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January 12, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

Shahab-3 test set
Iran is preparing to conduct another flight test soon of its new intermediate-range ballistic missile, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Preparations for the latest Shahab-3 missile test were spotted by U.S. spy satellites at a base inside Iran. The impending test was described to us as a "full-range" flight meant to test its maximum distance.

The Shahab-3 is a single-warhead mobile missile with a range of about 800 miles. It is believed by U.S. intelligence to be the first Iranian missile that could carry a nuclear warhead, if Tehran's weapons program, helped by both China and Russia, succeeds in producing a small enough warhead for the weapon.

The last Shahab-3 flight test took place Sept. 21 and was gauged a failure by U.S. intelligence agencies. The Iranians carried out a successful flight test in July and in 1999.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told reporters in July that Iran is making progress in its missile program. He said the progress "has a way of going almost exponentially once you get some of the fundamentals down."

If the next test is a success, analysts believe, the Iranians will have shown they have the fundamentals in place to develop medium-range ballistic missiles that could threaten key U.S. friends and allies in the region.

Clinton's volunteers
The Pentagon had trouble convincing 100 "volunteers" to show up at last Friday's Fort Myer ceremony honoring President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, insiders tell us.

Amid all the pomp and music, the pair were honored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen for their contributions to the armed forces. Before the ceremony, messages were sent out throughout the Pentagon seeking volunteers to attend.

"We need 100 individuals [from] all ranks to participate in the Armed Services Farewell to the President of the United States," one such message said.

But as the appointed hour neared, organizers had not reached the 100 mark, so division managers were told to pick "volunteers."

"There seems to be little enthusiasm for a president who many consider the least-liked commander-in-chief in recent memory," one officer told us at the time.

Another officer called the scene "hilarious" as supervisors went through his office looking for attendees.

In particular, some officers took a dim view of Mr. Clinton's White House dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, saying such action on their part would have resulted in disciplinary action. Others also blame Mr. Clinton for cutting the defense budget while sending troops on varied peacekeeping missions around the world. The result: reduced combat readiness.

China's new warship
China's second guided-missile destroyer arrived at a port in its home waters earlier this week after a six-week voyage from a shipyard in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The new Sovremenny-class warship doubles the number of Chinese navy tubes for launching supersonic SSN-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles. The Sunburn was designed during Soviet days to destroy U.S. ships.

The warship was spotted by Asian defense analyst Prasun K. Sengupta, editor of the Asian Defense Journal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The ship was photographed Jan. 3 as it sailed through the Strait of Malacca.

The influx of Russian high-technology weapons is the most visible sign of growing Chinese-Russian military cooperation. There are reports Moscow and Beijing are working on a formal military alliance that could be concluded this fall. One U.S. official said if the alliance is solidified it would be a "final, humiliating strategic blow" to the conciliatory policies of the Clinton administration.


Bush's Vulcans
Paul Wolfowitz has emerged as the top candidate to become deputy secretary of defense. Mr. Wolfowitz, currently the dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, appears to have eclipsed Richard Armitage. Both Mr. Armitage and Mr. Wolfowitz had been part of the small group of defense advisers to President-elect George W. Bush known as the "Vulcans." An announcement is not expected until after Donald H. Rumsfeld completes the nomination process for defense secretary.

Mr. Armitage is now said to be in the running to become CIA director, along with several other candidates, including Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; and Richard Haver, an intelligence pro who is currently head of the Bush transition team for the U.S. intelligence community.

Mr. Armitage's status shows that the seasoned defense policy gurus who advised Mr. Bush during the campaign are having mixed success landing the jobs they coveted.

Only one, Condoleezza Rice, got the post she wanted: White House national security adviser.

"No one anticipated [defense-designate] Don Rumsfeld coming in," said one well-placed Republican, referring to a man who was not among the "Vulcans."

Some younger office-seekers are looking at the parade of former Ford, Reagan and Bush elder statesmen joining the "Bush II" administration and wondering if there will be any room for them.

"In the under-40 Republican crowd, there is sort of a pall," the source said. "If they don't get new blood in the Pentagon, the building is going to capture them."

The young and the restless are hoping Mr. Rumsfeld will recall that he was once a 40-something and able to serve as White House chief of staff and then defense secretary. They also hope he keeps in mind that he reached out to a 30-something, Richard B. Cheney, to succeed him as President Ford's chief of staff.


  • Insiders tell us that Stephen Cambone, chief of staff for Donald H. Rumsfeld's 1998 commission on ballistic missile threats, is a candidate for a position in the office of the secretary of defense.

  • Republicans say the Bush Pentagon transition has not gone as smoothly as hoped. "They're having trouble focusing over there," a congressional defense aide said.

    Mr. Rumsfeld dispatched William Scheider, a former senior State Department official during the Reagan administration, to the Pentagon to shape things up.

    Mr. Scheider served on the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat, which was headed by Mr. Rumsfeld.

  • Congressional aides say Mr. Rumsfeld "was as surprised as everyone else" that President-elect George W. Bush tapped him to run the Pentagon. Media reports had Mr. Rumsfeld heading the Central Intelligence Agency. But Mr. Bush suddenly turned to Mr. Rumsfeld for defense, instead of two front-runners, former Sen. Daniel Coats and former Pentagon policy-maker Paul Wolfowitz.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are syndicated columnists. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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