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Implications of the Iran-Contra Affair

The American public is still pondering the revelations about the Iran-contra affair, and it seems likely that they will influence debate and policy for years to come. A spate of books on that subject and on associated intelligence activities has already been published.[40]
Lost in the furor over the Iran-contra affair is the fact that it had antecedents in earlier Reagan years. On November 19, 1986, at the beginning of the controversy, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that the Reagan administration's secret overtures and arms shipments to Iran were part of a seven-year pattern of covert CIA operations designed both to curry favor with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime and to support the Iranian exiles seeking to overthrow it.

From the viewpoint of evaluating covert operations, one of the most important questions about the Iran-contra affair is why it happened. Some say that the fundamental cause was a lack of oversight. The congressional report comments:
The confusion, deception, and privatization which marked the Iran-Contra Affair were the inevitable products of an attempt to avoid accountability. Congress, the Cabinet, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were denied information and excluded from the decisionmaking process.