Monday, 6 September 2004

FBI painting ugly picture

by Eric Margolis

The dots in Washington are connecting. It's not a pretty sight.

Last week the results of a controversial two-year FBI investigation were leaked to the media.

The story is potentially a huge scandal and may indicate a furious power struggle between neocon supporters of Israel's far right Likud Party, who dominated the Pentagon and National Security Council, and the CIA and the state department.

The FBI is focusing on the Pentagon's policy department, a mini state department within defence that plays a key role in U.S. Mideast policy. It is headed by a neocon activist, defence undersecretary Douglas Feith, who has longtime links to Likud.

The Pentagon's chief Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, who works for Feith's deputy, William Luti, is under FBI investigation for allegedly passing top secret presidential policy papers on Iran to two senior members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC, one of Washington's most powerful lobbies, allegedly passed them to Israel's spy service. Israel is alarmed by Iran's nuclear developments.

AIPAC and Israel deny spying. The Pentagon says that Franklin is the only member of the department suspected of wrongdoing. Israel insists it ceased espionage in the U.S. after its agent, Jonathan Pollard, was jailed in 1987. Pollard's controller in the U.S. government, known to the FBI as "Mr. X," has never been caught.

Still, the current investigation is one indication of growing concerns that U.S. national security and foreign policy have been gravely compromised, or even hijacked, by a small but powerful group of Bush administration neocons. The concern is that this group, with the aid of Vice-President Dick Cheney, helped to engineer the Iraq war at least in part to destroy an enemy of Israel.

While only Franklin is under investigation, he works for Feith's office. Feith reports to deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, another strong supporter of Israel.

Cheney and Wolfowitz were among the prime architects of the Iraq war.

In 1996, Feith and neocon Israel supporter Richard Perle were among the authors of the policy plan, "A Clean Break," for Israel's then Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for Greater Israel. As well, it called for a much more aggressive policy on Iraq and Syria and for ending peace talks with the Palestinians.

Feith ran the Pentagon's Office for Special Plans (OSP), which relied for much of its information about Iraq on the likes of the notorious Ahmad Chalabi.

Feith, Wolfowitz and Perle were key backers of Chalabi, a convicted swindler, planning to make him a key leader of Iraq. Chalabi's carefully crafted falsehoods and exaggerations about Iraq provided the White House with much of its pretext for war.

The rock just turned over by the FBI also reveals other familiar denizens. Welcome back Iranian con-man and arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, a key figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal that nearly brought down the Reagan administration.

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