The Iran-Contra Affair
According to the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair issued in November 1987, the sale of U.S. arms to Iran through Israel began in the summer of 1985, after receiving the approval of President Reagan. The report shows that Israel's involvement was stimulated by separate overtures in 1985 from Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghorbanifar and National Security Council (NSC) consultant Michael Ledeen, the latter working for National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane. When Ledeen asked Prime Minister Shimon Peres for assistance, the Israeli leader agreed to sell weapons to Iran at America's behest, providing the sale had high-level U.S. approval.
Before the Israelis would participate, says the report, they demanded "a clear, express and binding consent by the U.S. Government." McFarlane told the Congressional committee he first received President Reagan's approval in July 1985. In August, Reagan again orally authorized the first sale of weapons to Iran, over the objections of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz. Because of that deal, Rev. Benjamin Weir, held captive in Lebanon for 16 months, was released.
When a shipment of HAWK missiles was proposed in November of that year, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin again demanded specific U.S. approval. According to McFarlane, the President agreed.
By December 1985, the President had decided future sales to the Iranians would come directly from U.S. supplies.
According to the committees' report, NSC aide Lt. Col. Oliver North first used money from the Iran operation to fund the Nicaraguan resistance in November 1985. He later testified, however, that the diversion of funds to the Contras was proposed to him by Ghorbanifar during a meeting in January 1986.
Saudi billionaire oil and arms trader Adnan Khashoggi said in an interview on ABCTV on December 11, 1986, that he advanced $1 million to help finance the first arms shipment in the Iran-Contra arms scandal and put up $4 million for the second shipment. According to the President's special review board chaired by former Sen. John Tower, a foreign official (reportedly Saudi King Fahd) donated $1 million to $2 million monthly from July 1984 to April 1985 for covert financing for the Contras. Saudi Arabia denied aiding the Nicaraguan rebels, but the New York Times reported the contribution may have been part of a 1981 secret agreement between Riyadh and Washington "to aid anticommunist resistance groups around the sophisticated American AWACS radar planes, according to United States officials and others familiar with the deal."
The Joint House-Senate Committee praised the Israeli government for providing detailed chronologies of events based on relevant documents and interviews with key participants in the operation. Its report also corroborated the conclusion of the Tower Commission: "U.S. decision makers made their own decisions and must bear responsibility for the consequences."