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Who to Trust on a Truth Commission?

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 3 of 7 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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So, the House October Surprise task force turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the late-arriving evidence. Still, Barcella was not entirely comfortable. On Dec. 8, 1992, he instructed his deputies "to put some language in, as a trap door" Ł in case later disclosures disproved the report's conclusions.

"This report does not and could not reflect every single lead that was investigated, every single phone call that was made, every single contact that was established," Ł Barcella suggested as "trap door" Ł wording. "Similarly, the Task Force did not resolve every single one of the scores of " ścuriosities,' " ścoincidences,' sub-allegations or question marks that have been raised over the years and become part of the October Surprise story." Ł

But some of the information that would arrive during the investigation's final month would deal not just with "curiosities," Ł but with central questions behind the mystery of why the American hostages remained captive through Election 1980 and were freed immediately after Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

On Dec. 17, 1992, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr sent the task force a letter describing the internal battles of the Iranian government over the Republican intervention in the 1980 hostage crisis. Bani-Sadr recounted how he threatened to expose the secret deal between Reagan-Bush campaign officials and Islamic radicals close to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini if it weren't stopped.

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Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican "secret deal" Ł with Iranian radicals in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini, attended a meeting with Iranian financier Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on July 2, 1980.

Though Passendideh was expected to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh instead carried a plan "from the Reagan camp." Ł

"Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA," Ł Bani-Sadr wrote. "Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination." Ł

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Bani-Sadr said he resisted the threats and sought an immediate release of the American hostages, but it was clear to him that the wily Khomeini was playing both sides of the U.S. political street.

This secret Republican plan to block release of the hostages until after the U.S. elections remained a point of tension between Bani-Sadr and Khomeini, according to Bani-Sadr's letter. Bani-Sadr said his trump card was a threat to tell the Iranian people about the secret deal that the Khomeini forces had struck with the Republicans.

"On Sept. 8, 1980, I invited the people of Teheran to gather in Martyrs Square so that I can tell them the truth," Ł Bani-Sadr wrote. "Khomeini insisted that I must not do so at this time. ... Two days later, again, I decided to expose everything. Ahmad Khomeini [the ayatollah's son] came to see me and told me, " śImam [Khomeini] absolutely promises'" Ł to reopen talks with Carter if Bani-Sadr would relent and not go public.

Bani-Sadr said the dispute led Khomeini to pass on a new hostage proposal to the U.S. government through his son-in-law, Sadegh Tabatabai. Though Tabatabai did deliver a new peace plan to U.S. officials in West Germany, the initiative unraveled when Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in mid-September 1980.

Meanwhile, high-level contacts between Republicans and Khomeini representatives allegedly continued, often using Israeli and European intelligence operatives as intermediaries. On the outs with Khomeini, Bani-Sadr saw his political position deteriorate and he was soon forced to flee into exile.

Corroborating Evidence

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Bani-Sadr's detailed account meshed with previous statements made by two other senior Iranian officials, former Defense Minister Ahmad Madani and the acting Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.

Madani had lost to Bani-Sadr in the 1980 presidential race despite covert CIA assistance funneled to his campaign through Cyrus Hashemi. Madani also discovered that Hashemi was double-dealing with the Republicans.

In an interview with me for PBS Frontline in the early 1990s, Madani said Hashemi brought up the name of Reagan's campaign chief William Casey in connection with these back-channel negotiations over the U.S. hostages. Madani said Hashemi had urged Madani to meet with Casey, earning a rebuke from Madani that "we are not here to play politics." Ł

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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 secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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