WASHINGTON (May. 6)
The Americans involved in the covert arms shipments to Iran used Israel as a “cover” that would take the “hit” if the plan was discovered, according to retired Air Force Gen. Richard Secord.
Secord, testifying for the second day of the Senate-House select committee’s hearing on the Iran/Contra affair Wednesday, described a February meeting he attended in the White House to discuss ways of legally transporting U.S. weapons to Iran. The meeting included lawyers from the Central Intelligence Agency. National Security Advisor Rear Adm. John Poindexter and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a National Security Council aide.
Secord said it was decided that the weapons were to be sold from the United States to him in his role as a “commercial cutout” that was not part of the government. He said the “commercial cutout” was an attempt to “mirror” the way in which Israel had secretly transported an earlier arms shipment to Iran.
The weapons were then to be transported to Israel which would then ship the weapons to Iran. Secord called the arms shipment a U.S./Israeli “joint venture” in which Israel was to provide a “cover.”
EFFORT TO CONCEAL THE OPERATION
Asked by John Nields, the House committee’s chief counsel, if those involved in the arms sales were trying to conceal the operation from Congress, Secord said they were concerned only with concealing the operation from the Iranians.
Secord went on to reveal the intricacies of the weapons transport which included Amiram Nir, an advisor to then Premier Shimon Peres, Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, North and Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor.
In an attempt to account for the huge sums of money needed for the arms sales operation, he noted that the Israelis demanded an insurance of $2 million on each plane that was sent out.
On February 15-16, the first delivery of 500 missiles was transported from Israel to Iran, and the I-Hawks that had been previously delivered by Israel and rejected were picked up. A second delivery was made after a meeting in Frankfurt.
But Secord testified that the plan to deliver additional spare parts was delayed when the Iranians refused to release the American hostages.
McFarlane, who had then retired from his post as National Security Advisor, went to Teheran in late May and was unable to resolve the conflict.
Nir, said Secord, “was bitterly disappointed. He thought the Americans should have stayed longer . . . and should have given the Iranians more time.”