"The Secret Cabal Got What It Wanted: No Negotiations."

It was May 2003. President Bush had declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. The State Department, which had been unenthusiastic about that war, was not inclined to provoke another with Iran and indeed had been calling for diplomatic engagement with the reform-minded Khatami regime. That regime for its part asked the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to forward to the United States a request for talks. These would address U.S. concerns about its nuclear program, as well as the lifting of sanctions and normalization of relations.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage were inclined to accept the offer. Vice President Cheney, soon to declare, “We don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it,” was not. Nor was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans. Indeed, Cheney and his neoconservatives had the State Department rebuke the Swiss intermediary as they began to ratchet up the tension level between the countries to its present n ear-breaking point.

This is the extraordinary narrative provided in large part by a highly reliable source, Powell’s former chief of staff, General Lawrence Wilkerson. He minces no words. ”The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran,” he told Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service last month. “As with many of these issues of national security decision-making, there are no fingerprints. But I would guess Dick Cheney with the blessing of George W Bush [is responsible].”

Feith, who quietly vacated his office in August 2005 after the war for which he’d tirelessly campaigned had been exposed as one based on lies, hired neocon ideologue and Iran-Contra principal Michael Ledeen to work for the OSP in 2002. A longtime friend of fellow Iran-Contra plotter Manucher Ghorbanifar, Ledeen had met with the Iranian arms dealer several times from December 2001 to June 2002. These contacts, opposed by the CIA which has long distrusted Ghorbanifar, are thought to have some relation to the forged Niger uranium documents used to bolster the case for the attack on Iraq.

But Ledeen states that his business with Ghorbanifar related to Iran, not Iraq. Ledeen, as an American Enterprise Institute scholar and journalist for the neocon National Review, has repeatedly called for an immediate U.S. attack on Iran. Meanwhile Ghorbanifar has been returned to the U.S. government payroll, working with the Vice President’s Office and the Defense Department. He’s assigned among other things to provide intelligence on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Ghorbanifar and one of his associates are thought to be the source of much of the information in the book Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America… and How the CIA has Ignored it written by his friend Congressman Curt Weldon and published last year. It declares that Iran is hiding Osama bin Laden, preparing terrorist attacks on the U.S., has a crash program to build nuclear weapons and is the chief sponsor of the insurgency in Iraq. Shades of Ahmad Chalabi!

This is all so déjà vu. At least for all with eyes to see. The rejection of the Iranian proposal in 2003 reminds me of the Iraqi peace proposals made to the Bush administration from December 2002 to March 2003.

On February 19 Saddam’s regime indicated to Washington through intermediaries that in exchange for a U.S. promise not to attack it would (1) cooperate in fighting terrorism; (2) give “full support” for any U.S. plan “in the Arab-Israeli peace process; (3) give “first priority [to the U.S.] as it relates to Iraq oil, mining rights;” (4) cooperate with US strategic interests in the region; and (5) allow “direct US involvement on the ground in disarming Iraq.” The highest-ranking U.S. official directly involved in the discussion was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon, Richard Perle. The “Prince of Darkness” (as the neocon is sometimes known) regarded Iraqi pleas for a deal as “all non-starters because they all involved Saddam staying in power.” The neocons wanted regime change and they got it. Now they want it in Iran.

Why settle for a diplomatic resolution of issues between the U.S. and Iran when you can defeat “evil”?

In 2002, Cheney and Rice spoke authoritatively about Iraq’s attempts to import aluminum tubes “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs” citing intelligence reported by Judith Miller in the New York Times.

Nowadays the press reports about a laptop computer stolen by an Iranian citizen in 2004 with designs “for a small-scale facility to produce uranium gas, the construction of which would give Iran a secret stock that could be enriched for fuel or for bombs” and “drawings on modifying Iran’s ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead.”

In 2002, unbeknownst to the public, the U.S. intelligence community was divided, with many in the CIA skeptical of the neocons’ claims. In 2006, that community—even though purged in Cheney’s effort to scapegoat the CIA for “flawed” (as opposed to faked) intelligence—is still probably divided.

With that assumption I read the comments of U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte to the National Press Club on April 20. “The developments in Iran,” he declared, “clearly they’re troublesome. By the same token, our assessment at the moment is that even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, that we believe that it is still many years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade. So I think it’s important that this issue be kept in perspective.”

Negroponte’s career highlight before acquiring his present Homeland Security post was his ambassadorship in Honduras from 1981 to 1985. During that time (which too few Americans remember) he supervised the training of Nicaraguan Contras and covered up vicious human rights abuses. I wouldn’t suggest that he’s personally opposed to a brutal illegal attack on Iran sometime soon. I don’t know. But by urging that the nuclear issue “be kept in perspective” he may reflect a concern within the “intelligence community” that once again the disinformation apparatus is proceeding unchecked. The neocons may disparage the “reality-based community” in favor of their Nazi-like penchant to create their own alternative reality

But there are professional analysts who still highly valuate things like facts and reality and perspective. So maybe we see here again some conflict within the administration—between those merely morally compromised by their very involvement in such a regime (and inclined to say, “Hey wait, let’s try to be honest here”) and those who lie though their teeth—without any moral qualms—to obtain their world-transforming objectives.

Of course, the Iran attack advocates aren’t saying that Iran’s 45 minutes away from nuking New York. They’re saying that it has a secret nuclear weapons program (despite IAEA claims that there is no evidence for one), and that the program must be terminated (at some unspecified point) before Iran builds its first nuke. Those acquainted with the science estimate that Iran is anywhere from three to 15 years away from constructing a nuclear weapon if it so desires. The neocons would like us to imagine the mullahs producing nukes sooner rather than later, because they’re hell-bent on regime change in Iran while their man is in office and want to sell their attack as justifiably preemptive—as an attack to defend the American people.

The power structure is obviously divided on the Iran issue, if not as deeply as one might hope. Democratic Party leaders have indeed competed with the Bush administration to embrace a hard line on Iran. The president’s recent visit to the Hoover Institution to talk with foreign policy wonks who favor an attack suggests the plan’s still on track. But recently there’s been a trend towards advocating negotiations. I would just suggest those doing so note that such negotiations might have begun three years ago—-had Cheney and his neocon acolytes (still dangerously occupying key positions) not sabotaged any diplomatic initiatives standing in the way of their imperial ambitions.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu







More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It