Covert United States foreign regime change actions


Covert United States foreign regime change actions
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The United States government has been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of foreign governments (more recently termed regime change) without the overt use of U.S. military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Many of the governments targeted by the U.S. have been democratically elected, rather than authoritarian governments or military dictatorships. In many cases, the governments toppled were replaced by dictatorships, sometimes installed with assistance by the U.S.

Regime change has been attempted through direct involvement of U.S. operatives, the funding and training of insurgency groups within these countries, anti-regime propaganda campaigns, coup d'états, and other, often illegal, activities usually conducted as operations by the CIA. The U.S. has also accomplished regime change by direct military action, such as following the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some argue that non-transparent United States government agencies working in secret sometimes mislead or do not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders and that this has been an important component of many such operations.[1] See Plausible deniability. Some contend that the US has supported more coups against democracies that it perceived as communist, or becoming communist.[1]

Notwithstanding a history of U.S. covert actions to topple democratic governments and of installing authoritarian regimes in their places (see, e.g. Iran 1953, below), U.S. officials routinely express support for democracy as best supporting U.S. interests and as protecting human life and health.[2][3][4]

Contents

Prior to World War II

Russia

The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 was met with overt hostility from President Woodrow Wilson's administration. After withdrawing funding for Russia and opposing a British and French plan to include the Bolsheviks as allies against Germany in 1918, the United States extended its maritime blockade of Germany to include Soviet Russia and began covertly supporting Russian opposition factions.[5][6]

In 1918, the Allied powers including the United States began a military intervention in the Russian Civil War. At the request of the British and French, the U.S. sent troops to the Russian port cities of Vladivostok and Archangelsk. President Wilson appointed General William S. Graves to lead the thousands of American troops at Vladivostok.[7][8]

During the Cold War

Communist states 1945-1989

The United States supported resistance movements and dissidents in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. One example is the counterespionage operations following the discovery of the Farewell dossier which some argue contributed to the fall of The Soviet Regime.[9][10] The National Endowment for Democracy supported pro-capitalist movements in the communist states and has been accused of secretly supporting regime change, which it denies.[11][12][13] Many of the Eastern European states later turned to capitalism and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition to this the perceived threat of worldwide sometimes Soviet-sponsored revolutionary guerrilla movements—often involved in wars of national liberation—defined much of U.S. foreign policy in the Third World with regard to covert action and led to what could be considered as proxy wars between the United States and Soviet Union.

Iran 1953

In 1953, the CIA worked with the United Kingdom to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran's petroleum industry, threatening the profits of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Declassified CIA documents show that Britain was fearful of Iran's plans to nationalize its oil industry and pressed the U.S. to mount a joint operation to depose the prime minister and install a puppet regime.[14] In 1951 the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the petroleum fields of the country.[14][15]

The coup was led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt). With help from British intelligence, the CIA planned, funded and implemented Operation Ajax.[16] In the months before the coup, the UK and U.S. imposed a boycott of the country, exerted other political pressures, and conducted a massive covert propaganda campaign to create the environment necessary for the coup. The CIA hired Iranian agents provocateurs who posed as communists, harassed religious leaders and staged the bombing of one cleric's home to turn the Islamic religious community against the government. For the U.S. audience, the CIA hoped to plant articles in U.S. newspapers saying that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi's return to govern Iran resulted from a homegrown revolt against what was being represented to the U.S. public as a communist-leaning government. The CIA successfully used its contacts at the Associated Press to put on the newswire in the U.S. a statement from Tehran about royal decrees that the CIA itself had written.[14]

The coup initially failed and the Shah fled the country. After four days of rioting, Shi'ite-sparked street protests backed by pro-Shah army units defeated Mossadeq's forces and the Shah returned to power.[17] After the coup, his rule was more autocratic, with little concern for democracy.[18][19]

Supporters of the coup have argued that Mossadegh had become the de facto dictator of Iran, citing his dissolution of the Parliament and the Supreme Court, and his abolishment of free elections with a secret ballot, after he declared victory in a referendum where he claimed 99.9% of the vote.[20] Darioush Bayandor has argued that the CIA botched their coup attempt and that a popular uprising, instigated by top Shi'ite clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi and Abol-Ghasem Kashani (who were certain that Mosaddegh was taking the nation toward religious indifference, and worried that he had banished the Shah), instigated street riots to return the Shah to power four days after the failed coup.[17]

The CIA subsequently used the apparent success of their Iranian coup project to bolster their image in American government circles. They expanded their reach into other countries, taking a greater portion of American intelligence assets based on their record in Iran.[17]

Tibet 1950s

The CIA armed an anti-Communist insurgency for decades in order to oppose the invasion of Tibet by Chinese forces and the subsequent control of Tibet by China. The program had a record of almost unmitigated failure.[21]

Guatemala 1954

The CIA participated in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala led by Jacobo Arbenz.[22][23][24][25] Arbenz was elected without a secret ballot. His land reform was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which he then purged. [26] The CIA intervened because it feared that a communist government would become "a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere",[27] and because it was protecting, among others, four hundred thousand acres of land the United Fruit Company had acquired. Guatemala's official 1999 truth commission accused Arbenz of being involved in the deaths of several hundred political opponents.[28]

Cuba 1959

The largest and most complicated coup effort, approved at White House level, was the Bay of Pigs operation. Under initiatives by the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, CIA-trained Cuban anti-communist exiles and refugees to land in Cuba and attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Plans originally formed under Eisenhower were scaled back under Kennedy.

The CIA made a number of attempts to assassinate Castro, often with White House approval, as in Operation Mongoose.

Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960

In 1960, Belgium granted independence to its most prized territory, the Belgian Congo. A leader of the successful anti-colonial struggle, Patrice Émery Lumumba was elected to be the first prime minister of the country that following its independence from colonial rule had become known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[29]

Soon after the election, during the Congo Crisis, the CIA and the Belgian government orchestrated a military coup to remove the Lumumba government from power. Lumumba was subsequently murdered in prison.[30]

Iraq 1963

In February 1963, the United States backed a coup against the government of Iraq headed by General Abd al-Karim Qasim, who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. The US was concerned about the growing influence of Communist Iraqi government officials under his administration, as well as his threats to invade Kuwait, which almost caused a war between Iraq and England.

While Qasim was actually killed by a firing squad of the Ba'ath party that overthrew him, there had been a separate CIA plan to incapacitate him. In their request, they said the target's death would not be unacceptable to them, but was not the principal objective: "We do not consciously seek subject's permanent removal from the scene; we also do not object should this complication develop."

Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to President John F. Kennedy on the day of the takeover.

That Komer wrote that memo to Kennedy, without spending any time on additional research, may suggest, but does not confirm, the National Security Council, a covert operations approval committee, or Kennedy knew of planning against Qasim.

Although U.S. opposition to the Qasim regime is beyond dispute, some scholars have challenged the idea that the CIA played any direct role in his removal.[31]

Brazil 1964

A democratically-elected government headed by President João Goulart was successfully overthrown by a CIA-supported coup in March 1964. On March 30, the American military attaché in Brazil, Colonel Vernon A. Walters, telegraphed the State Department. In that telegraph, he confirmed that Brazilian army generals, independently of the US, had committed themselves to acting against Goulart within a week of the meeting, but no date was set.[32]

Declassified transcripts of communications between US ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon and the U.S. government show that, predicting an all-out civil war, President Johnson authorized logistical materials to be in place to support the coup-side of the rebellion as part of U.S. Operation Brother Sam.[33]

In the telegraphs, Gordon also acknowledges U.S. involvement in "covert support for pro-democracy street rallies...and encouragement [of] democratic and anti-communist sentiment in Congress, armed forces, friendly labor and student groups, church, and business" and that he "may be requesting modest supplementary funds for other covert action programs in the near future."[34]

In 2001, Gordon published a book,Brazil's Second Chance: En Route Toward the First World, on Brazilian history since the military coup. In it, he denied a role in the coup. However, James N. Green, an American historian of Brazil, argued: "[Gordon] changed Brazil's history, for he....made it clear that, if the coup was advanced, the United States was going to recognize it immediately, which was fundamental [to the plotters]."[35]

Republic of Ghana 1966

On 24 February 1966, Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana, was overthrown in a military coup backed by the CIA while on a state visit to North Vietnam and China.[36][37][38][39][40][41]

A series of subsequent coups from 1966 to 1981 ended with the ascension to power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. These changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. The economy suffered a severe decline soon after, and many Ghanaians migrated to other countries. Although most migrating Ghanaians went to Nigeria, the Nigerian government deported about a million Ghanaians back to Ghana in 1983.

Iraq 1968

The leader of the new Baathist government, Salam Arif, died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, not a Ba'athist, assumed the presidency.[42] Said K. Abuirsh alleges that in 1967, the government of Iraq was very close to giving concessions for the development of huge new oil fields in the country to France and the USSR. He suggested that Robert Anderson, former secretary of the treasury under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, secretly met with the Ba'ath Party and came to a negotiated agreement according to which both the oil field concessions and sulfur mined in the northern part of the country would go to United States companies if the Ba'ath again took power.[43] In 1968, the CIA allegedly backed the coup by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Baath Party, bringing Saddam Hussein to the threshold of power.[42][43]

Former CIA Near East Division Chief James Chritchfield maintains that the CIA played no direct role in the 1963 coup, but that it viewed the Ba'ath Party favorably and offered support after they had taken over. He referred to the subsequent coups that brought Saddam to power as "counter-coups" that enabled the "radical" elements of the Party. "We did not identify a radical movement within the Ba'ath", he said. "That was our mistake—that surprised us."[44] The U.S. broke all relations with Iraq in 1967. After al-Bakr seized power in 1968, relations remained completely severed for 16 years and the U.S. made arms sales to Iraq illegal in a law passed by Congress. In June 1972, the Iraqi government nationalized the oil assets of British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, Compagnie Française des Petroles, Mobil Oil and Standard Oil of New Jersey.[45]

Official CIA records do not indicate that the CIA supported the 1968 coup in Iraq.[31]

David Wise, a Washington-based author who has written extensively about Cold War espionage, has disputed the notion that the CIA supported the 1968 coup, as has Middle East analyst James Phillips. According to a 2003 report by Common Dreams, "many experts, including foreign affairs scholars, say there is little to suggest U.S. involvement in Iraq in the 1960s", although it is widely acknowledged that the CIA worked to destabilize the Qasim regime in the early part of the decade.[31] Robert Dreyfuss, in his book Devil's Game, maintains that the Johnson administration actually opposed the 1968 coup and used the Shah's Iran as a counterpoint to the Ba'athist regime it established. A 2006 study concluded that the CIA's alleged role in the coup "cannot be considered historical" in the absence of more compelling evidence.[46] The Church Committee and Pike Committee investigations did not find any evidence of CIA involvement in Iraq outside of a handful of plots against Qasim in the early '60s.

Chile 1973

The U.S. Government's hostility to the election of Socialist President Salvador Allende government was substantiated[47] in documents declassified during the Clinton administration; involving the CIA, which show that covert operatives were inserted in Chile, in order to prevent a Marxist government from arising and for the purpose of spreading anti-Allende propaganda.[48][49] While U.S. government hostility to the democratically-elected Allende government is unquestioned, the U.S. role in the coup itself remains a highly controversial matter.

The CIA, as recounted in the Church Committee report, was involved in various plots designed to remove Allende and then let the Chileans vote in a new election where he would not be a candidate: It tried to buy off the Chilean Congress to prevent his appointment, attempted to have him exiled, worked to sway public opinion against him to prevent his election, tried to foil his political aspirations during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, and financed protests designed to bring the country to a stand-still and make him resign. Convinced that a conventional military uprising was still not possible in Chile, the CIA, acting with the approval of the 40 Committee—the body charged with overseeing covert actions abroad—devised what in effect was a constitutional coup. The most expeditious way to prevent Allende from assuming office was somehow to convince the Chilean congress to confirm Jorge Alessandri as the winner of the election. Once elected by the congress, Alessandri—a party to the plot through intermediaries—was prepared to resign his presidency within a matter of days so that new elections could be held.

The CIA also learned of a number of plots to establish a military dictatorship. Although it pointedly refused to materially assist any of them, and actually worked to prevent several of the more unlikely plots for fear they would fail and strengthen Allende; it also encouraged several of the plots and did nothing to prevent them. It assured the plotters that such an event would be welcomed in Washington and that the U.S. woud not cut off aid over potential human rights violations.

A Chilean Supreme Court investigation accused Allende of support of armed groups, torture, illegal arrests, muzzling the press, confiscating private property, and not allowing people to leave the country.[50]

Another aspect of the American role in Chile was an alleged attempt on the life of Chilean general Rene Schneider in 1970, due to his support for the appointment of Allende. The Church hearings found that the CIA did in fact give weapons to a group of men who it knew had attacked him twice before, ostensibly as a test of loyalty so that the CIA would remain privy to their information, but that the weapons provided and the group thereby armed were not the ones who actually killed him. The weapons were returned unused to the CIA and then discarded in the Pacific Ocean.[51] On June 11, 1971, Kissinger and Nixon said the following in a private conversation:

Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.[52]

There are two possible interpretations of these remarks: a) Kissinger was telling the President that a military coup could not succeed in Chile because there were no officers both willing and able to carry one out; or b) the two men were mocking the CIA's squeamishness about killing Schneider.[52]

The Senate Intelligence Committee, in its investigation of the matter, concluded that since the machine guns supplied to Valenzuela had not actually been employed in the killing, and since General Viaux had been officially discouraged by the CIA a few days before the murder, there was therefore "no evidence of a plan to kill Schneider or that United States officials specifically anticipated that Schneider would be shot during the abduction." This view has been disputed by writer Christopher Hitchens.[53]

Afghanistan 1973-74

Roger Morris, writing in the Asia Times, argued that as early as 1973-74, the CIA began offering covert backing to radical Islamist rebels in Afghanistan premised on the claim that the authoritarian government headed by Mohammed Daoud Khan might prove a likely instrument of Soviet military aggression in South Asia. Morris argues that the Soviets had also shown no inclination to use the notoriously unruly Afghans and their army for any expansionist aim.[42] Morris claims that during this period U.S. foreign policy leaders saw the Soviets as always being "on the march." U.S. secret backing of the Islamist rebels ceased following an abortive uprising in 1975.[42]

In 1974, the Islamists plotted a military coup, but Daoud's regime discovered the plot and imprisoned the leaders—at least those who did not escape to Pakistan. The following year, the Islamists attempted a failing uprising in the Panjshir Valley.

Michael Rubin, of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, records only covert Pakistani support for the two failed coups against Daoud, without any apparent CIA role.[54] Rubin claims that the ISI had reason to fear the Afghan regime, noting that Daud had twice mobilized for war with Pakistan in the early sixties and that the Afghans were covertly arming separatist Pashtun rebels in the country.[55]

Iraq 1973-75

The CIA colludes with the Shah of Iran to finance and arm Kurdish rebels in an attempt to overthrow al-Bakr. When Iran and Iraq sign a peace treaty in 1975, the support ceases. The Shah denies the Kurds refuge in Iran, even as many are slaughtered. The U.S. decides not to press the issue with the Shah.[56] "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work", declares Sec. of State Henry Kissinger.[57] Subsequently, Al-Bakr attempts in 1979 to demote the Vice-President, Saddam Hussein, to a position of relative obscurity. Saddam responds with a counter-coup, forcing al-Bakr to resign, conducting a ruthless purge of hundreds of Ba'athists and naming himself President.

The American betrayal of the Kurds was investigated by the Pike Committee, which described it as cynical and self-serving.[56] It has been argued that it tarnished America's image with one of the most pro-Western groups in the Middle East.[58]

Argentina 1976

María Estela Martínez de Perón

The democratically elected government of Argentina headed by Isabel Martínez de Perón was successfully overthrown by a military putsch in March 1976. Eight days before the coup, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, Chief of the Argentine Navy and a major coup plotter, turned to Ambassador Robert Hill, U.S. ambassador to Argentina, for help in getting a recommendation for an American public relations firm that would manage the Argentine coup leaders' propaganda campaign for the coup and for the crackdown against democracy and human rights activists that was to follow. Ambassador Hill stated that the United States government cannot interfere in such affairs and provided Admiral Massera with a list of reputable public relations firms maintained by the Embassy. Also, more than two months before the coup, senior coup plotters consulted with American officials in Argentina about the coup, and Ambassador Hill reported to Washington that he was encouraged that the military coup plotters were "aware of the problem" that their killings might cause and "are already focusing on ways to avoid letting human rights issues become an irritant in US-Argentine relations" by being pro-active with the preparation of the public relations operation.[59]

U.S. planners were aware that the coup would be unlikely to succeed without murderous repression. Two days after the coup, Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers, advised Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that "we ought not at this moment rush out and embrace this new regime" because he expected significant repression to follow the coup.

"I think also we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they're going to have to come down very hard not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties."

But Kissinger made his preferences clear: "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement... because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States."[60]

Afghanistan 1978-1980s

President Carter reacted with "open-mouthed shock" to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and began promptly arming the Afghan insurgents.[61] Vice-President Walter Mondale famously declared: "I cannot understand – it just baffles me – why the Soviets these last few years have behaved as they have. Maybe we have made some mistakes with them. Why did they have to build up all these arms? Why did they have to go into Afghanistan? Why can't they relax just a little bit about Eastern Europe? Why do they try every door to see if it is locked?"[62] The Soviets, several times shortly before the invasion, had staged conversations with the Afghan leadership suggesting that they had no desire to intervene, even as the Politburo was—with much hesitation—considering such an intervention. Though some have argued that US financial assistance to Afghan dissidents, including Islamists and other militants, prior to the invasion; along with a Soviet desire to protect the leftist Afghan government, helped convince the Soviets to intervene, the Soviets executed the Afghan President and his son, replacing him with a puppet regime, immediately after the invasion for fear that the US had secretly been collaborating with him.[63]

A 2002 study found that, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the United States had sought rapprochement with the Afghan government—a prospect that the USSR found unacceptable (especially as its own leverage over the regime was wearing thin). Thus, the Soviets intervened to preserve their influence in the country.[64]

One of the CIA's longest and most expensive covert operations was the supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants.[65] The CIA provided assistance to the fundamentalist insurgents through the Pakistani secret services, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in a program called Operation Cyclone. Somewhere between $2–$20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to train and equip troops with weapons.

According to the "Progressive South Asia Exchange Net", claiming to cite an article in Le Nouvel Observateur, U.S. policy, unbeknownst even to the Mujahideen, was part of a larger strategy of aiming "to induce a Soviet military intervention."[66] The article includes a brief interview with Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in which he is quoted as saying that the US provided aid to the mujahideen prior to the Soviet invasion in order to delibrately provoke one. Brzezinski himself has denied the accuracy of the interview.[67] According to Brzezinski, an NSC working group on Afghanistan wrote several reports on the deteriorating situation in 1979, but President Carter ignored them until the Soviet intervention destroyed his illusions. Brzezinski has stated that the US provided communications equipment and limited financial aid to the mujahideen prior to the "formal" invasion, but only in response to the Soviet deployment of forces to Afghanistan and the 1978 coup, and with the intention of preventing further Soviet encroachment in the region. Two declassified documents signed by Carter shortly before the invasion do authorize the provision "unilaterally or through third countries as appropriate support to the Afghan insurgents either in the form of cash or non-military supplies" and the "worldwide" distribution of "non-attributable propaganda" to "expose" the leftist Afghan government as "despotic and subservient to the Soviet Union" and to "publicize the efforts of the Afghan insurgents to regain their country's sovereignty", but the records also show that the provision of arms to the rebels did not begin until 1980.[68][69]

The Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 significantly damaged the already tenuous relationship between Secretary of State Vance and Brzezinski. Vance felt that Brzezinski's linkage of SALT to other Soviet activities and the MX, together with the growing domestic criticisms in the United States of the SALT II Accord, convinced Brezhnev to decide on military intervention in Afghanistan. Brzezinski, however, later recounted that he repeatedly advanced proposals on how to maintain Afghanistan's "independence" and deter a Soviet invasion but was frustrated by the Department of State's opposition.

According to Eric Alterman of The Nation, Cyrus Vance's close aide Marshall Shulman "insists that the State Department worked hard to dissuade the Soviets from invading and would never have undertaken a program to encourage it" and President Carter has said it was definitely "not my intention" to inspire a Soviet invasion but to deter one.[70] Bob Gates, in his book Out Of The Shadows, wrote that Pakistan had actually been "pressuring" the United States for arms to aid the rebels for years, but that the Carter administration refused in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution to avoid war. Brzezinski seemed to have been in favor of the provision of arms to the rebels, while Vance's State Department, seeking a peaceful settlement, publicly accused Brzezinski of seeking to "revive" the Cold War. Gates, however, has questioned if the US financial aid did increase the chances of the Soviets intervening, writing that some CIA officers involved assumed that that was President Carter's intention.

The Soviet invasion and occupation killed up to 2 million Afghans.[71] Brzezinski defended the arming of the rebels in response, saying that it "was quite important in hastening the end of the conflict", thereby saving the lives of thousands of Afghans, but "not in deciding the conflict, because actually the fact is that even though we helped the mujaheddin, they would have continued fighting without our help, because they were also getting a lot of money from the Persian Gulf and the Arab states, and they weren't going to quit. They didn't decide to fight because we urged them to. They're fighters, and they prefer to be independent. They just happen to have a curious complex: they don't like foreigners with guns in their country. And they were going to fight the Soviets. Giving them weapons was a very important forward step in defeating the Soviets, and that's all to the good as far as I'm concerned." When he was asked if he thought it was the right decision in retrospect (given the Taliban's subsequent rise to power), he said: "Which decision? For the Soviets to go in? The decision was the Soviets', and they went in. The Afghans would have resisted anyway, and they were resisting. I just told you: in my view, the Afghans would have prevailed in the end anyway, 'cause they had access to money, they had access to weapons, and they had the will to fight." The interviewer then asked: "So US support for the mujaheddin only begins after the Russians invade, not before?" Brzezinski replied: "With arms? Absolutely afterwards. No question about it. Show me some documents to the contrary."[72] Likewise; Charlie Wilson said: "The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people's decision to fight ... but we'll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones."[73] The 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War celebrated Charlie Wilson's and the CIA's involvement in the repulsion of the USSR troops from Afghanistan. Representative Wilson was awarded the Honored College Award by the CIA for his involvement.[74]

With US and other funding, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents. On July 20, 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced pursuant to the negotiations that led to the Geneva Accords of 1988,[75] with the last Soviets leaving on February 15, 1989.

The early foundations of al-Qaida were built in part on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in U.S. support for the Afghan mujahadin during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country.[76] The initial bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the USS Cole, and the attacks of September 11 were all allegedly linked to individuals and groups that at one time were armed and trained by the United States and/or its allies.[77]

Iran 1980

Alleged U.S. green light for Saddam

The Iranian Shah meeting with President Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977.

Diplomatic relations with Iraq had been severed shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War. A decade later, following a series of major political developments, particularly after the Iranian Revolution and the seizure of embassy staff in the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis, President Jimmy Carter ordered a review of American policy toward Iraq.

According to Kenneth R. Timmerman, the "Islamic revolution in Iran upset the entire strategic equation in the region. America's principal ally in the Persian Gulf, the Shah, was swept aside overnight, and no one else on the horizon could replace him as the guarantor of U.S. interests in the region."[78]

During the crisis, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attempted to take advantage of the disorder of the Revolution, the weakness of the Iranian military and the revolution's antagonism with Western governments. The Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolt and with the Shah ousted, Hussein had ambitions to position himself as the new strong man of the Middle East. "He condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and signed an alliance with Saudi Arabia to block the Soviet-backed attempt to take over North Yemen. In 1979 he also allowed the CIA, which he had once so virulently attacked, to open an office in Baghdad."[79] Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter, "began to look more favorably toward Saddam Hussein as a potential counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini and as a force to contain Soviet expansionism in the region."[78][80]

The hint of change in the U.S. attitude toward Iraq was warmly welcomed in Baghdad... Saddam Hussein believed that recognition by the United States of Iraq's role as a counter to radical, fundamentalist Iran would boost his ambition of becoming the acknowledged head of the Arab world. ... Saddam had an old score to settle with the Iranians over his southern border. He had never liked the agreement signed with the Shah in 1975. He felt confident he could regain the lost territory and probably topple the anti-American regime in Tehran by taking swift military action. He had no illusions that the United States would openly support the war he proposed to start. But getting rid of the Ayatollah Khomeini was clearly in the American interest, and in many other ways the United States and Iraq could benefit each other, Saddam believed. It was time to renew diplomatic relations with Washington and to move on quickly to more elaborate forms of strategic cooperation. p. 75

Biographer Said K. Aburish, author of Saddam Hussein: The Politics Of Revenge, says the Iraqi dictator made a visit to Amman in the year 1979, before the Iran–Iraq War, where he met with King Hussein and, very possibly, three agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Aburish says there is "considerable evidence that he discussed his plans to invade Iran with the CIA agents."[81][82] Timmerman records American officials meeting only with King Hussein on precisely the same date, noting this "top-secret negotiating session was Brzezinski's idea." He quotes National Security Council staff member and former aide Gary G. Sick:[78]

Brzezinski was letting Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light for his invasion of Iran, because there was no explicit red light. But to say the U.S. planned and plotted it all out in advance is simply not true. Saddam had his own reasons for invading Iran, and they were sufficient. p. 76

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski's memoir, the United States initially took a largely neutral position on the Iran–Iraq War, with some minor exceptions. First, the U.S. acted in an attempt to prevent the confrontation from widening, largely in order to prevent additional disruption to world oil supplies and to honor U.S. security assurances to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the U.S. reacted to Soviet troop movements on the border of Iran by informing the Soviet Union that they would defend Iran in the event of Soviet invasion. The U.S. also acted to defend Saudi Arabia, and lobbied the surrounding states not to become involved in the war. Brzezinski characterizes this recognition of the Middle East as a vital strategic region on a par with Western Europe and the Far East as a fundamental shift in U.S. strategic policy.[83] Second, the United States explored whether the Iran–Iraq War would offer leverage with which to resolve the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In this regard, the Carter administration explored the use of both "carrots", by suggesting that they might offer military assistance to Iran upon release of the hostages, and "sticks", by discouraging Israeli military assistance to Iran and suggesting that they might offer military assistance to Iraq if the Iranians did not release the hostages. Third, as the war progressed, freedom of navigation, especially at the Strait of Hormuz, was deemed a critical priority.[83]

Effort to destabilize through war

During the war, the US covertly worked to destabilize both Iran and Iraq. By 1982, the war's momentum had shifted to Iran, which was threatening Basra, Iraq's second largest city. According to a 1995 affidavit by Reagan National Security Council staffer Howard Teicher, "In the Spring of 1982, Iraq teetered on the brink of losing its war with Iran.... In June, 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States... would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran."

Donald Rumsfeld, Ronald Reagan's special envoy, meeting Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983 to buttress ties and cooperation.

But by 1985, the US was working to contain the Iraqis. A May 1985 CIA memo to Director Casey said, "Our tilt to Iraq was timely when Iraq was against the ropes and the Islamic revolution was on a roll. The time may now have to come to tilt back...."[84] In September 1986, Reagan official Oliver North promised Iran that the US could "bring our influence to bear with certain friendly Arab nations" to oust the Hussein regime.[84] Earlier, in February 1986, while these secret discussions were taking place, Iran scored a major victory by capturing Iraq's Fao Peninsula. The New York Times (1/19/87) reported that Iraqi officials believed that their defeat at Fao "was due to faulty U.S. intelligence." Iraq detected Iranian troop movements, the Iraqi official said, but the U.S. "kept on telling us that the Iranian attack was not aimed against Fao."[84] When Iraq intentionally attacked the USS Stark, however, the US did not punish Iraq. From 24 July 1987 - 26 September 1988, the U.S. Navy launched Operation Earnest Will, in which the US escorted and protected Kuwaiti oil tankers from Iranian attacks, at Kuwait's request.[85] Operation Earnest Will was the largest naval convoy operation undertaken by the US since World War II and constituted a policy of "neutral intervention", calculated to be delterious to Iran but officially maintaining the US policy of neutrality.[86]

Between 1987 and 1988, the US engaged in a secret effort to spy on Iran with aircraft, in what was called Operation Eager Glacier.Operation Prime Chance was a U.S. naval operation from August 1987 until June 1989, said by the U.S. to be in response to the mining of the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti oil tanker Bridgeton. Operation Nimble Archer was the U.S. naval attack on October 19, 1987 on two Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. The attack, claimed by the U.S. to be response to Iran's October 16, 1987 attack with a Silkworm missile on the MV Sea Isle City, a Kuwaiti oil tanker reflagged as a U.S. vessel at anchor off Kuwait. On April 18, 1988, the US launched Operation Praying Mantis, claimed by the U.S. to be in response to the mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts. By the end of the operation the American fleet had damaged Iranian naval and intelligence facilities on two inoperable oil platforms in the Persian Gulf, and sunk at least three armed Iranian speedboats, one Iranian frigate and one fast attack gunboat. One other Iranian frigate was damaged in the operation.[87] This American operation is credited with forcing Iran to agree to a ceasefire with Iraq.[88] Also, the US-supported People's Mujahedin of Iran invaded Iran from its base in Iraq shortly after the end of the Iraq-Iran war in a failed attempt to overthrow the government of Iran.

Nicaragua 1981-1990

From 1981-90, the CIA planted mines in civilian harbors and sunk civilian ships in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The U.S. also armed and trained the Contra guerrilla insurgency to destabilize the Nicaraguan government.

Destabilization through CIA assets

In 1983 the CIA created a group of "Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets" (UCLAs), whose task was to "sabotage ports, refineries, boats and bridges, and try to make it look like the contras had done it."[89] In January 1984, these UCLA's carried out the operation for which they would be best known, the last straw that led to the ratifying of the Boland Amendment, the mining of several Nicaraguan harbors, which sank several Nicaraguan boats, damaged at least five foreign vessels, and brought an avalanche of international condemnation down on the United States.[90]

Arming the Contras

North's mugshot taken after his arrest

The Contras, based in neighboring Honduras, waged a guerrilla war of insurgency in an effort to topple the government of Nicaragua and to seize power. The Contras' form of warfare was "one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping."[91][92] The "Contras systematically engage in violent abuses... so prevalent that these may be said to be their principal means of waging war."[93] A Human Rights Watch report found that the Contras were guilty of targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians; torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns.[94]

The Boland Amendment made it illegal under U.S. law to provide arms to the Contra militants. Nevertheless, the Reagan administration continued to arm and fund the Contras by hatching the Iran-Contra plan, pursuant to which the U.S. secretly sold arms to Iran in violation of U.S. law in exchange for cash used by the U.S. to supply arms to the Contras in violation of the Boland Amendment, was planned and executed by a number of senior Reagan officials, including National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Deputy National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, National Security Council staffer Col. Oliver North and others. When the public somehow learned of this, it became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. The U.S. argued that:[95]

The United States initially provided substantial economic assistance to the Sandinista-dominated regime. We were largely instrumental in the OAS action delegitimizing the Somoza regime and laying the groundwork for installation for the new junta. Later, when the Sandinista role in the Salvadoran conflict became clear, we sought through a combination of private diplomatic contacts and suspension of assistance to convince Nicaragua to halt its subversion. Later still, economic measures and further diplomatic efforts were employed to try to effect changes in Sandinista behavior.

Nicaragua's neighbors have asked for assistance against Nicaraguan aggression, and the United States has responded. Those countries have repeatedly and publicly made clear that they consider themselves to be the victims of aggression from Nicaragua, and that they desire United States assistance in meeting both subversive attacks and the conventional threat posed by the relatively immense Nicaraguan Armed Forces.

The Sandinista government headed by Daniel Ortega won decisively in the 1984 Nicaraguan elections, which Western observers called free and fair.[96] The national elections of 1984 were conducted during a state of emergency necessitated by the war fought against the Contras insurgents and the CIA-orchestrated bombings. Many political prisoners were still held as it took place, and none of the main opposition parties participated due to what they claimed were threats and persecution from the government. The 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate, a body "no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc."[97] The U.S. continued to pressure the government by illegally arming the Contras insurgency. On October 5, 1985 the Sandinistas broadened the state of emergency begun in 1982 and suspended many more civil rights. A new regulation also forced any organization outside of the government to first submit any statement it wanted to make public to the censorsip bureau for prior censorship.[98]

As the Contras' insurgency continued, funded by US aid, the Sandinistas struggled to maintain power. They were overthrown in 1990, when they ended the SOE and held an election that all the main opposition parties competed in. According to the satirist P.J. O'Rourke, the Sandinistas were forced to agree to the elections by the US and the Contras, and lost them despite "the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, the Sandinista control of the transit system that prevented UNO supporters from attending rallies, the Sandinista domination of the army that forced soldiers to vote for Ortega and the Sandinista bureaucracy keeping $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Daniel Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury."[99]

El Salvador 1980-92

In the Salvadoran Civil War between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or umbrella organization of five left-wing militias; the US supported the Salvadoran military government.[100][101] America also supported the centrist Christian Democrats, who were targets of death squads. The security forces were split between reformists and right-wing extremists, who used death squads to stop political and economic change. The Carter Administration repeatedly intervened to prevent right-wing coups. The Reagan Administration repeatedly threatened aid suspensions to halt right-wing atrocities. As a result, the death squads made plans to kill the American Ambassador.[102] After years of bloody fighting; the rebels were forced, in part due to US involvement, to concede defeat. The US then threatened to cut off aid to the Salvadoran regime unless it made democratic reforms, which might have let the rebels regroup. The regime accepted. As a result; a new Constitution was promulgated, the Armed Forces regulated, a "civilian" police force established, the FMLN metamorphosed from a guerrilla army to a political party that competed in free and fair elections, and an amnesty law was legislated in 1993.[103] El Salvador is today a prosperous and democratic nation. In 2002, a BBC article about President George W. Bush's visit to El Salvador reported that "U.S. officials say that President George H.W. Bush's policies set the stage for peace, turning El Salvador into a democratic success story."[104]

Cambodia 1980-95

The Reagan Administration sought to apply the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-Soviet resistance movements abroad to Cambodia, which was under Vietnamese occupation following the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Communist Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese had installed a Communist government led by a Khmer Rouge dissident. According to R. J. Rummel; the Vietnamese invasion, occupation, puppet regime, ongoing guerrilla warfare, and ensuing famine killed 1.2 million Cambodians in addition to the roughly 2 million who had been killed by the Khmer Rouge.[105] The largest resistance movement fighting Cambodia's communist government was largely made up of members of the former Khmer Rouge regime, whose human rights record was among the worst of the 20th century. Therefore; Reagan authorized the provision of aid to a smaller Cambodian resistance movement, a coalition called the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, known as the KPNLF and then run by Son Sann; in an effort to force an end to the Vietnamese occupation. Eventually, the Vietnamese withdrew, and Cambodia's Communist regime fell.[106] Later, US troops, in concert with UN forces, invaded Cambodia and held free elections.[107]

Angola 1980s

South African military intervention against the communist MPLA government in Angola led to decades of civil war that cost 1 million lives.[108] The Reagan administration offered covert aid to a group of anti-Communist rebels led by Jonas Savimbi, called UNITA, whose insurgency was backed by South Africa. Dr, Peter Hammond, a Christian missionary who lived in Angola at the time, recalled: "There were over 50,000 Cuban troops in the country. The Communists had attacked and destroyed many churches. MiG-23s and Mi-24 Hind helicopter gun ships were terrorising villagers in Angola. I documented numerous atrocities, including the strafing of villages, schools and churches. In 1986, I remember hearing Ronald Reagan's speech – carried on the BBC Africa service – by short wave radio: "We are going to send stinger missiles to the UNITA Freedom Fighters in Angola!" Those who were listening to the SW radio with me looked at one another in stunned amazement. After a long silence as we wondered if our ears had actually heard what we thought we heard, one of us said: "That would be nice!" We scarcely dared believe that it would happen. But it did. Not long afterwards the stinger missiles began to arrive in UNITA controlled Free Angola. Soviet aircraft were shot down. The bombing and strafing of villagers, schools and churches came to an end. Without any doubt, Ronald Reagan's policies saved many tens of thousands of lives in Angola."[109]

Philippines 1986

The United States had for many decades coddled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, even as his regime abused human rights and his wife Imelda Marcos plundered their country of billions of dollars. The U.S. support was based on the U.S. military's desire of Philippine territory for its naval bases. But some American presidents, such a Ronald Reagan, were genuinely fond of Marcos, calling him a "freedom fighter."[110]

Notwithstanding the history of U.S. support, when his grip on power was slipping, the US, for fear that the former ally had become a liability, played a significant role in pressuirng Marcos to step down and in the peaceful transition to democracy in the Philippines.[110][111]

Since the end of the Cold War

Iraq 1992-1995

According to former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by The New York Times, the CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq via one of the insurgent organizations, the Iraqi National Accord, led by Iyad Allawi. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein's rule.[112]

According to the Iraqi government at the time, and former CIA officer Robert Baer, the bombing campaign against Baghdad included both government and civilian targets. According to this former CIA official, the civilian targets included a movie theater and a bombing of a school bus and schoolchildren were killed. No public records of the secret bombing campaign are known to exist, and the former U.S. officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. "But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former CIA official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then." The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many civilian casualties. In 1996, Amneh al-Khadami, who described himself as the chief bomb maker for the Iraqi National Accord, recorded a videotape in which he talked of the bombing campaign and complained that he was being shortchanged money and supplies. Two former intelligence officers confirmed the existence of the videotape. Mr. Khadami said that "we blew up a car, and we were supposed to get $2,000" but got only $1,000, as reported in 1997 by the British newspaper The Independent, which had obtained a copy of the videotape.[112] The campaign was directed by CIA asset Dr. Iyad Allawi,[113] later installed as interim prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Guatemala 1993

In 1993 the CIA helped in overthrowing Jorge Serrano Elías. Jorge then attempted a self-coup, suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, and imposed censorship. He was replaced by Ramiro de León Carpio.[114]

Serbia 2000

The United States is alleged to have made secret effort to topple the nationalist Slobodan Milošević in Serbia during and after the events of the Kosovo War. The 5 October Revolution removed Milošević and installed a pro-western government which permitted the extradition of Milosevic and other war crime suspects.[115][116]

Venezuela 2002

In 2002, Washington is claimed to have approved and supported a coup against the Venezuelan government. Senior officials, including Special Envoy to Latin America Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra figure and George W. Bush "democracy 'czar'" Elliott Abrams, were allegedly part of the plot.[117] Top coup plotters, including Pedro Carmona, the man installed during the coup as the new president, began visits to the White House months before the coup and continued until weeks before the putsch. The plotters were received at the White House by the man President George W. Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Special Envoy Otto Reich.[117] It has been claimed by Venezuelan news sources that Reich was the U.S. mastermind of the coup.[118]

Former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, told the British newspaper the Guardian that American military attaches had been in touch with members of the Venezuelan military to explore the possibility of a coup. "I first heard of Lieutenant Colonel James Rogers [the assistant military attaché now based at the U.S. embassy in Caracas] going down there last June [2001] to set the ground", Mr. Madsen reported, adding: "Some of our counter-narcotics agents were also involved." He claims the U.S. Navy assisted with signals intelligence as the coup played out and helped by jamming communications for the Venezuelan military, focusing on jamming communications to and from the diplomatic missions in Caracas. The U.S. embassy dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous".[119]

The U.S. also funded opposition groups in the year leading up to the coup, channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to U.S. and Venezuelan groups opposed to President Hugo Chávez, including the labor group whose protests sparked off the coup. The funds were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED),[119] a nonprofit organization whose roots, according to an article in Slate trace back to the late 1960s when the public learned of CIA machinations to covertly fund parties and activists opposing the Soviets. Congress created the NED in 1983 which disburses money to pro-democracy groups around the globe and do so openly.[120] The State Department is now examining whether one or more recipients of the NED money may have actively plotted against the Venezuelan government.[119]

Bush Administration officials and anonymous sources acknowledged meeting with some of the planners of the coup in the several weeks prior to April 11, but have strongly denied encouraging the coup itself, saying that they insisted on constitutional means.[121] Because of allegations, Sen. Christopher Dodd requested a review of U.S. activities leading up to and during the coup attempt. A U.S. State Department Office of Inspector General report found no "wrongdoing" by U.S. officials either in the State Department or in the U.S. Embassy.[122]

Haiti 2004

The insurgency against the government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was allegedly supported by the United States, and Aristide claims he was physically removed from the country by U.S. personnel against his wishes.[123][124][125][126]

Palestinian Authority, 2006-present

After winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Hamas and Fatah formed the Palestinan authority national unity government in 2007, headed by Ismail Haniya. In June 2007 Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip[127] and removed Fatah officials. The ICRC estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15.[128]

In May 2007, US officials promised to continue funding a $84 million aid package aimed at improving the fighting ability of the Abbas Presidential Guard loyal to Fatah. The US insisted that all of its aid to the Presidential Guard is "nonlethal", consisting of training, uniforms, and supplies, as well as paying for better infrastructure at Gaza's borders. "The situation has gotten to be quite dire in Gaza, we have a situation of lawlessness and outright chaos", he said. "This chaotic situation is why the [US] is focused on [helping] the legal, legitimate security forces in our effort to reestablish law and order.", said Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was overseeing the US program.[129][130][131][132]

In the April 2008 the journalist David Rose suggested that the United States collaborated with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to attempt a coup on Hamas, and Hamas pre-empted the coup.[133] Hamas Foreign Minister Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar has echoed this view, and called the arming of Fatah by the United States an "American coup d'état".[134] Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by many Western nations.

Somalia 2006-2007

Although the United States has had an ongoing interest in Somalia for decades, in early 2006 the CIA began a program of funding a coalition of anti-Islamic warlords.[135] This involved the support of CIA case workers operating out of the Nairobi, Kenya office funneling payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. As the power balance shifted towards this alliance, the CIA program backfired and the militias of the Islamic Court Union (ICU) gained control of the country. Although the ICU was locally supported for having restored a relative level of peace[136] to the volatile region after having defeated the CIA-funded Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in the Second Battle of Mogadishu, concerns about the growth and popular support for an Islamic country during the United States' War on Terror led to a new approach of the intervention of CIA, the United States military and Ethiopia's dominantly Christian government.

In late December 2006 a United States-trained[137] and funded Ethiopian military force attacked militias of the ICU in a series of battles known as the War in Somalia.

The use of the Ethiopian Army was seen by the United States as awkward, but necessary way to prevent Somalia from being ruled by an Islamic government unsympathetic to American interests. In December 2006 State Department officials were issued internal guidelines and talking points such as "The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia...."[135] Because of Ethiopia's known human rights abuses such as the massacre of 193 protesters after the 2005 presidential elections, there is conflict between the strategic interest Ethiopia's army and leadership provides in the War on Terror and the human rights this war is allegedly addressing. This conflict has manifested itself in the United States Congress where the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, calls for the millions of foreign aid to Ethiopia only be delivered if there are significant improvements in the democracy and human rights in that country. The Bush Administration and Samuel Assefa, Ethiopia's ambassador to the US were strongly opposed to the bill.[138]

Iran 2001-present

President Bush secretly authorized the CIA to undertake black operations against Iran in an effort to topple the Iranian government. The Black Ops include a U.S. propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize the government, and disrupting the Iranian economy by manipulating the country's currency and its international financial transactions.[139] The United States began to target Iran and several other Muslim countries for regime change starting at least in 2001. The book War and Decision written by Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith quotes a high level government policy memorandum written after September 11, 2001, stating that the United States should "[c]apitalize on our strong suit, which is not finding a few hundred terrorists in caves in Afghanistan, but in the vastness of our military and humanitarian resources, which can strengthen the opposition forces in terrorist-supporting states."[140] The memorandum outlined a list of military actions to be undertaken against some of these states. Undersecretary Feith and Gen. Wesley Clark confirmed that Iran is on this list.

An article in the New York Times in 2005 said that the Bush administration was expanding efforts to influence Iran's internal politics with aid for opposition and pro-democracy groups abroad and longer broadcasts criticizing the Iranian government. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said the administration was "taking a page from the playbook" on Ukraine and Georgia. Un-named administration officials were reported as saying the State Department was also studying dozens of proposals for spending $3 million in the coming year "for the benefit of Iranians living inside Iran" including broadcast activities, Internet programs and "working with people inside Iran" on advancing political activities there.[141]

In 2006, the United States congress passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act which directed $10 million towards groups opposed to the Iranian Government. In 2007, ABC news reported that U.S. president George W. Bush had authorized a $400 million CIA covert operation to destabilize Iran.[142]

Jundullah militants

ABC News and The Daily Telegraph reported, citing U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, that U.S. officials have been secretly encouraging and advising a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah that is responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran.[139] The Jundullah militants "stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera", This militant group is led by a youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, sometimes known as "Regi."

The U.S. provides no direct funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "presidential finding" as well as congressional oversight. Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to Abd el Malik Regi through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Persian Gulf states. A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false", and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group.[143] Regi and Jundullah are also suspected of being associated with al Qaida, a charge that the group has denied. Jundullah "is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists," according to Professor Vali Nasr, "They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture."[144] Regi "used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist", said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members. "Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera", Debat said. Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.[143]

Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan

Another claimed US proxy inside Iran has been the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK). The New Yorker reported in November 2006 that a U.S. government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership leaked the news of secret US support for PEJAK for operations inside Iran, stating that the group had been given "a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.".[145]

People's Mujahedin of Iran

People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran
سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران
Sāzmān-e Mojāhedin-e Khalq-e Irān

Another terrorist group allegedly protected by the United States government that operates out of Iraq is the People's Mujahedin of Iran, PMOI, known also as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq or MEK. PMOI is dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian regime and is accused of orchestrating a series of bombings inside Iran, including one attack that left the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, partially paralyzed.[146][147] Since 1997, the U.S. has listed the PMOI as a terrorist organization.

"They're terrorists only when we consider them terrorists. They might be terrorists in everybody else's books ... It was a strange group of people and the leadership was extremely cruel and extremely vicious."

said Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.[146]

See also

References

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