A Glimpse at Major Military Purchases Done under the late Shah from a Recent Book by one of Shah’s Air Force Generals
Recently I came across a book by one of Iran’s great Air Force pilots and generals, Sepahbod Shapoor Azar Barzin. In his book he provides a fascinating view of the Iranian Air Force and how in a matter of 10-15 years, it became the 5th strongest air force in the world. The 650-page book covers a wide range of topics including the history of modern air force in Iran, the General’s role, the intelligence gathering at the Iranian military (Zed-e-Etela’at), General Khatami, his death and his relationship with the Shah, the role of Homafars during the ’79 revolution and the role of the middlemen and the associated corruption of the military contracts and purchases.
In his book, he names names and provides significant amount of detail about military equipment and systems ranging from fighter jets, missiles, simulators, de-icing equipment, spare parts, construction projects, runway expansions and many other things that were purchased, supervised or performed incorrectly or unethically. He specifically singles out General Toufanian, the head of Logistics of Iranian Military and the retired US General Secord (of Iran-Contra affair) that was the liaison officer to the Iranian Air Force and upon the completion of his service retired and became a coordinator between the Iranian military and the US military vendors and service providers.
In his book, General Azar Barzin describes his run-ins with General Secord and one particular incident in which he threw General Secord out of his office and how the news made it all the way to the Shah himself! According to General Azar Barzin, prior to assuming a formal position in Iran General Secord was involved in covert action in Kurdistan area supplying Mr. Barezani (the current Iraqi Kurd leader) with arms as he was fighting with Saddam. Once Shah signed the 1975 Algiers Agreement with Saddam resolving the Arvand Rood (Shat-ol-Arab) dispute that support went away.
General Secord appeared to be a conduit between major US military manufacturers and Iranian military and even after the revolution he established a connection to the current Regime in Iran with his business partner Mr. Albert Hakim. The two partners and Colonel Oliver North of the Fox News were the masterminds of Iran-Contra affair that provided military equipment to the Islamic Regime and then channeled the proceeds to the Contras in Nicaragua who were fighting the Sandinistas. This was all taking place in the early 80’s when Rafsanjani, Khamenei and Mousavi (currently under house arrest) were running the show in Iran.
General Toufanian stayed in Iran until the time of the revolution and was supposed to leave with General Huyser who was sent by President Carter to “stabilize” Iran! General Huyser’s plane waited for half an hour in Tehran but General Toufanian never showed up and he had to leave without him.
The bulk of these purchasing activities took place starting in the early 70’s when the price of oil quadrupled and Iran’s GDP jumped to $20 billion of which almost one half ($9.4 billion) became the military budget. That was a tremendous injection of money to the Iranian economy which resulted in a boost in the standard of living of many Iranians but a disproportionate part of it ended up as military equipment.
As I look back at Iran of the 70’s and compare it to the “dotcom bubble” of the late 90’s in Corporate America, I see some similarities and obviously some major differences.
In the 90’s Corporate America experienced a major cash inflow that created an interesting challenge for many executives who did not know how to spend their budgets. So they started creating projects, upgrades and replacements without much analysis or justifications. They also quickly realized that they did not have the expertise or management structure to deal with and support such changes and renovations, so they turned to vendors, contractors and consultants who came in, sold their goods and made a lot of money. They also wined and dined the corporate executives, took them to golf outings and fancy resorts. But nobody bribed anybody in the bright daylight.
The “dotcom bubble” burst in the early 2001 and combined with 9/11 brought us the poor economic condition that we are in today.
The “corruption bubble” of the 70’s combined with Savak and a few other things burst in ’79 and brought us the disaster that we call the Islamic Republic.