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Context of 'January 1990: President Bush Waives Restrictions on Iraq’s Access to US Funds'

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The Defense Department discovers that an Iraqi front company in Cleveland is funneling US technology to Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program. However, the Bush administration allows the company to continue its operations, even after Iraq invades Kuwait in 1990 (see November 8, 1990). At the same time, a top-secret CIA assessment informs Secretary of State James Baker that Iraq has a nuclear weapons program, and is using “covert techniques” to obtain the technology needed to build a nuclear bomb. The report identifies some of the specific dual-use technology that Iraq’s procurement network is trying to obtain around the world for its nuclear-weapons program, including oscilloscopes, high-speed cameras, and centrifuges. (Waas and Unger 11/2/1992)

James A. Baker.James A. Baker. [Source: Library of Congress]By this date, all international banks have cut off loans to Iraq. Notwithstanding, President Bush, ignoring warnings from his own departments about the alarming buildup of the Iraqi military and Iraq’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction (see June 1989 and September 1989), signs the secret National Security Directive 26 establishing closer ties to the Baghdad regime and providing $1 billion in agricultural loan guarantees to that government. These funds allow Iraq to continue its development of weapons of mass destruction. Four days later, Secretary of State James Baker meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and promises that the US will not curb restrictions on high-technology exports to Iraq. Baker is ignoring the CIA’s warnings that Iraq is using some of this technology to develop a nuclear weapon. The State Department’s minutes of the Baker-Aziz meeting reads in part, “[T]he Secretary admitted that the US does have concerns about proliferation, but they are worldwide concerns.” (US President 10/2/1989; Frantz and Waas 2/23/1992; Waas and Unger 11/2/1992; Power 7/10/2002)

The US State Department refuses to tighten export licenses for Iraq, even though officials know that Iraq is diverting dual-use technology and equipment for its nuclear-weapons program (see September 1989). (Waas and Unger 11/2/1992)

President Bush waives Congressional restrictions on Iraq’s use of the US Export-Import Bank, ignoring evidence that Iraq is testing ballistic missiles and stealing technology for its nuclear weapons program (see September 1989). (Waas and Unger 11/2/1992)

Saddam Hussein, emboldened by President Bush’s continued support for his regime even as he develops chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons (see September 1989) and is gassing his own citizens (see August 25, 1988), boasts that he now has chemical weapons and will “burn half of Israel.” Additionally, Iraqi forces on manuevers in the southern part of the country are being told that they are training to attack Israel. Nevertheless, the White House blocks efforts by the Commerce Department to stop the flow of US technology to Iraq, even technology that is being used to develop weapons of mass destruction (see 1990 and July 18, 1990-August 1, 1990). One White House official explains, “The president does not want to single out Iraq.” US diplomat Joseph Wilson, the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad (see September 5, 1988 and After), will later write: “While we were concerned about the tensions in Iraq’s relations with Kuwait (see May 28-30, 1990 and July 17, 1990), we did not suspect that the southern military exercises were, in fact, a first signal of Iraq’s intention to invade that country. We were more worried that Saddam’s hard line toward Israel would further inflame Arab passions and contribute to making any lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that much more difficult to achieve.” (Waas and Unger 11/2/1992; Wilson 2004, pp. 95)

George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney.George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney. [Source: Representational Pictures]President Bush, reeling from the Republican defeat in the midterm elections two days before, announces the deployment of 200,000 more troops around the Persian Gulf to augment the 250,000 already in place. Bush announces the deployment without consulting or advising Congress, a brush-off that angers many legislators who feel that Bush kept this from Congress in order to make sure it did not become an election issue. Bush is also weighing the advice of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who argues that the president does not need the authorization of Congress to wage war. (Dean 2007, pp. 90)


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