US AND IRAN IN SECRET TALKS OVER HOSTAGES – 30/08/1988

“I have very important and serious things to say. The reports that attribute Lockerbie to others are lies. We are behind it.”

Abu Nidal

Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar told representatives of Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union and the United States at the European headquarters of the United Nations that the peace talks between Iran and Iraq had run into major problems because of Iraqi insistence of sovereignty over the Shat al-Arab.

If true, the Gulf War is all but over since the issue has been the object of intense negotiations since the Treaty of Zohab in 1639 (1).

Intelligence

In late August (1988), a meeting between US citizen Richard Lawless and Iranian negotiators took place at Glyon, near Montreux, Switzerland. At least, two other meetings will occur in September and a fourth meeting will take place in early October.

The Iranian negotiators were Mohammad Javad Larijani, Mahmoud Jamali, Nasrollah Kazemi Kamyab and Abolghasem Mesbahi. All of them are quite well known senior officials and worked for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, except Mesbahi who was representing Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Larijani has been a Majlis (parliament) representative and a vice minister of foreign affairs. Trained as a mathematician under supervision of mathematical logician Robert Vaught at the University of California at Berkeley, he is currently the director of the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics in Tehran.

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.

Kamyab was Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said the release of hostage Rudolf Cordes had been negotiated over several months with Iranian officials and was finally obtained at a meeting on Aug. 24 with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Larijani.

Germany 1997

In July 1997, the magazine Der Spiegel reported that German prosecutors had interviewed Mesbahi, previously only known as witness “C,” in a case concerning the assassination of Iranian dissidents in Berlin. Mesbahi is a former high-ranking Iranian intelligence official.

German authorities came to regard Mesbahi as a credible witness. In fact, based on his testimony, an Iranian and three Lebanese were convicted of killing several Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Germany. For the first time anywhere, based on his testimony, Germany issued an international arrest warrant against a top-ranking Iranian official, namely Iran’s former intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian.

Without naming them explicitly, the court declared that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ayatollah Rafsanjani had authorized the assassination. Such a ruling would have been all but impossible without Mesbahi’s precise knowledge of Iran’s intelligence apparatus.

Three weeks before the beginning of the trial, Fallahian flew to Bonn and met with the top German intelligence official in an effort to free the five suspects and stop the prosecution. The prosecutor, Bruno Jost, would later declare that the attempt to interfere with the trial clearly pointed to the murder having happened on Tehran’s orders.

Besides linking Iran to the killing of dissidents in Berlin, Mesbahi claimed that Iran was behind the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am airliner. Tehran promptly attempted to dismiss his testimony as part of an anti-Iran campaign by Western media.

“I can say that a witness has been interviewed and that his testimony blames Iran,” declared Job Tilmann, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutors’ office.

Mesbahi told investigators that Iran had asked Libya and Abu Nidal, a Palestinian guerrilla leader, to carry out the attack on Pan Am 103, which was destroyed in flight by a small bomb on Dec. 21, 1988.

According to Mesbahi, Iran planned the attack as revenge after the US cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Airbus over the Strait of Hormuz a few months earlier in 1988. Few who studied the Lockerbie bombing doubt the veracity of this statement.

Dr. Jim Swire lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie tragedy. On Jan. 11 of this year, Swire wrote to me that he never doubted who ordered the bombing, why they did it and who supplied the technology.

Biography

Abolghasem Mesbahi was born on Dec. 17, 1957, in Tehran, Iran. He studied theology at the famous University of Quom. In February 1979, Mesbahi was about to become an Imam when history decided otherwise.

Mesbahi

The leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini, picked him as the director of the detention center of Dschamschidieh, near Tehran. The center was a prison for the former high-ranking military men under the Shah Reza Palavi.

In August 1979, Mesbahi is sent to Paris as second man in command. He is in charge of all intelligence matters. Beside Farsi and Arabic, Mesbahi also speaks fluently French, German and English.

His activities were directed primarily against exiled opponents of the Iranian government. In 1983, the French government declared Mesbahi persona non grata and expelled him for “intelligence activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.”

Soon after his expulsion from France, he was transferred to the Iranian Embassy in Bonn. As the intelligence coordinator for Western Europe, Mesbahi resumed the monitoring of the Iranian opposition.

In 1985, Mesbahi returned to Iran to assist the organization of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (also known as VEVAK from the Persian: Vezarat-e Ettela’at va Amniat-e Keshvar). The VEVAK is the primary intelligence agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran and allegedly the best-funded ministry.

In February 1986, Mesbahi left the VEVAK in order to serve as deputy head of the international and political office of the Foreign Ministry. Six months later he was put in charge of United Nations affairs.

Needing a cover to infiltrate various dissident groups, Mesbahi joined the University of Geneva. There, he worked towards a Ph.D. in political sciences under the supervision of Jean Ziegler.

It is believed that Mesbahi agreed to a twisted deal with the Swiss Authority. In 1987, he is questioned by a Swiss police officer named Leon Jobe regarding his previous activities in France and his current involvement in Switzerland. In exchange for authorization to stay in the country, it is rumored that he promised, in writing, that Iran would not commit terror acts in the country.

During this period, Mesbahi acted as a back channel for Rafsanjani, then head of the parliament, with his contacts in the European governments and the United States. In this position he was involved in freeing Rudolf Cordes, a West German hostage seized in Beirut by the Shiite group Holy Strugglers for Freedom in January 1987 and held until September 1988.

While acting in that position, Mesbahi is said to have met former US President Ronald Reagan, French President Francois Mitterrand and former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, as well as Germans Vogel, Koshnik and Eppler.

Mesbahi often sojourned at the Hotel du Rhone in Geneva. The bank account he used to pay his expenses happens to be the same account that was used to transfer some money for former Argentine President Carlos Menem.

On Nov. 20, 1988, after returning from the US, where he had met with former US President Jimmy Carter, Mesbahi was accused of being a double agent. He was arrested but released from prison on March 20, 1989.

He remained under house arrest for another year and a half. Having been dismissed from the Ministry of Intelligence, he started a private business to support himself and taught at Tehran University.

On March 19, 1996, Mesbahi was warned by Ali Fallahian’s deputy, Saeed Emami, that the Special Affairs Committee had ordered his assassination. The Iran Special Affairs Committee is responsible for commissioning and overseeing political assassinations. Once the recommendation to assassinate an opposition figure has been made by the committee, both the Supreme Leader and the president of Iran must give their consent for the operation to be carried out.

A Witness Known to the Former Iranian President

Mesbahi left Iran for Pakistan on April 6, 1996. He arrived in Kuwait on April 18. From there, he contacted Jobe in Switzerland. Then, on April 22, after he had made contact with former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr, he moved to Germany, where he was granted political asylum. He began briefing German authorities in September 1996. His debriefing lasted well into 1997.

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr testified that the Mykonos murders had been personally ordered by Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and then President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In an interview with the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center conducted in January 2007, Banisadr stated that he had confirmed this information with well-placed sources with direct knowledge of the inner workings of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.

“The person who ordered this attack, under the current Iranian constitution and under Islamic law, can be no other than Khamenei himself,” Bani Sadr stated in the court.

A Very Reliable Witness

On Sept. 17, 1992, agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran murdered several leading members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) at the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin, Germany.

The Mykonos trial lasted three and a half years. The court met for a total of 246 sessions, heard 176 witnesses and considered documentary evidence including secret intelligence files. Prosecutors successfully obtained convictions in four of the five cases. Two of the accused, Rhayel and Darabi, received life sentences for their role in the murders.

The German authorities concluded that the Iranian government was “directly involved” in the Mykonos assassinations. In March 1996, Chief Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm issued an international arrest warrant for the Iranian minister of intelligence, Ali Fallahian.

This unprecedented act of justice was made possible only thanks to the testimony of Mesbahi, who had been introduced to the court by Bani Sadr. The government of Iran attempted to discredit Mesbahi by claiming that he had never had any connection to the Ministry of Intelligence.

Nevertheless, the court was able to find corroboration for Mesbahi’s statements. Mesbahi described the countries he traveled to and the missions he had accomplished. The court reviewed photocopies of his passports and visas, and never found one element of discrepancy.

Mesbahi always made precise distinctions between what he knew from his own experiences and what he had learned from conversations with other people or from hearsay. In order to establish the credibility of the information he received, Mesbahi quoted the names of his sources and their functions within different state agencies. Mesbahi documented the Mykonos murders based on the information he had gathered from five sources, including the killer.

Mesbahi’s testimony was supported by prominent German Middle East experts such as professors Udo Steinbach and Heinz Halm. German Intelligence was able to confirm at least one of his allegations but never revealed what it was.

A Witness Known to U.K. Police

With time, Mesbahi grew increasingly angry at Iranian intelligence involvement in the killing of dissident intellectuals in Iran and abroad. During the September 1985 meeting when the organization of the VEVAK was elaborated, he strongly argued that the agency role should be limited to data gathering and analysis. Mesbahi opposed the plans of Ali Akbar Velayati who argued, successfully, that the VEVAK should also conduct assassinations and acts of terror abroad.

In 1984, Mesbahi had been involved in an assassination attempt on the exiled Iranian dissident and satirist Hadi Khorsandi in London. Hadi Khorsandi is a prominent contemporary Persian poet and satirist. Since 1979 he has been the editor and writer of the satirical journal Ashgar Agha. In the attempt, Mesbahi translated the order from Farsi to French for the hit team.

The night before the murder was to be implemented, Mesbahi revealed the plan to the U.K. police, who arrested the suspects for possession of weapons.

A Witness Discredited by the FBI

In late 1997 Bernazzani was in charge of the FBI’s office of Hezbollah operations. He would later head the New Orleans FBI office. Bernazzani was sent to Buenos Aires to lead a team of FBI specialists helping Argentine investigators to crack the AMIA bombing case.

According to Bernazzani, Mesbahi had been discredited among US analysts because “he had lost his access to high-level Iranian officials well before the 1994 bombing and was poor, even broke.” Bernazzani stated that he had found no evidence linking Tehran to the bombing.

This is interesting for several reasons. First, the FBI clearly knows Mesbahi and they fully admit that he had been a high-ranking intelligence officer. Moreover, if he was poor when Bernazzani interviewed him, it implies that he had not been rewarded financially for his testimony at the Mykonos murders trial in Germany.

Incidentally, Argentina issued a warrant against Iranians for the Buenos Aires bombings. Mesbahi revealed the existence of a secret Menem account in Switzerland and revealed a substantial transfer of money from Tehran. Swiss authorities confirmed both allegations.

“Eamon Mullen, the Argentine government’s chief prosecutor in the case, stated that investigators had confirmed that a deposit had been made into an account controlled by Mr. Menem at the bank named by Mr. Mesbahi and in the amount he had specified,” revealed The New York Times in July 2002. In March 2007, Argentina issued the third international arrest warrant for Ali Fallahian.

In April 2006, Jacques Antenen, an investigative magistrate in the Swiss canton of Vaud, requested Swiss federal authorities to demand the arrest of Ali Fallahian on grounds that Fallahian had “decided and ordered the execution of Kazem Rajavi,” who was shot to death near his suburban Geneva home in 1990.

An Accusation Allegedly Confirmed by Nidal

Atef Abu Bakr is a former spokesman for the Abul Nidal Organization (ANO) and one of Nidal’s closest aides between 1985 and 1989. In a series of interviews published in the Arabic Al Hayat newspaper, Bakr said that Abu Nidal told him that his organization was behind the explosion on Pan Am flight 103.

Abu Nidal told a meeting of the Revolutionary Council leadership:

“I have very important and serious things to say. The reports that attribute Lockerbie to others are lies. We are behind it.”

“If any one of you lets this out, I will kill him even if he was in his wife’s arms,” Abu Nidal added, according to Bakr.

Having become persona non grata in Syria, Abu Nidal started his move from Syria to Libya in the summer of 1986. His operations, and those he falsely claimed, were bringing discomfort to Damascus. His move to Libya was completed by March 1987.

Settling in Tripoli, Abu Nidal and Libya’s leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi, allegedly became close friends, sharing, according to some observers, “a dangerous combination of an inferiority complex mixed with the belief that they were men of great destiny.”

In the aftermath of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, Gaddafi, seeking to distance himself from Nidal, expelled him in 1999.

Two Warnings Had Mentioned ANO

During a visit to Libya, investigative journalist David Yallop, who specializes in unsolved crimes and miscarriages of justice, interviewed Nidal. Among many revelations, Nidal told Yallop that he was under great pressure from the Syrian government to reactivate and commit an act of terror against an American airliner. Yallop wrote immediately an eight-page report about the matter and passed it to MI6, asking them to forward it to the CIA.

On Dec. 5, 1988, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a security bulletin saying that on that day a man with an Arabic accent had telephoned the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland.

The anonymous caller had told them that a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to New York would be blown up within the next two weeks by someone associated with the Abu Nidal Organization.

NOTES AND REFERENCES

U.N. CHIEF PRESSES a GULF COMPROMIS

Near & Middle East Titles: The Iran–Iraq Border 1840–1958

The Gulf War Isn’t Over

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