would delay bringing a centrifuge plant into operation.--David Albright, "When could Iran get the Bomb?," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2006]

[By secretly providing NSA intelligence to Israel and undermining the hapless Condi Rice, hardliners in the Bush administration are trying to widen the Middle East conflict to Iran and Syria, not stop it.--Sidney Blumenthal, "The neocons' next war," Salon, August 3, 2006]

[It was the opportunity Hizbullah's action seemed to offer of dealing a telling blow to Iran by crushing its Lebanese proxy, it can be argued, which danced in the minds of members of Israel's cabinet and general staff. What impelled the US, followed by Britain, to delay and obstruct the diplomacy which might have brought an earlier end to the fighting was, again arguably, that same impulse. Taking down Iran was more important than saving villagers in Lebanon or civilians in Israel.

. . . the Iranians, who had expressed their sympathy for Americans in spontaneous demonstrations after 9/11 and offered practical help in Afghanistan, were hardly prepared to be named as members of the "axis of evil" in Bush's notorious State of the Union address in 2002.--Leader: "Aiming for Iran," Guardian, August 8, 2006]

[President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah's heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre‘mptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations--Seymour M. Hersh, "Washington's interests in Israel's war," New Yorker, August 14, 2006]

[It is feared that the weapons-grade uranium from the South African nukes will be used as a "smoking gun" to show Iran's possession of nuclear weapons--Wayne Madsen, "David Kelly knew about South African nuclear weapons program,", August 21, 2006]

[IAEA inspectors have yet to see any indication - much less evidence - that Iran has engaged in any activity involving the use of any amount of proscribed nuclear materials in furtherance of a military purpose.--Gordon Prather, "Cooking Intelligence Again,", August 29, 2006]

[ElBaradei once again confirmed that Iran remained in total compliance with its original NPT-required Safeguards Agreement. And that Iran continues to provide cooperation on certain matters beyond that required. . . .

This is where Iran has chosen to make its stand. Defending the NPT, the IAEA-NPT nuke proliferation prevention regime, the IAEA Board of Governors, the UN Security Council and the UN Charter, itself, against assaults by Bonkers Bolton and his Gang of Three.--Gordon Prather, "Whoops! Bolton's Bad,", September 2, 2006]

[President George W Bush is coming under enormous pressure from Israel - and from Israel's neoconservative friends inside and outside the US administration - to harden still further his stance toward Iran.Patrick Seale, "Pressures mount on Bush to bomb Iran," Daily Star, September 16, 2006]

"'We Are Conducting Military Operations Inside Iran Right Now'," CNN, September 18, 2006

Scott Ritter, "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change," Nation Books; 1st edition (September 28, 2006)

Arnaud de Borchgrave, "If and when Bush 'Iraqs' Iran," Washington Times, October 3, 2006

Jonathon Cook, "The BBC and Israeli Propaganda,", October 11, 2006

VIDEO: [ . . .the most important thing is to understand the reality that Iran is squarely in the crosshairs as a target of the Bush administration, in particular, as a target of the Bush administration as it deals -- as it relates to the National Security Strategy of the United States. You see, this isn't a hypothetical debate among political analysts, foreign policy specialists. Read the 2006 version of the National Security Strategy, where Iran is named sixteen times as the number one threat to the national security of the United States of America, because in the same document, it embraces the notion of pre-emptive wars of aggression as a legitimate means of dealing with such threats. It also recertifies the Bush administration doctrine of regional transformation globally, but in this case particularly in the Middle East. So, we're not talking about hypotheticals here, regardless of all the discussion the Bush administration would like you to believe there is about diplomacy. There is no diplomacy, as was the case with Iraq. Diplomacy is but a smokescreen to disguise the ultimate objective of regime change. . . .

The true power in Iran rests with the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is the Ayatollah Khamenei. He is supported by an organization called the Guardian Council. Then there's another group called the Expediency Council. These are the people that control the military, the police, the nuclear program, all the instruments of power. And not only has the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa that says that nuclear weapons are not compatible with Islamic law, with the Shia belief system that he is responsible, in 2003 he actually reached out to the Bush administration via the Swiss embassy and said, "Look, we would like to normalize relations with the United States. We'd like to initiate a process that leads to a peace treaty between Israel and Iran." Get this, Israel and Iran. He's not saying, "We want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth." He is saying, "We want peace with Israel." And they were willing to put their nuclear program on the table.

Why didn"t the Bush administration embrace this? Because that leads to a process of normalization, where the United States recognizes the legitimacy of the theocracy and is willing to peacefully coexist with the theocracy. That's not the Bush administration's position. They want the theocracy gone. . . .

On the ground, the CIA is recruiting Mojahedin-e-Khalq, recruiting Kurds, recruiting Azeris, who are operating inside Iran on behalf of the United States of America. And there is reason to believe that we've actually put uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces and American citizens operating as CIA paramilitaries inside Iranian territory to gather intelligence.

Now, when you violate the borders and the airspace of a sovereign nation with paramilitary and military forces, that's an act of war. That's an act of war. So, when Americans say, "Ah, there's not going to be a war in Iran," there's already a war in Iran. We're at war with Iran. We're just not in the declared conventional stage of the war.--Scott Ritter, "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change," Democracy Now, October 16, 2006]

George Jahn, "30 more countries could have nukes soon," Associated Press, October 16, 2006

"CIA analysis finds no Iranian nuclear weapons drive: report," AFP, November 19, 2006

[ . . . if the objective is to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, then Iran has put on the table so many suggestions based on serious research by independent scholars that would, from a legal perspective, from a political perspective, as well as from a technical and monitoring perspective, make it next to impossible for Iran to divert this technology to non-peaceful uses. These suggestions included, for instance, permanent presence of IAEA inspectors, which goes even beyond the additional protocol.--"The Next Act: Will the Republicans' Mid-Term Loss Hurt Chances of a War on Iran?,", November 21, 2006]

[Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington's arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.--Editorial: "Busywork for Nuclear Scientists," New York Times, January 15, 2007]

[David Albright, operating under the guise of his creation, ISIS, has a track record of inserting hype and speculation about matters of great sensitivity in a manner which skews the debate toward the worst-case scenario.--Scott Ritter, "The Nuclear Expert Who Never Was,", June 26, 2008]

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