Dover Bitch

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In it to fight

Yesterday, we got to read a dumbed-down version of a Dick Cheney speech in the Washington Post, courtesy of his daughter, Liz.

Josh Marshall remarked that it "read like it was written by someone in junior high." Indeed, Cheney implores non-Lieberman politicians to reflect on "basic facts" like "Beware the polls."

If you make it past the typical Cheney nonsense we've grown accustomed to reading over the past six years -- including an obligatory neocon tip of the hat to Winston Churchill -- you'll make it to this final and frightening line:

The writer is former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

This is where the story gets interesting. As Financial Times reported in April:

The US and UK are working on a strategy to promote democratic change in Iran, according to officials who see the joint effort as the start of a new phase in the diplomatic campaign to counter the Islamic republic's nuclear programme without resorting to military intervention.

A newly created Iran Syria Operations Group [ISOG] inside the State Department is co-ordinating the work and reporting to Elizabeth Cheney, the senior US official leading democracy promotion in the broader Middle East.

"Democracy promotion is a rubric to get the Europeans behind a more robust policy without calling it regime change," a former Bush administration official commented.

After the ISOG's existence was denied by the administration, eventually it became clear the group had, in fact, been formed and that Cheney had over $80 million at her disposal.

Over at TNR, Lawrence Kaplan wrote:

Far from being beefed up, as The Washington Post reported last month the State Department's Iran desk continues to be manned by only two foreign service officers. At the same time, additional Iran analysts, several of them political appointees, have been brought into ISOG. Unsurprisingly, this has led to grumbling at NEA, with staffers complaining the Bush team has set up its own Iran shop and has been making end runs around the State Department's traditional bureaucracy. Does this mean that ISOG has emerged as the latest equivalent to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, a secretive cell to stir the imaginations of Paul Krugmans everywhere? Hardly. According to State Department and Pentagon officials, ISOG has no role to play on security issues, doesn't coordinate at all with White House efforts against Iran at the United Nations, and confines itself to promoting regime change from within.

Great, so no worries about another Office of Special Plans, cooking up bogus reasons to go to war, right? Well, Liz Cheney took some time off to have a child and write lousy op-eds, handing the reigns to the other neocons in the Cheney cabal. Laura Rozen wrote just last week (emphasis mine):

Sources close to the administration's Iran policy say the primary vehicle for U.S. government planning on Iran is the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group, an inter-agency body created in early 2006 that includes representatives and Iran specialists from the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, and other agencies.

The overall group has four or five subgroups, including a recently combined one that focuses on "public diplomacy and promoting democracy" in Iran. That subgroup doled out some of the $85 million that Congress approved to support pro-democracy efforts in Iran. A second subgroup is devoted exclusively to Syria. A third focuses on counter-terrorism issues, and a fourth has a military agenda. Formally overseen by a steering committee headed by National Security Council Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams and James Jeffrey, the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, the so-called ISOG is managed day to day by David Denehy, a senior adviser at State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and a former official with the International Republican Institute. Denehy has recently told some associates that he plans to move sometime early this year to the Office of the Vice President, where he would continue to coordinate the Iran-Syria group.

In addition to the ISOG, the Pentagon last spring set up a six-person Iranian directorate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that includes three former members of the Office of Special Plans, a controversial unit established by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that produced discredited intelligence analysis linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda.

U.S. officials say that multiple inter-agency meetings on Iran are going on every day under the auspices of the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group, and that the pace of activity has quickened. "There are so many meetings; we're doing stuff, writing papers; actions are being taken," said one person involved with the group. "It's very intense."

Elliot Abrams is the PNAC member who was never to work in an administration again after George H.W. Bush pardoned him for lying to Congress:

Elliot Abrams is a felon. He was involved in stealing Pentagon weapons from US stockpiles, selling them to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then stealing the Iranian funds so garnered to give to far-right Central American death squads, and then lying about all this to Congress. The Congress in the Constitution controls the budget. The Congress had cut off money to the rightwing death squads supported by Reagan and henchmen like Abrams. This elaborate criminal conspiracy inside the White House was the Right's response. They shredded the Constitution (and ever since have been calling their critics "unpatriotic.")

In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress under oath. Without the plea deal, he was facing felony charges, since what he did was in fact a felony.

Abrams worked for Likud Party Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom he co-authored a paper entitled "A Clean Break," which advocated war against Iran and Syria. Here's what Salon's Gary Kamiya wrote about him when he joined the administration in 2002:

Abrams fits right into the Bush White House, and not just because he almost went to jail for a scandal so much bigger and nastier than Whitewater it's embarrassing even to mention them in the same breath. Like the Big Three in the Bush Tetrarchy -- Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney -- Abrams is a hawk, unabashed about using American power unilaterally. Like them, his worldview has been shaped by a black-and-white Cold War ideology in which stopping Communist or leftist expansion by any means necessary was America's top priority. If that meant looking away while sadistic thugs like El Salvador's Roberto D'Aubuisson killed lots of peasants who didn't know from Lenin but only wanted to be rid of their murderous, authoritarian (but not "totalitarian"!) regimes, well, better dead than red. As a key player in implementing Ronald Reagan's vicious "anti-Communist" Central American policies, he defended the savage regimes that slaughtered thousands of civilians, and denied that massacres carried out by U.S.-backed troops -- such as the infamous massacre at Mozote -- had taken place.

When Abrams is unavailable, his role is assumed by Michael Doran.

Michael S. Doran may have been destined to work for a Republican administration. During the 1972 presidential campaign, his father ran him around Carmel, Ind., to rip down posters of Democratic candidate George McGovern. His father was a Republican precinct committeeman.

"That was fun for a 10-year-old," Doran recalled recently.


"Mike's politics on the Middle East are pure neo-con," said the University of Vermont's F. Gregory Gause III.

James. F. Jeffrey is also considered a hawk. In fact, if there's anybody in this group with any experience focusing in making friends in the Middle East, it might be David Denehy. The bad news there is that the major diplomatic success story he'd have witnessed would be the work of Karen Hughes, for whom he was a senior advisor. He, too, is a neocon and he previously worked under L. Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. A close associate of Liz Cheney, Denehy used to work for the neocon-founded International Republican Institute, whose Chairman of the Board is none other than Senate hawk John McCain.

Is there any reason to think this group full of hawks, operating out of the Vice President's office, isn't gearing up for a military conflict? They're even following the smashing success formula that is Iraq:

ISOG was modeled after the Iraq Policy and Operations Group, set up in 2004 to shepherd information and coordinate US action in Iraq. ISOG has raised eyebrows within the State Department for hiring BearingPoint -- the same Washington-based private contracting firm used by the Iraq group -- to handle its administrative work, rather than State Department employees.

Some lower level State Department officials saw the decision to outsource responsibility for scheduling meetings, record keeping, and distributing reports as an effort to circumvent the normal diplomatic machinery and provide extra secrecy for the group.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said BearingPoint was hired for its experience and good work on Iraq.

It's Iraq all over again, with the same cabal working to make it happen. Go ahead and laugh at the cheap facsimile of her father's schtick that's in Liz Cheney's op-ed. But remember that she's a key ingredient in a group of unaccountable war mongers with all the power in the world.

UPDATE: Over at HuffPo, Larisa Alexandrovna writes more about Cheney and ISOG.

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