America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran, CIA...
Today is the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare which is an annual event held on April 29 as a "tribute to the victims of chemical warfare, as well as to reaffirm the commitment of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the elimination of the threat of chemical weapons, thereby promoting the goals of peace, security, and multilateralism."
On the occasion of this day, we looked at Iran-Iraq war situation reported by CIA:
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture. "The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew," he told Foreign Policy.
According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. The CIA declined to comment for this story.
The CIA documents reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks.
Officials were also warned that Iran might launch retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East, if it believed the United States was complicit in Iraq’s chemical warfare campaign.
"As Iraqi attacks continue and intensify the chances increase that Iranian forces will acquire a shell containing mustard agent with Iraqi markings," the CIA reported in a top secret document in November 1983. "Tehran would take such evidence to the U.N. and charge U.S. complicity in violating international law."
The declassified CIA documents show that top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. "If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border," the CIA said in a top secret document.
The CIA noted in one document that the use of nerve agent "could have a significant impact on Iran’s human wave tactics, forcing Iran to give up that strategy." In March 1984, the CIA reported that Iraq had "begun using nerve agents on the Al Basrah front and likely will be able to employ it in militarily significant quantities by late this fall."
The use of chemical weapons in war is banned under the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which states that parties "will exert every effort to induce other States to accede to the" agreement. Iraq never ratified the protocol; the United States did in 1975.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the production and use of such arms, wasn’t passed until 1997, years after the incidents in question.
The initial wave of Iraqi attacks, in 1983, used mustard agent. While generally not fatal, mustard causes severe blistering of the skin and mucus membranes, which can lead to potentially fatal infections, and can cause blindness and upper respiratory disease, while increasing the risk of cancer. The United States wasn’t yet providing battlefield intelligence to Iraq when mustard was used. But it also did nothing to assist Iran in its attempts to bring proof of illegal Iraqi chemical attacks to light. Nor did the administration inform the United Nations.
Hard evidence of the Iraqi chemical attacks came to light in 1984. But that did little to deter Hussein from using the lethal agents, including in strikes against his own people.
In 1987. CIA reconnaissance satellites picked up clear indications that the Iranians were concentrating large numbers of troops and equipment east of the city of Basrah, as they had discovered a gaping hole in the Iraqi lines southeast of Basrah. In late 1987 the DIA analysts wrote a Top Secret Codeword report partially entitled "At The Gates of Basrah," The report warned that if Basrah fell, the Iraqi military would collapse and Iran would win the war.
Subsequently, a decision was made at the top level of the U.S. government. The DIA was authorized to give the Iraqi intelligence services as much detailed information as was available about the deployments and movements of all Iranian combat units.
The sarin attacks then followed.
CIA analysts could not precisely determine the Iranian casualty figures because they lacked access to Iranian officials and documents. But the agency gauged the number of dead as somewhere between "hundreds" and "thousands" in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive. According to Francona, Washington was very pleased with the result because the Iranians never got a chance to launch their offensive.
For a quarter-century, no chemical attack came close to the scale of Saddam’s unconventional assaults.
On April 29th in 1997 the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force. This is an arms control treaty that outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. Any chemical used for warfare is considered a chemical weapon by the Convention. The parties' main obligation under the convention is to effect this prohibition, as well as the destruction of all current chemical weapons.
Although the majority of the world has either given up or destroyed their stockpiles of chemical weapons as of 2013, several nations have yet to do so. Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, South Sudan, and Syria have not ratified the Convention and are suspected to possess chemical weapons.
We do believe “for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons.”
Quoted and edited: Negar Paidar