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9/03/2004

Iran Contra II Update IV

Laura Rozen and Jason Vest get top honors today, with their piece in the American Prospect. Rozen and Vest flesh out some of the contours of the investigation by reporting on an FBI interview with Stephen Green, an expert on Israeli intelligence operations within the US. It gives significant insight into the scope of the various investigations.

Honorable mention goes to three pieces, all helpful in determining the scope of the investigation. First, Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder provides an expansive look at the Iran policy dispute that precipitated Franklin's alleged leak. The central investigation appears to revolve around DoD efforts to support the MEK over opposition by the State Department, CIA, and NSA. But the tentacles of the investigation reach deep:

FBI agents have briefed top White House, Pentagon and State Department officials on the probe in recent days. Based on those briefings, officials said, the bureau appears to be looking into other controversies that have roiled the Bush administration, some of which also touch Feith's office.

They include how the Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group backed by the Pentagon, allegedly received highly classified U.S. intelligence on Iran; the leaking of the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters; and the production of bogus documents suggesting that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger. Bush repeated the Niger claim in making the case for war against Iraq.

"The whole ball of wax" was how one U.S. official privy to the briefings described the inquiry.
The NYT article mentioned in the last update deserved more attention than I gave it. The author, Eric Schmitt, also focuses on the connection between the Franklin investigation and Iran policy.

Second, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post expand on the relationship between the Franklin investigation and Chalabi:
There appears to be at least two common threads in the multi-faceted investigation. First, the FBI is investigating whether the same people passed highly classified information to two disparate allies -- Chalabi and a pro-Israel lobbying group. Second, at least some of the intelligence in both instances included sensitive information about Iran.

The broader investigation is also looking into the movement of classified materials on U.S. intentions in Iraq and on the Arab-Israeli peace process, sources added.
Third, Eric Alterman and Paul McLeary, writing for the Center for American Progress, clarify who is actually doing the investigating, noting that the FBI, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee are looking into different aspects of the matter, all focusing on Doug Feith's operations within the DoD.

Bob Drogin and Greg Miller in the LA Times provide background on Israeli Intelligence operations in the United States. Reuters notes that the investigation into the original leaks to Israel (into which Franklin stumbled) have been going on for more than two years, and that senior government officials have been aware of it. David Johnston and David Sanger have more on this investigation in the NYT.

Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post calls the investigation "more of a smear campaign than an espionage investigation" by the "press-crazed" FBI. She centers the whole scandal around continuing US uncertainty on Iran policy, blaming the investigations and leaks on a duplicitous effort to undermine a hardline policy against Iran:
It may be that given the damage now wrought on the reputations of apparently the only forces in Washington who may be willing to admit that the US non-policy towards Iran, in all its permutations, is a colossal failure, means that the US will not take any action against Iran's nuclear installations. If this is the case, Israel may quite simply be forced into a position of having to ignore America for now and do what needs to be done.

If, as a result of the prominence of the appeasers in US policy circles and their fast and dirty tactics, the US is no longer able to take military action against threats to its national security that happen to constitute even larger threats to Israel's national security, then going it alone, and as quickly as possible, may be Israel's only option. Israel can simply not afford to be paralyzed by American policies on Iran that have already failed or by spy scandals that make no sense.
In another article, Janine Zackaria of the Jerusalem Post claims that AIPAC is "defiant."

Meanwhile, the AP reports that the US is taking a hard-line toward Syria by enforcing term limits (and thereby an election) in Lebanon and that Israeli-Syrian tensions are rising in the wake of recent Hamas suicide bombings.

 

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