Casey May Have Been Told Hostage Release Would Be Delayed, ABC Says
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former CIA Director William Casey may have been told by Iranian representatives in Madrid in the summer of 1980 that release of U.S. hostages would be delayed until Ronald Reagan took office if Casey helped them get arms, ABC News said Thursday night.
ABC’s ″Nightline″ program interviewed Iranian arms dealer Jamshid Hashemi, who supplied a detailed description of what he said were two sets of meetings in July and August in Madrid with then-Reagan campaign manager Casey and two other unidentified men.
Hashemi, who refused to go on camera, said that it was Casey who asked whether Iran was ready to deal with the Republicans and hand over the hostages, according to ABC, whose investigation is being undertaken in cooperation the Financial Times of London.
There have been reports for the past decade that the 1980 Reagan campaign made a deal with Iran’s ruling clerics to delay until after the election the release of the 52 American hostages seized in the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Those reports were revived with the publication earlier this year of an article by Gary Sick, a member of the National Security Council staff in the Carter administration.
Sick said he found considerable circumstantial evidence that the Reagan campaign had brokered such a deal with Iran.
In the Madrid meetings, Iran was represented by Iranian cleric Mehdi Kharoubi and his brother, Hassan, while Hashemi said he and his brother, Cyrus, who has since died, acted as interpreters.
Casey also has died. He succumbed to a brain tumor in early 1987, at the height of the tumult over the Iran-Contra affair.
Hashemi’s account went like this:
In the first set of meetings, Casey asked, Would the hostages be released to President-elect Reagan, after the election?
The Iranian side replied that it would need time to get specific confirmation from the Ayatollah Khomeini.
If a post-election hostage release occurred, Casey told them, the Republicans would be grateful and would arrange for the release of Iran’s frozen assets and military equipment for Iran that had been held up.
ABC said it found hotel records that show the Hashemi brothers in Madrid in late July as well as August 1980, in the hotels that Jamshid Hashemi said they were in, the Ritz and the Plaza.
A set of meetings in August, again with Casey, focused on the delivery of weapons to Iran from Israel and release of the hostages.
As gesture of goodwill, Mehdi Kharoubi told Casey the hostages would be released on the day Reagan was inaugurated. In exchange, the Iranians expected that Casey would help Iran get certain arms and information, even though he was not in the U.S. government.
The next day, Casey told Mehdi Kharoubi that Cyrus Hashemi would be introduced to a man who turned out to be an Israeli general.
Cyrus Hashemi bought a freighter, which was used from August 1980 through January of 1981 to make four round trips between the Israeli port of Eilat and the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas loaded with weapons.
Casey’s schedule for July 27-29 and Aug. 8-13, 1980 is blank, the network said. It quoted a newspaper story of July 30, 1980 in which a Reagan campaign spokesman said Casey planned to return home that day ″from a trip abroad.″
The hostages were released within minutes of Reagan taking office on Jan. 20, 1981. All arrangements had been made by the Carter administration in negotiations using Algerian representatives as intermediaries.
Separately, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Thursday that former Attorney General Edwin Meese was a scheduled guest at the home of Cyrus Hashemi in December 1980, between Reagan’s election and Meese’s designation as a White House aide in the incoming administration.
The newspaper interviewed a former federal investigator, Robert McQueen, who was working with Hashemi’s wife in a probe of immigration violations.
While the investigator was at Hashemi’s home, Hona Hashemi told him that she and her husband intended to entertain Meese at dinner that night, and asked McQueen if he would like to stay.
McQueen, who declined the invitation, also said Mrs. Hashemi mentioned that her husband was assisting with fund transfers in the negotiations to get the hostages released.
Cyrus Hashemi, a London banker, at the time was assisting the Carter administration in the negotiations, Gary Sick told the Atlanta newspaper.