Gary Sick

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Gary G. Sick (born 1935) is an American academic and analyst of Middle East affairs, with special expertise on Iran, who served on the U.S. National Security Council[1] under Presidents Ford, Carter, and for a couple weeks under Reagan as well. He has authored three books, and is perhaps best known to the wider public for voicing support for elements of the October Surprise conspiracy theory regarding the Iran hostage crisis and the 1980 presidential election.

Biographical profile[edit]

Sick is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy.[2] He received a BA from University of Kansas in 1957, a Master of Science degree at George Washington University in 1970, followed by a PhD in political science at Columbia University in 1973.[2]

Sick served on the staff of the National Security Council under President Carter, and was the principal White House aide for Persian Gulf affairs from 1976 to 1981, a period which included the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis.

After leaving government service, Sick served as Deputy Director for International Affairs at the Ford Foundation from 1982 to 1987, and is the executive director of the Gulf/2000 Project at Columbia University (1993–present), which has published five books and numbers many of the leading scholars on the Persian Gulf among its global membership. He is an adjunct professor of International Affairs and a senior research scholar at Columbia's School of International & Public Affairs, where he has been voted one of the top professors. He is emeritus member of the board of directors of Human Rights Watch, and serves as founding chair of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch/Middle East.[3]

October Surprise allegations[edit]

External video
Booknotes interview with Gary Sick on October Surprise, December 1, 1991, C-SPAN

On April 15, 1991, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Sick that stated "individuals associated with the Reagan-Bush campaign of 1980 met secretly with Iranian officials to delay the release of the American hostages until after the Presidential election. For this favor, Iran was rewarded with a substantial supply of arms from Israel."[4][5] While the "October Surprise" allegations had been promoted by others as early as 1980, the Times article immediately elevated the story to national prominence.[5][6] Sick later detailed the allegations in his book October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan.[5]

Sick, who had been a PhD student at Columbia University at the height of the Vietnam War, was a Carter White House staffer and he himself admitted that "The story is tangled and murky, and it may never be fully unraveled.” His claims include that, in the days before the presidential election with daily press pools surrounding him and a public travel schedule, vice presidential candidate George H. W. Bush somehow secretly left the country and met with Iranian officials in France to discuss the fate of the hostages. Sick credibly alleged that William J. Casey met with an Iranian representative in Madrid during a week he attended a London conference, allegedly to make the deal at the heart of the story.[7]

See also[edit]


  • All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran (Random House, 1985)
  • October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan (Random House/Times Books, 1991)
  • The Persian Gulf at the millennium: essays in politics, economy, security, and religion (St. Martin's Press, 1997)


  1. ^ Jonathan Tirone; Benjamin Harvey (21 January 2011). "Iran Refuses to Talk About Nuclear Program at Istanbul Meeting". Bloomberg. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Gary Sick". Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  3. ^ "Gary Sick, Executive Director". Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  4. ^ Sick, Gary (April 15, 2015). "The Election Story of the Decade". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Pipes, Daniel (2003). Peter, Knight, ed. Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia (PDF). Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc. pp. 547–550. ISBN 1-57607-812-4.
  6. ^ Barry, John (November 10, 1991). "Making Of A Myth". Newsweek. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  7. ^ "New Reports Say 1980 Reagan Campaign Tried to Delay Hostage Release". New York Times. April 15, 1991. Retrieved September 13, 2017.

External links[edit]