The other day in Tehran, the arrival of a US registered passenger plane at the International Airport triggered an avalanche of rumors that, for a brief moment, buried the anxieties that grip Iranians with regard to the looming confrontation with the Trump administration in Washington. The wildest, and most popular, rumor was that the “American plane” had brought a special emissary from Washington to invite the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei to a summit with President Donald Trump with a view to “doing a North Korea”.
The rumor wasn’t all that fanciful.
The history of relations between the US and the mullahs is full of cloak-and-dagger episodes.
President Jimmy Carter wrote flattering letters to Khomeini, the man who created the Islamic Republic. In response Khomeini sent Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan to reassure Carter and persuade him to resume the supply of arms to Iran. President Ronald Reagan sent his former National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane to Tehran to discuss a deal with the ayatollah. And Khamenei visited the occupied US Embassy in Tehran to discuss the purchase of American arms with US diplomats held hostage.
Under Reagan, with help from Israel, the US smuggled arms to Iran to stop Saddam Hussein’s army.