False Reports on Iran a Replay of Run-Up to Iraq War?


Richard Moore

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False Reports on Iran a Replay of Run-Up to Iraq War?

By E&P Staff

Published: September 16, 2006 10:00 AM ET

NEW YORK A report today by veteran McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) reporters 
John Walcott and Warren P. Strobel warns that some of the same type of shaky 
intelligence that proved false in the run up to the Iraq war may be rearing its 
head again in regard to Iran.

"U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Bush political appointees 
and hard-liners on Capitol Hill have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear 
program as more advanced than it is and to exaggerate Tehran's role in 
Hezbollah's attack on Israel in mid-July," they write..

"President Bush, who addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, has said he
prefers diplomacy to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he hasn't 
ruled out using military force. Several former U.S. defense officials who 
maintain close ties to the Pentagon say they've been told that plans for 
airstrikes - if Bush deems them necessary - are being updated."

As E&P has often noted in the past, reports from Strobel, Walcott and others in 
the former KR Washington office, proved more skeptical and accurate than those 
from other leading news organizations in the pre-Iraq invasion push.

"It seems like Iran is becoming the new Iraq," said one U.S. counterterrorism 
official quoted by Walcott and Strobel. This official and others spoke on 
condition of anonymity because the information involved is classified.

The article concludes: "Some officials at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence 
Agency and the State Department said they're concerned that the offices of 
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney may be 
receiving a stream of questionable information that originates with Iranian 
exiles, including a discredited arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who played a 
role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

"Officials at all three agencies said they suspect that the dubious information 
may include claims that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to
kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July; that Iran's nuclear program is moving 
faster than generally believed; and that the Iranian people are eager to join 
foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers.

"The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those 
assertions and some that contradicts all three.

"The officials said they fear a replay of the administration's mishandling of 
what turned out to be bogus information from Iraqi exiles in the run-up to the 
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, documented earlier this month in a Senate 
intelligence committee report. But they said this time, intelligence analysts 
and others are more forcefully challenging claims they believe to be false or 

Earlier this week, E&P carried the following related story.

When Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst, leaked the Pentagon Papers to the 
press in 1971, it created one of the most significant newspaper stories -- and 
battles -- of the century. One thing it did not do was prevent the Vietnam War, 
although it may have shortened it. Now he is calling on officials within the 
government to leak "the Pentagon Paper of the Middle East" to modern reporters, 
to short-circuit another possible war.

Ellsberg's challenge is found in the October issue of Harper's magazine, to 
appear next week. E&P has obtained an advance copy.

The article is titled, "The Next War," with the conflict in question a possible 
face-off between the U.S. and Iran. Ellsberg, based on unconfirmed reporting by 
Seymour Hersh and others, believes there is a "hidden crisis," with government 
insiders aware of "serious plans for war with Iran" while "congress and the 
public remain largely in the dark."

His remedy: "Conscientious insiders" need to leak hard evidence to the press and
public, while risking their current and future employment, as he did in the 
early 1970s.

But Ellsberg is hardly the hero of his own story. While proud of what he did, he
faults himself for waiting far too long in the 1960s. If he had leaked 
government information in 1964, it might have halted the entire enterprise in 
its tracks, he feels. In the same way, he hails former Clinton and Bush 
terrorism expert Richard Clarke for blowing the whistle on trumped-up evidence 
used to support the invasion of Iraq -- but, as in his case, this came after the
Iraq adventure had already come to fruition.

Indeed, Ellsberg had called for insiders, such as Clarke, to come forward before
the Iraq invasion, in a January 2003 interview with E&P.

Now, in the Harper's article, therefore, he declares: "Assuming Hersh¹s so-far 
anonymous sources mean what they say -- that this is, as one puts it, 'a 
juggernaut that has to be stopped' -- I believe it is time for one or more of 
them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents. That means doing
what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what 
neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no 
longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had 
fallen and thousands had died, years into a war. It means going outside 
executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the 
president¹s lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with 
unequivocal evidence from inside.

"Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities 
of officials rightly 'appalled' by the thrust of secret policy. I hope that one 
or more such persons will make the sober decision -- accepting sacrifice of 
clearance and career, and risk of prison -- to disclose comprehensive files that
convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and 
dangers of the military plans being considered.

"What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as
well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear 'options' -- 
the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East. ...

"The personal risks of doing this are very great. Yet they are not as great as 
the risks of bodies and lives we are asking daily of over 130,000 young 
Americans -- with many yet to join them -- in an unjust war. Our country has 
urgent need for comparable courage, moral and civil courage, from its public 
servants. They owe us the truth before the next war begins."

Today, The Washington Post reports that United Nations inspectors probing Iran's
nuclear program have contested Bush administration's claims. They "angrily 
complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday 
about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of 
the document 'outrageous and dishonest' and offering evidence to refute its 
central claims," the Post relates.

Ellsberg's most recent book is "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon 

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