Key events in the Iran-contra affair
1984 Spring. Two Americans, including the CIA station chief, are kidnapped in Beirut. Summer-Fall. Congress cuts off all US funds for the Nicaraguan contras. A member of the National Security Council staff, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, is assigned to maintain liaison with private groups supporting the contras. 1985 January-June. Four more Americans are kidnapped in Beirut. June 14. TWA Flight 847 is hijacked in Beirut by Shiite Muslim terrorists. The hostages are released on June 30 after the secret intervention of Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of Iran's parliament. July. David Kimche, then the director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, suggests to then national-security adviser Robert McFarlane that doors can be opened to Iranian ``moderates'' through Manuchur Ghorbanifar. Kimche says arms sales probably will be a condition to a dialogue. August. According to McFarlane, President Reagan orally approves the shipment by Israel of American-made weapons and parts to Iran and promises that the US will replenish Israel's stocks. (The White House disputes McFarlane's version.) August-September. Israel makes several shipments of US arms to Iran. According to later statements by Reagan and White House chief of staff Donald Regan, the President was informed of the initial shipment after it occurred, at which time he condoned it. Sept. 14. A hostage, the Rev. Benjamin F. Weir, is released. Nov. 22-23. Israel delivers more US-made arms to Iran. Dec. 4. McFarlane resigns as national-security adviser as of the end of the year. His deputy, Vice-Adm. John Poindexter, succeeds him. Dec. 8. Following continued debate within the administration over the arms sales, which are opposed by Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, McFarlane flies to London on the President's instructions to inform Kimche and Ghorbanifar that the US would no longer sell arms to Iran. Late December. Amiram Nir, an Israeli counterterrorism official, tells the White House that Iran will secure the release of the remaining US hostages in return for more arms. 1986 Jan. 7. Top administration officials meet at the White House to consider resuming arms sales to Iran. Jan. 17. President Reagan, reportedly at the urging of Poindexter, signs a secret intelligence ``finding'' authorizing dealings with Iran, including arms sales, and instructing Casey to withhold details from Congress. May 28. At the request of Poindexter, McFarlane flies to Tehran, accompanied by NSC staff member North and three other men. Their plane carries military spare parts. But the hostages are not freed, and after four days the contingent leaves. July 4. The US sends another arms shipment to Iran, via Spain and Yugoslavia. July 26. Another hostage, the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, is released. Aug. 13. Congress approves $100 million in military aid for the contras and permits the CIA to disburse the money. September. McFarlane makes a second trip to Tehran with an arms shipment. Oct. 5. Nicaraguan troops shoot down a cargo plane carrying weapons for the contras. One crew member, American Eugene Hasenfus, is captured, along with documents that suggests links to North and other present and former government officials. Oct. 26-27. A shipment of US arms is made to Iran via Israel. Nov. 2. A third hostage, David P. Jacobsen, is released. Nov. 3. A Lebanese weekly magazine, Al Shiraa, discloses that the US sent Iran military parts and ammunition after a secret visit to Tehran by McFarlane. Nov. 13. Reagan, in a televised speech, defends his ``secret diplomatic initiative to Iran'' as necessary to achieve a number of US policy goals. He says he authorized the transfer to Iran of ``small amounts of defensive weapons and spare parts'' that could fit into a single cargo plane. Nov. 19. Reagan answers about the affair at a press conference. It is later alleged that White House staff members prepared a misleading chronology for use in preparing Reagan for the press conference. Nov. 20. It is disclosed that Israel, with US approval, shipped Iran 2,008 TOW antitank missiles and at least 235 Hawk antiaircraft missiles and that Iran paid at least $12 million for the arms. Nov. 21. According to later news reports, on North's instructions his secretary altered four sensitive documents and shredded others. Nov. 22-23. In a weekend investigation ordered by Attorney General Edwin Meese III, Justice Department lawyers uncover information in North's office indicating the diversion of millions of dollars of arms-sales proceeds to the Nicaraguan contras. Nov. 25. Reagan publicly discloses the diversion of funds to the contras. He announces that Poindexter had resigned as national-security adviser and that North had been relieved of his duties. Meese reports that $10 million to $30 million had been diverted to the contras through Swiss bank accounts. Nov. 26. Reagan appoints the three-member Tower Commission to investigate the National Security Council. December. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees conduct hearings on the affair. McFarlane, Meese, Casey, Regan, and others testify, but North, Poindexter, and at least two other witnesses invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Dec. 16-17. The Senate appoints an 11-member committee, chaired by Daniel K. Inouye (D) of Hawaii, investigate the affair. House leaders name a similar 15-member committee, chaired by Lee H. Hamilton (D) of Indiana. Dec. 19. Lawrence E. Walsh is appointed independent counsel, or ``special prosecutor,'' to investigate the affair. 1987 Jan. 26 and Feb 11. Reagan answers questions from the Tower Commission. Jan. 29. The Senate Intelligence Committee releases its secret report based on its December hearings. Feb. 9. McFarlane is hospitalized after taking an overdose of a tranquilizer in what is believed to have been a suicide attempt. Feb. 24. Attorneys for Oliver North file a lawsuit claiming that the Ethics in Government Act, under which independent counsel Walsh was appointed, is unconstitutional.