Iran Contra A Essay

This essay has a total of 1052 words and 6 pages.

Iran Contra A



The Iran-Contra affair is not one scandalous incident, but rather two covert operations
started under Reagan’s administration. In the beginning, these two operations were
independent of each other, but eventually became linked though funds received from the
sale of arms to Iran for hostages and then given to the Contras fighting to overthrow a
Marxist government in Nicaragua.


The scandal began with Nicaraguan politics. After the Marxist Sandinista regime took over
Nicaragua in 1979, the government was faced with a growing communist threat to US interest
in Central America. When President Reagan took office in 1981, he was vehemently
determined to halt the spread of communism, especially in Central America (Arnson 1989,
8). Seeking to bolster US prestige and military power, Reagan took a tough stand against
communism in the Western Hemisphere. In Nicaragua, he gave the Central Intelligence
Agency the approval to help organize and aid a group of “Contrarevolucionarios” or
“Contras” who were in opposition to the Sandinista regime (Arnson 1989, 6).


Congress, unwilling to fight in another country’s war after the devastating loss in
Vietnam, began restricting the use of government funds for rebel guerrillas in Central
America. The CIA, concerned that soon Congress would cut off the funding for their
program, began to stockpile arms for the contras (Walsh 1997, 18). Their fears were
realized when Congress enacted the second Boland Amendment which stated:

No funds available tot he 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 of which would have the effect of supporting,
directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation,
group, organization, movement, or individual (Arnson 1989, 167-8).


The Reagan administration interpreted the Boland Amendment as not covering the activities
of the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC was established in 1947 with the explicit
purpose of advising the President on all matters relating to national security. Beginning
with the Eisenhower administration, the NSC was given a small staff that ultimately grew
and turned into a vital arm of the presidency. As years went by, the NSC staff began
controlling the “policy-making output of both State and Defense Department, as well as the
activities of the CIA (Draper 1991, 11).” When the CIA was banned from acting in
Nicaragua by the second Boland amendment, President Reagan surreptitiously bypassed
Congress and employed his NSC staff instead. National Security Council staffer Oliver
North became the central coordinator supplying aid to the Contras.


After Reagan’s reelection in 1984, he began an additional covert operation. This time, it
was the effort to release seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by a radical
Islamic group called the Hezbollah. The operation included trading arms for hostages,
which clearly violated the Arms Export Control Act, the National Security Act, and stated
US policy not to deal with terrorists (Walsh 1997, 3). Iran, in the middle of a war with
Iraq, was desperate for weapons. Many Iranians approached US officials offering t help
free the hostages in Lebanon in exchange for arms. National Security Adviser Robert
McFarlane was approached by Israeli intermediaries and was persuaded to ask the President
about negations with the Iranians. Reagan approved a shipment of 96 wire-guided anti-tank
missiles to be delivered to Iran on August 30, 1985, and another 408 to be delivered on
September 14. After the secret exchange of these weapons, the Iranians released only one
hostage.


In an effort to release more hostages, a second large shipment of weapons was to take
place in November. The Israeli aircraft intended to ship the weapons could not fly
directly to Iran. The plan was to fly to a European air base, transfer the cargo to
another plane and then fly to Iran, but they were not able to obtain the necessary
clearance to do so. From that point on, Oliver North began arranging for CIA planes to
carry the shipment of weapons to Iran (Walsh 1997, 5). The President then decided to drop
the Israelis as middlemen and negotiated the direct sale of arms from the United Stated to
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