Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network

Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network

by Ari Ben-Menashe


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Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network by Ari Ben-Menashe

In this seminal work originally published in 1992, an insider account from the man who paid off the Iranians for the American hostages
Ari Ben-Menashe spent more than a decade in the innermost circles of Israeli intelligence. He was privy to the secret negotiations with the Iranians to delay the release of the American hostages until after the election of Ronald Reagan, he enlisted Robert Gates in the transfer of the $52 million payoff to Iran, and was Robert Maxwell's handler. Ben-Menashe brokered secret Israeli arms sales on four continents and briefed George Bush on the vast arms network. He saw Israel's own nuclear arsenal develop, and watched his masters sponsor monstrous terrorist acts in the name of a higher good. Then, as he questioned the immorality around him, he was cut off and set up. This is the full story of the man who oversaw the accumulation of hundreds of millions of dollars in CIA and Israeli intelligence slush funds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634240499
Publisher: Trine Day
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Pages: 410
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Ari Ben-Menashe was born in Tehran, Iran, to an Iraqi-Jewish family, and served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in signals intelligence. He was a civilian employee of the External Relations Department of IDF Military Intelligence and was a special intelligence advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He now lives in Canada.

Read an Excerpt

Profits of War

Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network

By Ari Ben-Menashe

Trine Day

Copyright © 2015 Ari Ben-Menashe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63424-050-5



PERHAPS IT WAS written that political chaos would follow me through life. I was born into it in Tehran, Iran, in 1951. My parents, affluent Iraqi Jews, had been married in Baghdad in 1945, but settled in Tehran the same year. Briefly, in late 1950 and early 1951, they visited Israel to explore the possibility of moving there. On that trip, in Jerusalem, I was conceived. But my parents, for the time being, decided to return to Iran, a country deeply divided against itself.

Shortly after their return, the Majlis – the Parliament – passed an act nationalizing oil. The British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company withdrew, and Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh found himself in charge of a nation that was in an uproar, with fierce rows among the country's leaders and rioting in the streets.

Even within the Jewish community in Iran there were divisions. The Iraqi Jews, who had a highly developed sense of Western and European culture and Jewish awareness, would not mix with the Iranian Jews, who regarded themselves as Iranians who happened to have another religion.

Those Iranian Jews who emigrated to Israel were generally financial refugees without emotional connection to their new home. They certainly didn't leave Iran because of oppression. There was little anti-Semitism in Iran, and still isn't, even under the new regime. Historically, it was Cyrus the Great, the Persian king, who granted the Jews freedom, and, later, Islam recognized Judaism and the Prophets of Judaism. Even though Reza Shah Pahlavi, the father of the last Shah, sided with the Nazis during the Second World War, he never adopted Hitler's anti-Semitic ways, and most Iranians harbored none of the hatred of Jews that existed in Europe.

The Iraqi-Jewish community living in Tehran was closely knit, with its own social club, synagogue, and school. Nevertheless, most of the city's Iraqi-Jewish children attended the American Community School, where the first language taught was English, followed by French and Farsi, or Persian. At home, Arabic was spoken because of the parents' background, so I, in keeping with many other sons and daughters of Iraqi Jews, was brought up with four languages. (Later I also learned Hebrew and Spanish.) As for my sense of identity, I never felt Iranian even though I was born in Iran. I was Jewish.

Like all the boys in the Iraqi-Jewish community, I was taught to pray in Hebrew toward the bar mitzvah at the age of 13. After finishing high school, most Iraqi-Jewish children would be sent to university in the United States. Although proud to be Jewish, their parents saw no future in sending their sons and daughters to Israel, which they regarded as a nation of poor refugees and Hasidic Jews from Eastern Europe. The U.S. Embassy was well aware of the status of Iraqi Jews and readily granted visas for the teenagers, who often stayed on in America, married, and settled down.

My father Gourdji, though, was something of an oddball in all this. He had received a French education in the Alliance School in Baghdad, and before entrenching himself in Iran, he had traveled the world extensively, spending time in India, France, Palestine, and the Soviet Union.

In Palestine, during 1940, he hooked up with a group of Jewish terrorists who called themselves LEHI – a Hebrew acronym for Fighters for the Liberation of Israel. Although the organization had a reputation as right-wing, many of its members were formerly part of the communist movement. They were better known as the Stern Gang, after their leader David Stern, who was virulently anti-British.

Stern's successor, Yitzhak Shamir, who later became prime minister of Israel, was equally anti-British and was even willing to negotiate with the Nazis for Jewish lives. He offered to fight alongside German troops against the British if the Germans would allow the Jews who were interned in European concentration camps to emigrate to Palestine. As expected, the British and U.S. governments and the Jewish labor movement, whose leader, David Ben-Gurion, was comfortably ensconced in New York, did everything in their power to thwart such a plan, and the Stern people were persecuted and hunted down, even by other Jews in Palestine.

Shamir and his colleagues from the Stern Gang are anti-American to this day, because they believe that the slaughter of six million Jews in Europe could have been prevented with a bit of American cooperation. Most of the people affiliated with the Stern Gang were not welcome to stay in the State of Israel after it was established because the Labor coalition government that took over looked askance at them. Shamir himself was an exception, becoming a prominent figure in the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion said of him, "If a terrorist, let him be my terrorist."

My father, finding Israel less than welcoming, set up shop in Iran. He joined his brother in the import-export business. From the Soviet Union, for example, he imported furs and leather. Later, during the 1950s, he acquired the Mercedes Benz/Bosch car and spare-parts franchise for Iran. But my father always yearned to pull up roots and go to live in Israel whenever the political climate changed.

For my part, I loved to listen to my father talk about his travels and his philosophies. Sometimes we'd go up to the walk-on roof of our three-story house in the northern suburbs of Tehran for long discussions. At other times, we'd find a shady spot in the yard. And while I was taught languages, math, geography, and history at the American School, it was from my father that I really learned about life.

He enjoyed talking about his experiences in the Soviet Union. While my three sisters and I grew up surrounded by the American propaganda that was flooding Iran in the 1950s and 1960s, which portrayed the Soviet Union as an evil place, my father would say, "It's really just another way of life. In the Soviet Union you don't see indigent people in the streets. Everybody has a bare minimum to live, and they get their basic needs from the state. If they don't have any business initiative, they won't find themselves living in dire poverty or close to starvation. Growing up with a bare minimum is better than starving."

This was his way of explaining the differences between East and West to growing children. His was an unusual philosophy then in an affluent, capitalist, American-oriented society. My father expressed his views openly, and there was no doubt why he was never fully accepted by others in the Iraqi-Jewish community.

Despite my father's socialist sympathies, the Labor coalition in power in Israel was not acceptable to him. This was not because of ideology, but because he saw these so-called socialists as "peasants" whose main aim was to enrich themselves – bringing economic chaos while making it clear that Middle Eastern Jews, regardless of their education, would always be second-class citizens in Israel. Furthermore, the Labor coalition "socialists" were, ironically, intertwined with the capitalist United States.

My father supported the Gahal (today known as the Likud Party), a merger of Menachem Begin's Herut Party and the Israel Liberal Party. Although they saw themselves as a conservative party because of their strong emphasis on Jewish identity, they also supported progressive social programs. Their leaders, Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, became folk heroes to the party loyalists. I would compare the Gahal – and today's Likud Party – to the Peronists in Argentina: rightwing populists. The Labor coalition, which later became the Labor Party, was in favor of close relations with South Africa and of cutting relations with the Soviet Union altogether; on the other hand, the Likud tried to open up relations with the Soviet Union and tone down the ties with South Africa. Because of what I learned from my father, I was fascinated during my school years in Tehran with the concept of world revolution – not as a violent uprising but as a redistribution of wealth. From my youthful philosophical perspective, centrally controlled economies and ways of life were a necessary first step in educating the masses and preparing them for a more open society.

* * *

By July of 1966, when I was 14, I was feeling increasingly foreign in Iran, with my Iraqi-Jewish background and my American schooling. Like most adolescents, I was searching for my identity, a place I could feel at home. Under the influence of my father and sharing the vision of an Israeli state, I decided I wanted to live in Israel. So my mother – a pragmatic and street-smart woman – took me and my sisters Claris, Evon, and Stella, to Israel, where Stella and I were enrolled at the American International School in Kfar Smaryahu, north of Tel Aviv. My two oldest sisters went to college. Five years later, my parents moved from Tehran to Israel, lock, stock, and barrel.

I had the best of both worlds. Most of the pupils at the school were white Americans or the children of foreign diplomats stationed in Israel. There weren't too many Jewish resident children attending the school, and while sometimes I felt something of a misfit, we all got along well. When I left at the end of each day, I would mix with Israeli kids in Ramat Gan, the Tel Aviv suburb where we were living. Once in a while I'd go to a party, take a girlfriend to the cinema, or just go for a long walk, some three or four kilometers, to the sea.

After their graduation from high school at the age of 18, my Israeli friends were drafted into the army. My American pals left for the U.S. to attend university. I, meanwhile, found myself in a peculiar situation once again. Because I still had an Iranian passport, I could not be drafted. So I joined a kibbutz. I was a religious Jew at the time, hardly orthodox but at least keeping kosher and observing the sabbath. I was the only one on this socialist kibbutz who wore a yarmulke. Even though I did not identify with their way of life, I wanted to experience the East European ethos, and rub shoulders with the avant garde. Curiously, it was a move that set me on the road to a life enmeshed in political intrigue.

Half of each day at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon was spent studying Hebrew, the rest doing volunteer work in the fish ponds, engaged in the extremely difficult task of sorting out male and female trout. Sometimes I would work through the night in the bakery, preparing for the early morning sale of bread.

My roommates that year, 1969, were two non-Jewish volunteers in their 30s. One was an Australian member of the Church of God, Michael Dennis Rohan, the other an American Baptist named Arthur. They were in the kibbutz because they had had visions of Christ ordering them to come to the Holy Land. The kibbutz was an economical way of doing the Lord's work. As long as they went about certain daily tasks, they didn't have to pay anything for their keep.

Rohan, a tall slim man with thinning brown hair, had a vision that he was to be the king of Israel who would prepare the way for the return of Christ. Arthur's vision was slightly different; he saw Christ's return as imminent and knew that the Jews had to be saved from themselves. God had sent them His only son 2,000 years earlier, and they had not accepted Him.

It was a crazy situation. There I was keeping an eye out for any girls I might be able to lure into my bed – life in a kibbutz is not all work and prayer – while sharing a room with two Westerners who were following a different kind of heavenly calling. Not that Rohan was not human. He fell for a very attractive Hebrew teacher who came into the kibbutz daily. He sent her his photograph with a note that he would be king of Israel one day and he'd like her to be his queen. She ignored him.

At night Rohan, dressed in his khaki work clothes, talked to me about the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For Moslems this was the holiest place after Mecca and Medina. On the mount is El Aqsa Mosque which has been built over a rock imprinted with a footstep said to be that of the Prophet Mohammed, who ascended to heaven from that spot.

"To rebuild the temple, this mosque has to be destroyed," Rohan told me. "In order for Jesus to come back, the Third Temple has to be built, but this can only be done by getting rid of the mosque." The Second Temple had been destroyed by the Romans.

Rohan started receiving visits from two men wearing yarmulkes, who, he explained, were from the Jewish Defense League, a New York-based extreme rightwing organization associated with Rabbi Meir Kahane. Rohan never said how he got involved with them. A month after I met him, Rohan packed his bags to leave for Jerusalem. "I'm going to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ," he said. Then he astonished me by donning a suit and tie. With a wave of his bony hand, he set out on the Lord's work.

Two weeks later I learned that Rohan had meant all he had said. The news was dominated by a report that the El Aqsa Mosque had been burned in an arson attack. Moslems around the world were outraged and were calling for a jihad, a holy war, against Israel. Some Arab newspapers claimed that Israeli military helicopters had firebombed the mosque, but I guessed something far different – which was soon to be confirmed.

Rohan was waiting for me in my room, again dressed in his smart suit. "I've just got back from Jerusalem," he said. "If you'd permit me, I'd like to stay here for the weekend." His bed was still free.

I made no mention of the news at that stage. "Dennis, I have no problem," I said, "but you realize that if you stay longer than a few days, you'll have to register."

That evening, joined by Arthur, we started talking again, and this time I mentioned the burning of the mosque. "Is this a sign that the Third Temple is going to be built?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Did you have anything to do with it?"

"It was God's work, but through my hands."

"Dennis, you realize the whole world is looking for who did it. What are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to turn myself in."

I didn't know whether to trust him to do that or not. But I knew that action had to be taken. Israel was being blamed for what he had done.

He asked to be left to have a good sleep that night, promising he wouldn't leave.

Arthur said, "Dennis, I'll be praying all night for your soul."

At breakfast the next morning, I asked Rohan if he had any matches.

"Sure I do," he said. "I used them for a good cause."

After breakfast, with Rohan's permission, I went to a pay phone and called the police emergency 100 number, identified myself to an officer, and told her that the most wanted man in Israel was in my room at the kibbutz. When I said he was an Australian, she told me she had had a lot of crank phone calls and her patience was running out, but she listened to me carefully.

Forty-five minutes after the call, the kibbutz was invaded by heavily armed Israel Police Border Guards, the police paramilitary unit, in their green uniforms. They surrounded the block in which our room was located. Then three officers in civilian clothes knocked on the door. Dennis was treated kindly, handcuffed, and led away to be charged with grand arson of a holy site.

I traveled later to Jerusalem with Arthur, the two of us just scruffy young guys from the kibbutz, and the Israeli police put us up at the King David Hotel, the best in town. We were interrogated about Rohan for hours, and when I mentioned the Jewish Defense League, my interrogators jumped. They said it was vital I not say anything about Rohan, particularly his connections with the JDL.

"There should be no traces of Jewish hands in this," said one of the senior officers.

Rohan never had a trial. He pleaded guilty at a public hearing and was sent for psychiatric observation, and was later declared by the court to be mentally ill. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital south of Haifa.

Three months later, Rohan turned up at my flat in Ramat Gan, where I was then living.

"I escaped," he said. "But don't worry. I only came to say hello. I'm going back later."

This time he gave me more details, explaining he had carried out the deed in coordination with the JDL. But he believed his lawyer, Yitzhak Tunic, who was later to be appointed as the state comptroller – the ombudsman – had "sold him down the river" because he was afraid Rohan might mention the JDL if he took the witness stand. My own subpoena had been canceled because there were worries that I might also mention the JDL.

"Is it Russia," he asked, "where a man of God is put away and accused of being crazy?"

All this made me think: Is there any justice in the world? In some respects, the Israeli court system was one of the fairest in the world, yet "for reasons of State interests" this case had been suppressed. Rohan had been prepared to admit the crime and was willing to go to jail for ten years or more for what he believed in, but he wanted a platform to talk about his motives. The Israeli legal system was not going to allow that to happen.

Rohan gave himself up to the authorities after chatting with me. Three months later he was deported to Australia.


Excerpted from Profits of War by Ari Ben-Menashe. Copyright © 2015 Ari Ben-Menashe. Excerpted by permission of Trine Day.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title page,
Copyright page,
BOOK ONE — Dollar Machine,
1) Youth,
2) Codebreaker,
3) Love in the Time of Revolution,
4) Groundwork,
5) The Agreement,
6) The Man with the Suitcase,
7) The First Billion,
8) The Ora Group,
9) Promis,
10) The East Bloc,
11) The Second Channel,
12) Coverup,
BOOK TWO — Blood Money,
13) Nuclear Nation,
14) The Revolutionary,
15) The Judge,
16) Never Again,
17) "Agricultural Project",
18) Coup D'Etat,
19) Mission to Colombo,
20) Means of War,

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