Ronald Reagan Knew How To Deal With the Iranians, Even If It Meant Arming Them

As John Kerry and Barack Obama struggle to get a nuclear pact with Iran, and Obama reviews hostage procedures, it's worth remembering a president who knew how to get a deal done.
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As John Kerry and Barack Obama struggle to get a nuclear pact with Iran, and Obama reviews hostage procedures, it's worth remembering a president who knew how to get a deal done.
Reagan

Today is a very special day, made even more special by current events. Just yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a seven-month extension of negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, while under pressure from Congress to ramp up sanctions on the Iranian regime. The White House, meanwhile, is asking Congress to have patience with the talks, lest unilateral action damage the broad international cooperation the United States has garnered thus far:

"The concern that we have is that layering on additional sanctions could leave some of our partners with the impression that this sanctions regime is more punitive in nature than anything else, and that could cause some cracks in that international coordination to appear. And that would, therefore, undermine the point of the sanctions regime in the first place."

At the same time, the United States continues its review of our hostage policies, prompted by the ISIS beheadings that began over the summer. That review, it should be noted, "does not include a reconsideration of a longstanding policy of the United States government that ransoms should not be paid to terrorist organizations that are holding hostages," according to the White House.

This is a very special day because, while the Obama administration jumps through hoops to get a deal with Iran, to deal with U.S. hostages, and to fund a rebel army, today is the 28th anniversary (or Iran-niversary™) of the day Ronald Reagan announced that his administration had killed all three birds with one stone. On November 25, 1986, President Reagan explained to reporters how his deal to recover hostages from Iran included a little something extra for the Contras, a rebel army that was fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. For illustrative purposes, try to imagine Dutch wearing a cowboy hat, and that hat spinning around in midair after he flees the podium:

Reagan: I believe our policy goals toward Iran were well-founded. However, the information brought to my attention yesterday convinced me that in one aspect, implementation of that policy was seriously flawed.

[...]

Reporter: Did you make a mistake in sending arms to Tehran, sir?

Reagan: No. And I'm not taking any more questions.

Wait, what? Did I hear that right, President Reagan made an agreement to arm Iran? How'd he twist their arms to pull off that sweet deal?

Not to worry, though, as Attorney General Edwin Meese stuck around to face the music for about 45 minutes, but he summed the whole thing up pretty well in about 45 seconds:

"Certain monies which were received in the transaction between representatives of Israel and representatives of Iran were made available to the forces in Central America which are opposing the Sandinista government there."

I know what you're thinking, but at the time, arming an enemy who was taking Americans hostage and using that money to overthrow a government that wasn't taking Americans hostage just made sense. So did legwarmers. Did I mention they were funding a cocaine-dealing rebel army? Again, it was the 80s. Kajagoogoo was a thing.

It all worked out in the end, though, because Ronald Reagan was no aloof incompetent, the buck stopped with him:

"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."

Stupid facts and evidence. Where's Fox News when you need them? Luckily for everyone involved, Vice President George H.W. Bush succeeded Reagan as president, and pardoned everyone involved, stopping that buck real good.

But hey, at least Reagan knew how to make a deal, right?