343. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • 1. Views of Iranian Exile General Oveissi that Control in Iran Could be Claimed by the Radical Left Within the Next Six Months
  • 2. Funding and Support Provided to General Oveissi

1. In early August 1980, Iranian exile oppositionist General Gholam Ali Oveissi remarked that the pace of Iran’s unraveling has accelerated to the point where the country in all likelihood will be claimed by the radical Left unless action is taken within the next six months to stop it. In Oveissi’s opinion, six principal factors are responsible for the current crisis:

a. There is an apparent concerted effort by Ayatollah Khalkali, a revolutionary cleric who is a member of the Islamic Republican Party, and by what Oveissi called Palestine Liberation Organization-inspired elements to destroy and demoralize what is left of the officer corps through a systematic program of trials and executions. These are carried out arbitrarily, frequently without formal charges. Selected officers are arrested almost daily while at work or at night at home, and the next day they are executed. Random killings occur of other Iranians imprisoned for one reason or another, or for none, under the aegis of Khalkali. These killings also serve as part of a program to terrorize potential opposition to the current regime into submission or into exile. As a result, according to Oveissi, a mood of fear and despair is sweeping the country; more and more people are coming to accept a radical Leftist takeover, or even a Soviet takeover, so long as the present regime is removed.

b. Inflation and increasing unemployment both fuel political discontent.

c. The U.S. Government is perceived by Middle East leaders as being indecisive. There is almost a universal view among these leaders that the U.S. Government is weak and undependable, and few have confidence that the U.S. is willing and able to take steps necessary to shore up Western interests in the region. Many of these leaders are equivocating with traditional allegiances and feel obliged to come to terms with the “new Left.” Oveissi said his conclusions are derived from recent conversations with leaders and senior intelligence officers [Page 905] in the region, i.e., Saddam Husayn in Iraq, Suleyman Demirel in Turkey, Anwar al-Sadat and Director, Egyptian General Intelligence, General Muhammad al-Mahi in Egypt, and unspecified individuals in the Gulf.

d. An “Arab revolution” is underway that may sweep away many of the highly personalized, idiosyncratic, and largely unrepresentative elites in such countries as the shaykdoms in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, and Egypt. The Soviets and their surrogates are behind this revolution and are motivated by the need for new energy sources and foreign exchange and by the opportunity to fill the vacuum created by the U.S. Government’s weakness.

e. The Soviets are moving large numbers of their supporters into Baluchistan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and other regions around the Caspian Sea. These supporters are drawn from ethnic groups and new recruits. In many villages, the Soviet flag is flaunted openly with little recourse to government forces.

f. The Palestine Liberation Organization is playing an increasingly important role in training the Pasdaran, in working closely with the Fedayeen-al-Khalq, and in providing praetorian guards for Iranian leaders such as Ayatollahs Khomeini and Beheshti.

2. Oveissi also observed that economic sanctions are being circumvented through sales by European and other producers of merchandise brokered via third-national invoicing, primarily in the Gulf.

3. Regarding Oveissi’s own political endeavors, he cited the following support:

a. From the Iraqis, he has received 21 million U.S. dollars and a promise of more to come if he can show progress. He is also receiving from the Iraqis sizeable quantities of RPG’s, light and heavy machine guns, rifles, mortars, explosives, ammunition, and some transport.

b. [7 lines not declassified]

c. He [less than 1 line not declassified] counts among his supporters a number of ayatollahs, including Shariat-Madari, Qomi, Shirazi, and others.

d. He claims to have assets among the military, including the entire “Rezaiyeh Division” (presumably the 64th Infantry Division headquartered at Urumiyeh—formerly called Rezaiyeh—West Azerbaijan). He also has the support of most of the Air Force pilots but not the Homafars (Air Force technicians).

e. He says that the [2 lines not declassified].

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Intelligence Files, Box I031, Carter Intelligence Files Sep–Dec 1980. Secret. [name not declassified] sent the paper to Saunders and Hunter of the NSC Staff under an August 15 covering memorandum.