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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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"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.'"

Earlier in the process, Ghorbanifar had dangled the possibility of McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi and Rafsanjani.

Another of Ghorbanifar's Iranian contacts was Hassan Karrubi, the brother of Mehdi Karrubi. Hassan Karrubi met 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, Walsh's report said.

A Split Leadership

As Ben-Menashe describes the maneuvering in Tehran, the basic split in the Iranian leadership put then-President Khamenei on the ideologically purist side of rejecting U.S.-Israeli military help and Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi in favor of exploiting those openings in a pragmatic way to better fight the war with Iraq -- and to make lots of money.

The key decider during this period -- as in the October Surprise phase -- was Ayatollah Khomeini, who agreed with the pragmatists on the need to get as much materiel from the Americans and the Israelis as possible, Ben-Menashe told me in an interview from his home in Canada.

Ben-Menashe said Rafsanjani and most other senior Iranian officials were satisfied dealing with the original (Likud) Israeli channel. They also were offended by the Reagan administration's double game in the 1980s of tilting toward Iraq with military and intelligence support while also offering weapons deals to Iran via the second (Labor) channel.

The ex-Israeli intelligence officer said the Iranians were especially thankful in 1985-86 when the Likud channel secured SCUD missiles from Poland so Iran could respond to SCUD attacks that Iraq had launched against Iranian cities.

"After that (transaction), I got access to the highest authorities" in Iran, Ben-Menashe said, including a personal meeting with Mousavi at which Ben-Menashe said he learned that Mousavi knew the history of the Israeli-arranged shipments in the October Surprise deal of 1980.

Ben-Menashe quoted Mousavi as saying, "we did everything you guys [the Likud] wanted. We got rid of the Democrats. We did everything we could, but the Americans aren't delivering [and] they are dealing with the Iraqis."

According to that account, the Iranian leadership in 1980 viewed its agreement to delay release of the U.S. Embassy hostages not primarily as a favor to the Republicans, but to the Israelis who were considered the key for Iran to get the necessary military supplies for its war with Iraq.

Today, many of the same Iranian players are back in the limelight amid a new fight for power. And there have been signs that today's Supreme Leader Khamenei has tried to reconcile with his old revolutionary comrades who broke with the government after the 2009 election.

As protests sought to reverse the election results, some in Ahmadinejad's camp accused the triumvirate of Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Karrubi of fronting for foreign powers, such as Israel and the United States, with the goal of subverting Iran's religious/political system and bringing about "regime change." There were calls for their trials as traitors.

However, Khamenei intervened to block legal action, according to a Washington Post article on Wednesday, which reported that he offered Mousavi and Karrubi "a path to redemption if they admitted their mistakes and endorsed Iran's Islamist system."

However, given their support for a new round of protests following the Egyptian revolt and after the angry reaction from the parliamentarians on Tuesday, Mousavi and Karrubi appear to have reopened the old rifts.

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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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