A few weeks ago I watched the Israeli film Beaufort, which portrayed the experiences of a handful of Israeli soldiers occupying Beaufort Castle during the last days of the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. I found it quite interesting, because my son served in the IDF in Lebanon at the same time, and later described to me his feeling — shared by many of his comrades — that abandoning the ground to Hezbollah was a mistake.
Which it turned out to be.
Anyway, a horrific moment in the film was when a missile — an American-made TOW missile [Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire guided] — struck an observation post at Beaufort, killing its occupant.
The missile slammed into the outpost at about 620 mph, instantly turning it into an inferno. I wondered: where did Hezbollah get US-made weapons? I asked my son.
“Don’t you remember,” he asked? “You gave them to Iran during the ’80’s.”
Actually yes, I do: the so-called ‘Iran-contra affair’, in which the US transferred weapons to Iran by way of Israel in return for the freedom of various hostages that Iranian-controlled Hezbollah terrorists had taken in Lebanon during the decade. Iran also paid in money, which was used to fund anti-Sandinista guerrillas (“contras”) in Nicaragua.
About 2000 TOW missiles were sent to Iran (among other items) as part of the deal.
Basically, what happened was this:
- Hezbollah killed hundreds of Americans (241 in the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing) and took numerous hostages, many of whom were Americans.
- The US sold a large quantity of weapons to Iran in violation of an arms embargo — the Iran-Iraq war was in progress — so that Iran would use its influence with Hezbollah to get hostages returned. Israel cooperated.
- Iran transferred the weapons to Hezbollah, which used them to kill Israelis.
- Hezbollah continued killing Americans (as well as Argentine Jews, Israelis, etc.) and taking hostages.
A few hostages were released, others died in captivity, some by torture (also here). It’s not clear if the arms transfer materially aided the release of hostages (indeed, it can be argued that hostages taken after the program was under way were kidnapped in order to keep it going).
In 1985 a group associated with Hezbollah claimed credit for the crash of a plane carrying about 250 US service personnel in Gander, Newfoundland. Although five members of a nine-member commission of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board ruled the crash an accident, the minority report persuasively argued that the cause was a detonation in the cargo area.
Appeasement: when will we learn?