The Beginning of the Affair
According to him, Adnan Khashoggi met with National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane beginning in 1983 to discuss U.S.-Iran relations. Meanwhile, former CIA Associate Director of Operations Theodore Shackley was introduced to General Manucher Hashemi, a former head of the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK. Hashemi then introduced Shackley to other Iranians, including Manucher Ghorbanifar and Hassan Karoubi, who became infamous during the ensuing investigation as the “first Iranian.”
In January 1984, McFarlane formally requested that the NSC examine how the U.S. could work to influence Iran, particularly a post-Khomeini Iran (the U.S. believed that he was close to death and that it would be easier to deal with the country after he died). However, the report conveyed the sense that the U. S. was at an impasse in its relationship with Iran.
In 1985, Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi came into contact in Hamburg, Germany, and began devising the skeletons of the plan that would eventually become the Iran side of the Iran/Contra Affairs. Three Israelis were drawn into the discussion in the summer of 1985. A number of stories exist regarding the exact time, place, and specifics of these meetings. However, from these meetings came the idea to sell U.S. arms to Iran via Israel and the suggestion that, to gain the U.S.’s approval for the scheme, American hostages in Lebanon could be released. At the same time this was happening, the NSC was searching for new ways to deal with Iran.
McFarlane met with Israeli David Kimche on July 3, 1985, who had been sent to the U.S. on behalf of the Israelis who had been involved in discussions with Khashoggi and Ghorbanifar. Kimche presented their ideas to McFarlane had said that they were supported by both Iranian and Israeli officials. Whether or not any of them had any official authority is unclear, but it seems unlikely. In a report to other top NSC advisers a few days later, McFarlane explained that Kimche had presented him with an opportunity to open dialogue with Iran. The Iranians wanted TOW missiles, and providing them would be an excellent way to improve the U.S.’s relationship with the country. It could also likely lead to the release of the seven hostages held in Lebanon as Iran had influence over the terrorist groups who took the hostages. In this report, McFarlane conveyed that Kimche was an emissary of the Israeli government—whether he actually believed this to be true is unclear. Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger voiced some opposition. However, McFarlane encouraged talks with Iran. Ghorbanifar put himself forward as a representative of the moderates in Iran who were interested in bettering relations with the U.S. McFarlane, Ghorbanifar, and a variety of Israeli representatives began to formulate and refine a plan.