Iran-contra affair

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Iran-contra affair,

in U.S. history, secret arrangement in the 1980s to provide funds to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran. The Iran-contra affair was the product of two separate initiatives during the administration of President Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
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. The first was a commitment to aid the contras who were conducting a guerrilla war against the SandinistaSandinistas,
members of a left-wing Nicaraguan political party, the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN). The group, named for Augusto Cesar Sandino, a former insurgent leader, was formed in 1962 to oppose the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle.
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 government of Nicaragua. The second was to placate "moderates" within the Iranian government in order to secure the release of American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon and to influence Iranian foreign policy in a pro-Western direction.

Despite the strong opposition of the Reagan administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted legislation, known as the Boland amendments, that prohibited the Defense Dept., the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or any other government agency from providing military aid to the contras from Dec., 1983, to Sept., 1985. The Reagan administration circumvented these limitations by using the National Security Council (NSC), which was not explicitly covered by the law, to supervise covert military aid to the contras. Under Robert McFarlane (1983–85) and John Poindexter (1985–86) the NSC raised private and foreign funds for the contras. This operation was directed by NSC staffer Marine Lt. Col. Oliver NorthNorth, Oliver Laurence,
1943–, American military officer, b. San Antonio, Tex. Raised in Philmont, N.Y., he entered the U.S. Marines, graduated from Annapolis (1968), served in the Vietnam War, and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
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. McFarlane and North were also the central figures in the plan to secretly ship arms to Iran despite a U.S. trade and arms embargo.

In early Nov., 1986, the scandal broke when reports in Lebanese newspapers forced the Reagan administration to disclose the arms deals. Poindexter resigned before the end of the month; North was fired. Select congressional committees held joint hearings, and in Dec., 1986, Lawrence E. Walsh was named as special prosecutor to investigate the affair. Higher administration officials, particularly Reagan, Vice President BushBush, George Herbert Walker,
1924–, 41st President of the United States (1989–93), b. Milton, Mass., B.A., Yale Univ., 1948. Career in Business and Government
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, and William J. Casey (former director of the CIA, who died in May, 1987), were implicated in some testimony, but the extent of their involvement remained unclear. North said he believed Reagan was largely aware of the secret arrangement, and the independent prosecutor's report (1994) said that Reagan and Bush had some knowledge of the affair or its coverup. Reagan and Bush both claimed to have been uninformed about the details of the affair, and no evidence was found to link them to any crime. A presidential commission was critical of the NSC, while congressional hearings uncovered a web of official deception, mismanagement, and illegality.

A number of criminal convictions resulted, including those of McFarlane, North, and Poindexter, but North's and Poindexter's were vacated on appeal because of immunity agreements with the Senate concerning their testimony. Former State Dept. and CIA officials pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information about the contra aid from Congress, and Caspar Weinberger, defense secretary under Reagan, was charged (1992) with the same offense. In 1992 then-president Bush pardoned Weinberger and other officials who had been indicted or convicted for withholding information on or obstructing investigation of the affair. The Iran-contra affair raised serious questions about the nature and scope of congressional oversight of foreign affairs and the limits of the executive branch.

Bibliography

See B. Woodward, Veil (1987); T. Draper, A Very Thin Line (1991).

References in periodicals archive ?
And, by the way, do you know who was one of the three Iranian "moderates'' the cake-bearing McFarlane dealt with at that fateful arms-for-hostage meeting in Tehran 27 years ago?
He specifically denied attending a January 1986 meeting a which Secretary of State George Schultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger opposed the arms-for-hostages deal.
Poindexter is best remembered for his felony convictions as the ringleader in the arms-for-hostages fiasco that became known as the "Iran-Contra" scandal.
As Ronald Reagan's National Security Adviser, he was a key mover in the Iran/contra scandal of the 1980s, when the Reagan White House tried to pull off a secret arms-for-hostages deal with the terrorist-supporting regime of Iran.
With this potential vulnerability in the 1988 race for the presidency, George Bush made several statements about his being "out of the loop" during decision making about the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran.
The latest figure from congressional auditors is only pounds 6million short of the most expensive investigation - the six-year inquiry into President Reagan's arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and its secret war against the communist-led government of Nicaragua.
Sullivan's "logic" yields numerous contradictions: (1) Sullivan scolds Clinton for lying, even though he seems comparatively undisturbed that Reagan lied about the existence of the arms-for-hostages deal we now know as "Iran-Contra"; (2) Sullivan faults Clinton for "don't ask, don't tell," even though he tolerated Reagan's absolute exclusion of gay people from the military; (3) Sullivan even chides Clinton for failing to allow DOJ support for the Romer v.
Ronald Reagan's mea culpa in the arms-for-hostages part of the Iran-Contra scandal, while severely straining public support of his policies, did not destroy the personal affinity which a majority of Americans had for the former actor.
Unlike the Reagan administration's illegal arms-for-hostages activities, which led to deep embarrassment and criminal convictions, there is no suggestion from either camp on Capitol Hill that the Clinton administration broke any laws.
missiles and parts they've purchased over the past year, anger that jeopardizes the arms-for-hostages deal--and hostage lives.
House of Representatives concluded there was "no credible evidence" to support allegations that officials of the 1980 campaign to elect Ronald Reagan and George Bush cut an arms-for-hostages deal with representatives of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
4) When the so called arms-for-hostages deal blew up in their faces, they tried to use the press, through purported unofficial leaks in a campaign to "devalue" the terrorists.