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Irangate - the Iran-Contra Scandal

Ronald Reagan

Irangate - the Iran-Contra Scandal: Ronald Reagan was the 40th American President who served in office from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989. One of the important events during his presidency was the scandal of the Iran Contra Affair.

Definition and Summary of the Irangate - the Iran-Contra Scandal
Summary and definition:
The scandal of the Iran Contra Affair, also known as Irangate, arose due the foreign policies of President Ronald Reagan and his administration regarding the change of government in the two seemingly unrelated countries of Iran and Nicaragua. In 1979.

both Iran and Nicaragua underwent revolutions and, as the power in the countries shifted, so did the political ideals.

The Shah of Iran, who had been closely allied to the United States for 25 years, was forced to flee as Ayatollah Khomeini became leader in Iran, creating the Islamic State and fiercely denouncing American influence in Iran. In Nicaragua, a militant pro-Soviet socialist movement, called the Sandinistas, seized power and the U.S. provided financial backing to a group of paramilitaries, called the contras, who were attempting to overthrow the new revolutionary regime. The US scandal of the Iran Contra affair arose due to a secret arrangement in the 1980s to provide financial aid to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran.

Facts about Irangate - the Iran-Contra Scandal
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Irangate - the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Iran History: In January 1979 Shah Pahlavi, a close ally of the US for 25 years, was forced to flee Iran by fundamentalist Islamic groups. Two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini became the political and religious leader in Iran, creating the Islamic State, introducing Islamic law and fiercely denouncing American influence in Iran.

Iran History: In October 1979 President Jimmy Carter made the decision to allow the exiled Shah into America for medical treatment. The announcement of his decision led to violent protests in Iran culminating in the storming of the US Embassy in Teheran which began the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Iran History: Supporters of the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini took 53 hostages in the US embassy demanded the Shah in return for the American captives. The highly publicized and shocking Iran hostage crisis lasted 444 days before the US captives were released.

Nicaragua History: In 1979 rebels in Nicaragua, known as the Sandinistas, seized power and overthrew the government of the pro-American dictator Somoza Garcia.

Nicaragua History: The Sandinistas established a pro-Soviet socialist government financed with the help of Cuba and the USSR. The Sandinistas also began backing anti-government revolutionaries in nearby El Salavador.

Nicaragua History: The Sandinistas were opposed by an anti-Sandinista guerrilla force known as the 'Contras' taken from the Spanish word meaning "Counter-revolutionary". The Reagan administration began to provide aid to the 'Contras' and began to secretly arm the anti-Sandinista guerrilla force.

The Reagan Doctrine: The fiercely anti-communist President Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency on January 20, 1981, the same day the captives in Iran were released and the Iran Hostage Crisis was resolved. The Reagan Doctrine encompassed the military and United States foreign policy to support guerrilla groups who were fighting to overthrow Communist or Pro-Soviet governments.

On December 1, 1981 President Reagan signed the secret order authorizing the CIA to support the 'Contras' with arms, equipment, and money in order to put pressure on the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

In June 1982 the Reagan Doctrine was publicly announced and the practice of covert operations in Nicaragua supplying the Contras increased to supporting a change in the pro-Soviet Nicaraguan government of the Sandinistas.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out a series of acts of sabotage in Nicaragua without the knowledge of Congress. This led to first Boland Amendment which was passed into law on December 21, 1982, as part of the House Appropriations Bill of 1982, which barred “the use of funds for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua".

The first Boland Amendment was pushed through by Democrats who sought to block the Reagan administration support for the Contra rebels.

Two more Boland Amendments were made but the Reagan Administration circumvented the Amendments, without consent of Congress, in order to continue supplying arms to the Contras. Reagan Administration officials argued that the Boland Amendment, or any act of Congress, would not interfere with the president's foreign policy by restricting funds, because the president could seek funds from private entities or foreign governments.

Oliver North was a National Security Council staff member during the Iran–Contra affair and played a key role in the ensuing political scandal.

The Iran–Contra scandal involved a two-part plan by the Reagan administration. The first part of the plan involved the secret sale of weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran (one of America's greatest enemies), supposedly to encourage the release of U.S. hostages then held in Lebanon.

The second part of the plan was formulated by Oliver North to divert proceeds from the Iran arms sales to support the Contra rebel groups in Nicaragua, which had been specifically prohibited under the Boland Amendment.

On August 20, 1985 American hostage Benjamin Weir was released in Lebanon hours after the transfer of numerous TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran. (Iran was involved in the Iran-Iraq War)

In December 1985 news broke of  cocaine drug trafficking operations by Contras. Cocaine  trafficking was part of the rebels efforts to boost the Contras military fund and dozens of its members sold tons of cocaine into the inner-cities of during the height of the Nicaraguan crack crisis.

On November 3, 1986 news of the Iran arms trade was leaked to a Lebanese newspaper. Just ten days after the leak of the secret dealings with Iran, on November 13, 1986, President Reagan delivered an address from the White House and one week later follows this up with a TV address on the Iran-Contra situation.

In November 1986, the sale of weapons to Iran was made public and Oliver North was dismissed by President Ronald Reagan.

On December 1, 1986 President Reagan established a Special Review Board called the Tower Commission to investigate Iran-Contra affair. President Reagan's creation of the Tower commission was an unspoken disavowal of presidential knowledge or responsibility for the actions of participants in the Iran-Contra affair.

Although President Reagan admitted that his administration had negotiated secretly with Iran in order to free the hostages in Lebanon, he publicly denied knowing about the arms-supplying operation directed by his own National Security Council (NSC) staff.

At the same time the Tower Commission was established the Senate and the House of Representatives each created a select Iran-Contra committee. The various Iran-Contra investigations by the Iran-Contra committees uncovered an embarrassing number of violations.

On March 4, 1987 President Reagan was forced to speak to the nation on the Tower Commission findings, which contradicted many elements in Reagan’s speech from three months before.

On April 13, 1989 the Kerry Committee report was published regarding the possible role of the Nicaraguan Contras in drug trafficking. The Kerry Committee report found that US State Department paid over $800,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras.

Ultimately the sale of weapons to Iran was not deemed a criminal offense but charges were brought against five individuals, including Oliver North, for their support of the Contras and covering up their actions by shredding documents to destroy evidence.

Oliver North was brought to trial and on May 4, 1989 and wrote the "Diversion Memorandum" which clearly laid out what was going on with the transfer of funds to Contras. Oliver North was convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents. Oliver North was not jailed he was given a suspended sentence and put on probation.

The Iran-Contra scandal was compounded with the revelations that Oliver North had destroyed or altered important National Security Council (NSC) documents at the White House.

President Ronald Reagan had approved the sale of arms to Iran, but the congressional investigation concluded
that he had not been informed about the diversion of the money to the contras.

President Reagan insisted he had done nothing wrong, but the Iran Contra scandal seriously tainted his second term in office.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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