United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war

United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war

The United States supported Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War as a counterbalance to post-revolutionary Iran. The support took the form of technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment, and direct involvement in warfare against Iran.citation
url = http://www.casi.org.uk/info/usdocs/usiraq80s90s.html
title = U.S. Diplomatic and Commercial Relationships with Iraq, 1980 - 2 August 1990
date =12 December 2001
first1 = Nathaniel | last1 = Hurd | first2 = Glen | last2= Rangwala

Other countries that supported Iraq during the war included Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and West Germany.

The U.S. and Iran had clashed before the war with the Iran Hostage Crisis and verbal attacks on the "Great Satan," as Iran's leader the Ayatollah Khomeini called the U.S. Support from the U.S. for Iraq was not a secret and was frequently discussed in open session of the Senate and House of Representatives, although the public and news media paid little attention. On 9 June 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC's Nightline, "It is becoming increasingly clear that George H.W. Bush, operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into" the power it became, and "Reagan/Bush administrations permitted — and frequently encouraged — the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq.”

Initial U.S. reaction to the Iran–Iraq War

According to Said Aburish, Saddam made a visit to Amman in the year 1979, before the Iran–Iraq War, where he met three senior CIA agents. Aburish believes it there is "considerable evidence that he discussed his plans to invade Iran with the CIA agents." citation
url = http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saddam/interviews/aburish.html
title = secrets of his [Saddam Hussein] life and leadership: an interview
first = Said K. | last = Aburish
journal = PBS Frontline
] Clarifyme|date=March 2008

According to then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, during the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the United States initially took a largely neutral position on the Iran–Iraq War, with some minor exceptions.

First, the United States acted in an attempt to prevent the confrontation from widening, largely in order to prevent additional disruption to world oil supplies and to honor US security assurances to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the US reacted to Soviet troop movements on the border of Iran by informing the Soviet Union that the US would defend Iran in the event of Soviet Invasion. The US also acted to defend Saudi Arabia, and lobbied the surrounding states not to become involved in the war. Brzezinski characterizes this recognition of the Middle East as a vital strategic region on a par with Western Europe and the Far East as a fundamental shift in US strategic policy.cite book
authorlink=Zbigniew Brzezinski
title=Power and Principle, Memoirs of the National Security Advisor 1977-1981
publisher=Farrar Straus Giroux
pages=451-454, 504

Second, the United States explored whether the Iran–Iraq War would offer leverage with which to resolve the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In this regard, the Carter administration explored the use of both "carrots," by suggesting that they might offer military assistance to Iran upon release of the hostages, and "sticks," by discouraging Israeli military assistance to Iran and suggesting that they might offer military assistance to Iraq if the Iranians did "not" release the hostages. (Ultimately, however, Brzezinski does not suggest that the Carter Administration provided military assistance to either side).

Third, as the war progressed, freedom of navigation, especially at the Strait of Hormuz, was deemed a critical priority by President Ronald Reagan.

Tilt toward Iraq

The United States was wary of the Tehran regime since the Iranian Revolution, not least because of the taking hostage of its Tehran embassy staff in the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis. Starting in 1982 with Iranian success on the battlefield, the U.S. made its backing of Iraq more pronounced, supplying it with intelligence, economic aid, normalizing relations with the government (broken during the 1967 Six-Day War), and also supplying weapons.In 1983, President Ronald Reagan initiated a strategic opening to Iraq, Reagan chose Donald Rumsfeld as his emissary to Hussein, whom he visited in December 1983 and March 1984. Support for Iraq gradually became the order of the day. Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 4-82. citation
first = Ronald | last = Reagan | authorlink = Ronald Reagan
contribution = National Security Decision Directive 4-82: Strategy toward the Near East and Southwest Asia
date = 19 March 1982
contribution-url = http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq14.pdf
title = Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984
volume = National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82
editor = Battle, Joyce
] According to the Boston Globe, The Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations saw Iraq could be a strategic partner to the United States, a counterweight to Iran, a force for moderation in the region, and possibly help in the Arab-Israel peace process.citation
url = http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/08/31/the_true_iraq_appeasers
title = The true Iraq appeasers
first = Peter W. | last = Galbraith
date = 31 August 2006
journal = Boston Globe

In 1982, Iraq was removed from the U.S. Department of State list of terrorist-supporting nations to ease the transfer of dual-use technology to that country. According to investigative journalist and award-winning author Alan Friedman, Secretary of State Alexander Haig was "upset at the fact that the decision had been made at the White House, even though the State Department was responsible for the list."Alan Friedman, "Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq", Bantam Books, 1993] "I was not consulted," Haig is said to have complained.

Howard Teicher served on the National Security Council as director of Political-Military Affairs. According to his 1995 affidavit and other interviews with former Regan and Bush administration officials, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly directed armaments and dual-use technology to Iraq through false fronts and friendly third parties such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, and they quietly encouraged rogue arms dealers and other private military companies to do the same:

[T] he United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required. The United States also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat...The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq. My notes, memoranda and other documents in my NSC files show or tend to show that the CIA knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, munitions and vehicles to Iraq. [ [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq61.pdf Statement by former NSC official Howard Teicher] to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. [http://www.overcast.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/print/spidersweb/teicher.htm Plain text version] ]

The full extent of these covert transfers is not yet known. Teicher's files on the subject are held securely at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and many other Reagan era documents that could help shine new light on the subject remain classified. Teicher refused to discuss details of the affidavit with the "Washington Post" shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A52241-2002Dec29&notFound=true U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup] Washington Post, December 30, 2002]

About two of every seven licenses for the export of "dual use" technology items approved between 1985 and 1990 by the US Department of Commerce "went either directly to the Iraqi armed forces, to Iraqi end-users engaged in weapons production, or to Iraqi enterprises suspected of diverting technology" to weapons of mass destruction according to an investigation by House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez. According to the investigation, confidential Commerce Department files also reveal that the Reagan and Bush administrations approved at least 80 direct exports to the Iraqi military. These included computers, communications equipment, and aircraft navigation and radar equipment. Many of these exports were made before Iraq's eight-year war with Iran ended in 1988, a period in which Washington maintained an official policy of neutrality toward the combatants but vigorously worked to block foreign military purchases by Iran. [citation
url = http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/74038683.html?dids=74038683:74038683&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&fmac=&date=Jul+22%2C+1992&author=R.+Jeffrey+Smith&desc=Dozens+of+U.S.+Items+Used+in+Iraq+Arms
title = Dozens of U.S. Items Used in Iraq Arms;Exports Often Approved Despite Warnings From Pentagon, Others
journal = Washington Post
date = July 22, 1992
first = R. Jeffrey | last = Smith

In March 1983, Reagan signed a NSDM with the originally classified title, "U.S. Policy toward the Iran–Iraq War".citation
first = Ronald | last = Reagan | authorlink = Ronald Reagan
contribution = National Security Decision Directive 114: U.S. Policy toward the Iran–Iraq War
date = 19 March 1982
contribution-url = http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq26.pdf
title = Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984
volume = National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82
editor = Battle, Joyce
] This placed the highest priority on keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, a goal around which other U.S. policy, such as foreign basing and rules of engagement for combat.

In conformance with the Presidential directive, the U.S. began providing tactical battlefield advice to the Iraqi Army. "The prevailing view", says Alan Friedman, "was that if Washington wanted to prevent an Iranian victory, it would have to share some of its more sensitive intelligence photography with Saddam."

At times, thanks to the White House's secret backing for the intelligence-sharing, U.S. intelligence officers were actually sent to Baghdad to help interpret the satellite information. As the White House took an increasingly active role in secretly helping Saddam direct his armed forces, the United States even built an expensive high-tech annex in Baghdad to provide a direct down-link receiver for the satellite intelligence and better processing of the information... p. 27
The American military commitment that had begun with intelligence-sharing expanded rapidly and surreptitiously throughout the Iran–Iraq War. A former White House official explained that "by 1987, our people were actually providing tactical military advice to the Iraqis in the battlefield, and sometimes they would find themselves over the Iranian border, alongside Iraqi troops." p. 38

According to retired Army Colonel W. Patrick Lang, senior defense intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern" to Reagan and his aides, because they "were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D03E0DB133DF93BA2575BC0A9649C8B63 Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas] "New York Times" August 18, 2002] Lang cautioned that the Defense Intelligence Agency "would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival. Despite this claim, the Reagan administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports affirming the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians. [citation
first = Robert | last = Pear
title = U.S. Says It Monitored Iraqi Messages on Gas
journal = New York Times
date = 15 September 1988
] [ [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4859238 U.S. Links to Saddam During Iran–Iraq War] "National Public Radio" September 22, 2005]

Parties involved

It is now known that a vast network of companies, based in the U.S. and elsewhere, fed Iraq's warring capabilities right up until August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait.citation
first = Russ W. | last = Baker
title = IRAQGATE: The Big One That (Almost) Got Away, Who Chased it -- and Who Didn't
journal Columbia Journalism Review
date = March 1993
url = http://www.cjr.org/archives.asp?url=/93/2/iraqgate.asp

The "Iraq-gate" scandal revealed that an Atlanta branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled US$ 5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents finally raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, the branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq—some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology.

Beginning in September, 1989, the "Financial Times" laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the "FT" provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the "Financial Times", were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohio branch.

Even before the Persian Gulf War started in 1990, the "Intelligencer Journal" of Pennsylvania in a string of articles reported: "If U.S. and Iraqi troops engage in combat in the Persian Gulf, weapons technology developed in Lancaster and indirectly sold to Iraq will probably be used against U.S. forces ... And aiding in this ... technology transfer was the Iraqi-owned, British-based precision tooling firm Matrix Churchill, whose U.S. operations in Ohio were recently linked to a sophisticated Iraqi weapons procurement network."

Aside from the "New York Times", the "Los Angeles Times", and ABC's Ted Koppel, the Iraq-gate story never picked up much steam, even though the U.S. Congress became involved with the scandal. See an article by journalist William Safire, introduced into the "Congressional Record" by Rep. Tom Lantos.citation
title = The Administration's Iraq Gate Scandal, by William Safire
author = Lantos, Tom
date = May 19, 1992
publisher = Congressional Record
url = http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/congress/1992/h920519l.htm

In December 2002, Iraq's 1,200 page Weapons Declaration revealed a list of Eastern and Western corporations and countries—as well as individuals—that exported chemical and biological materials to Iraq in the past two decades. By far, the largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were in Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and Germany (1,027 tons). One Indian company, Exomet Plastics (now part of EPC Industrie) sent 2,292 tons of precursor chemicals to Iraq. The Kim Al-Khaleej firm of Singapore supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.citation
title = What Iraq Admitted About its Chemical Weapons Program
author = Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control
date = no longer updated after August 2006
url = http://www.iraqwatch.org/suppliers/nyt-041303.gif

By contrast, Alcolac International, for example, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. Alcolac was successfully prosecuted for its violations of export control law. The firm pleaded guilty in 1989. A full list of American companies and their involvements in Iraq was provided by The "LA Weekly" in May 2003. citation
url = http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iraq/Chemical/3883_3895.html
publisher = Nuclear Threat Initiative
title =Iraq Chemical Chronology 1980-1989

On 25 May 1994, The U.S. Senate Banking Committee released a report in which it was stated that "pathogenic (meaning 'disease producing'), toxigenic (meaning 'poisonous'), and other biological research materials were exported to Iraq pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce." It added: "These exported biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction."citation
author = U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
title = Second Staff Report on U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq and The Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the War
url = http://www.gulfwarvets.com/arison/banking.htm

The report then detailed 70 shipments (including Bacillus anthracis) from the United States to Iraqi government agencies over three years, concluding "It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the UN inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program."citation
url = http://cns.miis.edu/research/wmdme/flow/iraq/seed.htm
title = Foreign Suppliers to Iraq's Biological Weapons Program Obtain Microbial Seed Stock for Standard or Novel Agent
publisher = James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
first1 = Michael | last1 = Barletta | first2 = Christina | last2 = Ellington
date=November 1998

A report by Berlin's die tageszeitung in 2002 reported that Iraq's 11,000-page report to the UN Security Council listed 150 foreign companies that supported Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Twenty-four U.S. firms were involved in exporting arms and materials to Baghdad.citation
title = Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement
first = John | last = King
date = March 2003
publisher = Iran Chamber Society

Donald Riegle, Chairman of the Senate committee that authored the aforementioned Riegle Report, said,

UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs. ... The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control sent Iraq 14 agents "with biological warfare significance," according to Riegle's investigators.citation
url = http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/16/Perspective/How_Iraq_built_its_we.shtml
title = How Iraq built its weapons programs, With a little help from its friends.
first = Tom | last = Drury
journal = St. Petersburg Times
date = March 16, 2003

The Tanker War and US military involvement

Starting in 1981, both Iran and Iraq attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including those of neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade. After repeated Iraqi attacks on Iran's main exporting facility on Khark Island, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker near Bahrain on May 13 1984, and a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters on May 16 (both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia being members of GCC supported Saddam during the war). Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter, and this phase of the war was dubbed the "Tanker War."

Lloyd's of London, a British insurance market, estimated that the Tanker War damaged 546 commercial vessels and killed about 430 civilian mariners. The largest of attacks were directed by Iran against Kuwaiti vessels, and on November 1 1986, Kuwait formally petitioned foreign powers to protect its shipping. The Soviet Union agreed to charter tankers starting in 1987, and the United States offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag on March 7 1987 (Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance). Under international law, an attack on such ships would be treated as an attack on the U.S., allowing the U.S. to retaliate militarily. This support would protect ships headed to Iraqi ports, effectively guaranteeing Iraq's revenue stream for the duration of the war.

An Iraqi plane accidentally attacked the USS "Stark" (FFG 31), a "Perry" class frigate on May 17, killing 37 and injuring 21.citation
journal = Military Law Review
Volume = 143
date = Winter 1994
title = Rules of Engagement for Land Forces: A Matter of Training, Not Lawyering
first = Mark S. | last = Martins
pages = 43-46
url = http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Military_Law_Review/pdf-files/27687D~1.pdf
] citation
title = No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
first = Bradley | last = Peniston
publisher = Naval Institute Press
ISBN = 1591146615.
url = http://www.navybook.com/nohigherhonor/pic-stark.shtml
] But U.S. attention was on isolating Iran; it criticized Iran's mining of international waters, and in October 1987, the U.S. attacked Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for an Iranian attack on the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker "Sea Isle City".

On April 14 1988, the frigate USS "Samuel B. Roberts" was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, the United States Navy's largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian ships were destroyed, and an American helicopter was shot down, killing the two pilots.

The USS Vincennes incident

In the course of these escorts by the U.S. Navy, the cruiser USS "Vincennes" shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with the loss of all 290 passengers and crew on July 3 1988. The American government claimed that the airliner had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat, and that the USS Vincennes was operating in international waters at the time and feared that it was under attack. The Iranians, however, maintain that the Vincennes was in fact in Iranian territorial waters, and that the Iranian passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. U.S. Admiral William J. Crowe also admitted on ABC's Nightline that the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles. citation
url = http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jksonc/docs/ir655-nightline-19920701.html
title = The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War
date = July 1, 1992
first = Ted | last = Koppel
journal = ABC Nightline
] The U.S. eventually paid compensation for the incident but never apologized.

According to the investigation done by Ted Koppel, during the war, U.S. navy used to set decoys inside the Persian Gulf to lure out the Iranian gunboats and destroy them, and at the time USS Vincennes shot down the Iranian airline, it was performing such an operation. cite book
first = Robert | last = Fisk
title = The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East
year = 2007
publisher = Vintage
ISBN-10 = 1400075173
] U.S. Navy personnel have criticized the Nightline report as being a sensationalized version of the events.

Operation Staunch

Operation Staunch was created in spring 1983 by the United States State Department to stop the illicit flow of U.S. arms to Iran. [http://www.iran.org/tib/krt/fanning_ch7.htm Fanning the Flames: Guns, Greed & Geopolitics in the Gulf War by Kenneth R. Timmerman.] Retrieved on 5 April 2007.]


*Kenneth R. Timmerman, "The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq". New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
*Friedman Alan, "Spider's Web: The Secret History of how the White House Illegally Armed Iraq". New York, Bantam Books, 1993.
*Jentleson Bruce, "With friends like these: Reagan, Bush, and Saddam, 1982-1990". New York, W. W. Norton, 1994.
*Phythian Mark, "Arming Iraq: How the U.S. and Britain Secretly Built Saddam's War Machine". Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1997.

See also

*U.S. support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war
*Arms sales to Iraq 1973-1990
*Iraq-gate (Gulf War), also see Riegle Report
*Arms-to-Iraq affair, also see Scott Report
*Saddam Hussein - United States relations


External links

*Statement of Henry B. Gonzalez, Chairman, House Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs on "Iraq-gate",: see links given on http://www.sfbg.com/News/32/21/Features/iraq.html
* [http://www.iraqwatch.org/perspectives/Sussexreport.htm University of Sussex report]
* [http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/2001/1022iraq.htm A Global Policy Forum Report]
* [http://www.gulfweb.org/bigdoc/report/riegle1.html Text of the U.S. Senate Riegle Report]
* [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/ NSA Archives]
* [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/08/18/1029114048796.html?oneclick=true Sydney Morning Herald report]
* [http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1052440808465 Litigation of involved corporations]
* [http://www.consortiumnews.com/2003/022703a.html Consortium News article]
* [http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/ShalomIranIraq.html STEPHEN R. SHALOM, "THE UNITED STATES AND THE Iran–Iraq War", Z-magazine, Feb. 1993]
* [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/ "Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984", National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82, Edited by Joyce Battle, February 25, 2003]
* [http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/nsa/publications/iraqgate/iraqgate.html Iraq gate]
* [http://www.iran.org/tib/krt/iraq_921027.htm U.S. Export Policy Toward Iraq: An Agenda for Tomorrow, by Kenneth R. Timmerman]

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