Richard Norman Perle (born 1941)

Wikipedia 🌐 Richard Perle

Associations :

Saved Wikipedia (Nov 21 2020) for Richard Perle

See [HK003K][GDrive]

Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee

In office



George W. Bush

1st Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs

In office

August 5, 1981 – May 8, 1987


Ronald Reagan

Preceded by

Office Created

Succeeded by

Ronald F. Lehman

Personal details


Richard Norman Perle

September 16, 1941 (age 79)

New York City, New York

Political party



Leslie Joan Barr ​(m. 1977)​[1]



Alma mater

University of Southern California (BA)

Princeton University (MA)


Political scientist

Richard Norman Perle (born September 16, 1941) is an American political advisor who served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs under President Ronald Reagan. He began his political career as a senior staff member to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson on the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 1970s.[2] He served on the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 1987 to 2004 where he served as chairman from 2001 to 2003 under the Bush Administration before resigning due to conflict of interests.

A key advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush administration, Perle was an architect of the Iraq War.[3][4] In March 2001, he claimed that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.[5][6] He has been described as a neoconservative hawk on foreign policy issues.[5]

He has been involved with several think-tanks, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Center for Security Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century , and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Early life and education[edit]

Perle was born in New York City, New York. As a child, he moved to California, where he attended Hollywood High School in Los Angeles; his classmates including actor Mike Farrell, singer Ricky Nelson, and Joan Wohlstetter (the daughter of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter of the Rand Corporation).

Perle earned a B.A. in International Politics in 1964 from the University of Southern California. As an undergraduate he studied in Copenhagen at Denmark's International Study Program. He also studied at the London School of Economics and obtained a M.A. in political science from Princeton University in 1967.


Office of Senator Henry Jackson[edit]

From 1969 to 1980, Perle worked as a staffer for Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington whom he met through Albert Wohlstetter. Perle recalls his early involvement with Wohlstetter:

"Albert Wohlstetter phoned me one day. I was still a graduate student at Princeton ... and he said, could you come to Washington for a few days and interview some people and draft a report on the current debate shaping up in the Senate over ballistic missile defense, which was a hot issue ... And he said, I've asked somebody else to do this too, and maybe the two of you could work together. The someone else was Paul Wolfowitz. So Paul and I came to Washington as volunteers for a few days, to interview people, and one of the people we interviewed was Scoop Jackson and it was love at first sight ... I was there for eleven years." [2]

As a staffer, Perle drafted the Jackson–Vanik amendment to the 1972 International Grains Agreement (IGA), or "Russian Wheat Deal" negotiated by Richard Nixon and the Soviet Union which made for the first time by law a trade agreement contingent upon the fundamental human right of Soviet Jews to emigrate.[7] He was considered[by whom?] an extremely knowledgeable and influential person in the Senate debates on arms control. By his own admission, Perle acquired the reputation of an influential figure who preferred to work in the background, a reputation that has followed him through the years in both the public and the private sectors. At some point (usually said to be during his time in the Reagan Administration) Perle acquired the nickname "The Prince of Darkness", which has been used both as a slur by his critics and as a joke by supporters. (Time, 23 March 1987, "Farewell Dark Prince") However, he has been quoted: "I really resent being depicted as some sort of dark mystic or some demonic power. ... All I can do is sit down and talk to someone. ..." (The New York Times, 4 December 1977, Jackson Aide Stirs Criticism in Arms Debate, Richard L. Madden)

Opposition to nuclear arms reduction[edit]

Perle was considered a hardliner in arms reduction negotiations with the Soviet Union and has stated that his opposition to arms control under the Carter administration had to do with his view that the U.S. was giving up too much at the negotiation table and not receiving nearly enough concessions from the Soviets. Perle called the arms talks under negotiation in the late 1970s "the rawest deal of the century".

Perle's objection to the arms talks between the Carter administration and the Soviet Union revolved primarily around Carter's agreement to halt all cruise missile development. Perle is widely credited for spearheading opposition to the treaty, which was never ratified by the Senate.

Perle, with fellow neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, played a supporting role in the ballistic missile defense project that was launched in the 1980s called the Strategic Defense Initiative.("Star Wars") [2] Perle was influential in creating several organizations and think-tanks in order to pressure public opinion and sway policy makers on ballistic missile defense.[2] During the second Bush administration missile defense programs saw dramatic budget increases under the direction of Perle as chair of the Defense Policy Board.[2]

In 2010, Perle voiced opposition to the Obama administration's New START Treaty, comparing it unfavorably to the "watershed" 1987 INF Treaty signed by Ronald Reagan.[8] However, Jonathan Chait has pointed out that Perle vehemently opposed the INF Treaty when it was initially signed, calling it "flawed enough to require renegotiation with the Soviets" and arguing that "the treaty does not do many of the key things the Administration says it does."[8]

Transition into neoconservatism[edit]

Perle is a self-described neoconservative, like several around Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, as he told Ben Wattenberg in an interview specifically about him becoming a neoconservative.[9]

Ben Wattenberg: Now, Scoop was surrounded by people who then and certainly now are called neoconservatives. It's become a fashionable word now thanks to you and your colleagues because you're all categorized that way. How did that come into your life, that whole school of thought?

Richard Perle: Well, I think the term has something to do with the sense that those of us who are now called neo-conservatives were at one time liberals, and in this ...

Ben Wattenberg: Irving Kristol said a neoconservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality.

Richard Perle: Right. And I think that's a fair description, and I suppose all of us were liberal at one time. I was liberal in high school and a little bit into college. But reality and rigor are important tonics, and if you got into the world of international affairs and you looked with some rigor at what was going on in the world, it was really hard to be liberal and naïve.

Perle's book An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror which he coauthored with fellow neoconservative David Frum in 2004 criticizes American bureaucracy, civil service, and law. The book suggests that Americans must "overhaul the institutions of our government to ready them for a new kind of war against a new kind of enemy" including the FBI, CIA, armed forces, and State Department.[2] The book is also used as a defense of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and outlines important neoconservative ideas, including ways to abandon all Israeli-Palestinian peace processes, invade Syria, and implement strict US domestic surveillance with biometric identity cards and public vigilance to hinder potential terrorist immigrant or terrorist sympathizer threats.[10] Perle and Frum conclude: "For us, terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against this evil, our generation's great cause ... There is no middle way for Americans: it is victory or holocaust." [2] These ideas are foundational elements of neoconservatism.

Neoconservative leadership[edit]

Appearing on British television discussion programme After Dark on 10 June 1989

Over the past few decades, a tight-knit group of neo-conservatives have had a significant impact in the carving out of American foreign policies, especially those concerning the Middle East. Arguably at the helm of the neoconservative movement is Richard Perle. He has been aided by other prominent neoconservatives, including Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.

Members of the Neocon core have been interrelated for decades through positions in government, think-tanks, business corporations, and even family ties. As journalist and writer of neoconservative ideology Jacob Heilbrunn states: "neo-conservatism was turned into an actual movement by Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Even today, the neoconservative movement is best described as an extended family based largely on the informal social networks patiently forged by these two patriarchs."[2]

Members of the neoconservative movement are also leaders of many influential "letterhead organizations" (LHO's) and think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon.[2] These organizations act as a support system for many neoconservative beliefs and help members of the movement draft policy papers, raise money and media attention, and lobby policymakers in order to protect their own political and personal agendas. A sociologist who examined the memberships of such neoconservative organizations ultimately concluded that "the activities of fourteen organizations were coordinated by individuals who comprised a web of interlocking memberships."[2]

From 1981 to 1982 Wolfowitz was appointed head of the policy planning staff in the State Department.[2] In the same year Perle, who was an assistant secretary for international security policy in President Reagan's defense department hired and promoted Douglas Feith after he had been fired from his position as a Middle East analyst at the National Security Council.[2] Later it was found out that Feith was fired due to an FBI investigation suspecting that he had distributed confidential materials to an Israeli embassy official.[2] With the right connections and the support of his close allies Wolfowitz and Perle, Feith was able to attain his position as undersecretary for policy in the Pentagon in 2001, from which he resigned in 2005. In return, he appointed Perle as chairman of the Defense Policy Board.[2] This friendship was mutually beneficial for both Perle and Feith, who used their overlapping positions of power to help promote the other and bail each other out of trouble. Perle is nonetheless an inspiration and mentor to Feith who describes him as a "godfather" and trusts that "He would actively work to help anybody he had worked with and liked and admired and who he thought was useful to the overall cause of U.S. national security as he saw it."[2] Both Wolfowitz and Feith would eventually join forces and work closely together to promote the War in Iraq after 9/11, including heading the Office of Special Plans.

War with Iraq[edit]

Pre-2003 invasion[edit]

Like many in the neoconservative movement, Perle had long been an advocate of regime change in Iraq. In 1998 Perle led an effort known as the Project for the New American Century with close neoconservative allies Wolfowitz, Woolsey, Elliott Abrams, and John Bolton. The Project culminated in a letter sent to US President Bill Clinton calling for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.[2] Prior to and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Perle held several exclusive meetings in his home where he discussed issues regarding American foreign policy on Iraq.[2] In an effort to help fund their goals, Ahmed Chalabi an Iraqi-born businessman and founder of the Iraqi National Congress, helped Perle secure millions of dollars from the U.S. government in 1990.[2] Chalabi was one of the key figures driving the war in Iraq and helped transmit important "information" to U.S. Congress and the public that would successfully help sell the war effort.[2] Moreover, Perle and Chalabi also had very similar motives: they both wanted the Hussein regime deposed and Chalabi elected president.[2] In 2004, the FBI investigated Chalabi after U.S. intelligence sources revealed that he was working as a double agent for Iran.[2] Perle was also involved in efforts to develop alternative intelligence estimates to help justify the decision to go to war in Iraq. He and other neoconservative leaders claimed that the intelligence community had grossly underestimated threats to the national security of the U.S.[2] Thus, they established two secret offices in the Pentagon after September 11 – the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans.[2] Nonetheless, Perle helped manage and hire neoconservative affiliated staff for both these organizations that created their own policies and intelligence reports by dodging existing government entities.[2] Perle's reasoning for implementing the Office of Special Plans was essentially to "bring in people with fresh eyes to review the intelligence that the CIA and other agencies had collected."[2] In an interview with CNN on September 16, 2001 Perle announced "Even if we cannot prove to the standards that we enjoy in our own civil society that they were involved, we do know, for example, that Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama Bin Laden ..."[11] Flynt Leverett, a senior staff member of the Bush National Security Council states: "There were constant efforts to pressure the intelligence community to provide assessments that would support their views. If they couldn't get what they wanted out of the intelligence community, they simply created their own intelligence."[2] Moreover, Perle allegedly gave several speeches and talks throughout Europe trying to promote the war effort abroad. He allegedly told the British House of Commons that the U.S. would attack Iraq even if UN weapons inspectors didn't find anything.[2] Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that Perle was "making remarks as if he were an official inside the U.S. government."[2] In countries like Germany, France, Britain, and Japan, people perceived him as a government authority whose knowledge and clout on U.S. policy appeared legitimate.[2]

Perle argued that what he referred to as terrorist Abu Nidal's "sanctuary" in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was justification for the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Perle states this in the recent PBS documentary series "America At A Crossroads", and refers to President Bush's 9/11 speech in which Bush stated: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

In an interview for "Saddam's Ultimate Solution", the 11 July 2002 episode of the PBS series Wide Angle, he said:

"Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. He's weaker militarily. We know he's got about a third of what he had in 1991. But it's a house of cards. He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder. Now, it isn't going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn't going to be months either."

Perle advocated invading Iraq with only 40,000 troops, and complained about the calls by then Gen. Eric Shinseki to use 660,000 troops. He preferred a strategy similar to that used in the Afghan war, in which the U.S. would insert SOF (Special Operations Forces), along with some two divisions, to assist native Kurdish and Shi'ite rebels, much as the United States had done with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.[12]

Iraq policy and Bush criticism[edit]

The Senate Intelligence Committee eventually discovered that President Bush and his advisers heavily exaggerated[citation needed]the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and terrorist ties to Al Qaeda which were not validated by U.S. intelligence units.[2] Since this scandal, Perle has made several attempts to reduce his alleged involvement in the war efforts stating: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened ..."[2] In an interview he gave Vanity Fair that was excerpted in an article appearing in the 4 November 2006 Los Angeles Times, he denied having a role in the planning of the war. He is reported to have told Vanity Fair, "I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war." This is not congruent with his signing of the PNAC letter in 1998. "I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that." The same Los Angeles Times article reports that Perle now believes that his advocacy of the Iraq war was wrong.

Perle expressed regret of his support of the invasion and faulted the "dysfunction" in the Bush administration for the troubled occupation. "I think now I probably would have said, 'Let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists'. The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible."[13][14][15] Nevertheless, Perle vociferously defended the war in Iraq, arguing to the wife of a deployed soldier in a 2007 PBS film that to end the war now would be to dishonor those who had already died in the cause.[16]

Disputed role in Bush Administration[edit]

Conservative commentator David Brooks has said that, in his opinion, Perle's influence in the Bush administration is exaggerated. In a 2004 New York Times article, Brooks wrote that; "There have been hundreds of references ... to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings".[17]

On Iraq Study Group proposals[edit]

In a December 2006 interview with Die Zeit, Perle strongly criticized the Iraq Study Group proposals, saying: "I have never seen such a foolish report. ... A report that begins with false premises ends with nothing."[18]

Other views on foreign policy[edit]

United Nations[edit]

Perle is a frequent critic of the United Nations, stating that it is an embodiment of "... the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions. ... "[19] He has also attacked the United Nations Security Council veto power as a flawed concept, arguing that the only time the U.N. utilized force during the Cold War was when "... the Soviets were not in the chamber to veto it".[19]

Furthermore, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, Perle stated that; "in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing".[20] He also argued that there was "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein". At the time, these comments provoked controversy among critics of the war, who argued that they contradicted the U.S.'s official stance on the legality of the invasion.[20]


In 1996 during the Clinton administration, Perle lead a study group with David Wurmser that produced a report on balancing power in the Middle East, specifically in Israel's favor.[2] The report, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" made clear recommendations about steering Israel away from Socialist principles, making efforts to become more self-reliant, "nurturing alternatives to Arafat's exclusive grip on Palestinian society", and working more closely with countries such as Jordan and Turkey. It also stated the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq should be a key objective for the Israeli state, advocated armed incursions into Lebanon, and suggested Arab states should be challenged as undemocratic. Moreover, Perle personally delivered the report to the incoming Likud-led government in hopes of influencing the new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Perle advocates pre-emptive strikes, such as in Iraq, as an extension of America's right to self-defense. For example, Perle has expressed support for a theoretical first strike on North Korean and Iranian nuclear facilities.[21]

Business interests and controversies[edit]

Bribery accusations and alleged conflicts of interest[edit]

Perle has on occasion been accused of being an Israeli agent of influence. It has been reported that, while he was working for Jackson, "An FBI summary of a 1970 wiretap recorded Perle discussing classified information with someone at the Israeli embassy. He came under fire in 1983 when newspapers reported he received substantial payments to represent the interests of an Israeli weapons company. Perle denied conflict of interest, insisting that, although he received payment for these services after he had assumed his position in the Defense Department, he was between government jobs when he worked for the Israeli firm."[22]

From 1981 to 1987, Perle was Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security policy in the Reagan administration. In a New York Times article, Perle was criticized for recommending that the Army purchase an armaments system from an Israeli company that a year earlier had paid him $50,000 in consulting fees. Perle acknowledged receiving the payment the same month he joined the Reagan administration, but said the payment was for work done before joining the government and that he had informed the Army of this prior consulting work. Perle was never indicted for anything related to the incident.[23][24]

In March 2004, another New York Times article reported that, while chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle had contracted with the troubled telecommunications giant Global Crossing to help overcome opposition from the FBI and the Pentagon to the sale of its assets to Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa. Since the military employed the company's fiber optics network for communications, the brass argued that sale to a foreign-owned, especially Chinese, corporation would compromise national security. Perle was to be paid $125,000 to promote the deal, with an extra $600,000 contingent fee on its approval.[25] This controversy led to accusations of bribery, and Perle resigned as chairman on March 27, 2003, though he remained on the board.[26]

Perle is also known to have demanded payment for press interviews[27] while he was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a practice that has raised accusations of not only ethical but legal impropriety.[28]

Unresolved legal issues[edit]

In 1978, while working with the Senate Armed Services Committee, Perle was caught in a security breach[citation needed] by CIA director Stansfield Turner.[2] Although Turner urged Senator Jackson to fire him, Perle received a warning and was kept on staff according to the Washington Post.

Perle has served as a Director of Hollinger International since June 1994. He is also Co-Chairman of Hollinger Digital Inc. and a Director of Jerusalem Post, both of which are subsidiaries of the company. He has served as a director of GeoBiotics. On August 31, 2004, a special committee of the Board of Directors investigating the alleged misconduct of the controlling shareholders of Hollinger International submitted the 512-page Breeden Report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the report, Perle is singled out as having breached his fiduciary responsibilities as a company director by authorizing several controversial transactions which diverted the company's net profit from the shareholders to the accounts of various executives. Perle received over $3 million in bonuses on top of his salary, bringing the total to $5.4 million, and the investigating committee called for him to return the money.

Top Hollinger executives dismissed the report and have filed a defamation lawsuit against the head of the investigating committee, former SEC chairman Richard C. Breeden. However, in 2005, Perle publicly acknowledged he had been served a 'Wells notice',[29] a formal warning that the S.E.C.'s enforcement staff had found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to bring a civil lawsuit.

Seymour Hersh and "Lunch with the Chairman"[edit]

In July 2001, George W. Bush appointed Perle chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, which advises the Department of Defense. Two years later a newspaper article accused Perle of a conflict of interest, claiming Perle stood to profit financially by influencing government policy. The article alleged that Perle had business dealings with Saudi investors and linked him to the intelligence-related computer firm Trireme Partners LLP, which he claimed stood to profit from the war in Iraq.[30]

That same day, Perle was being interviewed on the issue of Iraq by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Shortly before the interview ended, Blitzer quoted the aforementioned news article and asked for Perle's response. Perle dismissed the premise of the article and argued that it lacked "any consistent theme". Added Perle: "Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly."[31]

On March 11, Perle told the New York Sun as regards Hersh's article that "I intend to launch legal action in the United Kingdom. I'm talking to Queen's Counsel right now".[32] He claimed it was easier to win libel cases in England, and that therefore made it a better location. In the end, Perle did not file any legal case. Instead, on March 27, 2003, he resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, although he still remained a member of the board.[citation needed]

Adviser to Muammar al-Gaddafi[edit]

As a member of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting firm Monitor Group, Perle was an advisor to Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2006.[33] "Perle traveled to Libya twice in 2006 and met with Vice President Dick Cheney after the trips."[34] According to Monitor documents, Perle traveled to Libya with several other advisers to hold lectures and workshops, and promote the image of Libya and its ruler.[33]

Iraq oil deal[edit]

In July 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that Perle had made plans to invest in oil interests in Iraq, in collaboration with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan).[35]


Perle is author of many articles and three books:

In 1992 he produced the PBS feature The Gulf Crisis: The Road to War.

In 2007, Perle presented the documentary "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom", articulating his view of the challenges facing the U.S. after 9/11, and debating with his critics including Richard Holbrooke, Simon Jenkins, and Abdel Bari Atwan. The film was broadcast by PBS in their series America at a Crossroads, which generated considerable controversy.[36]

Source - Militarist Monitor Website - Richard Perle

Source : [HW0056][GDrive]

last updated: September 1, 2015

Please note: The Militarist Monitor neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.


  • American Enterprise Institute: Former Resident Fellow

  • Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Member, Board of Advisors

  • Center for Security Policy: Member, Board of Advisors

  • Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: Former Member, Board of Advisers

  • Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs: Former Member, Board of Advisers

  • Hudson Institute: Member, Board of Trustees

  • Center for Security Policy: Member, National Security Advisory Council

  • U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon: Golden Circle Supporter

  • Council on Foreign Relations: Chairman, Study Group on Nonlethal Options in Overseas Contingencies (report published in 1995)

  • Project for the New American Century: Letter Signatory

  • Committee for the Liberation of Iraq: Member

  • Committee on the Present Danger: Member

  • Middle East Forum/U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon: Signed 2000 document sponsored by both groups calling on the United States to force Syria from Lebanon

  • American Committee for Peace in Chechnya: Member


  • Department of Defense: Former member, Defense Policy Board (Chairman until 2003); Assistant Secretary of Defense (1981-1987)

  • U.S. Senate: Staff (1969-1980); served on the staffs of Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Arms Control Subcommittee


  • Monitor Group: Senior adviser

  • Hollinger International: Former Co-Chairman

  • Trireme Partners L.P.: Managing Partner

  • Global Crossings: Consultant

  • Morgan Crucible: Co-Chairman

  • Jerusalem Post: Former Co-Chairman


  • London School of Economics: Honors Examinations, 1962-1963

  • University of Southern California: B.A. in International Relations, 1964

  • Princeton University: M.A. in Political Science, 1967


Richard Perle, a former resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and adviser to various Republican administrations, is widely considered a core representative of the neoconservative political faction. He has played a key role promoting militaristic U.S. foreign policies since the 1970s, first as an adviser to the late Sen. Henry Jackson, later as a Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, and then as head of the George W. Bush administration’s Defense Policy Board during the launching of the “war on terror.” More recently he has been a high-profile advocate of using military force to halt Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program and has opposed the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers in July 2015.

From Iraq to Iran

Since stepping down from his post as chair of the Bush administration’s Defense Policy Board in 2003, Perle has generally kept a low public profile, while at times offering contradictory public evaluations of the Iraq War and urging U.S. military action in other Middle Eastern countries.

In early 2013, Perle served as a representative of the Clarion Project—a controversial advocacy group that has produced several Islamophobic and anti-Iranian films—in its efforts to capitalize on the Boston marathon bombings to promote its political agenda. Claiming that “jihadist ideology continues to motivate a sophisticated worldwide terror network and that America remains a target,” Clarion urged the public to view its 2008 film, The Third Jihad, and offered Perle and Clare Lopezfor interviews.[1] The press release, according to the Inter Press Service, appeared to suggest that “Perle, a long-time member of the strongly pro-Chechen, anti-Russian American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (formerly the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya) and many, many other neo-con letterhead organizations, has now associated himself in some way with the ultra-Islamophobic Clarion Project.”[2]

Previously, Perle broke with many of his fellow neoconservatives in expressing regret about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. However, since the election of President Barack Obama, Perle has become an increasingly vocal critic of the U.S. foreign policy and become a high profile proponent of attacking Iran.

In a 2011 interview with the conservative outlet, Perle said: “The Iranians are killing Americans at every opportunity in the places where we’re now fighting. They support terrorism around the world, and they’re headed toward nuclear weapons. … I think Obama believes wrongly that he can talk the Iranians out of their nuclear weapons program. He’s been trying to do that since he became president. The previous administration tried it too. It isn’t going to work.”[3]

Perle was strongly critical of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis and claimed after an agreement was struck between Iran and six world powers in July 2015: “[T]he likelihood of a crash landing is significant."[4]

In the months preceding the deal, Perle voiced support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance on the negotiations and praised his controversial March 2015 address to the U.S. Congress criticizing the Obama White House’s diplomacy. “He made a compelling case for not rushing into an agreement that is flawed in so many ways,” Perle said of Netanyahu after the speech.[5]

Perle has also echoed Netanyahu’s hyper-alarmist rhetoric that the nuclear deal with Iran could lead to genocide, telling Newsmax in March 2015: “Never again should the potential for genocide be allowed and that means taking action before for it’s too late. And that means not entering into an agreements that predictably will place the most lethal weapons in the hands of the most dangerous enemies.”[6]

In May 2013, Perle argued that instead of Obama’s diplomatic approach to resolving the Iran nuclear dispute, the United States should have pushed for regime change in Iran and fostered unrest in the country. “I see no conflict between the two objectives of halting Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions and greater individual freedom for the Iranian people: both objectives can be achieved only when the current regime is removed, and it is that removal that should be the principal purpose of our policies, including sanctions. Sanctions that aim to change the minds of the mullahs will not work but sanctions that aim to undermine the power of the mullahs by encouraging the internal opposition just might,” he said in an interview with Open Canada.[7]

Perle added: “[T]he sanctions would have to be far more onerous than those in effect today. And we would have to find ways, overt and covert, to support the opposition. The Obama administration shows no interest in such a strategy – or any strategy.”[8]

When asked during an interview with Russia Today whether his views on Iran should be considered legitimate given the errors in judgment on Iraq, Perle responded defensively, stating: "What are you suggesting? That we stop trying to figure out whether Iran has nuclear weapons, because there were intelligence errors with respect to Iraq? Should the U.S. dismantle its intelligence organizations? Of course not!"[9]

Like many of his colleagues in the rightwing “pro-Israel” community, Perle has expressed concern about the emergence of conservative Muslim parties since the “Arab Spring,” particularly the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He told Newsmax in 2011: “The Muslim Brotherhood is potentially a very serious problem, since it is committed to the global expansion of an extreme approach to Islam, which is strict shariah law. And it will be very difficult if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power.”[10]

Reviving arguments he used during the 1970s and 1980s to promote extravagant weapons programs to deter the Soviet Union, Perle has criticized the Obama administration’s arms control negotiations with Russia. In a 2010 op-ed for the American Interest, he wrote: “Obama's approach to Moscow smacks of appeasement, an eagerness to accommodate unreasonable Russian positions made worse by an exaggerated focus on refurbishing the antique arms control arrangements of the Cold War while embracing a utopian vision of a world without nuclear weapons."[11]

Perle has characterized the Obama administration’s foreign policy as naïve and ill-informed, while at the same time using right-wing scare tactics in an effort to delegitimize the president. “What if,” Perle wondered, “we are witnessing the deliberate, measured implementation of a deeply entrenched ideology reflecting such influences as the scarcely acknowledged Bill Ayers and the once inconveniently visible Reverend Jeremiah Wright? What if they shaped Obama's worldview in the years when they were ministering to and counseling a young, charismatic politician? Americans have never been tempted to elect a ‘blame America first’ President,’ and now they are ‘not so sure’ about Obama.”[12]

Iraq War Advocacy and Reversal

Perle’s role in promoting the invasion of Iraq centered largely on his capacity as chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, which serves as a quasi-idea factory for the Defense Department. Paralleling the efforts of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a leading neoconservative advocacy group with which Perle was associated, as well as those of then-Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, Perle convened a meeting of the DPB shortly after the attacks to produce policy responses for the administration. Perle invited as a guest to one of the board’s classified meeting Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile and longtime confidant of Perle who served as the head of the Iraqi National Congress, which had for years been pushing for regime change in Iraq.

Although the DPB typically has little or no influence in setting policy, many commentators saw Perle’s efforts as part of a larger, neoconservative-led initiative to coordinate public pressure from both inside and outside the administration. Commenting on this apparent coordination, Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn wrote: “It appears that after 9/11, the network of hawks and neoconservatives that had coalesced around PNAC's founding agenda had mobilized in a highly coordinated way to fashion the administration's response to the terrorist attacks and rally the public behind their new agenda” (see the Right Web special report, “The Rise and Decline of the Neoconservatives,” November 17, 2006).

In late 2006, as the U.S.-led war in Iraq devolved into an increasingly bloody counterinsurgency campaign, Perle became a high profile turncoat with respect to the decision to invade Iraq. In a widely noted interview with Vanity Fair that year, Perle argued that the war in Iraq had turned out to be a mistake. He said: “I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have.”[13]

Responding to Perle's change of heart, Gary Schmitt, a founder of PNAC and Perle’s colleague at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told the BBC: “I do not agree with Richard Perle that we should never have gone in. I do argue that the execution should have been better. In fact, I argued in late 2003 that we needed more troops and a proper counterinsurgency policy.”[14]

Also in seeming opposition to other neoconservatives, Perle gave an equivocal reaction to the controversial decision by President George W. Bush in early 2007 to “surge” the number of troops in Iraq. While most neoconservatives were supportive of the surge plan, even eager for a larger commitment than 20,000 additional troops proposed, Perle expressed doubt that sending more troops was the answer. He told the New York Sun, “I don't think the additional troops are the key to the strategy [Bush] has announced, it is how effectively those troops are managed.” He added: “The big question in my mind is whether we can implement some practical and prudent measures. I don't know if we can. It will depend significantly on the command in the country.”[15]

Perle later claimed that his remarks about the invasion had been taken out of context, insisting that he had actually meant to criticize the U.S. occupation and administration of the country. "The mistake in my view—and I can’t prove this; nobody can prove this—the seminal mistake was getting into an occupation and not turning things over to the Iraqis," he said. "I doubt that they would have handled the postwar situation as badly as we did. We sent thousands of Americans over there to run a country they knew nothing about.” He added, " I think the decision that was made to remove Saddam was right."[16]

In June 2014, Perle blamed the Iraq War on faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. "We were not doing it to bring democracy to Iraq, we were not doing it as he has sometimes suggested on behalf of any other government. We believed the intelligence that was available at the time that the CIA and other intelligence organizations . . . that Saddam [Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction and there was a danger after 9/11 that he would share those weapons,” he stated.[17]

One commentator said in response: “Perle, who was known for his nickname ‘Prince of Darkness,’ is slyly presenting himself as an innocent, if not gullible average American who too was misled by false intelligence.”[18]

After the conquest of large parts of Iraq by the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” group (ISIS) in 2014, Perle argued that Chalabi should have replaced Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister. He told the National Review in July 2014: "Chalabi is far and away the most competent and the most capable of salvaging this situation. I think he's got the best chance. It would be foolish if we expressed a preference for somebody less competent, which we've done before."[19]


Perle's pessimism on Iraq stood in stark contrast to his trademark hard-nosed militarism, which has been a staple of his rhetoric for more than two decades. Reflecting core aspects of what many regard as the neoconservative worldview, Perle's discourse typically reflects a combination of warrior worship, existential conflict, and extreme moral righteousness. As the Australian journalist John Pilger reported shortly before the war in Iraq: “One of George W. Bush's 'thinkers' is Richard Perle. I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about 'total war,' I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America's 'war on terror.' 'No stages,' he said. 'This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war … our children will sing great songs about us years from now.'”[20]

Like many neoconservatives, Perle seems to have been particularly influenced by his views of the Holocaust, a theme that has repeatedly popped up in his rhetoric. Said Perle in a 2003 interview with BBC: “For those of us who are involved in foreign and defense policy today, my generation, the defining moment of our history was certainly the Holocaust. It was the destruction, the genocide of a whole people, and it was the failure to respond in a timely fashion to a threat that was clearly gathering. We don't want that to happen again; when we have the ability to stop totalitarian regimes we should do so, because when we fail to do so, the results are catastrophic.”[21] Similarly, in his 2004 book An End to Evil, he and coauthor David Frum argued: “For us, terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against this evil, our generation's great cause … There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust.”[22]

Perle has denounced the use of the term “neoconservative” and has claimed that it is used by “hateful critics” to refer to Jewish Americans. "It's often used to describe Jewish Americans because, as it happens, some of the original thinkers whose ideas have now been characterized by this general term 'neoconservative' were in fact Jewish, and it often carries conspiratorial tones on the part of people who throw the term around," he told Newsmax June 2014.[23]

Prescriptions on the Middle East

This radical outlook on foreign affairs deeply influenced both Perle's reaction to 9/11 and his initial response to the growing turmoil in the Middle East in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For example, despite the growing violence in Iraq by late 2005, Perle remained committed to a larger “regime change” strategy for the Middle East that included both Syria and Iran. On Syria, Perle hosted meetings in late 2005 between Chalabi and Syrian exile Farid Ghadry, who was head of the Syrian Reform Party. Ghadry told the Wall Street Journal: “[Chalabi] paved the way in Iraq for what we want to do in Syria.” Said Perle: “There's no reason to think engagement with Syria will bring about any change,” adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has never been weaker, and we should take advantage of that.”[24]

On Iran, Perle lambasted the State Department and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being weak on the “mullahs.” In a July 21, 2006 piece for AEI, Perle contended that the offer of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program amounted to “appeasement.” He wrote: “Proximity is critical in politics and policy. And the geography of this administration has changed. Condoleezza Rice has moved from the White House to Foggy Bottom, a mere mile or so away. What matters is not that she is further removed from the Oval Office; Rice's influence on the president is undiminished. It is, rather, that she is now in the midst of—and increasingly represents—a diplomatic establishment that is driven to accommodate its allies even when (or, it seems, especially when) such allies counsel the appeasement of our adversaries.”[25]

During the summer 2006 conflict in Lebanon, Perle also remained on message, arguing that Israel was involved in an “existential struggle” with Hezbollah. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Perle wrote: “Israel must now deal a blow of such magnitude to those who would destroy it as to leave no doubt that its earlier policy of acquiescence is over. This means precise military action against Hezbollah and its infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria, for as long as it takes and without regard to mindless diplomatic blather about proportionality. For what appears to some to be a disproportionate response to small incursions and kidnappings is, in fact, an entirely appropriate response to the existential struggle in which Israel is now engaged.”[26]

Perle has for decades supported the work of a number of hardline think tanks and advocacy groups, including the Committee on the Present Danger, PNAC, EI, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Hudson Institute. As of 2015, he is a member of the board of advisors of the Center for Security Policy and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.[27]

In 1996, Perle participated in a study group that produced a report for the incoming Likud-led government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that urged the country to break off then-ongoing peace initiatives and suggested strategies for reshaping the Middle East. Among the group's arguments was the idea that “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq [was] an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” The report—titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” and coauthored by Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser—also recommended working closely with “Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll back” regional threats and using “Israeli proxy forces” based in Lebanon for “striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon.” If that should “prove insufficient, [Israel should strike] at select targets in Syria proper.” Further, “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, even rolling back Syria.” This would create a “natural axis” between Israel, Jordan, a Hashemite Iraq, and Turkey that “would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula.” This “could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East, which could threaten Syria's territorial integrity.”[28]

In 1998, Perle signed a PNAC letter to President Bill Clinton that argued, “Current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War.” The threat from Iraq was characterized as being of such a magnitude that the “only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.” Other signatories included future Bush administration officials Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Zalmay Khalilzad, Peter Rodman, Robert Zoellick, Donald Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz.

In 2001, Perle also signed the now notorious post-9/11 PNAC letter to President Bush arguing that “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition. American military force should be used to provide a 'safe zone' in Iraq from which the opposition can operate. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means.”

Private-Sector Controversies

Perle has been heavily criticized for his sometimes-questionable business interests, which have been the focus of several investigative reports by journalists. When the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh documented Perle's business dealings in the Middle East with the venture capital firm Trireme, Perle threatened to sue the journalist, saying that he was the “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.”[29]

Hersh's article, “Lunch with the Chairman,” discussed possible conflicts of interest resulting from Perle's dual role as chairman of the Defense Policy Board and as a partner for Trireme, a company that invests in homeland security and defense-related industries. Hersh recounted how Perle met with Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer, and another Saudi businessman in early 2003. Various people interviewed by Hersh, including Khashoggi, indicated that Perle and Trireme seemed to be sending the message that in return for Saudi investment backing, the “Chairman” would use his Pentagon connections to influence U.S. policy.[30]

Soon after the Hersh piece was published, columnist Maureen Dowd and other journalists documented Perle's relationship to Global Crossings, a bankrupt communications giant and defense contractor that was seeking Pentagon permission to be sold to the Asian company Hutchinson Wampoa (the same Hutchinson Wampoa whose interests in Panama sparked an anguished round of right-wing hand-wringing about a Chinese attempt to take control of the Panama Canal). Although Perle denied any wrongdoing, he admitted through his attorney that he was hired by Global Crossings to consult with a reluctant Department of Defense about the deal.[31]

In late March 2003, Perle announced that he was stepping down from his post as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, writing in his resignation letter to Rumsfeld: “I have seen controversies like this before and I know that this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged. I would not wish to cause even a moment's distraction from that challenge. As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on errors of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board.”[32]

Apparently undeterred, however, Perle continued to make eyebrow-raising business arrangements, particularly in the Middle East. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that Perle was exploring investing in oil interests in Iraq and Kazakhstan, a curious decision given the salient claims by Iraq war opponents that the war was waged over access to Iraq’s oil.[33] Perhaps more surprisingly, Politico reported in 2011 that Perle also twice traveled to Libya with the Monitor Group, a consulting firm that named Perle a senior adviser in 2006, as part of an effort to “burnish Libya’s and [then-dictator Muammar] Qadhafi’s image” in the United States.[34]



[1] Jim Lobe, “Perle and the Clarion Fund/Project,” Lobelog, May 1, 2013,; Clarion, “The Boston Marathon Bombing,”

[2] Jim Lobe, “Perle and the Clarion Fund/Project,” LobeLog, May 1, 2013,

[3] Jim Meyers and Ashley Martella, “Richard Perle: It's 'Shocking' Obama Didn't Back Protesters in Iran More,” February 18, 2011,

[4] Newsmax, “Richard Perle: Iran Deal May End in 'Crash Landing' for Obama,” March 23, 2015,

[5] Bill Hoffmann, “Richard Perle: Bibi Made ‘Compelling’ Case Against Nuke Deal,” Newsmax, March 3, 2015,

[6] Bill Hoffmann, “Richard Perle: Bibi Made ‘Compelling’ Case Against Nuke Deal,” Newsmax, March 3, 2015,

[7] Open Canada, “Richard Perle on Engaging with Iran,” May 22, 2013,

[8] Open Canada, “Richard Perle on Engaging with Iran,” May 22, 2013,

[9] Press TV, "US-led Iraq war architect hints Iran war,” Press TV, December 15, 2011.

[10] Jim Meyers and Ashley Martella, “Richard Perle: It's 'Shocking' Obama Didn't Back Protesters in Iran More,” February 18, 2011,

[11] Richard Perle, “The Open Hand, Slapped,” American Interest, January 1, 2010,

[12] Richard Perle, “The Open Hand, Slapped,” American Interest, January 1, 2010,

[13] David Rose, “Neo Culpa,” Vanity Fair, November 3, 2006.

[14] Paul Reynolds, “End of the Neocon Dream,” BBC, December 21, 2006.

[15] Eli Lake, “Bush Warns Iranians,” New York Sun, January 11, 2007.

[16] Eli Lake, "Few Regrets as Neoconservative Advocates for Iraq Invasion Look Back," Daily Beast, March 18, 2013,

[17] Cathy Burke, “Richard Perle: Don't Blame Neocons for Iraq Crisis,” Newsmax, June 17, 2014,

[18] Ramzy Baroud, “Obama’s Failure and Richard Perle’s Whitewashing of the Iraq War,” Foreign Policy Journal, July 11, 2014,

[19] Clara Ritger, “Former Bush Advisers Back Chalabi for Prime Minister of Iraq,” National Journal, July 7, 2014,

[20] John Pilger, “Two Years Ago a Project Set up by the Men Who Now Surround George W. Bush Said What America Needed Was 'A New Pearl Harbor,'” December 12, 2002.

[21] Jim Lobe, “Moral Clarity of Moral Abdication?”, May 11, 2005.

[22] Jim Lobe, “From Holocaust to Hyperpower,” Inter Press Service, January 26, 2005.

[23] Cathy Burke, “Richard Perle: Don't Blame Neocons for Iraq Crisis,” Newsmax, June 17, 2014,

[24] H.D.S. Greenway, “The Return of the Neocons,” Boston Globe, December 13, 2005.

[25] Richard Perle, “Why Did Bush Blink on Iran? (Ask Condi),” American Enterprise Institute, July 21, 2006.

[26] Richard Perle, “An Appropriate Response,” New York Times, July 22, 2006.

[27] Center for Security Policy, “Advisory Council,”

WINEP, “Board of Advisors,”

[28] Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Se

curing the Realm,” Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies,

[29] Richard Ryan, “When Journalism Becomes 'Terrorism,'” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Extra!, May/June 2003.

[30] Seymour Hersh, “Lunch with the Chairman,” New Yorker, November 4, 2003.

[31] Charles R. Smith, “Perle Responds to Dowd and Other Critics,”, March 24, 2003.

[32] Charles R. Smith, “Perle Responds to Dowd and Other Critics,”, March 24, 2003.

[33] Susan Schmidt and Glenn R. Simpson, “Perle Linked to Kurdish Oil Plan,” July 29, 2008,

[34] Laura Rozen, “Among Libya’s Lobbyists,” February 21, 2011,

Please note: The Militarist Monitor neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.