Last updated on: 6/2/2008 12:23:00 PM PST
To what extent was the US involved with the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, stated in a Nov. 14, 2002 interview with CBS Radio:

"Our friends in the Gulf region were concerned about the possibility that Iran could win, and were deeply concerned that it could upset, and create instability in the entire region. So I was asked to go over there and I met with Tariq Aziz and with Saddam Hussein, and talked to him about our interests.

And the fact that -- it was one of the few countries from the Middle East war that we had not re-established relationships with. So I was, I guess, the first senior American to go in there in some time. And we had a good discussion. He [Saddam] recognized his situation, and was interested in getting some assistance, so that he had better information.

And it's my understanding that subsequent to my visit, the United States government did, in fact, provide some intelligence assistance to him, so that he -- the war ended up kind of at a standstill, or a stalemate, rather than either country being defeated."


Nov. 14, 2002 - Donald Rumsfeld 

Colin Powell, MBA, US Secretary of State, on Sep. 8, 2002 stated in an interview on FOX News Sunday:

"And we saw during the Iran-Iraq War that he was quite willing to use chemical weapons against Iran. Now, we weren't party to that one."

Sep. 8, 2002 - Colin Powell, MBA 

Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD, Olin Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, stated in his 2002 book The Threatening Storm:

"The first signal of what would become a U.S. 'tilt' in favor of Iraq came in February 1982, when the Reagan administration removed Iraq from its list of terrorism-supporting states (where it had been a charter member)...

Nevertheless, taking Iraq off the terrorism list -- no matter how cynical the reasoning -- removed a number of hurdles that would have hindered U.S. support for Iraq. Soon thereafter, Washington began passing high-value military intelligence to Iraq to help it fight the war, including information from U.S. satellites that helped Iraq fix key flaws in the fortifications protecting al-Basrah that proved important in Iran's defeat the next month.

U.S. support for Iraq blossomed throughout the war. Starting in 1983, the United States provided economic aid to Iraq in the form of Commodities Credit Corporation guarantees to purchase U.S. agricultural products - $400 million in 1983, $513 million in 1984, and climbing to $652 million in 1987. This allowed Iraq to use the money it otherwise would have spent on food to buy weapons and other military supplies.

Saddam saw his suspicions confirmed with the 1986 revelation that the Reagan administration had secretly been selling weapons to Iran in what later came to be known as the Iran-contra scandal. The United States had sold Iran weapons via Israel, including thousands of sophisticated tube-launched optical-tracking wire-guided (TOW) antitank missiles and Homing-All-The-Way-Killer (HAWK) surface-to-air missiles, in a bid to get Iran to release American hostages held by Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah."


2002 - Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD 

Howard Teicher, MA, former staff member of Ronald Reagan's National Security Council, was quoted from a previously sealed Jan. 31, 1995 affidavit released on NBC News:

"CIA Director [William] Casey personally spearheaded the effort to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war.

Pursuant to a secret National Security Decisions Directive, the United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying 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."


Jan. 31, 1995 - Howard J. Teicher, MA 

Ronald Reagan, former US President, stated in an Apr. 5, 1984 National Security Decision Directive 139:

"In light of recent developments in the Iran-Iraq War and the threat which an escalation of that conflict or a terrorist campaign could pose for the vital interests of the U.S. and its Allies, measures must be taken now to improve our immediate ability to deter an expansion of the conflict in the Persian Gulf and, if necessary, defend U.S. interests.

The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, will prepare a plan of action designed to avert an Iraqi collapse."

Apr. 5, 1984 - Ronald W. Reagan 

Agence France Presse, reported the following in a June 9, 2004 article titled "Reagan Played Decisive Role in Saddam Hussein's Survival in Iran-Iraq War":

"Washington had plenty of motives to help Saddam stave off an Iranian victory. Not only was the United States still smarting from the 1980 hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran, but its embassy and a marine barracks in Beirut had been struck with truck bombings earlier in 1983.

On February 1982, the State Department dropped Baghdad from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing the way for aid and trade.

Economic aid poured into Iraq in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loan guarantees to buy U.S. agricultural products, indirectly aiding the war effort.

Sales of UH-1H helicopters and Hughes MD-500 Defender helicopters were approved by Washington. Though sold as civilian aircraft, nobody objected when they were quickly converted for military use."


June 9, 2004 - Agence France-Presse (AFP) 

The Washington Post, on Dec. 30, 2002, reported the following:

"At the same time the Reagan administration was facilitating the supply of weapons and military components to Baghdad, it was attempting to cut off supplies to Iran under 'Operation Staunch.' Those efforts were largely successful, despite the glaring anomaly of the 1986 Iran-contra scandal when the White House publicly admitted trading arms for hostages [with Iran]."

Dec. 30, 2002 - Washington Post 

Newsday Magazine reported in a Dec. 13, 2002 article:

"The U.S.-Iraqi relationship flourished from February 1986, when then Vice President George Bush met with Iraq's ambassador to Washington, Nizar Hamdoon, and assured him that Baghdad would be permitted to receive more sophisticated U.S. technology.

U.S. military and financial assistance to Iraq continued until Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August, 1990...

Over [the] four-year period [1986-1990], the Reagan and Bush administrations approved licenses for the export of more than $600 million worth of advanced U.S. technology to Iraq, according to congressional reports."


Dec. 13, 2002 - Newsday Magazine 

Richard Sale, a journalist, stated in an Apr. 4, 2003 article titled "Exclusive: Saddam Key in early CIA Plot" published by United Press International (UPI):

"The CIA/Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) relation with Saddam intensified after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in September of 1980. During the war, the CIA regularly sent a team to Saddam to deliver battlefield intelligence obtained from Saudi AWACs surveillance aircraft to aid the effectiveness of Iraq's armed forces, according to a former DIA official, part of a U.S. interagency group.

According to [Middle East expert and author] Darwish, the CIA and DIA provided military assistance to Saddam's ferocious February 1988 assault on Iranian positions in the al-Fao peninsula by blinding Iranian radars for three days."

April 4, 2003 Richard Sale


Michael Dobbs, a journalist, stated the following in a Washington Post article titled "U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup" on Dec. 30, 2002:

"A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defences against 'human wave' attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.

To prevent an Iraqi collapse, the Reagan administration supplied battlefield intelligence on Iranian troop buildups to the Iraqis, sometimes through third parties such as Saudi Arabia. The U.S. tilt toward Iraq was enshrined in National Security Decision Directive 114 of Nov. 26, 1983, one of the few important Reagan era foreign policy decisions that still remains classified. According to former U.S. officials, the directive stated that the United States would do 'whatever was necessary and legal' to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran.

Although U.S. export controls to Iraq were tightened up in the late 1980's, there were still many loopholes. In December 1988, Dow Chemical sold $1.5 million of pesticides to Iraq, despite U.S. government concerns that they could be used as chemical warfare agents. An Export-Import Bank official reported in a memorandum that he could find 'no reason' to stop the sale, despite evidence that the pesticides were 'highly toxic' to humans and would cause death 'from asphyxiation.'"

Dec. 30, 2002 - Michael Dobbs 

Kurt Nimmo, a journalist, stated in a Sep. 19, 2002 article "Bush Senior: Hating Saddam, Selling Him Weapons," published by Counter-Punch:

"In 1982, Reagan 'legalized' direct military assistance to Iraq. This resulted in more than a billion dollars in military related exports. According to [author] Kenneth R. Timmerman the U.S. government under Reagan and Bush sold Iraq 60 Hughes MD 500 Defender helicopters, eight Bell Textron AB 212 military helicopters equipped for anti-submarine warfare, 48 Bell Textron 214 ST utility helicopters (sold for 'recreational' purposes), and U.S. military infra-red sensors and thermal imaging scanners (sold illegally to Iraq through a Dutch company).

After the Gulf War, the International Atomic Energy Agency found the following U.S. equipment in Iraq: spectrometers, oscilloscopes, neutron initiators, high-speed switches for nuclear detonation, and other tools used to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons."

Sep. 19, 2002 Kurt Nimmo


Stephen R. Shalom, a journalist, stated in his article "The United States and the Gulf War," published in the Feb. 1990 issue of Z Magazine:

In March, 1981, the Iraqi Communist Party, repressed by Saddam Hussein, beamed broadcasts from the Soviet Union calling for an end to the war and the withdrawal of Iraqi troops. That same month U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he saw the possibility of improved ties with Baghdad and approvingly noted that Iraq was concerned by 'the behavior of Soviet imperialism in the Middle Eastern area.'

The U.S. then approved the sale to Iraq of five Boeing jetliners, and sent a deputy assistant secretary of state to Baghdad for talks. The U.S. then removed Iraq from its notoriously selective list of nations supporting international terrorism (despite the fact that terrorist Abu Nidal was based in the country), and Washington extended a $400 million credit guarantee for U.S. exports to Iraq.

In November 1984, the U.S. and Iraq restored diplomatic relations, which had been ruptured in 1967.

Starting in 1982 the CIA provided $100,000 a month to a group in Paris called the Front for the Liberation of Iran, headed by Ali Amini, who had presided over the reversion of Iranian oil to foreign control after the CIA-backed coup in 1953. The U.S. also provided support to two Iranian paramilitary groups based in Turkey, one of them headed by General Bahram Aryana, the Shah's army chief, who had close ties to Shahpur Bakhtier, the Shah's last prime minister.

In 1986, the CIA pirated Iran's national television network frequency to transmit an eleven minute address by the Shah's son over Iranian TV. 'I will return,' Reza Pahlavi vowed.

The main tool by which U.S. policy makers sought to secure their position in Iran in 1985 and 1986 was secretly providing arms and intelligence information. As a proclaimed neutral in the Iran-Iraq war, the United States was not supposed to supply weapons to either side. Nevertheless, U.S. allies kept the combatants well-stocked.

In 1984, because of Iranian battlefield victories and the growing U.S.-Iraqi ties, Washington lauched 'Operation Staunch,' an effort to dry up Iran's sources of arms by pressuring U.S. allies to stop supplying Teheran. U.S. secret arms sales to Iran in 1985 and 1986 thus not only violated U.S. neutrality, but undercut as well what the U.S. was trying to get everyone else to do.

At the same time that the U.S. was giving Teheran weapons that one CIA analyst believe could affect the military balance, and passing on intelligence that the Tower Commission deemed of 'potentially major significance,' it was also providing Iraq with intelligence information, some misleading or incomplete.

In 1986, the CIA established a direct Washington-to-Baghdad link to provide the Iraqis with faster intelligence from U.S. satellites. Simultaneously, [CIA Director William J.] Casey was urging Iraqi officials to carry out more attacks on Iran, especially on economic targets. Asked what the logic was of aiding both sides in a bloody war, a former official replied, 'You had to have been there.'

Washington's effort to enhance its position with both sides came apart at the end of 1986 when one faction in the Iranian government leaked a story of the U.S. arms dealing.

To salvage the U.S. position with at least one side, Washington now had to tilt -- and tilt heavily -- toward Iraq."

Feb. 1990 Stephen R. Shalom


Salaam (Morning Daily) stated the following in an article on July 18, 1995:

"American foreign policy in the Persian Gulf war dates back to 1983 and 1984, when Iran, by conquering Khorramshahr and taking the war to international frontiers and within Iraqi territories, disturbed the previous situation of the war fronts and proved that the Americans and the Iraqis were wrong about Iran's military defeat.

Under those conditions the U.S. raised the level of its diplomatic relations with Iraq, sent its ambassaor there, put its covert help at disposal of Iraq and encouraged its regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to follow suit.

Iran in 1988 openly accused the U.S. of helping Iraqi forces in their heavy air attacks in the Persian Gulf. For instance, in one case Iran claimed that the Iraqi aerial attack of May 14, 1988 against several oil tankers near Larak oil terminal was carried out with full cooperation of the U.S. forces of the region. It was said that in such operations the U.S. showed its hostility against Iran in a more practical way by causing disturbance in the electronic network of Iranian navy and preparing a safe flight corridor for Iraqi bombers flying over American warships.

In autumn of 1987 and spring of 1988 they [Americans], in a totally agressive and pre-planned act, attacked several oil platforms of Iran and sank some Iranian gunboats.

Attacks launched by four U.S. ships against Resalat and Reshadat platforms in the Persian Gulf and sinking of Jowshan and Sabalan ships clearly showed the nature of such open attacks."

July 18, 1995 Salaam