5. BUSH'S OILY ROLE IN IRAN ARMS DEAL

Vice 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 Reagan.

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 Saudi Arabia.

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.

As the 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 the administration.

SOURCE:

PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, 12/21/87, "Bush had oil policy interest in promoting Iran arms deals," by Peter Dale Scott, pp 1-4.