oy vey, what now?

According to the new issue of Newsweek, the Pentagon official recently picked up by the FBI for sharing state secrets with Israel has been cooperating with authorities, and lots of people are wondering whether or not this scandal might lead all the way up to the well known neocons who pressed so vigorously for the war in Iraq. Here, by way of introduction, is a clip from the Newsweek article:

It was just a Washington lunchone that the FBI happened to be monitoring. Nearly a year and a half ago, agents were monitoring a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and a lobbyist for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, as part of a probe into possible Israeli spying. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, in the description of one intelligence official, another American “walked in” to the lunch out of the blue. Agents at first didn’t know who the man was. They were stunned to discover he was Larry Franklin, a desk officer with the Near East and South Asia office at the Pentagon.

Franklin soon became a subject of the FBI investigation as well. Now he may face charges, accused of divulging to Israel classified information on U.S. government plans regarding Iran, officials say. While some U.S. officials warned against exaggerated accusations of spying, one administration source described the case as the most significant Israeli espionage investigation in Washington since Jonathan Pollard, an American who was imprisoned for life in 1987 for passing U.S. Navy secrets to the Israelis. The FBI and Justice Department are still reviewing the evidence, but one intelligence source believes Franklin may be arrested shortly.

So, one popular theory is that an Israeli faction, working though its sympathizers in the Pentagon, has effectively been calling the shots in US foreign policy since 9/11. Heres a little bit on that subject from University of Michigan professor Juan Coles blog:

It is an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of Defense. First, Iraq would be taken out by the United States, and then Iran. David Wurmser, a key member of the group, also wanted Syria included. These pro-Likud intellectuals concluded that 9/11 would give them carte blanche to use the Pentagon as Israel’s Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv (not wars that really needed to be fought, but wars that the Likud coalition thought it would be nice to see fought so as to increase Israel’s ability to annex land and act aggressively, especially if someone else’s boys did the dying).

Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. He was an attache at the US embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the US, and learned a little Persian (not very much–I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian). Franklin has a strong Brooklyn accent and says he is “from the projects.” I was told by someone at the Pentagon that he is not Jewish, despite his strong association with the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives. I know that he is very close to Paul Wolfowitz. He seems a canny man and a political operator, and if he gave documents to AIPAC it was not an act of simple stupidity, as some observers have suggested. It was part of some clever scheme that became too clever by half.

Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the “go to” person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise, Michael Ledeen, for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way. Franklin was also close to Harold Rhode, a long-time Middle East specialist in the Defense Department who has cultivated far right pro-Likud cronies for many years, more or less establishing a cell within the Department of Defense.

For those of you who are interested in digging deeper, theres also an article on Larry Franklin in the new issue of the Washington Monthly, and a good discussion of conspiracy theories involving Israel and its role in the war with Iraq can be found at Metafilter.

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  1. Mark
    Posted September 2, 2004 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    There are, of course, reasons why it’s in our interest to support Israel… other than out of some sense of religious allegiance. They are, after all, a democracy that supports the US, in a region where we dont find ourselves having many friends. As for the comment about it being hypocritical for them to have nuclear weapons, I think the hypocrisy doesnt end there. Wouldnt you say its somewhat hypocritical for us to say that any nations cannot have nuclear weapons when we ourselves have them?

    As for Israel, I dont know that we need to start suggesting that theres a cabal of Jewish individuals in the Executive working against our national interests on the behalf of Israel. I dont think its that easy. Im sure that Wolfawitz and Perle were of the opinion that this was, first and foremost, in the best interest of the US and capitalism. It probably didnt hurt that it would benefit Israel, but I dont think that was the prime motivator. The prime motivator, it seems to me, was to remake the middle east as a democracy, which, in itself, isnt a bad objective. Sure, it also helped Halliburton, and got us in control of a big percentage of the worlds oil supplies, but I think those were just the icing on the cake.

    The way they were looking at it, there was no down side, and no risk. They were cocky fuckers who, never having gone to war, didnt know the realities of battle. They told the international community that we didnt need their help and then they shoved our country into an unnecessary war. (One which I admittedly, at first, supported.)

    So, DM, I dont know that Id say it was a conspiracy. They certainly lied to the people of the US to justify it, and they didnt realize just how hard it would be to create a more western Muslim state, but I dont think they were taking their orders from Israel. I think its much simpler than that.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 3, 2004 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    It’s a complicated issue, made all the more-so by the trap of anti-Semitism. Thats why, whenever possible, I like to focus not on the Jews, those who practice a certain religion, but on the state of Israel. They arent the same thing and to confuse them as such is problematic. The same is true to an even greater degree when discussing this nebulous army of Muslim extremists. Its difficult to frame the debate without coming across as though youre attacking a faith. From my perspective, we havent even been able to frame the debate yet. Until we do that, I dont see how meaningful conversation can take place. Are we, for instance, at war with an ideology or an entity right now?

    Terre Pwot

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