"October Surprise": Did the Reagan campaign deal with Iran in 1980 or not?

Spinoff from this Pit thread, which is based on this story, which is really two stories, both based on documents recently brought to light:

  1. Nixon in 1968 used such influence as he had (even out of office) to sabotage the Paris Peace Talks from behind the scene, just so the Vietnam War would still be there as an issue for him to run against in November. Much of the Watergate scandal involved Nixon’s efforts to track down evidence of this which he knew LBJ had. There’s already a GD thread on this part. Focusing this one, therefore, on:

  2. Reagan’s campaign team negotiated with Iranian authorities in 1980 to make sure the hostages would not be released until after the election, thus clinching it for Reagan. That’s not a new theory, see October surprise conspiracy theory; what’s new is evidence purportedly showing that the Iran-Contra scandal was rooted in this, all part of the payoff for the deal. But Ibn Warraq cites a Village Voice article as proof that the whole October Surprise theory itself has been long since “debunked” and “discredited.” Has it been?



My lasting memory of the October Surprise conspiracy theory was that George H.W. Bush was flown to sensitive negotiations on an SR-71. Give me a break.

Besides, the whole release of the hostages just after Reagan was inaugurated is explained to my satisfaction with the simple fact that the Iranians hated Carter with an intensity of a thousand suns. You don’t need a conspiracy to explain that the Iranians were actively trying to fuck with Jimmy Carter.

Okay, here’s what you have.

Iran held on to the hostages until Reagan replaced Carter as President.

Restrictions on arms sales to Iran and the freezing of Iranian assets in the United States were reduced during the Reagan administration.

These two items are pretty much the uncontroverted facts we have to work with. Everything else is rumor and hearsay.

Some people claim that the two facts are related. That individuals in the Reagan campaign met with individuals in the Iranian government and made a deal that if Iran held on to the hostages during the campaign (and helped Reagan’s chances of being elected) they would take a more favorable policy towards Iran if they won the election.

Other people say the two facts are not related. Iran released the hostages because their usefulness as hostages was over. They released them the day Reagan took office because they hated Carter. The improvement of relations between America and Iran during the Reagan administration was just the result of the passage of time and the return to the usual diplomatic status quo.

Two Congressional investigations, plus investigations from Newsweek, New Republic, and the Village Voice, found there was no credible evidence of any clandestine meetings between the Reagan administration and Iran to affect the release of hostages.

There is also no connection between the measles vaccine and autism, Oswald acted alone, The Protocol of the Elders of Zion is a Czarist forgery, and the Shroud of Turin is a fake.


Nobody has confessed to being personally involved. Iranian President Bani-Sadr has claimed it happened but that he only knew about it, he didn’t have first hand knowledge. Personally, I’d be stunned if anyone ever confessed to this sort of thing.

If one goes to the thread on the issue of the Bush Administration’s conclusion that there were WMD, I suspect that you will find a lot of posters there who say that the suspicions that the warmongers knew they were lying is without sufficient proof. I wonder if they will show up here and demand a much higher burden of proof.