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United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war

Saddam Hussein donated large sums to various institutions in his campaign to curry favour with the United States. In 1980, the Mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young made Saddam an honorary citizen of Detroit.[1][2]

United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War, against post-revolutionary Iran, included several billion dollars' worth of economic aid, the sale of dual-use technology, non-U.S. origin weaponry, military intelligence, Special Operations training, and direct involvement in warfare against Iran.[3][4]

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. On June 9, 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC's Nightline,that the "Reagan/Bush administrations permitted—and frequently encouraged—the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq."[5]


  • U.S. reaction to the conflict 1
  • Support 2
    • Military training 2.1
    • Foreign Materiel Acquisition and Bear Spares 2.2
    • Chemical and biological exports 2.3
    • Diplomatic support 2.4
  • Parties involved 3
    • Sarkis Soghanalian 3.1
    • Banca Nazionale del Lavoro 3.2
    • Index of American companies 3.3
  • Energy development and security 4
    • Aqaba pipeline project 4.1
    • Tanker War and U.S. military involvement 4.2
      • The USS Stark incident 4.2.1
      • The USS Vincennes incident 4.2.2
    • Longer term interests 4.3
  • Books 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

U.S. reaction to the conflict

The Iranian Shah meeting with President Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977.
Diplomatic relations with Iraq had been severed shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War. A decade later, following a series of major political developments, particularly after the Iranian Revolution and the seizure of embassy staff in the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis, President Jimmy Carter ordered a review of American policy toward Iraq.

According to Kenneth R. Timmerman, the "Islamic revolution in Iran upset the entire strategic equation in the region. America's principal ally in the Persian Gulf, the Shah, was swept aside overnight, and no one else on the horizon could replace him as the guarantor of U.S. interests in the region."[4]:74

During the crisis, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attempted to take advantage of the disorder of the Revolution, the weakness of the Iranian military and the revolution's antagonism with Western governments. The Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolt and with the Shah ousted, Hussein had ambitions to position himself as the new strong man of the Middle East. "He condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and signed an alliance with Saudi Arabia to block the Soviet-backed attempt to take over North Yemen. In 1979 he also allowed the CIA, which he had once so virulently attacked, to open an office in Baghdad."[6]:51 Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter, "began to look more favorably toward Saddam Hussein as a potential counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini and as a force to contain Soviet expansionism in the region."[4][7]:62

The hint of change in the U.S. attitude toward Iraq was warmly welcomed in Baghdad... Saddam Hussein believed that recognition by the United States of Iraq's role as a counter to radical, fundamentalist Iran would boost his ambition of becoming the acknowledged head of the Arab world. ... Saddam had an old score to settle with the Iranians over his southern border. He had never liked the agreement signed with the Shah in 1975. He felt confident he could regain the lost territory and probably topple the anti-American regime in Tehran by taking swift military action. He had no illusions that the United States would openly support the war he proposed to start. But getting rid of the Ayatollah Khomeini was clearly in the American interest, and in many other ways the United States and Iraq could benefit each other, Saddam believed. It was time to renew diplomatic relations with Washington and to move on quickly to more elaborate forms of strategic cooperation. p. 75

Biographer and Middle Eastern politician Said K. Aburish, author of Saddam Hussein: The Politics Of Revenge, says the Iraqi dictator made a visit to Amman in the year 1979, before the Iran–Iraq War, where he met with King Hussein and, very possibly, three agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Aburish says there is "considerable evidence that he discussed his plans to invade Iran with the CIA agents."[8][9]:52[10]:305 Timmerman records American officials meeting only with King Hussein on precisely this same date, noting that this "top-secret negotiating session was Brzezinski's idea." He quotes National Security Council staff member and former aide Gary G. Sick:

Brzezinski was letting Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light for his invasion of Iran, because there was no explicit red light. But to say the U.S. planned and plotted it all out in advance is simply not true. Saddam had his own reasons for invading Iran, and they were sufficient.[4]:76

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski's memoir, the United States initially took a largely neutral position on the Iran–Iraq War, with some minor exceptions. First, the U.S. acted in an attempt to prevent the confrontation from widening, largely in order to prevent additional disruption to world oil supplies and to honor U.S. security assurances to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the U.S. reacted to Soviet troop movements on the border of Iran by informing the Soviet Union that they would defend Iran in the event of Soviet invasion. The U.S. 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 par with Western Europe and the Far East as a fundamental shift in U.S. strategic policy.[11] 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. Third, as the war progressed, freedom of navigation, especially at the Strait of Hormuz, was deemed a critical priority.[11]


President George H. W. Bush work in the Oval Office of the White House, July 20, 1984.
Starting in 1982 with Iranian success on the battlefield, the United States made its backing of Iraq more pronounced, normalizing relations with the government, supplying it with economic aid, counter-insurgency training, operational intelligence on the battlefield, and weapons.[3][12]

President Ronald Reagan initiated a strategic opening to Iraq, signing National Security Study Directive (NSSD) 4-82 and selecting Donald Rumsfeld as his emissary to Hussein, whom he visited in December 1983 and March 1984.[13] According to U.S. ambassador Peter W. Galbraith, far from winning the conflict, "the Reagan administration was afraid Iraq might actually lose."[14]

In 1982, Iraq was removed from a list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to ease the transfer of dual-use technology to that country. According to investigative journalist 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."[3] "I was not consulted," Haig is said to have complained.

Howard Teicher served on the National Security Council as director of Political-Military Affairs. He accompanied Rumsfeld to Baghdad in 1983.[15] According to his 1995 affidavit and separate interviews with former Reagan and Bush administration officials, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly directed armaments and hi-tech components 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.[16]
Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddām on 19–20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984, the day the UN reported that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The NY Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the U.S., and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name."[13]
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 declined to discuss details of the affidavit with the Washington Post shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[17]

About two of every seven licenses for the export of "dual use" technology items approved between 1985 and 1990 by the U.S. 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. 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, aircraft navigation and radar equipment.[18]

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."[3]

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...[3]: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."[3]:38

Author Barry M. Lando says, by 1987, the U.S. military was so invested in the correct outcome, that "officers from the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency dispatched to Baghdad were actually planning day-by-day strategic bombing strikes for the Iraqi Air Force."[6][19] Iraq used this data to target Iranian positions with chemical weapons, says ambassador Galbraith.[14]

The MK-84: Saudi Arabia transferred to Iraq hundreds of U.S.-made general-purpose "dumb bombs".[3]
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."[20] Lang disclosed that more than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments. He cautioned that the DIA "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." The Reagan administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports affirming the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians.[21][22]

Joost R. Hiltermann says that when the Iraqi military turned its chemical weapons on the Kurds during the war, killing approximately 5,000 people in the town of Halabja and injuring thousands more, the Reagan administration actually sought to obscure Iraqi leadership culpability by suggesting, inaccurately, that the Iranians may have carried out the attack.[23]

Military training

Fort Bragg, home of Special Operations Forces.
Iraqi military personnel received various types of guidance from their American counterparts on U.S. soil. According to Roque Gonzalez, an ex-Special Forces officer with multilingual expertise, Saddam's elite troops received instruction in unconventional warfare at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "The idea was that, in the event of an Iranian victory, the Iraqi soldiers would be able to wage a guerrilla struggle against the occupying Iranian force", writes Barry Lando, former investigative producer with 60 Minutes.[6] Author Joseph J. Trento adds, "We were training thorough the Green Berets, we were [giving] counter insurgency training, because we were afraid that if Iran overwhelmed Saddam's army, that the units might have to go underground and operate underground, and so they received training in being able to operate as guerillas."[24]

Iraqi helicopter pilots, traveling on Jordanian passports, are reported to have received training in the United States.[6]

Foreign Materiel Acquisition and Bear Spares

With the UN-imposed embargo on warring parties, and with the Soviet Union opposing the conflict, Iraqi engineers found it increasingly difficult to repair and replace hardware damaged in battle.[25][26] According to Kenneth Timmerman, "Saddam did foresee one immediate consequence of his invasion of Iran: the suspension of arms supplies from the USSR."[4]

When he launched his attack, the Soviets were busy playing games in Iran. They were not amused that the Iraqis upset their plans. For generations the KGB had been working to penetrate Iran's Shiite clergy. In February 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini took power and threw the Americans out of Iran, the Soviets stood to gain more than they had ever believed possible. ... KGB boss Yuri Andropov [had] little difficulty in convincing Brezhnev and Kosygin to agree to an embargo on arms to Iraq... p. 83-84

The United States assisted Iraq through a military aid program known as "Bear Spares", whereby the U.S. military "made sure that spare parts and ammunition for Soviet or Soviet-style weaponry were available to countries which sought to reduce their dependence on the Soviets for defense needs."[16] According to Howard Teicher's court sworn declaration:

If the "Bear Spares" were manufactured outside the United States, then the U.S. could arrange for the provision of these weapons to a third country without direct involvement. Israel, for example, had a very large stockpile of Soviet weaponry and ammunition captured during its various wars. At the suggestion of the United States, the Israelis would transfer the spare parts and weapons to third countries... Similarly, Egypt manufactured weapons and spare parts from Soviet designs and provided these weapons and ammunition to the Iraqis and other countries.

Little today is known about this program as details remain scarce.

Chemical and biological exports

Iraq purchased 8 strains of anthrax from the United States in 1985, according to British biological weapons expert David Kelly.[27] The Iraqi military settled on the American Type Culture Collection strain 14578 as the exclusive strain for use as a biological weapon, according to Charles Duelfer.[28]
On February 9, 1994, Senator Riegle delivered a report -commonly known at the Riegle 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."[29]

The report then detailed 70 shipments (including [30]

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

U.N. 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 separate agents "with biological warfare significance," according to Riegle's investigators.[31]

Diplomatic support

In 1984, Iran introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council, citing the Geneva Protocol of 1925, condemning Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons on the battlefield. In response, the United States instructed its delegate at the UN to lobby friendly representatives in support of a motion to take "no decision" on the use of chemical munitions by Iraq. If backing to obstruct the resolution could be won, then the U.S. delegation were to proceed and vote in favour of taking zero action; if support were not forthcoming, the U.S. delegate were to refrain from voting altogether.

USDEL should work to develop general Western position in support of a motion to take "no decision" on Iranian draft resolution on use of chemical weapons by Iraq. If such a motion gets reasonable and broad support and sponsorship, USDEL should vote in favor. Failing Western support for "no decision," USDEL should abstain.[32]

Representatives of the United States argued that the UN Human Rights Commission was an "inappropriate forum" for consideration of such abuses. According to Joyce Battle, the Security Council eventually issued a "presidential statement" condemning the use of unconventional weapons "without naming Iraq as the offending party."[13]

Parties involved

According to Russ Baker, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, a "vast network" based in the U.S. and elsewhere, fed Iraq's warring capabilities right up until August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait.[33]

Sarkis Soghanalian

MD 500 Defender: Iraq acquired 60 multi-role military helicopters directly from the United States in 1983. Additional helicopter sales prompted congressional opposition, forcing the Reagan administration to explore alternative ways of assisting Saddam.[3]
Alan Friedman writes that Sarkis Soghanalian, one of the most notorious arms dealers during the Cold War, procured Eastern Bloc and French origin weaponry, and brokered vast deals with Iraq, with the tacit approval of the Central Intelligence Agency.[3]
The most prominent [arms merchant] was Sarkis Soghanalian, a Miami-based former CIA contractor who brokered tens of billions of dollars' worth of military hardware for Iraq during the 1980s, reporting many of his transactions to officials in Washington. [Soghanalian] was close to the Iraqi leadership and to intelligence officers and others in the Reagan administration. In many respects he was the living embodiment of plausible deniability, serving as a key conduit for CIA and other U.S. government operations. p. 36

In an interview with William Kistner, Soghanalian stated that he was "working closely with the U.S. government".[34] According to Timmerman, Soghanalian also helped the Iraqis obtain TOW anti-tank missiles, for which he was later prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice.[4]

Banca Nazionale del Lavoro

The "Iraqgate"scandal revealed that a branch of Italy's largest bank, FBI agents raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, 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.[35] The CIA had previously concealed this information from the Congress, according to senior analyst Melvin A. Goodman.[36]

According to the Financial Times, the companies involved in the scandal by shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill's Ohio branch.[33]

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."[33]

"One entire facility, a tungsten-carbide manufacturing plant that was part of the Al Atheer complex," Kenneth Timmerman informed the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, "was blown up by the IAEA in April 1992 because it lay at the heart of the Iraqi clandestine nuclear weapons program, PC-3. Equipment for this plant appears to have been supplied by the Latrobe, Pennsylvania manufacturer, Kennametal, and by a large number of other American companies, with financing provided by the Atlanta branch of the BNL bank."[37]

Aside from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and ABC's Ted Koppel, the Iraq-gate story never picked up much momentum, 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.[35]

By contrast, Alcolac International, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. Alcolac was successfully prosecuted for its violations of export control law.

Index of American companies

According to German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, which is reported to have reviewed an uncensored copy of Iraq's 11,000-page declaration to the U.N. Security Council in 2002, almost 150 foreign companies supported Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Twenty-four U.S. firms were involved in exporting materials to Baghdad.[38] An even longer list of American companies and their involvements in Iraq was provided by the LA Weekly in May 2003.[39]

Energy development and security

Aqaba pipeline project

The United States government supported the construction of new oil pipeline that would run westward from Iraq across land to the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, permitting access from the Red Sea. The Bechtel Corporation was the prime contractor for this project. Donald Rumsfeld discussed the advantages of the pipeline personally with Saddam Hussein in 1983. The Aqaba project never made it past the drawing board, however, because of its proximity to Israel, which planners insisted upon. So near to the border it would run, the Iraqi leadership feared the Israeli side could disable the pipeline at a later date, simply by "lobbing a few hand grenades" at it.[4]

Tanker War and U.S. military involvement

The Tanker War started when Iraq attacked Iranian tankers and the oil terminal at Kharg island in 1984. Iran struck back by attacking tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait and then any tanker of the Persian Gulf states supporting Iraq. Both nations 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. 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 Navy offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag on March 7, 1987. Operation Prime Chance was a United States Special Operations Command operation intended to protect U.S.-flagged oil tankers from Iranian attack. The operation took place roughly at the same time as Operation Earnest Will, the largely Navy effort to escort the tankers through the Persian Gulf.
Agusta-Bell 212 ASW: The Italian subsidiary of Bell Textron sold Iraq military helicopters fitted out for anti-submarine warfare. This deal needed, and duly received, government approval.[4]
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.

Special Operations Forces also assisted in this effort. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment operated AH-6 helicopters from a large barge anchored at sea. A second platform was manned by Special Forces from Fort Bragg, piloting OH-58Ds. "These things looked extremely sinister. They were all black and bristling with antennas and had a huge round sight module about two feet in diameter stuck on a mast above the rotor blades. ... The impression you got, just looking at one of these things on the ground, was of a giant insect staring at you before you die", a Special Forces officer is quoted as saying.[3]

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, killing 55 sailors in the process, and an American helicopter was shot down, killing the two pilots.[40]

A number of researchers and former military personnel contend that the United States carried out Black operations against Iranian military targets during the war. Lt. Col. Roger Charles, who worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, says the Navy used specially equipped Mark III patrol boats during the night, with the intent of luring Iranian gunboats away from territorial waters, where they could be fired upon and destroyed. "They took off at night and rigged up false running lights so that from a distance it would appear there was a merchant ship, which the Iranians would want to inspect."[3] Barry Lando writes, "The Americans often claimed they attacked the Iranian ships only after the Iranians first menaced neutral ships plying the Gulf. In some cases, however, the neutral ships which the Americans claimed to be defending didn't even exist."

Information collected from Operation Eager Glacier, a top-secret intelligence-gathering program, was also used to bomb manufacturing plants inside Iran by the CIA.[3]

The USS Stark incident

An Iraqi jet fighter mistakenly attacked the USS Stark in May 1987, killing 37 servicemen and injuring 21.[41] But attention in Washington was on isolating Iran; accepting Saddam's apology for the error, the White House 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.[40]

Professor Noam Chomsky says the only country to have been granted the "privilege" of attacking a U.S. warship and getting away with it, other than Israel in 1967, is Saddam Hussein's Iraq.[42]

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 civilian passengers and crew on July 3, 1988. The American government said 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 maintain that the Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters and that the passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. U.S. Admiral William J. Crowe later acknowledged on ABC's Nightline that the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles.[5]

This event, and the ease with which the United States government accepted the killing of its own servicemen, may have helped convince Iran to agree to a ceasefire. The United States has never formally apologized for the attack in which 290 civilians died.

Longer term interests

In October 1989, President Bush signed NSD 26, which begins, "Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to U.S. national security." With respect to Iraq, the directive stated, "Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer term interests and promote stability in both the Persian Gulf and the Middle East."[44]

On August 2, 1990, at 2:00 am, local time, Iraq launched an invasion of oil-rich Kuwait. America's expedient ally had, overnight, become its most bitter enemy.


  • Kenneth R. Timmerman, The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
  • Alan Friedman, Spider's Web: The Secret History of how the White House Illegally Armed Iraq. New York, Bantam Books, 1993.
  • Bruce Jentleson, With friends like these: Reagan, Bush, and Saddam, 1982-1990. New York, W. W. Norton, 1994.
  • Mark Phythian, Arming Iraq: How the U.S. and Britain Secretly Built Saddam's War Machine. Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1997.
  • Barry Lando, Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush. Other Press, 2007.
  • Bryan R. Gibson, "Covert Relationship: American Foreign Policy, Intelligence, and the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88". Praeger, 2010.

See also


  1. ^ Saddam Once Received Key to Detroit, Associated Press. March 26, 2003.
  2. ^ Saddam Reportedly Given Key To Detroit,, March 26, 2003.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Friedman, Alan. Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq, Bantam Books, 1993.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Timmerman, Kenneth R. The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
  5. ^ a b Koppel, Ted. The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War, ABC Nightline. July 1, 1992.
  6. ^ a b c d Lando, Barry Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, Other Press, 2007.
  7. ^ "Brzezinski maintained that with the right combination of blandishments, Iraq could be weaned away from Moscow. Encouraged by the suppression of the Iraqi Communist party, and perhaps believing that Iraq could, like Egypt after the October 1973 War, also be convinced to turn toward Washington, Brzezinski concluded that Iraq was poised to succeed Iran as the principle pillar of stability in the Persian Gulf. Although this notion remained very discreet for nearly a year, by the spring of 1980 Brzezinski and others in government and the media began to suggest publicly that Iraq was the logical successor to Iran as the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf. ... Indeed, in April, Brzezinski stated on national television that he saw no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq." Teicher, Howard. Twin Pillars To Desert Storm, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1993.
  8. ^ Aburish, Said K. The survival of Saddam, PBS Frontline. January 25, 2000.
  9. ^ "As it became increasingly clear that the dispute between Saddam and Khomeini could lead to war, Saddam also began looking for allies among his neighbors. ... The most important of these meetings was with Saudi Prince Fahd. As if contracting a mafia hit team, Fahd promised Saddam billions of dollars of support for any move to eliminate Khomeini. The United States followed all this with obvious approval. ... [T]he U.S. made certain that Saddam Hussein understood that an attack on Khomeini would be welcomed by Washington and supported by its allies in the Gulf. Indeed, when Iraqi forces swept into Iran on September 22, 1980, there were no indignant speeches from Western leaders or calls for a U.S. embargo, as there were when Saddam invaded Kuwait ten years later." Lando, Barry M. Web Of Deceit, Other Press, 2007.
  10. ^ Additional information comes from a declassified "talking points" memo prepared by President Ronald Reagan's first Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, who in 1981 had just visited Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Summing up the trip, which he found productive, Haig wrote: "Both Sadat and Fahd provided other bits of useful intelligence (e.g. Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel). It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd." See Blight, James. Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979–1988, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. May 3, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Power and Principle, Memoirs of the National Security Advisor 1977-1981, Farrar Straus Giroux. 1983.
  12. ^ Woodward, Bob. "CIA Aiding Iraq in Gulf War; Target Data From U.S. Satellites Supplied for Nearly 2 Years", Washington Post. Dec 15, 1986.
  13. ^ a b c Battle, Joyce. Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1983 , National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82. George Washington University National Security Archive, February 25, 2003.
  14. ^ a b Galbraith, Peter W. "The true Iraq appeasers, The Boston Globe. August 31, 2006.
  15. ^ Teicher, Howard. Twin Pillars To Desert Storm: America's Flawed Vision in the Middle East from Nixon to Bush, William Morrow, NY, 1993.
  16. ^ a b Statement by former NSC official Howard Teicher to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Plain text version
  17. ^ Dobbs, Michael. U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup Washington Post. December 30, 2002.
  18. ^ Smith, R. Jeffrey. Dozens of U.S. Items Used in Iraq Arms, Washington Post. July 22, 1992.
  19. ^ Lando, Barry M. A Secret War Against Iran? We've Done It Once-Why Not Again?, Huffington Post. February 27, 2007.
  20. ^ Tyler, Patrick E. Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas New York Times August 18, 2002.
  21. ^ Pear, Robert. U.S. Says It Monitored Iraqi Messages on Gas, New York Times. September 15, 1988.
  22. ^ Chadwick, Alex & Shuster, Mike. U.S. Links to Saddam During Iran–Iraq War National Public Radio. September 22, 2005.
  23. ^ Hiltermann, Joost R. Halabja: America didn't seem to mind poison gas, International Herald tribune. January 17, 2003.
  24. ^ Lando, Barry M. & Despratx, Michel. Saddam Hussein: The Trial The World Will Never See, Canal + 90 Minutes. 2004.
  25. ^ "The Iraqis used mostly Soviet-made equipment, and because the Russians were honoring the arms embargo, the Iraqis were about to run out of ammunition." Martin, Terrence L. & Reid, Rob. "Merchants of Death", Discovery Channel Productions. July 12, 1999.
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  31. ^ Drury, Tom. How Iraq built its weapons programs, with a little help from its friends, St. Petersburg Times. March 16, 2003.
  32. ^ Department of State Cable from George P. Shultz to the Mission to the European Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations. "UN Human Rights Commission: Item 12: Iranian Resolution on Use of Chemical Weapons by Iraq," March 14, 1984.
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  36. ^ Goodman, Melvin A. "The CIA's History of Deception",, May 23, 2009.
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  38. ^ Paterson, Tony. Leaked Report Says German and US Firms Supplied Arms to Saddam The Independent. December 18, 2002.
  39. ^ Crogan, Joe. Made in the USA, Part III: The Dishonor Roll, LA Weekly. May 01, 2003.
  40. ^ a b Peniston, Bradley. No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, Naval Institute Press. 2006.
  41. ^ Martins, Mark S. (Winter 1994). "Rules of Engagement for Land Forces: A Matter of Training, Not Lawyering". Military Law Review 143: 43–46. 
  42. ^ Noam Chomsky interviewed by Michael Albert Will the US Invade Iraq?, Daily Times. October 9, 2002.
  43. ^ Kingsbury, Alex (19 February 2009). "Charles Duelfer recounts his searches for Iraqi WMD".  
  44. ^ "National Security Directive 26". The White House. 1989-10-02. Retrieved 2006-10-12. 
  45. ^ Timmerman, Kenneth R. Fanning the Flames: Guns, Greed & Geopolitics in the Gulf War, The Iran Brief, 1986-1988.

External links

  • Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984 National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82
  • U.S. Diplomatic and Commercial Relationships with Iraq, 1980 - 2 August 1990 Timeline
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