Israel Used List of Iran Moderates to Seek Improved Ties
Feb. 04, 1987
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Israel provided U.S. officials with a list of 90 Iranian ''pragmatists'' in an effort to convince the White House that improved ties with Iran were possible, an Israeli arms dealer says.
Yaakov Nimrodi told The Associated Press on Monday the list, which included clergymen and high-ranking government officials, was given to him by the deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi, at a meeting in Europe in May 1985. Also at the meeting was Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi and Iranian go-between Manucher Ghorbanifar, Nimrodi said.
Nimrodi is the Israeli arms dealer who arranged three shipments of U.S. weapons from Israel to Iran in what he and American officials have said was an attempt to foster a moderate leadership in Tehran and obtain the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian Shiites.
He said the list represented a group of Iranians who viewed renewed ties with the West as the only hope of saving their country from anarchy or Communism. Nimrodi said the group consisted of the top echelons of the Iranian government, the army, the clergy, and the business and academic world.
The list was submitted to officials of the U.S. National Security Council, according to Nimrodi.
He said that among the most prominent names on the list were: Ahmad Khomeini, the son of Iranian patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the Majlis or parliament; Hussein Musavi, the prime minister; and Ahmad Tavasoli, a member of Parliament.
The list was examined by intelligence experts and deemed authentic, said another Israeli source, who added the people mentioned had ''delivered'' several times in clandestine dealings with the West.
In one such case, members of the pragmatist faction exerted pressure on the Shiite Moslem hijackers of a TWA jetliner and obtained the release of the 39 hostages in Beirut in June 1984, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
''We believed they could deliver again, and we were right,'' said the source. He noted Iran had released three American hostages in the course of the past year in return for U.S. arms shipments.
After close scrutiny in Israel, the list was handed to the former director- general of the Foreign Ministry, David Kimche. Kimche has told the AP he took the list to then-National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane in Washington in July 1985.
The AP was shown copies of three versions of the list: the original one in Farsi, the language of Iran, and the Hebrew and English translations. The Farsi and Hebrew versions had short biographical summaries next to each name, while the English translation was headed: ''For Your Eyes Only, Not to be Xeroxed or Distributed.''
Sources in Iran have told the AP that Rafsanjani was among five Iranian leaders who arranged McFarlane's visit to Tehran in May 1986. The forum of the five, which meets every week to map official policy, also includes Musavi, President Ali Khameini and Supreme Justice Abdul Karim Musavi Ardabili.
The Iranian sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the five were willing to negotiate with the United States in order to end Iran's isolation.
Nimrodi contended the people on the list were ''pragmatists who wanted to save their country from falling into the hands of Communists, to salvage the economy and stop the war'' with Iraq.
Nimrodi, who spent 25 years in Iran as an Israeli intelligence operative and as an Israeli military attache and businessman, is a proponent of using arms to exploit any signs of Iranian willingness to deal with the West.
''Both Israel and the United States would have benefited by this,'' he said.
Nimrodi said he had received a letter from one of the leading Iranian officials listed that pleaded for help from the West.
''There has been a diversity of (pro-Western) movements and we need coordination,'' Nimrodi quoted the writer as saying. ''We are ready to put at your disposal all our powers and to discuss how to restore Iran to the West.''
The letter warned that if Western help was withheld, ''then after the death of Khomeini, our country can expect one of two fates: either it becomes a second Lebanon (or) ... it will turn into a satellite of Communist Russia.''
Nimrodi said that ''these possibilities for positive developments in Iran'' were taken to President Reagan by McFarlane and Michael Ledeen, an adviser to the National Security Council.
He said the Americans checked the credibility of the names on the list ''and concluded the contacts could contribute to the vital interests of the United States.''