Iraq–United States relations

Iraq–United States relations


The Baathist coups

The United States was instrumental in bringing the Baath Party to power in Iraq. In 1963, the United States backed a coup against the government of Iraq headed by General Abdul Karim Qassim, who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. [Reuters, April 20, 2003, citing former National Security Council official and State Department foreign service official Roger Morris, ] [New York Times, March 14, 2003, ] [ Asia Times, June 26, 2007, ] [ A People's History of Iraq: 1963-2005, by Bob Feldman, September 22, 2005, ] The Baathist used lists of people provided by the U.S. to carry out a bloodbath, systematically murdering untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite--killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. The victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures. [New York Times, March 14, 2003, ] ["The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq", Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978; Peter and Marion Sluglett, "Iraq Since 1958" London, I.B. Taurus, 1990]

Salam Arif, the leader of the new Baathist government, died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, not a Ba'athist, assumed the presidency. [ name=Morris2003>citation
journal=New York Times
date=March 14, 2003
title=A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making"
first1 = Roger |last=Morris

In 1967, the government of Iraq was very close to giving concessions for the development of huge new oil fields in the country to France and the USSR. Robert Anderson, former secretary of the treasury under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, secretly met with the Ba'ath Party and came to a negotiated agreement according to which both the oil field concessions and sulphur mined in the northern part of the country would go to United States companies if the Ba'ath again took over power. In 1968, the U.S. supported another coup which again successfully brought the Baathists to power. [ name=AburishRev>citation
journal=PBS Frontline
first1 = Said K. | last1 = Aburish
title="Saddam Hussein, The Politics of Revenge"
] General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Baath Party was installed as the new president.Morris2007] Morris2003] [Reuters, April 20, 2003, citing former National Security Council official and State Department foreign service official Roger Morris, ] [ A People's History of Iraq: 1963-2005, by Bob Feldman, September 22, 2005, ] CIA deputy for the Middle East Archibald Roosevelt (grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt and cousin of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.) stated, referring to Iraqi Ba'ath Party officers on his payroll in the 1963 and 1968 coups, "They're our boys bought and paid for, but you always gotta remember that these people can't be trusted"Morris2007] Saddam Hussein was appointed the number two man.AburishRev] Morris2007]

Even though Iraqi interest in American technical expertise was strong, prior to 1980 the government did not seem to be seriously interested in reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States. The Baath Party viewed the efforts by the United States to achieve "step-by-step" interim agreements between Israel and the Arab countries and the diplomatic process that led to the Camp David Accords as calculated attempts to perpetuate Arab disunity. Consequently, Iraq took a leading role in organizing Arab opposition to the diplomatic initiatives of the United States. After Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Iraq succeeded in getting members of the League of Arab States (Arab League) to vote unanimously for Egypt's expulsion from the organization.


U.S. support for the Iraqi attack on Iran

The U.S. has denied that it gave Iraq a "green light" for its September 22 1980 invasion of Iran. Five months before Iraq's invasion, on April 14 1980, U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski signaled the U.S.'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." According to Iran's president at the time, Abolhassan Banisadr, Brzezinski met directly with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before the Iraqi assault. Bani-Sadr wrote, "Brzezinski had assured Saddam Hussein that the United States would not oppose the separation of Khuzestan [in southwest Iran] from Iran." In a secret 1981 memo summing up a trip to the Middle East, then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig wrote:"It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Prince Fahd" of Jordan." [ZNet, September 5 2002, ]

The "Financial Times" reported that the U.S. passed satellite intelligence to the regime of Saddam Hussein via third countries, leading Iraq to believe Iranian forces would quickly collapse if attacked. [As reported on ZNet, September 5 2002, ] A detailed report in "Z Magazine" concludes that it is likely therefore that the U.S. helped push Saddam Hussein initially to attack Iran, causing the long and bloody war. [ZNet, September 5 2002, ]

Author Kenneth R. Timmerman and former Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr separately reported that Brzezinski met with Hussein in July 1980 in Amman, Jordan, to discuss joint efforts to oppose Iran. According to Hussein biographer Said Aburish however, at the Amman meeting Saddam Hussein met with three CIA agents, not Brzezinski personally. Former Carter official Gary Sick 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." [Pacific News Service, December 17 2003, ]

U.S. provides "dual use" chemical and biological weapons to Iraq

A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former U.S. policymakers shows that U.S. provided intelligence and logistical support, which played a crucial role in arming Iraq. Under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, the U.S. authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous dual use items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.

A report of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs conclcuded that the U.S. under the successive presidential administrations sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992. The chairman of the Senate committee, Don Riegle, said: "The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licences for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think its a devastating record."Sunday Herald (Scotland) September 8 2002, archived at] According to several former officials, the State and Commerce departments promoted trade in such items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage over Hussein. [Washington Post, December 30 2002, as archived at:]

Public diplomacy and covert support

The U.S. provided critical battle planning assistance at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the war, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the program. The U.S. carried out these covert program at a time when Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci and National Security Adviser General Colin L. Powell were publicly condemning Iraq for its use of poison gas, especially after Iraq attacked Kurdish villagers in Halabja in March 1988. U.S. officials publicly condemned Iraq's employment of mustard gas, sarin, VX and other poisonous agents, but sixty Defense Intelligence Agency officers were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq. It has long been known that the U.S. provided intelligence assistance, such as satellite photography, to Saddam's regime. Carlucci said: "My understanding is that what was provided" to Iraq "was general order of battle information, not operational intelligence." "I certainly have no knowledge of U.S. participation in preparing battle and strike packages," he said, "and doubt strongly that that occurred." "I did agree that Iraq should not lose the war, but I certainly had no foreknowledge of their use of chemical weapons." Secretary of State Powell, through a spokesman, said the officers' description of the program was "dead wrong," but declined to discuss it. His deputy, Richard L. Armitage, a senior defense official at the time, used an expletive relayed through a spokesman to indicate his denial that the United States acquiesced in the use of chemical weapons. [New York Times, August 18 2002,]

Concern about the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted Iraq to reexamine seriously the nature of its relationship with the United States. This process led to a gradual warming of relations between the two countries. In 1981 Iraq and the United States engaged in lowlevel, official talks on matters of mutual interest such as trade and regional security. In 1982, the United States extended credits to Iraq for the purchase of American agricultural commodities, the first time this had been done since 1967. More significant, in 1983 the Baathist government hosted a United States special Middle East envoy, the highest-ranking American official to visit Baghdad in more than sixteen years. In 1984, when the United States inaugurated "Operation Staunch" to halt shipment of arms to Iran by third countries, no similar embargo was attempted against Iraq because Saddam Husayn's government had expressed its desire to negotiate an end to the war. All of these initiatives prepared the ground for Iraq and the United States to reestablish diplomatic relations in November 1984.

In early 1988, Iraq's relations with the United States were generally cordial. The relationship had been strained at the end of 1986 when it was revealed that the United States had secretly sold arms to Iran during 1985 and 1986, and a crisis occurred in May 1987 when an Iraqi pilot bombed an American naval ship in the Persian Gulf, a ship he mistakenly thought to be involved in Iran-related commerce. Nevertheless, the two countries had weathered these problems by mid-1987. Although lingering suspicions about the United States remained, Iraq welcomed greater, even if indirect, American diplomatic and military pressure in trying to end the war with Iran. For the most part, the government of Saddam Husayn believed the United States supported its position that the war was being prolonged only because of Iranian intransigence.


The Gulf War terminated on April 11, 1991 with a cease-fire negotiated between the U.S. and its war allies and Iraq. [CNN Gulf War facts, ]

The U.S. engaged in a secret campaign to overthrow the government of Iraq. According to former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by "the New York Times", the CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq via one of the insurgent organizations, the Iraqi National Accord, led by Iyad Allawi. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein's rule.cite news
author=Joel Brinkley
title=Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks
publisher=New York Times

According to former CIA officer Robert Baer and according to the Iraqi government, the bombing campaign against Baghdad included both civillian and government targets. The civilian targets included a movie theater and a bombing of a schoolbus and schoolchildren were killed. The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many civilian casualties. In 1996, Amneh al-Khadami, who described himself as the chief bomb maker for the Iraqi National Accord, recorded a videotape in which he talked of the bombing campaign and complained that he was being shortchanged money and supplies. Two former intelligence officers confirmed the existence of the videotape, as reported in 1997 by the British newspaper The Independent, which had obtained a copy of the videotape. The campaign was directed by CIA asset Dr. Iyad Allawi, [The American Enterprise Institute, Short Publications,,filter.all/pub_detail.asp republishing The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 1997] who was later installed as interim prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.

In October 1998, regime change became official U.S. policy with enactment of the "Iraq Liberation Act."


Because of the primary roles taken by the United States and Britain in deposing Saddam Hussein and establishing interim governments to replace his regime, Iraq’s relationships with those countries, particularly the United States, are expected to remain paramount for the foreseeable future. Government and nongovernmental aid from the United States will continue as a crucial support in reconstruction. In 2006 formulation of more precise foreign policy priorities awaits the firm establishment of the permanent government. In the short term, Iraq’s relations with Western and Far Eastern economic powers are determined by debt forgiveness and reconstruction assistance, which have come from many quarters. Relations with the United States were strained in mid-2006 when Iraq criticized Israeli attacks on Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

ee also

*Saddam Hussein - United States relations
*Embassy of the United States in Baghdad
*Sanctions against Iraq
*Iraqi Americans
**List of Iraqi Americans
*United States Ambassador to Iraq
*Iraq–Israel relations
*Bombing of Iraq (June 1993)
*Bombing of Iraq (December 1998)
*Operation Desert Scorpion (Iraq 1998)


This article is based on the public domain Library of Congress [ country study] and [ country profile] .

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Iraq–United Kingdom relations — British Iraqi relations are foreign relations between Iraq and the United Kingdom. Sanctions against Iraq prevented any form of economic relations with the United Kingdom and any other country for thirteen years. History The history of British… …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom–United States relations — Anglo American relations are used to describe the relations of the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Country comparisonHistoryOriginsThe British established a dozen colonies in the New World.… …   Wikipedia

  • United States, Relations with —    Romanov Russia and the United States established relations in the 18th century. After a period of rivalry in North America, Russia opted to sell its colony of Alaska to Washington in 1867. During World War I (1914–1918), Russia and the U.S.… …   Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation

  • United States, Relations with —    American ties with Burma go back to before the First Anglo Burmese War. Adoniram Judson, a Baptist preacher, arrived in the country in 1815 and was followed by other American Baptist missionaries, who made many converts among the Karens… …   Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar)

  • Denmark–United States relations — United States Denmark relations Denmark …   Wikipedia

  • Colombia–United States relations — United States – Colombia relations Colombia …   Wikipedia

  • Israel–United States relations — have evolved from an initial United States policy of sympathy and support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in 1947 to an unusual partnership that links a small but militarily powerful Israel with the United States, with the U.S. superpower… …   Wikipedia

  • France–United States relations — Franco American relations refers to interstate relations between the French Republic and the United States of America. Its groundwork was laid by the colonization of parts of the Americas by the European powers France and Great Britain.Country… …   Wikipedia

  • Kazakhstan–United States relations — Kazakhstan–American relations Kazakhstan …   Wikipedia

  • Netherlands–United States relations — Netherlands – United States relations Netherlands …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”