Kashani, whom Ben-Menashe had known from their school days in Tehran, also revealed that the Copeland initiative was making inroads inside Iran and that approaches from some Republican emissaries had already been received, Ben-Menashe wrote.
"Kashani said that the secret ex-CIA-Miles-Copeland group was aware that any deal cut with the Iranians would have to include the Israelis because they would have to be used as a third party to sell military equipment to Iran," according to Ben-Menashe.
In March 1980, the following month, the Israelis made their first direct military shipment to Iran, 300 tires for Iran's F-4 fighter jets, Ben-Menashe wrote. Ben-Menashe's account of these early Israeli arms shipments was corroborated by Carter's press secretary Jody Powell and Israeli arms dealer William Northrop.
In an interview for a 1991 PBS "Frontline" documentary, Jody Powell told me that...
"there had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that [arms dealing], and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people."
"And it stopped," Powell said. At least, it stopped temporarily.
Carter also may have had political enemies who had penetrated his inner circle. Jamshid Hashemi, an Iranian businessman who was recruited by the CIA in January 1980 along with his brother Cyrus, said that in spring 1980, he encountered Donald Gregg, the CIA officer serving on Carter's National Security Council staff, at Cyrus's Manhattan office.
Jamshid Hashemi said his brother Cyrus was playing a double game, officially helping the Carter administration on the hostage crisis but privately collaborating with the Republicans. [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]
The alleged involvement of Gregg is another highly controversial part of the October Surprise mystery. A tall man with an easy-going manner, Gregg had known George H.W. Bush since 1967 when Bush was a first-term U.S. congressman. Gregg also briefed Bush when he was U.S. envoy to China. Gregg served, too, as the CIA's liaison to the Pike Committee investigation of the CIA when Bush was CIA director in 1976.
"Although Gregg was uniformly regarded as a competent professional, there was a dimension to his background that was entirely unknown to his colleagues at the White House, and that was his acquaintance with one of the Republican frontrunners, George Bush," Sick, the former Carter aide on the National Security Council, wrote in October Surprise.
As the Iran crisis dragged on, Copeland and his group of CIA Old Boys forwarded their own plan for freeing the hostages. However, to Copeland's chagrin, his plan fell on deaf ears inside the Carter administration, which was developing its own rescue operation. So, Copeland told me that he distributed his plan outside the administration, to leading Republicans, giving sharper focus to their contempt for Carter's bungled Iranian strategy.
"Officially, the plan went only to people in the government and was top secret and all that," Copeland said...
"But as so often happens in government, one wants support, and when it was not being handled by the Carter administration as though it was top secret, it was handled as though it was nothing. ... Yes, I sent copies to everybody who I thought would be a good ally. ...
"Now I'm not at liberty to say what reaction, if any, ex-President [Richard] Nixon took, but he certainly had a copy of this. We sent one to Henry Kissinger. ... So we had these informal relationships where the little closed circle of people who were, a, looking forward to a Republican President within a short while and, b, who were absolutely trustworthy and who understood all these inner workings of the international game board."
Encircled by a growing legion of enemies, the Carter administration put the finishing touches on its hostage-rescue operation in April. Code-named "Eagle Claw," the assault involved a force of U.S. helicopters that would swoop down on Tehran, coordinate with some agents on the ground and extract the hostages.
Carter ordered the operation to proceed on April 24, but mechanical problems and the mysterious decision by one of the pilots to turn back forced the operation to be terminated. At a staging area called Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a refueling plane, causing an explosion that killed eight American crewmen.