Reagan's administration was embroiled in scandal when it came to light that the United States had sold weapons to Iran and funneled the money to Nicaraguan rebels.
- In the Iran-Contra affair, the Reagan administration secretly sold weapons to Iran to effect the release of American hostages held in Lebanon.
- Money from the Iran weapons-sale then was used to fund the Contras, a group of guerrilla “freedom fighters” opposed to the Marxist government of Nicaragua.
- Both the sale of arms to Iran and the military aid to the Contras were illegal, and Colonel Oliver North and others in the president’s administration were dismissed and charged with breaking the law.
The Iran-Contra affair
Issues of Central American communism and Middle Eastern terrorism combined in the Iran-Contra affair to cast a shadow over President Reagan’s second term in office.
The first stage of the events involved a weapons-for-hostages exchange in which officials in the Reagan administration sold antitank missiles to Iran. In exchange, Iran worked to have American hostages released from Lebanon. Reagan administration officials, including Colonel Oliver North, then used the money from the missile sales to fund US military support for the Contras, anticommunist guerrillas who were fighting against the Marxist government in Nicaragua.
The problem with all this was that President Reagan had vowed that his administration would never negotiate with hostage-takers, on top of the fact that Congress had placed an embargo on the sale of weapons to Iran. Congress also had passed the Boland Amendment, limiting US assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, citing evidence that they had tortured and murdered civilians. Therefore, both the sale of arms to Iran and the use of money from that sale to aid the Contras was illegal.
The scandal began to unravel after an C-123 supply plane over northern Nicaragua was shot down in October 1986. An American who survived the crash described how he had been hired by the CIA to load and drop weapons cargoes to the Contras, and, soon, investigative reporters and Congress were uncovering the various elements of the scandal.
By late 1986, the US Attorney General announced that between $10 and $30 million of the money received from Iran in the missiles-for-hostages deal had been diverted to fund military aid to the Contras, though later it was found that US funding for the Contras—with Iranian and other monies—amounted to more than $70 million.
Reagan and Iran-Contra
Although it is certain that Reagan condoned the sale of missiles for hostages in Iran, there is no evidence that the president knew that Oliver North was diverting money from the missile sales to the Nicaraguan Contras.
Some people blamed Reagan’s hands-off administrative style as a contributing factor in Iran-Contra. For, while Reagan concerned himself with big-picture strategy in domestic and foreign policy, he assigned others responsibility for carrying out the details. But this administrative approach seemed to lead to serious—some said impeachable—consequences in the Iran-Contra affair. Reagan earned another nickname, the “Teflon president,” since scandals never seemed to stick to him and his popularity with the public remained unchanged.
What do you think?
What were the Reagan administration’s motives in funding the sale of US TOW anti-tank missiles to the government of Iran?
Do you think the US should bargain with those who take hostages?
Why is President Reagan sometimes called the “Teflon president”?
Want to join the conversation?
- Can somebody explain what a "teflon president" is?(13 votes)
- From the author:Hi Torin, teflon is a material most often used to make non-stick pans. If you've ever used a frying pan that has a non-stick coating, that coating is teflon. It has also come to be a nickname for people who seem impervious to getting a bad reputation no matter what they do - because crimes or allegations never "stick" to them.(30 votes)
- Were the hostages eventually returned atleast after missiles were given?(1 vote)
- Were there any other types of weapons the U.S. government were selling to Iran? (i.e. attack planes, assault rifles, etc.)?(1 vote)
- Based on your question about the kind of weapon used by Booth, I sense you are interested in "types of weapons". How about saying that the types of weapons were all destructive, and leave it at that.(2 votes)
- How did Reagan and his administration plan on telling the rest of America how the hostages were released, seeing as the Iran Contra was a sort of secret?(1 vote)
- Like so much else done by governments of any and all political positions and persuasions, if they planned at all, they likely planned to lie.(1 vote)
- So the article says that Reagan was not going to negotiate with hostage - takers. But he was negotiating with Iran, not Lebanon. Can someone please clarify who was the hostage - taker? Thanks(1 vote)
- 1) Since Iran had taken hostages, Reagan could claim to refuse to talk with that nation (though he didn't have to be telling the truth).
2) The hostage-takers in Lebanon were not the same as the government of Lebanon, the territory of which was controlled by different criminal gangs with military weapons.(1 vote)
- So what was the main reason for all of this?(0 votes)
- Ronald Reagan secretly sold weapons to Iran. Oliver North took the blame for him. It's kind of an American patriotic thing. Americans are just proud of Oliver(Ollie) North and what he did to save the president.(1 vote)
- What were the Reagan administration’s motives in funding the sale of US TOW anti-tank missiles to the government of Iran?(0 votes)
- They wanted to free the hostages and also use that money to send support to the Contras, who were looking to overthrow the Communist Nicaraguan government.(1 vote)