In an indication of their growing estrangement with the Bush administration, neoconservatives are slamming the White House for failing to stop what they describe as an antisemitic campaign to marginalize them being conducted by the CIA and the State Department.
This view was outlined in a memo circulating among neoconservative foreign policy analysts in Washington. Obtained by the Forward, the memo criticizes the White House for not refuting press reports on the FBI’s investigation of Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin that suggest wrongdoing on the part of Jewish officials at the Defense Department.
“If there is any truth to any of the accusations, why doesn’t the White House demand that they bring on the evidence? On the record,” the memo stated. “There’s an increasing antisemitic witch hunt.”
A source who has seen the memo said it was written by Michael Rubin, a former member of the Pentagon’s policy planning staff who dealt with Iran policy. Rubin, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, declined to comment for this story.
“I feel like I’m in Paris, not Washington,” the author of the memo wrote. He added: “I’m disappointed at the lack of leadership that let things get where they are, and which is allowing these bureaucratics (sic) to spin out of control.”
The memo comes as the FBI is investigating the possibility that Franklin passed classified information on Iran policy to officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who in turn provided the documents to Israel. Israel and Aipac have denied any wrongdoing. Media reports suggest that several other Pentagon officials have been questioned in connection to the probe.
Some Washington insiders claim that the White House silence over the Franklin affair reflects a growing view within the administration that the neoconservatives — widely seen as leading proponents of the Iraq war — represent a mounting political burden, given the continuing chaos in Iraq.
While President Bush and his closest advisers openly shared the neoconservatives’ belief that American military action was needed to remove Saddam Hussein, the two sides seem to have parted ways over Iran. Neoconservative analysts in and out of government are calling on the United States to attempt to secure regime change in Tehran. The administration has increasingly suggested that it has no plans to take such forceful steps against Iran.
The recent controversy surrounding the FBI investigations also can be traced to renewed concerns in some quarters of the intelligence and security communities that Washington’s close relationship with Jerusalem –– centered, in the critics’ view, in the neoconservative group at the Pentagon –– is hurting American national interests.
While they generally refuse to speak on the record, some former intelligence and law-enforcement officials have alleged that Israel operates an aggressive spying operation in America. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Sharon, have vehemently denied such claims, insisting that their country does not conduct espionage operations against the United States.
Some observers point to the harsh treatment of accused spy Jonathan Pollard as evidence of the intelligence community’s strong feelings on the issue. Pollard, a former Navy civilian analyst, is serving a life sentence for providing Israel with classified documents about Soviet armament. Members of the security establishment have worked aggressively to block attempts by Jewish organizations to have Pollard’s sentence commuted on humanitarian grounds.
This old resentment toward Israel and its supporters in the United States has found new echo with the growing criticism of the neoconservatives for their advocacy of war in Iraq. In recent months, several critics of the neoconservatives’ influence on Middle Eastern policy have openly accused Israel of pushing a hawkish agenda.
Retired general Anthony Zinni, a former chief of the U.S. Central Command and presidential Middle East envoy, told CBS in May that “the worst-kept secret in Washington” was that the neoconservatives pushed the war in Iraq for Israel’s benefit. Similar criticism of Israel and Jewish groups appeared in the recent book “Imperial Hubris,” by Anonymous, who was later identified as Michael Scheuer, a serving senior CIA official.
“Objectively, al Qaeda does not seem off the mark when it describes the U.S.-Israel relationship as a detriment to America,” wrote Scheuer, a former head of the CIA analytical team focusing on Al Qaeda. “One can only react to this stunning reality by giving all praise to Israel’s diplomats, politicians, intelligence services, U.S.-citizen spies, and the retired senior U.S. officials and wealthy Jewish-American organizations who lobby an always amenable Congress on Israel’s behalf.”
In recent months, signs of alienation from the neoconservatives have come as well from the Bush administration. American officials, for example, have accused longtime Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, of warning Iranian intelligence officials that the United States had broken Iran’s secret communications codes. The FBI’s investigation to determine who in government had told Chalabi about the secret code-breaking operation has focused on Defense Department officials, sources said.
American officials, speaking anonimously, have given conflicting comments on whether the Franklin and Chalabi probes are linked.
The barrage of news reports on the allegations of improper conduct on the part of Aipac and Pentagon officials has fueled a suspicion among neo-conservatives that they are the victims of a smear campaign quietly endorsed by the White House. The recent memo being circulated in neoconservative circles points a finger at several State Department officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and at members of the National Security Council, including Robert Blackwill, who took over Iraq policy recently and is said to be behind the Chalabi crackdown.
The memo, in an apparent reference to a June 2003 article in The Washington Post describing administration infighting over U.S. policy toward Tehran, asserted that media leaks from the State Department sank an effort by Pentagon officials to call for more aggressive action against Iran in a key policy document called the national security presidential directive, or NSPD.
“It was bad enough that the White House rewarded the June 15, 2003 leak by canceling consideration of the NSPD,” the memo stated. “It showed the State Department that leaks could supplant real debate. But while Armitage or Blackwell (sic) might be seeking to score points inside the beltway, they are feeding conspiracies in the Middle East that will sink the president’s policies in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, etc.”
To back up claims of antisemitism, the memo points to reports that the FBI has hired Stephen Green, a longtime critic of American-Israeli ties, as a consultant. A former United Nations official, Green has a long record of claiming that Israel uses Jewish Americans, some of them prominent, to spy on the United States. Green has said in interviews that FBI officials interviewed him at length in the past few weeks.
“Green has… been on a one-man mission to expose deep-cover Israeli agents for decades,” the memo said.
Green stresssed that the bureau had sought him out “and not the other way around” and that its officials did not ask about Franklin but about leading neoconservative like Wolfowitz and Feith.