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Another Cheney-Linked Hawk Down

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Vice President Cheney is losing a trusted aide: David Wurmser, Cheney's chief adviser on Middle East affairs and perhaps the Bush administration's most radical hawk. According to multiple sources, Wurmser will leave the office of the vice president (OVP) in August for the private sector, where he will start a risk-consulting business.

Wurmser's departure is just the latest in a long series of neoconservatives who've bailed out of the Bush administration since 2005, including I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Robert Joseph, and J.D. Crouch, along with Richard Perle, who earlier resigned under pressure from the Defense Policy Board, and Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter, who left the State Department's Near East affairs bureau last summer to have her second child.

Wurmser's departure is not totally a surprise. "He's been looking for a way out for a year," said a conservative friend of Wurmser's, who added that former vice presidential staffers don't necessarily command a premium in the job market. In addition, said this source: "He thinks there's a purge going on, and that people are out to get him."

In June, Wurmser's name appeared in a front-page New York Times story. In that account, based in part on reporting that first surfaced in Steve Clemons' blog, The Washington Note, Wurmser was alleged to have told thinktanks and conservative policy analysts that Vice President Cheney disagreed with President Bush's decision to use diplomacy to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. According to the Times, Wurmser said "that Mr. Cheney believed that [Condi] Rice's diplomatic strategy was failing, and that by next spring Mr. Bush might have to decide whether to take military action."

Reflecting Wurmser's close ties to the Israeli military establishment and Israel's right-wing Likud bloc led by Bibi Netanyahu, Clemons reported that Wurmser was colluding with Israel to force a showdown: "Cheney is planning to deploy an 'end run strategy' around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument," wrote Clemons. "The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, mudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff ... to mount a small-scale conventional strike" on Iran's nuclear facilities, thus forcing a U.S.-Iran confrontation in its wake.

Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute and David's wife, ridiculed the stories from Clemons and the Times. "They are all categorically wrong, and there not one thing in those articles that is correct." But Meyrav Wurmser herself is a strong advocate for confronting Iran, including support for Iranian opposition groups and military action. "You don't need to attack the nukes," she says. You can do something against the oil facilities. You can do something against the parliament building. You can give them an ultimatum: stop building nukes or every week we will take another building down."

In the 1990s, David and Meyrav Wurmser joined Richard Perle and Douglas Feith to author the famous "Clean Break" paper that they presented to Netanyahu, in which they called for strong Israeli action to force regime change in Iraq and Syria and to redraw the map of the Middle East. Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, David Wurmser worked at the American Enterprise Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In the Bush administration, David Wurmser and a colleague, Michael Maloof, founded the predecessor organization to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, where they sought to develop intelligence linking Saddam Hussein's Iraq to Al Qaeda. That work, carried out under Feith's supervision, has been widely discredited, and a recent report from the Pentagon's own inspector general declared that their conclusions were not supported by the underlying intelligence. Wurmser also spent time as an aide to John Bolton at the State Department before joining Cheney's OVP as his chief Middle East specialist.