Although Khomeini would regularly denounce the US as the “great Satan”, the Ayatollah regime immediately began secret dealings with the Americans, designed to fund the growing conflict in Afghanistan, by funding the Mujahideen fighters. In a Time Magazine cover story, published on January 15, 1979, Brzezinski proclaimed Iran, Afghanistan, and the Indian subcontinent as an “arc of crisis” which posed a grave challenge to the West, though one that could also spell doom for the Soviet empire.
Islamic fundamentalists would provide an important bullwark against their Soviet enemy. This strategy was revealed in the 1998 interview which Brzezinski gave to the Le Nouvel Observateur:
Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention... We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.138
The CIA’s backing of the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan would become its largest covert operation in history, funded by an intricate series of clandestine and illegal activities, known as the Iran-Contra Affair, which involved the complicity of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi regime. When Reagan became president, his administration engaged in an expansion of the relationship already set out with Roosevelt, by which Saudi Arabia would build a massive network of naval and air defense facilities capable of sustaining U.S. forces, under the pretext that they would be needed to protect the region or wage war against an aggressor. The programme also involved a new understanding that Saudi Arabia would become a partner in covert operations, but not just in the Middle East.
The Saudis agreed to fund anti-communist guerrillas in Afghanistan, Angola, and elsewhere, who were supported by the Reagan administration, including the Contras of Nicaragua.
The Reagan administration used proceeds from arms sales to Iran to fund the right-wing Contras, in an effort to overturn Nicaragua’s left-wing, but democratically elected, Sandanista government. Both actions were contrary to acts of Congress, which prohibited the funding of the Contras and the sale of weapons to Iran, which it regarded as a “terrorist state”. In addition, both activities also violated United Nations’ sanctions.
Throughout this period, until the death of Khomeini in 1989, Iran was the command centre of international terrorism, inciting all Muslims, both Sunni and Shiah, to fight the Western countries. At the behest of the Americans, and using the local Shiah communities as intermediaries, Iran had supported and financed a number of “liberation” movements and armed factions, from Palestine to Northern Ireland, to Sudan, and the Ivory Coast.
Initially, in order to side-step Congress, the U.S. approached Prince Bandar to solicit Saudi aid in funding the Contras. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the grandson of Ibn Saud, was appointed Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in 1983, at the age of 34, an appointment he served for twenty years. Prince Bandar has had unprecedented access to Presidents and most senior American officials since the Reagan era. He was a close family friend of the Bushes, named affectionately by Barbara as “Bandar Bush”.
After Hezbollah bombed American facilities in Beirut and kidnapped CIA station chief William Buckley, it was Casey and Bandar who agreed to assassinate Sheikh Fadlallah, the terrorist group’s leader. Control of the operation was handed to the Saudis, who turned to the services of an operative from Britain’s elite special forces. The plan backfired, however, when the car bomb took down an apartment building near Beirut, killing eighty innocent civilians. Fadlallah escaped unharmed. And, to cover their tracks, the Saudis provided Fadlallah with information identifying the operatives they had hired.139
The complexities of the Iran-Contra operation, and the arming of the fundamentalist Islamic Mujahideen in Afghanistan, were orchestrated by William Casey, then director of the CIA. Known as “off-the-shelf”, meaning unaccountable and invisible, Casey’s operations involved arms being traded with the Contras for cocaine, and profits from its sale to Black street gangs of Los Angeles, funds from which were then used for the various covert CIA campaigns.
The U.S. government’s involvement in drug-trafficking for the financing of covert activities dates back at least to the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA. A private agreement was settled between Allen Dulles and the SS, who were granted freedom from prosecution in return for agreeing to secretly work for American intelligence against the Russians in the cold war. Again, during the Vietnam War, the CIA, facilitated through the CIA’s Air America network of aircraft, were smuggling huge amounts of heroin from the Golden Triangle. Prior to that, the French had controlled the Opium trade in this part of the world, a ring which later became known as the “French Connection”.140
Years after the Vietnam War, the CIA remained an important player in the Golden Triangle heroin trade. This fact was corroborated by Colonel Bo Gritz, a legend in the Special Forces community, after whom Sylvester Stallone modelled himself in the movie “First Blood”. During 1989, Gritz traveled to northern Burma, where he videotaped a meeting with a local druglord, who revealed that the US government official he dealt with was Richard Armitage, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence.141
Armitage had been a professional assassin during the Vietnam war and led teams similar to the Phoenix programme that killed and tortured tens of thousands of Asians. He has been accused of links to illicit gambling, drug smuggling and expansion of organised crime in Russia, Central Asia and the Far East.
It was William Casey, with the collaboration of Richard Armitage in the Pentagon, who ran the Mujahideen covert war. Stinger missiles, mountain caves equipped as operation centres, military training camps for internationally recruited Islamic combatants, as well as training and recruitment inside the United States, were part of what was funded, using profits from the sale of opium and illicit drugs, funneled through the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International, or BCCI, at the behest of the Saudi Arabian government, working closely with the American CIA that used a proxy to cover its involvement, ISI, the Pakistani secret service.