Countdown to Crisis:Iranian Spy Stories and Fear of Armageddon
by Larry Kelley
Posted Sep 13, 2005
Throughout the 1930s, Winston Churchill, although a popular war hero,author, Lord of the Admiralty and former cabinet minister, remained a“back bencher” who barely held on to his seat in theHouse of Commons. He was scorned by the media, and virtually thewhole of the political elite considered him a pariah because he wouldnot refrain from telling the British public what it so desperatelydid not want to hear. An entire decade before the German bombingblitz over London, he warned his countryman that they wouldinevitably have to fight Germany again or perish as a sovereignnation.
Ken Timmerman’s book, Countdownto Crisis, should berequired reading for all the neo Neville Chamberlains at the StateDepartment, National Security Council, or elsewhere in the BushAdministration for those wishing to give appeasement one more chance.Timmerman makes clear that the U.S. is facing the specter of Iran,the oldest and most active state sponsor of terror, armed now withnuclear weapons. With remarkable prescience, the author scoops everynews agency that is investigating the recent London bombings.
In late 2004, Ayman al-Zawahri met again with top regime leaders,this time in a guesthouse to the north of Tehran& After the firstday of meetings, bin Laden himself was brought to the safe house& an intravenous tube was strapped to the back of his hand. Helooked frail and old. Janati spread out a map of the world and theydiscussed different places where bin Laden felt his men could launchspectacular attacks against the United States and its key allies.They discussed specific sites in Britain—
The book contains many new revelations, investigative bombshellsfor those who are still in denial of the dangers we face. Itsessential message is two-part. With vivid corroborating detail, theauthor convincingly makes the case that, for more than 18 years, theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (the UN’s nuclear weapons “watchdogagency) and the CIA actually aided Iran in acquiring nuclearweapons, doing so through differing degrees of duplicity andineptitude. But secondly and perhaps more ominously, Timmermandemonstrates that the Iranian Mullahs have forged very strong tieswith al Qaeda and have been co conspirators with bin Laden from thebeginning of his attacks on America.
Timmerman’s first chapter, "The Defector," may very well be ahistoric anecdote for the ages. It opens on July 26, 2001, in abackwater U.S. Embassy in Baku Azerbaijan. A high-level Iraniansecurity official, Hamid Reza Zakeri, walked in and told thereceptionist that he wanted to speak to the CIA because he hadinformation related to the security of the United States. Heexplained to the station chief, “Joan,” that in hiscapacity as a high-level security officer at Iran’s Ministry ofInformation and Security (MOIS) headquarters, he had observed the “Arabs”who were trained pilots, being briefed on their appointed targets,and even described, on the table in their meeting room, models of theWorld Trade Center, the White House, the Pentagon, and Camp David. Hetold her that the attack was coming from the air; that the Arabpilots had already left for America; and he even knew the date forthe attack: Sept. 11, 2001.
Joan called for backup. Several days later when “CIA George”arrived from headquarters to debrief the “walk in,” heimmediately decided that Zakeri was peddling lies, told him so, paidhim $200, and told him to get out. The information that could havesaved 3,000 lives was never passed up the chain of command. Thereader would have to wonder if Timmerman’s story was not one ofthe reasons that Tenet resigned so suddenly, getting out himself,while the getting was good.
With photos and documents included in the appendix, the author makesa good case that Zakeri, the Baku “walk in,” is a highlycredible informant, his information, corroborated by other reportsfrom defectors, sources (spies) still inside Iran and independentintelligence reports. The reader senses that for Timmerman, Zakeri isthe primary source for this book and that they, the author andinformant, have developed a strong bond in their efforts to forestallArmageddon.
The author also persuades the reader that with his access totranscripts of wiretaps and sources both inside the Iranian regime,he can recreate such the following where the¬Ý Iranianhierarchy awaits word of its operation--the June 1996 Khobar Towersbombing in Dhahran Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen. Theauthor’s account gave off the aura of a passage from acrime-family novel:
On the evening of June 25, 1996 the most powerful officials of theIslamic Republic gathered solemnly at the home of presidentRafsanjani& a few minutes past 10:00 pm the telephone rang, andRafsanjani snatched it up.¬Ý A hush fell over the room.Rafsanjani listened, nodding his head.¬Ý Then a greatsmile spread across his face.¬Ý “The package wasdelivered,” he said. &The room broke into cheers before hecould replace the receiver.
The reader learns that the phone call had been intercepted and wasdiscussed in great detail later that year in closed-door hearingsbefore the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. U.S. intelligencepersonnel were even able to identify the operatives on the other endof the phone with Rafsanjani, one of whom was Imad Mugniyeh, Iran’s“star terrorist planner, and primary liaison to al Qaeda. TheSenate Committee agreed with the CIA—it had been an Iranianoperation all the way.
Unlike the surprise attack of 9/11, the Clinton Administration hadbeen warned repeatedly in mid-1996 of impending terrorist attacks onmilitary personnel based on the Arabian Peninsula. Some reports evencited Iranian agents photographing the Khobar Towers complex. But1996 was an election year and, as Timmerman puts it, no one in theadministration wanted hear about the danger. After the attack, in anutterly Neville Chamberlain-like gesture, Clinton made a quiet offerof more talks, to “hold a frank dialogue” with the Tehranregime in hopes that they would stop killing Americans, at leastuntil the election was over. In exactly the same manner that Hitlertreated with contempt the supplicant British prime minister, thestate run newspaper in Tehran, Kehan, ran a banner headline: “ClintonRequests Negotiations with Tehran.” And in the body of thestory, it commented that “Clinton was behaving like a drunkbastard, shouting in the street and should be treated like a thug.”
Next, Timmerman drops another bombshell by providing new evidencethat Iranians did not stop killing Americans in 1996. One month afterthe Khobar bombing, sources inside Iran were warning the author of animpending attack on an American airliner, these coming just daysbefore the July 1996 explosion of Flight 800 off the coast of LongIsland, which killed 230. While the author’s sources describedthe planned attack as a “hijacking,” not a bombing, theyrevealed that the operation would be mounted in Athens. Flight 800did in fact originate in Athens.
Recently released information from intelligence agencies seem tocorroborate Timmerman’s sources. In early July there were manyother independent reports coming from inside the regime, one from adifferent controlled source inside Iran, warning of an impendingairline attack. A counterterrorism analyst consulted for the bookalluded to the plausible explanation that the attackers planted abomb that was activated by a “double timer” similar tothe device al Qaeda terrorist Ramsi Yousef used to blow up a JapanAir jetliner. Such a device works on barometric pressure and explodesthe bomb at a given interval of time after the second takeoff.
Clinton surely knew that, as a “serial appeaser,” hewould be at a disadvantage if he had to run against a war hero, BobDole, while war in the Middle East was breaking out. He sent hisnational security adviser, Richard Clarke, who, shockingly, washimself briefed on the warnings that Iran was about to attack anAmerican airliner, and instructed Clarke to tell the investigators to“back off’ until the administration had time to sell thecountry on the “exploding fuel tank” theory. Timmermanmakes clear that his newly revealed evidence doesn’t prove thatIran planned the destruction of Flight 800, only that the regimeshould still be considered a strong suspect. But the reader can alsosurmise that even if Iran were not the planner of the attack, it wasno doubt further emboldened by this shameless display of duplicityand craven cowardice.
Timmerman’s highly detailed and assiduously footnoted narrativeproceeds along two parallel time lines and tells two separatestories. The first, excerpted above, chronicles how Iran has beencommitting acts of terrorism against the U.S. since it took ourembassy hostages in 1979 and how it has entered into an alliance withal Qaeda. In another bombshell, the author records that like the RoseLaw Firm records that mysteriously appeared late in the Whitewaterinvestigations, one week before the 9/11 Commission report was to besent to the printer, 75 documents were suddenly discovered linkingthe 9/11 al Qaeda hijackers to Iran. They corroborated what Zakerihad told the CIA in Baku, and they were filled with references toImad Mugniyeh who accompanied eight of the 10 Saudi “musclehijackers to Iran for their training sessions, providing them withairline tickets, money, and political cover. Perhaps because thecommissioners did not have enough time to fully vet the reports, the75 documents were boiled down to two squeamish pages (240, 241) inthe final 9/11 report and shamefully do not even mention Mugniyeh.Both the CIA and some members of the commission were covering forsomething of some people.
The second story describes in great detail how Iran’srelentless and successful quest for the acquisition of nuclearweapons was aided by the UN generally and the International AtomicEnergy Agency (IAEA) specifically, and how the agency colluded withthe weapons systems “exporters” France, Germany, Russiain their joint effort to ready Iran for a potential nuclear attack onIsrael and the United States.
The book provides a timely showcase of John Bolton in his capacity asthe person in charge of arms control and international security atthe State Department. Now that he is ambassador to the UN, readerswill understand why Bolton’s confrontational style is utterlyvital for that position if we in the West hope to stop or even slowweapons proliferation to rogue enemy states.
I spoke to Timmerman by phone after reading hisbook.I was curious what he thought about very recent events in London andas well as what he knew about the most recent nuclear weaponsdevelopment by the Iranians.
Ken Timmerman: Spanishofficials (who are aiding the British in their investigation of theattacks) believe that the mastermind of the Madrid (commuter train)bombings of 2003 has close ties to the first set of bombers inLondon. And he was also linked by Spanish investigators to Irandirectly. Let’s not forget, the Iranian regime has the longesttrack record as a state supporter of terrorism of anyone.
Have the Iranians weaponized their nuclear materials? And do theyhave finished product?
Timmerman: That is the bigquestion. Here’s what we know: We know they have all theingredients. We know they have been mining natural uranium since1989. By the way, with the knowledge and assistance of the IAEI. Wenow know that they have been secretly enriching uranium for manyyears. They imported a large network of centrifuges from the A.Q.Khan network (Pakistan’s rogue nuclear weapons developer). Wehave a copy of that contract. We know that they have enough fissilematerial for 20 to 25 bombs. We don’t know that they’veactually done that [weaponized]. But we do know that theyhave all the materials and that they know how to make them.
Timmerman: On Colin Powel’sfinal trip as secretary of State to Chile in 2004, he stunnedreporters and the CIA by revealing that we had a “walk in,”an Iranian missile engineer, that provided the U.S. government withover 1,000 pages of technical drawings showing how they wereplanning, in mid 2004, to mate their nuclear warheads to the Shahabmissiles.
Timmerman: That is the bottomline. My sources describe, in, let me be careful in saying,uncorroborated reports that in Iran, in a deeply buried bunker, theIranians are now stockpiling nuclear warheads and Shahab-3 missilelaunchers.
Like other key Iran watchers such as Mike Ledeen and Jerry Corsi,you say in your book that our best option is to encourage regimechange through an Iranian revolution. Do you see any reason foroptimism that this is beginning?
Timmerman: No. We need toidentify Iran as a clear and present danger and refer it to the UNSecurity Councel for nonproliferation treaty violations. We need toprovide massive assistance to the pro democracy forces. They needmoney, organizational help and equipment. And these are things weknow how to provide. But that decision has not yet been made.
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