On November 13, 1986, President Ronald Reagan told a national television audience that the US had secretly sent weapons to Iran, which was in the sixth year of a bitter war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It was the first admission from Reagan that the sales took place after a week of stonewalling in the wake of the deal’s exposure by a Lebanese newspaper.
Reagan’s aim was to contain the revelations before they lifted the lid on what was in reality a far greater criminal enterprise run out of the White House, including the laundering of the money procured in the illegal arms sales to fund Contra death squads in Nicaragua, also in violation of the law. Reagan spoke of “false rumors and erroneous reports” and warned of dangers to clandestine US operations. He insisted that the weapons were not used to secure the release of hostages and that the aim was in part to cultivate pro-Western elements in the Iranian theocracy in preparation for the passing of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.