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Report

US Sets Sights on Toppling  Iran Regime



July 16, 2004
The Times
Michael Binyon and Bronwen Maddox


THE US will mount a concerted attempt to overturn the regime in Iran if President Bush is elected for a second term. It would work strenuously to foment a revolt against the ruling theocracy by Iran's 'hugely dissatisfied' population, a senior official has told The Times.

The United States would not use military force, as in Iraq, but if "Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran", declared the official, who is determined that there should be no let-up in the Administration's War on Terror.

To what extent the official, known to be hawkish, was speaking for the White House was unclear, but his remarks are nevertheless likely to cause alarm in Europe. He hinted at a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, saying that there was a window of opportunity for destroying Iran's main nuclear complex at Bushehr next year that would close if Russia delivered crucial fuel rods. To destroy Bushehr after the delivery would cause huge environmental damage. The rods would allow the Iranians to obtain enough plutonium for many dozens of nuclear weapons, he said.

The official also stepped up the pressure on Britain, France and Germany to take a tougher line on Iran, voicing the disdain within the Administration for the Europeans' attempt to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomacy. Britain had joined the effort in order to demonstrate its European credentials, he said. France and Germany had teamed up with Britain because they realised that the pair of them could no longer run Europe alone.

Washington believes that the trio has been embarrassed by Iran's failure to hold good to a deal it struck with the Iranian regime last October. Iran pledged to give UN inspectors the freedom to make snap inspections, and also to suspend uranium enrichment.

Since then, some members of the Administration have begun referring in private to Britain, France and Germany as 'the Tehran three', and to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, as 'Jack of Tehran'.

If the Europeans fail to get Iran to back down at a meeting this month, the US wants to close the gap between the rival diplomatic approaches and refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council.

Russia is due to deliver the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran early next year for insertion into the reactor at Bushehr before the end of the year.

Despite that, the official believes that it is not impossible to get Russia to see it our way and back a UN resolution that would 'raise the international saliency' of Iran's nuclear ambitions. He is convinced that Iran is afraid of a 'conveyor belt' that would lead inexorably to sanctions and even military action.

Iran is one of the three members of President Bush's 'axis of evil' and has further angered Washington with its covert interference in Iraq since the end of last year's war to topple Saddam Hussein.

The official dismissed suggestions that Washington would hesitate to seek regime change in Iran, given the problems it has encountered in Iraq, and Colin Powell, a restraining influence as Secretary of State, will not be serving a second term. It is less clear how the Administration could foment a revolution without uniting Iranians against 'the Great Satan'.

The official claimed that more than its dislike of the mullahs, the Iranian population was dissatisfied with an economy that did not have jobs for the young: 60 per cent of the population is under 24.

There is little organised opposition inside the country and financing it directly or through front organisations would probably play into the hands of the mullahs anyway.

At present the US relies on about a dozen Farsi satellite television and radio channels in the San Fernando Valley, California. They beam pirate broadcasts to the estimated seven million Iranians with illegal satellite dishes.

Last year Washington also set up a Persian-language Voice of America programme that is broacast into Iraq. The internet offers another channel for US propaganda, but efforts to impose stiff sanctions or fund anti-Government exile groups have been frustrated by a Republican split over the relative merits of confrontation or engagement.

Despite the US threats one of Iran's top ruling clerics vowed yesterday that the Islamic republic would continue to pursue its controversial nuclear programme. "We are resolute. It is worth achieving it at any cost," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardians Council, said.

EX-Nat'l Security Adviser Probed Over Terror Memos
 
Fox News



WASHINGTON — Former President Clinton's national security adviser is under criminal investigation for taking highly classified terrorism documents that should have been turned over to the independent commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, FOX News has confirmed.

Sandy Berger (search) is under scrutiny by the Justice Department (search) following the disappearance of documents he was reviewing at the National Archives.

Berger's home and office were searched earlier this year by FBI (search) agents armed with warrants after the former Clinton adviser voluntarily returned some sensitive documents to the National Archives (search) and admitted he also removed handwritten notes he had made while reviewing the sensitive documents.

However, some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of Al Qaeda terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration are still missing, officials and lawyers said. Officials said the missing documents were highly classified also identify America's terror vulnerabilities at airports to seaports.

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

"I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced," Berger said in a statement.

There are laws strictly governing the handling of classified information, including prohibiting unauthorized removal or release of such information.

Lanny Breuer, one of Berger's attorneys, said his client had offered to cooperate fully with the investigation but had not yet been interviewed by the FBI or prosecutors.

Berger served as Clinton's national security adviser for all of the president's second term and most recently has been informally advising Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Clinton asked Berger last year to review and select the administration documents that would be turned over to the Sept. 11 commission.

The FBI searches of Berger's home and office occurred after National Archives employees said they believed they witnessed Berger placing documents in his clothing while reviewing sensitive Clinton administration papers and that some documents were missing.

Berger said he returned some classified documents that he found in his office and all of the handwritten notes he had taken from the secure room, but could not locate two or three copies of the millennium terror report.

"In the course of reviewing over several days thousands of pages of documents on behalf of the Clinton administration in connection with requests by the Sept. 11 commission, I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives," Berger said.

"When I was informed by the Archives that there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had except for a few documents that I apparently had accidentally discarded."

Breuer said Berger believed he was looking at copies of the classified documents, not originals.

Government and congressional officials said no decision has been made on whether Berger should face criminal charges.

The Kerry Effect

Although lawmakers didn't want to make a judgment call on Berger's fate until all the facts are known, they agreed that the situation doesn't look good for Berger, or even for Kerry.

"I think the problem here is, Sandy Berger is a close adviser of Sen. John Kerry and there's a certain discipline you have to have in this business … We're all political animals ... we're all trying to get a leg up on the other guy" in an election, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told FOX News on Tuesday. "Obviously, he's violated that discipline."

"There's an ethic here -- that is of strict discipline, of not letting the fact you're working on a political campaign start to color your actions when it comes to national security," Hunter continued.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., called the news "surprising" and said that "unless we learn otherwise, I have to assume that what Sandy said was right -- that any removal of documents was inadvertent. But it is serious."

As to whether Kerry should dump Berger from his adviser list, Lieberman said: "That's up to John Kerry, but I'm sure he will stay on the team unless there's some charges that are proven that leads Senator Kerry to do otherwise."

Democratic strategist Richard Goodstein said "absolutely not" when asked if Kerry should drop Berger.

"The documents that Sandy supposedly took were copies. There are copies elsewhere throughout the Archives and elsewhere in Washington, so it's not like he was trying to cover something up," Goodstein said.

But Ben Ginsberg, national counsel for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, said the big question is whether Kerry got his hands on any of the information in question.

"That's an essential question that needs to be answered from the Kerry campaign -- did they benefit from documents that they should not have had?"

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, "we need more information -- obviously the timing of it is not good" for Kerry.

"From now on, until the election, everything like this will have a spotlight put on it, examined very carefully," Lott continued.

More 'Innocent Than It Looks?'

David Gergen, who was an adviser to Clinton and worked with Berger for a time in the White House, said Tuesday, "I think it's more innocent than it looks."

"I have known Sandy Berger for a long time," Gergen said in a television interview. "He would never do anything to compromise the security of the United States." Gergen said he thought that "it is suspicious" that word of the investigation of Berger would emerge just as the Sept. 11 commission is about to release its report, since "this investigation started months ago."

Berger testified publicly at one of the commission's hearings about the Clinton administration's approach to fighting terrorism.

Berger had ordered his counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, in early 2000 to write the after-action report and has publicly spoken about how the review brought to the forefront the realization that Al Qaeda had reached America's shores and required more attention.

The missing documents involve two or three draft versions of the report as it was being refined by the Clinton administration. The Archives is believed to have copies of some of the missing documents.

In the FBI search of his office, Berger also was found in possession of a small number of classified note cards containing his handwritten notes from the Middle East peace talks during the 1990s, but those are not a focal point of the current criminal probe, according to officials and lawyers.

Breuer said the Archives staff first raised concerns with Berger during an Oct. 2 review of documents that at least one copy of the post-millennium report he had reviewed earlier was missing. Berger was given a second copy that day, Breuer said.

Officials said Archive staff specially marked the documents and when the new copy and others disappeared, Archive officials called Clinton attorney Bruce Lindsey.

Berger immediately returned all the notes he had taken, and conducted a search and located two copies of the classified documents on a messy desk in his office, Breuer said. An Archives official came to Berger's home to collect those documents but Berger couldn't locate the other missing copies, the lawyer said.

Breuer said Berger was allowed to take handwritten notes but also knew that taking his own notes out of the secure reading room was a "technical violation of Archive procedures, but it is not all clear to us this represents a violation of the law."

Justice officials have informed the Sept. 11 commission of the Berger incident and the nature of the documents in case commissioners had any concerns, officials said. The commission is expected to release its final report on Thursday.

FOX News' Major Garrett, Liza Porteus, Anna Stolley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.