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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Michael Ledeen's Iran disinformation: More prep work

The public is being prepared to blame the next terror strike on Iran. At the moment, the propaganda effort stands somewhere between a trickle and a barrage. We get new disinformation assaults once a week now. Soon, we will receive them once a day.

For the latest, I urge you to read Xymphora's analysis of Curt Weldon's new propaganda volume, which bears the ominous (and telling) title Countdown to Terror. Xymphora draws, in turn, from a spectacular new piece by Laura Rozen in the American Prospect.

The information in this book (published by Regnery, naturally) derives from a source Weldon calls "Ali." "Ali" is actually one Fereidoun Mahdavi, an elderly former minister in the corrupt government of the former Shah of Iran.

Mahdavi, in turn, is merely a cut-out. The real source for his catalogue of horrors is the inscrutable Iran/contra wheeler-dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, who dances to a neocon tune. His partner is the mysterious Michael Ledeen, Iran-contra player and (according to several published sources) former member of Licio Gelli's crypto-fascist Italian secret society, P2.

(How Ghorbanifar stays alive is beyond me.)

From Rozen's piece:

Mahdavi also said that the bulk of the information that he had provided to Weldon was originally sourced from none other than Ghorbanifar, the subject of a rare CIA "burn notice" after the agency found him to be a "fabricator" more than two decades ago during the Iran-Contra affair.

"Many information that I have given to Weldon is coming from Ghorbanifar," said Mahdavi, who was reached in Paris by telephone on June 6. "Because Ghorbanifar used me, in fact, to pass that stuff because I know he has problems in Washington."

The former minister continued: "I am well-known in Tehran. How can I call Tehran? But Ghorbanifar is something else. He has all the contacts within Iran. Nobody has so many information and contacts that he has. Now if he is using that information through me to try to buy power indirectly, that is his business. I do it because I have known him for many years."

Several Iranian exile associates of the pair have told the Prospect that Mahdavi, living in reduced circumstances and caring for his cancer-stricken wife, is in fact financially dependent on Ghorbanifar. They have been involved in various businesses together, from petroleum shipping to arms dealing to (more recently) intelligence peddling, since both washed up in Paris after the Iranian revolution in 1979

Bill Murray, a former CIA station chief in Paris, met with me on June 9 at a northern Virginia shopping mall to talk about Weldon's assault on the agency. Still doing contract work for the CIA since his recent retirement, Murray chose to speak up about the agency's role in vetting and determining "Ali's" information to be fabrications -- "emigre babble" -- because Weldon has publicly savaged the CIA in his book. By speaking with reporters, Murray believes he could be risking his contract work, but he's outraged over what he considers disingenuous attacks by the Pennsylvania congressman.

"Someone's got to stand up," Murray said. "I spent 35 years doing this job, mainly in the Middle East. My guideline is well-sourced intelligence to help shape policy. That's what I did; that's what my people did. That is my standard, the integrity standard. And this man [Weldon] is attacking our integrity. And I'm not going to sit back and ignore it."
All of which brings us back to the Larry Franklin and the AIPAC scandal -- and to this key Washington Monthly piece by Rozen and Joshua Marshall:

The investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. In particular, the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up.

Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.
The American public must understand that the neocons now operate their own intelligence networks. They have, in essence, formed a trans-national secret society whose members are bound by ideology, not by institutional or national loyalty.

The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. (According to UPI, Ledeen was then working for Feith as a consultant.) Also in attendance was Ghorbanifar and a number of other Iranians. One of the Iranians, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, was a former senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who claimed to have information about dissident ranks within the Iranian security services. The Washington Monthly has also learned from U.S. government sources that Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, attended the meetings, as did the Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino, who is well-known in neoconservative circles in Washington.
Note the part played by SISMI. When the P2 scandal broke in the 1980s, the European press reported that Licio Gelli had recruited many Italian intelligence officers; they jocularly referrred to themselves as "Super SISMI."

Since I accept the reports of a Ledeen/P2 link, I believe I know the name of the fellow who put all these players together.

When the United States suffers the next terror attack -- and long-time readers know just what form that attack will take (in my opinion) -- the public will feel desperate to learn the identity of the perpetrators. I predict that Italian intelligence will provide the "smoking gun" evidence which will allow the Bush administration to blame, and attack, Iran. Whether the evidence takes the form of intercepted communications or a document does not matter; the "proof" will surely be as phony as those "yellowcake" papers. Alas, an enraged public will not demand verification.

This Ledeen bio) notes the P2 connection, and also offers a sharp observation about the dark game this man hopes to play:

Michael Ledeen, the neocons' point man on regime change in Iran (and in Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia), is apparently capable of viewing diplomacy only through the barrel of a gun, arguing in a November 2003 piece for the National Review Online that the "appeasers" in Congress and the State Department "don't want to know about Iran, because if they did, they would be driven to take actions that they do not want to take. They would have to support democratic revolution in Iran, and they prefer to schmooze with the mullahs." He concludes, "I guess some top official will have to die at the hands of (obviously) Iranian-supported terrorists before the Pentagon is permitted to work on the subject." (8)

Commenting on Ledeen's screed, Anthony Gancarski of wrote, "[Ledeen] talks of military confrontation with Iran, which will be ugly like nothing since the Korean war, like he's a frat boy trying to get laid.
I disagree only as to the scale of the conflict: Compared to the coming holocaust in Iran, the Korean war will seem about as unpleasant as a hangnail.

Many will recall the devastating impact of the Exocet missile, as used byArgentinentine military against British ships during the 1982 Falklands war. An Exocet that failed to explode nevertheless managed to destroy the Sheffield. Poor nations view such missiles as great equalizers:

In the years after the Falklands War it was revealed that the British government and intelligence agencies were extremely concerned by the perceived inadequacy of the British navy's anti-missile defences against the Exocet and the missile's potential to tip the naval war decidedly in favour of the Argentine forces. In London, a nightmare scenario was being envisaged where one or both of the UK forces two aircraft carriers (HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes) was destroyed or incapacitated by an Exocet attack. Under such circumstances, military analysts considered that the British would have had serious difficulty in further prosecuting an attempt to recapture the Falklands from the Argentine forces.
Argentina had but a handful of these weapons. Iran possess at least 300 -- and they are of a more advanced design. They also possess the even more advanced C-802 anti-ship missile, provided by China.

What lovely irony. The fiercely Republican family behind Wal-Mart will happily sell you cheap merchandise manufactured under ghastly circumstances in communist China -- even though, back in the 1980s, lefties were derided for buying Nicaraguan coffee. The Chinese government owns a piece of every industrial enterprise operating in that country; thus, every time you buy made-in-China t-shirts, you help fund the C-802 missile.

And that very missile will soon obliterate ships containing American marines and seamen, if Michael Ledeen and his neocon cabal get their way.

Can the situation get worse? Yes.

The Russians have provided the Iranians with the even more deadly Sunburn missile, whose payload can make the Exocet's look like a string of firecrackers. We have no real defense against the Sunburn:

The Sunburn can deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear payload, or: a 750-pound conventional warhead, within a range of 100 miles, more than twice the range of the Exocet. The Sunburn combines a Mach 2.1 speed (two times the speed of sound) with a flight pattern that hugs the deck and includes "violent end maneuvers" to elude enemy defenses. The missile was specifically designed to defeat the US Aegis radar defense system. Should a US Navy Phalanx point defense somehow manage to detect an incoming Sunburn missile, the system has only seconds to calculate a fire solution -- not enough time to take out the intruding missile. The US Phalanx defense employs a six-barreled gun that fires 3,000 depleted-uranium rounds a minute, but the gun must have precise coordinates to destroy an intruder "just in time."

The Sunburn's combined supersonic speed and payload size produce tremendous kinetic energy on impact, with devastating consequences for ship and crew. A single one of these missiles can sink a large warship, yet costs considerably less than a fighter jet. Although the Navy has been phasing out the older Phalanx defense system, its replacement, known as the Rolling Action Missile (RAM) has never been tested against the weapon it seems destined to one day face in combat.
Obviously, any conflict with Iran will soon go nuclear. In order to "liberate" Iran (as Michael Ledeen says we must for only an "appeaser" would say otherwise), Tehran and other large Iranian cities must be reduced to radioactive rubble. Nothing short of nuclear annihilation can subdue that nation.

Why on earth would even so foul a fellow as Ghorbanifar court this outcome?
The USA hasn't sufficient manpower to fight a war with Iran. The only way to defeat Iran would be to use nuclear weapons. If the USA nuked Iran, however, Americans (not to mention foreign countries) would be aghast. It would likely provoke a civil war here. There's only one scenario in which the American public would accept such an attack. And that's if Iraq first attacked us with a nuclear weapon. So, Joseph, if you're right about a coming war with Iran, you're probably also right that an American city will suffer a nuclear terrorist attack. We all hope you're wrong.
There's no doubt that elements of the right-wing are "preparing" (or perhaps just fomenting) public opinion for an attack an Iran. The whole effort, including the reliance on self-interested exile groups, is a virtual carbon copy of what we saw in the pre-invasion Iraq PR effort.

What's not altogether clear is whether this disinformation campaign amounts to a unified front or just the wet dream of the far fringe.

The U.S. clearly does not have the manpower to occupy Iraq, and, in any case, "we" don't not invade countries which have the power to fight back. So it's not altogether clear for what this PR vanguard is laying the groundwork -- unless one accepts the nuclear scenario.

It's far more likely that the current PR campaign is just right-wing noise. The costs of a nuclear attack, either in Chicago or Tehran, are so enormous that even Bush & Co. would have to think twice.
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