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Reports Says Rabin and Mossad Opposed U.S. Arms Sale to Iran

September 30, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, were opposed to the Reagan Administration’s efforts to sell arms to Iran for the release of American hostages, according to a report released Monday by the Senate and House select committees on the Iran/Contra affair.

The report was a copy of a deposition given to the committees by Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the National Security Council (NSC), who was questioned by the committees Sept. 10. Ledeen said the Iranian initiative was supported by Shimon Peres, who was Premier at the time, and the Foreign Ministry, then headed by Premier Yitzhak Shamir.

Ledeen said the opposition was based “in large part” on the participation of Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian-born businessman, as the go-between in the talks the United States and Israel had with Iran.

The doubts by Rabin and Mossad about Ghorbanifar would make it unlikely that he was a Mossad agent as was suggested by Lt. Col. Oliver North, a former NSC aide, and others, according to Ledeen.

He said he asked several government officials, including those in favor and opposed to the Iranian initiative, whether “Ghorbanifar had ever worked for the government of Israel in any capacity. And I was always told no.”


Ledeen’s testimony is important because he had been in on the beginning of the U.S. initiative. Critics had charged that his hearing was held in private to prevent exposing Israel’s full role in the initiative. But the testimony released Monday did not reveal any damaging testimony against Israel that was not already public.

Ledeen was brought into the affair in May 1985 when Robert McFarlane, then the National Security Advisor, asked him to meet with Peres to see if Israel and the U.S. could share information to increase their understanding of Iran and its role in international terrorism. He had gotten to know Peres when, working as a consultant for the State Department, he had been asked to maintain contacts with the Socialist International of which Peres is a member.

He said he then participated in discussions with the Israelis and Ghorbanifar that led to the first Israeli shipment of TOW missiles, the suspension of terrorist attacks against Americans and the release of one hostage, the Rev. Benjamin Weir. He stressed he did not negotiate but only reported to McFarlane.

But in October 1985, Ledeen said he began expressing his disapproval of the arms-for-hostages policy and continued to do so until January 1986, when Vice Adm. John Poindexter, who succeeded McFarlane, asked him to discontinue his work on Iran. Ledeen said by late December 1985, he believed the Iran initiative was “shut down.”

In an earlier statement to the committees, Ledeen stressed that he believed “the original initiative was wise and necessary, and held considerable promise. It was overwhelmed by the emotionally-charged matter of the hostages.”


In his testimony this month, Ledeen said that Peres and his advisors “did not want a winner and a loser” in the Iran-Iraq war. “The best outcome was either that the war should end in place, or that the war should continue indefinitely.”

At the same time, Israel wanted “to maintain the integrity of Iran if possible” so that it could have a good relationship with a future regime that will replace the currently hostile one, Ledeen said. He noted that Israel fears that if Iran disintegrates it would remove “the buffer between the Persian Gulf and the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and can no longer block the radical Arab expansionism coming from Iraq, and possibly Syria as well, on the other.”

However, he noted that other Israelis believed it was a mistake to support the radical Shiite regime in Iran. They felt that while Israel could eventually come to terms with the various Arab countries, radical Shia “would be forever opposed to Israel” and is “a far greater threat to Israel than any Arab country, no matter how radical it might be.”

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