“At the present time we have this dilemma: American foreign policy without idealism is inconceivable... on the other hand, we do not have a clear-cut ideological enemy.”
For what has long sufficed to be the global and national goal of humankind
is the superficial and arduous strife for world peace. A concept that is
balanced by justice, freedom, and one which often seems to find itself
dominated by international politics and doctrines of law. Countries have
long realized the value of protection; their need to protect their culture,
their territory, and their people make up the ingredients inherent to the
implementation and need of such policies such as the American Foreign Policy.
This paper concedes to examine the roots of American Foreign Policy and
more specifically examine their application to the Iran/Contra affair.
By relying on testimonials, doctrines, rules of law, treaties and more
importantly the final outcome of the situation, the intention of this paper
suffices to be: the dissection of American Foreign Policy, how it works,
why it works, how it has failed and whom the policy serves. The contention
of this paper is that though the need for civil protection (and thus the
ability to be free from external interventions from other nations,) is
one of the most important tenets of globalization, politics and U.N. regulations,
it is also the grounds upon which ethnocentricity thrives and too often
where the rules of the global super-giants superceded those of global mice.
American Foreign Policy may represent the ideologies and values previously
discussed, yet the contention of this essay will debate and emphasize the
actions of the United States super giant’s methodologies in its application
on American Foreign Policy and as such will analyze its using of said policies
to secure the best possible outcomes for the United States.
The ideologies of scandalous, or covert operations, are terminologies which are often utilized loosely and stereotypically in an attempt to describe the involvement of the American governmental institution in foreign countries. This practice of external American involvement in foreign countries not only concedes to still exist, but spans the tercentenary of confederation of the United States until present day. The aforementioned terminologies have become synonymous with American Foreign Policy and are prominent in the authorships and vocabularies of many professionals such as journalists and historians; their mere usage being constant and thus becoming a sort of political jargon. The utilization of such terms can be observed throughout history; the Panama Canal incident giving birth to it’s usage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) in 1947 has sufficed to increase the incidences of these operations; operations that have, since the CIA birth, become inherently more secretive. As such, these highly controversial activities which concede to span the globe, have developed into demonstrably questioned and protested actions often considered akin to the idea of a conspiracy theory in the eyes of the public.
One of the most prolific and deceitful of all such operations was the Iran/Contra affair, that is said to have taken place from 1985-1986, though some speculate it began at a much earlier date. Due to the base of operations, which was stretched across three continents, the complexity of the actions involved in the Iran/.Contra affair is staggering. For the purposes of this paper, and due to the depth of such a subject, this paper will focus primarily upon the justification of the United States of America’s actions with regard to American Foreign Policy, in the selling of US weaponry to the Iran government.
“We keep talking about "world order." There is no "world order" as such now.”
American involvement with and in Iran has existed since the mid-twentieth
century. In 1953, Great Britain approached the US for help in the
assistance of promoting and empowering the recently outvoted Iranian Shah,
who incidentally favored the prosperity of private British oil companies.
To the dismay of the Iranian people, who had recently voted for the nationalization
of Iran’s oil industry two years prior in 1951 , this act seemed to supercede
their own county’s will out of a superficial consideration for the British
nation-states. Their countries politics had been breeched through a loop-hole,
American Foreign Policy, and Iran found itself no longer free from foreign
interventions, but rather at the mercies of Britain and the U.S. The operation
involved a military coup orchestrated by the CIA and Great Britain’s SIS,
which was implemented and engaged in attempts to overthrow the newly democratically
elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. Both CIA and SIS declared to the Shah,
(and fellow Iranian supporters,) that their primary objective was the reinstitution
of the Shah into power. The reported rationale for such a bold act was
stated as being to ensure independence and stability in the region. Furthermore,
it was to prevent the former U.S.S.R and the illegal Tudeh communist party
from gaining much feared support and control in Iran. The U.S.S.R. thus
became the scapegoat in justifying their involvement. The CIA believed
that the social and economic decline of Iran, in the form of embargos imposed
by Great Britain during the oil dispute, was giving room to increased ideological
support for communism. Thus the true nature of the U.S.S.R as a scapegoat
and the real reason for CIA/SIS intervention begins to become more apparent.
Russia had made it clear that they wished to aid rather than overthrow
or takeover Iran’s government. The secondary (though obviously more important
and pressing) objective of the CIA and SIS, as was presented to the Shah,
was to ensure the continued access to oil in the region. The official
C.I.A document (Probable Developments in Iran through 1953) clearly states
that in the opinions of both the U.S and Great Britain, the development
of U.S.S.R involvement in Iran was highly unlikely and not considered
to be a primary risk; however the oil dispute was mentioned on virtually
every page. The Shah’s power was reaffirmed by the coup in late 1953,
and in 1954 Iran announced oil deals with British, French and American
oil companies. Whilst claiming to want to protect the Iranian people
from communism and to improve their social and economic well-being, they
managed to overthrow a democratically elected prime-minister, reverse the
nationalization process of the oil industry (which could have proved far
more lucrative to the Iranians,) and managed to reinstate an insecure and
paranoid dictator to a country who had willingly dethroned him two years
earlier. It seems apparent that the masked goals of America
were not in fact to help the people prosper but to ensure its own national
needs while hiding behind the shroud of American Foreign Policy.
The years to follow saw the building of armament and military intelligence in Iran, accompanied by a large foreign direct investment, which as many economists have stated, generally return most of the profits to the home country and not the host country. Iran’s class war escalated due to the Shah’s inability to diminish the wage gaps in his ruling class favouritism, as well as his religious apathy illustrated in his 1962 bill which allowed municipal officials to take their oaths on whichever scripture they preferred.
Civil unrest was brewing and was advocated by one Islamic fundamentalist; Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini made calls for a clerical overthrow of the Shah’s so-called ‘corrupt’ monarchy throughout the 60’s and 70’s, condemning him for his pro-US policies inspiring many religious fanatics to unite and stand up against the deteriorating monarchic dictatorship. In 1978, violent protests broke out in Iran, mainly among the student population, and further escalated into a full-blown revolution fuelled by the demands of dismantling the Shah’s regime. In January 1979, the Shah left Iran and a few days thereafter, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to his homeland after 15 years of exile. Iran quickly became an Islamic state and the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced himself supreme ruler of Iran, establishing a harsh regime of Islamic fundamentalism. In November 1979, a group of students backed by the Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the American embassy and took 52 Americans hostage . America’s questionable involvement in this foreign land since 1953 had now escalated into a quasi-hatred for the U.S. country and its policies; the years of turmoil had now boiled into a brutal and vicious uprising in Iran, stemming from its Islamic roots and aimed directly towards the US and its representatives at the embassy.
“No matter how small, how poor, or how far away a nation is, it still poses a threat in the eyes of the American foreign policy elite”
Though the act of taking people hostage is in no way justifiable, it
had not happened without reason. This is best described as the ‘blowback
effect’. “It refers to an unpredicted, negative response against
a nation in regards to a diplomatic action previously undertaken by that
nation” . The years of foreign control over Iran’s government and
economy had built the path for such an outburst. The people were
starved for justice and retribution, and they now had a leader whom allowed,
and even advocated, such extreme behaviour. However, it was not the
hostage taking that maintains the focus of this paper, but the events that
unfolded during and after this time period.
The initial hostage crisis in Tehran came right before the American presidential elections scheduled for 1980. The 444 days that the hostages were held did nothing but harm the then current President Carter’s reputation. This unfortunate circumstance greatly diminished President Carter’s credibility as a diplomatic figurehead and insulted America’s power of negotiation and competence in foreign relations. However, it has since been discovered that there were undercover negotiations between C.I.A members and associates, namely George Bush and fellow operators, and Iranian revolutionaries on an agreement for the release of hostages in exchange for American made weapons. These weapons have been of great interest to Iranian weapons dealers since America’s initial involvement in Iran in 1953, due mainly to their ample distribution and widespread use to preserve the Shah’s rule throughout the following years, hence creating an internal dependency on American built weaponry. Though there was much media coverage in 1986 on the scandal, accompanied by independent investigations and extensive trial hearings, the most shameful detail was not brought to light and is still uncommon knowledge. “The American powers-that-be can indeed count on support for their wars from the American people and the corporate media. It would take an exemplary research effort to uncover a single American daily newspaper that unequivocally opposed the U.S…” There was in fact an agreement for the release of the hostages in exchange for American made weapons, but surprisingly, this agreement was alleged to have included an additional agreement, for the Iranian revolutionaries and Intelligencia to hold the hostages for an additional 71 days, until after the presidential election . The former C.I.A director and vice-presidential candidate George Bush had purportedly negotiated this agreement with Iranian ‘terrorists’, as they were labelled by American media and government, to help sway the upcoming 1980 election in favour of the Republican Party and candidate Ronald Reagan and to degrade the efforts made by President Carter. The vote was successful and the hostages were released minutes after President Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. Not only was this agreement against moral principle and theoretical American diplomatic practice, but the American negotiators were not even in a position to assure such an outcome, unless of course the Reagan-Bush administration were to take power.
It did not take Reagan’s administration long to start the flow of weapons into Iran. Though the official court rulings only acknowledge weapons transfers beginning in 1985 and consequently the transfer of funds to support the Contra’s in Nicaragua, in October of 1982 the Israeli ambassador to the US stated publicly that Israel was sending American made arms to the Khomeini regime "with the cooperation of the United States...at almost the highest level." The American media paid no attention and Reagan continued to profess his anti-terrorist pledges to the American public. In 1983, the secretary of state had declared Iran a benefactor of international terrorism and in 1984 had imposed an even stricter trade sanction on the country. This blatant deception was made public in 1986, where the sale of weapons to Iran was said to have had explicit presidential approval and the Khomeini regime held its status as a terrorist organization despite continual support from the Reagan administration. Although Reagan made claims to have had no direct part in the scandal, which is in itself highly questionable, his laissez-faire attitude towards his next to autonomous secret service sectors (both the C.I.A and the N.S.C) had left a very easy and untraceable path for the implementation of these sales, the transfer of funds and allowed for the handling of foreign policy without involvement from any elected official. Relentless hostage-taking of American individuals continued throughout the years of 1984 to 1986 in Beirut; the arms-for-hostages trades continued with Iran, maybe in hope of a dynamic Arab interference in Lebanon, or perhaps simply out of necessity for steady income to support the Contra’s in Nicaragua. The enactment of the Boland Amendment II in 1984 saw the termination of legitimate American aid to the Nicaraguan Contra’s and had specified a ban on C.I.A and any other intelligence assistance of any kind in the region also including military or paramilitary involvement. Due to the ‘rollback’ of communist regimes around the world, which had been one of the top priorities of the Reagan administration, now considerable amounts of funding were needed and could only be transferred from other, illegal sources. Through sizeable private donations, funds from supporting countries and skimmed money from the weapons sales in Iran, the Contra funding continued.
In late 1985, President Reagan signed a finding allowing the sales of weapons to Iran, this happening shortly after his public speech on June 18, 1985:
“Let me further make it plain to the assassins in Beirut and their accomplices, wherever they may be, that America will never make concessions to terrorists -- to do so would only invite more terrorism -- nor will we ask nor pressure any other government to do so. Once we head down that path there would be no end to it, no end to the suffering of innocent people, no end to the bloody ransom all civilized nations must pay.”
Even though Reagan signed the official finding to supply weapons to Iran, this finding was never shown to congress which in itself represented another illegality, the disregarding of congressional-notification requirements in covert-action. It was also a defiance of The Arms Export Control Act on many levels. The following are selected excerpts:
…it remains the policy of the United States to encourage regional arms control and disarmament agreements and to discourage arms races
…It is the sense of the Congress that all such sales be approved only when they are consistent with the foreign policy interests of the United States, the purposes of the foreign assistance program of the United States as embodied in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
…Particular attention should be paid to controlling the flow of conventional arms to the nations of the developing world. To this end, the President is encouraged to continue discussions with other arms suppliers in order to restrain the flow of conventional arms to less developed countries
(a) No defense article or defense service shall be sold or leased by the United States Government under this Act to any country or international organization,10 and no agreement shall be entered into for a cooperative project (as defined in section 27 of this Act), unless—
(1) The President finds that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to such country or international organization will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace;
(2) the country or international organization shall have agreed not to transfer title to, or possession of, any defense article or related training or other defense service so furnished to it, or produced in a cooperative project (as defined in section 27 of this Act), to anyone not an officer, employee, or agent of that country or international organization (or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the specific member countries (other than the United States) in the case of a cooperative project) and not to use or permit the use of such article or related training or other defense service for purposes other than those for which furnished unless the consent of the President has first been obtained;
Due to the confidential ‘off-the-books’ nature of these transactions, it would seem hard to regulate what would be done of the weapons sold to the Iranians, particularly as they were labelled as international terrorists. The sale did not gain approval of the congress, nor was it overseen by any public governmental agency, the arms were pretty well sold without any strings attached and the funds were to be managed primarily by three men, Col. North, Albert Hakim and Maj. Gen. Richard Secord. This was quite evidently a breach of The Arms Export Control Act and was certainly not done to promote world peace, nor did it visibly protect American national security, if anything it was hindered as would be felt from the Arab world in the years to come.
Labelled the ‘Enterprise’, with a slew of associate companies such as Lake Resources Inc., North, Hakim, Clines and Secord successfully managed to run a covert and illegal money laundering practice on funds attained through the sale of weapons to Iran. They took control of the sales as late as 1985 and possibly a lot earlier. In independent prosecutor Walsh’s investigative report on the Iran-Contra scandal, he specifies that the weapons were sold to Iran at unfair market prices and the profits derived from these sales were laundered. Through Swiss bank accounts and a string of corporations under control of Col. North, American national arms sales were being privately controlled and furthermore transferred to the Contra’s in Nicaragua to help overthrow the Sandinista regime, which at that precise time was completely banned by the enactment of the second Boland Amendment. North had already set up a Swiss account in 1984 under orders from Reagan’s national security advisor McFarlane to help transfer secret Saudi donations to the Contras. Although Reagan strictly denied knowing anything about the series of money transfers, it is hard to imagine that his highest ranked officials seated in the White House itself could have possibly orchestrated the entire affair without his knowing. An estimated $47 million went through the hands of North and the illegitimate Swiss accounts . This included help from business men (Hakim, Clines), military personnel (Secord, Singlaub), N.S.C officials (McFarlane, Pointdexter) and the director of the C.I.A himself, William Casey. Despite the enactment of the second Boland Amendment in 1984, Reagan’s top officials considered the N.S.C to be free from the ‘intelligence’ sector ban and therefore attempted to slide through the legal loopholes. Though the C.I.A quickly refrained from offering direct military support, Director William Casey often met with North to exchange intelligence information, provide plans of attack and means of funding. Through 1985 and 1986 North laundered millions of dollars through these illegitimate companies and by way of the N.S.C helped to provide the Contras with large amounts of funding
The selling of arms to Iran in continues to draw debate as to whether the actions were morally, economically or politically justifiable. According to both U.N and national charters, efforts should be made to limit the sale and retention of weapons globally, particularly in hostile and underdeveloped nations. Iran predominantly fell under that category. Through the utilization of the U.N. and National charters therefore, one can conclude that the U.S. government in their actions of selling weaponry to a under developed nation such as Iran Ultra Vires global policies. The hostage crisis did however place a certain amount of pressure on the Reagan administration to maintain its diplomatic force and show strength in foreign relations, particularly in its fight against terrorism which Reagan himself so proudly advocated and what had literally become a cornerstone for the Reagan Doctrine. The question of necessity arises when approaching the debate as to whether the United States was warranted in their selling or armouries through bartering for hostages. The divide of law and morality greys at this point as often rules and regulations leave little room for compassion or human rights.
“Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity....To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives....We should cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."
According to some views, the Tehran hostages were going to be
released before the presidential election therefore requiring no sale of
arms and would have probably resulted in a much harder electoral victory
for President Reagan. Many national efforts were being made at the
time to free the hostages, including diplomacy as well as covert missions
to move in and physically remove them. As was pointed out earlier,
the side deal struck by Bush and fellow operators was quite the opposite,
resulting in a prolonged holding and nothing short of conflicting interests.
The hostages taken in Lebanon throughout 1984-1986 resembled a swift, law-breaking, bullying tactic often used by Americans. The Middle East was successful in persuading American officials to not only sell them weapons which was strictly banned, but were sold with no post-sale supervision or agreement and without notification to any major public government sector, including congress itself. This represents the greatest moral dilemma of the transaction. In a democratic country, that itself ‘fights’ to preserve and restore it around the world, this deception of the American public does nothing but undermine its credibility. The major problem was that nobody could be easily held liable and the events were neither in the interest nor the will of the general population, let alone the global community. The transactions were in the hands of what the Reagan administration referred to in court as ‘Rogue’ personnel, the same personnel that were entrusted with the direction and control of these operations. The weapons were sold to Iran with promises that they would then help free the hostages in Beirut, though there was undeniably a previous agreement that would have perhaps seen the sale of weapons anyway. There were also intelligence documents suggesting that weapons be sold to Iran to help fend off Russian interests and further involvement in the area no matter what happened to the hostages. On August 20th, 1985 a shipment of American weapons in Israeli hands made their way to Iran. The notorious Ghorbanifar, a rich Iranian businessman previously warned of by the C.I.A of always acting in self-interest, agreed that he would ensure the release of hostages if 100 T.O.W anti-aircraft missiles were delivered to him and fellow Iranian representatives. Reagan agreed to it though there was no notification to congress and Israel completed the orders and carried out the shipment. Of the seven, no hostages were released and the T.O.W missiles had mysteriously fallen into the wrong hands . Ghorbanifar again proclaimed that it would take 400 more missiles for the release of any hostages. This evident puppeteering resulted in another shipment of 408 missiles to Iran on September 14th, 1985, one hostage was freed. Instead of the covert operations taking control of the situation, the situation had seemed to take control of them and progress was slow coming. Had the operation been done overtly under the knowledge and control of the congress it can be assured that the weapons would not have been shipped due to Iran and its government’s volatile nature. Because of an established embargo on US exports to Iran, a far different diplomatic approach would have been attempted. The question as to why the President of the United States thus endorsed such happenings remained a compelling question for the nation and global community. When the case was brought to court, the Reagan administration again deceived congress in claiming to know much less than was later revealed in Walsh’s private investigation.
Reagan’s blatant disregard for the laws, both national and international, made it near impossible to justify his actions on a political level. There was no consideration for the disarmament of a hostile and terrorist nation which was in the heat of war with Iraq. Instead the Reagan administration played both sides feeding their own self-interests and none other. The US had already devoted support and aid to Iraq and established economic interests in the country but had now flipped the coin and began providing for its enemy. The sales did not help bring peace to the world, nor did they overwhelmingly help the hostage situation in Lebanon. Sales were made for one reason in particular, to help their cause in Nicaragua, which in itself was hard to justify to congress and the US as a whole but is a story in itself. With deceitful media coverage, the little that was offered, and false testimonies the administration managed to funnel millions of dollars to aid the Contras contrary to the congress’ firm decisions. Congress approached both McFarlane and later Pointdexter between 1984 and 1986 about Col. North and the N.S.C’s involvement in Iran and in Nicaragua but they responded with lies claiming they were clean and abiding by all instated laws in both letter and spirit.
Considering the significant role played by the United States in the political governance of Iran over the course of the last three decades, a certain responsibility should therefore be assumed by such a nation that chooses and purposely interferes in the establishment of peace and democracy of foreign countries such as Iran. Such a country that supersedes global rule and undermines even their own national beliefs should stand trial by the world for such obviously fallacious and impairing actions. Super giants such as the United States cannot be allowed and should not be allowed to dictate the rules and practices of other nations. U.N. strongly prohibits it, just as the U.S. instituted American Foreign Policies to guard against it in their own nation. A country such as the U.S. that has so obviously overstepped its political parameters time and time again must be held liable and accountable for their actions. Countries must be ruled by their democratically elected powers rather than marionettes blindly leading a nation beneath the hypnosis of a nation who only wishes to ascertain betterment for their own country. The proprietary of the U.S. is highly overestimated as it retains its power and place in the global spectrum through deceit and malicious acts which impair the capabilities of many other smaller and lesser developed countries, America must stop playing chess with the underdeveloped world in hopes to further its own progression in the developed one. The United States should have clearly not included the sale of weapons to an enemy regime as a bargaining tactic or economic strategy. This conclusion is saved by the U.N. treaties and various other National Charters. Diplomatic resolution would have been a more acceptable and democratic approach. Reagan’s own doctrine was diluted by his support of terrorism and covert action in Iran and his supported cause in Nicaragua proved to be a gruesome story of vicious killing and questionable military practice.
Though the Iran affair was a debatable political and moral manoeuvre, it was an economically sound plan that came at a critical point in the Contra war in Nicaragua. The secret sales provided grounds for a monetary scandal on two fronts. First of all, because the sales were not officiated by congress, the money gained from the transactions were free of government direction, though illegal as it may have been, provided a greater control of the funds and the ability to move the money quickly to various tasks in the Contra movement. It was also a tax violation as Clines was later convicted of failing to report income from these operations. The money was then used to purchase much needed weapons in Portugal, purchasing planes for the delivery of such weapons and buying aid and other items of sustenance. Some speculate that because of the lenient supervision of these purchases and accounts there was much room for profiting by North, Hakim, Clines and Secord. The second controversy was reported in Walsh’s report; it explained that due to the concealed nature of these operations, fair economic principles were not present to guide the pricing of the weaponry. North and associates were free to price the weapons at their discretion and it was proved that the weapons were remarkably overpriced hence allowing them to easily skim profits from the sales. In fact, millions of crucial funds were acquired through this most debatable practice, but came at a time when the congressional funding to the Contras in Nicaragua had been cut and the Reagan administration was adamant about keeping the spirit of the Contras alive.
As has been the perception many times before and after the Iran-Contra scandal, the United States can continue to exploit the governing laws of the world and its developing countries for the good of one singular nation. The various laws and principles implemented to protect international and national interests alike were overlooked and flagrantly violated in the Iran/Contra affair. It was not justice and peace that prevailed from this policy but a profit to American weapons manufacturers and their subsidiaries, possibly North, Hakim, Clines and Secord and the affirmation of a controversial project and vicious rebel war in Nicaragua. The weapons were not even sold in a just manner, the process lacked authority, approval, control and legality. In a frivolous and seemingly careless attempt to prevent a socialist uprising in Central America, the Reagan Administration put the democratic features of American politics on hold. The obsessive desire to “rollback” communist regimes around the world had spiralled into a malicious support of brutal Contras in Nicaragua funded by a less-than-legitimate source. The conspirators ranged from medium-level military intelligence all the way up to the President himself and when the scandal was revealed in late 1986, there was no one who had the integrity to accept responsibility for their unlawful actions. The deception continued into a full blown conspiracy and is still not fully resolved to this day. Most of the convictions were appealed and defeated in court, or the cases just dropped altogether if the President Bush had not already given them an official pardon. It seems clear that the sales were not justified in either a political nor moral perspective but simply of economic advantage when it was beneficial (though sternly opposed to by congress). This goes on to enforce the impression that American foreign policy is not based on mutual benefits or world peace, but on selfish national interests, often not even those of the greater population but of a specific sector. Reagan’s authenticity was destabilized and his doctrine virtually nullified. The trust in various intelligence and military agencies was spoiled by their progressively unruly and uncontained behaviour. It seems hard to accept the idea that America fought for and defended democracy when those basic characteristics were so scarcely present in its own society as well as a number of its foreign objectives. The actions taken by the Reagan administration in the Iran/Contra affair cannot be justified by moral sense, nor can it be vindicated in a political analysis. To the detriment of many nations and in defiance of numerous carefully developed agreements, Reagan’s policies appeared to nurture one interest and one interest only, its own.
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