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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 364

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This is the grave of Hassan Toufanian.

I don’t know too much about Toufanian. But I was wandering a cemetery looking for someone else and boy did that grave stone look interesting. I’m certainly aware of the long history of thuggish military officers from thuggish American-supported regimes taking flight in the United States when the thugs are overthrown. So I figured this was worth a picture and a little digging later.

From a very short obituary in the Washington Post, I discovered that Toufanian was a graduate of the Iranian Military Academy and was dedicated to modernizing the Iranian armed forces. His father was just a tailor, but he rose fast in the Iranian military after his acceptance. He was a big time general for the Shah of Iran that seems to have been primarily in charge of military procurement for the government. By 1977, he was the Shah’s Vice Minister of War and was the point person on Project Flower. That was an attempt to build military cooperation between the Shah’s government and the Israelis. In particular, the Shah would sell cheap oil to Israel in exchange for sophisticated missile systems that would protect Iran from its enemies in the region. Toufanian successfully negotiated this and by 1978, after delivering $280 million worth of oil, missile sites were under construction in southern Iran. Of course, this ended immediately upon the Islamic Revolution taking power and Toufanian and others fleeing the country.

What is clear is that Toufanian, like much of the Iranian power elite, was also engaged in widespread corruption, receiving huge kickbacks and bribes in his dealings. There’s at least one report of him receiving $140 million to buy two ships from the U.S. for $20 million. Where did the rest of the money go? At least some definitely to Toufanian’s bank accounts. The U.S. government directly intervened to get Toufanian’s son admitted to a top U.S. medical school to butter up relations with the general. When Grumman tried to screw over the Shah’s regime, Toufanian was the man to attack the military contractor publicly and clashed with Donald Rumsfeld over what Toufanian and the Iranians thought was corruption on the American side. Pot meet kettle, but it’s not like I would trust Rumsfeld either. Toufanian also seems to have been a CIA informant inside the Shah’s government.

For anyone who can read Farsi, there is a long oral history of Toufanian taken in 1985, but I don’t think it has been translated into English and my Farsi is, well, typically of ignorant Americans, I don’t speak any other languages functionally.

Toufanian settled in the Washington area after he fled Iran and died of prostate cancer in 1998.

Hassan Toufanian is buried in Parklawn Memorial Park, Rockville, Maryland.

This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions. If you would like this series to wander around cemeteries and seek out whatever random officials from awful governments aligned with the US I can find, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Lord knows there’s enough of them around. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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