Iran-contra affair is the name of a major United States foreign policy scandal in the 1980’s. It involved two secret operations by the executive branch of the government. The operations were (1) the sale of military equipment to Iran, an enemy of the United States; and (2) the provision of military aid to contra rebels in Nicaragua, which Congress had banned. The two operations were connected by the use of profits from the Iranian arms sales to aid the contra rebels.Background.
In 1979, a political coalition called the Sandinistas led a revolution in Nicaragua and took control of the government. After United States President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he claimed the Sandinistas had set up a Communist dictatorship. He directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to begin aiding the contras, Nicaraguan rebels who were fighting to overthrow the Sandinistas. In 1983, however, Congress voted to limit the CIA support. In October 1984, Congress voted to cut off all aid to the contras.Administration actions.
The Reagan Administration sought ways to continue aiding the contras after the congressional ban. At first, it secretly raised funds from several foreign countries and wealthy Americans to help finance the contra efforts.In 1985, the Administration initiated a secret “arms-for-hostages” operation designed to free seven Americans held hostage by terrorists in Lebanon. Reagan had said he would never deal with supporters of terrorists, which he considered Iran’s leaders to be. But he and his advisers believed Iran could get the hostages released. Members of the Administration arranged for the CIA to secretly purchase arms from the Department of Defense.
Private individuals bought the arms from the CIA and sold them to Iran in return for its promises of help in the hostage release. But the sales led to the release of only three hostages, and three more Americans were taken hostage during the same period. Administration agents secretly diverted (transferred) profits from the arms sales to the contras.Reagan said he could not recall whether he knew in advance about the 1985 arms shipments and that he knew nothing about the diversion of funds. Both actions had been carried out by staff of the National Security Council (NSC), a White House intelligence and policy coordinating agency. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver L.
North, an NSC aide, was the person most closely involved in the management of the Iran-contra operations.Charges and court actions. Reports of the arms sales and contra aid became widely known in November 1986. Congressional hearings held in 1987 concluded the NSC staff had attempted to deceive Congress about the affair.
In November 1987, a joint report by congressional committees said Reagan was accountable for the “secrecy, deception, and disdain for the law” that characterized Iran-contra. It said his Administration’s efforts to raise money for government operations outside of Congress violated basic constitutional rules.Oliver North testifies before CongressIn 1989, a federal court convicted North on three charges relating to the Iran-contra affair, including altering and destroying evidence. North had worked under national security advisers Robert C.
McFarlane and John M. Poindexter. In 1989, McFarlane pleaded guilty of withholding information from Congress during its investigation. In 1990, Poindexter was convicted of conspiracy and of lying to and obstructing Congress.In 1987, North and Poindexter had testified about the Iran-contra affair during the congressional hearings. They had been given immunity (freedom from prosecution) on matters of their testimony. In 1990 and 1991, appeals courts overturned the convictions of North and Poindexter on grounds that their 1987 testimony might have influenced the outcome of their later trials.
In 1992, Caspar W. Weinberger, Reagan’s secretary of defense, was charged with lying to Congress and government investigators in connection with the Iran-contra affair. But later that year, President George Bush pardoned Weinberger, McFarlane, and several other officials for any crimes they may have committed in relation to the affair. Bush was Reagan’s Vice President and succeeded him as President in 1989. Only one person, former CIA agent Thomas G.
Clines, went to prison as a result of Iran-contra. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison for evading taxes on income from the operations. Four others pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received sentences of probation, community service, and small fines.On Jan. 18, 1994, a special prosecutor, Lawrence E.
Walsh, issued the final report of the Iran-contra affair. The report said the Iran-contra operations “violated United States policy and law,” and it criticized the Reagan and Bush administrations for involvement in a cover-up.Bibliographyhttp://school.discovery.com/homeworkhelp/worldbook/atozhistory/i/280950.html