Currently, all the threads of the Iranian influence on the so-called “Arab revolution” have become clearer. Everyone knows that Iran sponsors the “Hezbollah”, the Lebanese terrorist organization. However, for some time Iran, which called the USA “the Great Satan”, collaborated with its foremost enemy. The Middle-aged and elder people still remember a scandal in the mid-80-ies of the last century, which concerned the issue of the Iran-Contra Affair. As it turned out, the United States sold weapons to Iran and the received money was sent to support “contras”, which stood for an underground anti-socialist movement in Nicaragua. The Central Intelligence Agency ensured the organization of the transactions. The situation looked quite strange as the CIA was a state-financed organization. It had to coordinate all its actions with the US government and the government allocated necessary funds. The situation when the CIA makes money for its own purposes, bypassing the government, looks quite ridiculous. Thus, one should investigate the Iran-Contra Affair to clarify the government’s and the CIA’s goals and objectives.
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Historically Preceding Events
In the early ’50s in Tehran Kermit, Roosevelt acted under the cover of the history teacher and the head of the American Friends of the Middle East (Huck, 2003). His task was to overthrow the Mossadegh’s government and restore Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in power in Iran. The operation was approved by President Eisenhower in summer of 1953. K. Roosevelt, who led its implementation in Iran, attracted a number of military intelligence heads and agencies of Iran from the most reactionary aristocratic elements to the cooperation with the CIA (Huck, 2003). Crucial events occurred in August of 1953. In the streets of Tehran, there appeared gangs, which handed weapons theoretically destined for the Iranian army. In the capital of Iran, one could observe street fighting, the outcome of which was determined due to the betrayal of the senior Iranian military. On August 18, Mossadegh was arrested and lost power (Huck, 2003). Although the CIA organized the overturn in Iran in 1953, which resulted in nominal monarch Pahlavi becoming a real ruler of the country and the Americans receiving access to the Iranian oil, the administration of Jimmy Carter supported Pahlavi more in words than in practice (Huck, 2003).
After that, for two and a half decades the CIA made a bet on the Shah’s regime, strongly equipping its intelligence services. Without trying to penetrate the essence of the events occurring in Iran, just like in Vietnam, the US intelligence service failed to discern the fact that the entire nation was ready to rise against the Shah’s regime. Events that occurred in Iran were a complete surprise for Washington although the CIA’s residency in Tehran was the largest one in the Middle East (Katzman, 2016).
In February of 1979, the Iran’s Islamic Revolution occurred. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who had had full power since 1953, was expelled (Gasiorowski, 2012). Early in the morning of November 4, hundreds of young men broke into the US embassy in Tehran. Six members of the American embassy managed to escape and hide in embassies of other Western countries and later, using the false documents, they left the Islamic republic. One of the hostages was released only in July of 1980 because of his disease. Others 52 embassy members were held as hostages for 444 days (Gasiorowski, 2012).
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This crisis and the administration’s clumsy attempts to resolve it were probably the main reason of the Jimmy Carter’s defeat during the presidential election in 1980 and the win of a former Hollywood actor and governor of California, Ronald Reagan. The failed hostage rescue operation “Eagle Claw” with the participation of an aircraft carrier “Nimitz”, marines, rangers, and a special squad “Delta” in April of 1980, which cost lives of eight soldiers, forced the Pentagon to implement a drastic reform of the armed forces (McDermott, 2001).
The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, on the day of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, in accordance with agreements brokered by Algeria and signed a day before that (McDermott, 2001). The United States refused to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran, un-froze Iranian bank accounts, lifted trade sanctions, and obtained warranty retribution for the debts of Iran. However, even having failed, the USA did not give up its attempts to regain the lost position in Iran through thick and thin. Acting in conjunction with the Israeli intelligence services, the CIA sought to establish links with potential successors of Khomeini, considering in advance mapping them to the USA chariot and simultaneously trying in every possible way to drive a wedge in the Iran-Soviet relations. Thus, the concept of the operation, which ended in failure and a grand political scandal in the United States, arose (McDermott, 2001).
In 1979, when Iran’s Islamic Revolution occurred, on the other side of the world, in Nicaragua – a tiny country in Central America – a radical left-wing movement called the National Liberation Front and led by Augusta Cesar Sandino overthrew president Anastasio Somoza (Zaremba, 1992). In fact, his family had been ruling in Nicaragua for 43 years up till that moment.
Several years after the Nicaraguan revolution, there emerged opponents of the Sandinistas called “Contra”, which were located mainly in neighboring Honduras (Zaremba, 1992). They greatly relied on the support of the United States. Moreover, the Reagan’s administration was glad to give them such a support. However, memories about Margaret Thatcher’s fierce criticism of the United States’ invasion in Grenada in 1983 were still fresh. The Congress members believed that Reagan was overdoing with similar operations, which is why, according to two amendments to the Law on the Military Appropriations adopted in 1985, the administration was not allowed to use budget money to support the Nicaraguan guerrilla (Sciaroni, 1990).
The National Security Council in general and deputy head of the agency Oliver North and retired general Richard Sikord, who cooperated with the CIA, in particular controlled the network of public organizations all over the world, including Taiwan and South Korea (Sciaroni, 1990). It organized fundraising for the “contras”, as well as commercial enterprises that supplied the guerrillas with weapons, equipment, food, medicine, and so on. The US Congress authorized only non-military assistance to them (Sciaroni, 1990).
History of the Iran-Contra Affair
Even the first steps in the journalistic investigation that exposed the Iran-Contra Affair showed that it was not a usual covert operation, which included a minor violation of the laws (Chavira, 2014). There was no coincidence in the closely related weapons supplies to the belligerent country, which meant adding fuel to the fire during an armed conflict and the supporting “contra” gangs in Nicaragua, armed groups of Afghan dushmans, as well as participation in the secret dealings of Israel and South Africa (Chavira, 2014). Infringement of the norms of civilized international relations, including state terrorism practices, which appeared in a logical connection with the violation of the US domestic laws along with direct public deception and misleading of the members of the Congress, was not accidental as well. Only unexpected exposure of the entire operation by the Lebanese magazine “Al-Shiraa” at the beginning of November of 1986 put an end to it (Chavira, 2014).
Origins of the operation dated back to the beginning of 1985 when the US State Secretary George Shultz first started discussion of the Israeli Government’s proposal to organize the supply of American weapons to Iran for the establishment of contact with the country’s leaders (Jenkins & Brink, 1988). On August 8, 1985, the idea of American-made arms deliveries from Israeli arsenals to Iran was discussed at a meeting at the White House, which was attended by the President, Vice-President George Bush, Assistant of the President on the National Security Robert McFarlane and his deputy, Admiral George Poindexter , the chief of the White house staff J. Schultz, the CIA director William Casey, and the defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. They decided to endorse the idea of secret shipments and reimburse weapons transferred by Israel. Reagan approved the plan. The mechanism of the operation was the following. First, the CIA bought weapons in Pentagon and transported them to Iran through its channels (Jenkins & Brink, 1988).
The first lot of 100 TOW missiles were transferred from Israel at the end of August. General director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, career intelligence officer D. Gimhae, maintained constant contact with Robert McFarlane at that time (Jenkins & Brink, 1988). Then, the second batch of the weapons was delivered to Iran on September 14. Since that time, the participants of the secret operation established regular contacts and negotiations and weapons were delivered through various channels for masking. According to the arrangement for obtaining weapons, one of the terrorist organizations and allies of Iran liberated kidnapped Americans (Jenkins & Brink, 1988).
At the end of November of 1985, the National Security Council staff member Lt. Col. of the Marine Corps O. North helped to organize a clandestine transfer of weapons from Israel to Iran by air (Jenkins & Brink, 1988). The leader of the operation was Retired Air Force Major General R. Sikord. His company performed tasks related to the secret American aid to the Nicaraguan “contras”, which is why the choice fell on him. Since the CIA had purchased discounted weapons and sold them at exorbitant prices to Iran, financial surplus appeared on the Langley-controlled accounts in Swiss banks. This difference was commissioned for the payment for weapons for “contras”, the supply of which was under Sikord’s control (Jenkins & Brink, 1988).
While the mechanism of secret supplies of American weapons to Iran was growing, the CIA tried to use it for providing assistance to Afghan dushmans and transmitting misinformation to Tehran to persuade it in supposedly sinister intentions of the Soviet Union (Peace, 2008). There was an attempt to establish direct contact with Iranian leaders. For this purpose, the CIA organized McFarlane’s visit of Tehran, but that attempt failed.
Disclosure of the Affair
On October 5, 1986, the US cargo aircraft was shot down in the skies over Nicaragua. The plane was full of weapons. The pilot immediately declared that two other people on boards worked in the CIA. On November 3, Lebanese magazine “Al-Shiraa” published an article in which the author wrote about the former US president’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane’s secret visit to Tehran in May of 1986 (“How the Iran-Contra story leaked,” 1989). American journalists asked the White House for comments, representatives of which refused to comment anything. In the next ten days, American journalists inflated a full-fledged scandal around this case. Reagan was forced to make an appeal to the nation and explain that the administration sought only to ensure establishment of relations with Iran, condemn international terrorism by Iran, and liberate hostages held in Lebanon (Sheffy, 2013). However, he categorically denied the fact that the United States exchanged their weapons for prisoners.
He announced creation of a special commission for checking the National Security Council’s activity composed of Republican Senator John Tower, former State Secretary Edmund Muskie, and Brent Scowcroft who was Jimmy Carter’s former adviser concerning issues of the national security (Jenkins & Brink, 1988). The Commission issued its 200-page report on February 26, 1987. Blame for the operation was put on Poindexter, North, and several other officials of the second echelon. Reagan was rebuked for losing control over some members of his administration. During the investigation, Oliver North agreed to testify only in case of granting him immunity (Jenkins & Brink, 1988). This allowed him an eventually unscathed emergency: the court in 1989 could not use his evidence against him and had no additional information concerning the North’s issue. The same thing happened with Poindexter. Technically, it looked as follows: the court declared the men guilty, but they immediately filed appeals, which were granted. Robert McFarlane, Caspar Weinberger, and another four members of the Reagan’s administration who were convicted for complicity in the Iran-Contra Affair, received presidential pardon from George Bush Sr. in 1992 (Jenkins & Brink, 1988).
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The Iran-Contra Affair was a political scandal concerning illegal secret deals for the sale of the US weapons to Iran for releasing American hostages in Lebanon and transferring proceeds to Nicaraguan contras. High-ranking officials of the White House were implicated in the transactions. In 1985, the head of the US National Security Council, Robert McFarlane, gave a permission to sell some weapons to Iran, hoping to secure the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian terrorist groups. This transaction contradicted accepted solutions of the US government not to enter into deals with terrorists and not to supply the arms to Iran. Thus, the mechanism of the arms transferring operation was the following. First, the CIA bought weapons in Pentagon and transported them to Iran through its channels. The first lot of 100 TOW missiles was transferred from Israel at the end of August. Then, the second batch of weapons was delivered to Iran on September 14. Since that time, participants of the secret operation established regular contacts and negotiations and the weapons were delivered through various channels for masking. On the initiative of the President Assistant concerning the issues of the National Security Admiral John Poindexter and his staff member Lt. Col. Of the Marine Corps Oliver North, the part of the sum paid by Iran for the weapons was transferred to the Nicaraguan Contras.
Information about the transactions became public in 1986. Blame for the operation was put on Poindexter, North, and several other officials of the second echelon. During the investigation, North and Poindexter agreed to testify only in case of granting them the immunity and, thus, they escaped the punishment. Other members of the Reagan’s administration who were convicted for the complicity in the Iran-Contra Affair received the presidential pardon in 1992. Reagan was forced to explain that the administration sought only to ensure establishment of relations with Iran, condemnation of the international terrorism by Iran, and liberation of hostages held in Lebanon.