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When Israel/Neocons Favored Iran

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Reprinted from Consortium News


Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a leading neocon and proponent of the Iraq War.
(Image by (Defense Department photo))
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After the July 14 agreement between six world powers and Iran to tightly constrain its nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the U.S. Congress to overturn the deal and ratchet up the confrontation with Iran, which he calls an "existential threat" to Israel.

As part of Israel's campaign to derail the agreement, Iran is portrayed as a reckless "rogue" regime with the madness dating back to 1979 when the Iranian revolution ousted the Shah of Iran and the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun with scores of diplomatic personnel taken hostage and 52 of them held for 444 days.

But the lost history from that era included the fact that Israel's Likud government of Menachem Begin moved quickly to reestablish secret ties with the "rogue" regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and became an important source for covert arms supplies to Iran after Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980.
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It was not until the early 1990s -- after the eight-year war with Iran-Iraq War was over and Iran's budget for weapons purchases was depleted -- when Israel began transforming Iran into its principal regional enemy. Similarly, American neoconservatives inside the Reagan administration sought to put U.S. policy in sync with Israel's pro-Iranian tilt in 1981, but the neocons shifted -- along with Israel -- to transform Iran into a psychotic enemy during the 1990s.

I discovered documents at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California, revealing that on July 21, 1981, just six months after Iran freed 52 Americans hostages at the same moment as President Reagan was being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, senior Reagan administration officials secretly endorsed third-party weapons sales to Iran.

By that point, the Israeli arms pipeline to Iran already was functioning. Three days earlier, on July 18, an Argentine plane strayed off course and crashed (or was shot down) inside the Soviet Union exposing Israel's secret arms shipments to Iran, which apparently had been going on for months.

After the plane went down, Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Nicholas Veliotes tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight. "According to the [flight] documents," Veliotes said later in an interview with PBS Frontline...

"...this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. ...

"And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law."

The reason that the Israeli weapons shipments violated U.S. law was that no formal notification had been given to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act.

But the Reagan administration was in a bind about notifying Congress and thus the American people about approving arms shipments to Iran so soon after the hostage crisis. The news would have infuriated many Americans and stoked suspicions that the Republicans had cut a deal with Iran to hold the hostages until President Jimmy Carter was defeated.

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In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes also came to believe that the arrangement between Ronald Reagan's camp and Israel regarding Iran and weapons dated back to before the 1980 election.

"It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration," Veliotes said. "And I understand some contacts were made at that time."

Q: "Between?"

Veliotes: "Between Israelis and these new players."

Rise of the Neocons

In subsequent interviews, Veliotes said he was referring to "new players" who came into government with President Reagan, now known as the neoconservatives, including Robert McFarlane, who was then counselor to Secretary of State Alexander Haig; and Paul Wolfowitz, the State Department's director of policy planning.

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http://www.consortiumnews.com

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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