If the GOP tries to sink the Iran deal, it won't be the first time

In 1980 Carter had a deal with Iran to free the hostages -- his presidential opponent Reagan made a deal of his own

Published July 16, 2015 7:01AM (EDT)


This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetRonald Reagan – or at least his campaign – committed treason to become president, and normalizing relations with Iran may expose the whole thing.

As news of a US-Iranian nuclear deal spread like wildfire this week, the mainstream media began to ask its usual set of questions. Is the deal for real? Can we trust the Iranians? And the Republicans in Congress are going totally nuts.

Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president's deal with Iran are nothing new, however. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

In the early fall of 1980, Carter thought he had reached a deal with newly elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr over the release of the 52 hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran. President Bani-Sadr was a moderate, and as he explained in an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor published on March 5, 2013, he had successfully run for president of Iran on the popular position of releasing the hostages:

"I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign.... I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote.... Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking]."

President Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr's help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November 1979. But Carter underestimated the lengths his opponent in the 1980 presidential election, California Gov. Ronald Reagan, would go to win the presidency.

Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign had previously worked out a deal with the leader of Iran's radical faction, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 presidential election in order to humiliate Carter and hand the election to Reagan. This was nothing short of treason.

As President Bani-Sadr wrote for the Monitor, “I was deposed in June 1981 as a result of a coup against me. After arriving in France, I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism. Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the 'October Surprise,' which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place.”

The Reagan campaign's secret negotiations with Khomeini -- the so-called "October Surprise" -- were successful in sabotaging Carter and Bani-Sadr's attempts to free the hostages. And as President Bani-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor, "The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the [1980] election in Reagan's favor."

Iran released the hostages on Jan. 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, by way of saying, “We kept up our part of the deal; now we expect you to start shipping us those weapons you promised.”

That October Surprise emboldened the radical forces inside Iran. A politically weakened Bani-Sadr was overthrown in June 1981 and replaced with Mohammed Ali Rajai, a favorite of Khomeini's.

The October Surprise also led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people around the world, and in Central America in particular. Reagan took money from the Iranians and used that money to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in ways that still haunt the region. And he set the Supreme Court (by appointing Scalia and two other right-wingers) and the nation on a course that would see the destruction of much of the New Deal and the evisceration of America’s middle class.

But those are just the most obvious results of the October Surprise. If Carter were able to free the hostages like he and Bani-Sadr had planned, Carter would have won reelection. After all, he was leading in most polls in the months leading up to the election, and most Americans saw Reagan as a right-wing radical shill for the billionaire class (history proved them right).

So, now that the doors of Tehran may be thrown open to the press, Republican leadership is facing a huge crisis: Saint Ronnie could be exposed. If former Iranian president Bani-Sadr is telling the truth – and all the evidence (including the fact that Reagan was selling weapons to Iran in violation of US law) points to his treason -- then there’s certainly evidence of it floating around in Tehran. If that evidence surfaces, it could make for considerable discomfort on the Republican side of the aisle.

Of course, this is not the first time a Republican presidential candidate committed treason to gain the White House. Consider the case of Richard Nixon.

In the fall of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson had finally negotiated a tentative agreement to end the Vietnam war. But Richard Nixon knew that if the war continued, it would tarnish Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s chances of winning the election. So Nixon had envoys from his campaign talk to South Vietnamese leaders to encourage them not to attend an upcoming peace talk in Paris. Nixon promised South Vietnam he would give them a better deal when he was president than LBJ could.

The CIA intercepted the communications and turned them over to President Johnson, who thus found out about this political maneuver to prolong the Vietnam war just three days before the 1968 election. He immediately phoned the Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen. Here’s a transcript (audio here):

President Johnson: Now, I can identify ‘em, because I know who’s doing this. I don’t want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate [Nixon] was playing with a source like this [South Vietnam] on a matter this important.  I don’t want to do that.

But if they’re going to put this kind of stuff out, they ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to, and I know what they’re saying. ...Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the president [of South Vietnam] that if he'll hold out 'til November the second [US election day] they could get a better deal. Now, I'm reading their hand, Everett. I don't want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn't to be doin' this. This is treason.

Sen. Dirksen: I know.

In subsequent tapes, Dirksen relates his efforts to get Nixon to pull back, and his lack of success. Unable to end the war, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost the election to Nixon, and both Johnson and Dirksen took the secret of Nixon’s treason to their graves.

Those tapes were just released by the LBJ library three years ago, and the fact that there wasn’t a media firestorm is a true testament to how well the media protects the establishment parties… or to how incompetent the media has become after all the media consolidation of the past 30 years and the death of investigative journalism.

South Vietnam took Nixon’s deal and boycotted the peace talks in 1968. The war continued, and Nixon won the White House thanks to it. And the war continued for four more years, and another 20,000 Americans and a million more Vietnamese died.

And Reagan’s treason --just like Nixon’s treason -- worked perfectly. The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter's re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office -- almost to the minute -- the American hostages in Iran were released.

And in exchange for that, Reagan began selling the Iranians weapons and spare parts in 1981, and continued until he was busted for it in 1986; remember the "Iran Contra" scandal?

So twice in recent times, Republicans took the White House through naked treason.

Makes you wonder what they’re planning for next year … and what they’re willing to do to keep Tehran wrapped in a blanket of sanctions-silence.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is "The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It."

By Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of "The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America" and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

MORE FROM Thom Hartmann

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alternet Gop Hostage Crisis Iran Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan