Separate foreign policy initiatives eventually became intertwined and led to President Reagan's greatest crisis.

March 1981

Reagan administration decides to back anti-Sandinista rebels, also called contras.

Nov. 23, 1981

CIA formally given control over aiding contras.

Dec. 8, 1982

Congress passes first Boland Amendment, prohibiting use of U.S. funds to overthrow the Sandinista government.

Nov. 18, 1983

Congress limits contra aid to $24 million.

Jan. 23, 1984

Reagan administration places Iran on a list of countries subject to strict export controls, accusing Iran of supporting international terrorism.

February 1984

CIA oversees mining of Nicaraguan harbors, angering Congress when it became public two months later.

March 16, 1984

William Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut, is kidnaped and held hostage by Islamic Jihad, pro-Iran Moslem extremists. Efforts to free Buckley become a top priority in the CIA.

May 8, 1984

The Rev. Benjamin Weir is kidnaped in West Beirut.

Oct. 12, 1984

Congress passes second Boland Amendment, banning direct or indirect U.S. military assistance to the contras.

Jan. 8, 1985

The Rev. Lawrence M. Jenco is kidnaped in Lebanon, where he was director of Catholic Relief Services, followed within a few months by kidnaping of Terry Anderson, David P. Jacobsen and Thomas Sutherland.

January 1985

Using money from private sources, reportedly Saudi King Fahd, the contras arrange to buy weapons through North associate Richard V. Secord.

June 12, 1985

Congress approves $27 million in humanitarian aid for contras.

August-September 1985

Following secret discussions between U.S. and Israeli officials, first two planeloads of Israeli-arranged arms are sent to Iran. National security adviser Robert C. McFarlane tells Israel that the United States will replenish Israeli stocks.

Jan. 17, 1986

Reagan signs a secret intelligence finding authorizing arms shipments to Iran and orders that it be kept secret from Congress. First direct U.S. shipment takes place the following month.

January 1986

Secord begins to put together an air resupply operation to drop weapons to the contras.

April 1986

North writes a memo outlining plans to use $12 million in profits from the Iran arms sales on behalf of the contras -- the first clear link between the Iran arms deal and the contras.

May 25, 1986

Former national security adviser Robert McFarlane flies to Tehran with a shipment of spare parts, hoping to negotiate release of hostages. Mission fails.

June 26, 1986

Reversing the Boland Amendment, Congress approves $100 million in military and humanitarian aid, to begin Oct. 1.

July 26, 1986

Jenco is freed.

Aug. 3, 1986

Shipment of weapons to Iran.

Oct. 5, 1986

C123K cargo plane, part of the resupply operation set up by Secord, is shot down over Nicaragua with cargo of weapons. Two American pilots killed; Eugene Hasenfus captured.

Oct. 26-29, 1986

Shipment of arms to Iran. Jacobsen is released three days later.

Nov. 3, 1986

Al Shirra, a Beirut weekly, published a story about McFarlane's visit to Tehran.

Nov. 25, 1986

Meese discloses diversion of funds. Reagan announces resignation of Poindexter, firing of North.