Saturday, August 09, 2003

Yesterday's Newsday report about "secret and unauthorized" talks with a Iranian arms dealer brought back vague memories from the Iran-contra affair. The memories intensified after reading that--cover the children's eyes--the arms dealer turns out to be a figure that was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. The report was dismissed but acknowledged quickly back in Texas, where Dubya took a vacation from his vacation to address reporters, together with Rumsfeld--who obviously doesn't read the newspaper nor is briefed by his people.

Q Mr. President, for you and for Secretary Rumsfeld, please. Secretary Rumsfeld, did you authorize Pentagon officials to hold some secret talks with Iran-Contra figure Manucher Ghoreanifar, in order to push for a regime change in Iran? And Mr. President, do you think that's a good idea, and is the new policy official policy, regime change in Iran?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I had not had a chance to see these articles -- or an article, that I guess exists. I did get briefed by Condi and Larry DiRita here a minute ago. And my understanding is that some -- one or two Pentagon people were approached by some people who had information about Iranians that wanted to provide information to the United States government, that a meeting did take place -- this is more than a year ago -- that such a meeting did take place and the information was moved around the interagency process to all the departments and agencies. And it dropped. That is to say, the -- as I understand it, there wasn't anything there that was of substance or of value that needed to be pursued further.
And in today's Washington Post, it turns out that it was Harold Rhode who met with the arms dealer, identified as Manucher Ghorbanifar. Allegedly, the second meeting was an "unplanned and unschedueled encounter" in Paris. Yeah, right. Paul Wolfowitz's "Islamic adviser" and protege--according to Joshua Marshall(*)-- just happened to meet an Iranian arms dealer, in Paris, who was enlisted years earlier to exchange arms for hostages in Tehran? (Rhode is also identifed as "a specialist on Iran and Iraq who recently served in Baghdad as the Pentagon liaison to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, and Larry Franklin, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst," by the Washington Post.)

Last week, I interviewed L Bruce Laingen--the most senior official taken hostage in Tehran--for the Persian service of the Voice of America and he made it clear that "there's no policy towards Iran." And he was right. There's no official policy towards Iran, and the neo-cons at the Pentagon differ on this. The Nation's Jason Vest reported just less than a year ago, that Michael Ledeen has been advocating regime change for Iran (together with the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria) while Rhode is less hawkish. He actually is in favor of re-engineering ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Was it really was unauthorized and did Rhode act alone or did he receive orders and follow them? Your guess.

[(*) Note how, Josh's article is exactly one year ago.]


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