Miguel GomezCivicsBlock 712/8/17Ronald Reagan: Iran-Contra The Iran-Contra Affair was a complicated scandal that occurred in the Reagan Administration. This scandal was two separate events that got mixed with one another as a means to an end.
All of the operations conducted were covert and in defiance with decisions made by Congress. The money that was made from arms sales with the Islamic Republic of Iran was used to provide aid for the Contras, a U.S. backed and funded right-wing rebel group in Nicaragua. The two separate covert operations came together and soon erupted into a national scandal in 1968 which hit the Reagan administration hard. The Iran-Contra Affair has a long history and is the result of a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of the government.
The departments that were responsible for this action developed in a way that allowed such actions to occur. These institutions, the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), were created on July 26, 1947 with President Harry Truman’s signing of the National Security Act. During the Eisenhower administration, the NSC staff fell under the direction of an assistant to the president, rather than the NSC. The Bay of Pigs incident drove John F. Kennedy to alter the NSC once again. Kennedy allowed the Council to become operational rather than just plan.
These initial changes to the NSC were the beginning of the power differences and loopholes that lead to the incidents that would occur years later. The executive branch was capable of avoiding the State Department and through an increased level of bureaucracy the branch further challenged other government agencies in offices. Under the Reagan administration, the NSC grew to resemble the State Department very closely.
The staff of forty five and the two hundred supporters were lead first by Robert Mcfarlane, then his successor, John Poindexter. George Shultz, the Secretary of State during the Reagan administration, was disadvantaged due to the access the president had to the NSC. Congress could be bypassed due to the NSC’s vast and covert capabilities, allowing Reagan to rely on the Council for foreign affairs rather than Congress.The other involved Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, also expanded over the administrations since its initial creation.
The CIA’s capabilities were detailed during the Eisenhower administration in an effort to establish the agency as an anti-communist weapon. The War Powers Resolution was passed by Congress in order to have a check on the president’s power over military action. However, the resolution did not include certain covert aspects that the CIA was capable of and authorized to enact.
American assistance in Nicaragua had been present from the early 1900’s however it was not until the 1960’s that the nation became a matter of international importance to America. United States’ trained Nicaraguan National Guard leader, Somoza Garcia, took power over Augustino in 1963. The Somoza family reign lasted until 1979, when the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the regime. The FSLN formed in 1961, and considered themselves an organization based on the theories of Karl Marx and Lenin, and sought to turn Nicaragua into a socialist state. When the uprising succeeded in 1979, the United States was still engaged in the Cold War.
in attempt to keep the new FSLN power sided with the U.S., President Jimmy Carter sent the regime ninety nine million dollars.
However, this aid would prove ineffectual, as the FSLN reached an alliance with the Soviet bloc by March 1980, as a result of Cuban advisory. In that same year, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the main contra group among others collectively known as ‘the Contras,’ was formed and found support in those harmed by the socialist regime. As the U.
S. battle against communism still raged on, America aided the Contras in toppling the regime by supplying both money and weapons. When Ronald Reagan entered office, he cut off all funding to the FSLN due to their support of the international spread of socialism. Reagan then signed an order which permitted the supplying of weapons and other equipment as long as funding for the Contras.
With the Reagan Doctrine in 1982, which pushed for democracy everywhere, the main focus of the operations in the nation became the overthrow of the socialist regime and starting a democratic nation. In 1983, the Nationalist Security Decision Directive was signed, which created a planning group within the NSC to put together diplomacy campaigns in the U.S.
. However, news articles separated the executive and legislative branch over the support of the Contras. Through various articles, Massachusetts Representative Edward Boland pushed Congress to end funding for Nicaraguan efforts. The first legislation, entitled Boland I, was passed on December 21, 1982. The legislation prevented funding for the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government.
Reagan acknowledged Congress’ power over the nation’s foreign affairs, however the administration had already committed itself entirely, and would go as far to defy Congress. Boland I had a loophole which effectively manipulated to Reagan’s will and the legislation’s effect was essentially nullified. Boland II had a similar loophole, and funding for the efforts in Nicaragua had to be obtained through solicitation of third parties such as private donors or other nations. The NSC was a second loophole, and director Oliver North used the Council to obtain private funding from third party nations for the Contras.
North conducted arms deals. Air supply operations, and provided intelligence to the Contras through covert and privately funded deals. He partnered with Richard Secord, a retired Air Force General, and ALbert Hakim, and Iranian businessmen in the arms deals. As a result of third party funding, much of the profit had to be split with those participating in the deals. North then created a memo to divert National Security Advisor John Poindexter and Reagan in order to pay off his ‘business partners’ but cover it up as though all of the funds would be allocated to the Contras. In 1985, Congress began to pull back on the restrictions put in place by the Boland amendments.
Congress directly provided the Contras fourteen million dollars for ‘humanitarian assistance’ and prevented any deals which would imply that the United States assist the third-party in return for their assistance of the Contras. In 1986, Congress provided further funding to the Contras: one hundred million dollars from their own budget. Iran had been ally with America through most of the 1900’s, until a new leader arose in 1979 and named Iran an Islamic Republic. The new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, ended relations with the U.
S.. Later that year, a group of radicals seized the U.
S. embassy and captured fifty three hostages. This incident became known as the Iran Hostage Crisis, and the hostages were not released until Reagan’s inauguration day.
The U.S. had lost an oil -rich ally, and wanted to return to diplomatic relations. America had placed an arms embargo against Iran after the change in relations and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War, and more American hostages were taken by a religious fundamentalist group in 1984. Diplomatic situations were tense, as the U.S.
wanted to repair the relations and rescue the hostages, and Iran needed weapons for the war. Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian businessman, and Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian arms deal, created the plan for the Iran arms dealer. McFarlane met with David Kimche, who had met and worked with Khashoggi and Ghorbanifar, and received the plan for the arms deal. This arms for hostages deal was orchestrated to both rescue the hostages and improve relations with Iran. The plan was to send missiles to Iran through Israel, and provide Israel replacements, for the release of American hostages and open communications. In August and September of 1985, missiles were sent to Iran and private funds were paid out after Iran paid Israel.
McFarlane entered North into the deal to manage logistics, and he remained involved after McFarlane was succeeded. All profits originally went to the representatives for Iran and Israel. North later brought Secord into the deal help move and resupply Israel with weapons. It was in November 1985 that North first diverted funds from the sale to the Nicaraguan Contras. Secord and Hakim established a company that would come to be known as ‘The Enterprise’ in order to keep the operation covert and hidden from Congress.
The Enterprise owned a Swiss bank account through which the funds were transferred from Israel. Ghorbanifar suggested that any extra money from the sales should be diverted to the Contras, and Poindexter approved. Further sales occurred, with various difficulties and complications. In 1986, Reagan signed a Presidential Finding that allowed for the direct sale of arms from the U.S.
to Iran. The Enterprise would be continued to be used to remove the United States out of the situation, and purchase and sell the weapons rather than Israel. Hostages were still being held and a new plan was put into place to ensure the release of the rest of them. Hakim and his Iranian partner Ali Barahmani worked out a plan in which fifteen hundred missiles would be sent to Iran in exchange for ‘one and a half’ hostages and 3.
6 million dollars. Hakim, portrayed as a U.S. representatives, began his plan on October 28, 1986.
Two million dollars of the total paid to The Enterprise was allocated to the CIA for supplying the missiles, and the rest was diverted to the Contras. In November 1986, two Lebanese newspapers published articles on the Iran arms deal, and soon after the entire Iran-Contra operation became public in America. Immediately, public confidence in the government dropped. As Reagan continued to insist that there were no dealings with terrorists and there were no arms shipments, more informations continued to be revealed that contradicted the president, which further dropped American confidence. North attempted to shred all documents related to the dealings in an attempt to avoid incrimination, however the diversion memo was still found and used against him.
Reagan feared impeachment and the scandal being related to Watergate, so he publicly acknowledged the diversion scheme in order to avoid the harsh political and criminal consequences. Hearings, press conferences,and investigations were made into the NSC and the government departments involved in the scandal, and Reagan managed to avoid serious trouble.