It should be obvious that the White House would never have offered arms to Iran in exchange for American hostages unless Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's government controlled the fate of the hostages. Yet the Reagan administration still won't acknowledge what it has known all along: that Tehran calls the shots in the terrorist camps of northern Lebanon.

Here is a story pieced together by U.S. intelligence agencies long before the White House tried to deal with the Khomeini regime:

Khomeini formed the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in September 1981 to oversee terrorist operations. "All Moslems must rise up and conquer their fear of death," he proclaimed, "so that they can conquer the whole world."

From Shiite Moslem communities around the world, he recruited fanatics who swore their willingness to die for him. They were brought to Iran for indoctrination and training in nine basic "boot camps." Their apparent function is to serve as the terrorist arm of the Revolutionary Guards. Together, they formed the Islamic Revolutionary Movement, which seems to be directed by Iran's foreign ministry. Orders have been intercepted from the ministry to terrorists in the field.

In June 1982, Khomeini dispatched some 350 Revolutionary Guards to the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. They set up headquarters in a former schoolhouse in Baalbek, joining terrorist comrades in forming a secret joint command known as the Council of Lebanon. Their ultimate aim: To create another theocratic Islamic regime in Lebanon in the Khomeini image.

The terrorists set up headquarters in a former Lebanese army post on a hillside above the town. The Revolutionary Guards, meanwhile, began recruiting and training more terrorists from the dispossessed Shiite community.

Apparently the terrorists are divided into different groups, whose loyalty and reliability varies. They operate under various names -- Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Islamic Amel -- but all take direction from the secret Council of Lebanon, which gets its orders from Tehran..

Though different groups have engaged in kidnappings, the hostages reportedly are turned over to the Hezbollah security chief, who follows orders from Tehran, collaborates closely with the Revolutionary Guards and is said to have personal ties to the ayatollah's son. Thus, Khomeini indirectly controls the hostages' fate. His orders reportedly are relayed by Iran's foreign ministry to the terrorists and torturers in Bekaa.

For example, CIA official William Buckley was delivered to Revolutionary Guard headquarters in Baalbek. Rumors that Buckley had been tortured to death were confirmed, according to the Tower Commission, on Dec. 5, 1985. Yet the Reagan administration, fearing the news might disrupt its secret negotiations with Tehran, denied knowledge.

We broke the story Dec. 13, 1985, with this epitaph: "The U.S. government is still denying the only thing William Buckley can now claim as his own: his death. We hope the American people won't allow the country's forgotten hostage to remain forgotten. He deserves the Medal of Honor, not obscurity."