By Jani Roberts - >
BACKGROUND TO ARTICLE
This article I wrote in 1991 with research assistance by
John Kelly. It was
published in The Age, in Australia on 18 May that year. This
was one of the first major newspaper reports on the role played by
George Bush and soon to be CIA chief Casey in the arming of Iran.
It was published after the US national PBS investigative
program 'Frontline' had phoned me in Australia to say that they would
make the film I had proposed to them on this issue but had to
apologise to me because they had decided only to employ Americans to
make it as it was a major American story.
Frontline made a documentary precisely along the lines I
had proposed. They used a first rate US journalist, one of the few
others bold enough to cover this story, Bob Parry, now publisher of
The Consortium. I believe this to be one of the major scandals of
modern US politics.
How some of the world's most shadowy
characters say they helped George Bus trade arms to delay the release
of American hostages.
By Jani Roberts with John
Kelly ©96JR outside Australia.
Champagne corks flew in January 1981 as
Ronald Reagan and George Bush celebrated their inaugeration as United
States President and Vice-President and the news that simultaneouly
American hostages were making their way from Teheran to
Reagan staffers told the world that the
hostages were released because the Iranians were afraid of Ronald
Reagan. During the election campaign, their joke was: "What is flat
and glows in the dark?" The answer:"Teheran - five minutes after
Reagan gains office." The clear implication was that President Jimmy
Carter had failed to recover the hostages because he was a
Right up to election day, Carter and his
staff had negotiated desperately for the release of the 52 hostages
held since 1979. Polls showed that had he succeeded, he stood a much
better chance of winning the election.
Ten years on, a startlingly different
story is emergeing. If it is true, then secret and illegal deals were
done by the Reagan-Bush election team to delay the release of the
hostages in order to discredit Carter. It is claimed that at a secret
meeting in Paris, Iran was offered arms worth billions of dollars in
lieu of assets frozen when the Shah was toppled. To arrange such a
deal would be to violate America's own embargo on arms sales to Iran
(as well as to have been an act of treachery unparalleled in US
All of this suggests that the so-called
Irangate inquiry that proved Admiral John Poindexter and Colonel
Oliver North had traded arms with Iran for hostages in Lebanon could
be an elaborate cover-up of a far bigger deal.
It has taken 10 years for a different
version of events to emerge. Only now has the official version of
events been seriously questioned. It is true that the men making the
allegations are (mostly) shadowy characters and all of them have axes
to grind, but each week the unofficial version gains momentum.
Even some of the hostages now believe that
they were used. Former hostage Charles Scott and others who once
appeared with Reagan on the White House lawns are taking legal action
against the US Government for delaying their release.
The emerging claim is that the Reagan/Bush
team did not trust the arms merchants and Secret Service agents who
had put the nuts and bolts of the operation into place. Some have
conveniently died while others were jaoiled on what they claimed were
trumped-up charges brought by US authorities. Still others have just
emerged from prison.
When Bill Hermann, arms dealer and former
CIA and FBI operative, walked from a US jail he had a scarcely
believable story to tell.
The search for Hermann took us to the back
streets of an industrial wasteland in New Jersey to a room in a
nonedescript block of flats. Here we were told we would find an
American who had been in Teheran when the hostages were
The room was plain, scarcely lived in. The
man we had come to see leant forward and stubbed his cigarette. He
spoke laconically, almost casually. Asked why he had given the
interview, he replied: "Because I was the only one in the group to go
"What group?" He replied: "(Admiral)
Poindexter and Oliver North."
"You were part of THAT goup""Yes. I fixed
up all the deals on the ground, in Israel and Iran." He said his
ranking in US intelligence was that of colonel - the same as Oliver
North - and he was in Teheran when the hostages were released.
During 4 hours of interviews, Hermann told
how he had worked for the intelligence services of the US Government
inside Iran both under the Shah and under Ayatollah Khomeini.
Under the Shah, he said he was the
assistant military attache at the American embassy in Teheran. He
left in 1977. When asked why he left, he replied: "to go into private
business - (arms) marketing." He was also doing jobs for the CIA. He
described his link to the CIA in 1980 as "almost formal."
He was sent back to Teheran. "Reagan's
people wanted me to go to Iran pre-election." He said that in January
1981, after the release of the hostages, a "senior Iranian official
told me that the release of the American hostages was part of a deal
made by Reagan's team before Reagan got elected."
Hermann said the Iranians got their arms.
He claimed that he was a member of the delivery team, which brought
arms from Western Europe's NATO stores. During the Iraq-Iran war "I
supplied both sides" he said. "I was told to by the agency (the CIA),
to keep the war even."
He said that "from February or March 1981
NATO stores were used. Arms came out of Brussels and were shipped via
Rotterdam or flown from Vienna to Israel."
In the shadowy world of espionage, Bill
Hermann's true identity is shrouded in secrecy. During our interview,
he was evasive about who he worked for in Washington. At first he
said he was FBI. He named the FBI agents he reported to. "John Mercer
and Daryl Mills, - they were running me together."
Under further questioning, he said he had
standing in the CIA with a rnak equivalent to that of colonel. It has
been claimed that he is a colonel in the US army. However, his
detailed claims about massive arms shipments are supported by other
accounts given by arms merchants and former spies.
They agree on the hotels where meetings
over arms shipments took place, the numbers of arms shipped and the
routes taken. Even his claim that FBI agents had operated outside the
US checked out. A former CIA spymaster confirmed to us that he was
running FBI agents inside Iran in 1985.
Hermann said the operation to supply Iran
was essentially completed by 1984. He then "took the idea of trading
(more) arms for the (Beirut) hostages to (CIA Director) Casey in
It was at this stage he claims that Oliver
North complicated the deal by over-charging Iran for American
weapons. "I was selling Iran TOW missiles from Israeli stockpiles for
a lower price than North. North more than doubled the price."
The Irangae inquiry esablished that
Colonel North sold arms to Iran at high prices so he could use some
of the profits to purchase arms for the Contras in Central America
and circumvent the US Congrress ban on arming the Contras.
It was said Colonel North organised a
different arms route into Iran for his deal. But at his prices he
could not compete against the existing network. So it is claimed he
decided on a coup to get rid of the opposition.
Hermann said: "the Washington cowboys
(North's group) wanted to exclude the Israelis and all other
middlemen". He said he was one of the first victims.
The FBI asked me to penetrate Action
Directe (a French terrorist group). They were counterfeiting $100
American notes... I got some of the counterfeited notes and took them
back to my (London) room. I telexed Washington to tell them and to
ask for further instructions." (He rummaged through his papers and
produced copies of the telexes.)
"Then, next morning, Scotland Yard were at
my door. They arrested me for having counterfeited notes. I got in
touch with John Mercer of the FBI and with Daryl Mills at the
American Embassy in London. No one wanted to know me. I was held for
the next few years in different British prisons."
Immediately after his arrest, news came
from Washington that Oliver North's operation to supply the Contras
was coming unstuck. When Hermann heard that the US Senate
Intelligence Committee was inquiring into North's activities, he
wrote offering to give evidence. His offer was not accepted.
Hermann wrote to the Briish press. The
"Daily Telegraph" of 1 April 1987 reported: "CIA man may be sent back
to the USA." The article said that Hermann "had new evidence... of
meeting that took place between CIA agents and senior Iranian
officials ... earlier than the Reagan Administration has admitted in
the Iran hostages-for-arms scanda." His pleas were ignored, he said,
because authorities feared what he knew.
If Hermann's allegations were right, it
would have been vital to the Reagan-Bush Administration that the
Irangate inquiry did not uncover earlier arms deals.
It is a matter of public record that the
terms of reference of (the Congressional) Irangate Inquiry excluded
any arms deals before 1985.
It seems certain that the US Embassy in
London would have passed on to Washington the published statements by
Hermann. The Irangate Inquiry should have been aware of him. Yet
there was no move to have his testimony brought before the
Of course, it is also possible that
Hermann, angry at being jailed, had lied about the earlier arms deal
in order to "get even" with the Administration.
To test his story, we went to Washington
where we had located a former CIA controller. A phone call led to
Bruce Hemmings, who spent 17 years with the CIA, mostly undercover in
the Middle East. Hemmings talked to us until late many nights in
Washington' he spoke with considerable passion about what he saw as
the injustice of the CIA sacking him after he reported arms flights
In 1985, as the Irangate scandal broke,
Hemmings had been promoted to running all American agents inside Iran
from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
He claimed that an agent he was running
had seen a C-141 American crewed plane at Tabriz, Iran, unloading
arms before the dates established by the Irangate inquiry for the
first Iranian arms flight. He said he had been told to do nothing
about it a "it was a White House operation." This rankled and he felt
he had to pursue it further.
US Congressional officers*** confirmed to
me Hemming's credentials and they said his charges were investigated.
However, the inquiry had been closed and they could not publicly
discuss his claims because they had signed non-disclosure
Hemmings said he felt like a voice in the
wilderness. No matter what he did, no one would listen.....Hemmings
said he felt like a voice in the wilderness. No matter what he did,
no one would listen.....
(to be continued.)
And click here
if you ever wondered if Bush was ever a spook?
[ A Post Script - These ***Congressional
officers worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator
Armstrong was allegedly one of those that got them to sign
A thank you to Barbara Honegger
Barbara, a former staffer in the Reagan administration,
was one of the first to document this conspiracy with her book
"October Surprise" published 1989 by Tudor Publishing Company. I was
at the time working with the BBC's Panorama program in London so I
asked a BBC researcher in New York to purchase a copy of
Barbara'sexplosive book . Three days later I received a phone call
from this researcher saying; "You could not believe my difficulties
in getting a copy. I think I found the only copy in New York's book
shops." I was surprised as it was only just published.
Some weeks later I flew to the United States to check out
her story. (My film proposal to Frontline and the above article were
the results - her story checked out magnificently.) At a dinner in
Washington with a number of journalists, my copy of Barbara's book
was grabbed by the other journalists at the table. Afterwards I was
told by a surprised well connnected journalist: "She is not at all
mad. This is a very sane book." This journalist went on to tell me
that rurmours had circulated attacking her sanity and that Barbara's
book was impossible to find in Washington, even the Libary of
Congress' was "in binding" and not available. Since then I am told
her publisher failed - and another writer put out his own book with
the same title as her's. Effectively her work was buried.
Barbara Honegger was a member of the policy research team
of the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980. After their victory in the
election, she was a member of the Reagan-Bush Presidential transition
team. In 1981 she worked in the White House Office of Policy
Development as a Research and Policy Analyst. She served in for 3
years - thenn took a job in the US Justice Department.
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