Iraq has an extremely long history. The territory of Iraq is home to the cradle civilization and has hosted numerous cultures and empires over the millennia.
The most pertinent timeframe in discussing modern Iraq and Saddam Hussein begins at the turn of the 20th century. At that time the Persian Gulf was controlled by the British and French. In the early 1900s the Middle East was seen primarily as a trade route to India. This alone made it a place that had a significant role in international economics, but mostly that of Europe and India.
Special relationships developed between European merchants and governments and the Middle Easterners that worked with these foreign powers to become extremely wealthy by controlling trade routes. Local Sheiks made private arrangements with European leaders in return for various favors. The Sheiks of Kuwait were particularly friendly with the British powers, which has resulted in British favoritism towards them in political matters throughout the years.
The Middle East and the Ottoman Empire were critical elements of WWI, which lasted from 1914 to 1919. The Gulf region was important for the British because their navy was reliant on oil from the region. The Persian Gulf region was hotly contested due to its critical oil resources and its importance as a trade route.
In 1916 the French and British entered into a secret agreement known as the with cooperation from Russia, to divide up and administer the Middle East. This agreement was made in contradiction to terms that had already been set between the British and Middle Eastern leaders. Arab and Kurdish leaders were planning to lead a rebellion against the crumbling Ottoman Empire and establish their own self-representative government. This agreement betrayed those arrangements. The agreement called for Baghdad to be administered by Great Britain.
(map courtesy of the BBC)
For the full text of the Sykes-Picot agreement see:
http://www. firstworldwar. com/source/sykespicot.htm
In 1917 Britain occupied the city of
Baghdad, routing Turkish troops and “liberating” the people of the region by proclaiming:
"People of Baghdad, remember for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have ever endeavored to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her Allies for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity or misgovernment. Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators."
After the Bolshevik Revolution the Bolsheviks published all secret documents of the Russian Czars and the Sykes-Picot agreement was made public, which inflamed Arab sentiments.
The region of modern Iraq was put together by the British in an attempt to collect the various oil rich regions into one group so that they could control the oil of the region and administer it collectively. Essentially what they did was take the most oil rich regions that they had under their control and lump it together to form modern Iraq. The area of modern Iraq though contains traditional regions that were divided and separate from one another, these being the Kurdish tribal lands, the Sunni Muslim region around Baghdad, and the Shia Muslim region in the south as well as the area that is now Kuwait.
The Kurds are not Arabs. The Kurdish people are of a different ethnic group; Kurds, Semites, and Arabs, are all different ethic groups, and Arabs recognize different ethnic groups within the Arab ethnic group.
After about 2 years of British rule over region of Iraq Kurdish and Arab forces revolted against British rule. The British used aerial bombardment and poison gas to put down the revolts. Thousands of Kurdish and Arab people were gassed to death by the British during this event. Winston Churchill proclaimed, "I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes."
The native people continued to protest foreign rule and anti-British sentiment was still rising.
In 1921 the British decided that an Arab leader was needed to help ease the tensions of the Iraqi region. The British put deposed Syrian ruler King Fascil in as dictator of Iraq. A public vote of affirmation was performed, much like the vote that Saddam Hussein employed, that showed that 96% of the Iraqi people approved of King Fascil.
Fascil was an international man having lived in various parts of the Middle East, Persia, and Europe prior to becoming King of Iraq. He favored Iraqi nationalism, but he was highly influenced by British concerns as well. His true power came from Britain, but he was an improvement for the Iraqi people over direct British rule.
The region of Kuwait was separated from the region of Iraq in 1921 by the British due to specific relationships between Kuwaiti royal families and British oil tycoons, who wanted both more direct control over the resources of the area.
In 1933 Ghazi, son of Fascil, became King of Iraq. Ghazi was a strict militant leader but he was also widely supported by the Iraqi people because he opposed British influence on the region and supported Iraqi nationalism. Ghazi continued to cooperate with British and international interests, he simply tried to shift Iraqi policy to favor the Iraqi people more as opposed to its stronger favor to foreign interests under Fascil.
During the 1930s the British, French, and American conglomerate, retained rights to the Iraqi oil fields and Britain maintained a military presence in the region to protect the oil interests. IPC represented a large number of international interests, not just American, British, and French.
In 1939 King Ghazi made plans to invade Kuwait and reunite it with Iraq. King Ghazi was soon after killed in a mysterious car crash that many claim was the work of the British secret service.
After Ghazi died his son, Fascil II, at the age of four, took the throne. Fascil II was educated in Britain and his authority was assumed by his uncle during his reign. Fascil II was king of Iraq from 1939 to 1958.
During World War II Iraq sided with Germany in an attempt to break free of British influence. The British regained control of Iraq during WWII but strong anti-Anglo and anti-Semitic sentiment had already been fueled by the German Nazi influence. The anti-Anglo and anti-Semitic feelings were easy to stir in Iraq because most of the Iraqi people had strong feelings about what had already been going on in the Palestine region where the British had put down Arab forces in a revolt against growing Jewish influence in the region prior to WWII, as well as the strong resentment of British rule in Iraq.
While Britain was the country most heavily involved in Iraqi affairs, America was moving in on Iran after World War II.
In 1953 the CIA supported the Shah's return from exile to Iran to replace Iranian leader Mossadegh. The Shah had strong ties to the Nazi Party and his father was part of the Nazi regime of Iran during WWII. The CIA paid for staged demonstrations in support of the Shah, who returned through the use of military force as ruler of Iran.
In 1958 Karim Kassem led a military coup again King Fascil II. The overthrow of Fascil II was very violent. Kassem declared Iraq a republic, formed a new government, and took the position of primer. Though there was wide support for the overthrow of the government by Kassem, Kassem had his own self-serving agenda and lost the support of the Iraqi people. Kassem was not a communist, but he developed strong ties with the Soviet Union and communist parties grew under his rule. He also opposed the Pan Arabism movement, which many Iraqis supported.
Pan Arabism is a Middle Eastern movement for the unification of all Arab nations.
For more on Pan Arabism see:
http://www. encyclopedia. com/html/P/PanA1rabi.asp
In 1963 Kassem was overthrown by the Ba'ath Party, stood trial, and was later killed. Saddam Hussein is one of the assassins that participated in assassination attempts on Kassem prior to his overthrow. The CIA assisted in the overthrow of Kassem by supporting the Kurds in their effort to overthrow Kassem as well as supporting the Ba'aths.
Supposedly the United States was also working on plan to invade northern Iraq and take control of the oil fields in the Kurdish area at the time of the overthrow of Kassem in a plan supposedly code named Cannonbone.
The Ba'ath Party were secular democratic supporters of the Pan-Arabism movement. However, once members of the Ba'ath Party took power in Iraq and Syria they decided to retain dictatorial control.
The role of communism, and American anti-communist policy, played a significant role in American involvement in Iraq at this point. The Ba'aths had been supported by the CIA in the overthrow of Kassem because Kassem was opening ties to the USSR and communist groups were growing in Iraq under Kassem. However, the CIA was not very well educated on the ideologies of the Ba'aths, they simply took the approach of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend. "
After the overthrow of the Kassem regime by the Ba'aths the CIA provided the Ba'ath Party with a list of communists that the CIA wanted to have assassinated in an effort to put down the communist movement in Iraq. This was all part of a larger anti-communist program that the CIA was involved in throughout the Middle East. The majority of the people on the list were intellectuals and professionals.
At this time the US did not have strong ties to Israel, but they were working on it. Actually, when Israel was formed they were more closely allied with Russia. Israel was formed out of the Zionist movement, which is a form of theocratic communism. The Russians were attempting to use Israel to spread communism throughout the Middle East but this failed because the Arab peoples of the Middle East opposed Israel, and so rejected Russian influence based on their ties to Israel.
In the meantime America was courting Israel in order to move them towards American alliance as opposed to Russian alliance. Interestingly, America has ended up taking on the same problems that Russia had with Israel. The Russians wanted to use Israel to promote communism in the Middle East, which backfired, and now America is trying to use Israel to promote the American agenda in the Middle East, which is again backfiring.
Back to Iraq.
James Crutchfield of the CIA commented on the issue:
"We were better informed on the 1963 coup in Baghdad than on any other major event or change of government that took place in the whole region in those years. But we did not identify a radical movement within the Ba'ath that would, six months later, stage a kind of counter-coup, and replace the moderate elements in the Ba'ath. That was our mistake--that surprised us. "
After the Ba'ath Party had taken control of Iraq with American assistance American oil companies began to get heavily involved in Iraq for the first time.
Anti-communist actions, including torture and assassination, continued in Iraq in the early years of Ba'athist rule supported and encouraged by the CIA. However, things started to get really complicated at this point. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein began playing both sides of the fence, both American and Russian. They were Iraqi nationalists and were attempting to play for favors from both the Russians and Americans.
Said Aburish, a long time respected Iraqi journalist who worked closely with Saddam and the arms manufacturers, told Frontline that:
"The U. S. involvement in the coup against Kassem in Iraq in 1963 was substantial. There is evidence that CIA agents were in touch with army officers who were involved in the coup. There is evidence that an electronic command center was set up in Kuwait to guide the forces who were fighting Kassem. There is evidence that they supplied the conspirators with lists of people who had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success. The relationship between the Americans and the Ba'ath Party at that moment in time was very close indeed. And that continued for some time after the coup. And there was an exchange of information between the two sides. For example it was one of the first times that the United States was able to get certain models of Mig fighters and certain tanks made in the Soviet Union. That was the bribe. That was what the Ba'ath had to offer the United States in return for their help in eliminating Kassem. "
"I have documented over 700 people who were eliminated, mostly on an individual basis, after the 1963 coup. And they were eliminated based on lists supplied by the CIA to the Ba'ath Party. So the CIA and the Ba'ath were in the business of eliminating communists and leftists who were dangerous to the Ba'ath's takeover. "
During the 1960s American resources were being spread very thin in attempts to control South America, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as Europe.
In the late 1960s American attention in the Middle East turned to Iran and the Shah of Iran. At this time there was a movement in Washington to support the Shah in an effort to dominate the entire area of the Persian Gulf through Iran, including of course Iraq.
By the 1970s Iraq become one of the wealthiest and best run countries of the region. Education and healthcare was highly advanced in Iraq under the leadership of the Ba'ath Party.
Saddam was going to meetings in Moscow and was influenced by socialist ideology.
Saddam is an intelligent man though and, like most Arab leaders, very head strong. He was influenced by socialism but he developed his own views on the matter.
Saddam became very impressed by Joseph Stalin and studied Stalin, Stalinism, and of course National Socialism. Key factors about Joseph Stalin are Stalin's hard-line policies, his pragmatism, and his view that the end justifies the means. Saddam identified with these ideas and learned from Stalinist approaches to problem solving, which include deception and the use of people as disposable tools. Stalin's actions prior to and during WWII to protect Russia were excellent examples for Saddam to follow. Like others who have studied Stalin, Saddam did not consider Stalin to be a Communist or Socialist, he considered Stalin to be a nationalist with a self-serving agenda. This is the approach that Saddam has taken.
In an interview with Frontline Dr. Mahkmoud Othman of the Kurdish Democratic Party recalled a conversion he had with Saddam:
"And when we asked him about communism, reading all those books, he says 'But even Stalin, was he a Communist? Stalin used the communist party as a tool to stay in power. To govern the country, to defend his country. And we have other tools.'
'It's not a matter of an ideology,' he says. 'A statesman usually uses an ideology here and there to stay in power, to govern the country.' So that is why he thought that Stalin was more a nationalist than a communist."
Because of this, Saddam actually began to increase his ties with America. Iraq was one of the most technologically advanced countries in the Middle East during the 1960s through the 1980s. Saddam strengthened ties with America in order to strengthen the technological and military advancement of Iraq. Saddam played on the American fear that he may give favor to Russia in order to get America to supply Iraq with more weapons and more technology.
Saddam was not a true socialist or communist or capitalist or anything. Saddam developed his own ideologies and developed policy that was designed to strengthen his own position and that of Iraq. He continued to attack Marxist leaders throughout his career. He attacked anyone that had the potential of challenging his position, again, like Stalin did.
Saddam was a major component of the Iraqi leadership even prior to his assumption of the presidency. He was a major architect of the Iraqi economy.
In 1972 Iraq nationalized its oil wells, which pretty much established Iraq as a socialist country in the eyes of the West. This was actually a good move for Iraq and the Iraqi people, but it immediately raised eyebrows in Washington. This move is in many ways what set the current chain of events in motion that have led to this current war, "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
In 1972 Iraq was placed on the American list of terrorist nations and an agreement between America, Iran, and the Kurds of Iraq was established. The Kurds were to be supported by Iran and America with weapons in an effort to build a revolutionary movement in Iraq to overthrow the Iraqi government.
The nationalization of the oil wells gave Iraq more control over the oil trade and of course upset foreign oil companies who had built in Iraq. Nationalization of oil wells is actually a good way to strengthen an oil-based economy though and to benefit the citizens of heavy oil exporting nations. The profits from the nationalized oil wells allowed the Iraqi people to live tax free, receive free education through the university level, and have access to free medical care. This is one of the major reasons that many people in Iraq strongly supported Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party.
In 1975 Saddam negotiated a deal with the Shah of Iran to cede control of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway to Iran in exchange for an end to Iran's support of the Kurds in Iraq. This suited Iran fine because many in Iran didn't like supporting the Kurds anyway.
The end of support for the Kurds through the 1975 deal was a devastating loss for the Kurds who had developed a resistance program based on American support.
Dr. Mahkmoud Othman of the Kurdish Democratic Party recalls the event:
"[We] didn't believe we would be the victim, because he said United States is in the picture this time--it is different. Although he didn't believe in Iran, he thought if America is in it, so things must be different.
But the next day we heard that things were real different and everything was cut. Then Barzani--he was in shock, really--he wrote a telegraph to Kissinger . . . saying, 'look this has happened to us, at least deal with this from a humanitarian point of view--we have a quarter of a million of refugees in Iran and it's a disaster. People are not happy to go back to Saddam Hussein. '
. . . The answer of Kissinger to it was that well, this is politics. There are no moral values in politics. And usually when two sides agree on something which is important, maybe a third side would suffer or whatever it is, and I am sorry to say this is not human rights, this is not a moral issue, this is politics.
And we were very much disappointed. I think maybe part of the thing was because we were a bit short-sighted in evaluating American policy. We didn't have much experience. And Barzani personally was very much disappointed and after that he went to America. He was you know ill. And then he died there also. Even when he went there, till he died, they didn't see him and they didn't care about it really. "
Kissinger's exact words were: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
Indeed another one of the many truths that deny the altruistic image of American foreign relations.
In 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini because the people of Iran opposed the foreign influence in Iran that the Shah supported and because of the violence of the Shah's rule. The Shah was essentially an American puppet dictator and had been advised by American economic advisors to borrow heavily on oil futures in order to build infrastructure to benefit American companies. When the price of oil dropped Iran's economy was in ruins; the people revolted and supported the Ayatollah.
Actually, it would not be right to call the Shah a puppet of America, it was more complicated than that. The Shah had significant influence over American policy in the Middle East as well. The relationship was more of a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby the Shah and American leadership cooperated to strengthen their combined influence in the region. The Shah was certainly part of a much larger plan for American domination in the Persian Gulf. The way it really worked though was that the Shah's desires were supported by the United States as long as he agreed to lookout for American oil interests. So really, the Shah did not do America's bidding, American leaders did the Shah's bidding. He wasn't so much puppeted by America as he was propped up.
During the Shah's rule his CIA trained SAVAK military police force used torture and brutality to protect the authority of the Shah and to dispose of his political opponents. Amnesty International ranked the Shah's regime as one of the most brutal in the world during the late 1970s.
That same year, 1979, Saddam became president of Iraq and he sensed opportunity with the fall of the Shah. The CIA was not prepared to the fall of the Shah and they had no contingency plan for this event. The feeling of the CIA was that the Shah was too powerful and that there was no way he could fall. In many ways they thought that the Shah was as powerful then as many people felt that Saddam was during the 1990s, and for many of the same reasons. When Khomeini took control American leadership was in a state of shock. It's arguable that the fall of the Shah was the most sever blow to American covert operations in history.
In 1980 the Carter Doctrine was established when President Carter proclaimed that, "An attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. "
This statement was made in reference to the recent revolution in Iran. The US sought to prevent Soviet influence on the revolutionary country. The statement was primarily addressed to Russia, but it generally applied to anyone, and still does. The issue is that the entire American way of life is totally dependant on the Persian Gulf oil supplies, and as such America leaders have made it clear that anything that threatens the American hold on that region is seen as a direct attack on America.
In 1982 Iraq was removed from the American list of terrorist nations by the Reagan Administration and arms sales and military aid to Iraq commenced.
Many American companies immediately took a strong interest in Iraq when relations were restored with Iraq, primarily oil companies but also technology and weapons companies. Mobil Oil was directly involved in high-level talks with Iraq and Saddam. They were forming strong economic ties with the Saddam regime.
Throughout the 1980s America sold weapons to both Iraq and Iran, but primarily to Iraq. Oliver North told the Iranians that America would support the Iranians in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. At the same time we were telling Saddam that we would support him in taking land in Iran.
Like many other issues, this is a book in itself. What is important about the Iran/Iraq war, and the American involvement in it, is that arms sales from America to Iraq increased dramatically, which is not something that was done by the government it was done by private American corporations with the approval of the government. Donald Rumsfeld was called in as an independent advisor in the affair and to access the Iraqi regime as a potential client for the sale weapons. After Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam the US increased its military assistance to Iraq, including providing Iraq with material needed for biological weapons programs.
The reason that these weapons of mass destruction were sold to Iraq was because Iran had a much larger force then Iraq did and the US wanted to make sure that Iraq would be able to at least defend itself from Iranian counter attack. For this purpose the biological and chemical weapons programs were supported in Iraq by America.
Some inside Iraq were opposed to Iraqi entry into a war with Iran. America courted Saddam's interest in invading Iran. Saddam had those Iraqis that opposed the war killed. The CIA was of course aware of this and continued to support Saddam. The CIA cooperated with Saddam by providing intelligence information to Iraq on Iranian forces.
Some of this information turned out to be incorrect and Iraq ended up in a difficult war that it was not capable of winning. Upon entry into war with Iran Iraq was advised by American and Israeli officials that a quick land grab of the waterway that Saddam had previously ceded to Iran, as well as some of its western oil fields, would be a relatively simple and safe matter. This was proven to be disastrously wrong.
During the Iran/Iraq war Saddam's forces were engaged in chemical warfare in the region of northern Iraq, Kurdish territory. Iran was using chemical weapons in that region as well. Saddam authorized the use of chemical weapons on Kurdish cities that had been invaded by Iranian forces.
When the Iranians invaded northern Iraq the Kurds joined forces with the Iranians to fight the Iraqi forces. The Iranians and Kurds were entrenched in defensive positions within the cities so Saddam authorized the use of chemical weapons in order to flush them out.
Iran and Iraq both used chemical weapons during these battles and the Reagan administration initially found that the death of the Kurds was the result of Iranian chemical attacks, not Iraqi attacks. That position was changed when Bush was pushing for war on Iraq under the Desert Storm campaign.
In 1987 an Iraqi Exocet missile hit the USS Stark, an American Destroyer, killing 37 crewmembers. This act was dismissed as an accident and was actually used to twist the situation to allow American forces to enter the war in limited engagement on the side of Iraq. The general logic was that the war between Iran and Iraq was getting out of control and needed a quick resolution.
American forces then attacked and destroyed Iranian oil platforms and patrol boats.
In 1988 American forces shot down an Iranian passenger aircraft killing 290 civilians. The incident is classified as an accident but Iranians were certainly not happy about it.
Due in part to increasing American intervention in the war on the side of Iraq, Iran soon decided to negotiate a peace agreement.
As I said, the Iran/Iraq war and the American involvement in that war is a matter that requires volumes to cover, so I will not cover it in sufficient detail here. It is an important matter though that led up to the current situation in Iraq. An important aspect of American involvement in the war is that most of the involvement was covert, and actually illegal, which is where the Iran/Contra scandal comes into play.
By the end of the Iran/Iraq war there was heavy international interest in Iraq. Saddam was being given huge loans by America and other countries to fund the war which were used to buy weapons from a variety of sources including, British, German, French, Russian, American, Israeli, and just about anyone else that wanted to make some money.
It is important to note that many glowing remarks were made about Saddam and Iraq during the 1980s. Political leaders and businessmen alike fell in love with Saddam and talked of his wonderful leadership and importance as an American ally.
Some of Saddam's biggest American political supporters during the 1980s were Republican Senators Alan Simpson and Bob Dole. During the 1980s Simpson and Dole met with Iraqi officials in efforts to secure lucrative business and farm deals.
Senator Alan Simpson told Saddam in 1991 that, "I believe that your problems lie with the Western media, and not with the U.S. government. As long as you are isolated from the media, the press and it is a haughty and pampered press they all consider themselves political geniuses. That is, the journalists do. They are very cynical. What I advise is that you invite them to come and see for themselves."
In 1995 former CDC Director David Satcher wrote a letter to Senator Donald Riegle stating that the U. S. Government had provided approximately two dozen viral and bacterial samples to Iraq in 1985. The samples included plague, botulism, and anthrax. The letter also stated that an Iraqi scientist had received three months of training by the CDC on how to culture these materials.
In1990 Iraq attempted to purchase American equipment that is used for making nuclear bombs. A US Customs sting operation discovered the illegal purchases, and the parts never made it to Iraq. I do not have information on what happened to the Americans who were arranging to sell him the equipment.
Even after this though several Republican officials still viewed Saddam as a valuable American asset in the Middle East, that is, until he invaded Kuwait.
A number of high quality interviews with people very close to the Iraqi situation:
The CIA in Kurdistan:
Iraqi Heads of State:
For more on the Iran/Iraq war see:
http://www. us-israel. org/jsource/arabs/iraniraq.html