March 1981: Reagan administration decides to back anti-Sandinista rebels, also called contras. Nov. 23, 1981: Central Intelligence Agency formally given control over aid to 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 accuses Iran of supporting international terrorism and places it on list of countries subject to strict export controls. February 1984: CIA oversees mining of Nicaraguan harbors, angering Congress when it becomes public two months later. March 16, 1984: William Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut, is kidnaped and held hostage by pro-Iranian extremists of Islamic Jihad. Efforts to free Buckley become a top priority in the CIA. May 8, 1984: The Rev. Benjamin Weir is kidnaped in West Beirut. July 1984: Saudis begin contributing $1 million a month to contra bank account. Oct. 12, 1984: Congress passes second Boland Amendment, banning direct or indirect U.S. military assistance to the contras. December 1984: Arms deal to benefit the contras is arranged by retired Air Force major general Richard V. Secord. Jan. 8, 1985: The Rev. Lawrence M. Jenco is kidnaped in Lebanon, where he was director of Catholic Relief Services. In the coming months Terry Anderson, David P. Jacobsen and Thomas Sutherland also are kidnaped. February 1985: Saudi King Fahd meets with President Reagan in Washington. The following month, $15 million in Saudi money is contributed to the contra cause. March 16, 1985: Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, a National Security Council aide, drafts plan to support the contras with private funds. June 12, 1985: Congress approves $27 million in humanitarian aid for contras. July 1985: Reagan, in the hospital for abdominal surgery, authorizes national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane to open contacts with Iran. August-September 1985: North is directed to prepare "contingency plans" for extracting hostages from Lebanon. Following secret discussions between U.S. and Israeli officials, first two planeloads of U.S.-made weapons belonging to Israel are sent to Iran. McFarlane tells Israel that the United States will replenish Israeli stocks. Sept. 14, 1985: Weir is freed. Nov. 25, 1985: Eighteen Hawk antiaircraft missiles sent from Israel to Iran aboard plane owned by CIA-front company. Dec. 4, 1985: McFarlane resigns. Reagan appoints Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter as his successor. Dec. 5, 1985: According to Poindexter testimony, Reagan signs draft intelligence "finding" authorizing the Hawk sales retroactively as a straight arms-for-hostages swap. Dec. 7, 1985: At White House meeting Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger argue against arms shipments to Iran. Both believe the deals will be stopped. Dec. 8, 1985: McFarlane leaves for London to meet with Iranian middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, Israeli Foreign Ministry official David Kimche and arms dealer Yaacov Nimrodi. Dec. 10, 1985: McFarlane returns and reports to Reagan and senior officials that unless more arms are sold, there will be no progress with the Iranians. Casey makes note that Reagan wants to proceed with more arms shipments.
January 1986: Secord begins to put together an air resupply operation to drop weapons to the contras. Jan. 17, 1986: Reagan signs secret intelligence finding authorizing arms shipments to Iran and orders it kept secret from Congress. First direct U.S. shipment takes place the following month. Feb. 5, 1986: North, Secord, Ghorbanifar and CIA official George Cave meet Iranian officials in Frankfurt. Ghorbanifar suggests diverting profits from Iran arms sales to the contras, North later testifies. Feb. 17, 1986: First shipment of 500 TOW antitank missiles from America's stocks delivered to Iran via Israel. Feb. 27, 1986: Second shipment of 500 TOWs delivered to Iran. April 4-7, 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 23-24, 1986: 508 TOW missiles and 240 types of Hawk missile spare parts are shipped to Israel. May 25, 1986: 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 contras, to begin Oct. 1. July 26, 1986: Jenco is freed. Aug. 3, 1986: Shipment of remaining Hawk spare parts to Iran. Sept. 9, 1986: Frank Herbert Reed, American director of the Lebanese International School, is kidnaped in Lebanon. Sept. 12, 1986: Joseph James Cicippio, acting comptroller at the American University in Beirut, is kidnaped. Sept. 19-20, 1986: Secord, North and Cave meet in Washington with the "Second Channel," an Iranian official with close ties to Hojatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of Iran's parliament. 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 C. Hasenfus captured. Oct. 7, 1986: North, Cave, Secord and business associate Albert A. Hakim meet Iranians in Frankfurt and propose elaborate nine-point hostage release plan that would commit the United States to seek release of 17 terrorists held in Kuwaiti jails. Oct. 21, 1986: Edward Austin Tracy, an American writer, is kidnapped in Beirut. Oct. 31, 1986: 500 TOWS shipped to Iran from Israel. Nov. 2, 1986: Jacobsen is released. Nov. 3, 1986: Ash Shirra, a Beirut weekly, publishes a story about McFarlane's visit to Tehran. Nov. 7, 1986: 500 TOWS shipped to Israel as replacements. Nov. 8, 1986: North meets Iranians in Geneva. Talks on hostage issue are fruitless. Nov. 10, 1986: White House statement on U.S. hostages in Lebanon says "no U.S. laws have been or will be violated" and the policy of no concessions to terrorists "remains intact." Nov. 20, 1986: The day after a presidential news conference, Shultz meets with Reagan and tells him he made "many statements that were wrong or misleading" about trading weapons for hostages. Nov. 25, 1986: Attorney General Edwin Meese III discloses diversion of funds to assist the contra. Reagan announces resignation of Poindexter, firing of North. Dec. 13, 1986: State Department officials learn of the nine-point plan at meeting with Iranians in Frankfurt. Dec. 14, 1986: Shultz meets privately with Reagan and tells him of the plan. Dec. 15, 1986: CIA Director William J. Casey suffers "minor cerebral seizure" one day before his scheduled testimony at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Dec. 18, 1986: Casey undergoes brain surgery at Georgetown University Hospital.