Sale Responds to Comments

"Dear Pat:

I think that any one drawing the inference from my criticism of Chalabi that my adverse comments could possibly be used as a way to edge America towards a war with Iran lacks any capacity for logic.

Chalabi has always had strong ties with the Iranians. If he worked as their agent, it is something that we should have countered by filling him full of disinformation or channeling erroneous nonsense to Iran about US intentions. The CIA cut him off, so he went to Capitol Hilll and later the Pentagon who kept sending him large checks.

Chalabi does have his backers. Former CIA case officer Warren Marik told me that Chalabi truly wanted Iraq to be rid of Saddam and didn’t care how that came about, an opinion echoed by Ned Walker, former Assistant Sec of State.  That Chalabi was directly responsible for an incredible amount of crap to be channeled into the White House simply shows his skill of pretense, and the unscrupulousness of the administration who was going to use the information to market the war whether it was true or not. To push INC information to the topmost levels of the White House without its being vetted by intelligence professionals is iobscene but it happened.

That Chalabi falsified and hyped reports from his own emigre field agents on WMD is a proven fact. I spoke with one case officer who had taken notes when he interviewed these people, and when he saw the information retailed in 51 US news outlets, he said he could barely recognize it. He could recognize the source but the information had been transformed and exaggerated. I will go into my files and find the name, but it happened.

I will also post additional intelligence on Chalabis government and business dealings in Iraq.

But as I say, he has his defenders: Marik says that the real traitor in the case of the blown operation to read Iran’s codes was "the drunken American idiot" who told Chalabi about the operation, not Chalabi.  Former CIA agent Bob Baer, while excoriating Chalabi in many ways, also says of the exile, "He never told me a lie."

But on the subject of Iran, I think the United States should be talking with them about their program. I think we in America ignored "the will to status" — the feeling on the part of countries they think it their destiny to fulfill, expand and perfect ther powers to their fullest extent. They feel they should not be relegated to a permanent second class place.

The United States has thrown a hissy fit every time another power has developed a nuclear weapon. The Russians surprised us by exploding one in 1949, but we were opposed to De Gaulle getting one, to the British getting one — we had plaid rabbits trying to make sure israel didn’t get one. When it came to Pakistan and India, there was a faction within the agency who thought that perhaps it would tame the virulent hatreds between the two by producing some sort of MAD equilibrium, a doctrine many other intelligence officials thought quite mad.

In any case, I think it unhelpful for view Iran and Iranians as being incapable of reason and common sense.

With greetings to all,

Richard Sale"

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17 Responses to Sale Responds to Comments

  1. Jon Tupper says:

    Mr. Sale and Col Lang,
    You are both so clear and cogent it is refreshing and encouraging for me, a rank citizen, who feels inundated with disinformation upon marketing strategies upon hidden agendas upon unexamined passion, loyalty and greed. Thank you.
    Jon Tupper

  2. Got A Watch says:

    OT for this post, sorry, but relevant to past discussions (perhaps worthy of its own post?):
    “US names general to be ‘war tsar'”
    “US President George W Bush
    has named a senior general to be the first American “war tsar”.
    Lt Gen Douglas Lute, currently serving as director of operations at the Pentagon, will co-ordinate the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    He will report directly to Mr Bush as deputy national security adviser.
    Gen Lute was appointed after a lengthy search in which several candidates apparently turned down the position. He must be confirmed by the US Senate.
    Correspondents say it is unclear exactly what General Lute will do, and whether the job will involve settling turf wars between the Pentagon and the state department.
    He will serve as an adviser to the president but will also keep his military position and three-star ranking, reports said.
    The Associated Press news agency reported that the new appointee would speak for the president concerning developments in the conflict areas and smooth over differences between rival departments.”
    Sounds like he will have all the authority needed to get nothing done. Anybody heard anything about Gen. Lute?
    Meanwhile, back on Earth:
    “War-torn Iraq ‘facing collapse'”
    “Iraq faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation, British foreign policy think-tank Chatham House has warned.
    The report says the Iraqi government is now largely powerless and irrelevant in many parts of the country.
    It says there is not one war but many local civil wars, and urges a major change in US and British strategy….
    This latest paper, written by Gareth Stansfield, a Middle East expert, is unremittingly bleak, says BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins..
    Mr Stansfield, of Exeter University and Chatham House, argues that the break-up of Iraq is becoming increasingly likely.
    In large parts of the country, the Iraqi government is powerless, he says, as rival factions struggle for local supremacy.
    The briefing paper, entitled Accepting Realities in Iraq, says: “There is not ‘a’ civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organisations struggling for power.
    Mr Stansfield says that although al-Qaeda is challenged in some areas by local leaders who do not welcome such intervention, there is a clear momentum behind its activity.
    Iraq’s neighbours also have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US, the report adds.
    The paper accuses each of Iraq’s major neighbouring states – Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – of having reasons “for seeing the instability there continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments”.
    The paper says: “These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq.”
    Wonder if any neo-cons will bother reading that one.

  3. Montag says:

    Regardless of the problems posed by Iran let’s remember that they’re still natural enemies of both Al Qaeda and the Taliban, whom the U.S. actually IS at war with. But I’m sure the Busheviks won’t rest until they’ve changed that, too.
    Perhaps Bush will come up with a new “Axis of Evil”–Iran, Liechtenstein and Bhutan.

  4. arbogast says:

    Here is the missing element:
    It is a matter of record that George Bush wanted to be a “Wartime President”. Karl Rove is intelligent enough to know that a President during war is almost untouchable politically. In addition, George, who is constantly trying to prove that he is not a moron, probably felt that history would treat him better if he were a “war leader”.
    Tenet, of course, bears this out, saying that Bush was an excellent leader after 9/11.
    So, what’s missing is the political side. Chalabi was a very useful tool for George. In the last analysis, it doesn’t make any difference if he was an Agent of Satan. He got what George wanted on the domestic political front. That was what mattered the most.
    Now, of course, thousands have died, and the war is lost. So much for whether George is a moron.
    And, I hope, that I at least can not be tarred with the brush of suggesting that Chalabi is a reason to “attack” Iran.
    “Attacking” Iran means an Israeli air force-style bombing of primarily civilian targets. It is a war crime. It will not help the United States.
    Are there people in China and Russia praying we’ll do it? Probably. But I’m not.

  5. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    War against Iran…what is the current geopolitical context and what is the potential advantage of such a war for the US? WMD (currently non-existant) is a merely a pretext for such a war which one would think is linked to some larger advantage for the US (or transnational private interests) in the minds of Cheney etal.
    Even in Zbig’s neo-Mackinder scenario, “…a coalition allying Russia with both China and Iran can develop only if the United States is shortsighted enough to antagonize China and Iran simultaneously.” (Brzezinksi, The Grand Chessboard (1997), p. 116). Well now.
    Presently, the United States is conducting an overt and covert Cold War with Iran. Not a conventional shooting war yet but, on the overt side, it is an economic war involving economic sanctions and an array of pressures at the international financial level. On the financial front, US Treasury Dept has the lead.
    But this is not new as such a general strategy was in place during the Clinton Administration with its “Dual Containment” of the “rogue states” Iraq and Iran.
    Current changes in the Eurasian energy security picture should be taken into consideration. For this week’s Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan deal see
    The relationship of Iran to the regional energy security strategies of India, Japan, China, and Russia need to be considered for context. Iran’s relationship to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization should also be considered.

  6. Chris Marlowe says:

    arbogast, CK–
    I live in Shanghai and I know Chinese so I can tell you a little about what the Chinese think about an alliance with Iran against the US.
    They’re not thinking about it. It isn’t even discussed, so it can’t get lower on the radar.
    The big story in China is Africa. For the first time in its history, the African Development Bank held its first conference outside Africa, in Shanghai. The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, gave the opening speech.
    If the Chinese had to choose between the US and Iran politically, the Chinese would take the US side, even though energy considerations would draw them to Iran. There still is tremendous friendship to the US in China, even though there have been reservations about America under Bush. The Chinese strategy in dealing with the US diplomatically has been to strengthen common goals, while respecting differences (over the DPRK and Taiwan, for example).
    At the same time, the country has been building strong ties with Russia, Iran, Venezuela and to foster the development of a multilateral world which cannot be dominated by any single nation.
    It’s a very realistic and very smart policy which seeks to maximize the number of good options available to China, while avoiding confrontation as much as possible.

  7. Leigh says:

    If I were Iran, I would beg, borrow, or steal to get nuclear power and/or weapons. It is the only thing that can neutralize both the USA and Israel. I would also be developing that nuclear power at as many different sites as possible to prevent an air strike.
    Anyone but an imbecile would recognize the inevitable and take steps to negotiate with Iran and try to neutralize them instead of antagonizing them.

  8. Matthew says:

    Col: What does the phrase “plaid rabbits” mean?

  9. arbogast says:

    Thank you, Chris Marlowe.
    Very helpful. And very cogent.
    I would say however that a “slow bleed” of the U.S. would suit the Chinese fine. It would certainly prevent this from being a “new American century”…as you point out.

  10. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    CM, yes, indeed. The Chinese are strengthening relations, primarily economic, with a range of countries including Iran, which was what I had in mind. The SCO process is part of that policy. Zbig’s formulation was overly dramatic.
    What I was trying to convey was that while the US is bogged down in geopolitical narcissism — and getting fingers burned in Iraq and Afghanistan — other powers both major and medium are moving along to create the emerging multipolar world you indicate.
    Glad to know you are alive and well in Shanghai. I thought you had been murdered in London by the other side in 1593.
    Although I am not an Asia specialist, I have had the opportunity to exchange views with some of the specialists at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and they are a sophisticated group.
    I prepared a paper on US foreign policy for the 7th International Symposium on Sun Tsu’s Art of War, Hangzhou 2006 which has been translated and is in the proceedings.

  11. JT Davis says:

    I’m making an educated guess but a “plaid rabbit” is probably like a “pink elephant”. It’s a turn of phrase, but probably not a term of “tradecraft”.
    “We had plaid rabbits” is probably his way of saying they frantically tried all kinds of crazy ideas to prevent the Israelis from developing nukes.

  12. Chris Marlowe says:

    The “slow bleed” is not something which the Chinese planned; it’s simply something the US administration has done to itself.
    Of course the Chinese will exploit the situation for their own benefit; that is something the Chinese have been doing well in diplomacy for several thousand years. They are not about to change now.
    Nevertheless, keep in mind that all the Chinese government and party officials continue to send their kids to the US for graduate school. Before, they would choose to stay in the US; now, they are returning right after graduation.

  13. Chris Marlowe says:

    arbogast, CM–
    You need to keep in mind that while the US and China are not in agreement over the new world order; the two economies are deeply intertwined, with the US being China’s largest single export market. This, by itself prevents either the US or Chinese administrations from behaving recklessly.
    As the Chinese economy matures though, the US export market will become less important, especially as the US dollar is falling in value. From the Chinese perspective though, there still is a tremendous amount of goodwill and respect for American ideals.
    It is much easier for Americans to feel and act hostile to China than it is for the Chinese to feel hostile to the Americans. This is because most Americans understand China much less, and feel a certain hostility to the government, a view which is supported by the mainstream media.

  14. johnieB says:

    Prof. Kiracofe,
    I am unable to follow the link you provided to your article. Is anyone else having difficulty, or is the fault mine?

  15. D.Witt says:

    To add one more comment to the Wolfowitz saga, it is interesting to note that his paramour, Shaha Raza, is Iranian and an obstensible ‘supporter of democracy.’ Like Chalabi, and many of the neocons, I suspect that she consciously believes in the rightness of ‘the mission,’ while discounting the very real profits and ethical lapses that have accrued along the way.
    While there may be deeper motives for some of the individuals involved, I believe that the ‘Mayberry Machiavellis’ scenario is the most plausible: The neocons wanted certain outcomes, and their partisan-first strategy produced fellow travelers such as Chalabi and Raza, who joined the amen chorus cockup that led us down the primrose path.

  16. Mackie says:

    Christopher Marlowe said:
    “From the Chinese perspective though, there still is a tremendous amount of goodwill and respect for American ideals.”
    CM, it’s my conclusion that countries like Russia and China have an ‘imperial bent’ that has become part of their national psyche. I appreciate that China must adopt such policies as having only one child, keeping some level of political control to maintain order, and building the Three Gorges Dam out of necessity. I was surprised by your above statement, having come to the conclusion that China would view us as intemperate and vulgar objects of eventual conquest (which I assume will be accomplished by patient waiting). Will you please elaborate on China’s positive view toward us?

  17. Barry says:

    Mr. Sale: “But on the subject of Iran, I think the United States should be talking with them about their program. I think we in America ignored “the will to status” — the feeling on the part of countries they think it their destiny to fulfill, expand and perfect ther powers to their fullest extent. They feel they should not be relegated to a permanent second class place.”
    Look at it from a Iranian national security viewpoint. They’re surrounded by hostile powers, including a superpower which really doesn’t like them, and has a navy right off of their coast.
    How many countries would not think about nukes under those circumstances?

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