U.S. Policy / Iran

Bill, James A. The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1988. 520 pages.

Iran has oil and it borders the former Soviet Union. These were two excellent reasons for the interest that Britain and the U.S. had in Iranian affairs since World War II. After the CIA-sponsored coup in 1953 that installed the shah, American elites held his caviar and champagne in high regard, not to mention their profits from arms sales. It was the job of SAVAK, the secret police founded by the CIA and trained by Mossad, to keep the rabble quiet. As late as September 28, 1978, several months before one of the major revolutions of the twentieth century, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the shah "is expected to remain actively in power over the next ten years." (page 258)

Even after the revolution, private policymakers such as Kissinger and Rockefeller apparently managed one last scam. The author explains how Chase Manhattan Bank, which feared that the new Iranian government might withdraw their funds and repudiate the shah's loans, had nothing to lose by lobbying Washington for the admission of the shah into the U.S. This resulted in the takeover of our embassy, the freezing of Iranian assets, and a declaration of default by Chase that allowed them to seize those assets to offset the loans. "In the end, the resolution of the crisis clearly benefitted the American banking community." (page 344)

Follett, Ken. On Wings of Eagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1984. 414 pages.

Ross Perot was one of IBM's top salesmen in 1962, when he founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS), a computer services company. He took the company public in 1968, which made his 78 percent of the stock worth $1.5 billion. In 1969 Perot flew to Hanoi with Christmas dinners for American POWs. His interest in the POW issue continued, but his most famous adventure was the rescue depicted in this book. In 1984 Perot sold EDS to General Motors for cash, stock, and a seat on the GM board. When he began criticizing GM's management, they bought him out to shut him up. In 1992 he challenged the two-party system with a homespun message of patriotic concern about greed, corruption, and overspending in high places, and the need to reduce the deficit and rebuild America's productive capacity. Perot is treated with disdain by self-satisfied media pundits and other Roman fiddlers, which has convinced millions of ordinary Americans that he's doing something right.

Perot cooperated with author Ken Follett and allowed himself to be depicted in NBC's film version of this book. In 1979 two American executives who worked for EDS in Iran were arbitrarily imprisoned by the revolution. Perot hired "Bull" Simons, a legend from the Green Berets, to plan and execute a breakout. With the help of envelopes stuffed with his cash, Perot, Simons, and a team of EDS employees managed to spring the two executives in a series of high-risk escapades without anyone getting hurt.

Neuberger, Guenter and Opperskalski, Michael. CIA im Iran: Die Geheimdokumente aus der Teheraner US-Botschaft. Goettingen, Germany: Lamuv Verlag Gmbh, 1982. 160 pages.

When Iranian militants seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, some documents were shredded at the last minute by conscientious staffers. But the low-budget machines cut the paper in only one direction, so after years of work by Iranians skilled at weaving Persian carpets, sixty volumes of "Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den" were eventually published. By the late 1980s, most of these could be purchased at the National Intelligence Book Center in Washington DC. It wasn't always this easy. In late 1981 a 13-volume set was widely available in Iran, but three U.S. journalists had theirs confiscated by FBI and customs officials. However, a second set was overlooked by customs, and the Washington Post did a series based on this set that ran from January 31 to February 6, 1982.

This book reproduced 64 pages of documents, a dozen or so at the end of each of five chapters of commentary in German. Unlike most of the Tehran embassy documents, the most famous one had nothing to do with Iran. It was a secret 47-page overview of Israel's foreign intelligence and security services that was issued by the CIA in 1979. It does not appear in this collection, but was published by CounterSpy magazine in May-June 1982.

Taheri, Amir. Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. 314 pages. (Originally published in Britain in 1988 by Century Hutchinson Ltd.)

This book is an unusual read for Americans because of the author's access to sources; in the U.S. we only get soundbites, punditry, and Oliver North's wishful thinking when it comes to what's happening in Iran. The first third of the book deals with U.S.-Iran relations up to 1979, and the remainder covers the period from 1979 to the arms-for-hostages deals in the mid-1980s. Taheri makes good use of the secret U.S. embassy documents that were seized in 1979 and, in some cases, carefully reconstructed after having been shredded. These were published by the militants in about 50 volumes, and show how the U.S. embassy was isolated because of its inability to understand what was happening. The militants referred to the embassy as a "nest of spies."

The author's ID on the dust cover is worth quoting: "Amir Taheri was the editor-in-chief of 'Kayhan,' Iran's largest daily newspaper, between 1973 and 1979. Since leaving Iran, he has written for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Sunday Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, and other periodicals. He is the author of several books, including 'The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution' and 'Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism.' He now lives in France."

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