For those of you interested in last week’s off-the-record meeting sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) on “Confronting the Iranian Threat: The Way Forward” in the Bahamas, we have a bit more information, specifically, a list of the intended participants and the program, and another on selected readings that the participants were encouraged to review before the meeting itself. These documents were prepared roughly a week before the actual get-together. It should be stressed that not everyone cited in the first document actually attended. Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad’s office told me Monday that he did not attend. In addition, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment, who is listed on the program as one of the speakers on the subject of “Prospects for Reform or Revolution,” never accepted the invitation.
A few of the people who were slated to participate last week but were not included in the list I provided in the earlier posting warrant some attention. These include Youssef Ibrahim (who used to be a strong critic of U.S. policy, particularly in Iraq); Bill Nixon, a PR heavyweight with close ties to Karl Rove; Jiri Schneider, a former senior foreign ministry official and ambassador to Israel from the Czech Republic; and Gen. Chuck Wald, a former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command who was also director of Strategic Planning and Policy at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. He was scheduled to speak on the panel entitled “Policy Options,” and I suspect that the organizers wanted him to address the question, “Is there a military option that that [sic] would end the development of [Iran’s] nuclear program?”
Yet another interesting participant is Cheryl Halpern, who is listed on the participant list and program as “Chairman of the Board, Corporation for Public Broadcasting” and who was slated to moderate the discussion on “The Uses of Media: Information and Dis-information.” Halpern, Kenneth Tomlinson’s successor at CPB, has been an FDD donor ($25,000 in 2004) and, according to the CPB website, is a member of the FDD board, although, curiously, the FDD site does not list her as such. (She may have taken the late Jeane Kirkpatrick’s place on the Board of Directors, which also includes Steve Forbes and Jack Kemp.) According to the CPB site, Halpern served on the Broadcasting Board of Governors overseeing the Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti, RFE/RL, Worldnet, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Iraq. It also credits her with help in creating Radio Sawa.
I called CPB Monday to ask if her office could confirm her attendance at the Bahamas meeting. “She didn’t go there for us,” said one official who promised to get back to me with a more definitive response regarding whether Halpern actually attended and, if so, whether she did so in her capacity as CPB chairman, as indicated by the program. No follow-up call was forthcoming, however.
Incidentally, FDD was awarded $800,343 by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) for fiscal 2005 for a project that “supports a new generation of activists in the Middle East through training, technical assistance and mentoring.” MEPI was overseen at the time by Liz Cheney, then deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.