Other news organizations reported similar facts, with Bush administration officials even citing the aggressive covert action as one reason why the Israelis should tamp down their heated rhetoric about launching a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites.
Yet, when the Mousavi campaign took on the appearance of a "velvet revolution," with Mousavi claiming victory before any ballots were counted and then organizing mass demonstration when the official vote count went against him, the U.S. press corps mocked any suggestion from Ahmadinejad's government that foreign operatives might have had a hand in the disruptions.
Not to say that Mousavi's campaign was orchestrated from outside Iran nor to suggest that it didn't speak for genuine grievances inside Iran but the U.S. press corps behaved as if it had forgotten its own earlier reporting about the CIA covert operation. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the big American media was taking sides with Mousavi.
The Iran-Contra Connection
Truly objective journalism at least might have included some historical facts about the three chief opposition leaders and their longstanding (often secret) ties to the West.
In the 1980s, then Prime Minister Mousavi was, in effect, the control officer for Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian agent who hooked up with neoconservative activist Michael Ledeen for clandestine Iran-Contra weapons shipments that involved both the United States and Israel.
In November 1985, as one of the missile shipments via Israel went awry, Ghorbanifar conveyed Mousavi's anger to the White House.
"On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs," according to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's Final Report.
"Ledeen said the message essentially was "we've been holding up our part of the bargain, and here you people are now cheating us and tricking us and deceiving us and you had better correct this situation right away.'"
Ghorbanifar also had dangled the possibility of Reagan's national security adviser Robert McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi. In May 1986, when McFarlane and White House aide Oliver North took their infamous trip to Tehran with the inscribed Bible and the key-shaped cake, they were planning to meet with Mousavi.
Another leading figure in today's opposition, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, also sat at the center of the web of arms deals that Israel arranged for Iran in its long war with Iraq. Rafsanjani, who was then parliamentary chairman, built his personal fortune, in part, as a war profiteer benefiting from those lucrative deals with Israel. [For more on the arms deals, see Ari Ben-Menashe's Profits of War.]
A third key opposition leader, Mehdi Karoubi, and his brother Hassan also were linked to the secret arms deals. Mehdi Karoubi has been identified as an intermediary as early as 1980 when he reportedly had contacts with Israeli and U.S. intelligence operatives and top Republicans working for Ronald Reagan. [See Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]
The brother, Hassan Karoubi, was another Iran-Contra figure, meeting with Ghorbanifar and Ledeen in Geneva in late October 1985 regarding missile shipments in exchange for Iranian help in getting a group of U.S. hostages freed in Lebanon, according to Walsh's report.
Normally, such an unusual line-up of opposition leaders might be expected to raise some eyebrows in the U.S. press corps. If the CIA or Israeli intelligence were trying to achieve regime change in Iran, they might reasonably reach out to influential figures with whom they've had prior relationships.
But all that history, as well as the media's prior knowledge of Bush's covert operation seeking "regime change" in Iran, disappeared, not to be mentioned in the volumes of reporting about the June 12 election. The stories all were about spontaneous demonstrations in protest of Ahmadinejad's allegedly fraudulent reelection.
The U.S. news media may understandably view Ahmadinejad with disdain, for his bluster and especially his outrageous comments about the Holocaust. Sometimes that repulsion has been palpable, such as when New York Times executive editor Bill Keller personally traveled to Iran to witness the election and co-authored a news analysis that started with a joke about Ahmadinejad having lice in his hair. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Taking Sides in Iran."]