|Veteran neo-con advisor moves on
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - When The
Washington Post published a list of the people whom Karl
Rove, President George W Bush's closest advisor,
regularly consults for advice outside the
administration, foreign policy veterans were shocked
when Michael Ledeen popped up as the only full-time
international affairs analyst.
"The two met
after Bush's election," the Post reported cheerfully,
quoting Ledeen about Rove's request that "any time you
have a good idea, tell me". "More than once, Ledeen has
seen his ideas, faxed to Rove, become official policy or
rhetoric," noted the newspaper.
"When I saw
that, I couldn't believe it," said one retired senior
diplomat. "But then again, with this administration, it
seemed frighteningly plausible."
Ledeen, resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works
closely with the better-known former chairman of the
Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle, has been a fixture
of Washington's neo-conservative community for more than
20 years. But he is now out front, in a public campaign
for the United States to confront Iran, warning that
Tehran will cause Washington problems in both Iraq and
Afghanistan and that "the mullahs are determined to
"We are now engaged in a
regional struggle in the Middle East, and the Iranian
tyrants are the keystone of the terror network," he
wrote in Monday's Post. "Far more than the overthrow of
Saddam Hussein, the defeat of the mullahcracy and the
triumph of freedom in Tehran would be a truly historic
event and an enormous blow to the terrorists."
Along with Morris Amitay, a former top lobbyist
for the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington,
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Ledeen has
already co-founded a new group, called the Coalition for
Democracy in Iran (CDI), which is pressing Congress to
approve a pending bill that would, among other things,
provide some US$50 million in aid to both exile groups
and opposition forces in Iran.
To Ledeen, whose
own contacts with the mullahs in the Iran-Contra affair
15 years ago remain the source of some mystery, Iran is
"the mother of modern terrorism". And terrorism has been
Ledeen's bread and butter since at least the late 1970s,
when he consulted for Italian military intelligence,
which in turn enabled him to expose Billy Carter's
dealings with the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya to the
great satisfaction of Republicans, who were revving up
their campaign against Billy's brother, then president
Ledeen's right-wing Italian
connections - including alleged ties to the P-2 Masonic
Lodge that rocked Italy in the early 1980s - have long
been a source of speculation and intrigue, but he
returned to Washington in 1981 as "anti-terrorism"
advisor to the new secretary of state, Al Haig.
Over the next several years, Ledeen used his
position as consultant to Haig, the Pentagon and the
National Security Council under Ronald Reagan to boost
the notion of a global terrorist conspiracy based in the
Kremlin, whose KGB pulled the strings of all of the
world's key terrorist groups, especially in the Middle
He was a heavy promoter of the thesis that
it was the KGB that was behind the 1981 attempted
assassination by Turkish right-winger, Mehmet Ali Agca,
of Pope John Paul II, a view he continues to expound
today and which also helps explain his contempt for the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), whose analysts never
accepted the "Bulgarian Connection", as it was called.
In the mid-1980s, when Ledeen was working for
the National Security Council, he tangled with the CIA
again over his efforts with Israeli spy David Kimche to
gain the release of US hostages in Beirut through an
Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, in the
opening stages of what would become the Iran-Contra
But Ghorbanifar did not come through.
Despite Ledeen's assessment of the middleman as "one of
the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever
known", he flunked four lie detector tests administered
by the CIA, which had long warned that the Iranian
"should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and a
Undaunted and untouched by the
Iran-Contra investigation, Ledeen recorded his
experience in Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's
Account of the Iran-Contra Affair, one of more than
10 books he has written on US foreign policy, de
Tocqueville, Machiavelli and terrorism, the latest of
which is titled The War Against the Terror Masters:
Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How We'll Win.
Ledeen has been no less prolific in his
organizational work, although, besides AEI - where he
works with fellow foreign policy neo-cons Perle, former
United Nations ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Joshua
Muravchik and Reuel Marc Gerecht - his main
institutional forum over the past 25 years has been the
Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA),
an activist group that promotes a strategic alliance
between the United States and Israel.
He has also
served on the board of the US Committee for a Free
Lebanon and has taken an organizing role in CDI. His
co-founder there, Amitay, also works for JINSA.
He is also close to key figures in the
administration, particularly Under Secretary of Defense
for Policy, Douglas Feith, whose pro-Likud politics he
largely shares; Vice President Dick Cheney's powerful
chief of staff, I Lewis Libby; and Elliott Abrams, the
director for the Near East on the National Security
Council. To that list can now apparently be added Rove,
who is as close to Bush as it is possible to get.
Throughout his career, Ledeen has insisted that
war and violence are integral parts of human nature and
derided the notion that peace can be negotiated between
two nations. He was a fierce opponent of the Oslo peace
process. "I don't know of a case in history where peace
has been accomplished in any way other than one side
winning a war [and] imposing terms on the other side,"
he said two years ago.
He also has expressed
little faith in traditional US allies, notably in "Old
Europe", which he spent much of the 1980s attacking for
being insufficiently anti-Soviet. As Washington moved
toward war in Iraq, for example, he even questioned
whether France and Germany were in league with al-Qaeda
and Saddam Hussein.
"The Franco-German strategy
was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and
terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United
Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive
response from the United States," he wrote, suggesting
three weeks later, as the US offensive stalled on its
way to Baghdad, that France and Germany be treated as
For Ledeen, Iraq was only
the beginning of the broader struggle against the
"terror masters". "As soon as we land in Iraq, we're
going to face the whole terrorist network," he told an
interviewer in March. "Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi
Arabia are the big four, and then there's Libya." "You
can't solve all problems I grant that," he told the BBC.
"I mean, I wrote a book about Machiavelli, and I know
the struggle against evil is going to go forever."
(Inter Press Service)