Jeffrey LewisIran NSPD Coda

Long-time readers may recall that I was fairly vexed by the utter inability of the Bush Administration to produce a policy on Iran.

And by “produce” I mean actually write an an honest-to-goodness National Security President Directive that the President signs.

I observed that they never got around to it (Anybody got an Iran policy?, October 24, 2004), used it as a primer on national security policy directive process (National Security Presidential Directives, February 12, 2005), observed that the lack thereof probably inhibited a response to Iran’s May 2003 overture (Iran’s May 2003 Offer, May 29, 2006) and just generally used the absence of a written policy to heap abuse on Condi Rice (Rice To MSM: Gullible Not In Dictionary, June 4, 2006).

I remind readers of this little history because Larry Franklin, the Pentagon official who plead guilty to 3 felony counts for improperly retaining and disclosing classified information, gave his version of the NSPD debate to Bill Gertz — for what that’s worth:

The two-year dispute involved setting U.S. policy on Iran in a national security presidential directive.

“The differences were insoluble between the secretary of defense’s office — represented by me, an Iran desk officer, and a couple of others — and the State Department. And CIA was kind of in the middle,” he said.

Mr. Franklin said that as part of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans — a special analytical group in the office of Douglas J. Feith, then the undersecretary of defense for policy — he also felt an urgency to influence Iran policy because he knew in advance the dates for the March 23, 2003, invasion of Iraq.

“And not having a policy on the country next door [to the one] that you are invading I thought was a problem,” he said. “I knew what the Iranians had prepared for us in Iraq. Sure, they were glad we would knock off Saddam. But as soon as we got in, they were not going to allow us to succeed, nor were they going to allow us to pull out without pain.”

Franklin, who held a “top secret” security clearance during his Pentagon work, said the Iranians had prepared “an entire mosaic of agents and cooperatives inside Iraq before we had invaded.”

“And I knew we would be coming home in bunches of body bags if we didn’t do something to frighten Iran into neutrality,” he said.

Senior Pentagon officials, he said, mistakenly thought the United States could “persuade Iran to be part of the solution and not part of the problem” in Iraq. However, Franklin was convinced that Iranian officials would not cooperate and that Tehran remembered U.S. support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988.

“So I wanted to delay and shock the National Security Council staff into convincing [National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice and others that, hey, maybe we ought to think this out a little more because there was so little time,” Franklin said.

His plan was to use Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman to relay his concerns to the National Security Council (NSC) staff. Instead, the AIPAC officials, without telling Franklin, took his information, some of which was classified, to Mr. Gilon at the Israeli Embassy and to a Washington Post reporter.

“I felt betrayed by Rosen and Weissman because I had risked everything for what I had thought were the interests of our republic,” he said. “And, yeah, second of all, I felt very disappointed in the FBI.”

Abbe Lowell, the lawyer who successfully represented Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, disputed Franklin’s account about his interests in talking to the AIPAC officials.

Franklin, Mr. Lowell said, sought AIPAC’s help, through Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, beyond the effort to reach the NSC as part of an “ideological war with the Department of State.”

“His request of them was to try to get AIPAC to weigh in on his side of the group at [the Department of] Defense,” Mr. Lowell said. “It was not singularly focused on the NSC.”

Mr. Lowell said Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman had no immediate comment on the case. Spokesmen for AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy also declined to comment.


  1. Arch Roberts (History)

    This insight is worth a lot, and shouldn’t be gainsaid, Jeffrey, no matter the source. We now have a source we didn’t before, and we can expect more illumination from those who might wish to “correct” the record.

  2. anon

    err a … Bush is no longer the Pres. We got us a new guy now…& he’s your man so what’s the problem?

  3. bradley laing (History)

    i E-MAILED you an article claiming serious security problems exist in the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, although it was from a group that seemed fanatical in it’s headline.

    If you read this before the e-mail, this is just an attempt to get the message to you faster.

  4. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    Hence the use in the title of “coda” — as in the closing section of a musical composition or Led Zeppelin’s ninth studio album.

  5. Anonymous (History)

    The best written paper IMO on the Iranian nuclear threat is, “Iran´s Nuclear Threat, The Day After,” Heritage Special Report, SR-53, June 4, 2009, at, with an archived video, at

    From the Contents of the report:

    — Iran´s Looming Atom Bomb
    — Past Failures to Stop Iran´s Nuclear Weapons Program
    — How an Iranian Nuclear Weapon Capability May Emerge
    — What to Do the Day After Iran Goes Nuclear
    — Appendix A: Iran´s Nuclear Timeline
    — Appendix B: Additional Reading

    PS: “The Terrorist Threat to Pakistan´s Nuclear Weapons,” By Shaun Gregory, at, is the latest in-depth analyze of the terrorist threat by AQ/Taliban to the Pakistani nukes.

  6. Oliver

    Douglas Feith: “The fucking stupidest man on the face of the earth” according to Gen. Tommy Franks.
    ‘nuff said!