ALLEGED ISRAELI SPY IN PENTAGON WAS IN CONTACT WITH IRANIAN FIXER
By Safa Haeri
Posted Saturday, August 28, 2004
PARIS, 28 Aug. (IPS, with reports from Haaretz and agencies) The man FBI suspects as having spied for Israel has met Manouchehr Qorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer involved in the Iran-Contra deal scandal of the 1980s.
The American TV network CBS reported Friday that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has been conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter and is convinced the spy has conveyed highly sensitive information to the Israeli government via two representatives of AIPAC.
The CBS report only identified the suspected mole as a senior analyst who works in the bureau of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He was also said to be closely associated with two senior Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas J. Feith.
"The FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to... roll up someone [who] agents believe has been spying, not for an enemy, but for Israel, from within the office of the secretary of defence", CBS reported.
The network said that the mole, whom it described as a "trusted analyst of the Pentagon", had last year passed on "secret White House deliberations on Iran".
But the Web site of The Washington Post on Saturday quoted two sources who identified the alleged Pentagon spy as Larry Franklin, a desk officer in the Defence Department's Near East and South Asia Bureau.
In late 2001, Franklin and another Defence Department official, Harold Rhode, met Qorbanifar in Paris in order to get information on the situation in the Islamic Republic and possible ways of destabilising the regime.
A senior U.S. official, however, said on condition of anonymity that two other Iranians were present at the meeting who the Bush administration had been told had information useful to the U.S. in its then-fledgling global war on terrorism, Haaretz added from Washington.
Questioned about the meeting in August 2003, Mr. Rumsfeld said it was "absolutely not" the case that the meeting with Qorbanifar was intended to be part of any other ongoing, unofficial talks with Iranians.
Alongside with Colonel Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, President Roland Reagans Chief security adviser and Israeli intelligence specialist Amiran Nir, Qorbanifar helped the newly established Islamic Republic that was attacked by Iraq and under sanctions from Washington, to get much needed sophisticated anti aircraft missiles Tow and Hawk in exchange for the money going to the Nicaraguan rebels under what became known as the Irangate scandal.
A person who refused to identify himself told IPS on Saturday that Mr. Qorbanifar was not available until Monday.
Israel immediately denied that it had any agents operating on American soil and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) vehemently rejected its involvment after it was revealed that the FBI has launched a probe into allegations that an official in the Pentagon has been passing intelligence information concerning Iran to Israel via AIPAC, the most influential and powerful of all American Jewisah lobbies in the United States.
"We deny carrying out any intelligence activity. It is a strange story", said the government official, who declined to be identified. "Israel, for many years, has not carried out intelligence activity in the United States".
Iranian and Israeli analysts where also baffled, observing that as far as it is known, not only the Bush Administration lacks a clear cut policy on Iran, but is also shares information with Israel about Iran.
Israel has a special unit working day and night on the situation in Iran and is believed to be well informed. Besides, some Israeli specialising on Iran are routinely in contact with the White House and Defence Department, an informed source told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity, adding that while Israel might be involved, AIPAC is certainly not.
AIPAC issued a statement said, "We would not condone or tolerate, for a second, any violation of U.S. law or interests. We are fully cooperating with the governmental authorities and will continue to do so".
Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified, the organisation stated, adding that it would fully cooperate with the FBI in its investigations.
The New York Times reported the analyst worked for Feith, who created a special intelligence unit before the Iraq war that had sought to build a case that Baghdad had ties to Al-Qaeda - a position that has been criticised by intelligence professionals.
Asked by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz whether the suspect worked under Feith, the number three Pentagon official, and William Luti, a senior official in the Pentagon's policy section, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita declined comment.
"It's a criminal matter and we don't comment on criminal matters", he said.
CBS also reported that FBI investigators are concerned that Israel may have used him in an effort to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq, but the Defence Department said Saturday that the mole would not have had any influence on decision-making at that level.
Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Feith and Luti set up the intelligence unit, which ended up finding a close relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iraq that later became an important element for invading Iraq.
The FBI has notified Rumsfeld about the investigation and has asked AIPAC to provide it with information about the two representatives in the organization who are suspected of involvement in the affair.
In a statement released Friday, the Pentagon said that it was cooperating with the Justice Department in the investigation, and downplayed the possibility that the suspect had sought to sway U.S. policy in the Gulf or Middle East.
"The investigation involves a single individual at the Department of Defence at the desk officer level who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy", it said.
"Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence U.S. policy through this individual. To the best of the Department of Defence's knowledge, the investigation does not target any other Department of Defence individuals".
In November of 1985, U.S. naval intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested at the gates of the Israeli embassy in Washington, on espionage charges. He was tried, convicted and handed a life sentence for spying for Israel.
Israel apologised for the incident and disbanded the intelligence cell of which Pollard was a part, but all its efforts and pressures to have Mr. Pollards sentence reduced were rejected by successive American administrations.
ENDS ISRAEL ESPIONAGE 28804
>>>The man FBI suspects as having spied for Israel has met Manouchehr Qorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer involved in the Iran-Contra deal scandal of the 1980s
Can you please expand on this with your insight? I only learned of "Rishon Letzion" the other day due to the McGreevey debacle in NJ. I know I'm missing something with all of this new news on Israel Spy stuff.