The Reagan Doctrine
The political climate in 1980’s America was a key factor in the Iran-Contra Affair. After winning the White House in 1980, President Reagan was unable to keep GOP political momentum in Washington D.C, losing the Senate and House of Representatives to Democrats in the 1982 midterm elections. Complicating the Reagan Agenda, his assistance to anti-Communist regimes and global insurgencies was facing a hurdle after the midterm elections.
The Boland Amendment and Latin America
After taking control of Congress, the Democrats passed the Boland Amendment, effectively tarnishing capabilities of federal intelligence agencies to intervene in foreign conflicts. The amendment was drafted to specifically target Nicaragua, which was experiencing an anti-Communist uprising which was battling the Communist Sandinista government. Whereas Reagan compared the resistance to American Founding Fathers, the Democrats saw the Contras (those fighting the Sandinistas) as drug-dealing political subjugators. Despite this, Reagan instructed his National Security Advisor to assist the overthrow of the Sandinista government.
The Iran-Contra Affair
Around the same time, the Middle East was in turmoil. Iraq and Iran, two of the strongest powers at the time, were engaged in a bloody conflict. In addition, Iran was holding a group of American diplomats and private contractors hostage in Lebanon. Freeing the hostages became an issue for national security advisors, as an earlier embargo on placed in Iran during the Iranian Revolution prevented any kind of trade.
The US Secretary of Defense argued that an arms deal with Iran would secure the release of hostages and simultaneously improve relations with Lebanon. In addition, the funds from the Iranian arms deal would allow the CIA to secretly funnel funds to the Contras in Nicaragua assisting in their overthrow of the Sandinistas.
The Tower Commission
After a Lebanese newspaper broke the story of the American arms deal with Iran in 1986 during Reagan’s second term, 1500 American missiles had been sold and 3 hostages had been freed. The Tower Commission was appointed to investigate the administrations culpability in the matter. The investigation concluded that Reagan’s lack of oversight enabled the CIA to divert funds to the Contras. In all, 14 people were charged in a scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair.