In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Alan Weisman — the author of a biography on Richard Perle — writes that the neoconservative architect of the Iraq war “is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility.” Prior to the Iraq war, “Perle used his Pentagon position to lobby both for war and for turning postwar power in Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi, the long-time Iraqi exile.”
Now he’s at it again, lending his political assistance to exiled regime change advocates from Syria and Iran.
With Perle’s help, Farid Ghadry, an exiled Syrian dissident who heads up the Syrian Reform Party, “hopes to be the man in charge one day in Damascus.” Weisman writes there are reasons to be concerned about Ghadry’s credibility:
Unfortunately for Perle, Ghadry is seen in many quarters as a front man for Israel. Not only is he a dues-paying member of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington, but a recent column on his website, titled “Why I Admire Israel,” seems to play right into the hands of those who believe the Bush administration’s obsession with regime change in the Middle East is really all about protecting Israel. Did Perle, the savviest of Washington power players, believe that Ghadry’s tub-thumping for Tel Aviv would make him more popular in Syria?
“No,” Perle replied. “I don’t. But he’s his own man. I don’t always understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.“
Perle is also aiding Amir Abbas Fakhravar, and Iranian dissident who heads the Iran Enterprise Institute, “which takes its name and some of its financial support from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.” In Fakhravar, “Perle had an exile leader he wanted America to know about: Amir Abbas Fakhravar, ‘an Iranian dissident student leader who escaped first from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, then, after months in hiding, from Iran.'” But as Laura Rozen reported in Mother Jones, there are reasons to be skeptical of that story:
Fakhravar may be a false messiah. In interviews with more than a dozen Iranian opposition figures, some of them former political prisoners, a different picture emerged–one of an opportunist being pushed to the fore by Iran hawks, a reputed jailhouse snitch who was locked up for nonpolitical offenses but reinvented himself as a student activist and political prisoner once behind bars.
Weisman writes, “In his quest for idealistic dissidents to do in the Middle East what the Walesas and Havels achieved in Eastern Europe, Perle and his acolytes have tapped the discredited Ahmad Chalabi for Iraq, the suspect Amir Abbas Fakhravar for Iran and the allegiance-challenged Fahrid Ghadry for Syria. They’re just not making heroes like they used to.”