The Middle East: From the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force to the Iran-Contra Affair & International Terrorism | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

The Middle East: From the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force to the Iran-Contra Affair & International Terrorism

***This page is a work-in-progress. Please contact me if you have documents related to this topic that you would like to include on this website. *** (Last updated, Aug. 15, 2015.)

President Reagan, in 1982, sent American Marines to Beirut as part of a Multinational Peacekeeping Force (British, French, Italian and American) designed to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to safely evacuate Beirut after the Israeli Defense Forces surrounded Beirut in an effort to stop PLO attacks against targets in Israel.

After the MNF successfully oversaw the evacuation of the PLO, the newly formed Lebaneses government requested the continued presence of the MNF in Beirut to help the new government stabalize Lebanon. President Reagan's decision to keep the American Marines in Beirut led to the deaths of 241 American Marines on October 23, 1983. On that day a suicide truck bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives in front of the American barraks inside the Beirut International Airport. The French forces were also severly attacked that day. 

The documents presented below are intended to shed light on President Reagan's decision to send Americans to Beirut as part of the first Multi-national Peacekeeping Force; Reagan's decision to redeploy the American peacekeeping force back to Beirut; the decision to withdraw the American forces following the October 23, 1983 bombing at the Beirut International Airport; and then the series of terrorist attacks and kidnappings that would plague the Reagan administration, including the hijacking of TWA 847 and Egypt Air 648, Reagan's decision to attack Libya in April 1986, and then informatio on the Iran-Contra hearings as prepared for the office of White House Counsel. 

                   (Photo: Israeli invasion of Lebanon, June 1982.)

Aug. 4, 1982: NSC Meeting on Lebanon

This important NSC meeting is called in response to the Israeli shelling of Beirut. The Israelis had started shelling Beirut in an effort to flush out the PLO terrorists who had been hiding among the civilian population. 

President Reagan and his team use this meeting to discuss how to respond. Reagan decides to send a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Begin saying that the Israeli failure to maintain a cease-fire has put the entire U.S.-Israeli relationship "at stake."

Oct. 28, 1982: NSDD 64: Next Steps in Lebanon

(Photo: The bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, April 18, 1983. 63 people killed, including many of the CIA's top mid-east experts.)

April 15-18, 1983: Lebanon Sitaution Cables

April 18, 1983: Memorandum of Conversation Between President Reagan and President Gemayel

April 19-20, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables

April 21, 1983: "Accelerating the Negotiations on Lebanon." Memo from Shultz to Reagan

April 21, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables

April 22, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables

April 23-24, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables

April 25, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables (Part I)

April 25, 1983: Lebanon Situation Cables (Part II)

July 12, 1983: NSDD 99: US Security Strategy for the Near East and South Asia

October 13, 1983: 10 page memo from Secretary Shultz to President Reagan titled, “Our Strategy in Lebanon and the Middle East.”

Secretary of State Shultz, in this extensive memo to the President, discusses what he thinks would be the best approach to stabilizing Lebanon. Secretary Shultz also advises President Reagan that it might be time to end American neutrality in the Iran-Iraq conflict as Iran appears to have gained the advantage over Iraq.  

Oct. 18, 1983: NSPG Meeting of Oct. 18, 1983 

(Talking Points for McFarlane; discussion paper; post-NSPG memo from SecDef Weinberger)

Oct. 23, 1983: Cables first reporting the attacks against the American forces at the Beriut International Airport and against  the French multinational peacekeeping forces.

(Photo: Bombing of the Marine Barraks at the Beirut International Airport, Oct. 23, 1983. 241 American service members left dead in the deadliest attack against US forces since World War II.)

Oct 23, 1983: NSPG Meeting Agenda

Oct. 28, 1983: NSDD 111: "Next Steps Towards Progress in Lebanon and the Middle East"

In this important National Security Decision Directive, signed just days after the bombing at the Beirut International Airport killed 241 Americans, President Reagan orders that the United States "redouble our efforts to get more Israeli flexibility on further withdrawals from Lebanon." Reagan also blames Syria and President Gemayel for being inflexible in negotiations over sharing power in Lebanon.

"Above all," Reagan wrote, "we need to reassert American leadership in the wide range of challenges we face in the Middle East. … Specifically, we need to accept that the Palestianian problem remains a key to regional peace and that at this time the future of the PLO is uncertain. For this reason, we need to redouble our efforts for constructive dialogue with moderate Arabs to find ways to break through the Plaestinian impasse."  

Nov. 2, 1983: “Potential for Violence in the Middle East.” Memo from Richard Beal to Robert McFarlane.

Nov. 2, 1983: PX Kelley Report on trip to Beirut. 

(RL: Poindexter, John Box 2. Folder: Security for the US MNF Contingency in Beirut). 

Nov. 23, 1983: NSDD 115: Visit of Prime Minister Shamir

Nov. 30, 1983: "Terrorist Threat to Western Interests in Lebanon".

This internal CIA memo, stamped Nov. 30, 1983, "was prepared in response to your request for an assessment of the terrorist threat to Western interests in Lebanon to be provided to the Long Commission…. The memorandum indicates that the threat to US facilities and personnel remains extremely high and could get worse if large numbers of radical Palestinians filter into Beirut once conditions in Tripoli settle down." The eight page report, which is still heavily redacted, notes that "Iran also is continuing to encourage its Lebanese allies to attack US and French interests… Syria … is providing direct and indirect support to numerous groups willing to undertake terrorist acts." 

President Reagan's Talking Points for his December 1, 1983 NSPG meeting on Lebanon

Dec. 2, 1983: Secretary Shultz's lunch with Lebanese President Gemayel

Lebanese President Gemayel had been in Washington for three days of talks with the Reagan administration. This working lunch takes place on the third day. The memorandum of conversation significantly summarizes the last two days of talks. The lunch ends with Gemayel pushing for the United States to help him implement new polices within Lebanon, regardless of the May 17th agreement. Secretary Shultz warns that if Lebanon abrogates the May 17th agreement it will likely lose the support of the United States and Israel. 

December 20, 1983: Repositioning of U.S. Forces in Lebanon

In this memo, dated December 20, 1983, Secretary of Defense Weinberger (through White House National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane) tells President Reagan that a new course is needed for the American peacekeeping forces in Lebanon. Weinberger notes that the new course is needed because "the United States element of the Multi-national Force cannot do what you sent it to do in Lebanon" becasue "Beirut has been infiltrated by hostile, alienated radicals, Lebanese and foreign, all armed, and whose activities directly threaten the safety of the MNF, as has been tragically demonstrated." 

Weinberger proposes "that we reposition American forces in Lebanon on our ships offshore." Weinberger thinks that doing so would strengthen the U.S. position in Lebanon: "We would retain the ability to deter hostilities with our naval guns and air power, while making it far more difficult and dangerous for the radical extremesits to reach our existing easily targetable ground presence." 

White House National Security Aedviser McFarlane, notes in his cover letter, that Secretary of State George Shultz does not agree with Weinberger. "Secretary Shultz feels strongly that to do this would provide a pretext for the other MNF countries to reduce or withdraw their contingents," McFarlane advised Reagan.

December 30, 1983: "Next Steps In Lebanon". 

In this December 30, 1983 memo for President Reagan from Secretary of Defense Weinberger, the secretary of defense fowards to the president the opinion of the Joint Chief of Staff on "Next Steps in Lebanon." The Joint Chiefs make the following recommendations: 

a) get the government of Lebanon to agree that the MNF is no longer needed on the ground; 

b) Continue to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces though ongoing modernization; 

c) Announce continued military support for the Government of Lebanon; 

d) Get the Government of Lebanon to ask for internatinal observers at the Palestinian camps in Beirut; 

e) Visibily accelerate deliveries of equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces; and 

f) Move U.S. MNF aboard amphibious ships.

Jan. 3, 1984: NSPG Meeting of January 3, 1984

President Reagan's Talking Points and discussion paper. 

January 12, 1984: "The Terrorist Threat to US Personnel in Beirut."

This January 12, 1984 top-secret CIA analysis, which is still heavily redacted, opens: "Radical Lebanese Shias and anti-Arafat Palestinian dissidents, based in the Bekaa Valley and southern Beirut, are the primary element of an emerging terrorists network in Lebanon. Shia extremist groups, such as Islamic Amal, HizbAallah, the Husayni Suicide Forces, and the Muslim Students Union, are committed to the goal of replacing the Christian-dominated Lebanese Government with an Iran-style Islamic republic. Their members -- perhaps totaling as many as 1,000 -- view the MNF contingents as President Amin Gemayel's principal supporters, and therefore their immediate objective is to force the MNF out of Lebanon." The CIA analysis supports Secretary Weinberger's call for the removal of the MNF peacekeepers as the CIA analysis notes that it would be nearly impossible for the MNF to "establish control"; "Beirut is essentially an armed camp"; and "the terrorist-prone Shia and Palestinian groups can operate freely."

February 9, 1984: "Memorandum for the Record: Decisions Taken and Actions Required at SSG Meeting, Thursday Feb. 9, 1984 -- 5:15-7:25 pm."

March 21, 1984: "TIWG Meeting Regading Buckley Kidnapping."

The TIWG will meet at 2:00 pm this afternoon. North prepares this packet of briefing materials for Poindexter, which includes: 

A) March 20, 1984 memo from Shultz to President Reagan on "U.S. Efforts in Response to the Abduction of William Buckley"; 

B) TIWG Agenda for March 21, 1984; 

C) March 16, 1984 memo from North/Fortier/Dur to McFarlane, "Beirut Kidnapping Follow-Up"; 

D) March 26, 1984 memo from McFarlane to Reagan, "Status Report (Redacted) Station Cheif WIlliam Buckley." 

April 9, 1984: Reagan notes on Lebanon

The attached document is a typed version of handwritten notes Reagan wrote explaining why the Marines were leaving Beirut.

May 25, 1984: NSC meeting on the Gulf War. (Declassified 2011; uploaded July 22, 2013.)

May 31, 1984: Cable: UN Reports on Lebanon

June 18, 1984: Ambassador Batholomew's Meeting with Prime Minister Karami, June 15

June 19, 1984: "Background Information on Terrorism for Edwin Meese." The report contains: 1) Shultz address to the trilateral commission; 2) Shultz statement to the HRAC (June 13, 1984), and 3) Draft Shultz speech on terrorism to the Johnathan Institute.(Uploaded 10.17.13)

June 19, 1984: Situation Room Note: Khaddam Visit to Beirut

July 1985: Talking Points for NSC/NSPG Meeting on Libya to decide if the United States should overthrow Qadhafi.  (Uploaded 10/17/13)

July 27, 1984: "Signals from Iran -- Less Than Meets the Eye." Memo from Richard Murphy to George Shultz. Declassified 2011; Uploaded July 23, 2013. 

Aug. 30, 1984: "Talking Points on Iran." Memo from Charles Fairbanks to Don Fortier. Declassified 2011, Uploaded July 23, 2013.

Dec. 1, 1984: Kuwaiti Airliner Hijacking

On Dec. 1, 1984, a Kuwaiti Airlines flight from London to Karachi was hijacked by two Lebanese Shi’a gunman after refueling in Kuwait. The plane was diverted to Tehran where the standoff lasted six days. Two American UNAID workers were killed. This small release contains messages from President Reagan to the Swiss Ambassador in Iran, President Zia and King Fahd thanking them for their help and reminding them of the task moving forward. The documents were released in 2015 and are part of the Terrorist Incident Working Group (TIWG) files in the Oliver North collection at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Click here to download the documents. 


January 28, 1985: "Terrorist Incident Working Group Meeting." 

In this memo from North to Poindexter, North attached the agenda for the TIWG meeting for Jan. 29, 1985 and notes that the purpose of the meeting "should be to discern whether or not events have changed since our demarche to Iran regarding our AMCIT hostages, given the videotape of Bill Buckley which aired today."

February 13, 1985: "Hostage Locating Task Force."

In his memo McFarlane informs Shultz, Weinberger, Smith, Casey and Vessey that a secret Hostage Locating Task Force (HLTF) has been created to "assume resonsibility for coordinating and energizing teh USG efforts to locate the five American citizens who have been seized in Beirut effective February 14, 1985." Attached: Terms of Reference." 

February 21, 1985: "Warning to Iran to Prevent Harm to American Hostags in Iran." 

In this memo from Shultz and Weinberger to President Reagan, Shultz and Weinberger recommend a "repeated warning of unmistakeable clarity to the Iranians is called for" to prevent the execution of any of the American hostages.

February 25, 1985: Middle East Terrorism: The Threat and Possible US Responses." 

In this memo from DCI Casey to Reagan and his senior officials, Casey briefly summarizes “the relative implications of counterterrorism steps taken with respect to each of the major Middle East sponsores of terrorism and different types of targets.” (Uploaded June 10, 2015)

April 9, 1985: Strategic Recommendations: Iran (Declassified 2006; Uploaded July 23, 2013.)

April 18, 1985: Memo from Don Fortier to Poindexter, "US Policy Toward Iran" and draft NSSD on Iran. Declassified 2006; Uploaded July 23, 2013.

April 23, 1985: Terrorism as a Political Weapon: Four Middle East Case Studies" 

This report, prepared by the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis for the Directorate of Intelligence, reviews the cases of Iran, Lebanon, Syrian and Libya. It concludes: “Policy options aimed at reducing Middle Eastern terrorism that are not country-specific are unlikey to succeed. Aggressive policies designed to discourage the broad phenomenon of international terrorism may reduce the short-term vulnerability of certain diplomatic personnel and installations, but they will not affect the underlying political roots of the problem.” (Uploaded June 10, 2015)

July 2, 1985: Cable: Atlit Prisoners

July 3, 1985: Cable: Atlit Prisoners

July 3, 1985: Cable: Recommendations for Mobilizing Asad on Behalf of our interests

July 4, 1985: Cable: Safety of American Citizens (Beirut)

July 5, 1985: Cable: Seeking Syrian and Lebanese Cooperation in Closing BIA

July 6, 1985: Cable: Discussions with Barri on the Seven American Hostages

July 6, 1985: Cable: Remaining Seven Hostages: ICRC Involvement

July 6, 1985: Cable: Seeking Syrian and Lebanese Cooperation in Closing BIA

July 8, 1985: Cable: Closing Beirut International Airport (terrorism)

July 11, 1985: Cable: Possible Message to PM Peres Concerning the Atlit Detainees

July 11, 1985: Cable: American/French Kidnappess: Unsubstantiated Report

July 19, 1985: "Arab and Israeli Highlights, July 18, 1985." (Terrorism.)

July 24, 1985: Cable: Discussion with Barri on Missing Seven

July 30, 1985: "Your Meeting with Hostage Families."

North prepared this memo for McFarlane to brief him before his meeting the next day "with the families of four of our Beirut hostages." The briefing material includes talking points and bio's of the hostages.

Aug. 12, 1985: Cable: Talking Points for discussions with the French on the American hostages.

Aug. 12, 1985: Cable: Khaddam-O'Brien Meeting on Kidnappees

Aug. 12, 1985: Cable: Congressman O'Brien's Request to President Asad for help with Hostage Release

Aug. 24, 1985: Cable: "Consultations with UNSYG on Hostages."

Nov. 7, 1985: Cable: "American Hostages in Lebanon."

Nov. 25, 1985: Chronology: Hijacking of Egyptian Airliner Flight 648. Declassified 2008; Uploaded July 23, 2013. RL: CMC NSC Records: Folder: Egypt Flight 648 (1 of 3). Box 91131.

December 20, 1985: "Revised Terms of Reference for Hostage Locating Task Force."


January 14, 1986: "Meeting with Hostage Families.

Jan. 20, 1986: NSDD 207: The National Program for Combatting Terrorism.

February 1986: The Public Report of the Vice President's Task Force on Combatting Terrorism

April 2, 1986: Memo from George Shultz to President Reagan. (Declassified 2010; Uploaded July 19, 2013.) This is an update on Israel, the Soviet Union, Japan, and Nicaragaua/Costa Rica.

April 8, 1986: "Next Steps re Libya." Declassified 2011; Uploaded July 2013.)

April 15, 1986: Libyan Attack on the Italian Isalnd of Lampedusa

April 16, 1986: 0500 report on world reaction to attack on Libya. (Declassified 2010; uploaded July 19, 2013.)

April 17, 1986: Libya Update

July 6, 1986: Cable: Bush/Khaddam Letter and Seeking Syrian Coopeation in Closing BIA

July 6, 1986: Cable: Khaddam on the Seven American Kidnappees

Nov. 7, 1986: "Crisis Pre-Planning Group Paper: 'Syrian Support for Terrorism and USG Response.'"  

Nov. 15, 1986: Letter from President Reagan to Saddam Hussein. 

December 2, 1986: "The NSC Terrorism Office."


Feb. 12, 1987: NSPG 144: The Middle East. (Declassified 2011; uploaded July 22, 2013.)

May 6, 1987: North Contacts with President Reagan.

May 18, 1987: NSPG 152: US Policy and Gulf Security (Reaction to USS Stark.) (Declassified 2011; uploaded July 22, 2013.)

June 2, 1987: Review of the Vice President's Task Force on Counterterrorism: Program Evaluations

*Because this is a large file, the documents are broken up into three parts: 

A) Part I

B) Part II

C) Part III

June 8, 1987: "Messages to Iran." Memo from Oakley to Powell.

June 24, 1987: "Testimony of Judge Stanley J. Sporkin on June 24, 1987.


July 10, 1987: "Testimony of LTCOL North July 10, 1987 (Morning). 

July 13, 1987: Testimony of LTCOL North July 13, 1987 (Morning Session)"

July 13, 1987: "Testimony of LTCOL North July 13, 1987."

July 13, 1987: "McFarlane Testimony". 

July 17, 1987: "Summary of Testimony of Admiral John Poindexter July 17, 1987.

July 20, 1987: "Summary of Testimony of Admiral John Poindexter July 20, 1987."

July 21, 1987: "Testimony of Admiral John Poindexter July 21, 1987 (Morning Session.)"

Aug. 3, 1987: "Testimony of Caspar Weinberger August 3, 1987."

Aug. 19, 1987: "Operation Staunch."

Sept. 29, 1987: "September 30 S-W-C Breakfast: Total Embargo on Iran."

Dec. 6, 1987: "Meeting With Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz."

Dec. 12, 1987: Letter from A. Raphael to Secretary Shultz, "Advice on Iran."


June 22, 1988: "Planning for Khomeini's Passing."

July 18, 1988: "Iranian Acceptance of 598." Memo from Oakly to Powell. 

Sept. 1988: "INR Estimate: Iran After the War." 

Sept. 20, 1988: "Update on the Status of HFAC Legislation on Iraq CW." 

Nov. 7, 1988: "Transition Issue Paper: Directorate of Near East-South Asia Affairs." 



Aug. 1, 1990: Minutes of NSC Deputies Committee meeting on Persian Gulf (4pp.). (Declassified 2013, George Bush Library; Uploaded July 19, 2013.)

                  No Date

"Iran: Classified Supplement" (Uploladed July 18, 2013.        

© Jason Saltoun-Ebin 2016