The Iran Contra
10-06-2012, 03:17 AM
The Iran Contra
in an effort to promote some type of structured, non-faggoted discussion on this site, i am pleased to present the iran contra thread.
so, post your RELEVANT theories, RELEVANT takes and RELEVANT comments on this cluster fuck of fail and win...
... and above all, do not aidz up this thread with pointless postings.
as a huge fan of the cia's work, i've always loved government conspiracies - not the alien visitor kinds, the giant cluster fucks of fail - such as the iran contra because no matter how many times you discuss it, or think it through or try to understand it, you miss some vital point that brings sense to it all.
so, here we go:
if you aren't familiar with the 'iran contra' (hence known as the IC), check out the wiki as it provides a brief explanation and then consult google as this issue is incredibly vast and complicated: WIKI
here is a 'what might have happened' explanation:
Gene "Chip" Tatum Wrote:Step 1:
"Yeah. I understand the mechanics of it, shithead. I just don't understand how this is any less retarded than what I'm suggesting." - Kiley; Housebound.
10-06-2012, 05:12 PM
RE: The Iran Contra
this is a great resource for understanding the basics of the iran contra: http://www.brown.edu/Research/Understand...ffairs.php
keep in mind... they only talk about what is known.
so, rather than wait for someone to post, let's try to take this in chronological order and i will routinely post articles in order to assist with the progression of the thread.
Understanding The Iran-Contras Affair Wrote:The Iran-Contra Affairs of the 1980s stemmed from the Reagan Administration’s foreign policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. The Administration believed that changes to these countries that occurred in the 1970s threatened U.S. national interests.
"Yeah. I understand the mechanics of it, shithead. I just don't understand how this is any less retarded than what I'm suggesting." - Kiley; Housebound.
10-09-2012, 12:44 AM
RE: The Iran Contra
This will seem off topic but i wanted to show how the IC is related to a larger picture of behind the scenes puppet string pulling, and possible connection to the Lockerbie bombing of December 1988. I must point out i'm no expert on IC, and although i've read a fair bit about it, sporkium rightly points out that this is a story that is still evolving and vital points get overlooked or are omitted altogether.
Trying to gain an understanding of IC is difficult because of the conflicting reports, conspiracy theories, and overlapping fields of interest surrounding the subject. I was studying assassination methods used by foreign intelligence agencies when i came across a few interesting facts relating to IC.
As we all know, Pan Am Flight 103, exploded on December 21st 1988 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people (259 people on board, 11 in Lockerbie). According to wikipedia, there were at least 4 government officials on board, but Gordon Thomas in his book, 'Gideon's Spies: Mossad's Secret Warriors', states there were 8 members of the US intelligence community returning from the Middle East. 4 of them were CIA field officers led by Matthew Gannon. Also on board the flight were US Army Major Charles Mckee (on secondment to the DIA) and his team of experts in hostage rescue.
Gannon and Mckee had attended a meeting in Jerusalem between Amiran Nir and George Bush Snr about Irangate (selling of arms to Iran via Israel). Nir had worked with Col. Oliver North, and was going to be a major witness in North's forthcoming trial over his role in the IC scandal. Nir made it clear that his testimony would be highly embarrassing for the Reagan administration and also for Israel. He added he was planning a book he believed would make him the greatest whistleblower in the history of the state of Israel.
Nir tape-recorded the meeting between Gannon, Mckee, Bush, and himself. Nir was later killed, and meeting documents were stolen in a burglary at his wife's house.
At Lockerbie, CIA officers were on the scene of the crash and took away the still closed and intact suitcase of Charles Mckee. When it was returned to the Scottish investigation team, its contents were listed 'empty'.
Desperate to show the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 had been an act of terrorism for which it could not be culpable, the airline's insurers hired a NY firm of private investigators called Interfor - founded in 1979 by Israeli migrant, Yuval Aviv, who claimed to be ex Mossad. Aviv, in his report, concluded that the attack had been planned and executed 'by a rogue CIA group', and that Mossad knew a bomb was going to be planted on the flight. Whether this is true or not is anybody's guess but Mossad did send a London-based katsa (field agent/case officer) to Lockerbie within hours of the crash.
Whatever was said at that Irangate meeting will probably never reach the light of day, as will other facts about IC that have hushed up. IC is like a giant puzzle of tiny pieces of information, the problem is, because of new, emerging, and uncovered facts, we will never truly know even the size of the puzzle and how far it extends.
All i'm doing here is offering a few things that i found out, what i've written does not represent any of my own personal views and opinions, (which i'd never reveal on the interwebz anyway), so if say, in years to come some idiot comes along and accuses me of being anti semitic or anti whatever, i'm not going to take the bait. (Furthermore, if you're stupid enough not just to get the wrong end of the stick, but the wrong end of the wrong stick, and conclude whatever, then you're simply a bell of the highest end)
Again i'm sorry for going slightly off topic but i'm sure other forum users will contribute with their own nuggets from a completely different angle from myself as well as the original post.
"everyone wants to win but no one wants to drink a bucket of sj's piss" - bob5695
10-09-2012, 02:28 AM
RE: The Iran Contra
spud, that was very well phrased and written and to add to that, i will mention two people:
william casey - march 13, 1913 – may 6, 1987 (apparent brain tumor)
"and was associated with a number of coups and attempted coups in South- and Central America"
william colby - january 4, 1920 – april 27, 1996 (apparent boating accident or suicide)
"On Saturday, April 27, 1996, Colby died in what appears to have been a boating accident near his home in Rock Point, Maryland. There was speculation that Colby's death was due to foul play or suicide. The Maryland state coroner, however, ruled that Colby had suffered either a heart attack or a stroke due to a discernible plaque build-up in his arteries, and had fallen into the water and drowned. Most of Colby's family and his biographer viewed a suicide as completely inconsistent with his character. However, in a biographical documentary developed by Colby's son Carl Colby, he speculated that Colby had simply, "...had enough of this life."
the real question is... is the IC just the iran contra... or is it really just a piece of a much larger scheme?
william colby (who just happens to be a personal hero of mine) would not just 'accidently' drown. accidents are not part of this man's character.
in a world divided constantly by two factors at any given time, can it ever really be anything more than a war of ideology?
perhaps we should start even further back... say the war of 1812?
"Yeah. I understand the mechanics of it, shithead. I just don't understand how this is any less retarded than what I'm suggesting." - Kiley; Housebound.
10-09-2012, 05:51 AM
RE: The Iran Contra
I rarely comment on a serious topic without being versed on it a little at least, but I just wanted to say that I found this information interesting and I had never done any reading or research on the subject until I read this thread.
Thanks for an interesting, thought-provoking read both of you.
Wildcard is awesome.
10-10-2012, 02:37 AM
RE: The Iran Contra
The IC is most definitely part of a larger scheme, and it's a subject that will continue to hold interest for decades to come as more information comes to light.
I always found it ironic that after his surgery, William Casey lost the ability to speak. It's also strange that despite requesting radio-therapy, Casey's doctor insisted on surgery - which led to brain cell damage leading to loss of speech. Makes me wonder.
As for William Colby, i too share sporkium's sentiments about the man's character. After reading his book, 'Honorable Men', i thought that's not a man who takes his canoe out one morning and 'falls in'. The white house always seemed pretty hostile to Colby, and the fact that he didn't suck up to the likes of Nixon and Kissinger speak volumes about his character - he was never a Yes man, and as dci that's refreshing because let's face it, the cia has had some right useful idiots as directors. Two things that make Colby stand out were his introduction of significant reforms such as the prohibition of assassination as an instrument of national policy, and his leadership of CORDS in Vietnam. When he succeeded Bob Komer, instead of being unsupportive of pacification, he directed more personnel into cords which then peaked under his tenureship. Whether you agree with programs like Phoenix or not, it could have been much worse had Colby not took over.
Because IC overlaps into so many other events, i feel that in order to gain a greater understanding of it you have to study/research numerous related fields such a US/Israeli/British foreign policy, central asian geopolitics, the history of Iran, arms proliferation, psychological warfare, diplomacy, etc. For example, i always used to think that the US had an unhealthy obsession with Iran, which in fact it does, but it was a British obsession first and it goes back much further than the 1953 cia/mi6 plot to overthrow the then prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. There will always be those working in the background who are bent on domination no matter what, and to them it is of no consequence should good and innocent men get caught up in the blowback and pay with their lives. The men behind IC are powerful and well connected enough to stay out of the shitstorms, and being a natural cynic i feel the public will never learn the full extent of their engineering of policy decision making which led to the IC goatfuck.
"everyone wants to win but no one wants to drink a bucket of sj's piss" - bob5695
10-26-2012, 09:50 PM
RE: The Iran Contra
COPIED from: brown.edu
Back Ground Information - Nicaragua and Iran
Background of U.S. Policy
The United States has long had an interest in the political developments of Latin America, due to the region’s close proximity. Numerous presidents have fashioned policies in an attempt to ensure that U.S. interests in the region are protected. Most notably, perhaps, President James Monroe established the “Monroe Doctrine” in 1823, a policy stating that the United States would prevent European intervention in Latin America. The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, established by Theodore Roosevelt, asserted the right of the United States to intervene militarily in Latin America. Often, these interventions had the ostensible aim of instituting democracy in the region. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy declared that the U.S. would no longer intervene in Latin America (with certain exceptions) and would recognize governments in the region regardless of their form. President John F. Kennedy established the Alliance for Progress, which sought to institute democracy and development in the region in response to the perceived threat of Cuban- and Soviet-backed socialism. This policy waned under the Nixon administration but was reemphasized after the Vietnam War by Congress and President Carter, who both sought to advance human rights in Latin America through means other than intervention. As we shall see, while President Reagan ostensibly espoused similar goals, his tactics differed from President Carter’s.
The Rise of the Somoza Dynasty
As the history of U.S. policy toward Latin America suggests, the United States has long intervened in Nicaraguan affairs. U.S. troops often intervened in the country in the early 20th century. In 1912, the Conservative Adolfo Díaz took power. Liberals subsequently revolted, and the Untied States sent marines to suppress the rebellion. In 1924, the Liberal Juan Sacasa won the Nicaraguan presidency but was overthrown by Emiliano Chamorro, a Conservative. The United States forced him to resign but then recognized Adolfo Díaz as the next president. This prompted a Liberal rebellion; among those Liberals who fought in the revolt were José Maria Moncada, Augusto César Sandino, and Anastasio Somoza García. The United States eventually sent in marines to support Díaz until the election in 1928, which Moncada won. Sandino, however, did not support Moncada and continued fighting. Partially as a result of Sandino’s destabilizing presence, the United States trained the Nicaraguan National Guard. In the 1932 elections, Juan Sacasa became president. Prior to his departure, Moncada made Anastasio Somoza García the head of the National Guard, a choice supported by the United States. Sandino reached a deal with the government to maintain an army and control over a patch of land in Nicaragua, but Somoza’s National Guard killed Sandino in 1934. Despite Sacasa’s request for U.S. help, the United States under FDR failed to intervene as Somoza seized power in 1936, and his dictatorial dynasty ruled Nicaragua for the next 43 years.
Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the Revolution
In 1967, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the son of Somoza García, became president. He was widely disliked in Nicaragua, as he suppressed oppositional elements and enriched himself while in power. In 1972, an earthquake rocked Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and Somoza exercised “emergency powers” to deal with the earthquake while he and his colleagues stole a majority of international aid sent to Nicaragua in the earthquake’s wake. In 1974, the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) staged a kidnapping of Nicaraguan elites at a Christmas Party. In response, Somoza declared a state of siege and engaged in a brutal crackdown marked by serious human rights violations against guerrillas and peasants. In the United States, where Somoza Debayle had largely been ignored, politicians sought to induce reform in Nicaragua because of its poor human rights record, a trend that continued with the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
Nicaraguan businessmen sought reforms as well, as the regime’s policies were inconsistent with private-sector interests. In 1974, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, a popular Nicaraguan politician, founded the Union for Democratic Liberation (UDEL), an opposition party supported by Alfonso Robelo (a cottonseed oil manufacturer) and Adolfo Calero (a Conservative politician and manager of a bottling factory). The Sandinistas, too, continued to oppose the regime, beginning with more attacks in 1977. In January 1978, Chamorro was assassinated, which led to widespread protests against the regime despite the fact that the assassins were never conclusively identified. The Sandinistas continued to fight the regime, and with support from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, and Cuba, they were increasingly successful. By summer 1979, the United States decided that Somoza’s rule was no longer tenable in Nicaragua and, along with other Latin American leaders, sought to moderate the new Nicaraguan government that would inevitably come to power. The Sandinistas paid lip service to this request. On July 19, 1979, the Sandinistas seized power in Nicaragua.
After the Marxist-Leninist Sandinistas took power, they imposed a state of emergency and nationalized various sectors of the economy, expropriated land and businesses from those with ties to the old regime, and reorganized Nicaraguan political life. In an attempt to prevent the Sandinistas from forming ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba, the Carter Administration sent aid to the new regime. The Sandinistas nevertheless allied themselves with the Cubans and Soviets; in fact, Cuban military officials advised the Sandinistas after the revolution, and the Sandinistas signed agreements with Moscow in March of 1980. Carter continued to give aid to Nicaragua even as it was discovered that the Sandinistas were sending weapons to Salvadoran rebels. After failed appeals by the Carter and Reagan Administrations to the Sandinistas to cease arms trafficking, Reagan ended all aid to Nicaragua. With the Sandinistas still sending arms to El Salvador, Reagan issued an intelligence finding authorizing the CIA to engage in covert action by funding the contras, ostensibly to support the interdiction of arms going to El Salvador. However, the goal of covert action arguably expanded to include the overthrow of the Sandinistas. It is this framework that eventually led to the Contra half of the Iran-Contra affair.
Soon after the Sandinistas seized power, some segments of Nicaraguan society felt disenchanted with the new regime’s policies and sought to bring about change through armed rebellion. These counterrevolutionaries, or “contras,” came to be supported by the United States. Many of the contras were former National Guardsmen under Somoza. Moreover, many contras were peasants and farmers who objected to Sandinista land policies and took up arms against the Sandinistas. Members of the elite and business owners opposed the FSLN’s economic policies and repressive measures and fought the regime as well. Most notably, José Francisco Cardenal, the former president of the Chamber of Construction, and Enrique Bermúdez, a former colonel in the National Guard, founded the Nicaraguan Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, which later came to be called the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN). The FDN was the major group of contras supported by the Administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Ideology and Domestic Politics
In 1961, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or Sandinistas) was founded by Silvio Mayorga, Tomás Borge, and Carlos Fonseca. The group took its name from Augusto Cesár Sandino, who led a Liberal peasant army against the government of U.S.-backed Adolfo Díaz and the subsequent Nicaraguan government in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Inspired by Fidel Castro’s and Che Guevarra’s Cuban Revolution, the group sought to be “a political-military organization whose objective is the seizure of political power through the destruction of the bureaucratic and military apparatus of [Somoza’s] dictatorship.”
According to Dennis Gilbert, the first members of the FSLN were nationalistic students who were outraged at conditions in Nicaragua under Somoza. They were also outraged at the United States over what they saw as consistent U.S. intervention in Nicaraguan affairs. He argues that the Sandinistas’ ideology was rooted in Marxism and in a mistaken reading of Sandino as a pseudo-Marxist. (Sandino himself was a populist who sought Nicaraguan independence from U.S. imperialism. While he sought relief for the poor, he did not advocate for a Marxist class struggle.)
However, the Sandinistas were heavily influenced by Marixst-Leninist teachings, as the party leaders themselves sometimes admitted, but they interpreted these ideas in the context of their view of Nicaragua’s history. Specifically, they thought of themselves as a Leninist vanguard party, a group of “professional revolutionaries” that would unite the Nicaraguan workers and peasants to destroy the “present system of capitalist exploitation and oppression” run by the Somoza dynasty and supported by the United States. After they had rid Nicaragua of those who were resistant to change, the FSLN would lead Nicaragua toward socialism, at least in a broad sense; as Gilbert notes, the Sandinistas did not all agree on what socialism actually meant.
Post-revolution politics and ideology
Despite their staunch socialist leanings, the Sandinistas united with other groups in opposition to Somoza in order to “mask” the true nature of their revolution so as to not evoke the ire of the United States. After the broad-based coalition against Somoza triumphed, the FSLN sought to consolidate its power to prevent the bourgeoisie from waging a successful counterrevolution. They organized segments of society, such as peasants and laborers, into “mass organizations” which would ostensibly defend the revolution. The Sandinistas presented these organizations as giving the Nicaraguan people a voice in the new revolutionary government and as promoting democratic participation. The masses also became the physical defenders of the revolution during the contra war, when the government distributed weapons to militias. The FSLN, moreover, instituted a National Literacy Crusade, which, according to Kagan, served both to increase literacy and to ideologically indoctrinate students.
Sandinista economic policies also reflected their socialist ideology. The Sandinistas nationalized Nicaragua’s financial sector and major exports. They seized some farm land and encouraged the formation of state farms and farming cooperatives, although they eventually distributed land to individual peasants as contra resistance grew.
Throughout their rule, the Sandinistas arguably became more radicalized, especially in times of crisis. For example, in 1981, the Sandinistas announced new economic policies designed to weaken the private sector, such as the appropriation of “unused” farmland; the confiscation of businesses that ostensibly threatened the revolution; and the confiscation of the finances of those who had been gone from Nicaragua for at least six months. In 1982, after Argentine-trained rebels blew up two bridges, the Sandinistas declared a state of emergency, and, among other things, restricted the Nicaraguan press.
The Sandinistas fashioned themselves as a democratic movement. Instead of defining democracy in terms of elections, the FSLN believed that democracy meant popular support and participation. In fact, early after the revolution, the FSLN declared that the party would make decisions with the informal input of the people so that formal elections were deemphasized. However, in 1984, facing military pressure from the contras and seeking to gain legitimacy abroad, the Sandinistas held elections in which they were largely successful. Whether this was truly a fair election, though, is a matter of debate; Vanden and Prevost argue that it was, whereas Kagan argues that Sandinistas were not willing to make any real changes regardless of the elections.
Foreign Relations with the Soviet Bloc
Pre-Revolution and Cuba
Throughout their rule, the Sandinistas maintained a close relationship with Cuba. Prior to the revolution, the FSLN had been inspired by the socialist revolution in Cuba. During the revolution in Nicaragua, the FSLN received arms from Panama, Cuba, and Venezuela, and logistical support from Costa Rica, although Cuba’s Fidel Castro was the only country that wanted to see a socialist revolution in Nicaragua (the other countries supported the FSLN as a viable opponent to Somoza and to prevent the radicalization of the revolution). Immediately after the revolution, in fact, Cuba sent advisors to Nicaragua to consult with the new government about the formation of its policies. When the FSLN was pressured by the contras, Cuba increased its assistance to Nicaragua. In 1983, for example, after the Contras scored some successes against the FSLN, Cuban general Arnoldo Ochoa traveled to Nicaragua to advice the Sandinistas on their military campaign, and the number of Cuban advisers and military units in Nicaragua increased dramatically.
The Soviet Union
The Sandinistas also maintained ties with the Soviet Union. According to Kagan, “By March of 1980, the Sandinistas had already signed a party-to-party agreement with the Soviet Communist Party, as well as secret military protocols to begin receiving arms from the Soviet bloc. Deliveries of Soviet weapons from Cuba began almost immediately thereafter.” Draper writes that the Sandinistas signed “economic, technical, scientific, and cultural agreements with the Soviet Union.” In 1982, the Soviets increased their financial and military support to the FSLN, and again in 1983 after the arrival of General Ochoa, when it provided tanks, transport trucks, helicopters, and other materiel. However, in 1984, while the Soviet Union was still giving a large amount of military aid, Soviet economic performance was on the decline, and the Soviets feared that they were losing the Cold War against the United States due to key strategic victories secured by the latter. The Sandinistas thus became worried that, in the future, Soviet support would decline. Despite robust aid during 1985, the Sandinistas believed that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was less willing to support foreign revolutionary movements than previous Soviet leaders had been and that Soviet wishes to improve ties with the United States would hamper Soviet support. Sandinistas were heavily dependent on Soviet aid and oil; as Kagan notes, “The vital importance of close relations with the Soviet Union had been one of the few constants in Sandinista theory and policy since their earliest pre-revolutionary days.”
The impetus for Nicaragua’s ties with the Soviet Union is a matter of debate. Some argue that the Sandinistas sought relations with the Soviet Union only after the war with the contras and U.S. attempts to cut off Western aid to the Sandinistas made such relations necessary. Vanden writes, “After the first few years of Sandinista rule, problems with the United States, the contra war, the developing economic crisis, and the difficulties engendered in maintaining good relations with Western Europe combined to necessitate a cautious policy of engagement with the socialist countries.” In this view, it was the United States that was partially to blame for facilitating the Nicaraguan-Soviet relationship through the facilitation of armed rebellion in the country. On the other hand, Kagan argues that the Sandinistas had always intended to form an alliance with the Soviet Union and “actively sought” this alliance.
The Sandinistas also supported the spread of socialism abroad, most notably in nearby El Salvador. The FSLN sent weapons to leftist rebels in El Salvador, beginning no later than in mid-1980 and continuing for the next decade. Kagan argues that the FSLN supported the Salvadoran rebels “for reasons of ideology and affinity.” He also argues that the Sandinistas supported the rebels because they thought that, by aiding the rebels, they would convince the Soviet Union to fully support Nicaragua against U.S. intervention in the region and ensure that Nicaragua remained economically viable. Sandinista support for the Salvadoran rebels had a profound impact on U.S.-Nicaragua relations.
The Counterrevolutionaries (The Contras)
Within a year of the Sandinistas’ capture of power, those opposed to the regime began to engage in violent actions. In the summer of 1980, crude organizations of fighters were seeking to start a counterrevolution. These disparate groups comprised former National Guardsmen, ex-Sandinista soldiers critical of the new regime, and peasants and farmers upset with “intrusive” Sandinista land policies. Nicaraguan exiles, including former guardsmen and members of the Conservative Party, gathered in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Miami and discussed the prospect of both unarmed and armed opposition to the Sandinistas. Many exiles came to see armed resistance as the only feasible means to moderate Nicaragua; two of them, José Francisco Cardenal (a former president of the Chamber of Construction) and Enrique Bermúdez (a former colonel in the National Guard) formed a “political-military alliance” that would come to be called the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the main contra faction.
The soldiers under the contra leadership consisted of former National Guard enlistees, many of whom had fled to Honduras after the revolution and who sought revenge; former Sandinista fighters who felt betrayed; some Protestant evangelicals and Catholics, who were angered by Sandinista opposition to their religion; farmers who were disaffected by the revolution; and Nicaraguan Indians and Creoles who opposed the regime. According to Kagan, when the Americans began their covert support of the contras, there were fewer than 2,000 anti-Sandinista fighters, only a few hundred of which were members of the FDN. By the end of 1983, however, there were up to 6,000 contra fighters. The contras gained support among populations who were disaffected by Sandinista economic policies.
Early Foreign Support
The Argentinean government had begun supporting Bermúdez and his military forces (the Fifteenth of September Legion) even before the founding of the FDN. The Argentineans gave money and advisers to Bermúdez’s forces in Honduras and also provided training. The Honduran military also provided support and shelter to the contras. This support continued throughout much of the counterrevolution due to the Honduran government’s dislike of the Sandinistas and U.S. financial and military assistance to Honduras.
In late 1981, the Reagan Administration settled on a policy of providing arms, money, and equipment to the Argentinean-backed contras. This followed President Carter’s authorization, in early 1980, of CIA financial support to the Nicaraguan opposition (for the purposes of “organization and propaganda,” but not “armed actions”) and President Reagan’s March 1981 authorization of CIA covert action to interdict arms trafficking to El Salvador (which allowed the CIA to meet with Nicaraguan rebel leaders and their Honduran supporters but which did not allow the CIA to arm rebel groups). U.S. covert support for and involvement in contra operations would eventually culminate in the Iran-Contra Affairs; more specific information on operational support can be found here.
Leadership and Organization
Early on, the Argentineans chose the contra leadership. This leadership consisted of the former National Guard officers in the Fifteenth of September Legion. Once the United States became involved, it sought to unite the anti-Sandinista forces (the FDN and others) and create an “attractive” political identity for to attract support at home and abroad. In late 1982, the CIA introduced the FDN’s new political directorate to counter the criticism that the contras were a continuation of the Somoza regime. The directorate included Edgar Chamorro, a prominent aristocrat; Bermudez, the FDN’s military leader; and, later Adolfo Calero, a pro-democracy Conservative who opposed both Somoza and the Sandinistas.
After a March 1982 attack by anti-Sandinista forces prompted more radical measures taken by the Sandinistas, Alfonso Robelo, a former member of the post-revolution Nicaraguan government, and Edén Pastora, who led anti-Somoza troops during the revolution, expressed their support for armed resistance against the Sandinistas. Pastora formed an armed anti-Sandinista resistance group in Costa Rica called the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE). Arturo Cruz, also a member of the Nicaraguan government, resigned in protest of what he saw as an increasingly radical regime and supported armed revolution. In June 1985, after U.S. efforts to unite these opposition leaders, Cruz, Robelo, and Calero formed the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO), which theoretically subsumed the FDN.
Criticism over Human Rights
The contras are frequently criticized for their alleged human rights abuses. Kagan notes “reports of murders and kidnappings by contra forces.” Reed Brody, a U.S. lawyer who investigated contra actions (but who was supported in his investigation by the Sandinistas), and Americas Watch, also criticized alleged contra abuses. Gilbert argues that the contras “employed brutal tactics against noncombatants” and notes that Edgar Chamorro resigned from FDN due to its attacks against civilians. While these allegations may be somewhat overstated, and the Sandinistas may have “placed those whom they considered civilians in harm’s way,” Kagan argues that the contras would conduct summary executions of alleged Sandinista informers, prisoners, and officials. However, to keep perspective, one must bear in mind that Americas Watch also criticized the Sandinistas for human rights abuses.
U.S. Support for the Contras
The United States provided money, material, and operational support to the contras. However, the purpose of the United States’ Nicaragua policy during the early years of the Reagan Administration is a matter of debate. According to Kagan, the ostensible goal of U.S. support for the contras, according to some in the Administration, was not to overthrow the Sandinistas but to compel them to stop sending arms to the Salvadoran rebels. This changed, however, with the formulation of the Reagan Doctrine in 1982, which was “a policy of supporting democratic reform or revolution everywhere.” At this point, the goal of the Reagan Administration’s policy in Nicaragua arguably became to overthrow the Sandinistas. Others, such as Draper, suggest that regime change was the goal of the Administration’s Nicaragua policy from the beginning.
U.S. Actions in Nicaragua, August 1981 to December 1982
In August 1981, a CIA official met with Honduran military officials, Argentine advisers, and the FDN leadership and expressed his support for the contra operations. On November 1, the Director of the CIA William Casey met with the Chief of Staff of the Argentine military; the two purportedly agreed that Argentina would oversee the contras and the United States would provide money and weapons. In late 1981, President Reagan authorized the U.S. to support the contras by giving them “money, arms, and equipment” through Argentina, with the potential for “the occasional direct involvement of the United States in supporting individual operations.” As a result, according to Kornbluh, “the frequency and destructiveness of the contra attack[s] increased rapidly.” So, too, did their numbers. Toward the end of 1982, the contras (who operated out of Honduras) were conducting attacks deep inside Nicaragua.
The First Boland Amendment
As contra attacks continued throughout 1982, the U.S. press began to report on U.S. support for the rebels. Liberal members of Congress condemned the policy, arguing that it was immoral and perhaps illegal. Eventually, Congressman Edward Boland (D-MA), Chairman of the House intelligence committee, offered an amendment “prohibiting the use of funds ‘for the purpose of’ overthrowing the government of Nicaragua or provoking a war between Nicaragua and Honduras” which became law on December 21, 1982. The use of funds for this purpose had actually been secretly prohibited per an agreement between Congress and the White House; thus, the amendment had no practical effect on the conduct of U.S. policy. Kagan identifies a “loophole” in the law; namely, that as long as the United States itself did not intend to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, the United States could support the contras, who did have that intent. Indeed, according to a PBS Frontline documentary, the amendment did not affect the conduct of the war in Nicaragua.
U.S. Policy between Boland I and Boland II
After Boland I, contra attacks in Nicaragua continued to grow. Despite summary executions of Sandinista soldiers and other brutal measures, the contras often found support among the people in the countryside. The number of contra soldiers continued to grow as well. To counter this threat, the Sandinistas received operational support from a Cuban military general and weapons from the Soviet Union. The CIA began airlifting supplies to the contras, and the contras conducted “spectacular” guerilla assaults on their targets. During the second half of 1983, with the help of the CIA, the contras conducted air strikes on Sandino airport near Managua and other targets. The CIA itself used its own assets to carry out some covert actions in Nicaragua, including destroying several fuel tanks. The CIA also placed mines in Nicaraguan harbors on January 7, 1984 and February 29, 1984, damaging several ships. The contras initially took credit for the mining, but the Wall Street Journal reported it to be the work of the CIA a few months later. Moreover, it was discovered that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a U.S. Marine who worked on the National Security Council staff at the Reagan White House, had known of and recommended the operation.
The Second Boland Amendment
As the war in Nicaragua grew, many Congresspersons were concerned that the Administration’s policies violated the Boland Amendment, prompting political wrangling involving the White House and Congress over contra funding. The revelation that the CIA was responsible for mining Nicaragua’s harbors infuriated Congresspersons of both political parties, including Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, who felt that the CIA had failed to inform the committee of the operation in advance as required by law. (In fact, DCI Casey may have informed the committee, albeit in an arguably veiled way.) As a result, the second Boland Amendment was passed on October 12, 1984. It read:
No appropriations or funds made available pursuant to this [authorization bill] to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which would have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual.
For all intents and purposes, this amendment appeared to prohibit the funding of the contras with U.S. government funds.
U.S. Policy Framework Post-Boland
The second Boland Amendment certainly forced the Administration to change some of its policies even as it was trying to get the amendment repealed. Draper identifies two ways in which the Administration tried to get around Boland. The first was by getting private American citizens and third-party countries to donate money to the contras since Boland did not explicitly outlaw these parties from funding the Contras. The second was by controlling U.S. contra policy and support from within the National Security Council (NSC), which is “the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials.” This option was based on the fact that the NSC was not explicitly mentioned in Boland and that, since the NSC deals with policymaking, it is arguably not an “intelligence agency or entity” involved in “intelligence activities.”
Obtaining funds for U.S. foreign policy goals from third-party had been considered by 1983. That spring, Robert McFarlane, before he became President Reagan’s National Security Adviser, suggested that Israel could give some of the foreign aid it received from the United States to U.S. allies in Central America. Later that year, Secretary of State George Shultz suggested that “alternative benefactors” should be found to fund the contras.
After the passage of the second Boland Amendment, the Administration again considered this plan. In March and April, McFarlane, with the support of DCI Casey, tried to get the Israelis to fund the Contras, but they refused. Secretary Shultz now objected to this option, stating that it might be illegal for the United States to get other countries, especially recipients of U.S. aid, to fund the contras. Nevertheless, McFarlane, North, and others sought funds from other countries for the contras. McFarlane was able to get a total of $32 million from Saudi Arabia between 1984 and 1986; McFarlane maintained that he did not solicit the money but merely expressed that that funds for the contras would be appreciated. Later, North was able to secure two $1 million contributions to the contras from Taiwan.
At the end of 1985 and as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act, Congress outlawed most U.S. government agencies from soliciting money from third-party countries to fund the contras. However, the amendment allowed the State Department to solicit such funds for “humanitarian assistance only,” provided that the money donated was from the countries’ own funds and that the U.S. did not enter into “any express or implied arrangement making U.S. provision of assistance to the third country contingent on the third country’s assistance to the contras.” North, Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams, National Security Adviser John Poindexter, and others had the idea of getting $10 million from the Sultan of Brunei for the contras, but the money was deposited in the wrong bank account.
DCI Casey was allegedly the first to suggest the solicitation of private funds for the contras, but the CIA did not coordinate these activities. Some in the administration had the idea to set up a tax-exempt foundation to collect money for the contras, but the individual who eventually carried out this plan was Carl R. Channell, a conservative political consultant and lobbyist. In early 1985, Channell met the public relations representative of the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund. Channell soon found himself and Daniel Conrad, another political fundraiser, hosting a fundraising dinner for the NRF. Channell continued fundraising, and he was eventually introduced to Oliver North. North began briefing dinner guests at Channell’s fundraisers so that they would contribute to the contra cause. With the help of others, Channell organized fundraisers that also featured other Administration officials, including the president, and he even arranged for a meeting between a potential donor and Adolfo Calero. In 1985 and 1986, Channell raised over $12 million, of which $2.7 million went to the contras. Draper notes that North had a very important role in this operation and that Reagan himself knew about it.
In addition to seeking alternative funding, North and others sought to provide the contras with arms and supplies. For this, North worked with Richard Secord and Albert Hakim. (Some weapons were obtained with North’s knowledge by John Singlaub, a retired U.S. Army general who also assisted in securing the money from Taiwan and who, with the support of Sen. Jesse Helms and Abrams, attempted to unite the contras in the north and south.) Secord was a retired Air Force General who had been implicated in a scandal in which an ex-CIA agent sold arms to Libya and who had met North in 1981 regarding an unrelated matter. Hakim was an Iranian businessman who met Secord while the latter was stationed in Iran. Following Secord’s retirement in 1983, the two began to do business with one another. DCI Casey recommended Secord to North as someone who could be involved in helping the contras. North solicited Secord’s help in summer 1984, and Secord and Hakim agreed to participate. North introduced the two to Calero, and in November 1984, the three solidified their first agreement in which Secord and Hakim would obtain arms for the contras. By the next summer, the contras got their arms solely from Secord and Hakim, who eventually sold a total of $11 million in arms to the contras.
Air Supply Ops
The second Boland Amendment prohibited the CIA from providing the operational support to the contras that it once had. In order to get around this restriction, North and others set up a “miniature CIA,” in Draper’s words, to deliver arms to the contras. In July 1985, North asked Secord “to build and oversee an air resupply operation for the contras.” Much of the money raised for the contras from private citizens and other countries went to this operation, and an airstrip was constructed in Costa Rica for the operation’s use (however, this was closed at the behest of Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez in September 1986). However, due to poor equipment and other issues, there were no arms deliveries until April 1, 1986, and the initial drops only supplied contra forces in Honduras. By May, according to Draper, contras in both the north and south were receiving air drops, although Kagan quotes an agent of the supply effort as saying that the operation was not “viable” until mid-September. On October 5, 1986, one of the supply aircraft was shot down by the Sandinistas, and crewmember Eugene Hasenfus was captured. Despite the fact that this event did not cause Congress to immediately conduct in-depth investigation into U.S. involvement in supplying the contras, North and others in the Administration decided to end the operation.
North also provided “broader strategic military advice.” He provided the contras with U.S. intelligence information on the location of new HIND helicopters the Soviets had shipped to the contras, an act which McFarlane later stated could have violated the Boland Amendment. North also passed along intelligence information from the CIA and DoD to the contras. He attempted to help secure the services of a British mercenary, David Walker, for the contras, but Walker’s operations were never carried out. Furthermore, North tried to get approval for a contra attack on a cargo ship suspected of carrying arms for the Sandinistas, although this operation never occurred.
While North and others were coordinating financial and operational support to the contras more or less out of the public view, the Administration was considering ways to secure Congressional funding for the contras. In addition to Boland, Congress passed a provision in which $14 million in military assistance could later be given to the contras at the behest of both Houses of Congress. This aid was finally released for “humanitarian purposes” in August 1985, and that same year, the Congress “loosened” the Boland Amendment’s restrictions on so that the CIA could “provide training and intelligence information to the contras” as long as it was not for the conduction of or logistics for combat operations. In June 1986, $100 million in aid to the contras was passed by Congress.
While the Administration was discussing contra funding in 1986, “North came upon the idea of overcharging the Iranians” for weapons sold to them by Americans “and using the surplus to fund the contra resupply operation and other covert activities.” Manucher Ghorbanifar apparently suggested this idea to George Cave, a CIA official, in March of that year. In any event, in early April, North wrote a memo to Poindexter and Reagan in which he wrote that $12 million of the profit Secord and Hakim made from the sale of arms to Iran “will be used to purchase critically needed supplies for the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance Forces;” this became known as the “diversion.” On November 25, 1986, in the midst of growing attention paid to the arms deals to Iran, Attorney General Edwin Meese III announced the diversion. Of all of the events of the Iran-Contra Affairs, this was arguably the most explosive.
Media Discovery and Congress’s Reaction
As early as June 1985, the media began publishing stories about U.S. ties to the contras. North’s name first appeared in a June 24, 1985 article in the Miami Herald in which Edgar Chamorro was interviewed. Other newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post began running with the story as well. As a result, Congress questioned McFarlane and North. The two of them, along with Poindexter, “deceived and obstructed” Congress, according to Draper. Thus, Congress did not conduct any oversight at this point, although the answers the three gave to Congress later formed the basis for their criminal charges.
In 1986, the media again brought attention to North’s activities. A Sandinista helicopter was shot down in December 1985, and in January, the Miami Herald reported that the missile used in the attack was obtained by Singlaub. In April, the newspaper again referred to North, stating that he may have broken the prohibition on aid to the contras. The media continued with the story throughout the summer amidst White House denials. Thus, according to Draper, “By mid-1986, U.S. clandestine support for the contras was an open secret.” Congress again sought information on these activities, but Poindexter stonewalled Congress and North was misleading, as he later admitted. Thus, Congress again exercised no real oversight function over the NSC, and further failed to do so when Hasenfus’s aircraft was shot down. It was not until the exposure of the Iran side of things that the Iran-Contra Affairs became a political crisis of such magnitude.
Impact on the Contras
The impact of the activities of North and the others is important to consider. Secord and Hakim were interested in profiting off of their activities; thus, the contras did not receive all of the money that North intended they receive. As Kagan writes, “For all the controversy raised about the diversion, the contras were fortunate if they received $2 million worth of tangible benefits [between January and October 1986,] an amount that paled in comparison to the far less controversial $32 million they ultimately received from Saudi Arabia.” The figure of $2 million includes the estimated $600,000 that the contras received as a result of the diversion. Meanwhile, the accounts of Secord and Hakim, when frozen during the Iran-Contra Affairs, still had $8 million.
Nicaragua Since Iran-Contra
The Nicaraguan civil war between the Sandinistas and the contras, coupled with Sandinista economic policy, contributed greatly to economic decline in Nicaragua. The two sides signed a peace deal in 1987, and elections were held in 1990. The Bush Administration, which had gradually ended aid to the contras, gave financial support to the political opposition. Elections were held in 1990, and Violeta Chamorro, (Pedro Joaquín Chamorro’s widow) of the National Opposition Union (UNO), won the presidency. She attempted to reverse many policies of the Sandinista regime and was successful in introducing free-market reforms, human rights protections, and democratization. Animosity between former contras and Sandinistas was strong––and sometimes violent––through the mid-1990s; however, President Chamorro did make progress in national reconciliation.
In 1997, Arnoldo Aléman became president after winning elections the previous year. His administration was corrupt, however, and in 2001, Enrique Bolaños became president. He attempted to bolster Nicaragua’s economy, which today remains among the worst in Latin America, by introducing various reforms. In 2006, Daniel Ortega of the FSLN was reelected as president; however, he no longer espouses the Socialism of his past. Instead, his “government focused on the difficult task of stamping out official corruption and improving general economic conditions, particularly for poorer Nicaraguans.”
Today, relations between the United States and Nicaragua are normal. Both countries maintain embassies in the other. The United States continues to push for free-market reforms, democratization, and economic improvement. Indeed, Nicaragua is part of the Central America––Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, a free trade agreement that includes the United States, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The United States also seeks to better human rights in Nicaragua, including through judicial reform, and to assist Nicaragua in combating crime and terrorism.
Iran has long been a source of international conflict between Russia and the West, predating even the name Iran. “Persia,” as it was then known, was a source of conflict between Russia and England in the 1700s, as both countries expanded their reach through colonization. Though Iran is physically close to the Russian border, it is also very close to India, one of the British Empire’s most important colonies, and to parts of Africa that were colonized by England. (Map p9 Saikal). By the beginning of the 20th century, Russia controlled some of northern Persia, while the British Empire controlled the eastern region, closest to India.
After World War II, many European countries— including some of the world’s former superpowers—were left in ruins. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the world’s two main superpowers, locked in a battle for absolute dominance. This rivalry played out all over the world, as the U.S. and the Soviet Union sought to impose capitalism and communism, respectively, by dominating smaller countries—including Iran and other countries throughout the Middle East. Though both the U.S. and the USSR struggled to control countries in the Middle East more than in any other region, the U.S. successfully positioned itself as an ally to Iran until 1979.
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, commonly referred to as “the Shah,” governed Iran from 1953 through 1979 as a secular and authoritarian rule.. The Shah rose to power after his father was forced to step down, and the Shah’s relationship with the U.S. flourished over time. His government grew increasingly pro-Western as it sought to modernize the country and burnish its international image. However, as the Shah’s relationship with the U.S. strengthened and his international profile grew, many of his own people grew displeased with his leadership. In 1978, riots and demonstrations broke out across the country, and by 1979 these protests increased in frequency, power, and violence. Of particular concern to the protestors were two things they perceived to be linked: the Shah’s lack of emphasis on religious values and his government’s close relationship with the U.S. Iranians were concerned that another country, rather than his own people and their values, were a priority.
As turmoil around the country and the pressure on the Shah increased, he lost much of his power and U.S. support diminished. The Shah left Iran in January 1979, and the country was soon declared an Islamic Republic by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a previously exiled opponent of the Shah. The Ayatollah took over Iran as a religious leader and centralized power even further. Very quickly, Iran had changed from one of the U.S.’s most powerful and prominent allies in the Middle East to an openly anti-American (but still very oil-rich) country.
Initially following the Revolution of 1979, the U.S. sought to “normalize relations” with Iran as quickly as possible. The U.S. was desperate to regain an important ally in order to reassert its power in the Middle East and to keep Soviet influences out of the region; moreover, the U.S. wanted to maintain access to Iranian oil. However, with a new ruler who had come to power suddenly on an anti-Western and very fundamentalist Islamic platform, the relationship was transformed and continued to deteriorate.
The seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979 by a religious fundamentalist and anti-imperialist group called The Muslim Followers of the Line of the Imam symbolized the end of cordial diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran. Fifty-three hostages were taken, and though the group, made up mostly of young revolutionaries, was somewhat radical, the government and the general public in Iran supported their actions. The taking of the hostages galvanized religious fundamentalists and anti-imperialists in Iran and largely improved the Ayatollah’s image in the eyes of the Iranian public.
The hostages continued to be a central point of interaction, animosity and conflict between Iran and the U.S., as Iran sought money, among other requests, in return for the release of hostages. A failed mission to rescue them in which eight American soldiers were killed became what some say was a defining moment of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Eventually, these hostages were released in early 1981, the day of President Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration.
Over the next few years, the situation further deteriorated and more hostages were taken. A religious fundamentalist group called the Islamic Holy War took hostage William F. Buckley, the Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency station in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 1984. Over the following three years, more Americans were kidnapped.
By the mid-1980s, Iran sought to have nothing to do with the U.S. This was a very unusual position for the U.S. to be in, as typically the U.S. government was able to translate its financial wealth and military strength into influence over smaller countries around the world. Without the leverage they were used to having to assert authority in a region, top U.S. officials began examining alternative approaches to the U.S.’s relationship with Iran.
Other Relevant Middle East Conflicts
Iran-Iraq War (1980-90)
The Iran-Iraq war was the main reason why Iran was so need of weapons, and thus was willing to purchase them from the U.S. and Israel. The Reagan Administration’s decision to sell arms to Iran was particularly shocking because the U.S. had publicly supported Iraq, along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other small mideast nations. Iran’s public support was largely limited to Syria and Libya. Tensions between the two bordering countries had risen during the decades preceding the 1980s, largely stemming from territorial and ethnic conflicts. In the view of each country, the other had ultimately provoked the open fighting that broke out in September 1980. On September 4, Iran bombed a series of posts on the shared border. On September 22, Iraq’s army surprised Iran by crossing the border into Iran, in an attempt to claim Khuzestan, the Iranian region on the other side of Shatt al-‘Arab river, which had traditionally served as a marking point of the countries’ shared border. Saddam Hussein, the then-President of Iraq, purposefully attacked Iran at a point when its relationship with the U.S. was strained.
Though the Iraqi army gained much ground at first, by 1982 the Iranian army, working with the Revolutionary Guards, fought back so effectively that Hussein attempted to withdraw the Iraqi army and resume peaceful relations between the two countries. However, the Iranian administration in power, led by the Ruholla Khomeini, was so incensed by Iraq’s actions that they attempted to overthrow President Hussein, and soon crossed the border into Iraq. Ultimately, the war became a stalemate: a series of back-and-forth infantry, air, missile, and sea attacks.
A number of human rights violations occurred on both sides. For example, Iran took advantage of child soldiers, while Iraq used chemical warfare on its own people: tens of thousands of Kurdish citizens whom the government believed to be supportive of Iran. Through the eighties, Iraq attempted to sue Iran for peace, but it wasn’t until 1988 that Iran accepted a cease-fire, and in 1990 final terms to end the war were agreed upon.
Iran and Israel
The extent of Iranian-Israeli cooperation that came about as a result of the Iran-Contra affair has been seen by some as even more surprising than the U.S.-Iran relationship. Prior to 1979’s Iranian Revolution, Iran and Israel had been on civil terms, but this took a dramatic turn in the opposite direction following the Revolution. Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic government advocated for the destruction of Israel and the reinstatement of the Islamic Palestinian state. The Iranian government almost immediately refused to engage in any trade or diplomatic relationship with Israel.
The Beginning of the Affair
As the 1980s continued, the relationship between the U.S. and Iran worsened. In 1983, the U.S. was actively involved in preventing arms sales to Iran, a country it accused of supporting terrorists. The U.S. also used its influence to lean on countries that dealt with Iran. However, at the same time, National Security Council (NSC) members began to look into covert operations that could lead to a better relationship with Iran.
According to him, Adnan Khashoggi met with National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane beginning in 1983 to discuss U.S.-Iran relations. Meanwhile, former CIA Associate Director of Operations Theodore Shackley was introduced to General Manucher Hashemi, a former head of the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK. Hashemi then introduced Shackley to other Iranians, including Manucher Ghorbanifar and Hassan Karoubi, who became infamous during the ensuing investigation as the “first Iranian.”
In January 1984, McFarlane formally requested that the NSC examine how the U.S. could work to influence Iran, particularly a post-Khomeini Iran (the U.S. believed that he was close to death and that it would be easier to deal with the country after he died). However, the report conveyed the sense that the U. S. was at an impasse in its relationship with Iran.
In 1985, Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi came into contact in Hamburg, Germany, and began devising the skeletons of the plan that would eventually become the Iran side of the Iran/Contra Affairs. Three Israelis were drawn into the discussion in the summer of 1985. A number of stories exist regarding the exact time, place, and specifics of these meetings. However, from these meetings came the idea to sell U.S. arms to Iran via Israel and the suggestion that, to gain the U.S.’s approval for the scheme, American hostages in Lebanon could be released. At the same time this was happening, the NSC was searching for new ways to deal with Iran.
McFarlane met with Israeli David Kimche on July 3, 1985, who had been sent to the U.S. on behalf of the Israelis who had been involved in discussions with Khashoggi and Ghorbanifar. Kimche presented their ideas to McFarlane had said that they were supported by both Iranian and Israeli officials. Whether or not any of them had any official authority is unclear, but it seems unlikely. In a report to other top NSC advisers a few days later, McFarlane explained that Kimche had presented him with an opportunity to open dialogue with Iran. The Iranians wanted TOW missiles, and providing them would be an excellent way to improve the U.S.’s relationship with the country. It could also likely lead to the release of the seven hostages held in Lebanon as Iran had influence over the terrorist groups who took the hostages. In this report, McFarlane conveyed that Kimche was an emissary of the Israeli government—whether he actually believed this to be true is unclear. Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger voiced some opposition. However, McFarlane encouraged talks with Iran. Ghorbanifar put himself forward as a representative of the moderates in Iran who were interested in bettering relations with the U.S. McFarlane, Ghorbanifar, and a variety of Israeli representatives began to formulate and refine a plan.
President Reagan’s Approval
On July 1, 1985, the New York Times quoted President Ronald Reagan: “The United States gives terrorists no rewards. We make no concessions, we make no deals.” However, in August 1985, McFarlane visited Reagan in the hospital, where he was recovering from abdominal surgery, to talk about the deal in the works. The President approved the plan to allow Israel to sell approximately 100 American-made TOW antitank missiles to Iran, seeing it as a chance to improve relations with Iran and to gain the release of hostages. Israel would send Iran some of their American-made TOW missiles. In exchange, the Iranians would release some, if not all, of the American hostages that they held. The U.S. would also send Israel replacement TOW missiles so that its arsenal would not be depleted. It is not entirely clear what was said during this discussion, as both Reagan and McFarlane have given varying accounts. However, soon after, the plan was put into motion. Iran, represented by Ghorbanifar, and Israel, represented by Kimche and Nimrodi, worked out the details of the plan.
On August 20, the first load of 96 missiles was sent to Iran from Israel, with Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi acting as financial intermediates. However, no release of hostages followed. According to Ghobanifar, there had been a mix-up, but the hostages would be released if more missiles were sent, which Iran would pay for. President Reagan signed off on the second shipment from Israel, which consisted of 408 TOW missiles. On September 15, the day after the shipment arrived in Iran, Benjamin Weir, an American hostage, was released. It was at this point that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, the “principal action officer” for the NSC’s Contra dealings, was brought into the Iran dealings when McFarlane put him in charge of working with Kimche to figure out the logistics of getting Weir from Lebanon to the U.S. Though the very few people in the U.S. aware of the plan were angry that only one hostage had been released in exchange for 500 TOWs, McFarlane and others recognized other benefits they stood to gain from the trade. Additionally, all of the money transfers were being conducted by independent intermediaries––like Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi—instead of governments, which allowed for a great deal of flexibility. They were also determined to secure the release of more hostages.
Most of those who knew about the arms deal were in favor of it. And so the deal continued, and the arms trades grew larger. In November, the U.S. agreed to allow Israel to send 150 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles, 200 Sidewinder missiles, and approximately 40 Phoenix missiles to Iran in a series of small shipments. North began meeting with Amiram Nir, an Israeli political advisor, who he had worked with in the past.
Complications arose, however, because of the indirect nature of the transfer of arms. The U.S. encountered logistical, security-related, and diplomatic problems replenishing the Israeli supply of weapons. Former Airforce Major General Richard Secord, North’s partner in dealing with the contras, was brought into the deal by North through these incidents.
It was at this point, in November 1985, that the first funds from the arms sales were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras. Secord and business partner Albert Hakim had established a company called the “Stanford Technology Trading Group International,” commonly known as “the Enterprise,” which the U.S. government used to conduct covert financial operations and which was often used during the Iran arms deals. Of the $1 million Israel transferred to an Enterprise-owned Swiss bank account to pay for transporting weapons, only $150,000 was spent for those purposes. The other $850,000 was diverted, by North, to be used to support the cContras.
The U.S. further tried to exchange weapons with Iran for hostages and money, to varying degrees of success. McFarlane was sent to Iran with Reagan’s approval but failed to secure the release of all of the hostages.
On January 17, 1986, President Reagan signed a Presidential Finding authorizing the more direct transfer of arms to Iran. Israel was still involved, serving as the base. Secord and the Enterprise were to serve as a third party to release the U.S. from any liability—the U.S. would sell arms to the Enterprise, which then sold them to Iran.
At this point, it was in Ghorbanifar’s interest to convince the U.S. to continue to deal with him and to continue to sell arms to Iran. Despite the many logistical difficulties they faced and the fact that Ghorbanifar repeatedly failed to deliver the hostages promised, Ghorbanifar pressed the U.S. to continue working with him. North later reported that in January 1986, Ghorbanifar suggested that he divert any extra money made through the deals to aid the Contras. National Security Adviser John Poindexter, who had replaced the retired McFarlane, approved this plan.
In February, North, Ghorbanifar, Hakim, and an Iranian representative, (first name) Kangarlou, met in Germany. There, they worked out a plan: The U.S. would send 1,000 TOWs to Iran by February 8, and all American hostages would be released the next day. Secord, via the Enterprise, was to pay the CIA and receive money from Ghorbanifar. Another 3,000 TOWs would be sold after the release of the hostages. In fact, theU.S. sent 1,000 by February 27, and no hostages were released. However, the money was paid, and Secord was able to send a large amount of money to aid the Contras, via the Enterprise. It is clear that North was aware of the diversion because of what is known as the “Diversion Memorandum,” written in April 1986, which clearly spells out what was going on. When the memo was written, North and other U.S. representatives seemed to still believe that if they just complied with the Iranians’ demands, at least some of the hostages would be released.
In May of that year, McFarlane and North traveled to Tehran, but no progress was made. Nevertheless, Ghorbanifar continued to press the U.S. to make deals. Ghorbanifar secured the release of a second hostage, Father Lawrence Jenco, in exchange for some spare missile parts, which restored some of the Americans’ faith in him. Nevertheless, North and Secord determined that the U.S. had to find an alternate channel for dealing with Iran, and put Hakim in charge of finding one.
The Second Channel and the Nine-Point Plan
At the end of August, Hakim and Secord came into contact with Ali Hashemi Bahramani, a relative of the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, with whom they had met in Brussels. Secord left their hours-long meeting optimistic that they had found a more ideal and reliable contact in Iran.
North met with this group in Germany in October. Each group brought its own seven-point proposal. While the Iranians’ plan was sequential—the U.S. would send a small number of weapons, then Iran would release one hostage, then the U.S. would take another small step, etc.—North departed from this approach, asking for large and immediate action on both ends. For various reasons, Hakim was left to deal with the Iranians on his own, and together, they worked out a nine-point plan that was a combination of the various points the different sides had initially brought to the table. The deal he worked out was substantially less beneficial for the U.S. than the one North had in mind. Hakim’s plan was that the U.S. would send Iran 1,500 TOWs, and afterwards, Iran would release “1 ½ hostages.” Iran would pay the U.S. very well, however, and so the plan was approved by the NSC
On October 28, the first shipment of 500 TOWs was sent to Iran. Iran paid $3.6 million to the Enterprise, only $2 million of which was turned over to the CIA. The rest, after a small amount of expenses, was diverted to the Contras.
Very shortly thereafter, in November 1986, two Lebanese newspapers broke the story of the Diversion, and the news quickly spread. The arms deals came to an end.
Iran Since Iran-Contra
The U.S.-Iran relationship has continued on a difficult course. Iran remains the religious state established during the Revolution and has become more fundamentalist in recent years. Tensions have heightened, largely due to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s strong anti-Israel position and his desire to develop nuclear power, which he now says Iran possesses (many around the world believe that Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons). In addition, Ahmadinejad has deemed both the Holocaust and 9/11 to be falsehoods, igniting U.S. and international anger. A highly disputed election in 2009, in which Ahmadinejad claimed victory over former Prime Minister Mir Hossain Mousavi, resulted in massive protests in Iran. These protests were met with harsh violence by Ahmadinejad’s government and were ultimately quelled. Nonetheless, divisions among the Iranian elite remain following the election.
10-26-2012, 09:58 PM
RE: The Iran Contra
so, right now, we are at the point where things can sort of be understood and we can see how the past relates into the present day.
if we really want to understand how we even got to this point, we can trace this type of activity back to vietmam police action era's "air america" operation or even back to WWII's covert operation programs (maybe even WWI, but i believe that this WWII is more relevant as we (US) began to participate more in global affairs).
so, rather than jump into current south american politics, middle eastern politics and the and anti-drug/war/terrorism operations, i propose we refer back to the first post and focus on what "chip" proposed and go from there.
11-04-2012, 01:40 AM
RE: The Iran Contra
thanks to zeb for asking me a series of questions about the hollywood sign which made me remember this:
in honor of the oliver north trials back in 1987.
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