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A CIA Hand ian American ‘Coup’?
The US government decries leaks, but the other sidof the story is that key chapters of American history are hidden from thpublic for decades and maybe forever. The CIA has just admitted its 1953 Iracoup and may never acknowledge a role in ousting Jimmy Carter in 1980, RoberParry reports.
It has taken six decades for the CIA to formallacknowledge that it undertook a coup against Iran’s elected government in 1953but the spy agency might never concede that some of its officers joined in political strike against a sitting US president in 1980, yet that is what thevidence now indicates.
As with the ouster of Iran’s Prime MinisteMohammad Mossadegh in 1953, the motive for sabotaging the reelection oPresident Jimmy Carter in 1980 appears to have flowed from fears about thdirection of the Cold War, with American hardliners justifying their actionbased on an assessment that Carter, like Mossadegh, was a dangerous idealist.
In 1953, the nationalistic Mossadegh wachallenging America’s British allies over control of Iranian oil fieldsprompting concerns that an armed confrontation between Great Britain and Iramight play to the Soviets’ advantage, according toa secret CIA document declassified last week. In 1980, ColWar hardliners, including disgruntled CIA officers, were warning that Carter’decision to make human rights the centerpiece of US foreign policy wadangerously naïve, inviting Soviet advances.
But a key difference between the two episodes wathat the ouster of Mossadegh, an operation codenamed TPAJAX, was carried out i1953 “as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the higheslevels of government,” the CIA report said, presumably meaning President DwighEisenhower himself.
The apparent 1980 plot to undermine Carter bsabotaging his negotiations with Iran over the fate of 52 American hostagewould have been pulled off by rogue CIA officers collaborating with thRepublican presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan (and his running mate GeorgH.W. Bush), without the knowledge of Carter and CIA Director Stansfield Turner.
It would have been the work of what legendary CIofficer Miles Copeland described to me as “the CIA within the CIA,” thinner-most circle of powerful intelligence figures who felt they understood thstrategic needs of the United States better than its elected leaders. Thesnational security insiders believed Carter’s starry-eyed faith in Americademocratic ideals represented a grave threat to the nation.
“Carter really believed in all the principles thawe talk about in the West,” Copeland told me in an interview in 1990, severamonths before his death. “As smart as Carter is, he did believe in Mom, applpie and the corner drug store. And those things that are good in America argood everywhere else. …
“Carter, I say, was not a stupid man.” But iCopeland’s view, Carter had an even worse flaw: “He was a principled man.”
Copeland was one of the CIA officers whparticipated in the 1953 coup against Mossadegh, but he said he and other olCIA Iran hands were mostly on the outside looking in when Carter was targetein 1980. The Case AgainsCarter
The right-wing complaint against Carter, aenunciated by Ronald Reagan and other conservatives, was that the President halet the Shah of Iran fall, had allowed the Sandinistas to claim power iNicaragua and had undermined anti-communist regimes in South America anelsewhere by criticizing their human rights records as they used “death squadsand torture to eliminate leftists.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud government of MenacheBegin was livid with Carter over the Camp David Accords in which Israel habeen pressured to return the Sinai to Egypt. Begin and his inner circle weralarmed at the prospect of a reelected Carter pressuring Israel to give up thWest Bank, too.
So, according to accounts from a variety of participantand witnesses, the 1980 “October Surprise” dirty trick against Carterepresented a joint covert operation by senior Republicans (including formeCIA Director George H.W. Bush, Reagan’s vice-presidential running mate)high-level CIA officers (though not its Carter-appointed leadership)politically well-connected private US citizens and Israeli intelligencofficers assigned by Prime Minister Begin.
The idea was that by persuading the Iranians thold the 52 American hostages until after the US presidential election, Cartewould be made to look weak and inept, essentially dooming his hopes for second term.
As with the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh, there thewere powerful motives to conceal the covert activity behind the ouster oCarter in 1980. Regarding the Mossadegh coup, any official US disclosure woulhave undermined the legitimacy of the Shah, an important regional US ally.
Similarly, any admission that the Reagan campaigcollaborated with Iranian radicals in 1980 – aided by CIA personnel anthe Israeli government – to sabotage a sitting US president could havdangerous repercussions for the Republican Party, the CIA and Israeli relationwith the United States.
Even today – more than three decades later acceptance of the October Surprise case as true could badly damage the legacof Reagan, whose iconic image remains central to the identity of America’conservative movement. Removing Mossadegh
Regarding the 1953 coup, the newly declassified CIreport emphasized that Operation TPAJAX was not casually undertaken, but rathewas “a last resort” after less extreme measures had failed to deter Mossadegfrom pressing Iran’s demands for control of its oil.
Mossadegh, the CIA report said, “had become scommitted to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not havconceivably helped his people,” such as resisting economic pressure from thUnited States and Great Britain to relent on his standoff over the oil.
The Eisenhower administration, which was stilengaged in a war with Soviet allies in Korea, believed that a possible Britismilitary assault on Iran could draw in the Soviet Union and end with the Weslosing access to Iranian oil and the Soviets gaining control of a warm-wateport on the Persian Gulf.
“It was the potential of those risks to leave Iraopen to Soviet aggression – at a time when the Cold War was at its height that compelled the United States … [still redacted] in planning and executing TPAJAX,the report said.
The CIA-organized coup against Mossadegh put thShah of Iran into power for the next quarter century. However, his repressivrule eventually gave rise to a broad popular movement seeking his ouster.
Ill from cancer, the Shah fled Iran in early 1979Over the next several months, the Shah’s American friends, including bankeDavid Rockefeller and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, successfulllobbied Carter to admit the Shah to the United States for treatment.
The Shah’s arrival touched off a political crisiinside Iran where student radicals seized the US Embassy and captured scores oAmerican diplomats, eventually holding 52 of them during the 1980 Upresidential campaign. Carter’s failure to gain their freedom doomed hireelection hopes. The hostages were only released on Jan. 20, 1981, as RonalReagan was being sworn in as president.
Despite immediate suspicions about the curioutiming, the fuller story has only gradually come into focus, kept blurry bwhat became a bipartisan consensus that the ugly October Surprise evidencshould best be left unexamined or suppressed.
Angry denials by Republicans and timid acquiescencby Democrats allowed the cover-up to prevail in the early 1990s, onlunraveling in recent years amid new revelations thatkey evidence was hiddenfrom investigatorof a congressional task force and thatinternal doubtwere suppressed.
Still, Official Washington has been reluctant tconfront the troubling impression that remains: that disgruntled elements othe CIA and Israel’s Likudniks teamed up with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Busand other powerful Republicans to help remove a Democratic president frooffice. ‘CIA Within thCIA’
Perhaps the closest the public can expect of a CIadmission came from Miles Copeland in that 1990 interview with me and in himemoir,The Game Player, with hireferences to the “CIA within the CIA.”
Copeland told me that “the way we saw Washington athat time was that the struggle was really not between the Left and the Rightthe liberals and the conservatives, as between the Utopians and the realiststhe pragmatists.
“Carter was a Utopian. He believed, honestly, thayou must do the right thing and take your chance on the consequences. He tolme that. He literally believed that.” Copeland’s deep Southern accent spit outhe words with a mixture of amazement and disgust.
Copeland’s contacts regarding the Iran crisiincluded CIA veteran (and another Iran hand) Archibald Roosevelt and Kissinge– both of whom were close to David Rockefeller whose Chase Manhattan Bank hahandled billions of dollars in the Shah of Iran’s accounts, a fortune that thIranian mullahs who ousted the Shah in 1979 wanted to lay their hands on.
“There were many of us – myself along with HenrKissinger, David Rockefeller, Archie Roosevelt in the CIA at the time – wbelieved very strongly that we were showing a kind of weakness, which people iIran and elsewhere in the world hold in great contempt,” Copeland said.
As Copeland and his friends contemplated what to dregarding the Iran hostage crisis, he reached out to other of his old CIbuddies. According toThe Game Player, Copeland turneto ex-CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton.
The famed spy hunter “brought to lunch a Mossachap who confided that his service had identified at least half of th[Iranian] ‘students,’ even to the extent of having their home addresses iTehran,” Copeland wrote. “He gave me a rundown on what sort of kids they wereMost of them, he said, were just that, kids.”
One of the young Israeli intelligence agentassigned to the task of figuring out who was who in the new Iranian powestructure was Ari Ben-Menashe, who was born in Iran but emigrated to Israel aa teen-ager. Not only did he speak fluent Farsi, but he had school friends whwere rising within the new revolutionary bureaucracy in Tehran.
In his 1992 memoir,Profits of War, Ben-Menashe offered his owdepiction of Copeland’s initiative. Though Copeland was generally regarded as CIA “Arabist” who had opposed Israeli interests in the past, he was admired fohis analytical skills, Ben-Menashe wrote.
“A meeting between Miles Copeland and Israelintelligence officers was held at a Georgetown house in Washington, D.C.,Ben-Menashe wrote. “The Israelis were happy to deal with any initiative buCarter’s. David Kimche, chief of Tevel, the foreign relations unit of Mossad, wathe senior Israeli at the meeting.” Despising Carter
In his 1991 book,The Last Option, Kimche explained Begin’s motive fodreading Carter’s reelection. Kimche said Israeli officials had gotten wind o“collusion” between Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat “to force Israeto abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, includinJerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Kimche continued, “This plan – prepared behinIsrael’s back and without her knowledge – must rank as a unique attempt iUnited States’s diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally bdeceit and manipulation.”
However, Begin recognized that the scheme requireCarter winning a second term in 1980 when, Kimche wrote, “he would be free tcompel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his anEgyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewislobby.”
InProfits of War, Ben-Menashe alsnoted that Begin and other Likud leaders held Carter in contempt.
“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreemenforced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “As Begin saw it, thagreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peaceand left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”
So, in order to buy time for Israel to “change thfacts on the ground” by moving Jewish settlers into the West Bank, Begin felCarter’s reelection had to be prevented. A different president also presumablwould give Israel a freer hand to deal with problems on its northern bordewith Lebanon.
Ben-Menashe has been among the October Surpriswitnesses who has offered sworn testimony describing meetings betweeRepublicans and Iranians in 1980 that were designed – with the help of CIA personneand Israeli intelligence – to delay release of the 52 hostages until afteCarter’s defeat.[For details on the case, see Robert Parry’sAmerica’s StoleNarrativeandSecrecy &Privilege.] Crumbling Cover-up
The “October Surprise” mystery represented whacould be called the opening chapter of the Iran-Contra scandal and like thanational security scandal, which erupted in 1986 and tainted President Reagan’second term, the 1980 case was met with a fierce Republican cover-up when icame under examination in 1991-92.
Though the twin cover-ups of October Surprise anIran-Contra mostly succeeded in shielding President George H.W. Bush frosevere political damage during Campaign 1992, he nonetheless lost to BilClinton. Only recently have new historical disclosures eroded the barriers thahad protected the legacies of Bush and Reagan from the scandals.
For instance, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indianawho headed a congressional task force that absolved Reagan and Bush of thOctober Surprise allegations in 1993, conceded last June that the probe mighhave reached a different conclusion if the Bush-41 administration had nowithheld State Department evidence that Reagan’s campaign chief William Casehad traveled to Madrid in 1980, as some October Surprise witnesses had alleged.
Casey’s trip to Madrid in 1980 was at the center oHamilton’s inquiry into whether Reagan’s campaign went behind Carter’s back tfrustrate his attempts to free 52 American hostages before the 1980 electionHamilton’s task force dismissed those allegations after concluding that Casehad not traveled to Madrid.
“We found no evidence to confirm Casey’s trip tMadrid,” Hamilton told me in an interview last June. “We couldn’t show that. The [Bush-41] White House did not notify us that he did make the trip. Shoulthey have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we werinterested in that.”
Asked if knowledge that Casey indeed had traveleto Madrid might have changed the task force’s dismissive October Surprisconclusion, Hamilton said yes,because the question of the Madrid trip wacentral to the task force’s investigation.
“If the White House knew that Casey was there, thecertainly should have shared it with us,” Hamilton said, adding that “you havto rely on people” in authority to comply with information requests.
The document revealing White House knowledge oCasey’s Madrid trip was among records released to me by the archivists at thGeorge H.W. Bush library in College Station, Texas.
The US Embassy’s confirmation of Casey’s trip wapassed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to AssociatWhite House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as thcongressional October Surprise inquiry was taking shape.
Williamson said that among the State Departmen“material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, fopurposes unknown,” Beach noted in a “memorandum for record” dated Nov. 4, 1991. [SeConsortiumnews.com’s “Second Thoughts on October Surprise.”] The ‘Lost’ RussiaReport
Hamilton also told me that he was unaware oanother confirmation of Casey’s Madrid trip that was contained in a report froRussian intelligence that was sent to Hamilton in early 1993.
In that report, which was apparently nevedelivered to Hamilton, the Russians corroborated another key October Surprisclaim: that Casey (who later became Reagan’s CIA director), former CIA DirectoGeorge H.W. Bush and senior CIA officer Robert Gates were among a group oAmericans meeting with Iranians in Paris in October 1980. [SeConsortiumnews.com’s “Key October Surprise Evidence Hidden.”]
Even Lawrence Barcella, the chief counsel of Hamilton’October Surprise investigation who authored the exonerating report, conceded ia series of e-mails to me before his death in 2010 that so much incriminatinevidence against the Republicans arrived at the House task force in late 199that he asked Hamilton for a three-month extension so the material could bexamined.
However, Hamilton realized that any extension woulmean a bitter fight with Republicans that could poison congressional relationat the start of a new Democratic administration, so he simply ordered thinvestigation brought to a conclusion with a finding of Republican innocence a decision that he now concedes was premature.
Other material declassified by the Buspresidential library reveals how aggressively his White House battled againsfull disclosure regarding the October Surprise inquiry in 1991-92.A bipart of the Bush-41 cover-up was to run out the clock on Hamilton’investigation by slow-rolling requests for key documents, especially from thCIA, as well as testimony from a key CIA witness.
For instance, on May 14, 1992, a CIA officialran proposed language pastassociate WhitHouse counsel Janet Rehnquist from then-CIA Director Robert Gates regarding thagency’s level of cooperation with Congress. By that point, the CIA, undeGates, was already months into a pattern of foot-dragging on congressionadocument requests.
Bush had put Gates, who was himself implicated ithe October Surprise case, at the CIA’s helm in fall 1991, meaning that Gatewas well-positioned to stymie congressional requests for sensitive informatioabout secret initiatives involving Bush, Gates and Donald Gregg, another CIveteran who was linked to the scandal.
The records at the Bush library revealed that Gateand Gregg, indeed, were targets of the congressional October Surprise probe. OMay 26, 1992, Rep. Hamilton wrote to the CIA asking for records regarding thwhereabouts of Gregg and Gates from Jan. 1, 1980, through Jan. 31, 1981including travel plans and leaves of absence.
The CIA’s persistent document-production delayfinally drewa complaintfrom Barcella who wrote to the CIA oJune 9, 1992, that the agency had not been responsive to three requests oSept. 20, 1991; April 20, 1992; and May 26, 1992. A History of Lies
Gregg and Gates also were implicated in the broadethe Iran-Contra scandal. Both were suspected of lying about their knowledge osecret sales of military hardware to Iran in 1985-86 and clandestine deliverof weapons to Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
A ex-CIA director himself, Bush also had beecaught lying in the Iran-Contra scandal when he insisted that a plane shot dowover Nicaragua in 1986 while dropping weapons to the Contras had no connectioto the US government (when the weapons delivery had been organized boperatives close to Bush’s vice presidential office where Gregg served as nationasecurity adviser).
And, Bush falsely claimed that he was out of th“loop” on Iran-Contra decisions when later evidence showed that he was a majoparticipant in thediscussions.
From the Bush library documents, it was apparenthat the October Surprise cover-up was essentially an extension of the broadeeffort to contain the Iran-Contra scandal, with Bush personally involved iorchestrating both efforts to frustrate the investigations.
For instance, Iran-Contra special prosecutoLawrence Walsh discovered in December 1992 that Bush’s White House counsel’office had delayed production of Bush’s personal notes about the Iran-Contrarms shipments. Though the counsel’s office insisted that the delay waunintentional, Walsh didn’t buy it.
Beyond dragging its heels on producing documentsthe Bush administration maneuvered to keep key witnesses out of timely reach othe investigators. For instance, Gregg used his stationing as US Ambassador tSouth Korea in 1992 to evade a congressional subpoena.
Like Gates and Bush, Gregg had been linked tsecret meetings with Iranians during the 1980 campaign. When asked about thosallegations by FBI polygraph operators working for Iran-Contra prosecutoWalsh, Gregg was judged to be deceptive in his denials. [See Final Report othe Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, p. 501] Dodging a Subpoena
And, when it came to answering questions froCongress about the October Surprise matter, Gregg found excuses not to accepservice of a subpoena.
Ina June 18, 1992, cablefrom the US Embassin Seoul to the State Department in Washington, Gregg wrote that he had learnethat Senate investigators had “attempted to subpoena me to appear on 24 June iconnection with their so-called ‘October Surprise’ investigation. The subpoenwas sent to my lawyer, Judah Best, who returned it to the committee since hhad no authority to accept service of a subpoena. …
“If the October Surprise investigation contacts th[State] Department, I request that you tell them of my intention to cooperatfully when I return to the States, probably in September. Any other inquirieshould be referred to my lawyer, Judah Best. Mr. Best asks that I specificallrequest you not to accept service of a subpoena if the committee attempts tdeliver one to you.”
That way Gregg ensured that he was not legallcompelled to testify while running out the clock on a separate Senate inquirand leaving little time for the House task force. His strategy of delay waendorsed by deputy White House counsel Janet Rehnquist (daughter othen-Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist) after a meeting witGregg’s attorney Best and a State Department lawyer.
Ina June 24, 1992, letterto White Houscounsel Boyden Gray, Rehnquist wrote that “at your direction, I have lookeinto whether Don Gregg should return to Washington to testify before the SenatSubcommittee hearings next week. … I believe we shouldNOTrequest that Gregg testify nexweek.”
The failure to effect service of the subpoena gavthe Bush team an advantage, Rehnquist noted, because the Senate investigatorthen relented and merely “submitted written questions to Gregg, througcounsel, in lieu of an appearance. …. This development provides us aopportunity to manage Gregg’s participation in October Surprise long distance.”
Rehnquist added hopefully that by the end oSeptember 1992 “the issue may, by that time, even be dead for all practicapurposes.”
Asked about this strategy of delay, Hamilton tolme that “running out the clock is a very familiar tactic in any congressionainvestigation” since the Bush-41 administration would have known that the Houstask force’s authorization expired at the end of the session in early Januar1993.
The deadline came into play when the floodgates oevidence of Republican guilt belatedly opened in December 1992. But there wano time left to pursue those leads.
However, in recent months, the collapse of thOctober Surprise cover-up and the emergence of new corroborating evidence havleft a chasm between what Official Washington wants to believe about thcontroversy – that it never happened – and the evidentiary record – that thsabotage of Carter’s hostage talks represents a dark but genuine chapter oAmerican political history. Investigativreporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The AssociatePress and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book,America’Stolen Narrative,either inprint hereoas an e-book (fromAmazonandbarnesandnoble.com)For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the BusFamily and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. Thtrilogy includesAmerica’s Stolen Narrative. For details on thioffer,click here. Consortiumnews