Foreign Policy: The Iran-Contra Affair

Between the years of 1983 and 1986, the United States was involved in a series of covert operations, collectively known as the Iran-Contra Affair. These operations were at best controversial, and at worst blatantly illegal.The Iran-Contra Affair (or the Iran Contra-Scandal) revolved around the issue of foreign policy, specifically with regards to Iran and Nicaragua. In 1979, revolution in Iran resulted in a complete change in the countries relationship with the United States. Having previously been an ally of the U.S., Iran, under its new regime, had become decidedly anti-American. These changes caused a time period of unrest that lasted into the mid 1980’s between the U.S. and Iran. Stabilizing the situation in Iran was one of the key objectives that motivated many of the authorities who were ultimately responsible for the Iran-Contra Affair. In 1985, seven hostages were taken by a terrorist group in Lebanon. This terrorist group had ties with Iran. Therefore, when Iran requested that the United States sell arms to them, President Reagan saw it as a potential way of getting the hostages returned. President Reagan wanted to see them returned safely, and hoped to restore good relations between the U.S. and Iran in the process. Many members of Congress were strongly against the idea. To go through with the arms deal was in direct violation of several laws, including policies against selling arms to entities on lists of terrorists countries, or terrorist-friendly countries, (Iran was included on such lists). Additionally, in negotiating with Iran, the Reagan administration would be dealing with known “terrorists,” something Reagan was openly very against. Nevertheless, the Reagan administration granted the Iranian’s request, in spit...

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Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

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Jeffrey David Simon, The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001), 188-89.

David J. Scheffer, “U.S. Law and the Iran-Contra Affair”, The American Journal of International Law 81, no. 3 (July, 1987): 698, accessed May 20, 2014,

Stefan A. Riesenfeld, “The Powers of Congress and the President in International Relations: Revisited”, California Law Review 75, no. 1 (January, 1987): 405-14, accessed May 21, 2014,
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