On This Day — Tehran Releases 52 US Hostages After 444 Days (January 20 1981) [2020]

“It is now very clear that there were two separate agreements, one the official agreement with Carter in Algeria, the other, a secret agreement with another party, which, it is now apparent, was Reagan. They made a deal with Reagan that the hostages should not be released until after Reagan became president. So, then in return, Reagan would give them arms. We have published documents which show that US arms were shipped, via Israel, in March, about 2 months after Reagan became president.”

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr

“Mr Karrubi agreed in the second Madrid meeting to cooperate with the Reagan campaign about the timing of any hostage release. In return, he was promised that the Reagan Administration, once in office, would return Iran’s frozen assets and help them acquire badly needed military equipment. (…)During my research, I spoke to several of the former hostages. I was deeply moved by the response of one in particular. After listening to the evidence, he said simply: ‘I don’t want to believe it. It’s too painful to think about it.’ Painful it is. But the rest of us are obliged to think about it. Hard.”

Gary Sick — Retired Naval Captain who served on Ford’s, Carter’s, and Reagan’s National Security Council

On January 20 1981, 20 minutes after Reagan concluded his inaugural address, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the release of 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran since November 4 1979. Allegations that the Reagan administration negotiated a delay in the release of the hostages until after the 1980 presidential election have been numerous. Gary Sick, principal White House aide for Iran and the Persian Gulf on the Carter administration’s National Security Council, claimed in his book “October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan” that CIA Director William Casey and possibly Vice President George H. W. Bush went to Paris to negotiate such a delay. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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UPDATE (January 20 2020) — In February 2017, while explaining the ‘Logan Act’ and how it may apply to Michael Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with a Russian ambassador before taking office, Harvard’s Law Professor Alan Dershowitz made an astonishing statement regarding the 1980 US Presidential campaign.

Dershowitz suggested that if the ‘Logan Act’ had been applied in the past, Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson would share a jail cell. Then he stated the following:

“Ronald Reagan made a deal with the Iranians about the hostages release before he was elected…”

END of UPDATE

The timing gave rise to an allegation that representatives of Reagan’s presidential campaign had conspired with Iran to delay the release until after the election to thwart President Carter from pulling off an “October surprise“.

According to the allegation, the Reagan Administration rewarded Iran for its participation in the plot by supplying Iran with weapons via Israel and by unblocking Iranian government monetary assets in US banks.

After twelve years of mixed media attention, both houses of the US Congress held separate inquiries and concluded that the allegations lacked supporting documentation.

Nevertheless, several individuals—most notably former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr, former naval intelligence officer and U.S. National Security Council member Gary Sick, and former Reagan/Bush campaign staffer and White House analyst Barbara Honegger—have stood by the allegation.

The US Senate’s 1992 report concluded that “by any standard, the credible evidence now known falls far short of supporting the allegation of an agreement between the Reagan campaign and Iran to delay the release of the hostages.”

The House of Representatives’ 1993 report concluded “there is no credible evidence supporting any attempt by the Reagan presidential campaign—or persons associated with the campaign—to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran”.

Gary Sick was unable to prove his claims, including that, in the days before the presidential election with daily press pools surrounding him and a public travel schedule, vice presidential candidate George H. W. Bush secretly left the country and met with Iranian officials in France to discuss the fate of the hostages.

In 1991, freelance writer Danny Casolaro (among others) claimed to be almost ready to expose the alleged October surprise conspiracy, when he suddenly died a violent death in a hotel bathtub in Martinsburg, WVA, raising suspicions. He appeared to be traveling on leads for his investigation into the Inslaw Affair. His death was ruled a suicide.

While working for Reagan, Barbara Honegger claims to have discovered information that made her believe that George H. W. Bush and William Casey had conspired to assure that Iran would not free the U.S. hostages until Jimmy Carter had been defeated in the 1980 presidential election, and she alleges that arms sales to Iran were a part of that bargain.

In 1987, in the context of the Iran-Contra investigations, Honegger was reported as saying that shortly after 22 October 1980, when Iran abruptly changed the terms of its deal with Carter, a member of the Reagan campaign told her “We don’t have to worry about an October surprise. Dick (referring to Richard V. Allen ) cut a deal.”

The Election Story of the Decade — NYT

Gary Sick wrote an editorial for The New York Times and a book (October Surprise) on the subject.

Sick wrote that in October 1980 officials in Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign including future CIA Director, William Casey, made a secret deal with Influential Iranian clerics. [I recommend reading this story.]

“Sick’s credibility was boosted by the fact that he was a retired Naval Captain, served on Ford’s, Carter’s, and Reagan’s National Security Council, and held high positions with many prominent organizations; moreover, he had authored a book recently on US-Iran relations (All Fall Down).

Iran would delay the release of the American hostages until after the election and, in return for this, the United States would arrange for Israel to ship weapons to Iran.”

And of course, we know how that one turned out… It is called the “Iran-Contras Scandal”.

Iran Hostage Crisis: Release of 52 Hostages in 1981 (ABC News Report From 1/20/1981)

REFERENCES

Iran hostage crisis — Wikipedia

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On This Day — Tehran Frees US Hostages After 444 Days (January 20 1981)

On This Day — Tehran Releases 52 US Hostages After 444 Days (January 20 1981) [2020]

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