Cheney, Rice at Odds Over Iran


[..] She continues, “Look, there’s always noise in any large system. But I want to say something about the vice president. You know, if he doesn’t agree, the vice president talks about it, just as if [Defense Secretary] Bob Gates doesn’t agree, or I don’t agree, we sit down and talk about it. And then if necessary we talk about it with the president and he decides … The vice president has never been somebody who tries to do that on the sidelines, behind the scenes. He really doesn’t.”

In a separate article, a Newsweek investigation shows that Cheney’s national-security team has been actively challenging Rice’s Iran strategy in recent months. “We hear a completely different story coming out of Cheney’s office, even now, than what we hear from Rice on Iran,” a Western diplomat whose embassy has close dealings with the White House, tells Newsweek. Officials from the veep’s office have been openly dismissive of the nuclear negotiations in think-tank meetings with Middle East analysts in Washington, according to a high-level administration official who asked for anonymity because of his position.

Since Tehran has defied two U.N. resolutions calling for a suspension of its uranium-enrichment program, “there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude among the hard-liners,” says a European diplomat who’s involved in the talks but would not comment for the record. And Newsweek has learned that the veep’s team seems eager to build a case that Iran is targeting Americans not just in Iraq but along the border of its other neighbor, Afghanistan, Hirsh and Investigative Correspondent Mark Hosenball report.

In the last few weeks, Cheney’s staff have unexpectedly become more active participants in an interagency group that steers policy on Afghanistan, according to an official familiar with the internal deliberations. During weekly meetings of the committee, known as the Afghanistan Interagency Operating Group, Cheney staffers have been intensely interested in a single issue: recent intelligence reports alleging that Iran is supplying weapons to Afghanistan’s resurgent Islamist militia, the Taliban, according to two administration officials who asked for anonymity when discussing internal meetings.

In early April, British forces operating under NATO command in Afghanistan’s wild-west Helmand province stopped a convoy carrying what appeared to be ordnance of Iranian origin intended for delivery to the Taliban. The explosives bore suspected Iranian markings similar to those found on weapons confiscated from Shiite militias in Iraq-and the Brits intercepted another shipment a month later.

An official familiar with the interagency group’s deliberations said that Cheney’s aides kept asking what sounded like leading questions, demanding to know whether there was any Iranian entity other than the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-the state security force Washington accuses of arming Iraqi insurgents-that could be responsible for the arms shipments. Cheney’s aides, the official added, appeared less interested in other more mundane items on the Afghanistan policy committee’s agenda.

British officials who asked for anonymity because of the nature of their work emphasize that they lack hard evidence linking the shipments to the Revolutionary Guards, and that the weapons could just as easily have been bought on the black market in Iran. But according to one official familiar with the intelligence on Iranian interference in Iraq, Cheney earlier this year began exhibiting particular interest in any evidence detailing Tehran’s aid to anti-American insurgents there. Asked about the vice president’s allegedly keen interest in Iran’s activities in Afghanistan, Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn said, “We do not discuss intelligence matters or internal deliberations.”

June 3, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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