The Iran-Contra Affair

Iran-Contra Affair is a political scandal that took place in 1980s when the National Security Council was involved in weapon transactions and other illegal activities prohibited by the U.S Congress, and thus violating the government’s public policy. This scandal has emerged between Contras, the Iran-Contra insurgents and the Hezbollah, a terrorist group based in Lebanon. The Hezbollah group took 30 hostages from western countries, including half-dozen of Americans (Hunt 134). The American Government attempted to conduct direct negotiations to release hostages. However being unsuccessful, this has made the President to seek a solution that was not within the military or diplomatic framework. The solution was to sell military equipments to Iran, Hezbollah’s ally in the war against Iraq, and in exchange, Iran would pressure the Hezbollah group to release the American hostages unharmed (Hunt 157). However, Hezbollah continued keeping hostages, and since selling weapons to Iran was prohibited by law, a new plan to use Israel was developed, which also ultimately failed.

The President’s administration became desperate for a workable solution. They have turned to the NSA for help. The National Security Council came up with a new strategy to help the administration to deliver arms to Iran. They have placed Colonel Oliver North, who was a Lieutenant, to implement the plan. The NSA inflated the arms’ price and sold them to Iran for the hostages to be released. Iran did want to pay for the weapons, but having realized that there were no other sellers, they have agreed to pay (Hunt 204). The extra money received from sales of weapons has funded projects of Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Apart from Reagan, who was the President at the time of the scandal, there were other people who have been involved in the scandal either directly or indirectly. Most of them have been serving in the President’s Administration.

The U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has had a substantial impact on the outcomes of the Iran-Contra Affair. After President Reagan took power in 1981, together with his advisors, he believed that the Nicaragua Government, headed by the Sandinista, was in collaboration with the Soviet bloc aiming to expand communism in the Middle East. Therefore, in order to stop spread of communism in the region, Reagan’s Administration used all its efforts to force a change in Nicaragua regime. The administration destroyed Nicaragua’s economy, and denied access to loans from the international lending community as well as from the United States, and the country’s trade with the U.S. was stopped. The country was then plunged in a civil war by the CIA, and for survival, they were using services of contras and anti-Sandinista militia. The county’s infrastructure was also destroyed through violent acts using weapons from CIA and the Department of Defense (Moshaver 49). After the funds used to sustain the Contras have dried up, legislators were unwilling to support them. Reagan was forced to ask Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Israel for surrogate funds. The Saudis financed the militia with $32 million, and later, Israel collaborated with the U.S. to sell arms to Iran, and the money obtained from the sales was used to finance the operations of Contras in Nicaragua. This is the point where the Reagan Administration began its involvement in the most serious scandal: the Iran-Contra Affair.

The Cold War also had an impact on the Iran-Contra Affair. During that time there was a war between Iraq and Iran, and the Soviet Union together with the United States kept a distance from the conflict. However, having realized that the war would unite Iranians, and make them win, they abandoned their neutrality with the Soviet Union resuming its shipping of arms. Iran then declared Tudeh party to be illegal, and arrested thousands of leaders and members of the party and expelled eighteen diplomats from the Soviet Union, which stimulated the USSR to increase its shipment of arms to Iraq. The position of the U.S. changed, and it started restoring its diplomatic mission with Iraq. They allowed Iraq to use their Intelligence sources, and extended the commodity credit to $2 billion (Moshaver 51). Iran then threatened to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, making the U.S. explicitly declare its interests that the war between Iraq and Iran was based on oil prices. Later, there was a regional dispute among the five European navies and the superpower, while Iraq changed its war to ‘War of the Cities’, it attacked Iranian cities and towns, focusing on industries in important areas. Many people were killed and wounded each day, observing the damage Iran retaliated using missile and bomb attacks on cities in Iraq.

Israel decided to enter the fray and sell arms to Iran. According to Israel the violent activities would increase casualties in Iraq and eventually extend war making the U.S. gain its interests (Moshaver 25). Israel later collaborated with a group of the NSC officials, and together they became key players in the sales of arms and spare parts to Iran for the freeing of the U.S. hostages in Lebanon. The funds through the sale of arms were then used to finance the Contras in Nicaragua.

In the Iran-Contra Affair, the role of the Non-State Actors, including rebel and insurgent groups, was to carry out attacks and violent activities. Hence in order to to be able to play their part, they had to be financed by the state actors.

The Iran-Contra Affair affected interventions on Panama, in the 1980s, making the United States focus more on the Nicaragua and communist encroachment in the region. While doing that, the security in Panama was getting worse. This was used to access the U.S. bases, prepare and gather intelligent facilities to be used for an attack of Cuba and other countries. Those who lived in this region were substantially threatened. The area was under Noriega, known for illegal activities such as drug trafficking, among others. Noriega was confronted and commanded to step down as the region’s defense force commander, but as he stepped down, he installed puppet president to repress any attempts to investigate him. The administrative efforts to get rid of Noriega were wasteful, and in 1988, the situation became worse. Noriega was indicated for drug trafficking as well as money laundering, which linked him to drug smuggling cartels in the U.S. This was embarrassing to America, including the Drug Enforcement Agency that was embarrassed by Noriega as it was him to fight drugs. However, he only used the cooperation with the DEA for his own advantage. Panama’s involvement in drug activities was affected by Iran-Contra Affair, which involved such activities, but the fight against drug trafficking was done without the involvement of the political leader. This means that efforts to bring Noriega and other criminals to justice did not involve the President and his secretary, and this made the situation bad because he could not be persuaded to step down willingly (documentary).

The attempt of Elliot Abrams to remove Noriega using the military force was also complicated by other advisors to the President. Problems in the Soviet Union and the Middle East were of higher priority to Panama and Central America. Again, when it came to Panama and Central America issues, Abrams first was focused on the Central America, particularly Nicaragua. Together with its Communist Sandinista government Abram has been obsessed with overthrowing the Sandinista government.

Later, the U.S. illegal dealings were exposed, putting Abrams role under scrutiny. His reputation and credibility was damaged because of lack of veracity in his testimony about the support of Contras by the administration. This issue made his focus on Panama and Noriega not taken seriously. According to the Congress and others, he was rebuilding his stand. Noriega on the other hand, insisted on staying in power, which convinced Abrams that military intervention was the only way of putting him out of power. Abram’s persistence convinced Shultz, the secretary of the use of military intervention (documentary).

Abrams still did not get a chance to save Panama, Admiral William Crowe, the CJCS, opposed Shultz’s and Abram’s opinion to use the military intervention in Panama. According to the CJCS, the military intervention would jeopardize America’s basing rights in countries where it had sensitive matters with the host country. Americans living in Panama would be at risk, and it would strengthen the ‘Yanqui’ perception of power abuse. However, Crowe’s principal reason for his opposition to military intervention was the use of Panama by Noriega in spying on neighboring countries, and training other military forces from the region. These were activities that violated the canal treaties, and could not be permitted by another leader. This was another obstacle to Panama intervention, and anytime military intervention in Panama was mentioned, Crowe’s gave all risks and costs involved with the action (documentary).

The problem to intervene in the Panama leadership endured through Reagan’s period of rule, with the economic sanctions in Panama following the military intervention issue. All this was brought by the administration that was involved in the Iran-Contra Affair. Their actions made people lose trust in them, and any decision they made was not taken serious. Besides that, many people wanted to cover-up their illegal activities during the affair (documentary).

Historically, Iran was not categorized as a normal country. Its policy declarations and professed ideology threatened the great powers, neighboring states and whole international structure. Iran’s Islamic ideology is the center to its domestic legitimacy, its views about issues and its response to the outside world. The nation’s revolutionary ideals help it to establish an Islamic Republic, and sometimes they were challenged to spread it to the international scene (Moshaver 26). The Islamic ideology was also the center of the Iran’s foreign policy, with the endorsement of Islamic governance in other nations and anti-Americanism as its main features. This meant that as long as Iran is an Islamic Republic it would still challenge the international system, the U.S. and all the countries, neighboring to Iran. The Iranian foreign policy and rebellious behavior was sometimes detrimental to its national interests, making it different from the others. Its ideological values helped them to take care of only its own interests and state’s security internationally (Moshaver 28).

The policy of Anti-Americanism was deliberate. Iran uses anti-American ideology to get international and domestic benefits. It was committed to Islamic governance, anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-West, and it is these convictions that Iran uses to benefit and protect the nation’s regimes legitimacy and interests to hold on power (Moshaver 35). This is seen in its hostage episode towards the American Embassy, an episode that leads to the Iran-Contra Affair. Iran political and Islamic ideologies benefited the nation. However, it created an environment that was insecure for the great powers, the neighbors and for themselves, which led to conflicts (Moshaver 46). These historic events were responsible for the insecurity, leading to the war between Iraq and Iran and the U.S. confrontation with the U.S. Rescuing the hostages the U.S. was simply returning the posture of animosity and policy to Iran.

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