Former White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan's secret Iranian contact during the 1980 hostage negotiations proposed resolving the crisis by having the CIA assassinate the exiled shah of Iran, according to Jordan's forthcoming book.
Although the contact is not named in the book, Jordan identified him in an interview Saturday as then-foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.
Jordan said he is willing to identify the secret negotiator because Ghotbzadeh was executed last week for plotting to overthrow the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Jordan said Ghotbzadeh made the assassination proposal at the first of two secret meetings in Paris held Feb. 17 and April 18, 1980, as the two men sought to negotiate release of the hostages.
At the February meeting, Jordan said, Ghotbzadeh told him: "All you have to do is kill the shah. . . . I am very serious, Mr. Jordan.
"The shah is in Panama now. I am not talking about anything dramatic. Perhaps the CIA can give him an injection or do something to make it look like a natural death."
Jordan said he immediately rejected the idea and later learned that the Iranians offered a $1 million bribe to a doctor in Panama to kill the shah. The shah died of cancer in Cairo July 27, 1980.
In his book, "Crisis, The Last Year of the Carter Presidency," to be released this week, Jordan said the two meetings took place in the Paris apartment of Hector Villalon, a lawyer who acted as an intermediary in the prolonged and eventually unsuccessful talks between the two men.
Jordan said he also spoke with Ghotbzadeh on the phone about half a dozen times in their attempts to free the hostages.
In the course of their negotiations, Jordan said he offered to exchange himself for the hostages. "I told them Ghotbzadeh in a phone conversation that I'd be willing to take their place, but later Ghotbzadeh said that Khomeini has agreed to swap all the hostages for a high-ranking American official but he doesn't want you. He wants President Carter."
Jordan said, "The thing about my meetings with Ghotbzadeh is that they were future-oriented. He had an intense hatred of the Soviets and said don't worry about the hostages, let's get that solved. . . . He had a clear love-hate feeling for the United States and spoke with a reverence and a passion about Khomeini."
According to Jordan, it is likely that Ghotbzadeh was guilty of attempting to overthrow the Iranian government. "It had been reported to me that he was in Tehran preparing for a political comeback, and there were some hints that he might be trying to overthrow Khomeini," Jordan said.
Jordan's 419-page book deals almost exclusively with the hostage crisis and Jimmy Carter's unsuccessful 1980 reelection bid.
The book includes conclusions by Jordan and Carter that aides to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) "blackmailed" Carter after Kennedy lost the Democratic presidential nomination in the summer of 1980.
When Jordan met with Steve Smith, Kennedy's campaign manager and brother-in-law, after the Democratic convention, Jordan quotes Smith as saying:
"We're eager to campaign extensively on behalf of the ticket, but we have a sizable debt from the primaries. . . . For the senator to give you the time you need from him to campaign, we are going to need some help getting rid of this debt, because if we have to raise it ourselves, it won't leave us any time to help the ticket."
In his book Jordan writes, "You bastard, I thought, returning his grin. You're blackmailing us. You'll campaign for us if we help you eliminate your campaign debt. I wish we didn't need Kennedy so badly. It would really feel nice to stand up, say go to hell, and walk out."
Jordan writes that the Kennedy campaign wanted a written agreement. Upon reporting this to the president, Jordan quotes Carter as saying, "He's blackmailing us." Jordan writes: "I deeply resented Ted Kennedy and his millions, coercing all of us to pay off his debt."
Jordan said Saturday that the alleged blackmail worked and that Carter signed an agreement to help raise money for the Kennedy campaign debt. "What Carter resented on the quid pro quo was that he had to sign a document," Jordan said.
Jordan said he took out a bank loan to give $1,000 to the Kennedy campaign at an Oct. 20, 1980, joint fund-raising dinner, and prodded several dozen others from the Carter camp to give. He estimated that this dinner raised between $100,000 and $150,000 for Kennedy.
Kennedy spokesman Robert Shrum said this weekend of the alleged blackmail: "It is ludicrous, preposterous. . . . The facts flatly deny it."
Shrum said that the agreement was not signed until about Sept. 18 and that Kennedy made numerous appearances on behalf of Carter before then. Based on the joint Carter-Kennedy appearances before the election, Shrum said Kennedy received approximately $275,000 toward retiring the primary debt while the Democratic National Committee received $775,000 for the Carter campaign.
Jordan's book portrays Carter as tougher and somewhat more dogmatic than has been acknowledged publicly by his closest aides.
For example, on Feb. 27, 1980, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Carter made a suggestion about the hostage negotiations and, when Jordan presented an argument against the step, is quoted as saying:
"Well, frankly, Ham, I'm not asking for you to analyze what I'm suggesting and decide whether or not to do it -- I just want you to follow my orders!"
On Nov. 20, 1979, during the first month of the crisis, Carter testily told Jordan and White House press secretary Jody Powell, "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing."
On Jan. 4, 1980, Carter told his aides he had decided to cancel a scheduled debate with Kennedy in Iowa. Jordan writes, "We tried to make the counterarguments, but he wouldn't listen.
" 'Look, you guys -- if I go out to Iowa to debate Ted Kennedy, I go out there as a president and return as just another political candidate. . . . I'm sure that what I'm doing is right,' " Carter is quoted as saying.
Jordan also writes about his reputation in Washington as a boyish prankster.
"For after three years in the White House, I had become an object of ridicule and controversy. I didn't like it, but knew it was true. . . . I had become a caricature. . . . I was seen as an arrogant, impolite rube."
At the end of the book, Jordan describes what he calls "my private nightmare" -- an effort by Carter to run again in 1984.
"For selfish reasons I dreaded the thought of that call and could just hear him saying. . . , 'Ham, why don't you put your thoughts down on paper about 1984?'
" 'Yes, sir,' I would certainly say -- after gulping. Out of loyalty and affection I would unquestionably help him again. But I hoped that would never happen. I'd had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I had no desire to repeat it."