THE BEST COVER EVER. Via Atrios, I see HuffPo contributor Philip Weiss has some concerns about Kenneth Pollack's new book, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America:

I just got a copy of Ken Pollack's latest book on Iran, The Persian Puzzle, and was shocked on flipping to page 429, the Author's Note at the end of the book, to read that Pollack has never been to Iran and doesn't speak Persian, has only dribs and drabs of Arabic. You'd think a book that purports to explain the "Persian Puzzle" might have offered that disclaimer at the front.

Pollack is an influential intellectual. As a scholar at the liberal Brookings Institution, whatever liberal means these days, he advocated invasion of Iraq in the book The Threatening Storm, back in 2002, thereby giving crucial centrist support to the neocons. Pollack argued that the way to peace in the Middle East lay through Baghdad. I.e., convert the Arabs to democracy there and everything else will fall into place. That book begins with Pollack's bona fides: he was in the CIA "on the Iran-Iraq account." Now we know he's never been to Iran. Has he ever been to Iraq?

I was joking with a reporter friend recently that I sometimes wonder if Pollack isn't still on the CIA payroll and using being a former CIA agent as his cover. I mean, what better cover could there be if you wanted to conduct a manipulative disinformation campaign within the hearts of the liberal intelligentsia than being a former agent now boldly telling the truth? I was just joking, but, my reporter friend explained, a number of "former" and "retired" CIA agents do apparently maintain, ahem, very close ties with Langley, usually by working as "consultants" to companies that then contract exclusively with the CIA. Pollack's not one of them -- he's at Brookings and, notably, opposes going to war with Iran -- but this is a topic I'd like to hear more about from a reporter with some real sources in that community. There are, I was told, ongoing disinformation campaigns coming out of Langley using the American press as a medium. If that's really the case, seems like something the American public ought to know about.

--Garance Franke-Ruta