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Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Project: Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq
Open-Content project managed by Derek, KJF, mtuck

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Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin calls televangelist and nascent political ally Jerry Falwell (see 1980) and says: “Tomorrow you’re going to read some strange things about what we’re going to do. But our safety is at stake. I wanted you, my good friend, to know what we are going to do.” Israel is preparing to use US-provided F-16s to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor (see June 7, 1981). Begin is concerned that the US will object to Israel’s use of the aircraft for non-defensive purposes. Falwell tells Begin, “I want to congratulate you for a mission that [makes] us very proud that we manufactured those F-16s.” Many Reagan officials are not happy that Israel violated the agreement with the US over use of the warplanes, but even though Vice President Bush and Chief of Staff James Baker both believe that Israel should be punished, Begin has provided himself cover on the Christian right. [Unger, 2007, pp. 109-110]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, George Herbert Walker Bush, James A. Baker, Jerry Falwell, Menachem Begin

Category Tags: Alleged WMDs, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Secretary of Commerce Howard Baldridge and Secretary of State George Shultz successfully lobby the National Security Council (NSC) adviser to approve the sale of 10 Bell helicopters to Iraq in spite of objections from other NSC members. It is claimed that the helicopters will be used for crop spraying. These same helicopters are later used in 1988 to deploy poison gas against Iranians and possibly Iraqi Kurds (see March 1988). [Washington Post, 3/11/1991; Phythian, 1997, pp. 37-38]

Entity Tags: Howard Baldridge, George Shultz, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

US State Department official Jonathan T. Howe sends Secretary of Defense Lawrence Eagleburger a memo reporting that US intelligence has determined that “Iraq has acquired a CW [chemical weapons] production capability, primarily from Western firms, including possibly a US foreign subsidiary” and that Iraq has used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and Kurdish insurgents. Referring to the US policy “of seeking a halt to CW use wherever it occurs,” Howe says the US is “considering” approaching Iraq directly, but in a way that avoids playing “into Iran’s hands by fueling its propaganda against Iraq.” Significantly, the memo acknowledges that the US has so far limited its “efforts against the Iraqi CW program to close monitoring because of our strict neutrality in the Gulf war, the sensitivity of sources, and the low probability of achieving desired results.” [US Department of State, 11/1/1983 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jonathan T. Howe, Lawrence Eagleburger

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The CIA secretly provides Iraqi intelligence with instructions on how to “calibrate” its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops. [Washington Post, 12/15/1986]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

During a meeting in Jordan, Iraqi diplomat Kizam Hamdoon and US diplomat James Placke discuss a proposed draft resolution that Iran presented to the UN Security Council (see Mid-March 1984) calling on the international body to condemn Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. Hamdoon tells Placke that Iraq would prefer a Security Council presidential statement in lieu of a resolution, adding that the statement should (1) “mention former resolutions of the war”; (2) include a “strong call for progress toward ending the war through ceasefire or negotiations”; and (3) not identify any specific country as responsible for chemical weapons use. Placke says that he will honor the request but asks that Iraq halt its purchasing of chemical weapons from US suppliers so as not to “embarrass” the US. Placke also warns that the US would be implementing licensing requirements on five chemical compounds for both Iraq and Iran. Placke says that the US does not want to be the “source of supply for anything that could contribute to the production of CW,” but adds reassuringly that the US does “not want this issue to dominate our bilateral relationship.” [US Department of State, 4/6/1984 pdf file; Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Kizam Hamdoon, United Nations, James Placke

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

During a State Department press conference, reporters raise the issue of US relations with Iraq and the latter’s use of chemical weapons. A reporter asks, “Has there been any export of these chemicals [referring to agents used for the production of chemical weapons] from the US to Iran or Iraq at all in the past, in the recent past?” The spokesperson responds, “No, we do not have reason to believe that exports from the United States have been used by either Iran or Iraq in this connection.” Later in the press briefing, a reporter asks, “In light of your finding that Iraq has used nerve gas and/or other forms of chemical warfare, does this have any effect on US recent initiatives to expand commercial relationships with Iraq across a broad range, and also a willingness to open diplomatic relations?” The spokesperson answers, “No. I’m not aware of any change in our position. We’re interested in being involved in a closer dialogue with Iraq.” [US Department of State, 3/31/1984 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

A Defense Intelligence Agency report concludes that Iraq will probably “continue to develop its formidable conventional and chemical capability, and probably pursue nuclear weapons.” [US Department of State, 3/31/1984 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Defense Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Reagan and Bush administrations’ Commerce Departments allow US companies and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to export chemical and biological agents as well as other dual-use items to Iraq, despite the country’s known record of using chemical weapons. According to government regulations, the Commerce Department must send applications for export licenses which involve items related to national security to the appropriate US government agencies for review. Reviewing agencies include the State Department, Department of Defense, Energy Department, and Subgroup on Nuclear Export Coordination. But in many cases, the Commerce Department either does not send national security-related applications to these agencies for review, or if it does, it overrides a review agency’s recommendation not to grant a license, allowing the item to be exported anyway. [Timmerman, 1991, pp. 202, 410; Jentleson, 1994, pp. 79] According to two Senate Committee Reports that will be completed in 1994, one on May 25 and another on October 7, dual-use chemical and biological agents exported to Iraq from the US significantly contributed to the country’s weapons arsenal. The initial May report will say the agents “were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction” and the October report will reveal that the “microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program.” The 1994 investigation also determines that other exports such as plans and equipment also contributed significantly to Iraq’s military capabilities. “UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and established] that these items were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development program,” Donald Riegle, the chairman of the committee, will explain. He also says that between January 1985 and August 1990, the “executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq.” [US Congress, 5/25/1994; US Congress, 5/25/1994; US Congress, 10/7/1994; CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002; London Times, 12/31/2002]
Biological and chemical agents -
bullet Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin. It was sold to Iraq right up until 1992. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord and heart. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002]
bullet Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major organs. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Clotsridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness, gas gangrene. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Clostridium tetani, highly toxigenic. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Also, Escherichia Coli (E.Coli); genetic materials; human and bacterial DNA. [CounterPunch, 8/20/2002]
bullet VX nerve gas. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
bullet Pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas which can also be reverse engineered to create actual nerve gas. This was sold to Iraq in March 1992, after the end of the Gulf War. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]
Other exports -
bullet Chemical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings. [Newsday, 12/13/2002]
bullet Chemical warfare filling equipment. [Newsday, 12/13/2002]
bullet Missile fabrication equipment. [Newsday, 12/13/2002]
bullet Missile system guidance equipment. [Newsday, 12/13/2002]
bullet Graphics terminals to design and analyze rockets. [Washington Post, 3/11/1991]
bullet Machine tools and lasers to extend ballistic missile range. [US Congress, 7/2/1991]
bullet Computers to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. [US Congress, 7/2/1991]
bullet $1 million in computers, flight simulators and other technology products that went to Saad 16 research center in Iraq (see November 1986). [Washington Post, 3/11/1991]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (41), Reagan administration, Donald Riegle, US Department of Commerce, US Congress

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Map showing the strike radii of various Iraqi ballistic missiles.Map showing the strike radii of various Iraqi ballistic missiles. [Source: CIA] (click image to enlarge)US intelligence learns that Iraq’s Saad 16 research center is attempting to develop ballistic missiles. This information is relayed by the Defense Department’s Undersecretary for Trade Security Policy, Stephen Bryen, to the Commerce Department’s (CD) Assistant Secretary for Trade Administration. In spite of this, the Commerce Department will subsequently approve more than $1 million in computer sales to the Iraqi research center over the next four years. In 1991, the House Committee on Government Operations will report that 40 percent of the equipment at the Saad 16 research center had come from the US. [Washington Post, 3/11/1991; US Congress, 7/2/1991]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce, Stephen Bryen

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

August 31, 1987: US Sends Biotoxins to Iraq

One batch each of salmonella and E coli is sent to the Iraqi State Company for Drug Industries with the approval of the US Department of Commerce. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

According to several accounts, Iraq uses US-supplied Bell helicopters to deploy chemical weapons during its campaign to recapture lost territories in its war with Iran. One of the towns that is within the conflict zone is the Kurdish village of Halabja, with a population of about 70,000. Between 3,200 and 5,000 Halabja civilians are reportedly killed by poison gas (see August 25, 1988). Other accounts, however, suggest that Iranian gas is responsible for the attack on Halabja, a version that is promoted by the Reagan administration in order to divert the blame away from Iraq. Some believe the US version of the Halabja massacre is “cooked up in the Pentagon.” A declassified State Department document “demonstrate[s] that US diplomats received instructions to press this line with US allies, and to decline to discuss the details.” [US Department of the Navy, 12/10/1990; Los Angeles Times, 2/13/1991; Washington Post, 3/11/1991; International Herald Tribune, 1/17/2003; New York Times, 1/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Bell Helicopter, Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

A US delegation travels to Turkey at the request of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and confirms that Iraq is “using chemical weapons on its Kurdish population.” [US Congress, 10/1988]

Entity Tags: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United Nations sends a delegation of experts to the Iraq-Iran War conflict zone to investigate Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 76] However, Baghdad refuses to cooperate and the US makes no serious attempt to press Baghdad to comply with the UN Security Council’s decision. US Secretary of State George Shultz downplays the charges against Iraq, arguing that interviews with Kurdish refugees in Turkey and “other sources” do not conclusively support the allegations being made against Saddam Hussein’s government. [Nation, 8/26/2002]

Entity Tags: George Shultz, Saddam Hussein, United Nations Security Council

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Kurds gassed in Halabja.Kurds gassed in Halabja. [Source: PersianEye / Corbis]Days after the end of the Iran-Iraq War (see August 20, 1988), Saddam Hussein begins the first of a series of poison-gas attacks on Kurdish villages inside Iraq. A September 1988 report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee states: “Those who were very close to the bombs died instantly. Those who did not die instantly found it difficult to breathe and began to vomit. The gas stung the eyes, skin, and lungs of the villagers exposed to it. Many suffered temporary blindness… . Those who could not run from the growing smell, mostly the very old and the very young, died.” While the gas attacks are continuing, Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead circulates a highly classified memo among senior State Department officials recommending that the US cultivate even closer ties with Iraq, whom it supported over Iran in the last few years of the war (see Early October-November, 1986). Whitehead offers a Cold War rationale: “[Soviet] clout and influence is on a steady rise as the Gulf Arabs gain self-confidence and Soviet diplomacy gains in sophistication. The Soviets have strong cards to play: their border with Iran and their arms-supply relationship with Iraq. They will continue to be major players and we should engage them as fully as possible.” Whitehead adds, “It should be remembered… that we have weathered Irangate” (see January 17, 1986). More must be done to develop closer ties with “the ruthless but pragmatic Saddam Hussein.” (Also see September 8, 1988.) [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, John Whitehead, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The US grants 65 licenses for dual-use technology exports for Iraq. On average, the US is now granting 260 such licenses per year, more than double the rate of licenses granted between January and August 1988. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 38]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson arrives in Baghdad to assume the post of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) under US Ambassador April Glaspie. Wilson has extensive experience throughout sub-Saharan and Central Africa, as well as brief stints on the staffs of Senator Al Gore (D-TN) and Representative Tom Foley (D-WA). Wilson will later write that he and his colleagues share the belief that Iraq is ruled by “a shockingly brutal regime… an ugly totalitarian dictatorship” and its leader, Saddam Hussein, a “sociopath.” For the next three years, Wilson and his colleagues will send harsh reports of Hussein’s systematic violations of the human rights of his subjects to Washington.
Walking a Fine Line between Isolation and Appeasement - Still, most of the embassy staff, including Wilson and Glaspie, are not advocates of totally isolating Hussein with extreme economic and diplomatic sanctions. Wilson will write, “Isolating a regime often results in isolating ourselves, and we then lose any leverage we might have to influence outcomes. On the other hand, when dictators are treated like any other leaders, it’s often interpreted by them as a free pass to continue in their autocratic ways, while critics label it as appeasement.… The merits of ideologically driven diplomacy versus a more pragmatic approach have been a recurring theme of foreign policy debates throughout the history of international relations and America’s own domestic policies.”
'Tread Lightly' - Wilson will note that “Iraq’s Arab neighbors unanimously urged us to tread lightly. They argued that after almost a decade of a grinding war with Iran, Saddam had learned his lesson and that his natural radicalism would now be tempered by the harsh experience.… [I]t was better to tie him to relationships that would be hard for him to jettison than to leave him free to make trouble with no encumbrances. Engaging with him at least kept him in our sights.” Iraq had behaved monstrously during its war with Iran, and had offended the world with its chemical attacks on its own citizens (see August 25, 1988) and its Iranian enemies (see October 1988). But it had emerged from the war as a powerful regional player both militarily and economically. The Bush administration is torn between trying to moderate Hussein’s behavior and treating him as an incorrigible, irredeemable enemy of civilization. And Washington wants Iraq as a balancing force against Iran, which is awash in virulently anti-American sentiment (a sentiment returned in full by many American lawmakers and government officials). No other country in the Gulf region will tolerate the presence of US forces as a counterbalance to Iran. So, as Wilson will write, “All of Iraq’s neighbors continued to argue for a softer approach; and since they clearly had at least as much at stake as we did, the Bush administration was willing to follow their lead.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 78-79, 451]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Saddam Hussein, April Glaspie

Category Tags: Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Iraq Invasion of Kuwait, US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

In a memo regarding the issue of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy writes, “The US-Iraqi relationship is… important to our long term political and economic objectives. We believe that economic sanctions will be useless or counterproductive to influence the Iraqis.” [Washington Post, 12/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Murphy, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The US Senate unanimously passes the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, which makes Iraq ineligible to receive US loans, military and non-military assistance, credits, credit guarantees and items subject to export controls. It also makes it illegal for the US to import Iraqi oil. [US Congress, 9/8/1988; Jentleson, 1994, pp. 78] Immediately after the bill is passed by the Senate, the Reagan administration launches a campaign to prevents its passage in the House. With the help of its allies in the House, the administration succeeds in killing the bill on the last day of the legislative session. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 78; New York Times, 2/13/2003]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms reports that between 1984 and 1988 “Iraq repeatedly and effectively used poison gas on Iran.” [US Congress, 10/1988]

Entity Tags: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-TX) states that in spite of the CIA and the Bush administration’s knowledge that Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI) was “involved in Iraq’s clandestine nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and missile programs… the Bush administration [approved] dozens of export licenses that [allowed] United States and foreign firms to ship sophisticated US dual-use equipment to MIMI-controlled weapons factories.” [US Congress, 8/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (41), Iraq Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization, Henry Gonzalez

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The US learns that the Iraqi research center, Saad 16, is involved in the development of chemical and nuclear weapons. Three years earlier it had been discovered that the facility was developing ballistic missiles (see November 1986). The Commerce Department will continue to ship advanced technology products to the center. [US Congress, 7/2/1991]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Secretary of State James Baker receives a memo from the State Department informing him that Iraq is aggressively developing chemical and biological weapons, as well as new missiles. In spite of this disturbing intelligence, the memo also instructs Baker to express the administration’s “interest in broadening US-Iraqi ties” to Iraqi Undersecretary Kizam Hamdoon. [US Department of State, 3/24/1989]

Entity Tags: Kizam Hamdoon, James A. Baker, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

President Bush signs National Security Directive (NSD) 26, which asserts: “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to US national security. The United States remains committed to defend its vital interests in the region, if necessary and appropriate through the use of US military force, against the Soviet Union or any other regional power with interests inimical to our own. The United States also remains committed to support the individual and collective self-defense of friendly countries in the area to enable them to play a more active role in their own defense and thereby reduce the necessity for unilateral US military intervention.”
Policy on Iraq, Iran - NSD 26 is intended to promote the US’s outreach to Iraq as a counterweight to the “inimical” Gulf nation of Iran. The directive states, “Normal relations between the US and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East. The United States government should propose economic and political incentives for Iraq to moderate its behavior and to increase our influence with Iraq.” The directive also warns that Iraq would face “economic and political sanctions” if it continued to pursue biological and chemical weapons, and “[a]ny breach by Iraq of IAEA safeguards in its nuclear program will result in a similar response.”
Human Rights - The directive advocates making “[h]uman rights considerations” an “important element in our policy towards Iraq,” and states that Iraq should be steered away from “its meddling in external affairs, such as in Lebanon, and be encouraged to play a constructive role in negotiating a settlement with Iran and cooperating in the Middle East peace process.” The directive takes a much harder line on Iran, noting that before it can expect normalized relations with the US, it must “cease its support for international terrorism… help obtain the release of all American hostages… hal[t] its subversive activities…,” seek peaceful co-existence with Iraq, and “improv[e] its human rights practices.” [National Security Directive 26, 10/2/1989 pdf file; Wilson, 2004, pp. 81-82]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (41), George Herbert Walker Bush

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

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; Los Angeles Times, 2/23/1992; New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Wall Street Journal, 7/10/2002]

Entity Tags: James A. Baker, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, George Herbert Walker Bush, Tariq Aziz

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

In response to a US company’s concern that their product might be used by Iraq to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the US Department of Commerce asks Iraq’s government to provide a written guarantee that the company’s product will be used for civilian purposes only. The Commerce Department tells the company that a license and review is unnecessary, and that there is no reason why the product in question should not be exported to Iraq. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 110]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

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.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Wilson, 2004, pp. 95]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bush administration (41), US Department of Commerce, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: Iraq Invasion of Kuwait, US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The US Commerce Department approves $4.8 million in sales of advanced technology products to Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI) and Saad 16 research centers. MIMI is known to be a development facility for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs (see 1989) and Saad 16 is known to be involved in the development of chemical and nuclear weapons (see November 1986 and November 1986). [US Congress, 7/2/1991]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce, Iraq Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 687. The resolution “[w]elcom[es] the restoration to Kuwait of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the return of its legitimate government.” The bulk of the resolution addresses Iraq, requiring that nation to destroy all of its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, as well as all of its ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers. The resolution says that Iraq’s compliance will represent “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.” Other portions of the resolution require Iraq to pay war reparations to Kuwait, to honor its international debts, and reaffirm the Iraq sanctions already passed by the UN. The resolution also paves the way for the controversial Oil-for-Food program by taking charge of Iraq’s petroleum exports. On the UN Security Council, twelve nations vote for the resolution; one, Cuba, votes against it, and two, Ecuador and Yemen, abstain. [United Nations, 4/3/1991; UNDemocracy (.com), 4/3/1991]

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council

Category Tags: Alleged WMDs, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Iraq Invasion of Kuwait, Weapons of Mass Destruction

A container leaking an unknown but potentially dangerous substance is reported at a Kuwaiti girls’ school in Kuwait City. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] The container is a storage tank that is initially shown to contain mustard agent and phosgene. The report causes a brief media sensation in the British and US press. Later, more intensive analysis of the data by British inspectors shows that the tank contained no chemical warfare agents, but instead contained a substance known as inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA). The US Defense Department will confirm those reports. [Illnesses, 3/19/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Alleged WMDs, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Weapons of Mass Destruction

The last shipment of Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin, is sent to Iraq. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Iraq receives its last shipment from the US of Pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas which can also be reverse engineered to create actual nerve gas. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/8/2002]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

David Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides Senator Donald Riegel (D-MI) with a complete list of all biological materials that the Center supplied Iraq between October 1, 1984 and October 13, 1993. At the time of these deliveries, Iraq claimed that the samples were being used for legitimate medical research. [Center for Disease Control, 6/21/1995; Business Week, 9/20/2002; Associated Press, 12/21/2002]

Entity Tags: David Satcher, Donald Riegel, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Rolf Ekeus.Rolf Ekeus. [Source: United Nations]US intelligence services use United Nations arms controls teams to spy on the Iraqi military, without the knowledge of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) that oversees the teams. US intelligence infiltrates agents and espionage equipment into the UN inspection teams. Clinton administration officials have previously admitted inserting eavesdropping equipment into Iraq with the inspectors, but said that they did so in cooperation with UNSCOM to penetrate Iraqi concealment of its illegal weapons. However, US intelligence agents rig UNSCOM equipment and office space, without UNSCOM permission or knowledge, to intercept Iraqi military communications. Most of these communications have nothing to do with UNSCOM’s special weapons mandate. US government officials admit that they considered the risk that discovery of their infiltrations would discredit the UNSCOM teams, but they dismissed the risk as being quite low, and the intelligence gathered on the Iraqi military as critically needed.
US Installs Surveillance Equipment During Upgrade - The surveillance begins in March 1996, when UNSCOM upgrades a widespread video surveillance system to transmit signals from the camera to the inspectors’ offices in Baghdad, and terminates no later than December 1998, when the Iraqis ask all UNSCOM inspectors to leave the country. While the new system gives UNSCOM inspectors views of distant facilities in “near real time,” unknown to UNSCOM officials, the US signals and sensor technicians who install and maintain the system have covert transmission systems built into the UNSCOM transmitters that capture the Iraqi communications. The designer of the new system is a military intelligence operative and engineer; two of the technicians who install the system are CIA agents.
UNSCOM Says Surveillance Destroyed Its Ability to Function inside Iraq - UNSCOM officials now claim that the covert surveillance undertaken by the US has helped to destroy the agency’s ability to function inside Iraq, and have given credibility to Iraqi claims—previously dismissed—that the US was using UNSCOM to spy on their military facilities. (UNSCOM is aware of another, simultaneous surveillance operation called “Shake the Tree,” that used commercial scanners to intercept Iraqi radio transmissions; US officials now say that they chose to pursue the surreptitious eavesdropping because they wanted to preserve their “independence of access” to Iraqi military communications, according to a US official. “We did not want to rely on a multinational body that might or might not continue to operate as it was operating.” The US government decides not to inform either Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who is UNSCOM’s executive chairman, or his Australian successor, Richard Butler, about the second eavesdropping operation. However, the CIA does inform the American deputy to both men, Charles Duelfer, to ensure that UNSCOM staff members do not interfere with the operation.
'Played for Suckers' - Ekeus will later say that while he has difficulty believing the US could have built covert antennas into the video relay system without the Iraqis’ knowledge, if the US did so, “We have always stood against that.” Though Butler refuses to comment publicly on the issue, a source reports that privately he is angered by the operation. “If all this stuff turns out to be true, then Rolf Ekeus and I have been played for suckers, haven’t we?” he is reported as saying. “I’ve spent a lifetime of helping build and defend the nonproliferation regimes. Piggybacking in this manner [by US intelligence] can only serve the interests of those who reject meaningful efforts at arms control.” In May 1997, British officials in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ask their counterparts, the American National Security Agency (NSA), if such an operation exists, and the NSA does not respond. A US official will explain: “We don’t tell the British everything, even if they are our closest intelligence ally. They don’t tell us everything they’re doing either.” [Washington Post, 3/2/1999]

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, United Nations Special Commission, Richard Butler, Charles Duelfer, Central Intelligence Agency, Rolf Ekeus, Government Communications Headquarters, Clinton administration

Category Tags: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Congressional conservatives receive a second “alternative assessment” of the nuclear threat facing the US that is far more to their liking than previous assessments (see December 23, 1996). A second “Team B” panel (see November 1976), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and made up of neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, finds that, contrary to earlier findings, the US faces a growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, who can, the panel finds, inflict “major destruction on the US within about five years of a decision.” This threat is “broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly” than previously believed. The Rumsfeld report also implies that either Iran or North Korea, or perhaps both, have already made the decision to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan has recently tested nuclear weapons (see May 28, 1998), it is not on the list. Unfortunately for the integrity and believability of the report, its methodology is flawed in the same manner as the previous “Team B” reports (see November 1976); according to author J. Peter Scoblic, the report “assume[s] the worst about potential US enemies without actual evidence to support those assumptions.” Defense analyst John Pike is also displeased with the methodology of the report. Pike will later write: “Rather than basing policy on intelligence estimates of what will probably happen politically and economically and what the bad guys really want, it’s basing policy on that which is not physically impossible. This is really an extraordinary epistemological conceit, which is applied to no other realm of national policy, and if manifest in a single human being would be diagnosed as paranoia.” [Guardian, 10/13/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 172-173] Iran, Iraq, and North Korea will be dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech (see January 29, 2002).

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, J. Peter Scoblic, Paul Wolfowitz, Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Stephen A. Cambone, John Pike

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Alleged WMDs, Politicization of Intelligence, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is subjected to intense questioning by Senator Robert Byrd about the United States’ role in providing Iraq with the materials for its chemical and biological weapons and Rumsfeld’s December 20, 1983 visit to Baghdad (see December 20, 1983). [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Byrd - “Mr. Secretary, to your knowledge, did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Rumsfeld - “Certainly not to my knowledge. I have no knowledge of United States companies or government being involved in assisting Iraq develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Byrd - “[After reading Mr. Rumsfeld excerpts from a Newsweek article] Let me ask you again: Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Rumsfeld - “I have not read the article…. I was, for a period in late ‘83 and early ‘84, asked by President Reagan to serve as Middle East envoy after the Marines—241 Marines were killed in Beirut. As part of my responsibilities I did visit Baghdad. I did meet with Mr. Tariq Aziz. And I did meet with Saddam Hussein and spent some time visiting with them about the war they were engaged in with Iran. At the time our concern, of course, was Syria and Syria’s role in Lebanon and Lebanon’s role in the Middle East and the terrorist acts that were taking place. As a private citizen I was assisting only for a period of months. I have never heard anything like what you’ve read, I have no knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert C. Byrd, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Joost Hiltermann.Joost Hiltermann. [Source: Representational Pictures]Reporter Russell Mokhiber attempts to pin down White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on the Bush administration’s condemnations of Iraq over its gassing of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, when the US at the time tried to protect Iraq from international criticism (see January 17, 2003). Mokhiber says, “You and the president have repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The biggest such attack was in Halabja in March 1988, where some 6,800 Kurds were killed. Last week, in an article in the International Herald Tribune, Joost Hiltermann writes that while it was Iraq that carried out the attack, the United States at the time, fully aware that it was Iraq, accused Iran. This was apparently part of the US tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. The tilt included billions of dollars in loan guarantees. Sensing he had carte blanche, Saddam escalated his resort to gas warfare—graduating to ever more lethal agents. So, you and the president have said that Saddam has repeatedly gassed his own people. Why do you leave out the part that the United States in effect gave Saddam the green light?” Fleischer responds that Mokhiber needs to ask someone “other than the White House,” and claims he has no idea whether those charges are accurate. Mokhiber presses forward, saying that recent media reports show “a number of major American corporations—including Hewlett-Packard and Bechtel—helped Saddam Hussein beef up its military in the 1980s [and] supplied Iraq with cluster bombs, intelligence and chemical and biological agents.” Mokhiber notes that the same articles report the current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “went to Baghdad in December 1983 and met with Saddam Hussein, and this was at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons almost on a daily basis in defiance of international conventions. So there are some specifics, and the question is—if Iraq is part of the axis of evil, why aren’t the United States and these American corporations part of the axis of evil for helping him out during his time of need?” Fleischer again refuses to answer directly, saying, “I think that you have to make a distinction between chemical and biological. And, clearly, in a previous era, following the fall of the Shah of Iran, when there was a focus on the risks that were underway in the region as a result of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, different administrations, beginning with President Carter, reached different conclusions about the level of military cooperation vis-a-vis Iraq. Obviously, Saddam Hussein since that time has used whatever material he had for the purpose therefore of attacking Kuwait, attacking Saudi Arabia, attacking Israel. And, obviously, as circumstances warrant, we have an approach that requires now the world to focus on the threat that Saddam Hussein presents and that he presents this threat because of his desire to continue to acquire weapons and his willingness to use those weapons against others.” Fleischer attempts to brush off any follow-up, refusing to admit that the US had any part in Hussein’s acquisition or use of chemical weapons, and saying, “I think that he gassed his own people as a result of his decisions to use his weapons to gas his own people.” When Mokhiber presses the point, Fleischer retorts, “… I think the suggestion that you blame America for Iraq’s actions is way beyond the pale.” [White House, 1/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Russell Mokhiber

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Category Tags: US-Iraq Collaboration, Weapons of Mass Destruction

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