A lot of attention

August 9, 2003 1:25 p.m.

A lot of attention is being paid to late reports of meetings between Pentagon hawks and exiled Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghorbanifar, a central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal. (The original reports have come from Newsday, which continues to amazingly outclass and outpace some of the papers of record on this whole tangled WMD-regime-change-Pentagon-hawks story.)

Ghorbanifar’s involvement merits plenty of attention. But I strongly suspect that name is the sizzle, not the steak, as it were.

Look further down into the story. Particularly, at the name Harold Rhode, who has apparently been the point-man on the Ghorbanifar contacts. Rhode’s name comes up again and again in these stories. He’s also a leading Pentagon contact with Ahmed Chalabi. When Dick Cheney gave his speech at AEI a few weeks ago, sitting in the front row was Mr Chalabi. Sitting next to him, on one side and the other, were Lynne Cheney and … Harold Rhode. Rhode also has a rep as a bit of a hot-head. As I recounted in an article last year in Salon, in early 2001 Rhode physically accosted the dimunitive Saudi diplomat Adel al Jubeir in a hallway at the Pentagon, after a meeting with Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and Saudi officials.

At the time Rhode was styling himself Wolfowitz’s “Islamic affairs advisor”, and that little incident caused a small sandstorm in Saudi-American relations, as well as scotching Rhode from consideration for a marquee job in the Pentagon’s office of Near East and South Asian Affairs. He eventually landed on his feet in Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans.

More on Rhode in subsequent posts. But he is at the center of all the grand-planning for America’s new role in the Middle East. And he is very much a thread to pull.

(Special Note to Sen. Carl Levin: Why the delay in sending those document requests to the Pentagon? The clock is ticking!)

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