5. BUSH'S OILY ROLE IN IRAN ARMS DEAL
President George Bush's acknowledged support for the ill-fated secret arms shipments
to Iran has been interpreted as evidence of his loyalty to the policies of President
Now, however, other evidence suggests that Bush, far more than President
Reagan, promoted the Iran initiative, took part in key negotiations, and conferred
upon Oliver North the secret powers necessary to carry it out.
It also has
been charged that Bush actively promoted the Iran arms sales because of an economic
motive the president did not share -- the desire to stabilize the dropping oil
prices in 1986.
Peter Dale Scott, co-author of THE IRAN CONTRA CONNECTION
and former senior fellow at the International Center for Development Policy in
Washington, suggests that Bush's primary concern in early 1986 was to stabilize
falling crude oil prices by promoting a common price policy between the United
States and the oil producers of the Persian Gulf, including, above all, Iran and
Further, Scott says, the interest in higher oil prices was
an explicit goal in some of Oliver North's secret arms negotiations with the Iranians.
The price of oil reflected the concerns of Bush, a former Texas oilman, rather
than of Reagan, a free market advocate. Scott traces Bush's involvement back to
the January 17, 1986, meeting of the president's national security advisers at
which the president signed the controversial finding which authorized the arms
sales. The meeting was attended only by Bush and three other known supporters
of the arms sales initiative -- Chief of Staff Donald Regan, National Security
Adviser John Poindexter, and Poindexter's deputy Donald Fortier.
Iran-Contra Select Committee Report points out, Secretary of State George Schultz
and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger were deliberately kept in the dark
about the trip North took with Robert McFarlane to Tehran three months later.
Yet Bush not only knew of the trip but he helped in scheduling it. In a little-noticed
message of Aril 4, 1986, Poindexter told North that, "If we can manage it,
the VP would appreciate it if the Iran trip did not take place until the VP leaves
Saudi Arabia. If that screws up planning too much, then he will understand that
we can't do it." The request was honored; the McFarlane-North trip took place
a month after Bush returned from Saudi Arabia.
Bush's mission to Saudi Arabia
was to persuade leaders of that country to help stabilize oil prices then rapidly
falling to under $10 a barrel. His trip was successful; Saudi Arabia King Fahd
received the Iranian petroleum minister in the autumn of 1986 and the two countries
agreed to OPEC arrangements for boosting oil prices to $18 a barrel. The $18 price
brought economic relief to oil-producing states like Texas which were the key
to Bush's political base.
After the arms sale became public, oil industry
sources commented that McFarlane and Poindexter understood the connection between
a strong domestic oil industry and national security better than most others in
PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, 12/21/87, "Bush
had oil policy interest in promoting Iran arms deals," by Peter Dale Scott,