The U.S. damaged its credibility by disregarding its terrorism policy that other countries obeyed and encouraged the future kidnapping of Americans by Middle Eastern terrorists. The Iranian arms deals broke multiple laws and also made it difficult to restore relations with Persian Gulf countries.
“The State Department was forced to dispatch teams of diplomats to repair ties with the Persian Gulf states whose leaders supported Iraq in its war with Iran and were incensed at the arms deals and what they implied about Washington’s unreliability as an ally. For U.S. diplomats, called upon to apologize for their government, it was a humiliating experience.”
- Malcolm Byrne, Iran-Contra: Reagan's Scandal and the
Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power
"It was a fiasco. Reagan, whose staunch opposition to communism around the world would lead to the collapse of the Soviet empire, found his administration embroiled in negotiations with the sponsors of Hezbollah. The scheme clearly circumvented U.S. law, and had others in the administration not taken the fall, it could have led to Reagan's impeachment.
"What Iran learned in those years - and we're still absorbing the consequences of those lessons today - is that kidnapping and terrorism are useful weapons against the United States. Ultimately, Reagan's broad-shouldered bravado was no more effective in dealing with Tehran than Carter's mild-mannered diplomacy."
- Excerpt from Tom Koppel, "30 Years after the Iran Hostage Crisis, We're Still Fighting Reagan's War."
Personal Interview with Malcolm Byrne, Deputy Director of the National Security Archive
Finally, it set a dangerous precedence for recurrence by future administrations.
"The Iran-Contra affairs are not a warning for our days alone. If the story of the affairs is not fully known and understood, a similar usurpation of power by a small, strategically placed group within the government may well recur before we are prepared to recognize what is happening."
- Theodore Draper