Iran-Contra affair


Iran-Contra affair
the name given to a series of secret and illegal actions by US government officials under President Ronald Reagan. In 1985, officials in the National Security Council sold military weapons to Iran so it would help in freeing US prisoners in Lebanon. The money received for these was then given to the Contras, military groups who wanted to defeat the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The US Congress had forbidden this type of support. The deal was discovered in 1986 and several officials were charged with acting illegally.
See also Irangate, North.

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U.S. political scandal.

In 1985 Robert McFarlane, head of the National Security Council (NSC), authorized sales of weapons to Iran in an attempt to secure the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian terrorist groups. The deal contravened stated policy regarding both dealings with terrorists and military aid to Iran. At the instigation of Oliver North, a NSC staff member, and with the approval of John M. Poindexter, part of the $48 million paid by Iran for the arms was diverted to the Nicaraguan contras, in direct violation of a 1984 law banning such assistance. A Senate investigation resulted in the conviction of North and Poindexter on charges of obstructing justice and related offenses, though their convictions were later overturned on the ground that testimony given at their trials had been influenced by information they had supplied to Congress under a limited grant of immunity. Pres. Ronald Reagan accepted responsibility for the arms-for-hostages deal but denied any knowledge of the diversion.

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▪ American history
 U.S. political scandal in which the National Security Council (NSC) became involved in secret weapons transactions and other activities that either were prohibited by the U.S. Congress or violated the stated public policy of the government. In early 1985 the head of the NSC, Robert C. McFarlane, undertook the sale of antitank and antiaircraft missiles to Iran in the mistaken belief that such a sale would secure the release of a number of American citizens who were being held captive in Lebanon by Shiʿite terrorist groups loyal to Iran. This and several subsequent weapon sales to Iran in 1986 directly contradicted the U.S. government's publicly stated policy of refusing either to bargain with terrorists or to aid Iran in its war with Iraq, a policy based on the belief that Iran was a sponsor of international terrorism. A portion of the $48 million that Iran paid for the arms was diverted by the NSC and given to the Contras, the U.S.-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Marxist-oriented Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The monetary transfers were undertaken by NSC staff member Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North with the approval of McFarlane's successor as head of the NSC, Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter. North and his associates also raised private funds for the Contras. These activities violated the Boland Amendment, a law passed by Congress in 1984 that banned direct or indirect U.S. military aid to the Contras.

      The NSC's illegal activities came to light in November 1986 and aroused an immediate public uproar. Poindexter and North lost their jobs and were prosecuted, President Ronald Reagan's (Reagan, Ronald W.) public image was tarnished, and the United States suffered a serious though temporary loss of credibility as an opponent of terrorism.

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Universalium. 2010.

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