Monday, March 27, 2006

Exclusive: Neocon Expert Caught Out Over Iran Warmongering

On March 23rd, Kenneth R. Timmerman writing for Frontpage Magazine made an astonishing pronouncement:
In January, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that Middle East intelligence sources had confirmed a story appearing in the German newspaper Bild on Dec. 16, 2005, alleging that Iran had acquired Russian-made nuclear warheads through North Korea.

The warheads had equipped SS-N-6 submarine-launched missiles. U.S. intelligence sources privately confirmed these reports to me. [Emphasis Mine]
If true, this claim would blow the current brewing crisis over Iran's nuclear program wide open, change the game entirely...and Jane's is the definitive military sourcebook, whatever it said would normally be impeccably sourced.

However the Jane's article that Mr Timmerman cites doesn't appear to mention nuclear warheads at all, just the missiles. In fact, it notes that analysts are puzzled by the Iranian purchase:
"Although the technology is 40 years old, the SS-N-6 SLBM is a very complicated missile, which is not easy to copy and does not align with the current Iranian efforts," Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel's Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation, told JDW.
It's actually fairly likely that Iran bought the missiles to help along it's nascent satellite-launch program. mention of the purchase of actual "nuclear warheads" in the "non-subscriber extract" (which is all you can read without paying), which would have been cataclysmic front page news worldwide if Jane's had actually said such a thing.

On Friday I emailed Jane's asking their editors if they would like to comment on what appeared to be an extreme misrepresentation of their article. Today they wrote back, attaching a full copy of the article so we all knew what we were talking about:
Dear Sir,

You're quite right: we were talking missiles and not warheads. I pasted in the full article below and copied in our communications manager should the Timmerman material lead to any further complications or misquotations regarding our reporting.

Many thanks for drawing this to our attention.

Yours sincerely,

P J R Felstead
Editor, JDW
The chances of this being an accidental misinterpretation by Mr. Timmerman seem slim to me. He isn't some know-nothing opinionator, but rather a very well connected and very well informed neoconservative figure. According to his Wikipedia entry he is an expert in military matters, having written for various defense journals in the past. He runs his own defense and security consultancy, Middle East Data Project, Inc. It takes a lot of mistake for such an expert to see a report of the aquisition of nuclear warheads in an article that says no such thing. Were he capable of a simple mistake of this magnitude, then his credibility as an expert would surely be seriously undermined - something that news organisations such as FOX News and the UK's Daily Telegraph might have to take into account when citing him as an authoritative source or consultant. (Actually that Telegraph story also uses two other sources of extremely questionable credibility.) Congress might want to bear it in mind too when next he testifies before them.

(They might also wish to consider Mr. Timmerman's claim that "Separate sources in the U.S. and Iran have told FDI recently that the Iranian regime is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006." An event that singularly failed to happen.)

Yet the possibility that Mr. Timmerman deliberately cited spurious sources for a false claim is even more worrying. Given bono fides of Mr. Timmerman's kind, there would surely have to be a serious motive behind any such lie.

Mr. Timmerman is also Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, an organisation which he co-founded with PNAC founding member Peter Rodman, who is currently United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and some prominent Iranian dissident figures. As such, you might expect (and you would be right to do so) that this Foundation has the ear of the Bush administration, GOP members on the Hill and prominent neoconservative thinkers. The Foundation has a distinctly secular bent, unsurprising given Mr. Timmerman's negative opinions of the Islam in that country, and is dedicated to assisting regime change in Iran.

More surprising, perhaps - and not mentioned in any official bio - is his presence on the Advisory Board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) - an honor he currently shares with Rep. Eric Cantor, Michael Ledeen, Jack Kemp and Richard Perle. Past Board members include Vice President Dick Cheney, US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Undersecretary of Defence for policy Douglas Feith. A heady and powerful grouping. JINSA, it has been alleged, is closely allied to neoconservative advocates of pre-emptive regime change and to the AIPAC group which is currently embroilled in a spying scandal.

It appears, then, that Mr. Timmerman and his Foundation for Democracy in Iran are very well placed indeed to gain a great measure of influence and power should the US institute forced regime change in Iran. Iranian members of his organisation could reasonably expect high political office as appointees of any occupation authority in the same way that Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi were in Iraq. The parallels are obvious - providing shaky evidence and allegations of a WMD program to help fomment a war that catapults them into political office.

It perhaps is significant that the Foundation's current campaign is one calling for information which would help "to identify and freeze Iranian government assets around the world" which they say would help any sanctions imposed by the US or the international community. The amount mentioned is $30 to $50 billion. Their motives may well be pure, but such information would have a dual use for the Foundation - it would make an excellent bargaining chip should an invasion and occupation occur. "Look, we know where the buried treasure is hidden!"

Money and power have always been a powerful motive.

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