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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/24/11

Ted Koppel's Timid Take on Iran-gate

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Earlier in 1991, a show that I helped produce for PBS "Frontline" had revealed new evidence to support long-held suspicions that the Reagan campaign had gone behind Carter's back. And, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick published a New York Times op-ed stating that he had come to believe that a secret Reagan-Iran agreement had been struck.

By fall 1991, Congress was considering investigations to see if the Iran-Contra (or Iran-gate) scandal may have had its origins in a treacherous deal in 1980.

The stakes were high not just for Republicans (because then-President George H.W. Bush was implicated in the affair) but for Israel, which allegedly played a key middleman role in handling the arms transactions and had been motivated by Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin's fear that a second term for Carter might have meant intense pressure for a Palestinian state.

The Israelis and their American neoconservative allies also were unnerved by the emergence of former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, who had followed his acquittal from a year-long legal battle in the United States by opening up to American journalists (including me) and expressing a willingness to talk to Congress.

Besides his knowledge of the October Surprise deal, Ben-Menashe was revealing secrets about other covert Israeli programs, including giving details about Israel's nuclear program to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh for his book, The Samson Option.

Silencing and discrediting Ben-Menashe became a high priority for the Israeli government and American neocons.

A Frightened Establishment

The October Surprise scandal also threatened key figures of the American Establishment, since the evidence pointed to involvement by banker David Rockefeller, who straddles the worlds of high finance and public policy through his Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Rockefeller's Chase Manhattan had been the Shah of Iran's bank and faced possible bankruptcy if the revolutionary Iranian government yanked the ousted Shah's fortune from the bank's vaults in 1980. The freeze on Iran's money, which resulted from the hostage crisis, proved fortuitous for Chase.

Another suspect in the mystery was Rockefeller's most famous prote'ge', former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had built his own influential network of political/media connections including Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post/Newsweek Company, and even Koppel at ABC News.

Kissinger had been named as an operative in the October Surprise case in 1980 much as he was linked to a similar sabotage of a sitting Democratic president when Kissinger allegedly collaborated with Richard Nixon in derailing President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam peace talks in 1968. [See's "How Two Elections Changed America."]

So, in 1991, an intimidating phalanx of powerful individuals was arrayed against the October Surprise investigation, a troublesome matter that had to be dispensed with. The task of "debunking" the growing body of evidence about a Reagan-Iranian deal (with Israeli support) fell to the neoconservative New Republic and the Establishment-oriented Newsweek.

The New Republic commissioned an article by Steven Emerson, known even then for his close ties to Likud and Israeli intelligence, while the Newsweek article was personally overseen by executive editor Maynard Parker, himself a CFR member and a Kissinger ally.

The two articles came out on the same weekend in November 1991 and touted matching alibis that supposedly debunked the October Surprise allegations -- by proving that Jamshid Hashemi was lying about a Madrid meeting between Casey and senior Iranians in July 1980.

The two magazines reported that Casey couldn't have attended the meeting in Madrid, as Hashemi described, because Casey was at the London historical conference on one key morning (July 28, 1980) when Hashemi's account would have placed him in Madrid. In other words, the New Republic and Newsweek were saying that Ted Koppel had been played.

Typical of such moments, there was a great deal of career tumult at "Nightline," with some neocon-oriented producers swaggering around with an I-told-you-so smirk and one of Koppel's producers on the Hashemi interview out of a job and unwilling to talk about the ordeal.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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