On September 22, 1980, the Iraqi Army invaded Iran. Iraqi military aircrafts bombed Iran’s major airports. In days, Iraqi soldiers had occupied and conquered many major Iranian cities. Iraq targeted oil tankers, oil platforms, and Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf with weaponry supplied by France, the same country who had funded Khomeini’s flight back to Tehran a year or so before. Iran’s oil exports were effectively shut down.
Said K. Arburish, biographer and author of Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, said Hussein met with CIA agents in Amman approximately one year before the invasion. Kenneth R. Timmerman, a political journalist and executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, backed up the claim, proposed the sessions were Brzezinski’s idea.
Timmerman quoted National Security Council member Gary Sick as saying “Brzezinski was letting Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light for his invasion of Iran.”
Beside US ‘encouragement, there are now allegations that key members of Iran’s opposition, consisting of former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, former senior Iranian military officers, and Prince Reza Pahlavi also held meetings with Iraqi officials. They provided intelligence and guidance for the Iranian invasion. One of Reza Pahlavi’s aids (Shahbazi) later alleged his involvement in identifying integral Iranian military targets. Bakhtiar’s associates have also confirmed that he had travelled to Baghdad many times prior to the invasion.
It is also now established that in August of 1980, Saddam Hussein met with Saudi princes who encouraged the war for their own reasons.
Suddenly, Iraq and its army perceived an opportunity and had also become a tool for enemies of the regime in Iran.
Hussein quickly planned the invasion of Iran. He hoped to seize a substantial portion of Iranian territory early on, which would destabilize the Islamic Republic and allow him to overthrow Khomeini’s regime.
Iran, for all intents and purposes, was defenseless against Hussein’s forces. With the Iranian government against the wall, Reagan’s staff and Iranian officials held a final, secret meeting in Paris during the month of October in 1980. This meeting was led by America’s Vice President Elect George Bush and William Casey (later Reagan’s Director of CIA) and Iran’s Speaker of the Majlis Mehdi Karroubi.
Bush and Casey delivered $40 million to the Iranians. This, along with $5 billion in illegal arms deals and an agreement not to interfere with the Islamic Republic, was a bribe offered in exchange for the 52 American hostages held in Tehran to not be released until after the 1980 election. This would guarantee Carter’s defeat and Reagan’s victory.
The agreement not to challenge the new Iranian regime allowed the Islamic Republic to take full control of Iran.
On January 20, 1981, the very day of President Reagan’s inauguration, America released nearly $8 billion in Iranian assets. Iran finally freed the hostages more than a whole year after their initial capture.
Israel agreed to ship American weaponry to Iran. The Washington Post claimed Haig authorized the shipment, and that it was worth between $10 million and $15 million. Other reports said the weapons were worth up to $246 million.
Haig denied his involvement, but said, “I have a sneaking suspicion that someone in the White House winked.”
An aircraft carrying American weaponry from Israel to Iran crashed in Turkey in July of 1981. Banisadr said it was the third arms shipment from Israel during Reagan’s presidency. Israeli Housing Minister and former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said the American government sanctioned all Israeli arms shipments to Iran during the war. The Israeli ambassador to America, Moshe Arens, said Israel’s arms shipments were supported by the government at “almost the highest of levels.”
The arms shipments ceased on October 28, 1988. Over 2,000 American missiles and parts had been shipped to Iran by that point.
America sustained the war beyond simply supplying Iran. Haig told the Senate’s foreign relations committee he anticipated better relations with Iraq. The government removed Iraq from the American government’s list of terrorist countries and gave a $400 million credit guarantee for American exports to Iraq. By 1984, America and Iraq held full diplomatic relations for the first time since 1967.
The process continued until the end of the war as Iraqi and Iranian forces alike died in the line of fire. Waves of soldiers and civilians fell to bombs and chemical agents, a tragedy beyond the comprehension of the beltway strategists who sat in their comfortable homes and planned the deaths of thousands. America, an advocator of world peace, supplied both countries and sustained the war for their own gain.
America, the United Kingdom, and Germany provided technology to Iraq which allowed them to expand their missile program and radar defenses. According to a leaked, uncensored copy of Iraq’s declaration to the United Nations, they obtained the knowledge and materials required for developing unconventional weapons from 150 foreign companies. These companies came from countries including America, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and China.
The Russians remained neutral until 1982. Scared that the ideology behind the Islamic Revolution could spread to neighboring regions they controlled, the Soviets supplied weapons to Iraq. With Russia presenting itself as an enemy once again, Iran’s mullahs expelled 13 Soviet diplomats and commenced a mass execution of Tudeh Party members. Iran began supporting Afghanistan’s battle against the Russians as well.
In response, the Soviets established a working relationship with Kuwait. They agreed to sell arms and protect Kuwaiti ships in the Persian Gulf. This move threatened America’s control and strategy in the Persian Gulf and led to an American-influenced Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991, several years after Kuwait’s mistake.
Russian arms shipments to Iraq are estimated to have been $10 billion, including over 2,000 tanks, 300 aircraft, 300 surface-to-air missiles, and thousands of artillery and armored vehicles.
North Korea was also a major supplier to Iran. They produced and sold their own arms, and also served as a deniable intermediary to Iran for Russia and China. North Korea first sold and shipped Russian weaponry to Iran in October of 1980, not long after the war began. A billion-dollar sale of Chinese equipment followed. Iran paid for the supplies with cash and crude oil, and North Korea became Iran’s leading arms and munitions supplier in 1982.
The deals between North Korea and Iran were no laughing matter. The details of an SA-7 missile sale conducted in 1987 show the extent of international involvement in the war. As the North Korean purchases continued, Russia, who publicly sold weapons to Iran’s enemies, benefited as well. In fact, the SA-7 missile shipment came from a Polish, Soviet-controlled firm known as Perenosny Zenitiny Raketny Kompleks.
European companies prospered from the deals. The London branch of Commerzbank A.G., a West German bank, posted a $100,000 performance bond. Swiss firm Wuppesahl A.G. insured the shipment and the Union Bank of Switzerland issued a letter of credit to Iran for $18,640,000. Funds transferred through London’s Commerzbank, which received commission for its services, to Russia’s account with the West German bank, Deutchebank A.G.
The whole world seemed to benefit from the war. America, Europe, and Russia all supplied arms to Iraq. In turn, neighboring Arab states financially supported Iraq. America, and indirectly Russia and China, supplied weaponry to Iran as well. Global superpowers maintained the war’s stalemate and reaped the financial rewards at the cost of innocent lives.
The tides turned on October 5, 1986, when an American cargo plane crashed in southern Nicaragua. Two crew members died, but one, Eugene Hasenfus, lived. The Sandinista army captured him and escorted him from the crash site at gunpoint.
Hasenfus’ capture set in motion a chain of events which ultimately led to the embarrassment of Reagan’s administration. The truth of one of the biggest political scandals in American history was blown wide open. The true nature of the October Surprise, including America’s arms deals with Iran, was finally exposed to the American people.
Over the course of several Congressional hearings, members of Reagan’s administration were convicted. However, none of the sentences reflected the nature of their crimes. The harshest ruling was two years of probation and a $20,000 fine. None of the politicians were imprisoned.
These events came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.
American involvement in the war was contradictory. Despite privately supporting Iran, they publicly opposed the Islamic Republic.
President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 4-82 and selected Donald Rumsfeld as his emissary to Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld met with Hussein in December of 1983 and March of 1984. American ambassador Peter W. Galbraith said, “The Reagan administration was afraid Iraq might actually lose.”
Howard Teicher, the Director of Political-Military Affairs for the National Security Council, accompanied Rumsfeld to Baghdad in 1983. According to his affidavit, the CIA secretly directed armaments and technology to Iraq through third parties in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait. They encouraged private suppliers and military companies to do the same.
Two of every seven approved licenses for the export of “dual use” technology were American. This technology was sent to Iraqi forces, weapons producers, or enterprises suspected of diverting technology to weapons of mass destruction, according to an investigation by Chairman Henry B. Gonzales of the House Banking Committee.
In the last five years of the Iran-Iraq War, 771 export licenses were given to Iraq for items relating to weapons. Iraq purchased ingredients for chemical weapons, biological agents including anthrax, cluster bombs, and calibration devices for mustard gas production. Recently declassified Congressional and NSA documents show America’s government was aware and supportive of these sales.
Americans mourn the events of 9/11, which led to the deaths of over 3,000 innocents and resulted in 4,000 more military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iranians should mourn 9/22, the date of Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980, which resulted in the deaths of half a million Iranian and Iraqi people.
Ironically, Jimmy Carter, who played a large part in encouraging one of the bloodiest wars in modern history, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.