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The FBI’s investigation into Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, on charges of spying for Israel, has left many of us scratching our heads and wondering, "Why?"
The relationship between the Bush Administration and the Sharon government is so incestuous that is difficult to imagine that there are secrets of any consequence that haven’t already been fully shared.
Both the Pentagon and the Vice President’s office feature a number of high profile advisors whose connections to Israel have raised questions about their loyalty.
Alleged spy, Franklin, was working directly under Douglas Feith who headed the now infamous OSP (Office of Special Plans); the Pentagon’s "sausage making" unit, where intelligence was "cherry-picked" to make it look as though Saddam was a greater threat than he was, and to create imaginary links between Saddam and Al Qaida. Feith led the way in making intelligence conform to policy.
He also collaborated in 1996 with David Wurmser (now working in VP Cheney’s office) on a policy paper for the Netanyahu government called, "A Clean Break". The paper emphasized the importance of eliminating Saddam Hussein to insure Israel’s regional security. (The document also blasted Oslo and the "land for peace" negotiations with the Palestinians which are anathema to the vision of "Greater Israel". This may explain the dramatic departure by the Bush team from the policies of previous administrations. The many Likud sympathizers in the administration torpedoed the Road Map before it ever got off the ground.)
The obsession with toppling Saddam among Israeli loyalists in the Bush Administration has become such a commonplace observation that it hardly bears mentioning. Everyone from Pat Buchanan to the Nation magazine; from General Zinni to Senator Hollings has commented on it at length.
In a recent CounterPunch article, former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern summarizes the phenomenon this way:
"The neo-cons have considerable difficulty distinguishing between the strategic requirements of Israel and those of the US. There are not enough US troops in Iraq to quell the resistance, but there are enough to prevent any strategic threat to Israel. And so, the Bush administration shows no intention of drawing down US forces from Iraq anytime soon."
This judgment is becoming increasingly familiar as more people are beginning to see the confluence of interests that led to the Iraq war.
So, how does this affect our understanding Larry Franklin’s role?
Franklin is a mid-level official who specializes in Iranian affairs at the Pentagon’s policy branch. So far, it has been suggested that he was trying to obtain information for Israel on Iran’s nuclear program.
Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said, "Israel is very concernedthat the Ayatolla’s will acquire nuclear weapons because this is an unpredictable regime with a close network to terror organizations around the world." (CTV, News Staff)
No one could be more sympathetic to Israel’s concerns than the Bush administration; especially regarding Iran, where the objectives of both countries seem to seamlessly merge. Both countries want regime change, and both want to install a Western friendly government that will allow access to Iran’s prodigious natural resources.
This communality of interests’ makes it more difficult to understand why Franklin felt required to pilfer classified information and run the risk of being caught?
A Knight Ridder article reports that:
"Two sources disclosed that the information believed to have been passed to Israel was the draft of a top-secret presidential order on Iran policy, known as a National Security Presidential Directive. Because of disagreements over Iran policy among President Bush’s advisers, the document is not believed to have been completed."
So, in fact, there were differences of opinion concerning Iran policy at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
The Knight Ridder article continues:
"Having a draft of the document would have allowed Israel to influence U.S. policy while it still was being made."
But, how could merely having a "draft of the document" (provided by Franklin) allow Israel to "influence" US policy?
If we consider a previous case, where the administration’s policies may have been altered by false intelligence (provided by Israel); we can see how the process works.
Following the invasion of Iraq, Israeli Brig. General Shlomo Brom, who served in Israeli military intelligence for 25 years, and acted as the deputy chief of planning for the Israeli army, stated:
"Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the U.S. and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability. It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed." (Peter Enav, "Isralei General derides findings on Iraq" Ass. Press)
This shows how Israel provided false intelligence to the Bush administration with the clear intention of affecting policy. (Although, it’s doubtful that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld needed any further encouragement)
Could Franklin’s "top secret" information be used for the same purpose?
Although both the Bush and Sharon governments’ are devoted to "regime change", they may miles apart on what that may involve.
Sharon would like to see an end to Iran’s nuclear program and an "Iron-fisted" secular ruler (friendly to Israel) installed in Tehran.
However, the Bush administration is probably wary of committing to another full-blown occupation (Iran has a population of 70 million) after being "mired" in Iraq for a year and a half.
If that’s the case, then we can assume that Washington will limit its aspirations to more realistic goals. That would suggest an attempt to annex the prime territory around the Caspian basin, and forgoing another massive occupation. This could be accomplished by inventing a pretext for intervention, such as, the suspicion of terrorist camps in the region or "alleged" Al Qaida activity.
Political analyst Noam Chomsky addressed this issue in his recent book "Hegemony or Survival". In commenting on Israeli reconnaissance flights along Iran’s border Chomsky says:
"He (Robert Olson) suggests that these operations are part of a long term effort to undermine and perhaps partition Iran, separating its northern Azeri regions,thus turning the country into ‘an anemic geopolitical entity’ barred from access to the Caspian sea and Central Asia generally. Olson also discusses one of the usual background concerns: to expedite development of oil pipelines from the Caspian region to Turkey and the Mediterranean, cutting out Iran." (Noam Chomsky; "Hegemony or Survival" p 159-160; Owl Books)
Yes, Chomsky and Olson are probably right. The Bush administration may have reduced the scope of its plan and focused instead on their primary goal, that is, the acquisition of 9% of the world’s oil, vast reserves of natural gas and crucial pipeline routes along the Caspian Sea. This could be accomplished without a costly occupation of the entire country.
Unfortunately, for Sharon this veers dramatically from his scheme and does nothing to increase Israeli security.
A scenario such as this would force Tel Aviv to gather as much intelligence as possible in an effort to change the administration’s plans, even if it meant exposing a high level agent to serious risk–by having him steal classified documents and deliver them to an AIPAC courier.
After all, even if he’s caught "red-handed" (as he was, on video tape and wire-tap) there’s always a degree of "plausible deniability".
Following the report of Franklin’s arrest an Israeli spokesman said, "We categorically deny these allegations. They are completely false and outrageous".
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org