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8/29/2004

Silberman - Ghorbanifar

When I first heard about the spy case, it had already developed to the point that Manucher Ghorbanifar's name was being thrown around. His name was familiar, but not for his involvement in Iran Contra, his most impressive foray into American policy making. Instead, I remembered him from Reagan's "October Surprise" story, brought back into the public eye by Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty.

The October Surprise is shrouded in mystery, and likely always will be. The allegations are:

  • The Reagan-Bush campaign was afraid that its electoral hopes in the 80 campaign would be dashed if Carter managed to secure release of American hostages from Iran prior to the election.
  • Carter had overseen a dramatic reduction in CIA resources, and there was significant support for Reagan in the intelligence agencies.
  • Reagan-Bush used these resources to open up a backchannel between the campaign and the Iranian government, securing a promise that Iran wouldn't release the hostages until after the election (and ultimately until Reagan's inauguration).
  • The negotiations took place in two meetings, one at L'Enfant Plaza in D.C., and one in a Paris hotel.
  • Reagan offered arms sales to Iran in exchange for the delayed release of the hostages.
These are all incredibly serious allegations, and many of them are based on unreliable testimony. There is at least one admitted fact, though: three Reagan-Bush staffers met with a representative of the Iranian government at L'Enfant Plaza. One of these officials was Judge Laurence Silberman. The second meeting is not admitted; that it took place is based on statements from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr. At the second meeting was none other than one Manucher Ghorbanifar.

Judge Silberman is now heading the official investigation our disastrous Iraq intelligence failures. If Manucher Ghorbanifar is the source of some of the flawed intelligence, there may be a small conflict of interest.

Oh yeah, Silberman exonerated a few Iran Contra criminals, stage-managed anti-Clinton smears, and is a total hack.

Some Sources

Robert Parry, The Looking-Glass 'Surprise'; In the Culture of Conspiracy, Real Questions Linger, The Washington Post, 12/6/1992
Though little noticed at the time, the October Surprise scenario was first aired in 1980 when Iran's acting foreign minister, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh, alleged Republican interference to reporters in France. Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean was told by a Republican source in Washington about a supposed mid-October trip by vice presidential candidate George Bush to Paris for the purpose of hostage negotiations. GOP campaign spokesmen promptly denied the charge and Maclean never wrote the story.

In 1983, a congressional investigation into the theft of Carter's debate briefing book during the 1980 presidential campaign revealed that the Reagan campaign had an elaborate 24-hour-a-day operation, overseen by Casey, to monitor Carter's efforts to free the hostages. Ex-CIA and military officers were on the alert for any sign that Carter had cut a deal. But it was unclear if this political intelligence operation had gone any further.

In the wake of the Iran-contra scandal in 1986, more allegations about Republican hanky-panky in 1980 surfaced. Iran's ex-president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr offered the New York Times a sketchy account of a meeting between Republicans and Iranians in Paris in October 1980. Senior Reagan-Bush campaign advisers acknowledged to a Miami Herald reporter that they had held a private meeting at Washington's L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in September or October 1980 with a mysterious Iranian emissary. The Republicans -- Richard Allen, Laurence Silberman and Robert McFarlane -- said they rebuffed a proposal to deliver the hostages to Ronald Reagan.

***

The L'Enfant Plaza meeting: The most baffling new information developed by the Senate investigators concerns the meeting of GOP campaign aides and an Iranian emissary at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Prior to the congressional investigation, the three Republicans -- Allen, Silberman and McFarlane -- said they rejected a proposal by a Middle Easterner to release the hostages to candidate Reagan. But they all blanked on the man's name and position, thus leaving the possibility of more conspiratorial explanations. An Iranian arms broker, Houshang Lavi, then stepped forward claiming to be the emissary.
Mark Hosenball, If It's October...Then It's Time for an Iranian Conspiracy Theory, The Washington Post, 10/9/89:
Also present at that 1980 meeting were Richard Allen, who later became national security adviser, and Laurence H. Silberman, now a federal appeals court judge. Silberman summarized what happened in a letter sent last year to The Miami Herald. The meeting took place in September 1980, according to Silberman, with an emissary whose name Silberman can't remember. The emissary "suggested the prospect of gaining release of the hostages if they could be released to representatives of candidate Ronald Reagan rather than President Jimmy Carter." Silberman continued: "As soon as what he had in mind became apparent, Dick Allen and I completely and decisively cut off the discussion." Silberman said he told the emissary "that we Americans have only one president at a time and that any dealings concerning the hostages would have to be with the administration."
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
Among Iranians named as participants in the Paris meetings by Americans claiming to be witnesses were Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iran-born Mossad agent and arms dealer who later played a central role in the Iranscam arms-for-hostages scandal. Former Iranian President Bani Sadr seemed to confirm this when he told the writer that the Iranian participant in the Washington meeting with Allen, McFarlane and Silberman was either Ghorbanifar, Parvis Sabati, or both. Bani Sadr also named four Iranians who backstopped the operation. They included his successor as president of Iran, Mohammad Ali Rajai I and the then-speaker of Parliament and now principal Iranian leader, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Update 8/30/04, 10:47 pm EST: Thanks to PDB for the link. It's a great resource.

 

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