WASHINGTON (May. 14)
Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane portrayed the different objectives Israel and the U.S. had for selling weapons to Iran in his testimony Wednesday before the Senate-House Select Committee investigating the Iran/Contra affair. He stressed that Israel never sought to “influence us unduly.”
McFarlane agreed with Sen. James McClure (R. Id.), a member of the panel, who suggested that Israel was interested in assisting Iran in its seven-year war with Iraq. “Our interest was in stopping the war and restoring relations with Iran sometime in the future,” he said.
“They’re very different from Israel’s. That’s very clear and both sides were conscious of that. The President was very conscious of that,” McFarlane said.
REFERS TO MEETING WITH KIMCHE
He referred at length to a meeting he had with David Kimche, then Director General of the Israel Foreign Ministry. “He (Kimche) said, ‘but this (negotiations with Iran) doesn’t make any difference to us. If you don’t want to have anything to do with it, then we would understand. We bring it to your attention as an ally, if you wish to do it. And if you don’t, good, it is there for you to consider’.”
Characterizing Kimche as “a very careful man” who “came on clear instructions and said what he was told to say,” McFarlane said the Israeli official did not mention the sale of arms when he first suggested that the U.S. might be interested in starting a dialogue with Iran. When the sale was brought up later by the Iranians and President Reagan refused to comply, the Israelis said they would sell the arms if the U.S. agreed to replace them, McFarlane testified.
CRITICAL OF AN ISRAELI PLAN
He was critical of an Israeli plan to send the first shipment of I-Hawk missiles to Iran on an EI AI jet “which might raise eyebrows if it landed in Teheran.” He called that proposal “uncharacteristically dumb” because “no one is better at intelligence than the Israelis.” He said he could not blame the intelligence services because Israeli private citizens were handling the operation.
“There’s a greater margin of error with private citizens,” McFarlane said, referring to Israeli arms dealers AI Schwimmer and Yaacov Nimrodi. In testimony before the Select Committee last week, retired Air Force Gen. Richard Secord called the Israeli arms dealers and their Iranian go-between, Manucher Ghorbanifar, “a group of civilians who didn’t have any expertise in air defense.”
McFarlane lost his temper at one point in Wednesday’s hearings when Sen. Warren Rudman (R. NH) asked him why Congress was not notified of an Administration attempt to use drug enforcement agents to pay bribes to free American hostages in Lebanon.
“It is more than passing strange to me that we cannot aspire to a policy which is more effective to deal with terrorism,” the former National Security Advisor said, noting the tough measures taken by Israel to combat terrorists. “You can be goddamn sure if any Israeli is caught he’s going to have his government going after the people who did it.”