Afresh declassified CIA documents show that the United States had a hand in Iraq's chemical attacks on Iran during the 1980-1988 war against the Islamic Republic.
America's military and intelligence communities knew about Saddam's deadly attacks and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks.
A new report revealed that during the war, the Iraqi military attacked Iran several times using mustard gas and sarin with the help of satellite imagery, maps and other intelligence provided by the US government, the Foreign Policy magazine said, citing CIA documents and interviews with former US intelligence officials.
The CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States' knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior US officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.
US officials have long denied having knowledge of the US involvement but retired Air Force Colonel Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, said the American officials knew of Iraq's intention.
"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," he told Foreign Policy.
According to the newly declassified documents, in 1983, the Iraqi military carried out a chemical attack on Iranian forces and the Islamic Republic tried to take the issue to the United Nations.
Much of the evidence implicating Iraq was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. However, the US concealed the facts to block Iran's bid at the UN.
"As Iraqi attacks continue and intensify the chances increase that Iranian forces will acquire a shell containing mustard agent with Iraqi markings," the CIA reported in a top secret document in November 1983. "Tehran would take such evidence to the UN and charge US complicity in violating international law."
The FP wrote that earlier in 1988, "during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. US intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent."
According to the documents, the satellite images, provided to Iraq in 1988, showed that Iran was going to gain a strategic advantage by using a hole in Iraqi defenses. CIA agents provided the Iraqi military with information on the movements of the Iranian troops and the location of the country's logistics facilities as well as details about Iranian air defenses.
Source: Foreign Policy, edited by website team