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The Iran Brief®

Policy, Trade & Strategic Affairs

An investigative tool for business executives, government, and the media.

Fanning the Flames: Guns, Greed & Geopolitics in the Gulf War

by Kenneth R. Timmerman

Click here to read biographical information

Publication history

Fanning the Flames was written in 1986-1987, and syndicated worldwide by the New York Times Syndication Sales. Full contents and Selected excerpts can be viewed separately.

Four complete chapters appeared in the Dutch newsweekly De Tijd in December 1986 and January 1987. In December 1987, the Swedish chapter, which recounted recently-assassinated Prime Minister Olof Palme's ties to Rev. Guards commander Mohsen Rafiq-doost, appeared as "Den Förlorade Oskulden," in Z Magazine in Stockholm.

The New York Times ran a section on the Damavand project (U.S. arms dealers attempting to sell F-4 fighters to Iran with covert White House backing) under the byline of their own writer, Stuart Diamond, on Feb. 2, 1987 ( "Huge Illegal Deal on Arms for Iran was Known to US")

L'Express and its Belgian edition, Le Vif Express, ran French-language cover stories based on the book ( "Iran-Iraq: Qui Profite du Carnage," l'Express (France) and Le Vif/l'Express (Belgium), Feb 6-12, 1987).

But the only complete edition of the book was published by a small German-language publisher in Switzerland, under the title: Ol ins Feuer, (Orell Füssli, Zurich, 1988).

The New York Times had negotiated a book contract with a French publisher, and even had galleys and a mock-up cover for the French translation, but the publisher pulled the book at the last minute because of the poor quality of the translation, done on contract by an individual with ties to French intelligence.

A separate contract was negotiated and signed with a U.S. publisher... who sat on the manuscript for over a year, only to pull out also. It turned out that the publisher in question was closely tied to then Presidential candidate George Bush, who was a major figure in the book.

The Dutch chapters


Full Contents (author's English translation)


Chapter 1. The Soviet Connection

A troubled relationship... The price of allegiance... Global strategy... Kurdish rebels, and a palace coup... 'Only three bombs left'... The first Soviet embargo... Diversifying sources... Rebuilding the army... Baghdad high noon... Afghanistan, Yemen, and the anti-Soviet pact... The sheathed sword... War against the mullahs... Soviet 'neutrality'... The Russian Janus... The Soviet connection... Stretching the Soviet strings... The MiG 29...

Chapter 2. Saddam's French Lover

A personal friend... A long courtship... Arms for oil and oil for arms... The first mirage... The dynamic of French arms sales... Two feet in the door... Shrouds of secrecy... Dashed hopes and mutual benefits... The 2nd oil crisis... Saad 13: a Thomson first... Tarek Aziz and the war chest... In come the socialists... $10 billion at stake... The Super-Etendard Affair... The best and the brightest... Flying French into the 21st Century... Silence, we're negociating...A marriage of reason...

Chapter 3. A Slice of the Cake

Brazil & company... The Majnoon oil fields... Volkswagons, chickens, and steel... Brazilian armored cars... On the tarmac of Sao Jose dos Campos... Italian frigates... NATO avionics for Soviet helicopters... Helicopters from the US... And from West Germany... China enters the running... India and Pakistan teach Iraqi pilots how to turn... Competition for the French... The South African gun... The future...

Chapter 4. The Nuclear Threat

The race to Armageddon... Israel's nuclear Massada... Atomic power under the Shah... Iraq... The safeguards... The French lend a hand... We've just given the Ayatollah the Bomb!... An Argentine cover... And U.S. technology...


Chapter 5. Thou shalt not threaten American interests

The Shah builds an army... Influential friends... The Nixon doctrine... Carter and the Shah... Khomeiny sours the show... Islamic purity... Carter's last attempt to woe... Suppose they gave a war... Bani Sadr reorganizes the air force... The Noget coup... Iranian Cobras... A mysterious crash...

Chapter 6. The Black Market Arms Extravaganza

London and Geneva: Open for business... Tehran: Council of war... How to buy arms on the black market... The RCC Company of Stamford, Conn... Smuggling, American style... Here a broker, there a broker... Rafsanjani, Tabatabai, and the shelter companies... CIA Cobras... NATO gas masks... The Australian C-130s... New Zealand lamb... The Heydari sting... French intelligence... Ethiopian F-5s... Smuggling around the world...

Chapter 7. Operation Staunch

Everyone's doing it... The Fairbanks missions... Spain and Portugal... Swiss radars for Kharg... The EEC: money talks... Belgium closes its eyes... Swedish scandals... An International Cartel... Friends, allies, and troublemakers in Asia... Pakistan and India: supplying both sides... South American hopefuls... Even France...450,000 shells from Luchaire... Britain's 'non-lethal' tanks... The lessons of Operation Staunch...

Chapter 8: Sweden's Lost Innocence

A Mysterious death... The Singapore connection... A long history of suspicion... A dangerous customer... Iranian revenge?... Palme's secret diplomacy... The sacred principle...

CHAPTER 9: Iran's New Soviet Arsenal

Triangular relationships... The Asian Screen... Chinese fighters... Arab 'traitors,' Libya and Syria... Soviet listening bases...



CHAPTER 10. Take one: the tanks that weren't

Orlando revisited... In the Pamir Mountains... European Defense Associates...'I'm the fixer'... On the Golan Heights... The Bread and Sugar Bank... Grandiose Schemes... A Greek shipping baron... Ghorbanifar, and the Ayatollah's son...Iranian terror....

CHAPTER 11. Take two: the Damavand Project

More than $1 billion... A political opening... Early efforts... A South American sojourn... The private policy... Diplomatic concessions... In the Hotel Metropole... Universal Aerospace Corp... Soviet overflights and "strategic defense"... 'Under Review by Vice President Bush'... A Soviet T-80 in exchange...The Purge

CHAPTER 12. Take three: Israel all the way"

Mystery Planes... Schultz was wary... Ariel Sharon thumbs his nose... Irangate begins in 1981... 350 Technicians... Sales from surplus... Opening the arms pipeline... Iranian denials... Fanning the flames... Deniable dealers... Yaacov Nimrodi... Enter Ghorbanifar... The Mossad years... The Initiative takes form

CHAPTER 13. Take four: The NSC Decides to Act

Terror in Beirut... The Iranian sponsor... The Fuller memo... A Covert Operator... Privatizing the CIA... The Network... The Generals replace the Colonels... "Khomeini steps Down"... The Policy misfires...



Chapter 14. France and Israel: Staying Alive

French policy goals... The arms industry, a strategic value... The Iranian gambit... A 'new country without debts'... Israel: keeping an army supplied... The export economy... China: countering Soviet influence in the Gulf...

Chapter 15. Soviet Strategy: Playing Both Sides

The strategic importance of Iran... Adropov, the KGB, and the Tudeh Party... 'They're not mullahs, they're Marxists'... The case of Abu Sharif... Controlling the Revolution... Eliminating Beheshti... Aid, commercial treaties, and listening bases... Hiding the traces... Blowing hot and cold across the Shatt-al-Arab... Why the Soviets want the war to go on....

Chapter 16. US Counter-strategy: Making the best of a bad world

Ronald Reagan in search of a policy... US assets inside Iran... Regional goals... CENTCOM... The arms gambit... 'The post-Khomeini era has already begun!'... The Mujahidin Khalq... Bani Sadr... Other leftist movements... The Center-Right Coalition... The power struggle inside Iran... The future of Iran...