Iran Brief publisher Kenneth R. Timmerman
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Kenneth R. Timmerman (b. 1953) left the United States in 1975, after studying literature and creative writing with acclaimed American novelist John Hawkes at Brown University, which awarded him an MA degree in 1976. For several years, he published a literary quarterly called Paris Voices out of Sylvia Beach's famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, teaching English and doing translations on the side.
He got his start as a journalist covering the Israeli-PLO war in Beirut in 1982, working in the region as a free-lance correspondence for a variety of publications, until he returned to the United States to join the House Foreign Affairs Committee as a professional staff member in 1993.
After covering hotspots in Beirut, Damascus, the West Bank, Egypt, and Israel for USA Today and as a Special correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and doing French radio spots, in 1985 Timmerman began working for a French monthly magazine, Defense & Armament, specializing in defense technology and the arms trade.
In 1985 and 1986, he traveled to the battlefronts of the Iran-Iraq war for CBS News, and made several other trips to Iraq up through 1989, reporting for Newsweek, Le Monde, L'Express, and others.
His first book, Fanning the Flames: Guns. Greed, & Geopolitics in the Gulf War grew out of his work on the clandestine arms trade to Iran and the not-so-hidden world of Iraqi arms merchants. After syndication through the New York Times Syndicate in 1987 in Dutch and in French, the book appeared in a limited German-language edition with Orell Fûsli in Zurich in 1987.
Fanning the Flames contained the first-ever account of the clandestine U.S.-Iran arms network that came to be known as the Iran-contra affair. Timmerman published parts of this story in special investigations in Newsweek, a cover package in the French newsweekly L'Express, and the New York Times. That same year, an Italian organization for investigative reporters awarded him the Certosa di Padula "Joe Petrosino" Prize, for investigative reporting on the international gunpowder cartel which appeared in the French weekly magazine L'Evenement du Jeudi and which led to the arrest of a mafia-inspired gun-running network by the Italian police.
In 1987 Timmerman began his own bi-weekly publication called MEDNEWS (Middle East Defense News), on which The Iran Brief is patterned. MEDNEWS broke stories about Iraq's missile and nuclear development programs, tracked Soviet intelligence operations in Iran, and followed French, Soviet, British, North Korea, Chinese, and U.S. arms deals throughout the Middle East. It also pioneered in reporting on high-technology transfers. Five years of MEDNEWS stories are currently available via Lexis-Nexis.
Timmerman's second book, La Grande Fauche ("Gorbachev's Technology Wars") was commissioned by French publisher Les Editions Plon in 1989, and exposed Soviet high-tech espionage rings operating in Europe and the United States. Excerpts from the original French, or from the author's English-language translation, can be viewed on this website.
When Operation Desert Shield was launched in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Timmerman took the extensive knowledge he had gathered on French and Soviet arms sales to Iraq - which included the first-ever interviews by a Western correspondent with the as-then unknown heads of Iraq's missile, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs - and wrote The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1991, the book simultaneously appeared in France and was translated into French Danish, Dutch, Porguguese, and Farsi.
The Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, called The Death Lobby the "Bible" of UN arms inspectors, who took copies of the book with them during their initial forays into Iraq to map out Iraq's unconventional weapons programs.
In 1992, Timmerman researched a ground-breaking study published as a monograph by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles on the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which presented the first detailed accounts of Syria's vast chemical weapons and missile programs, Libya's nuclear program, and Iranian weapons programs. Weapons of Mass Destruction: the Cases of Iran, Syria, and Libya is still cited by scholars and government researchers as an authority.
In January 1993, Timmerman was approached by Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos of California, to head up a small investigative team at the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, to explore missile and nuclear proliferation. While on the Hill, Timmerman produced a Staff Report published by the Government Printing Office in October 1993, Iraq Rebuilds its Military Industries. He also prepared reports on Chinese missile proliferation, Iranian WMD programs, and was responsible for coining the term "rogue regimes," which has since become the term of art for referring to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and North Korea.
Timmerman left the Hill at the end of 1993, returning to work as a journalist at Time Magazine, and later, at the American Spectator, to which he contributes on a regular basis. He launched The Iran Brief in December 1994.
Starting in March 1995, the Spectator began publishing a series of investigative articles on the U.S.-China relationship, that focused on technology transfer, Chinese payoffs to Clinton administration officials, and Chinese infiltration of U.S. society.
Later that year, Timmerman launched the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a non-profit group that monitored human rights abuses in Iran. Board members included Iranian nationals Nader Afshar and Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani, American Enterprise researcher Joshua Muravchik, and former national security and State Department official, Peter Rodman.
FDI was funded by start-up grants from the National Endowment for Democracy. The Foundation published an on-line newswire on events inside Iran, and worked extensively to promote a democratic alternative to the clerical regime in Tehran by sponsoring a series of informal and formal meetings of democratic opposition leaders. News of FDI activities can be found on this website.
In 1997, Timmerman was recruited by the Reader's Digest to do international investigations on security issues of concern to American and foreign readers. He helped break the secret story of how Russia helped Iran build a 1300 kilometer-range missile, and revealed the international links of former Saudi financier Osama Bin Ladin.
Timmerman serves as a Contributing Editor for the Digest, while continuing to write for the American Spectator, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He appears frequently on radio and television as a commentator on national security policy.
His knowledge of the Middle East, and national security issues has been sought out by Congress repeatedly since he left the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff at the end of 1993. On Oct. 6, 1999 he testified before his old Committee on the Clinton administration's failure to prevent Russia from selling missile technology to Iran. In July, he revealed Iran's latest Russian-assisted missile, the Kosar, in testimony before a House Science subcommittee. Earlier, he testified before to the Congressionally-mandated Commission To Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (the Rumsfeld Commission) on how the U.S. intelligence community has systematically underestimated the missile programs of third world rogue states, such as Iran and Iraq.
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