AIPAC from the inside — Part 2: wrangling over regime change

Robert Dreyfuss writes:

With the election of George W. Bush, the events of 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq, Iran became front and center for Weissman at AIPAC. “Iran came back in a big way after the invasion of Iraq, because you had all these guys running around saying, ‘Next stop Tehran!’ and all that,” says Weissman. Many within AIPAC, and some of Israel’s top Iran-watchers, wanted to push hard for Iraq-style regime change in Iran, too, beginning with overt and covert support for dissidents, minority groups, and exile militia such as the Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MKO).

“You should see the people who crawled out of the woodwork to talk to me! I talked to monarchists, to socialists, to communists, everybody. And they all wanted AIPAC to support regime change,” remembers Weissman. “Israel was also trying to unduly influence the United States, too. They were sending a lot of Iranian exiles to the United States from Europe to give talks, purporting to be Iranian leaders. A lot of times, I remember, when I went to Israel Uri Lubrani would take me to meet these people who were stashed in various hotels all over Tel Aviv and he would always make me switch cabs on the way, that kind of thing! This culture of regime change was very strong, very powerful, inside elements in Israel, and the Pentagon, the neoconservatives, a lot of pundits here.”

But Weissman says that AIPAC and other organized Jewish groups in the United States avoided direct calls for regime change, and he takes credit for restraining AIPAC in that regard. “A Jewish organization would not so much get up and say, ‘We want regime change.’ They might say, ‘We need to contain Iran,'” says Weissman.

“[Support for regime change] was the personal opinion of many people in AIPAC, but it never uttered the words ‘regime change.’ And I think my efforts were part of the reason why they never did,” he says, adding: “How would it look anyway? This is what makes it so stupid! The American Jewish community choosing the next government of Iran? Helping to change the next government of Iran? How can that government have any legitimacy? It’s completely ridiculous. And I think the arguments that I raised against it convinced AIPAC, no matter what they personally thought, they realized that what I was saying was right.”

It was at this time that the AIPAC-Franklin espionage controversy erupted. What happened and why? Perhaps the full story of the Rosen-Weissman case, Franklin’s involvement, and what role was played by AIPAC and by Israel will never be known. So far, it’s never been proven that either of the two AIPAC officials either received or passed on any classified documents, either to Israeli intelligence or anyone else. According to Weissman, they merely engaged in what every Washington insider does, namely, meeting with and sharing gossip with U.S. officials, embassy officials, and journalists. Franklin, the Pentagon Iran analyst, never gave Rosen or Weissman any actual documents, Weissman says, though he did try to get the support of AIPAC and a handful of neoconservative outsiders for the Pentagon’s battle with the State Department over policy toward Iran. [Continue reading…]

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