Reagan and the Hostages

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Here’s something I missed when it first came out a few weeks ago. It turns out that Chase Manhattan Bank was instrumental in getting the Shah of Iran admitted to the United States for medical treatment in 1979, which led directly to the Iran hostage crisis that eventually doomed Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The whole thing was called Project Eagle and was coordinated by Joseph Reed, the chief of staff to the bank’s chairman, David Rockefeller.

But that’s not all. After touching off the hostage crisis, Project Eagle was then redirected to ensuring that they didn’t get released too soon:

After the hostages were taken, the Carter administration worked desperately to try to free the captives….[But] the team around Mr. Rockefeller, a lifelong Republican with a dim view of Mr. Carter’s dovish foreign policy, collaborated closely with the Reagan campaign in its efforts to pre-empt and discourage what it derisively labeled an “October surprise” — a pre-election release of the American hostages, the papers show.

The Chase team helped the Reagan campaign gather and spread rumors about possible payoffs to win the release, a propaganda effort that Carter administration officials have said impeded talks to free the captives.

“I had given my all” to thwarting any effort by the Carter officials “to pull off the long-suspected ‘October surprise,’” Mr. Reed wrote in a letter to his family after the election, apparently referring to the Chase effort to track and discourage a hostage release deal. He was later named Mr. Reagan’s ambassador to Morocco.

This is a conspiracy theory of longstanding—namely that the Reagan campaign tried to prevent the release of the Iranian hostages before Election Day 1980. But according to notes he wrote at the time, it sure sounds like Reed worked closely with Reagan’s people on exactly that. Such patriots.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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