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Wednesday January 12, 2004 13:56
Thursday May 3, 2007 12:13
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Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada has an idea about what to do about
Margolis was incorrect. Brzezinski and Carter were responsible for inciting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran. Wednesday May 2, 2007 08:08
In 1980, the US and Britain engineered Saddam Husseins invasion of Iran in an attempt to crush its new revolutionary Islamic government. That war inflicted nearly one million casualties on Iran. President Ahmadinejad led volunteers in the war.
When I heard that Saddam Hussein would be hanged soon, my first thought was how relieved Mr. Rumsfeld must be. In terms of real legacies, that famous Don-Saddam handshake and the secret deals the United States pushed and pursued in an effort to destabilize Iran in the 1980s are probably the most interesting. This dishonorable history is part of Rumsfelds most important legacy that of the ultimate insider, playing the powerful hand of the worlds greatest democracy, in the name of American people who had absolutely no idea of what was happening.
What's forgotten is precisely who or what was supporting Saddam in the 1980s. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 with US approval. Reagan removed Iraq from its list of known terrorist countries. The US shipped weapons and the Department of Defense provided intelligence to assist Iraq. A 1983 National Security Directive said that the US would do everything possible to prevent Iran from winning. In 1983, Rumsfeld even met with Saddam to assure him of US support. The CIA supported Iraq's mustard gas attacks on Iran.
In other words, the government that now says that Saddam has to be killed for his crimes is the very same government that supported him while he was committing those crimes. There ought to be a word more poignant than hypocrisy to describe such a case as this.
If he had any sense of grace or integrity, Donald Rumsfeld would fall on his sword.
The man was instrumental in getting the United States into the biggest military and financial blunder in its history.
Fred Fair expressed his opinion that Rumsfeld is merely a grunt for Cheney and the other neocons.
Saddam Hussein is to be hung for killing 148 people. The Washington Post quotes an Iraqi Sunni as saying, Now, more than 148 innocent people are getting killed in Iraq every day.
Rumsfelds war has resulted in as many as a million - estimates vary wildly - Iraqi dead and nearly 50,000 wounded and dead Americans. And as for the financial costs, dont even bring it up. The latest guesses say that the entire bill could run as high as $2 trillion. Where does a nation that is already $65 trillion short get that kind of money?
Roman bridge-builders used to stand under their arches as the scaffolding was removed. If they made a mistake, the whole thing would come down on their heads.
And military commanders who made serious blunders were expected to pay the price. In the disaster of the Teutoburg Forest, Roman governor Publius Quinctilius Varus probably had one of his officers run him through with his sword.
At Carrhae, Marcus Crassus, was responsible for another of Romes major defeats. But at least he died honorably - on the field of battle. Some reports say the Parthians killed him by pouring molten gold down his throat...but this may be apocryphal - Crassus had been the richest man in Rome.
An ancient country of southwest Asia corresponding to modern northeast Iran. It was included in the Assyrian and Persian empires, the Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great, and the Syrian empire. A Parthian kingdom lasted from c. 250 b.c. to a.d. 226, reaching the height of its influence and landholdings at the beginning of the first century b.c. Parthian soldiers were renowned as horsemen and archers.
Of course, the Romans werent the only ones.
At Iwo Jima, the Japanese commander, General Kuribayashi, committed ritual seppuku, cutting open his belly to remove his intestines and dying in agony.
In Anglo-Saxon common law, there is a rule: He who undertakes a project is responsible for the outcome. This is the obverse of the familiar saying: He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
He who calls the tune pays the fiddler!
The ancient rule has a sensible, timeless elegance to it, especially when applied to government, because it discourages mistakes. That is the big difference between private life and public life. In private, a man pays for his mistakes. In public, it is usually someone else who pays.
Mao lived in fat luxury, while his subjects starved - thanks to his cockamamie theories and illusions. Lincoln went to the theatre, while his soldiers shivered in their trenches or died in front of confederate cannons. Greenspan was given the Order of Merit from the French and knighted by the Queen of England while his emergency interest rates enticed an entire generation of householders into ruinous debt.
Henry Kissinger once said Rumsfeld was the most ruthless man he knew, adding that he was a "skilled, full-time politician-bureaucrat in whom ambition, ability and substance fuse seamlessly."
See Rummy's fence with Atilano Lane sign in Taos, NM.
How does it happen that a man can be regarded as an ally one day, and an enemy the next? How is it that as praise fades away, that same man comes to deserve capture and death? Is it because his behavior has changed, or because there has been a transformation in perception?
In 1980, Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi troops to invade Iran in an attempt to seize territory by force of arms. The resulting war dragged on for eight years, causing immense destruction and costing the lives of 1.7 million people in one of the twentieth century's worst wars.
Pro se fights recommends you buy or check-out from a library Everest's book to read whether one or more US administrations entered into a deal for Saddam Hussein to attack Iran for an offer to take Kuwait as payment?
Read Chapter 5 "WE HAVE TO HAVE A WAR" to make up your mind.
Talking head April Glaspie gives you a pretty good idea of whether the US promised Saddam Kuwait as reward for attacking Iran.
By 1975, the Kurdish insurgency posed the gravest threat the Ba'ath Regime had yet faced. Some 45,000 Kurdish guerrillas, aided by two Iranian divisions, had pinned down 80 percent of Iraq's 100,000 troops, severely straining Iraq's economy and military.'109 Kissinger and the Shah wanted neither all-out war, nor the collapse of the Iraqi regime. Rather, they sought to force Iraq to curb its anti- Israeli Arab nationalism and to pry it from its Soviet patrons, demonstrating to others in the region that being a Soviet client didn't pay. The Shah also wanted to prove that Iran was the Gulf's strongest power and a reliable regional gendarme for the U.S., as well as to renegotiate the Sa'dabad Pact of 1937, which had given control of the entire Shatt al Arab waterway between the two countries to Iraq.110
The Shah planned to abandon the Kurds "the minute he came to an agreement with his enemy over border disputes," one CIA memo noted. Eight hours after Iraq did agree to U.S. -Iranian terms, which were formalized in the Algiers Agreement of March 1975, the Shah and the U.S. cut off aid-including food-and closed Iran's border, cutting off Kurdish lines of retreat.111
The Kurds had no idea that they were about to be abandoned. But Iraq knew, and the next day it launched an all-out, "search-and destroy" attack. The Kurds, who had been led to believe that the U.S. was acting as a "guarantor" against betrayal by the Shah, were taken by complete surprise. Deprived of Iranian support, Kurdish forces were quickly decimated and between 150,000 and 300,000 Kurds were forced to flee into Iran.112
The U.S. coldly betrayed its erstwhile Kurdish "allies," but even then, as the Pike Commission sardonically noted, "The cynicism of the U.S. and its ally had not yet completely run its course." Barzani had written to Kissinger, pleading desperately for help. Kissinger didn't bother replying.
Washington then "refused to extend humanitarian assistance to the thousands of refugees created by the abrupt termination of military aid," the Pike Commission reported. One CIA cable acknowledged, "[Olur ally [Irani was later to forcibly return over 40,000 of the refugees and the United States government refused to admit even one refugee into the United States by way of political asylum even though they qualified for such admittance."113
The U.S.-Iranian covert campaign further poisoned relations between Baghdad and Iraq's Kurds. The Pike Commission concluded that if the U.S. and the Shah hadn't encouraged the insurgency, the Kurds "may have reached an accommodation with the central government, thus gaining at least a measure of autonomy while avoiding further bloodshed. Instead, our clients [the Kurds] fought on, sustaining thousands of casualties and 200,000 refugees."114
Baghdad also retaliated with a massive pacification campaign: some 250,000 Kurds were forcibly relocated to central and southern Iraq, while many Arab Iraqis were forced to move to into tradition- ally Kurdish areas.115
In what became an infamous remark, Kissinger dismissed the Pike Commission's concerns: "Covert action," he said, "should not be confused with missionary work." Nonetheless, the Commission concluded, "Even in this context of covert operations, ours was a cynical enterprise."116 It is important to note here that as these events were taking place (beginning in September 1973), Kissinger's top aide was General Brent Scowcroft, who would later become National Security Advisor under Bush, Sr. and an architect of the 1991 Persian Gulf war on Iraq. It is also important to note that if the U.S. government had had its way, the Pike Commission's damning exposures would have never seen the light of day. First, the House of Representatives voted not to release the document. The, when CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr obtained a leaked copy and gave it to the Village Voice, he was promptly fired by CBS and threatened with contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal his sources. A new Director of Central Intelligence had just been appointed when this attempted cover-up took place. His name was George H.W Bush.117
As we'll explore in the next chapter, the United States government again resorted to a cynical "no win" strategy during the Iran- Iraq war of the 1 980s with even more horrific consequences for Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds.
OPEC's "Pivotal" Price Hike
The economic shocks from petroleum's steep price climb reverberated well into the 1980s, and still color U.S. strategy in the Middle East. Kissinger even called OPEC'S December 1973 decision raising the price of crude from $5.12 to $11.65 a barrel, "one of the pivotal events in the history of this century:"
The statistics were staggering enough. Within forty-eight hours the oil bill for the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Japan had increased by $40 billion a year; it was a colossal blow to their balance of payments, economic growth, employment, price stability, and social cohesion.. .all the countries involved, even the producers themselves, faced seismic changes in their domestic structures.118
These price hikes, he adds, "altered irrevocably the world as it had grown up in the postwar period. The seemingly inexorable rise in prosperity was abruptly reversed."119
Western capitalism found ways to cope with these rising oil prices, and giant global oil monopolies continued to dominate world production, marketing, and supply. By 1990, inflation adjusted crude prices had returned to pre-1972 levels. Yet the price shock of the 1970s, as well as the 1973-74 embargo, highlighted the western industrialized countries' dependence on cheap Middle East crude, and the devastating impact that severing that economic lifeline could have. Today, some 30 years later, establishment think-tanks warn that another severe energy crunch is on the horizon, and averting such a crisis and strengthening U.S. control of global energy sources was a major objective in the 2003 Iraq War and the Bush Doctrine that inspired it, as we examine in chapter 10.
Over the 1970s, rising crude prices, frustrations with nationalistic regimes such as Iraq and Syria, sharpening rivalry with the Soviet Union, and the constraints that forced the U.S. to work through local proxies contributed to a growing sense among America's rulers that they needed to deal more forcefully with these challenges to their power. Former Reagan National Security Council staffer Howard Teicher, in a study of U.S. Middle East policy written with his wife, states that America's inability to block OPEC price increases "helped convince Middle East leaders and others that the United States would not act forcefully to defend important interests."120
This concern over the erosion of U.S. power took on even greater urgency in the wake of three dramatic regional shocks that took place in 1979. The U.S. would then spend the 1980s and 1990s forging the strategic doctrine and building the military presence and capability to deal with them, laying the groundwork for two wars on Iraq in the process.
DOUBLE-DEALING DEATH IN THE GULF
The 1980s were a goidmine for U.S. propagandists and spin-meisters during the months of buildup for the 2003 war. Saddam Hussein was condemned for invading Iran, for accumulating weapons of mass - destruction, and for using them against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds, "leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children," as George W Bush put it in his 2002 State of the Union message.1
The only fly in the ointment was that these crimes took place when Hussein's government was closer to Washington than ever before-or since-and the U.S. directly facilitated every one of them, as detailed in this chapter.
The story of the 1980s, however, is much more than a chronicle of U.S. hypocrisy. It is also the story of how Washington fueled the Iran-Iraq War and helped turn it into one of the longest and bloodiest conventional wars of the 20th century. It's the story of secret dealings between Ronald Reagan's supporters and the Khomeini regime which helped Reagan get elected president, and of the mind-boggling and Machiavellian twists and turns of U.S. policy-first supporting Iraq, then Iran, and then back to Iraq again. It is the story of how Washington-including Donald Rumsfeld, the man later put in charge of destroying Saddam's regime for the Bush II administration-helped Iraq obtain and use the very weapons of mass destruction that provided the alleged casus beli for war in 2003.
The record of the 1980s offers a unique window into the real concerns of the world's largest empire, concerns that are quite different than the second Bush administration's moralistic condemnations of Iraqi behavior. And it also illustrates the potential for U.S. imperial interventions to backfire. This decade marked the beginning of a cycle of greater and more direct American military intervention in the Persian Gulf. And finally, it is the story of how Washington's actions over the decade helped set the stage for another devastating Persian Gulf War-Operation "Desert Storm" of 1991.
1979: Seismic Jolts to Empire
The 1 980s were a decade of extreme tension across the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asian region, marked by revolutionary upheaval in Iran, the bloody Iran-Iraq war, and intense superpower competition. U.S.-Soviet rivalry reached its most intense peak during this decade, thanks in no small measure to events in this region. World war loomed as a real danger, and there may not have been any other place where a direct U.S. -Soviet conflict was more likely to begin. Iraq was at the vortex of these tumultuous events.
The decade was ushered in by three seismic jolts to U.S. power which occurred in rapid succession in 1979: the February revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. Shah of Iran; the November seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran; and the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan in December.
In December 1977, President Jimmy Carter called the Shah's Iran an "island of stability" in a sea of turmoil. A year later more than 10 million people-a third of Iran's entire population-took to the streets demanding an end to his U.S. -backed tyranny. In January 1979, the hated Shah was forced to flee, and February's revolution put Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shi'a clerics in power. Nine months later, on November 4,1979, Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran with Khomeini's blessing, took its personnel hostage, and demanded the exiled Shah be returned to face trial. A month later, on Christmas Eve, Soviet troops rolled into neighboring Afghanistan.
All three events were, in large measure, reactions to 25-plus years of U.S. interventions in the region. Nowhere was the U.S. more deeply involved in imposing and maintaining a dictatorial regime than in Iran, and nowhere was it more hated. The Shah's subservience to U.S. interests, his reliance on repression and torture by the despised secret police, SAVAK, and his squandering of billions on Western arms while millions of Iranians remained impoverished all helped fuel the 1979 revolution. Anti-U.S. anger that accumulated over decades, fears of an attempted repeat of the CIA's 1953 coup, and Khomeini's efforts to consolidate clerical power all contributed to the embassy seizure.
I traveled to Iran in the spring of 1980 and interviewed a leader of the students holding the expansive walled compound in the middle of downtown Tehran that was once the U.S. embassy. This former University of California Berkeley student told me, "We felt that in order [for Washington] to bring the Shah back to Iran [where he could be reinstated as ruler], the U.S. imperialists needed international acceptance of him. Bringing him to the U.S. was the way to do that."2 These students argued that seizing the embassy and its personnel would call attention to Iran's grievances and prevent the former Shah from being returned to power.
The Soviet invasion, in turn, was motivated by a combination of Moscow's own imperial ambitions and its concern over stepped- up U.S. covert operations in Afghanistan and possible military action in Iran. In his book Iran Under the Ayatollahs, author Dilip Hiro argues that Moscow feared that following the embassy seizure, Washington was preparing a military assault on Iran, which in turn would "have encouraged President Hafizollah Amin of Afghanistan to loosen his ties with Moscow. Forestalling such a move was one of the main considerations which led Soviet officials to order their troops into Afghanistan." 3
All three events were severe blows to U.S. regional power. The Shah's fall collapsed the more important of its "twin pillars" in the Persian Gulf and unmoored one of the region's most strategically important countries from American control-something Washington is still trying to deal with. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser, also sensed "growing vulnerability" in its Saudi pillar after anti-government Islamists seized Mecca's Grand Mosque and held it for 10 days in November 1979, only weeks after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. 4 Making matters worse, Iran's new Islamic Republic began agitating against the pro-U.S. oil sheikdoms in the Gulf.
The U.S. power structure viewed the seizure and holding of the Tehran embassy and 52 of its personnel for 444 days as a global humiliation. The media labeled it "America held hostage," and establishment commentators complained that the U.S. had been turned into a "pitiful giant," incapable of imposing its will even on a Third World country. The hostage drama ended Jimmy Carter's presidential career, raised questions among allies and rivals about American strength, and helped propel a U.S. counter-attack under President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.
The Soviet invasion came in the wake of stepped up "competition for influence with the United States throughout the Middle East, Indian Ocean, Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia regions," as the former Reagan NSC staffer Howard Teicher and his wife put it in their book on U.S. policy in the Gulf.5 Taking over Afghanistan rescued a pro-Soviet government in Kabul, gave Moscow control of a key buffer state between Iran and Pakistan, and put its forces closer to the Persian Gulf. For the U.S., the fertile crescent had become, as Brzezinski labeled it, an "arc of crisis" stretching from Afghanistan through Iran to Saudi Arabiaa label that is once again being applied to this region in the wake of the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.
Intervention in the Iran-Iraq War was one facet of a multidimensioned and aggressive U.S. response to the shocking turn of events in 1979. Washington's overarching goals were protecting the Gulf's pro-U.S. oil sheikdoms while preventing the Soviet Union from turning regional turmoil into geopolitical gain.
In July 1979, some five months before the Soviet invasion, the U.S. had initiated a covert campaign to destabilize Afghanistan's pro-Soviet government by arming and funding the Islamist opposition. The goal, according to Brzezinski, was "to induce a Soviet military intervention." When the Soviets did intervene in December, Brzezinski wrote Carter: "We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War."6
Over the next decade, the U.S. government funneled more than $3 billion in arms and aid to the Islamic Mujahideen, helping create a global network of Islamist fighters, some of whom would form the core of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. When the Soviets finally pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, more than a million Afghans (along with 15,000 Soviet soldiers) had been killed and one-third of the population driven into refugee camps.
The U.S. also began a regional military buildup that has continued ever since. In 1980 a "Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force" was organized and assigned 100,000 troops ready for deployment to the Gulf. The U.S. gained access to facilities in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Military equipment and supplies were pre-positioned and bases built that could be quickly utilized by U.S. forces. The Navy's presence was augmented, and according to the Teichers, the U.S. began a "discreet strategic dialogue" with Israel to "enhance the ability of the U.S. to project power into southwest Asia."7 These supplies, bases and alliances would all come into play during U.S. wars on Iraq in 1991 and 2003.
These steps were components of a more assertive U.S. global posture, begun under President Carter, but ultimately personified by Ronald Reagan-whose administration was staffed by many who became prominent "Iraq hawks" in the Bush, Jr. administration. Its focus was a belligerent "full court press" against Soviet power and interests, backed by the massive Reagan military buildup. "For the first time," Brzezinski later wrote, "the United States deliberately sought for itself the capability to manage a protracted nuclear conflict."8
In his January 23, 1980 State of the Union address, President Carter underscored the Persian Gulf's centrality to U.S. global power, and Washington's willingness to wage war to maintain its regional dominance: "Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." In 1981, Reagan added his own corollary stating that the U.S. would intervene militarily to ensure pro-U.S. rule in Saudi Arabia. (The Teichers argue that this "Carter Doctrine" and the subsequent Reagan Corollary laid "the policy groundwork" for the 1991 Persian Gulf War.)9
Brzezinski called U.S. actions in 1979-80 and the enunciation of the (Carter Doctrine a "strategic revolution in America's global position." Controlling the Gulf was now as important to the empire as its alliances with Europe and Japan. During the internal government debates leading up to Carter's declaration, Brzezinski argued that "losing" the Persian Gulf would lead to the loss of Europe as well. The Gulf's importance to U.S. global power has, if anything, grown in the years since. 10
"Headlong into World War III"
After Iran's revolution and then the embassy take-over, Brzezinski felt that pressure on Tehran should be stepped up. Gary Sick, who was Carter's chief National Security Council aide on Iran at the time, wrote that Brzezinski argued "Iran should be punished from all sides," and "made public statements to the effect that he would not mind an Iraqi move against Iran."11 The U.S. cast about for ways to strike at the Islamic Republic, force it to release the embassy personnel, and stop its destabilizing agitation in the region.
During the hostage crisis, the U.S. considered various military actions, including imposing a naval blockade or launching air strikes against Iran's main oil facilities at Kharg Island.12 The atmosphere was thick with threats and plots, including conspiracies to restore the monarchy involving the CIA and a variety of generals, officials and hangers-on from Pahlevi days.
On April 24, 1980, the U.S. mounted a covert operation to extract the captured embassy personnel by helicopter, but the mission was aborted shortly after it began when three of the eight helicopters were knocked out of action by a dust storm and mechanical problems. President Carter called it "a strange series of mishaps - almost completely unpredictable." 13
The U.S. did not mount a major military campaign against Iran for several reasons. First, it did not have the extensive military infrastructure and presence in the region that it does today. Second, Washington's strategy was to punish Iran, but not to overthrow the Khomeini regime because in important ways it didn't threaten U.S. interests: the new Islamic Republic had brutally clamped down on Iranian leftists, maintained its distance from the Soviet Union, and kept Iranian oil flowing West. Many U.S. strategists felt that Washington would eventually be able to rebuild ties with Tehran. Avoiding an all-out clash with the Islamic regime in Iran took on added importance following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when Brzezinski argued that a key U.S. strategic task was to "forge an anti-Soviet Islamic coalition." 14
The U.S. also feared that any major military move against Iran could be, as Brzezinski put it, "strategically damaging" by creating "additional opportunities to the Soviets in their drive toward the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean." 15
Looming over all these considerations was the fear that an American invasion of Iran might provoke a U.S.-Soviet military confrontation that could slide into nuclear combat. This was no idle concern. During the tumultuous years of the Iranian revolution and its immediate aftermath, the U.S. and the Soviets engaged in a series of high-stakes warnings and threats, backed by military maneuvers and nuclear alerts, as each tried to block the other from gaining ground in Iran.
When the Iranian revolution was gaining momentum in November 1978, Soviet Premier Brezhnev warned the U.S. that "any interference, especially military, in the affairs of Iran, a state which directly borders the Soviet Union, would be regarded as affecting its own security," thereby raising the specter that the Soviets could invoke the 1921 treaty giving them the right to move troops into Iran in the event of foreign armed intervention. The U.S. replied that it would not interfere, weakening the Shah's regime and bolstering its opponents.16
The enunciation of the Carter Doctrine and the U.S. military buildup prior to its April raid raised Soviet fears of a U.S. invasion of Iran. Moscow responded by moving half its 100,000 troops in Afghanistan to the Iranian border. The Soviet response to the failed April raid underscored just how tense relations between the two superpowers had become in the region: the Soviet news agency Tass called it "a reckless gamble which might have started a war." U.S. actions, Tass declared, are "balancing on the brink of madness, and there is no need to say what a serious danger is posed to peace."17
Soviet fears of U.S. military action against Iran were apparently sparked again on August 16,1980 when columnist Jack Anderson published an article reporting that, "A startling, top-secret plan to invade Iran with powerful military forces has been prepared for President Carter. The ostensible purpose is to rescue the hostages, but the operation also would exact military retribution." Anderson reported that the assault, tentatively scheduled for October, called for seizing and holding Kharg Island, through which 90 percent of Iran's oil flowed, and possibly other oil fields in southern Iran. Anderson called it a "desperate political gamble.... There already have been ominous rumblings out of the Kremlin, warning of retaliation if Iran should be attacked. A Soviet-U.S. clash over Iran, of course, could become the opening skirmish of World War III." 18
The Carter administration claimed it had no such plans, 19 but the Soviets seem to have responded to Anderson's expose by placing their forces near Iran in a higher state of readiness, perhaps as a warning. In late August, Brzezinski writes that Washington detected Soviet forces deployed "in a mode suited for intervention in Iran" and decided to warn the Soviets that any move into Iran "would lead to a direct military confrontation" and to "develop military options both for the defense of Iran itself and for retaliatory military responses elsewhere, in the event of a Soviet move." Those options included the use of tactical nuclear weapons. 20
The atmosphere was so fraught with tension that when the Carter team was debating whether to move AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia following the September 1980 outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war (thus directly inserting advanced U.S. weapons in the region), Brzezinski writes that then-Secretary of State Muskie "exploded and said that we are plunging headlong into World War III." 21
During the 1980s, the U.S. considered Iran one of the most likely places for a direct conflict with the Soviets to occur. In 1983 the Pentagon organized five light divisions designed for quick deployment to confront Soviet forces in Iran and developed plans for using nuclear weapons to block a Soviet invasion. "In short," Hiro concludes, "when it came to keeping the Soviets out of Iran the Reagan administration [like the Carter administration before it] was prepared to go to the furthest limit, including nuclear warfare." 22
Exploiting Iran-Iraq Tensions-Once Again
The tense U.S.-Soviet face-offs of 1978-80 led the Carter administration to drop plans for further military attacks on Iran, fearing they could create chaos and present the Soviets with the need and opportunity to step in. 23
These constraints on U.S. power created enormous frustration in the U.S. ruling class. A decade later, with the Soviet Union spiraling into crisis and eventual collapse, the U.S. no longer faced such impediments and, as a consequence, unleashed its Desert Storm slaughter on Iraq. But in 1979-80, the U.S. was not in a position to launch a massive and direct military assault on Iran. So it turned to less direct means: exploiting regional tensions as it had during the 1970s with Iraq's Kurds. Only this time it would be using Iraq against Iran.
Iraq had its own issues with Iran and the new Islamic Republic. The Hussein regime had long wanted to abrogate the humiliating 1975 Algiers Agreement, which had been forced on it by the CIA- Shah backed Kurdish insurgency, and regain full control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. 24
Tensions between Baghdad and Tehran grew worse after Iran's Shi'a clerics came to power. Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been expelled from a l3-year exile in Najaf, Iraq in 1978, began denouncing the "infidel Ba'ath Party" and calling for its overthrow - a call which Baghdad feared might resonate with Iraqi Shi'as.
The Ba'ath seizure of power in 1968 had exacerbated long- standing tensions between Iraq's ruling Sunni minority and its Shi'a majority. Iraq's Shi'a are a diverse population, but religious leaders remain influential. These clerics and their supporters were never comfortable with the Ba'ath Party's secularism, its alliance with the Soviet Union, or its effort to tightly control all Iraqi institutions, including religious organizations. In addition, Islamic revivalist current had grown in Iraq during the l970s. 25
These undercurrents were manifested in open protests in 1974 and 1977 when 30,000 Shi'as demonstrated against the regime during a traditional religious procession. They were met with harsh repression. In 1980, following the attempted assassination of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz by the underground Islamic Call (al- Da'wa) organization, the regime executed the prominent Shi'a cleric Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr along with his sister (their family remains prominent in Shi'a politics today) and then expelled an estimated 4U,UUU Shi'as to lran. 26
Baghdad calculated that war might put a halt to the Islamic Republic's destabilizing agitation, and perhaps even topple Tehran's diplomatically isolated regime before it could fully consolidate power. If Iraq had succeeded in capturing Iran's southwest Khuzestan province, the heart of its oil industry, Iraqi oil production capacity would be boosted from 4 to 11 million barrels a day. This would put Baghdad in control of about 20 percent of world production and great1y increase its global and regional leverage-while gravely weakening Iran's. Iraq would also control deep water ports and offshore oil terminals which it had been long denied by the legacy of its British-drawn borders, reducing its dependence on oil pipelines running through other, sometimes hostile, neighbors. 27
Saddam: the New "Principal Pillar of Stability"
Shahram Chubin, the co-author with Charles Tripp of Iran and Iraq at War, described Iraq's motives in attacking Iran as a mixture of fear, opportunism and overconfidence ... a compound of a preventive war, ambition and punishment for a regional rival." 28 Iraq's decision to invade Iran was also made with an eye toward building stronger relations with the U.S. Baghdad understood that America was the dominant power in the Gulf and sought to advance its ambitions in that context-as well as with explicit support from Washington. Iraq, in short, did not act as an "unpredictable rogue," as the Bush II administration would claim in 2002-2003.
Iraq's desire for closer relations with the U.S., which Iraqi officials articulated in meetings with U.S. representatives, flowed from number of developments. By the late 1970s, Baghdad had grown unhappy with its relationship to Moscow, in part because the West offered much more of the capital and advanced technology Iraq needed for its industrialization programs. The 1978 pro-Soviet coup
Afghanistan also alarmed the Hussein regime, which then racked down on Iraq's pro-Soviet Communist Party to make sure the Soviets couldn't make a similar move in Iraq.29 Defeating Iran could have turned Iraq into the West's favored protector in the Gulf states against the new threat of anti-U.S. Islamic revivalism emanating from Tehran, and open up new opportunities for Western aid and investment.
U.S. officials were well aware of this potential. In 1979, Brzezinski began arguing that the U.S. should reconsider its "nonrelationship" with Iraq. He felt it might be possible to use Iraq to weaken the Islamic Republic and force it to release the U.S. hostages.30 With the right mix of incentives, he argued, Iraq could also be extracted from the Soviet orbit. "Iraq was poised," he felt, "to succeed Iran as the principal pillar of stability in the Persian Gulf." 31 (Moscow understood what Washington was trying to accomplish and opposed Iraq's invasion of Iran.)
On April 14, 1980, five months before Iraq's invasion, Brzezinski publicly signaled a new U.S. willingness to work with Iraq: "We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq.. .we do not feel that American-Iraqi relations need to be frozen in antagonisms." In June, Iranian students revealed a secret memo found in the embassy from Brzezinski to then-Secretary of State Cyrus Vance recommending the "destabilization" of Iran's Islamic Republic via its neighbors. 32
In the next weeks and months, there were numerous indications that the U.S. encouraged Iraq to attack Iran, although much is still shrouded in secrecy. Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, then President of the Islamic Republic, writes that his government received an intelligence report describing secret talks that had taken place in Paris during the summer of 1980 between U.S. and Israeli military experts, Iranian exiles, and Iraqis to prepare an attack. Bani-Sadr also states that Brzezinski met with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before the Iraqi assault to assure him that the U.S. "would not oppose the separation of Khuzestan from Iran." 33
Kenneth R. Timmermann, author of The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, supports the essentials of Bani-Sadr's account, writ- ing that Brzezinski met with Hussein in July 1980 in Amman, Jordan to discuss joint efforts to oppose "Iran's reckless policy." Saddam Hussein biographer Said Aburish agrees that the Amman meeting did take place, but says that according to a member of King Hussein s cabinet, Hussein met with three CIA agents, not Brzezinski. 34
The U.S. go-ahead may also have come through its close allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reported that in a secret 1981 memo summing up a trip to the Middle East, then-Secretary of State Al Haig noted, "It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through [then Prince, later King] Fahd." 35
Saddam Hussein traveled to Saudi Arabia on August 5, 1980 and reportedly secured Saudi and Kuwaiti backing for an attack. Both Gulf states had been shaken by the Iranian revolution, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and Khomeini s condemnation of their monarchies. 36 Iran had become a menace to both.
Hussein and the Saudis may also have shared intelligence estimates of Iran's military capabilities. The U.S. had passed such intelligence to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the months leading up to Iraq's invasion with the expectation, according to the Teichers, that they "would reach Baghdad." These assessments painted the picture of an Iranian military in disarray and vulnerable because shipments of spare parts for its American-made weapons had been frozen by the U.S. and much of the Shah's officer corps had been purged. The Iraqis were led to believe that Iran could quickly be defeated. 37
Finally, would Iraq have undertaken such a major action in a region considered "vital" to U.S. strategic interests without feeling it either had a "green light," or that Washington would go along? Possibly. The confusion surrounding its later moves into Kuwait certainly suggest that Hussein could act against Washington's wishes, or at the very least that the two parties could miscommunicate, an issue that will be discussed later. But in this instance, the U.S. did give Hussein either an explicit or, at the very least, an implicit go-ahead, as Sick has revealed. He denies that Washington directly encouraged Iraq's attack, but instead let "Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light because there was no explicit red light." 38
On September 22, 1980 Iraq invaded Iran. One of the longest conventional war of the 20th century had begun-the product of Iraqi fears and ambitions, coupled with American regional intrigues. 39The Stockholm International Peace Institute estimates that Iran spent between $74 and $91 billion on the war, including $11.3 billion on weapons imports. Iraq, meanwhile, spent $94 to $112 billion.44 Others put the direct and indirect cost of the war for both countries at $1.19 trillion-$627 billion for Iran and $561 billion for Iraq. 45 Is it any wonder that in 2003-following two more devastating wars on Iraqi soil-the U.S. would find a country in ruins?
Reagan's "October Surprise"
The U.S. attitude toward Iraq's 1980 invasion was markedly different from its response to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In 1980, there were no U.S. cries of outrage, no imposition of punitive sanctions, and certainly no massive deployment to defend Iran's Islamic Republic. The U.S., in short, found Iraq's aggression useful.
However, the war was marked by many unexpected twists and turns-beginning in its first weeks. Contrary to U.S. intelligence estimavtes, Iranian forces did not collapse, and Iraq's assault quickly bogged down outside the main cities in southwest Iran. Instead of destabilizing the new regime, Iraq's invasion ended up helping it consolidate power as Iranians rallied to the defense of their country. Later exposures of the CIA's practice of providing both Iran and Iraq with doctored intelligence, discussed below, also raise the possibility that the U.S. lured Iraq into the war by deliberately underestimating Iranian capabilities. 40 The Carter administration made clear that it was not after a decisive Iraqi victory. Instead, it initially saw Iraq's invasion as a way to pressure Iran to release the U.S. hostages prior to the November 1980 U.S. presidential election. So, in the first of many double-crosses, after initially encouraging an Iraqi invasion, Carter and other officials began signaling Iran that the U.S. was prepared to help its war effort if it would release the embassy personnel.
On September 28, 1980, the UN called for a cease-fire and mediation of the conflict. The U.S. stated it was against "any dismemberment of Iran," and on October 18, Carter said that Iraq had gone beyond its initial goal and that the U.S. wanted "any invading forces withdrawn." Ten days later, Carter stated that if the Americans were released, the U.S. would airlift $300-$500 million worth of arms to Iran which had already been ordered and paid for by the former Shah. 41
Nothing, however, came of this proposal because of behind- - the-scenes wheeling and dealing-not in Baghdad or Tehran, but in Washington-what former Carter official Sick called "nothing less than a political coup." In his book, October Surprise-America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, Sick details the actions of "an organized cabal among individuals inside and outside the elected government of the United States to concoct an alternative and private foreign policy with Israel and Iran without the knowledge or approval of the Carter administration." Their goal: to ensure Ronald Reagan's victory in the 1980 presidential election over incumbent Jimmy Carter.
During the summer of 1980, candidate Reagan's campaign feared that Carter was about to pull off an "October surprise" release of the hostages, which might well guarantee his reelection. So Reagan's top advisors made a secret agreement with the Islamic Republic: if Iran continued to hold the hostages through November's election and Reagan won, he would lift the economic sanctions imposed by Carter and allow Israel to ship arms to Iran. Reagan did win, and on January 21, 1981, the day he was inaugurated, Iran sent the U.S. embassy personnel home. 42
This secret deal may have helped sabotage an early-negotiated end to the war, with devastating consequence for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Iranians. Saddam Hussein had quickly grasped that the war was not going as planned, so when the UN called for a cease-fire, he offered to end the war if Iran accepted Iraqi control of the Shatt al Arab and agreed not to interfere in Iraqi affairs. Although Iran initially refused to stop the war so long as Iraqi troops were on its soil (and also because the Khomeini government had its own motives for continuing the conflict), a diplomatic solution still may have been possible if the U.S. had been onboard.
However, since Tehran was still holding the U.S. hostages and Carter's efforts to win their release had secretly been undercut, the U.S. neither had an incentive to pressure Iraq to withdraw, nor the leverage to demand that Iran come to terms. So, thanks in part to political jockeying by Democrats and Republicans, as well as other machinations explored below, the war dragged on for eight years.
In the end, neither Iran nor Iraq would win a clear victory, but the suffering was enormous on both sides. Conservative estimates place the death toll at 367,000-262,000 Iranians and 105,000 Iraqis. An estimated 700,000 were injured or wounded on both sides, bringing the total casualty figure to over one million. 43
The Stockholm International Peace Institute estimates that Iran spent between $74 and $91 billion on the war, including $11.3 billion on weapons imports. Iraq, meanwhile, spent $94 to $112 billion.44 Others put the direct and indirect cost of the war for both countries at $1.19 trillion-$627 billion for Iran and $561 billion for Iraq. 45 Is it any wonder that in 2003-following two more devastating wars on Iraqi soil-the U.S. would find a country in ruins?
Most would assume that the U.S. government had a moral responsibility to help stop the bloodshed it had encouraged and fueled. But moral responsibility wasn't what counted. Washington may have initially envisioned a relatively short war, but once the election and hostage dramas were over, it did little to halt the killing. As one State Department official put it later, "We don't give a damn as long as the Iran-Iraq carnage does not affect our allies or alter the balance of power." 46
For two years, the war was a stalemate fought on Iranian territory. But in 1982, the momentum shifted and did threaten to affect U.S. allies and alter the regional balance. Iran had taken the war into Iraq and threatened Basra, Iraq's second largest city-aided by hundreds of millions of dollars in arms that were secretly shipped from Israel as part of the Reagan hostage deal. 47
The fall of Basra could have destabilized nearby Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, upset the regional balance of power, and undermined U.S. "credibility" in the region. The New York Times reported, "Iran's rout of Iraqi forces threatened the stability of Persian Gulf states and was creating a situation potentially more dangerous to Western interests than the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict." 48
Teicher later stated in a legal affidavit that the U.S. feared that Iraq "teetered on the brink of losing its war with Iran," so in June 1982 President Reagan "decided that the United States.. .would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran," and signed a secret National Security Decision Directive 114 to that effect.49 After the Directive was signed, "the United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits," Teicher stated, and "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." 50
In 1982, Iraq was removed from the State Department's list of alleged sponsors of "terrorism," where it had been placed in 1979 for supporting some Palestinian resistance groups. This made Iraq eligible for U.S. government-backed credits and so-called dual-use tech- nology, which could be used for either civilian or military purposes. 51 In short, Iraq had been removed from the U.S. "terrorism" list so it could be better supplied with weapons of terror And so the flow of weapons to Baghdad-both conventional and unconventional-began in earnest.
Over the next eight years, the U.S. gave Iraq some $5 billion in economic aid and encouraged its allies to provide billions of dollars worth of arms. The British sold Iraq tanks, missile parts, and artillery; the French provided howitzers, Exocet missiles, and Mirage jet fighters; and the West Germans supplied technology used in Iraqi plants that reportedly produced nerve and mustard gas. 52
(Soviet conventional arms also flowed into Iraq, despite an initial cutoff. Since the early 1970s, the Soviets had been Iraq's main arms supplier, accounting for roughly 90 percent of its major weapons imports during the 1970s. After the outbreak of the Iran- Iraq war, the Hussein regime turned increasingly to Western firms for advanced and unconventional weapons. However, between 1981 and 1985, 55 percent of Iraqi imports of major or conventional arms still came from the Soviet Union. 53
Much of this hardware was paid for by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which loaned Baghdad between $50 and $60 billion during the war, and also transferred millions of dollars in U.S. military hardware to Iraq.54
Meanwhile, in 1983 the U.S. launched "Operation Staunch" to stem the flow of arms to Iran. The next year, it added the Islamic Republic to the ever-malleable State Department list of "terrorist" states. A U.S. official explained, "We do not want to see the government in Baghdad destabilized. We want to see a stable and internally secure Iraq. We see it as the first line of defense against Iranian expansionism."55Supplying Anthrax & Calibrating Chemical Attacks
The full extent of American military involvement in the Iran- Iraq slaughter is still emerging, but it is clear that the U.S. and its European allies were directly complicit in many of Iraq's worst wartime atrocities, including its use of chemical weapons.
CIA Director William Casey was "adamant," according to Teicher, that Baghdad receive one of the most savage weapons of war-anti-personnel cluster bombs. Casey considered them a "perfect 'force multiplier' that would allow the Iraqis to defend against the 'human waves' of Iranian attackers." Accordingly, "the CIA authorized, approved and assisted Cardoen [a Chilean weapons company] in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq." 56
U.S. firms also directly supplied Iraq with biological weapons. Author William Blum writes that according to a May 25, 1994 Senate Banking Committee report, "From 1985, if not earlier, through 1989, a veritable witch's brew of biological materials were exported to Iraq by private American suppliers pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce."
According to Blum, the Senate report detailed 70 shipments from the U.S. to Iraq over three years, including anthrax, botulism, and E. coli bacillus. Although there is no evidence that Iraq ever used these agents, the report concluded that, "It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and recovered: from the Iraqi biological warfare program." 57
The U.S. and its allies also helped provide Iraq with chemical weapons. Iraq's December 2002 arms declaration to the United Nations stated that since 1983 it had imported 17,602 tons of chemicals which could be used in making chemical weapons (mainly from. Singapore, the Netherlands, Egypt, India, and Germany); 340 pieces of equipment used to make chemical weapons (primarily from Germany, France, and Austria); and 200,000 artillery shells for delivering deadly chemicals (mainly from Italy and Spain). 58
Between 1985 and 1990, U.S. corporations - with government approval-supplied Iraq with precursor chemicals for weapons, including for nerve gas. They also supplied $782 million in dual-use technology and equipment, including helicopters used in chemical attacks, computers which could be used in ballistic missile an nuclear weapon development, machine tools, graphics terminals,, and lasers for designing and building ballistic missiles.59
A 2002 investigation by the Washington Post concluded, "The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military an - civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly bi logical viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague." 60
Nathaniel Hurd, a Cambridge University researcher, writes his compilation of U.S. dealings with Iraq during the 1980s, "0ne study lists 207 firms from 21 countries that contributed to Iraq's no conventional weapons programs during and after the Iran-Iraq war. Included were 86 West German, 18 British, 17 Austrian, 16 French, 12 Italian, 11 Swiss, and 18 American companies. 61 It seemed no of these firms wanted to be left out when it came to profiting fro the bloodletting in the Gulf.
The U.S. not only supplied Iraq with a variety of weapons, also helped it maximize their deadly impact on the battlefield According an August 2002 story in The New York Times, over 6 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] officers "were secretly pro viding detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq." 62
Accounts of Iraqi chemical attacks began surfacing in 1982, and one 1983 State Department report cited Iraq's "almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]." In 1984, the Reagan administration publicly condemned the use of chemical weapons in the war. 63
Yet, despite such occasional public pronouncements, U.S. military assistance to Iraq kept increasing-including assistance Iraq used in waging chemical warfare. According to the August 2002 New York Times story, "critical battle planning assistance" provided by U.S. intelligence officers, continued even after it was clear that Iraq "had integrated chemical weapons throughout their arsenal and were adding them to strike plans that American advisers either prepared or suggested." 64
The Washington Post reported that Iraq used U.S. intelligence to "calibrate attacks with mustard gas on Iranian ground troops." Iranian estimates of the dead and wounded from these gas attacks range between 50,000 and 100,000, including many civilians. 65
The U.S. understood and supported Iraq's reliance on imported high-tech weapons, including chemical arms, because Iraq's population was only a third the size of Iran's, and Baghdad was in no position to match Tehran casualty for casualty so it had to rely on its technological advantages.
Iraq used some 100,000 chemical shells and bombs during the war, mainly mustard and nerve gas. 66 One DIA officer interview for the August 2002 New York Times story, said that the Pentagon "wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas. It was just another way killing people-whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference." Col. Walter P. Lang, then a senior defense intelligence officer, said, "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern." The New York Times continued, "What Mr. Reagan's aides were concerned about, he said was that Iran not break through to the Fao Peninsula and spread the Islamic revolution to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia." And for that goal, Iraq's chemical attacks served a vital purpose. 67
Between 1984 and 1988, the UN Security Council passed six resolutions on the Iran-Iraq war, followed by another four in the nearly two years leading up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Some of the resolutions expressed "dismay" at the use of chemical weapons, others "deplored" their use, and some didn't mention the subject at all. None of them explicitly condemned Iraq or called for punitive sanctions, inspections, or disarmament. And none mentioned the major powers-including most of the permanent members of the UN Security Council-that facilitated and supported Iraq's chemical warfare. 68
Mr. Rumsfeld Goes to Baghdad
The U.S. program of arming Iraq was facilitated by one who would become a leading proponent of war on Iraq in 2003: Donald Rumsfeld. In 2002, Rumsfeld called Saddam Hussein one of "the world's most dangerous dictators." But in December 1983 and again in March 1984, Rumsfeld, who had been Secretary of Defense under President Ford, traveled to Baghdad as President Reagan's special Middle East envoy to assure Hussein of U.S. support and its readiness to restore diplomatic relations, which Iraq had broken after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Bush, Jr. claimed that Saddam Hussein "holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States." 69 Other commentators argue that Hussein envisioned himself as a modern day Saladin, who "vows to 'liberate' Jerusalem, vanquish the United States, and rule over a united Arab world." 70 Certainly Hussein has his dreams and resources for its war effort and were sometimes secretly used to purchase weapons. 77
In September 2002, Senator Robert Byrd asked Rumsfeld whether the U.S. had helped Iraq "acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war?" "Certainly not to my knowledge," Rumsfeld replied with a lie: "I have no knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it." As for his trips to Baghdad, Rumsfeld claimed he was only acting as a "private citizen," interested in combating terrorism in Lebanon. 78
During the post-Sept. 11 run up to war on Iraq, Rumsfeld's meetings in Baghdad and what they revealed about the U.S. role in arming Iraq with "weapons of mass destruction" received only passing coverage in the U.S. media and were never examined by Congress.
Tilts and Counter-Tilts
During Rumsfeld's Baghdad meetings, Aziz was especially happy that President Reagan affirmed "U.S. opposition to the continuation of the Iran-Iraq War." Aziz specifically asked Rumsfeld if Washington would work to end the war sooner rather than later. Rumsfeld replied that the U.S. "would work harder to stop the flow of arms to Iran."79 A year later, the U.S. did just the opposite. It began secretly shipping arms to Iran. And rather than end the war, these secret arms shipments, like previous U.S. actions, helped prolong it. Iraq may have aspired to a partnership with the U.S. to police the Gulf, but it ended up getting double-crossed.
In the mid-1980s, the U.S. still did not want either Iran or Iraq to score a decisive victory in the war. Yet it also had new concerns: the possibility of a Soviet-Iranian rapprochement after Ayatollah Khomeini's death (which would come in 1989).
In May 1985, Graham Fuller, the CIA'S National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia (with assistance from Teicher), prepared a special intelligence estimate that argued for a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran: "The U.S. faces a grim situation in developing a new policy toward Iran," Fuller wrote. "The Khomeini regime is faltering and may be moving toward a moment of truth; we will soon see a struggle for succession. The U.S. has almost no cards to play; the USSR has many." Fuller warned that whichever super- power first gained the trust of Iran's leadership was "in a strong position to work towards the exclusion of the other" and argued it was time to make some bold moves to regain the initiative:
It is imperative, however, that we perhaps think in terms of a bolder-and perhaps riskier policy which will at least ensure greater U.S. voice in the unfolding situation. Right now - unless we are very lucky indeed - we stand to gain nothing, and lose more, in the outcome of developments in Iran, which are all outside our control. 80
In a conclusion that laid bare the cold imperial calculus guiding U.S. actions, Fuller wrote: "Our tilt to Iraq was timely when Iraq was against the ropes and the Islamic revolution was on a roll. The time may now have to come to tilt back." 81
A sharp debate ensued within the Reagan administration over Fuller's memo, and how to maintain U.S. dominance and prevent Soviet advances in the complex and rapidly changing waters of the Persian Gulf. Some argued in favor of strengthening ties with Iraq, which they believed could "replace Iran as America's pillar in the Gulf." 82 The Soviet Union was then trying to bolster its long-time ally, and the pro-Iraq faction in Washington argued for expanding ties with Baghdad to "counter Soviet influence." 83
Others favored tilting toward Iran. It was the larger strategic prize in the region: four times the size of Iraq, with 1,000 miles of Persian Gulf coastline, and standing between the Soviet Union and the oil fields of the Middle East. Further, Iraq was not to be trusted- in all likelihood, the Hussein regime was playing the U.S. and Soviets off against each other to gain Western assistance, survive the war, and advance its own regional agenda. 84
Regardless of the intensity of the debate, the consensus under- girding it was more noteworthy. The key issue was how to maintain U.S. dominance in the region, not concern over the carnage of war, attacks on human rights, or spreading democracy-the principles Democratic and Republican administrations both routinely claim as their central motivations.
By 1985, the Iran faction gained the upper hand. A June 1985 draft National Security Directive spelled out the U.S. rulers' worst fears: "Soviet success in taking advantage of the emerging power struggle to insinuate itself in Iran would change the strategic balance in the area." 85
The White House and the CIA then came up with a nefarious and soon infamous plan to implement this shift: supplying Iran with arms and military intelligence in return for the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon. Washington felt this arms-for-hostages gambit might lead to a geopolitical coup in Tehran. Reagan's Deputy National Security Adviser at the time, Adm. John Poindexter, spelled out the administration's strategic thinking to one CIA official: "We have an opportunity here that we should not miss.. .if it doesn't work, all we've lost is a little intelligence and 1,000 TOW missiles. And if it does work, then maybe we change a lot of things in the Mideast." 86
Beginning in the fall of 1985, the U.S. began secretly shipping TOW anti-tank missiles, Hawk missile parts, and Hawk radars to Iran, first via Israel, and beginning in early 1986 directly to Tehran. One CIA official feared the arms shipments would give Iran "a definite offensive edge" and "could have cataclysmic results."87 In February 1986, Iran scored a major military victory by capturing the Fao Peninsula in southern Iraq.
When the U.S. arms-for-influence plot was exposed in November 1986, Iraqi officials were shocked that their would-be patron was secretly supplying their enemies, and blamed their February 1986 defeat at Fao, according to the New York Times, on "misleading intelligence reports provided by the United States."
First Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan told the New York Times, "A few months before the Iranian offensive we detected movements of Iranian troops, but the U.S. kept on telling us that the Iranian attack was not aimed against Fao." According to the New York Times, Baghdad concluded that "American arms sales to Iran and the provision of false intelligence information to Iraq were part of a deliberate policy to prolong the war and increase United States influence in the region." Ramadan said that the Iraqis were outraged by "the lack of morals on the part of the U.S," and called the Reagan administration's duplicity "a treachery and conspiracy that started from the very day" after Iraq and the U.S. restored diplomatic relations. 88
It turned out that manipulating intelligence was standard U.S. operating procedure during the Iran-Iraq War. The New York Times reported, "American intelligence agencies provided Iran and Iraq with deliberately distorted or inaccurate intelligence data in recent years to further the Reagan Administration's goals in the region." One method was altering satellite photos to make them "misleading or incomplete"-including by cropping images "to leave out impor- tant details." 89 In a memo to Poindexter, Oliver North called it "a mix of factual and bogus information." 90
U.S. double-dealing reached mind-numbing proportions. In August 1986, while U.S. arms shipments to Iran were in full swing, the U.S. also set up a direct top-secret intelligence link to give Baghdad near real-time battlefield intelligence, and Casey met with senior Iraqis to urge increased attacks against Iranian economic targets. In 1986, according to Teicher, "President Reagan sent a secret message to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran." 91
Then, two months later, in October 1986, Reagan National Security Council staffer Oliver North told Iranian officials that Reagan's position was that "Saddam Hussein is a (expletive]," that the U.S. sought peace in a way that made "very evident to everybody that the guy who is causing the problem is Saddam Hussein," and that Washington knew "that Saddam Hussein must go." North even offered a plan for toppling Hussein. 92
In reality, the U.S. was lying to both sides and had no intention of allowing either to win. As one New York Times headline put it in 1987, the U.S. goal was "Keeping Either Side from Winning the Persian Gulf War." 93 Victory could embolden the winner, destabilize the loser, upset the regional balance of power, and possibly create opportunities for Soviet intrigue. At the same time, the U.S. was also trying to strengthen its leverage in both Baghdad and Tehran.
The New York Times reported that the Reagan leadership hoped such covert double-dealing and intelligence manipulation "could bring about major geopolitical changes, such as an opening to Iran." At one point, for instance, the U.S. supplied Iran with intelligence which was "'doctored' to exaggerate the size of Soviet troop concen- trations on the Iran border." 94
So cooking and fabricating "intelligence" did not begin with the 2003 Iraq war; rather, it has become a well-honed weapon in the American arsenal of empire, which would also be deployed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, examined in the next chapter.
The more devastating the war, the more both sides might be forced to turn to the U.S. for help. For instance, Reagan's August 1986 message encouraging stepped-up Iraqi attacks may have been designed to prevent an Iranian victory; it may have been primarily intended to pressure Iran to come to terms with the U.S.; or it may have been an attempt to do both. 95
These U.S. maneuvers contributed mightily to the war's murderous toll. "Doling out tactical data to both sides put the agency in the position of engineering a stalemate," the Washington Post's Bob Woodward writes in Veil, his study of CIA covert operations in the 1980s. "This was no mere abstraction. The war was a bloody one... almost a million had been killed, wounded or captured on both sides. This was not a game in an operations center. It was slaughter." 96
One New York Times editorial succinctly summed up the U.S. establishment's overarching-and cold-blooded-approach in the Gulf:
In Henry Kissinger's apt phrase, the ultimate American interest in the war between Iran and Iraq is that both should lose. The underlying hope is that mutual exhaustion might rid the Middle East of the aggressive regimes of both Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein, yet leave their nations intact to avoid a superpower rush into any vacuum. 97
Tilting Back to Baghdad
The U.S. tilts during the Iran-Iraq War may have been deadly and duplicitous, but they did not put Washington in firm control of developments in the Gulf. The Soviet presence forced the U.S. to work through Iran and Iraq, which each had its own agenda. U.S. actions often had unintended consequences, and events sometimes careened in unexpected directions. During the 1980s, the U.S. veered from one crisis to another, shifting tactics to keep up with the changing tides of war and politics in the region.
On November 3, 1986, the Lebanese magazine Al-Shiraa exposed the Reagan arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. Its revelation doomed the U.S. gambit in Iran, sparked a furor in the region, triggered serious infighting over strategy within the U.S. power structure and helped turn the "Iran-Contra" affair, which included using the proceeds from weapons sales to Iran to illegally fund the counter-revolutionary Contras of Nicaragua, into a major scandal.
The collapse of the Iran initiative, the need to reassure stunned Gulf allies that the U.S. was indeed committed to their stability, and growing fears of an Iraqi defeat, forced the U.S. to tilt decisively back to Iraq. Other major players also felt it was time to end the war. France and the Soviet Union poured arms into Iraq, and in 1987 American forces directly intervened on Iraq's side by deploying 42 combat ships to the Gulf. This was ostensibly to protect Kuwaiti tankers, which had been re-registered as American ships, from Iranian attacks. The primary goal, however, was to pressure Iran to end the war. The Navy began engaging Iranian naval vessels and attacking Iranian facilities. And the U.S. again stepped up efforts to block arms shipments to Iran.
In early 1988, Iraq retook the Fao Peninsula with American intelligence and planning help. Then, on July 2, the U.S. administered the coup de grace. The warship Vincennes shot down an unarmed Iranian passenger jet-killing all 290 onboard. The U.S. claimed it was an accident, but the Iranian leadership apparently interpreted it as a signal to halt the war or face further American attacks.98 On July 18, just 16 days later, Iran accepted a UN cease- fire resolution. The cease-fire formally went into effect on August 20, 1988, a month short of eight years after the war had begun.
Gas Massacres in Kurdistan
In 2003, the heinous gassing of Iraq's Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War ranked high on the Bush, Jr. administration's list of charges against the Hussein regime. Yet when these attacks were actually taking place, the U.S. government was not only supporting the Hussein regime, it was directly complicit in the gas massacres themselves.
During the war, Iraq's Kurds took advantage of Baghdad's focus on Iran to take control of Kurdish areas near the Iranian and Turkish borders. When Iranian forces moved into sections of Iraqi Kurdistan,
as they sometimes did, they were often aided by Kurdish forces. By 1986, Baghdad held only the cities in Kurdistan, while Kurdish peshmergas controlled the surrounding countryside. In the midst of war, with the regime under great stress, the Kurdish insurgency forced Iraq to divert troops from the Iranian front and again posed a serious challenge to Baghdad. It responded viciously.
In 1983, Hussein put his cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid in charge of reasserting Ba'ath control, and he earned the sobriquet "Chemical Ali" for his murderous efforts. One of his first actions was rounding up some 8,000 males from the clan of Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani. They were never seen again. 99 Kurds claim that the Hussein regime first used chemical weapons against them a year later. Chemical attacks further escalated in the spring of 1987.
Beginning in February 1988, as the war was winding down and momentum had shifted back to Iraq, the Hussein regime unleashed its "Al-anfal" (spoils of war) campaign-a seven-month rampage of murder, destruction, and scorched-earth vengeance against Iraq's Kurds. Chemical attacks were stepped up, fields were destroyed, villages bulldozed, and survivors forcibly transferred to government resettlement camps outside of Kurdistan.
Charles Tripp, author of A History of Iraq, writes that by the time the campaign ended in August 1988, the Kurdish resistance had been crushed and "roughly 80 percent of all the villages had been destroyed, much of the agricultural land was declared 'prohibited territory' and possibly 60,000 people had lost their lives." 100
An estimated 3,800 Kurdish villages-the foundation of Kurdish life-were affected. In the 12 months from March 1987 until March 1988, Kurds were subjected to chemical attacks on 211 separate days. 101 When I traveled around Suleiymeniah in Iraqi Kurdistan in the summer of 1991, I saw piles of stone rubble where Kurdish villages had once stood-grim testimony to the ferocity of the regime's campaign.
The most notorious Iraqi attack took place on March 16, 1988 in the Kurdish town of Halabja. Iranian troops and Kurdish fighters had taken control of Halabja, some 15 miles from the border with Iran, and Iraq mounted a chemical weapons counter-attack to retake it. Some 5,000 Kurds were massacred in a few hours by a lethal combination that may have included mustard gas, cyanide, and the first recorded military use of nerve gas. People reportedly died where they had been standing, and bodies littered the streets. 102
Independent journalist and Democracy Now contributor Jeremy Scahill reports that in 1991 U.S. intelligence sources told the Los Angeles Times that they believed U.S.-built helicopters had been used to drop chemical bombs. 103
Washington's Silence and Complicity
In September 2003, Secretary of State Cohn Powell made a much-publicized trip to Halabja to visit the mass graves of those killed in the Hussein regime's gassing; he even lit candles in memory of the victims. Given Washington's complicity in creating those mass graves-and Powell's own as a Defense Department official in the Carter, Reagan and Bush I administrations-his posturing in Iraqi Kurdistan was yet another display of the shameless hypocrisy of those running the U.S. empire. 104
Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. supported attacks on Kurds throughout Greater Kurdistan, and steadfastly opposed recognizing their basic rights, let alone self-determination. This was done in service of overall U.S. objectives: preserving the "territorial integrity" and ruling governments of Iraq, Iran and Turkey and thus a regional balance of power that maintained U.S. dominance.
Iran's Kurdish population rose up with millions of other Iranians to overthrow the hated Shah in 1979, but when they demanded their national rights, the U.S. government publicly supported the Khomeini regime's efforts to crush them. This was brought home to me during trips to Iranian Kurdistan in 1979 and 1980, when, traveling with Iranian peshmergas, we were forced to drive with lights out in the dead of night to evade U.S. fighter jets, sold to the Shah and then utilized by the Khomeini regime, which streaked overhead strafing Kurdish positions along our route.
The picture was similar in Turkey. Its Kurdish population rose against the dictatorial Turkish regime in 1984, and the U.S. supported Ankara's brutal suppression campaign with increased U.S. aid, which included supplying 80 percent of Turkey's heavy weapons. 105
Former U.S. Marine and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter says that the U.S. assisted the Hussein regime in its chemical attacks on the Kurds: "Wafiq Samarai the former head of the Iraqi intelligence service responsible for Iran-I have met with him many times-and he has said that U.S. advisers were sitting there as Iraq planned the inclusion of chemical weapons in the Anfal offensive [of 1987~88]." 106
Throughout the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. maintained a "no-contacts" policy and refused to even meet with Iraqi Kurdish representatives. Washington's approach was spelled out in the recently declassified, National Security Directive 26 (NSD-26), signed by President George H. W. Bush in October 1989:
We should oppose Iraqi military activities against the civilian population and the destruction of hundreds of villages in Kurdistan. But bearing in mind the historical context, in no way should we associate ourselves with the 60-year-old Kurdish rebellion in Iraq or oppose Iraq's legitimate attempts to suppress it. 107
NSD-26 stated that Iraqi use of chemical or biological weapons or development of nuclear arms, would "lead to economic and political sanctions," but these provisions were not enforced because they conflicted with overall U.S. strategy.108 For instance, after the gassing at Halabja, Secretary of State Schultz condemned the attack as ''abhorrent and unjustifiable," and the Senate passed the "Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988," which would have imposed economic sanctions on Iraq (reflecting concerns of some strategists that the Hussein regime might not be a reliable client). The Reagan and Bush administrations, however, were still committed to turning Iraq into a strategic ally and blocked any action against Baghdad. U.S. officials argued that sanctions were "premature" because Washington needed "solid, businesslike relations" with Iraq. As one government memo stated, "there should be no radical policy change now regarding Iraq."109 No sanctions were imposed and the "Genocide Act" died in Congress.
Instead, U.S. aid and trade increased. Guaranteed U.S. agricultural exports to Iraq peaked in 1988 at $1.1 billion. By early 1990, Iraq had become America's third leading Middle East trade partner, after Saudi Arabia and Israel, purchasing $433.6 million worth of U.S. goods. The U.S., meanwhile, was importing 500,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day by 1988. 110
Covering Up the Carnage
Washington's machinations in the Iran-Iraq war never became the public scandal that the Iran-Contra affair did, and consequently the record of U.S. responsibility for the war's enormous carnage ha never been fully aired. Several Congressional investigations revealed details of the Reagan administration's support for Iraq, and in 1987 the report on Iran-Contra concluded, "The Administration. ..pledged that the United States would not arm either side, but would maintain a policy of strict neutrality, and would urge U.S. allies and friends to do the same. The Iran initiative broke both of these pledges and violated both of these policies." 111
A few high government officials were indicted for their roles in the Iran-Contra affair; none were ever indicted for helping to fuel an eight-year slaughter in the Persian Gulf.
(In 1990, Deputy National Security Adviser Poindexter was convicted in federal court of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and destruction of evidence for his role in the Iran-Contra affair. These convictions were later overturned and Poindexter received a complete pardon from President Bush, Sr. In 2002, Poindexter's government career was revived by Bush, Jr., who appointed him the head of the "Office of Total Information Awareness," later renamed the "Office of Terrorist Information Awareness," created under the Homeland Security Act of November 2002. Poindexter was forced to resign in August 2003 after it was revealed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which he headed, had created "FutureMAP"-Futures Markets Applied to Prediction-an online market for speculating on future international events, including assassinations, terror attacks, and coups.
Another Iran-Contra figure reemerged, even more briefly, on Bush II's watch. In August 2003, it was revealed that Pentagon officials had secretly met with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian arms merchant who had helped arrange the covert Iran-Contra arms devices, reportedly to discuss strategy toward Iran. 112)
There was a brief flap in Washington after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The issue then was not the catastrophic suffering inflicted on the peoples of Iran and Iraq and the U.S. share of responsibility for it, but whether the Reagan and Bush I administrations had helped arm Iraq, thus complicating U.S. planning for the coming "Desert Storm" assault.
The Bush, Sr. administration was mandated to investigate the charges, but its November 1990 report concluded that Europe was to blame and that U.S. "suppliers did not contribute directly to Iraq's conventional or nonconventional weapons capability." Texas Congressman Henry Gonzales, the only official to seriously investigate the U.S. role in supplying Iraq, called the Bush report "patently false... U.S. firms, at the urging of the Administration, played a considerable role in arming Iraq." 113
Government attempts to coverup Western complicity in arming Iraq in the 1980s continue to this day. Iraq's December 2002 report to the UN detailing its weapons programs included a list of some 150 foreign firms that had supplied it with technology, equipment, and materials for making missiles and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. U.S. officials excised this information from the report-removing 8,000 of the declaration's 11,800 pages-before it was made public or even passed to most members of the UN Security Council. The UN also refused to make this information public. 114
Andreas Zumach of the Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung did obtain an unexpurgated copy of Iraq's declaration. It listed 24 of America's most prominent corporations (as well as 80 German firms), which helped build Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" programs. The list reads like a who's who of American business: Honeywell, Spektra Physics, UNISYS, Sperry Corp., Tektronix, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, International Computer Systems, Bechtel, and EZ Logic Data Systems, Inc. Die Tageszeitung also reported that the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, Commerce, and Agriculture had also helped arm Iraq, and that Iraqi nuclear scientists had received assistance from U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia. 115
"A Great Moral Cause..."
In the summer of 2002, Bush II's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice argued that there "is a very powerful moral case for regime change" in Iraq. Bush repeated the morality theme in his September 2002 address to the UN: "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause and a great strategic goal." 116
One only need examine the history of deceit, manipulation and complicity in mass slaughter that comprises the record of U.S. actions during the Iran-Iraq war to get an inkling of the kind of "morality" that has guided Bush, Rice and the rest of the U.S. establishment for decades in the Persian Gulf.
Here's a recent email from Larry Everest.