Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian arms dealer who served as a go-between for the CIA, Israel, and the regime of Ayatollah Ruhuollah Komeini during the Iran-Contra affair, was “a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government”, said TIME magazine back in 1987.
Michael Ledeen parised Ghorbanifar. “He is one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known”, said Ledeen.
A Chicago Tribune story from 1984 entitled “Reagan’s Secret Envoy to Iran” began:
When the White House decided to try a secret diplomatic approach to the Iranians 18 months ago, the man U.S. officials reached out to for help was a conservative consultant with ties to a pro-Israeli organization.
A congressional intelligence source said the Reagan administration turned to consultant Michael Ledeen because he was not a government official and had savvy about the Middle East. He also is a close associate of Robert McFarlane, the former national security adviser who ran the secret operation.
The 45-year-old consultant made several trips to Europe last year for clandestine meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an expatriate Iranian arms supplier who lives on the French Riviera and has close ties to Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moussavi.
Adnan Khashoggi was the Saudi Arabian arms dealer involved in the CIA transactions, shipping arms to the Iranian regime during Mousavi’s time as Prime Minister.
TIME noted, “He told Barbara Walters of ABC-TV that Ghorbanifar represented himself as head of intelligence gathering in Europe for the Khomeini government. But he told TIME that this was incorrect. His explanation: ‘I simply assumed that a man with that kind of access to the Iranian Prime Minister must be one of his senior intelligence chiefs. Now I have more accurate information.”
Another TIME story said:
U.S. dealings with Iran have been portrayed as an overture to moderates led by Speaker of the Parliament Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Actually, CIA sources say, Ghorbanifar had persuaded the entire political leadership of the Islamic republic, including Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi and Ayatullah Hussein Ali Montazeri, designated successor to Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, to assent to secret contacts with the U.S. Two reasons: the iranians feared the Soviet threat more than any from the West; and they hoped that American arms would soon follow improved relations with the U.S.
It was Israel who encouraged the U.S. to bring Ghorbanifar into the deal:
By November 1985 the Israelis, who had checked out Ghorbanifar at the request of Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian businessman who deems himself a peacemaker, had convinced the NSC staff that Ghorbanifar was too well connected in Iran to be ignored.
Ghorbanifar was later cut out of the deals:
The U.S. later delivered TOW antitank missiles directly to Iran, instead of through Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi as had been done before, and reduced the price from $12,000 to $8,000 each. An angry Rafsanjani called Mousavi to declare, “Your friend Ghorbanifar is a thief.”
Tim Wiener explains in “Legacy of Ashes”:
One of the many sources that the CIA station in paris had cultivated in the name of counterterrorism was an Iranian swindler named Manucher Ghorbanifar, a wheeler-dealer who had been an agent of SAVAK, the shah’s secret police. [p. 459]
… On July 25, 1984, the CIA officially certified Ghorbanifar as a consumate liar–“an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance”–and issued a rare worldwide burn notice in his name, an order stating that the truth was not in him and his word was never to be trusted.
… The United States could ship missiles to Iran, using a trading firm called Star Line, which Ghorbanifar ran in tandem with the Israeli intelligence service. [p. 460]
… On June 14, 1985, Hezbollah, the Party of God, hijacked TWA Flight 847 out of Athens en route to Rome and New York.
… At the request of the White House, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, helped negotiate an end to the hijacking. [p.464]
…Three weeks later, Ghorbanifar sent word that all six remaining hostages could be freed in exchange for several thousand American HAWK anti-aircraft missiles. The price kept going up: three hundred, four hundred, five hundred missiles for a life. [p. 465]
… Now the Iranians sent word that they wanted battlefield intelligence for the war against Iraq. The CIA already had provided intelligence for Iraq to use against Iran…. The deal went ahead. [p. 468]
… Four hostages were being held in July 1986. Six months later there were twelve. The willingness of the Americans to provide weapons to the Iranians only increased the appetite for hostages. [p. 469]
… But the Iranians had been cheated. They were complaining, with good reason, that they had been overcharged 600 percent for the last shipment of HAWK parts. Ghorbanifar himself had been caught short; his creditors were pursuing him for millions, and he threatened to expose the operation to save his skin. [p. 471]