You are on page 1of 3

UFPPC ( Book Discussion Series @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA) June 12, 2006, 7:00 p.m. Kenneth R.

Timmerman, Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (New York: Crown Forum, [June] 2005).
[WARNING: Among all the volumes this book discussion group has considered, Kenneth Timmerman’s Countdown to Crisis stands out as the most blatant work of propaganda we have yet considered. Countdown to Crisis is a poorly documented and all but unreadable collage of Woodwardesque snippets that rely on two-dimensional caricature, innuendo delivered in a knowing tone, breathless communication of undocumented and, one often suspects, invented rumors, and incoherent assemblages of factoids, all based on a Manichaean view of Iran as evil, the U.S. as good, and other world powers as decadent and inert. In many cases Timmerman’s disingenuousness is transparent. His claims have been endorsed only by right-wing propagandists like the Washington Times and the web pages FrontPage and NewsMax. The enthusiastic reception of this book on bears signs of being the work of propagandists. Juan Cole exaggerated somewhat when he wrote (Informed Comment, Apr. 1, 2006): “Timmerman is taken seriously by the White House, Congress, and the U.S. press,” but was right in the rest of his remarks: “[B]ut in fact [Timmerman] has no credibility as an Iran expert (at Informed Comment we like our Iran experts to know Persian, the way you'd expect an expert on France to know French; we're funny that way). Even the usually canny Jon Stewart gave Timmerman a respectful hearing. — French philosopher Michel Foucault defined ‘representation’ as a process whereby a culture creates a stereotype of something and then substitutes the stereotype for the reality forever after. Once a ‘representation’ is established, the reality can never challenge it, since any further information is filtered through the representation. The ‘representation’ of Iran as a nuclear power, when it just has a couple hundred centrifuges (you need thousands) and is not proven even to have a weapons program, is becoming powerful and unchallengeable in the US media.” Of Countdown to Crisis, Ray Takeyh wrote in the Washington Post on Jul. 31, 2005: “Timmerman, the author of earlier books attacking France and Jesse Jackson, begins his book with the outlandish claim that Iran was complicit in the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocities. In his retelling of history, a craven CIA, determined to exonerate rogue states that sponsor terrorism, has deliberately withheld this information from the American public. The conclusions of the numerous congressional investigations and journalistic inquiries into Sept. 11 are simply ignored. The one independent examination that Timmerman does cite, the 9/11 Commission, is faulted for missing what he considers the all-too-apparent Iran link. The reader gets the impression that Timmerman would rather not bother with facts precisely because they undermine his conspiracy theory. — A persistent problem with this book is its absence of credible evidence. Timmerman frequently describes meetings between Iran's most senior officials, complete with dialogue, facial expressions, and body language — all without any attribution. For instance, in one curious scene, Timmerman describes a late 2004 meeting between Iran's Revolutionary Guard commanders, an important hard-line ayatollah named Ahmad Jannati, and al Qaeda's number-two leader, Ayman Zawahiri. For good measure, he adds (in omniscient voice) that Osama bin Laden himself joined a second day of meetings in which Jannati and the al Qaeda leader — who looked "frail and old" and "wore Iranian clerical robes," not Arab ones — "discussed different places where bin Laden felt his men could launch spectacular new attacks against the United States and its key allies." — It behooves Timmerman to provide at least some sources for such eyebrow-raising claims; he attributes them only to ‘sources with direct knowledge of these meetings,’ whatever that means. To the extent that the author proffers any foundation for his theories, he appears to rely on exiles with tall tales and defectors with wild imaginations.” —Mark K. Jensen.] Prologue: What If the Ayatollah Got the Bomb? Shahab3 missiles in bunker with launch trailers that “can hit targets anywhere in Israel” and “will soon be capable of hitting the United States” (1). Iran “could have enough fissile material to produce between twenty and twenty-five nuclear weapons” from “the equipment we now know that they purchased from the Khan network” (2). Ch. 1: The Defector. Defection of Hamid Reza Zakeri at U.S. embassy in Baku on Jul. 26, 2001, warning of attack on U.S. on Sept. 10, but he is “sent . . . away” by CIA officer (7-9). Iran created Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) in 1983 under Hojjat-ol eslam Mohammed “Nick” Reyshahri, who “generalized the use of torture, which SAVAK had in fact used quite sparingly” (9). Organized assassination squads for exiles (10). In early summer 2001, a blow-up of the World Trade Center was on display (10). Contacts with al-Qaeda and 9/11 planning (11-12). Four-day planning meeting in Varamin, south of Tehran, with Zawahiri and “twenty-nine other alQaeda leaders” (12-14). Zakeri meets with Osama bin Laden’s eldest son, Saad, in May 2001, meet with “all five members of the Leadership Council” (14-16). Three weeks with “Section 43—the detail men of Iran’s foreign terrorist organization” (16-17). Zakeri fled to Europe in May 2002; Timmerman calls him credible, but CIA calls him “a fabricator of monumental proportions” (17-18). Ch. 2: The Intercept. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, an attack by Iran (19-26). Ch. 3: The Hijacker. Hijacking of TWA 847 in June 1985 the work of Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, who collaborated with Iranian Revolutionary Guards (27-32). His subsequent career (34-37; photo, 327). Ch. 4: Atomic Ayatollahs. Abdul Qadeer Khan, founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, visited Iran in Feb. 1986: “From the very beginning, A.Q. Khan was Iran’s mentor” (3839). After a Jan. 1987 visit to “the Amir Kabir nuclear research center, a guarded compound not far from Tehran University,” Rafsanjani (who has as Majles speaker was “the driver . . . the chief backer, and the ultimate end user,” with “overall control’) decides to follow his advice and “dramatically increase spending on nuclear projects with the ultimate goal of developing an atomic device” (39-41). Portrait of Rafsanjani as greedy & power-hungry (41-42). Pakistan and Iran sign nuclear cooperation agreement (42-43). Fereidoun Fesharki’s (energy adviser to former shah) qualified endorsement of the régime in April 1987 (43-44). Iran sends thousands of “young, ‘ideologically pure’ students” to Australia, Germany, France, Britain, and “America’s top nuclear weapons labs” beginning in 1988 (44-46). Ch. 5: The Exiles. Manoucher Ganji (former minister of education, runs a chain of bakeries in Dallas)-John Kenneth Knaus (CIA) alliance (50-52). Ganji takes over CIA-funded Front for the Liberation of Iran (FLI) in Le Vesinet, France (5355). Changes name to Flag of Freedom Organization (FFO), succeeds in Sept. 1986 in interrupting state TV for 11 minutes to broadcast Reza Pahlavi appeal (55-56). Connolly plan in early 1987, backed by Nixon, to back Reza Pahlavi’s landing and march on Tehran (56-57).

Ch. 6: The Missile Man. Sabzevar Rezai, “the regime’s missile man”; hatches ides of ‘human wave’ attacks (58-61). N.B.: “the putsch that brought Khomeini to power during the night of February 11-12, 1979” (59). Directs procurement & armament (61-65). Ch. 7: The Blind Swede. Hans Blix’s complicity (66-71). Death of Khomeini (71). Increased Chinese cooperation (72). Ch. 8: The Germany Syndrome. Leybold AG’s sales of nuclear-related equipment to Iran in late 1980s (73-78). Centrifuges (78-80). U.S. tracks purchases (80-83). Industrial pumps (83-85). Richard Clarke’s false confidence (85). French sales of unidentified products (85-87). Ch. 9: Betrayal. Account of the deposed shah’s will, leaving $35 billion in shell corporations and making his eldest son’s access dependent on his quest to restore the throne; Reza Pahlavi is betrayed by Ahmad Ansari, his “money man,” with help of Jean Patry, a Swiss lawyer (88-96; Timmerman drops the story in early 1990s, though he publishes a picture of himself meeting with Ansari in March 2005 [334]). Ch. 10: Lifting the Stone. David Kay and Iraq (97-100). Iran-Pakistan relations (100-101). Iran’s nuclear medical research center at Karaj (102). Ch. 11: The Visitors. Li Peng’s visit to Iran in 1991, offering nuclear-production equipment (103-06). 1991 memo from Henry Sokolski, deputy asst. sec. of defense for nonproliferation, expression frustration about China (106-08). CIA’s false confidence (108-09). In 1992, Blix sends IAEA mission that refutes MEK allegations of Iran’s nuclear program; MEK later claims it reported mistaken coordinates (109-15). IAEA failure (115-18). Ch. 12: Loose Nukes. Gen. Mohsen Rezai extends China trip to North Korea, which agrees to help make nuclear warheads purchased from Kazakhstan & other Central Asian republics operational (119-26). Rep. Tom Lantos investigation shut down by Clinton administration (126-30). Congressional inquiry on Sick allegations (130-31). Lake’s “dual containment” policy (132). Project Sapphire: 1994 U.S. operation to extract “huge stockpile of nuclear material” from Ust-Kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, but there are many stories of missing material (132-34). Ch. 13: Red Light, Green Light. Clinton, contemptuous of CIA, ignores Woolsey’s warning and gives green light to Iranian military advisers (or “thugs”) “flowing into Bosnia (135-39). U.S. defunds Ganji’s operation in 1994 (139-42). Israeli “warrior diplomat” Uri Lubriani works tirelessly to reverse U.S.-Iran rapprochement, Nov. 1994-May 1995 (14247). About this time, Khan arranges for centrifuge rotors to be shipped from Dubai to Bandar Abbas, Iran (147-51). Ch. 14: The Partners. Russia agrees to supply nuclear technology to Iran, 1995 (152-55). Germany tolerates Iranian acquisitions (155-57). China ships UF6 plant to Iran, 1995 (157-59). U.S. focuses on Russia, misses what A.Q. Khan is doing (159-60). May 1995 Clinton-Yeltsin summit: Russia rebuffs U.S. concerns on Iran (160-63). Clinton bans trade with Iran, May 6, 1995 (163-65). Ch. 15: The Penetration. Clinton’s conversation with Reza Pahlavi in July 1995 (166-69; no source). Timmerman assists in Ganji-Reza Pahlavi “joint declaration,” quickly repudiated (169-71). Reza refuses to testify in favor of sanctions at Sen. D’Amato hearing (171-73). Defector Manoucher Moatamer, relative of Iranian intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, links Iran to bombing of Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires and London (173-75). Struggle over Iranian assets (176-77). The FBI’s Iran unit, protecting Reza Pahlavi, in danger both from Iran and MEK (177-80). Iranian diplomat Hassan Mashadi makes diplomatic overtures to Timmerman (180-82).

Ch. 16: Thunder. Iran involved in Khobar Towers bombing (183-89). Reports of “RAAD” (or ‘Thunder’) plan to strike U.S. prior to 1996 presidential election; possible link to TWA800 crash on Jul. 17, 1996 (189-96). Ch. 17: The Countdown Begins. Development with Russian assistance of Shahab-3 missile from 1997 to successful launch on Jul. 21, 1998 (197-207). Ch. 18: The President, The Leader, and the Murderers. Khatami not a real liberal (208-10). Azir Nafisi mocks hopes for an Iranian “Prague spring” (210-11). Regime organizes “street terrorists” to attack students (211-12). Murder of Darious and Parvaneh Forouhar, opposition leaders of Iran People’s Party, in Tehran, November 1998 (212-13). Hidden cameras recorded murders, copy sent to children in Germany, audio versions circulate among exiles (213-15). Khatami forms investigative committee, but backs down when Khamenei threatens to remove his government, Jan. 16, 1999 (215-17). Ch. 19: The Students. Demonstration against clerical rule, May 1999 (218-19). Student killed at Tehran Univ., leading to protests, July 1999 (219-21). Khatami represses uprising (221). Torture used on dissident Roozbeh Farahanipour (222 [examined half a dozen other accounts of Farahanipour’s experiences, including his own, and none repeat Timmerman’s account of severe torture]). Crackdown on dissidents (22324). Ch. 20: October Surprise. Clinton interested in restoring ties with Iran (225-26). Shiraz Jews charged with spying for Israel, spring 1999 (226-27). Clinton “Grand Bargain” offers trade and diplomatic relations for release (227-28). Russia’s head of atomic energy ministry admits Iran is developing nuclear weapons, late 1998 or early 1999 (229-30). Clinton tries to pull off deal with Iran as October 2000 surprise, Sen. Frank Lauterberg torpedoes negotiations by engineering bill to assists victims of terrorism in seizing foreign government assets (230-35). Ch. 21: The Warnings. Accumulating evidence of Iran’s intentions (236-39). “Steve B.” sees evidence of Russia advanced rocket motors (239-40). Zakeri; 9/11 claim repeated and corroborated by “Colonel B” (241-42). “[M]any indications” of Iran’s ties to al-Qaeda (243-44). Paul Pillar’s warning (244-45). Jamal al-Fadl’s claims (245-46 [Note: alFadl’s dubious testimony is at the origin of the notion and the name of al-Qaeda, acc. to Adam Curtis’s “The Power of Nightmares” documentary]). Another unnamed source in Hamburg (247). “Witness C” (247-49). Ch. 22: The Rat Line. Conversation between Rezai father and son (250-51). Rev. Guard commanders on Sept. 12, according to “Colonel B” (251-52). Iran facilitated “rat line” between Afghanistan and Europe for al-Qaeda (252-53). Ch. 23: Nukes “R” Us. Feb. 2003 IAEA visit to Natanz enrichment plant, “built to Chinese specifications” (254-57). MEK announced existence of plant in Aug. 14, 2002, news conference (257-59). IAEA confirms enrichment in spring 2003, and Iranians admit activities in May 2003, claiming them to be within their rights under the NPT (259-60). Paula DeSutter & John Bolton “going to kick butt” (260-61). Iran admits to undertaking nuclear research in 1981, importing uranium yellowcake beginning in 1982, deciding to build an enrichment plant in 1985, receiving centrifuges in 1987 and UF6 feedstock in 1991 (262). Oct. 4, 2003 seizure of centrifuge part shipment to Libya leads to Libya’s Dec. 2003 decision to “come clean” and Jan. 2004 delivery of A.Q. Khan bomb design (263-65). Baradei’s Nov. 10, 2003, 30-page report on Iran’s nuclear program (265). Ch. 24: The Evidence. Evidence of Iran connection deliberately neglected by CIA and 9/11 commission (268-80).

Ch. 25: Showdown. Iran financing Moqtada al-Sadr, Iranian intelligence “swarming all over Iraq” (281-82 — source: Constantine Menges). Pasdaran “terrorist networks” in Iraq use former U.S. embassy in Tehran as training center (282-83; photos 367-68). Hassan Abassi, theoretician of plan “to expand the Dar al Islam—the House of Islam—until Islam had conquered the world. It had been the Prophet’s mission at the birth of Islam. Imam Khomeini had made it Iran’s mission today” (283-84). Despite unconscionable foot-dragging by European countries and IAEA director ElBaradei, by March 2004 Iran’s “denial, deception, and delay” fails and “Iran’s program was now visible, its contours known” (285-86). John Bolton’s August 2004 speech to the Hudson Institute (296-88). September 2004: Germany’s Friedrich Gröning (married to an Iranian) confrontation with U.S.’s Jackie Wolcott Sanders leads to IAEA resolution calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear program (288-92). Sept. 18, 2004 Shahab-3 test; Khamenei agrees “to unblock funding to accelerate nuclear weapons development,” with instruction “to have the first bomb ready for launch by” March 21, 2005 (292-93). Colin Powell’s statement on Nov. 17, 2004, announcement that “I have seen some information that would suggest that [the Iranians] have been actively working on delivery systems” (293-95; Timmerman seems to deliberately omit that MEK is source of this information, which he describes merely as “a walk-in,” apparently because his book also attempts to discredit the MEK, which opposes Reza Pahlavi, whom Timmerman calls “the young shah” [89] and whose opposition groups he supports [314]). Ch. 26: The Way Ahead. When Iran has nuclear weapons, it (1) “is likely to” subvert Iraq; (2) “may seek to provoke a war” with Iraq; (3) “will” stamp out dissent “ruthlessly, wherever it appears”; (4) “will actively seek ways of lashing out” at the U.S. and Israel (304). Signs of Iranian jitteriness (306-07). Revelations from Hamid Reza Zakeri of underground uranium enrichment sites 50km SW of Natanz (307-08). Alleged purchases of missiles from Ukraine (309-10). Bin Laden & Zawahiri “met again with top regime leaders” in late 2004: “Revolutionary Guard generals Qolam Ali Rachid and Mohammad Baqr Zolqadr, his old friend from the Sudan” and Ayatollah Jannati, and discussed plans for attacking specific sites in Britain, Holland, and the U.S. (310-11). U.S. options are “capitulation and war” (311-12). “A full-scale U.S. military strike would be costly, ineffective, and counterproductive. . . . Instead, we should empower the pro-democracy forces to change the regime. We should do so openly, and as a government policy. But we should support nongovernmental organizations, primarily Iranian, to do the work” (313; a note weighs the attractions of “a ‘decapitation strike’”). “Negotiating with Tehran would be a mistake” (313). “[T]he very existence of this regime” “poses a threat to world security” (314). Opposition needs to organize; call from “[s]upporters of Reza Pahlavi” for “an internationally supervised referendum on the future of the Islamic Republic” (314). The present regime cannot be trusted to run such elections, but the referendum movement could be “a catalyst for a nonviolent popular uprising” (314). “We must help Iranians to create the momentum for nonviolent regime change, before the ticking nuclear clock reaches midnight. And it is almost there” (314). Epilogue: The Price of Failure. Describes in the past tense the nuclear destruction of the nation’s capital “[j]ust days before Christmas” by means of a “250-kiloton blast” from a “warhead” launched by “sailors” from a “tramp steamer” on a SCUD missile and detonated three minutes later “in the air over the National Mall in Washington, D.C.” (315-16). The specter of sea-launched nuclear warheads (317-18). Appendix: The Evidence. 52 pp. Notes. 8 pp. Acknowledgments. 32 interviewees (including Hamid Reza Zakeri and Reza Pahlavi), 53 persons “have shared

information and analysis” (many national security establishment figures), others cannot be named; special thanks to Timothy Fleming, Rich Hailey, and J.D. Lee. Refers to web sites: (shows Timmerman publishes frequently on right-wing sites like Front Page and NewsMax) and (the site of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a U.S.-based Iran dissident organization founded by Timmerman). Thanks IAEA for “excellent cooperation throughout my research” (380). Index. 12 pp. Very selective (e.g. no entry for Joschka Fischer [whose name is misspelled (291) or Moqtada al-Sadr, for example).