Though little-known outside the Beltway, the Pentagon officials, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, were at the height of their powers among a small, tight-knit coterie of Washington Iran hawks determined, in the wake of 9/11, to push for regime change not just in Kabul and Baghdad, but in Tehran as well. Farsi speakers both, they had become increasingly influential as advisers to top Pentagon officials consumed with planning a response to the terror attacks. Franklin was the Iran desk officer in a Pentagon policy office that would eventually include the Office of Special Plans, an alternative intelligence shop that became closely allied with Ahmed Chalabi and his band of Iraqi exile informants. Joining the pair in Rome was Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative historian and activist who is among the most impassioned advocates for overthrowing the Iranian regime.
...Among those who had come to meet with the Pentagon team was an Iranian exile who was not exactly an unknown quantity in Washington. Manucher Ghorbanifar, an arms dealer, intelligence peddler, and former military intelligence official in the Shah’s regime, had been a key figure in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, in which Washington secretly sold missiles to Iran’s Islamic rulers. Even before that, he had been so unreliable as a CIA informant that the agency had issued a “burn notice” directing agency personnel not to deal with him. When, in the midst of Iran-Contra, the CIA gave Ghorbanifar a polygraph test, he was deemed not to be showing deception on only 2 of the 15 questions—his name and his place of birth.
“One test of a source is his ability to tell you something accurate that cannot be known through any other means,” Bill Murray, the former CIA station chief in France, told me. Ghorbanifar not only has never been able to do that, Murray said, “he has a proven track record of fabrication—making up the information he reports from his own imagination.”
But so what when the story he's peddling is the one you want to buy, right? As the Rozen explains, the CIA refuses to touch Ghorbanifar, but that hardly puts a dent in the plans of thes hawks, who dream of Ghorbanifar giving them the golden keys to toppling Iran.
As Seymour Hersh describes for us in the New Yorker, there are also those who believe that force is still a credible option against Iran. But they are up against powerful opposition...the U.S. military:
Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.
Military commanders, perhaps not wanting to be caught out on the wrong side of history, have raised serious concerns about the strategic effectiveness, tactical effectiveness, and unintended consequences of a strike on Iran (including Iran's ability to retaliate against American troops in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.) Hersh makes it quite clear in his article (and his other articles on this subject) that there are those in the Bush administration who decided long ago that force is the only option with Iran, and that they are engineering as best they can a military strike. But as I noted above, things are quite different than they were even just two years ago. The protracted struggle in Iraq has not only undermined the credibility of the Iran hawks, but made it quite clear to the American people what unintended consequences can follow from poor intelligence, poor planning, and an ideologically motivated invasion. In other words, the hawks have a pretty big hurdle to climb to get their war on Iran. But as Hersh reminds us, they haven't stopped trying. And they won't until Iran pre-empts them by abandoning it's weapons program, or they're removed from power. In all liklihood, we can look forward to two more years of forcing the Bush administration to deal rationally with Iran.