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General News    H3'ed 2/17/11

The Back Story on Iran's Clashes (A Special Report)

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In that narrow sense at least, Khamenei was allied with Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the sitting Iranian president in 1980 who also has said he opposed dealing with Israel and the Republicans behind President Carter's back. In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.

Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker, Cyrus Hashemi, who had led the Carter administration to believe he was helping broker a hostage release but who also had close ties to Reagan's campaign chief William Casey and to Casey's business associate, John Shaheen.

Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: the Reagan campaign was in league with pro-Republican elements of the CIA in an effort to undermine Carter and wanted Iran's help. Bani-Sadr said the emissary "told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals."

The emissary added that the Republicans "have enormous influence in the CIA," Bani-Sadr wrote. "Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination."

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan ultimately was accepted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appears to have made up his mind around the time of Iraq's invasion in mid-September 1980.

Khomeini's approval meant the end of the initiative that Khamenei had outlined to Col. Scott, which was being pursued with Carter's representatives in West Germany before Iraq launched its attack. Khomeini's blessing allowed Rafsanjani, Karrubi and later Mousavi to proceed with secret contacts that involved emissaries from the Reagan camp and the Israeli government.

The Republican-Israeli-Iranian agreement appears to have been sealed at a series of meetings that culminated in discussions in Paris arranged by the right-wing chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches and allegedly involving Casey, vice presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates and other U.S. and Israeli representatives on one side and cleric Mehdi Karrubi and a team of Iranian representatives on the other.

Bush, Gates and Karrubi all have denied participating in the meeting (Karrubi did so in an interview with me in Tehran in 1990). But deMarenches admitted arranging the Paris conclave to his biographer, former New York Times correspondent David Andelman.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meeting be kept out of his memoir because the story could otherwise damage the reputation of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. At the time of Andelman's work crafting deMarenches's memoir in 1991, Bush was running for re-election as President of the United States.

Andelman's sworn testimony in December 1992 to a House task force assigned to examine the October Surprise controversy buttressed longstanding claims from international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.

Besides the testimony from intelligence operatives, there was contemporaneous knowledge of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean, son of author Norman Maclean who wrote the novel, A River Runs Through It.

John Maclean said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 that Bush was undertaking a secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue. Maclean passed on that information to State Department official David Henderson, who recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980.

Maclean never wrote a story about the leak, nor did he volunteer it a decade later when Congress began a cursory investigation of the controversy. He only confirmed it after I learned of Henderson's recollection and interviewed Maclean for a PBS Frontline documentary.

Also, alibis concocted for Casey and Bush -- supposedly to prove they could not have traveled to the alleged overseas meetings -- either collapsed under close scrutiny or had serious holes. [For details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

Military Shipments

Though some details of the October Surprise case remain hazy, it is a historic fact that Carter failed to resolve the hostage crisis, which gave momentum to a late-developing landslide for Reagan. The hostages were released only after Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

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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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