On November 25, 1986, the Iran-Contra affair erupted as President Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that profits from secret arms sales to Iran had been diverted to Nicaraguan rebels. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about the Iran-Contra scandal...
Arms Were Sold to Iran to Fund the Nicaraguan Contras The Iran-Contra Affair was a secret U.S. arms deal that traded missiles and other arms to free some Americans held hostage by terrorists in Lebanon, but also used funds from the arms deal to support the Contras in Nicaragua. The controversial dealmaking—and the ensuing political scandal—threatened to bring down the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
A Staff Member in the National Security Council Played a Big Part in the Scandal It was then that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, of the National Security Council, came forward to acknowledge that he had diverted the missing funds to the Contras in Nicaragua, who used them to acquire weapons. North said he had done so with the full knowledge of National Security Advisor Admiral John Poindexter. He assumed Reagan was also aware of his efforts.
Iran Contra Was Exposed When the Sandinistas Shot Down a Plane The Sandinistas were a left-wing organization that was trying to remove Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, while the United States was supporting the Contras, a group of right-wing guerilla fighters. During a shipment of arms, which were thrown out of a plane flying overhead, one of the planes was shot down by a young Sandinista. Three people died in the crash, but Eugene Hasenfus, who had flown missions for the CIA, was captured, and that led to the disclosure that the arms deliveries were organized by the CIA.
The Iran-Contra Scandal Tarnished Reagan's Credibility Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa first reported the arms deal between the United States and Iran in 1986, well into Reagan’s second term. By that time, 1,500 American missiles had been sold to Iran, for $30 million. Three of the seven hostages in Lebanon were also released, although the Iran-backed terrorist group there later took three more Americans hostage. Reagan initially denied that he had negotiated with Iran or the terrorists, only to retract the statement a week later. Meanwhile, Attorney General Edwin Meese launched an investigation into the weapons deal, and found that some $18 million of the $30 million Iran had paid for the weapons was unaccounted for.
North Received a Suspended Sentence Oliver North resigned from his position in 1986 and was convicted of three out of 12 charges connected with the Iran-Contra affair. He received a jail sentence of three years, which was suspended, given community service and fined $150,000. A Federal judge overturned the convictions in 1990, and all the charges were dropped in 1991. Eventually, 11 individuals in the Reagan administration were convicted in the scandal.