posted on Feb, 1 2004 @ 11:47 AM
Stephen C. Pelletiere, Douglas V. Johnson II, and Leif R. Rosenberger, of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. War College at Carlisle,
Excerpt, Chapter 5
U.S. SECURITY AND IRAQI POWER
Introduction. Throughout the war the United States practiced a fairly benign policy toward Iraq. Although initially disapproving of the invasion,
Washington came slowly over to the side of Baghdad. Both wanted to restore the status quo ante to the Gulf and to reestablish the relative harmony
that prevailed there before Khomeini began threatening the regional balance of power. Khomenini’s revolutionary appeal was anathema to both Baghdad
and Washington; hence they wanted to get rid of him.
United by a common interest, Iraq and the United States restored diplomatic relations in 1984, and the United States began to actively assist Iraq in
ending the fighting. It mounted Operation Staunch, an attempt to stem the flow of arms to Iran. It also increased its purchases of Iraqi oil while
cutting back on Iranian oil purchases, and it urged its allies to do likewise. All this had the effect of repairing relations between the two
countries, which had been at a very low ebb.
In September 1988, however -- a month after the war had ended -- the State Department abruptly, and in what many viewed as a sensational manner,
condemned Iraq for allegedly using chemicals against its Kurdish population. The incident cannot be understood without some background of Iraq’s
relations with the Kurds. It is beyond the scope of this study to go deeply into this matter; suffice it to say that throughout the war Iraq
effectively faced two enemies -- Iran and the elements of its own Kurdish minority. Significant numbers of the Kurds had launched a revolt against
Baghdad and in the process teamed up with Tehran. As soon as the war with Iran ended, Iraq announced its determination to crush the Kurdish
insurrection. It sent Republican Guards to the Kurdish area, and in the course of this operation -- according to the U.S. State Department -- gas was
used, with the result that numerous Kurdish civilians were killed. The Iraqi government denied that any such gassing had occurred. Nonetheless,
Secretary of State Schultz stood by U.S. accusations, and the U.S. Congress, acting on its own, sought to impose economic sanctions on Baghdad as a
violator of the Kurds’ human rights.
Having looked at all of the evidence that was available to us, we find it impossible to confirm the State Department’s claim that gas was used in this
instance. To begin with there were never any victims produced. International relief organizations who examined the Kurds -- in Turkey where they had
gone for asylum -- failed to discover any. Nor were there ever any found inside Iraq. The claim rests solely on testimony of the Kurds who had crossed
the border into Turkey, where they were interviewed by staffers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
We would have expected, in a matter as serious as this, that the Congress would have exercised some care. However, passage of the sanctions measure
through the Congress was unusually swift -- at least in the Senate where a unanimous vote was secured within 24 hours. Further, the proposed sanctions
were quite draconian (and will be discussed in detail below). Fortunately for the future of Iraqi-U.S. ties, the sanctions measure failed to pass on a
bureaucratic technicality (it was attached as a rider to a bill that died before adjournment).
It appears that in seeking to punish Iraq, the Congress was influenced by another incident that occurred five months earlier in another Iraqi-Kurdish
city, Halabjah. In March 1988, the Kurds at Halabjah were bombarded with chemical weapons, producing a great many deaths. Photographs of the Kurdish
victims were widely disseminated in the international media. Iraq was blamed for the Halabjah attack, even though it was subsequently brought out that
Iran too had used chemicals in this operation, and it seemed likely that it was the Iranian bombardment that had actually killed the Kurds.
Thus, in our view, the Congress acted more on the basis of emotionalism than factual information, and without sufficient thought for the adverse
diplomatic effects of its action. As a result of the outcome of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq is now the most powerful state in the Persian Gulf, an area in
which we have vital interests. To maintain an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Gulf to the West, we need to develop good working relations with all
of the Gulf states, and particularly with Iraq, the strongest.