WASHINGTON (May. 6)
The incorrect assumption that the “improved” in the name of the I-Hawk missile meant it flew higher than the older Hawks resulted in Iran rejecting a shipment of the missiles from Israel in November 1985, according to retired Air Force Gen. Richard Secord.
Secord, testifying on the opening day of the Senate-House select committee’s hearing on the Iran/Contra affair Tuesday, said that the Iranians wanted high altitude missiles to meet the threat of “high flying” reconnaissance planes and bombers.
But when the shipment of 18 missiles arrived in Teheran, the first of 80 I-Hawks promised Iran, the Iranians became “furious” when they realized the missiles had no higher altitude capacity than the medium altitude Hawks they already had, Secord said. He said the people involved in the sale of missiles to Iran, the Israeli arms dealers, Al Schwimmer and Yaacov Nimrodi; their Iranian go-between, Manucher Ghorbanifar, and the Iranian officials involved, were a “group of civilians who didn’t have any expertise in air defense.”
“They had somehow thought that the ‘I’ meant improved beyond the original concept,” Secord said. He said when he discussed the problem with Israeli military officials they immediately understood what had happened.
INVOLVEMENT IN IRANIAN INITIATIVE
Secord said he became involved in the Iranian initiative in November 1985, when Marine Lt. Col Oliver North, then an official of the National Security Council, asked him to go to Lisbon to help overcome Portugal’s reluctance to allow Israel to store and then fly the I-Hawks to Iran in non-Israeli planes. At the time, Secord, also at North’s request, was conducting an airlift to the Contras supported by volunteer funds.
When Portugal refused, Secord said he was asked to find private planes to pick up the Israeli shipments which would carry 18 missiles at a time. He said this was difficult because the owners of the planes could not get insurance to fly to Teheran. He eventually was able to find a company in Frankfurt, West Germany, which agreed to fly the missiles to Iran.
Schwimmer then deposited $1 million to cover the cost of transportation with Lake Resources, the Swiss firm set up by Secord and his partner, Albert Hakim, which handled the funds for the Contras.
The first shipment cost about $200,000 and when Israel did not ask for the unspent $800,000 back it was used to aid the Contras, Secord said.
The 18 Hawks were returned to Israel in February 1985, on the return flight of the plane that had carried 500 TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran from the U.S. via Israel.
Secord said Wednesday that after Iran rejected the missiles, he discussed the problem in Israel where he learned of the misunderstanding. He then met with Ghorbanifar, first in Paris and then in London in December 1985. Robert McFariane, then the National Security Advisor, was at the London meeting at which Ghorbanifar asked for highly sophisticated weapons in return for the freedom of the American hostages held in Lebanon.
McFarlane rejected this, and after the flight home Secord said he assumed the initiative was over. He said in January he was called to the White House by McFarlane’s successor, Rear Adm. John Poindexter, and told a new initiative was being started.
While in Israel in November 1985, Secord said he learned that the Israelis had shipped 508 TOW missiles to Iran the previous August and September. He later learned from McFarlane that President Reagan had approved this.
The Israelis told Secord that the U.S. had promised to replenish the TOWs free of charge. Secord said he doubted this because from his military experience he knew the Department of Defense could not legally do this.
Secord said he later learned from North that this promise had been made. When the U.S. decided to ship TOWs to Iran in February 1986, it was decided to include the cost of the 508 shipped by Israel earlier, so that the Israeli TOW stock could be replenished as promised.