Exclusive: Regime Change in Iran? One Man's Secret Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Hosenball

What was international man of mystery Manucher Ghorbanifar up to when he met with top Pentagon experts on Iran? In a NEWSWEEK interview in Paris last month, Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian spy who helped launch the Iran-contra affair, says one of the things he discussed with Defense officials Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin at meetings in Rome in December 2001 (and in Paris last June with only Rhode) was regime change in Iran. Ghorbanifar says there are Iranians capable of organizing a peaceful revolution against the ruling theocracy. He says his contacts know where Saddam Hussein hid $340 million in cash. With American help, he says, this money could be retrieved and half used to overthrow the ayatollahs. (The other half would be turned over to the United States.) Ghorbanifar says he told his U.S. interlocutors that ousting the mullahs would be a breakthrough in the war on terror because top Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are in Iran. ("You won't be surprised if you find that Saddam Hussein is on one of the Iranian islands.") Among other intel Ghorbanifar says he and associates gave the Pentagon: a warning that terrorists in Iraq would attack hotels. He also says he had advance info about Iranian nukes and a terrorist plot in Canada. Financial gain was never his objective, he says: "We wanted to give them the money, not to take the money."

The Pentagon cut off contact with Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA years ago labeled as a fabricator, after news about the talks broke last summer. …