The Bush administration is moving aggressively from a policy aimed at neutralizing Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions to one of regime change, according to a fascinating piece by the indispensable Laura Rozen, whose blog, “War and Piece,” is one of my faves. David Denehy, of the International Republican Institute, has been put in charge of a new “Office of Iranian Affairs” set up within the State Department: he will report to Elizabeth Cheney, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs. Exile groups are reportedly disappointed that the cash isn’t being handed out fast enough, but one fears they haven’t got long to wait. What the future holds is laid out in pretty stark terms by Rozen, who writes:
“As much as $50 million of the funds requested will go to the Voice of America for Persian-language broadcasts. The State Department also is planning to send 15 foreign service officers to countries neighboring Iran and to capitals with large Iranian exile populations to serve as ‘Iran watchers.’
“At the Pentagon, the new Iranian directorate has been set up inside its policy shop, which previously housed the Office of Special Plans. The controversial intelligence analysis unit, established before the Iraq war, championed some of the claims of Ahmad Chalabi. A number of assertions made by the former Iraqi exile and onetime Pentagon favorite were later discredited.
“Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable declined to name the acting director of the new Iran office and would say only that the appointee was a ‘career civil servant.’ Among those staffing or advising the Iranian directorate are three veterans of the Office of Special Plans: Abram N. Shulsky, its former director; John Trigilio, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst; and Ladan Archin, an Iran specialist.”
Our old friends at the “Office of Special Plans” — who channeled so much of the phony “intelligence” that ginned up the war with Iraq — are planning a little reunion, it seems. Whether these old dogs have learned some new tricks, or are just content to re-run some of the old ones, be warned: they’re back on the loose….