The October Surprise

By John Carnduff and Edward C. Corrigan

Z magazine, June, 1991

"Z is an independent, progressive monthly magazine of critical thinking on political, cultural, social, and economic life in the United States. It sees the racial, sexual, class, and political dimensions of personal life as fundamental to understanding and improving contemporary circumstances; and it aims to assist activist efforts to attain a better future."

"THE FOULEST dirty trick" in American political history, according to U.S. syndicated columnist Mike Royko, has finally surfaced in the pages of the North American mainstream press. On April 15, 1991, former U.S. National Security Council staffer Gary Sick published a New York Times opinion piece and appeared on network and public TV as prelude to the release of his new book on the Reagan administration's relations with Iran. The book includes discussion of the "October Surprise" which threatens to make the Watergate scandal look tame. October Surprise was the name that the Reagan-Bush campaign gave to the event they feared most -- an eleventh hour release of the 52 U.S. hostages held by Khomeini's Iran in the weeks before the November 1980 election. Freedom for the hostages before the election would create a wave of euphoria that would propel President Carter into a second term in the White House.

Led by William Casey, the Republican campaign was anxious to prevent Carter from capitalizing on the release of the 52 hostages and established two special teams to contain the threat. William Casey, chief of American covert operations against Germany during World War II and later appointed by Reagan as Director of the CIA headed one team. Richard Allen who served as Richard Nixon's foreign policy coordinator in the 1968 election and was appointed by Reagan to chair the National Security Council headed the other special group. As Barbara Honegger, a worker at the Reagan-Bush national election headquarters, reported, in the closing weeks of the campaign the anxiety over the threat of an October Surprise evaporated. Honegger was told "We don't have to worry about an October Surprise. Dick cut a deal." Dick was Richard Allen.

The "deal" involved a delayed release of the 52 hostages in return for arms Iran needed to fight its war with Iraq. October Surprise has been subject to considerable discussion in the Alternative Press since the story first broke when Honegger and Jim Naurekas wrote an article for In These Times in June 1987. Honegger has since written a book October Surprise_ that has yet to be reviewed in the North American mainstream press.

In 1987 the first published reference to the scandal was made by Mansur Rafizadeh in his book _Witless_ referring to a CIA conspiracy to delay the release of the 52 American hostages and steal the election from Carter. Rafizadeh is the former U.S. chief of SAVAK -- the Shah of Iran's secret police.

One-time CIA operative Richard Brenneke has also charged that William Casey and others from the Reagan-Bush campaign team cut a deal with the Iranians in October 1980 at a Paris meeting. These claims were made at a sentencing hearing for Heinriech Rupp who has since said he was the pilot who flew Casey and other Reagan loyalists to Paris where the October Surprise deal was finalized. Rupp also places George Bush at the Paris meeting.

Rupp was charged with bank fraud in a CIA connected collapse of a Savings and Loan and Brenneke testified on his behalf. Brenneke was later charged with perjury with respect to his allegations over the October Surprise deal. Richard Allen and others testified against the conspiracy theory. May 4 1990 Brenneke was acquitted of the perjury charges. In effect the jury believed Brenneke and said the American government officials were lying. This verdict and its implications of treason were virtually ignored in the American national press. Mansour Farhang, who served as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations during 1980 argued strenuously for the early release of the hostages and believed a deal was imminent. However, Farhang reports that there was an extraordinary change in the attitude of the ruling mullahs in Teheran and that from October 1980 they were no longer afraid of a Reagan election victory. Farhang at the time wondered what new element could have changed the stance of the mullahs on a release of the hostages to Carter.

Abolhasan Bani-Sadr, president of Iran at the time of the hostage crisis, and who worked towards an early release, also charges that a secret deal was made over the fate of the hostages that undercut both his authority and that of President Carter.

John Anderson, who ran as an independent in the 1980 U.S. presidential election said he was approached by Iranians offering to release the hostages to him as president in exchange for munitions. Anderson reported these overtures to the Carter State Department who encouraged him to keep in contact and report back.

Richard Allen also has admitted to meeting Iranians in Washington in the first two weeks of October 1980. Allen was offered an arms for hostage deal but claims to have forgotten with whom it was he met, the specifics of the conversation and the notes he made. Allen did not report this meeting to the State Department.

President Carter has also stated that his Administration had received "reports since late summer 1980 about Reagan campaign officials dealing with Iranians concerning delayed release of the American hostages."

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh has documented that Richard Allen was involved in a similar conspiracy during the 1968 American presidential election. At the time President Johnson was desperately trying to get peace talks underway to end the Vietnam War and thereby improve the election chances of the Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey. According to Hersh, Allen and the Nixon campaign team promised the Thieu regime in Saigon a better deal if they killed the peace talks and sabotaged the Democratic campaign. Thieu withdrew from the talks.

The October Surprise theory not only explains why the 52 hostages were released the very afternoon Ronald Reagan took his oath as President in January 1981 but also addresses many questions left lingering from the Iran/Contra scandal and the testimony of Oliver North. The Congressional hearings into the scandal failed to examine why U.S. arms flowed into Iran three years before there were either Western hostages held by Shiite militias in Lebanon or moderates in Teheran with whom the Reagan administration could expect to improve relations. That U.S. arms were made available to Iran in the early 1980s in violation of American law is well documented. An Argentine turbo-prop plane crashed along the Turkish-Soviet frontier on July 18, 1981, laden with American arms en route from Israel to Iran.

Ariel Sharon, then Israeli defense minister, disclosed to the Washington Post in 1982, that, with the knowledge of senior American administration officials, Israel had shipped arms to Teheran. Moshe Arens, then Israeli ambassador to the United States has confirmed these statements. It was also reported in the Washington Post at the start of the Iran/Contra scandal in November 1986 that Secretary of State Alexander Haig had approved the sale of $10 to $15 million worth of arms to Iran via Israel in early 1981.

Given the importance of the allegations surrounding the October Surprise and the implications for the U.S. political system and the American judiciary and the fact that the information comes from a wide range of sources, the silence on this explosive issue raises disturbing questions. This failure says as much about the North American media and U.S. legal system as it does about the men who control the levers of power in Washington. (Z)