Friday, April 21, 2006
Even overweight cats instinctively know the cardinal rule: when fat, arrange yourself in slim poses." John Weitz.
Kevin Drum digs into the past and provides the story of an opportunity lost when the Bush administration rejected overtures by Iran to engage the U.S. in diplomatic talks. Iran, in 2002-2003, using diplomatic back-channels, attempted to negotiate an end to differences which were putting the countries at odds with each other. Known as the "grand bargain" by Iran watchers, it was suddenly crushed when the U.S. rejected the attempt and then informed the messengers (Swiss, Swedish and British embassies) that forwarding Iran's offers were diplomatic violations.
Given that Iran was intent on settling the impasses over their nuclear program, any push for diplomacy should have been welcome. However, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, once Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, it was Cheney and the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, Douglas Feith who killed the attempt. Why? Because, just as for Iraq, they had one focus for Iran: regime change.
Jumping forward, Raw Story has reported that Dick Cheney and the Pentagon have contracted Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar as a spy to report on any attempt at diplomatic discussions between Iran and the U.S.ambassador in Iraq, Zelmay Khalilzad.
Despite the fact that Khalilzad appears to have been authorized by the State Department to open a dialogue with Iran over their involvement in Iraq, the discussions have been put on hold, apparently by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Any discussions with Iran run counter to their objective: the overthrow of Iran's government. Sound familiar?
The emergence of Manucher Ghorbanifar, again, adds an element of slime to the whole situation. Ghorbanifar is to Iran what Ahmed Chalabi was to Iraq - only worse.
Ghorbanifar, a notorious arms-dealer, was the middle-man in the Iran-Contra affair, who convinced Oliver North to direct the profits from the illegal sale of missiles to Iran to the Nicaraguan Contras. He was also providing information and intelligence to the CIA. The Iranians distrusted Ghorbanifar and believed that "end user certificates" received from the U.S. were forged. Then CIA director William Casey believed Ghorbanifar was manufacturing information and, after some serious interrogations, declared him an unreliable source, issuing a burn notice to allied intelligence services declaring him completely untrustworthy.
What makes Ghorbanifar central to the Iran situation is that on every occasion that there has been any diplomatic effort to engage Iran in the past five years, the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal has run a counter-effort and Ghorbanifar has been in their dugout.
Much of Cheney's and Rumsfeld's determination to annul diplomatic efforts with Iran and pursue regime change, by military force if necessary, is fed by Michael Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. It was Ledeen who set up a December 2001 meeting in Rome between Ghorbanifar and Defense Intelligence Agency officers Larry Franklin and Harry Rhode. At the time Ledeen was also on contract as a consultant to none other than Douglas Feith. The meeting was supposedly intended to transmit information from disaffected officials inside the Iranian power structure regarding the war on terrorism and Iranian involvement in Afghanistan.
In 2002, at about the same time as the first diplomatic effort from Iran, another meeting took place in Paris, again involving Franklin and Rhode, Iranian exiles and Manucher Ghorbanifar. The meeting had no sanction and the topics of discussion are not clear, but then Secretary of State Colin Powell accused Douglas Feith of running his own missions in contradiction to State Department policy. What is known now is that regime change in Iran was discussed. When the media got their hands on it the Senate Intelligence Committee launched an investigation. Rumsfeld dismissed the meetings as having produced nothing of value. However, the neo-cons had won and the back-channel communications with Iran had been closed down. Ghorbanifar made noises that he expected to be paid for his intermediary activities but soon disappeared from view.
This latest emergence of Ghorbanifar signals yet another effort by the Cheney/Rumsfeld led extremist faction in the Bush administrationn to crush any diplomatic pursuit in dealing with Iran. Discredited by the CIA as a fabricator, Ghorbanifar's attractiveness to Cheney and Rumsfeld is the same as it was for Chalabi - his obsession with regime change. And like Chalabi, Ghorbanifar is a proven liar. He is another morally challenged swine who produces rubbish labeled intelligence - something Cheney and Rumsfeld find useful in their efforts to justify the march to a more expanded war.
It provides another demonstration of what Cheney and Rumsfeld are all about. They have little interest in establishing peaceful relations with any country which doesn't submit to their overarching demands for empire. They are indistinguishable from bottom-feeders like Ghorbanifar and Chalabi. They will lie, cheat and threaten their way into a war with Iran - unless they're stopped.
And until they are, expect to hear more of Manucher Ghorbanifar.