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Behind the AIPAC Probe, Neocons Seen Battling Rivals

"Is there a 'rogue' operation in the administration waging an internal struggle over this policy?" The Economist asked. "If so, is it possible that Franklin's bosses at the Pentagon sent him to get input from the Israelis and the AIPAC to back up their policy position on Iran?"

In the view of Ze'ev Schiff, national security correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, the AIPAC probe is part of the CIA's effort to wrest control of Middle East policy from the pro-Israeli officials at the Pentagon.

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"The CIA sees Israel as disruptive in American efforts to improve its relations with the Arabs," he writes. "It's not surprising that the CIA was the first to charge that Israel has an agent in the Pentagon."

Schiff says that as early as 1997, CIA director George Tenet made "stinging" comments to Israeli officials saying Israel "had a spy" in the upper reaches of the U.S. government, Schiff says. No such Israeli spy ever surfaced, and Tenet later apologized to his Israeli counterpart for the remarks, according to Schiff.

Ed Blanche, writing for the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon, blames "the permanent national security bureaucracy" in Washington for the AIPAC probe.

In his piece, Blanche quotes Duncan Clarke of the American University's School of International Service in Washington as saying Israeli economic espionage has long "infuriated the US intelligence community, especially the FBI and the Customs Service." Duncan goes on to say that Israeli spying on the United States has "left a legacy of distrust" in the U.S. intelligence community.

The net effect is that U.S. policy toward Iran seems more unsettled than ever.

In Iran one reformist journalist Mehran Karami says the AIPAC probe should show Iranians that America and Israel are not united against Iran.

"If there was no difference between the national interests of America and Israel . . . why would Israel conduct an act of espionage? We must accept that America is a superpower whose interests involve more than just Israel's interests in the Middle East region," he wrote in the Tehran daily Sharq.

"By accepting this, we can reconsider and establish independent ties with America away from Arab-Israel conflicts," he concluded.

But in Israel, the hardliners at Debkafile think the AIPAC probe "will be seen in Tehran as tying the Bush administration's hands in a way that will hamper its ability to take action against Iran's advancing nuclear weapons program."

As the AIPAC investigation continues, so will the struggle for control of U.S. policy toward Iran.

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