Canada’s ambassador in Iran was ‘CIA asset’ in 1970s

Ken Taylor

Ken Taylor

Canada’s former ambassador to Iran has admitted that he and the embassy’s head of security secretly worked for the CIA in the late 1970s. Ambassador Ken Taylor and Canadian fellow-diplomat Jim Edward became the CIA’s “most valuable asset[s]” in Iran, following the November 4, 1979, seizure of the US embassy in Tehran by student groups allied to the Islamic Revolution. The revelation was made public last weekend in a new book entitled Our Man in Tehran, by Trent University historian Robert Wright,  which examines intelligence aspects of the Iranian Revolution. In it, Dr. Wright says that ambassador Taylor became “the de facto CIA station chief” in the Iranian capital, after he and Edward accepted an American request to do so, which was communicated personally to Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark by US President Jimmy Carter. Until he left the country, on January 27, 1980, Taylor and Edward provided the US with “aggressive intelligence” and an operations base for CIA agents, authorized the CIA’s use of false Canadian travel documents, and helped the Agency plan an “armed incursion” into Iran. The information was kept secret for over 30 years, reportedly because successive Canadian governments feared “a negative political fallout if the Canadian public learned that one of its envoys was a US spook”. Most news reports on the revelation convey a slightly amused tone, but Muck Centre of International Studies (University of Toronto) professor Wesley Wark is certainly not amused. He calls the concealed CIA role of a Canadian Ambassador an “unprecedented” and “irregular”, and warns that the news could cause the Canadian embassy in Iran to be seen as “a nest of [American] spies”, since there is still no US embassy in the country. The revelation could potentially place Canada’s current diplomatic ties with Iran at risk, he says.

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