The drumbeat in
some Washington foreign policy circles for "regime change" in Iran
has striking similarities to the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and is being led
by some of the usual suspects -- like the American Enterprise Institute's
well-known outside of Washington, Ledeen's "views virtually define the
stark departure from American foreign policy philosophy that existed before the
tragedy of Sep. 11, 2001," Pacific News Service's William Beeman
commented in May 2003.
believes that violence in the service of the spread of democracy is America's
manifest destiny. Consequently, he has become the philosophical legitimator of
the American occupation of Iraq."
Regardless of what
Ledeen thinks of conflict in the Middle East, Iran has been in the George W.
Bush administration's sights for quite some time. Administration officials, and
some members of the European Union, have warned that conflict with Iran over
its nuclear program may be inevitable, particularly in light of the
announcement last week that Iran had managed to perfect the uranium enrichment
In its recent
National Security Strategy, the White House placed Iran squarely in its
crosshairs. How U.S. policy toward Tehran will play itself out remains to be
seen, but economic sanctions and/or the use of military force appear to be very
much on the table.
If the unfolding scenario
visa via Iran seems familiar, that's because, well . . . it is familiar.
While the run-up to
a possible military strike against Iran doesn't directly mirror the run-up to
the war on Iraq, there are a number of similarities.
right-wing think tanks and administration- connected neoconservatives are
pushing for regime change. As during the run-up to the war on Iraq,
administration officials are claiming that an Iranian-developed nuclear program
could threaten the U.S.
Competing Iranian exile
groups and leaders are vying for the attention and financial support of the
administration. Information from some of these groups -- like much of what was
provided by Iraq's Pentagon-designated exile-in-chief, Ahmad Chalabi -- has
been less than stellar. There have been policy disagreements within the
administration as to how to proceed. And now, there's "show and tell"
at the U.N. Security Council.
to the run-up to war with Iraq are all too striking: remember that in May 2002
President Bush declared that there was 'no war plan on my desk' despite having
actually spent months working on detailed plans for the Iraq invasion. Congress
did not ask the hard questions then. It must not permit the administration to
launch another war whose outcome cannot be known, or worse, known all too
well," Richard Clarke and Steven Simon, who were the national coordinator
for security and counterterrorism and senior director for counterterrorism,
respectively, at the National Security Council wrote in a New York Times
op-ed on April 16.
Prize-winning head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamad
ElBaradei, remembers very well those politically and emotionally charged days
at the United Nations before the war in Iraq.
At a recent forum
in Doha, the capital of Qatar, ElBaradei told the audience that the
international community should "steer away from threats of sanctions
against Iran", saying the country's nuclear program was not "an
imminent threat" and the time had come to "lower the pitch" of
conciliatory remarks in Qatar followed on the heels of a late-March agreement
by the U.N. Security Council to give Iran a month to comply with requests by
the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, that it halt uranium enrichment.
"There is no
military solution to this situation," said ElBaradei. "It's
inconceivable. The only durable solution is a negotiated solution."
Three years after
the invasion of Iraq, many of the most prominent neoconservative hawks that
promoted the ill-conceived war have moved away from the spotlight.
Not Michael Ledeen,
who, for a huge chunk of his professional life, has been out to remake the
Ledeen, who used to
work at the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council,
was deeply involved in the transfer of arms to Iran during the Iran-Contra
A resident scholar
in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based
conservative think tank, Ledeen recently told Raw Story's Larisa
Alexandrovna that the invasion of Iraq was the "Wrong war, wrong time,
wrong way, wrong place.."
as it has been for a number of years, is "regime change" in Iran.
In a conversation
with the New Yorker's Connie Bruck, Ledeen indicated that back in 2001
and 2002 "when he pressed the case for Iran with friends in the
administration, he had support from some officials in the Pentagon and in the
office of Vice President Dick Cheney."
Ledeen, however, administration officials felt that "the road to Tehran
lies through Baghdad".
The New Yorker
magazine notes that, "Ledeen has been predicting for many years that Iran
is on the verge of popular revolution, which only requires some outside help to
become a reality."
A few years ago, he
was brash enough to tell a group of Iranian expatriates in Los Angeles, where
some 600,000 exiles live: "I have contacts in Iran, fighting the regime.
They need funds. Give me twenty million, and you'll have your revolution."
In a NationalReviewOnline
(NRO) post dated Mar. 28, Ledeen stepped up his criticism of the Bush
administration, charging it with being asleep at the wheel with regards to the
Ledeen claimed that
the administration had "done nothing to make the mullahs' lives more
difficult, even though there is abundant evidence for Iranian involvement in
Iraq, most including their relentless efforts to kill American soldiers."
If the White House
was serious about spreading democracy, "We would be actively supporting
democratic revolution in Iran," Ledeen wrote. While it's true that
Secretary Rice "went to Congress to ask for an extra 75 million dollars to
'support democracy' in Iran . . . the small print shows that the first 50
million dollars will go to the toothless tigers at the Voice of America and
other official American broadcasters, which is to say to State Department
employees," he added.
that the Untied States "take action against Iran and its half-brother
Syria, for the carnage they have unleashed against us and the Iraqis. We know
in detail the location of terrorist training camps run by the Iranian and
Syrian terror masters; we should strike at them, and at the bases run by
Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards as staging points for terrorist sorties
"We could even
expand the agenda from Iraqi matters to the real issue: we could negotiate
their departure, and then turn to the organization of national referenda on the
form of free governments, and elections to empower the former victims of a
murderous and fanatical tyranny that has deluded itself into believing that it
assessment of the current situation with Iran is based less on ideology and
more on his work in the field. After U.N. inspectors didn't find any signs of a
nuclear arms program in Iraq, that finding was ignored by the Bush
years, however, proved that the IAEA got it right when it determined that
Saddam Hussein did not possess any of the alleged weaponry, or any programs to
"I work on
facts," ElBaradei said in remarks reported by Reuters. "We
fortunately were proven right in Iraq, we were the only ones that said at the
time that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons, and I hope this time people will
listen to us."
Bill Berkowitz is a
longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column
Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories
and defeats of the American Right.