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Was There a Second Irangate?
Uncovering the existence of secret illegal dealings between Washington and Tehran
Ludwig De Braeckeleer (ludwig)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2008-04-06 06:15 (KST)   
Only half of the Iran-Contra affair has been told.

--Amiram Nir, counterterrorism advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, point-man of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra operations, from an interview with Bob Woodward, Summer 1988
While reviewing some materials concerning various Iranian political events having occurred during the last years of Khomeini, I came across a fantastic piece of information which allows to identify with great probability, in fact with near certainty, the man previously only known as Witness C or by his alias Abolghasem Mesbahi.

His true name is actually Abdul Hasan Mephahi. On Oct. 5, 1988, La Cinq, a French television network, mentioned Mephahi and informed their viewers that the Iranian diplomat had been expelled from France in 1983 for "activities not in keeping with diplomatic status."

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This description of the Iranian diplomat matches the description of witness C at the Mykonos murders trial in Germany, and identifies, in my opinion unambiguously, Mesbahi. The identification raises, and perhaps answers, some intriguing questions regarding the Lockerbie affair.

In late 1996, Mesbahi told German Law Authority that Iran officials had contracted the bombing of Pan Am 103 to avenge the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes a few months earlier. See Lockerbie -- the man who was not there.

Irangate

In 1985, the Reagan administration was confronted with two major international issues. In Lebanon, a dozen of American citizens were hostages of Hezbollah, an organization controlled by Tehran, and Reagan had promised that he would never negotiate with terrorists. In 1984, the Congress had cut funding to support the Contras while the Reagan administration was keen on continuing their support to fight the Communist regime.

McFarlane came up with a plan. The United States would sell weapons, at first through Israel, then directly to Iran in return for help to negotiate the release of the hostages. The weapons were sold at a premium, which was used to fund the Contras.

After a leak by Iranian radical Mehdi Hashemi to the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa, the arrangement was revealed on Nov. 3, 1986.

There is little doubt that Hashemi leaked the information to derail the rapprochement process between Tehran and Washington intended by McFarlane.

Hashemi was a close allied of then-Minister of Interior Mohtashami who opposed any deal with the US, and is believed to have founded the Hezbollah organization while he was ambassador in Damascus.

At first, Reagan denied the allegations, but faced with evidence, admitted the arms sale on Nov.13, 1986.

"My purpose was to send a signal that the United States was prepared to replace the animosity between us with a new relationship At the same time we undertook this initiative, we made clear that Iran must oppose all forms of international terrorism as a condition of progress in our relationship. The most significant step which Iran could take, we indicated, would be to use its influence in Lebanon to secure the release of all hostages held there," Reagan said in a nationwide address.

On March 4, 1987, Reagan took full responsibility and stated that, contrary to his previous assertions, the US had traded arms for hostages. Reagan and Bush political careers went on unaffected by the unlawful operations. However, at the international level, the credibility of the US stand in the war on terror was shattered.

"US willingness to engage in concessions with Iran and the Hezbollah not only signaled to its adversaries that hostage-taking was an extremely useful instrument in extracting political and financial concessions from the West but also undermined any credibility of US criticism of other states' deviation from the principles of no-negotiation and no- concession to terrorists and their demands," a Hezbollah expert wrote.

Irangate: Part II?

Meanwhile, unknown to all outside the inner circle of the president, the Reagan administration had already put in place a new plan. In January 1987, CIA veteran (1972-87) Richard Lawless set up a consulting company -- US Asia Commercial Development Corp.

The then-42-year-old Lawless was a former member of the CIA Operations Directorate, who may have worked under State Department cover in Vienna and in Seoul, when Vice President George H. Bush advisor Donald Gregg was serving as the CIA station chief.

Lawless, who is widely believed to have worked directly for Bush, began a series of meeting with Iranian representatives in Geneva starting on Sept. 15, 1987.

Mohammad Javad Laridjani, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, was visiting Paris in early September 1988. From there, he was called unexpectedly to Geneva on the Sept. 6, 1988 for talks with American negotiators.

The Nation, an Israeli daily, reported on Sept. 30, 1988, that US and Iranian negotiators had "hammered out an agreement."
According to the Israeli daily, progress was made when the US negotiators gave up on Col. William R. Higgins. The US accepted the Iranian line that he was either dead or no longer among the hostages controlled by Tehran. (It may have been a little more precise to state: not controlled by those in Tehran that the negotiators represented, i.e. the Rafsanjani clan.)

On Oct. 5, 1988, a French television network, La Cinq, reported that three meetings between Lawless and Iranian negotiators had taken place at Glyon, near Montreux, in late August and early September. (It seems that a fourth meeting occurred in early October.)

The Iranians negotiators were named as Mohammad Javad Laridjani, Mahmoud Jamali, Nasrollah Kazemi Kamyab and Abdul Hasan Mephahi. All of them are quite well known senior officials and worked for the Foreign Affair Ministry, except Mephahi who was representing Rafsanjani.

Jamali was director general for International Conferences at the Foreign Ministry. The official nature of these talks is abundantly clear from the high-ranking level of the participants.

On the same day, former President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr of Iran said that an aide to Vice President Bush had been conducting secret negotiations on the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon. Bani-Sadr identified the aide of the vice president as Richard Lawless.

Bani-Sadr also alleged that Tehran had partially obtained the released of assets frozen in the US since the Islamic revolution and that there had been a delivery of arms to Iran.

On Oct. 6, 1988, L. Paul Bremer, described as "preposterous" a spate of reports that the US had offered money or weapons to Tehran in order to secure the release of Americans hostages held in Lebanon.

"I've never been able to explain the Iranians and what their strategies are and what they do," Reagan declared on the same day. "But obviously, we couldn't do any negotiating with them until and unless the hostages are released." Both men were lying through their teeth.

All Iranian negotiators were representing the view of Rafsanjani who in the aftermath of the Iraq-Iran ceasefire was leading the economical reconstruction of the country and had gained the support of strong allies such Ahmad Khomeini (a son of the Supreme Leader), Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, as well as most moderate elements of the Revolutionary Guards.

Rafsanjani has been listed by Forbes as one of the wealthiest men on the planet. His fortune is believed to originate from arms deals conducted after the Islamic Revolution.

By 1988, Iranian politics had become increasingly polarized between the Rafsanjani and the Mohtashami factions, a trend that had not been unanticipated by the Supreme leader.

"You do not fight in the name of Allah, but you fight to further your own interests. You do not fool me when you say that you have the interest of Islam at heart. You fight for power, and I know it.

"You always want more power. None among you is content with his own carpet, and each one among you seeks to stretch his legs on his neighbor's carpet," Khomeini said.

On Sept. 26, 1988, a commando led by Mir Lohi, a former cohort of Mehdi Hashemi as well as a Mohtashami agent, attempted to assassinate Rafsanjani as he was leaving the parliament. Rafsanjani escaped but four of his bodyguards were killed and several others wounded.

The assassination attempt was widely perceived as a way to prevent a rapprochement with Washington. In a similar manner, the killing of Lt. Col. William Higgins in 1989 is also alleged to have been ordered by Mohtashami in order to prevent the rapprochement of Syria with the US and again to derail attempts by Rafsanjani to better the relations of Iran with America.

In July 1988, Rafsanjani stated in the parliament that "Iran should now attract those countries who could become friends instead of alienating them, as it had done in the past."

Consequences for Lockerbie

The secret dealings between Washington and Tehran during 1987 and 1988 raise many questions unanswered to this day, some directly relevant to the Lockerbie investigation.

What was the origin of the funds used to continue the dealings with Tehran and the Contras in these years? Did the US run illegal drug operations, by opposition to controlled deliveries, to raise the money needed? And if so, was Monzer al-Kasaar involved in this scheme? (See "Confession of an Iranian Terror Czar.") These possibilities should not been dismissed as conspiracy theories too promptly.

Released on April 13, 1989, Senator John Kerry's Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concluded that "senior US policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems."

Did the CIA, or other US institutions, intentionally hide the existence of Abdul Hasan Mephahi, who contrary to the Zeist verdict blames Tehran -- not Tripoli -- for the Lockerbie bombing, to investigators because his testimony would have necessarily revealed the existence of secret illegal dealings between Washington and Tehran?

These questions, as well as dozens of others that have haunted the Lockerbie affair for two decades, should now be considered in the light of these ongoing secret operations at the time of the bombing.

The Aftermath

Mehdi Hashemi, who had leaked the scandal to the media, was executed in 1987. Amiram Nir was assassinated on Dec. 1, 1988. Lt. Cmdr. R. J. Hunt told investigator R. Stitch that he had learned from Oliver North that Nir had been assassinated by the CIA because he was about to sell the story of the second Irangate.

Gannon and McKee were US intelligence operatives working in Lebanon to release the US hostages. Both died on Pan Am 103. Both had worked with Nir on the security of Vice President Bush during his secret meeting with Iranian officials at the King David hotel in Jerusalem on July 29, 1986.

Ian Spiro, a British citizen and US-MI6 Intelligence asset in the Lebanon, is one of the few people suspected to have betrayed Gannon and McKee and passed their travel plans to the Iranians the day prior the bombing of Pan Am 103.

Spiro told journalists that he could link Irangate to Lockerbie. Soon after he left Lebanon, Spiro and his wife and three children were murdered in California. The San Diego Sheriff's Department never responded to an official request from Britain's Foreign Office for copies of a medical examiner's report on their unsolved deaths.

In 1996, journalist Gary Webb published reports in the San Jose Mercury News claiming that Contras, with the protection of the Reagan administration, had distributed crack cocaine into Los Angeles to fund weapons purchases. In 2004, Gary Webb was found dead, officially having committing suicide. He shot himself twice in the head.

In August 2002, Nidal, the man accused by Mephahi to have organized the bombing of Pan Am 103, also committed suicide by shooting a bullet in his mouth. According to Palestinian sources, which have seen his dead body, several bullets had entered the back of his head.
Ludwig De Braeckeleer has a PhD in nuclear sciences. He teaches physics and international humanitarian law. He blogs on "The GaiaPost."
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer

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