In 1953 the United States and United Kingdom overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. The catalyst was the Iranian government’s decision to exert more sovereign control over the extraction, export and revenues from its domestic energy industry, which British Petroleum and the UK opposed.
The dictatorial rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi featured massive embezzlement, graft, corruption and repression. Brutal SAVAK crackdowns on popular dissent were aided and abetted by Israeli intelligence operatives that flooded into the regime. Yaakov Nimrodi, a longtime intelligence and military operative and arms merchant, was posted to Tehran in 1955 for 13 years. According to Nimrodi, “When one day we shall be permitted to talk about all that we have done in Iran, you will be horrified…It is beyond your imagination.”
Iranian Israel relations were so close, that when American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Executive Director Isaiah Kenen was under U.S. investigation as an Israeli foreign agent in 1961, he fled to Iran to thwart a subpoena.
“In 1961, it was rumored that [Senator J. William] Fulbright intended to investigate foreign agents. I was subjected to a barrage of inquiries from friends and foes wherever I went, and while I was confident that I would survive the attack I decided to vanish from the scene. Coincidentally, I was invited that year to visit Iran as a guest of the Iranian government. I accepted the invitation…” Source, “All my causes in an 80-Year Life Span” Washington, DC, Near East Research, 1985, p 103.
AIPAC was not incorporated at the time, and its host organization the American Zionist Council (AZC) was ordered to register as an Israeli foreign agent in 1962. Though covered by the order, AIPAC quickly split off and took over as the lead Israel lobbying organization in the US The Department of Justice never enforced its FARA order.
Israeli arms sales to Iran under the Shah were extremely lucrative. In 1977, Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres signed a secret agreement for advanced technology transfer of an Israeli missile design that had been underway since the 1950s. This “turn-key” package included a special airport, a missile assembly plant, and a long-range test site in exchange for $1 billion in Iranian oil. Israel even attempted to interest Iran in Israel’s US funded, but doomed, Lavi jet fighter project.
The 1979 Iranian Revolution finally ousted the Shah. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days during the hostage crisis. But Israel in the 1980s, with a failing economy and desperate to salvage its partnership with a major regional oil producer, helped orchestrate a secret “arms for hostages” deal to the Ayatollah purported to help free Americans kidnapped in Lebanon. In concert with Reagan administration operatives, profits from Israeli stocks of US supplied missiles sold to Iran partially helped fund the Nicaraguan Contras after Congress outlawed US support.
After Israeli influence over Iran ended, Israel’s US lobby AIPAC began working to precipitate a U.S.-Iran military confrontation in order to improve Israel’s strategic position. The most recent of these efforts included:
1. Lobbying to create the US Treasury Department’s “Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence” unit in the aftermath of 9/11 to wage US economic warfare against Iran. The unit has until recently been led by a string of Zionist ideologues. See “Treasury Sanctions Foreigners for Israel” Antiwar.com, August 30, 2018.
2. Stealing Department of Defense secrets in concert with convicted spy for Israel Col. Lawrence Franklin. AIPAC intended to channel the secrets to the Washington Post in 2004 to convince Americans that it was time for troops fighting in Iraq to pivot to Iran. Though the Pentagon source was convicted, the two AIPAC officials involved in espionage escaped justice after a series of judicial contortions. See Congressmen Pressed Obama to Pardon Spy Lawrence Franklin Antiwar.com, November 27, 2017.
3. Demanding cyber-attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities under threat of Israeli military action, costing the US billions of dollars, unintentionally unleashing sophisticated cyber weapons across global computer networks. See “Israel and the Trillion-Dollar 2005-2018 US Intelligence Budget” Antiwar.com, November 7, 2018.
4. Coordinated opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) designed to provide transparency into Iran’s nuclear program and avert war. While Israel spied on negotiations, releasing them to US operatives. AIPAC corralled mainstream Israel lobby opposition to the deal, and helped insert a “poison pill” requiring proactive action in the form of a presidential waiver to keep the deal from expiring. President Trump withdrew from the deal to thunderous Israel lobby applause in May of 2018.
5. Demanding the US designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. AIPAC began demanding sanctions on the IRGC through the Treasury Department in 2007. The April 2019 Trump administration formal designation of IRGC cleared the way for the US to assassinate Iranian leaders as part of the “War on Terror.”
Israel and its lobby will likely labor mightily to keep U.S.-Iran hostilities going, while attempting to avoid blame for the conflict they labored so mightily to precipitate. This will have many ancillary benefits for Israel and its lobby. Armed conflict will empower additional Israeli demands for US foreign aid. Israel has received more than $282.4 billion in unclassified aid since 1948. Conflict will boost the prospects of Israeli military contractors in Israel and those streaming into the US under various state subsidy programs. Most of all, the conflict will allow Israel to divert world attention away from its brutal ongoing ethnic cleansing of the native populations in Palestine and ever more robust systematized apartheid.
Grant F. Smith is research director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and the plaintiff in civil action no. 18-CV-02048 seeking presidential letters to Israel promising not to comply with the NPT and AECA.He is the author of the 2016 book, Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America now available as an audiobook.