From email@example.com Wed Jan 1 17:00:19 2003
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 01:25:19 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (skye)
Subject: October Surprise X Files: Part Five--Saddam's Green Light
Organization: SCN Research of Tigard, Oregon, USA.
Saddam's 'Green Light'
top secret report reveals about the origins of the
bloody Iran-Iraq War. (1-31-96)
In 1980, Iraq's Saddam Hussein was suddenly a bigtime international 'player,' invited to the gaudy palaces of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. But there was an ulterior motive behind the flattering invitation: Saddam's army was the new protector of the petro-rich against the Iranian hordes.
Saudi Prince Fahd claimed to have a message, too, from the President of the United States. It was a missive that might have changed the course of history, another installment from the October Surprise
WASHINGTONIn summer 1980, Iraq's wily president Saddam Hussein saw opportunities in the chaos sweeping the Persian Gulf. Iran's Islamic revolution had terrified the Saudi princes and other Arab royalty who feared uprisings against their own corrupt life styles. Saddam's help was sought, too, by CIA-backed Iranian exiles who wanted a base to challenge the fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And as always, the Western powers were worried about the Middle East oil fields.
So because of geography and his formidable Soviet-supplied army, Saddam was suddenly a popular fellow.
On Aug. 5, 1980, the Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Iraqi president. The Saudis, of course, wanted something. At those fateful meetings, amid the luxury of the ornate palaces, the Saudis would encourage Saddam to invade Iran. The Saudis also would claim to pass on a secret message about President Carter's geo-political desires.
During that summer of 1980, President Carter was facing his own
crisis. His failure to free 52 American hostages held in Iran was
threatening his political survival. As he wrote in his memoirs,
The election might also be riding on their
freedom. Equally alarming, President Carter had begun receiving
reports that the Republicans were making back-channel contacts with
Iran about the hostage crisis, as he would state in a letter to a
journalist nearly a decade later.
Though it was unclear then, this multi-sided political intrigue would shape the history from 1980 to the present day. Iraq's invasion of Iran in September 1980 would deteriorate into eight years of bloody trench warfare that did little more than kill and maim an estimated one million people. What little more the war did was to generate billions of dollars in profits for well-connected arms merchants -- and spawn a series of national security scandals.
In 1986-87, the Iran-Contra Affair peeled back some of the layers of
secrecy, but bipartisan investigations dumped the blame mostly on
Oliver North and a few low-level
men of zeal.<.q> Later inquiries
into Iraqgate allegations of secret U.S. military support for Saddam
Hussein also ended inconclusively. The missing billions from the
sleazy Bank of Credit and Commerce International disappeared into the
mist of complex charge and counter-charge, too. So did evidence
implicating the CIA and Nicaraguan contra rebels in cocaine
A similar fate befell the October Surprise story and President
Carter's old suspicion of Republican interference in the 1980
hostage crisis. A special House task force concluded in 1993 that it
no credible evidence to support the October Surprise
Still, I gained access to documents from that investigation, including
top secret which apparently had
been left behind by accident in a remote Capitol Hill storage
room. Those papers filled in a number of the era's missing pieces
and established that there was more to the reports that President
Carter heard in 1980 than the task force publicly acknowledged. (For
more details, see the first four issues of The Consortium.)
But besides undermining the task force's October Surprise
debunking, the papers clarified President Reagan's early strategy
for a clandestine foreign policy hidden from Congress and the American
people. One such document was a two-page
prepared by Secretary of State Alexander Haig for a briefing of
President Reagan. Marked
top secret/sensitive, the paper
recounted Haig's first trip to the Middle East in April 1981.
In the report, Haig wrote that he was impressed with
bits of useful
intelligence that he had learned.
Both [Egypt's Anwar]
Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving
military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel. This fact might
have been less surprising to President Reagan, whose intermediaries
allegedly collaborated with Israeli officials in 1980 to smuggle
weapons to Iran behind President Carter's back.
But Haig followed that comment with another stunning assertion:
was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis
a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd. In
other words, according to Haig's information, Saudi Prince Fahd
(now King Fahd) claimed that President Carter, apparently hoping to
strengthen the U.S. hand in the Middle East and desperate to pressure
Iran over the stalled hostage talks, gave clearance to Saddam's
invasion of Iran. If true, Jimmy Carter, the peacemaker, had
encouraged a war.
Haig's written report contained no other details about the
green light, and Haig declined my request for an interview
about the Talking Points. But the paper represented the first
documented corroboration of Iran's long-held belief that the
United States backed Iraq's 1980 invasion.
In 1980, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity
patently false. He mentioned Iraq's invasion only briefly
in his memoirs, in the context of an unexpected mid-September hostage
initiative from a Khomeini in-law, Sadeq Tabatabai.
conversations [in Germany] were quite encouraging, President
Carter wrote about that approach, but he added:
As fate would have
it, the Iraqis chose the day of [Tabatabai's] scheduled arrival in
Iran, September 22, to invade Iran and to bomb the Tehran airport.
Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the
The Iraqi invasion did make Iran more desperate to get U.S. spare parts for its air and ground forces. Yet the Carter administration continued to demand that the American hostages be freed before military shipments could resume. But according to House task force documents that I found in the storage room, the Republicans were more accommodating.
Secret FBI wiretaps revealed that an Iranian banker, the late Cyrus Hashemi, who supposedly was helping President Carter on the hostage talks, was assisting Republicans with arms shipments to Iran and peculiar money transfers in fall 1980. Hashemi's older brother, Jamshid, testified that the Iran arms shipments, via Israel, resulted from secret meetings in Madrid between the GOP campaign director, William J. Casey, and a radical Islamic mullah named Mehdi Karrubi.
For whatever reasons, on Election Day 1980, President Carter still had failed to free the hostages and Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.
Within minutes of President Reagan's Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages finally were freed. In the following weeks, the new administration put in place discreet channels to Middle East powers, as Haig flew to the region for a round of high-level consultations. The trim silver-haired former four-star general met with Iraq's chief allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with Israel, which was continuing to support Iran as a counter-weight to Iraq and the Arab states.
On April 8, 1981, Haig ended his first round of meetings in Riyadh and
issued a diplomatic statement lauding Saudi Arabia's
to building a better world and the wisdom of your leaders. More to
the point, he announced that
the foundation has been laid during
this trip for the strengthening of U.S.-Saudi relations.
After Haig's return to Washington, his top secret Talking Points fleshed out for President Reagan the actual agreements that were reached at the private sessions in Saudi Arabia, as well as at other meetings in Egypt and Israel.
As we discussed before my Middle East trip, Haig explained to
I proposed to President Sadat, [Israel's]
Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and Crown Prince Fahd that we
establish a private channel for the consideration of particularly
sensitive matters of concern to you. Each of the three picked up on
the proposal and asked for early meetings.
Haig wrote that on his return, he immediately dispatched his
Bud McFarlane, to Cairo and Riyadh to
formalize those channels.
He held extremely useful meetings with
both Sadat and Fahd, Haig boasted.
In fact, Sadat kept Ed
Muskie [President Carter's secretary of state] waiting for an hour
and a half while he [Sadat] extended the meeting.
These early contacts with Fahd, Sadat and Begin solidified their three countries as the cornerstones of the administration's clandestine foreign policy of the 1980s: the Saudis as the moneymen, the Israelis as the middlemen, and the Egyptians as a ready source for Soviet-made equipment .
Although President Carter had brokered a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Sadat, Begin and Fahd had all been alarmed at signs of U.S. weakness, especially Washington's inability to protect the Shah of Iran from ouster in 1979. Haig's Talking Points captured that relief at President Carter's removal from office.
It is clear that your policies of firmness toward the Soviets has
restored Saudi and Egyptian confidence in the leadership of the
U.S., Haig wrote for the presentation to his boss.
and Sadat] went much further than ever before in offering to be
Sadat offered to host a forward headquarters for the
Rapid Deployment Force, including a full-time presence of U.S military
personnel. Sadat also outlined his strategy for invading Libya to
disrupt Moammar Khadafy's intervention in Chad.
I believe he [Sadat] could easily get overextended
in such an undertaking and [I] will try to moderate his ambitions on
Haig reported that Prince Fahd was
also very enthusiastic about
President Reagan's foreign policy. Fahd had agreed
to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the
region, Haig wrote. The Saudi leader was promising, too, to help
the U.S. economy by committing his oil-rich nation to a position of
no drop in production of petroleum.
These channels promise to be extremely useful in forging compatible
policies with the Saudis and Egyptians, Haig continued.
men value the 'special status' you have conferred on them and
both value confidentiality. I will follow up with [Defense Secretary]
Cap Weinberger and [CIA Director] Bill Casey. ...The larger message
emerging from these exchanges, however, is that your policies are
correct and are already eliciting the enthusiastic support of
important leaders abroad.
In the following years, the Reagan administration would exploit the
special status with all three countries to skirt Constitutional
restrictions on Executive war-making powers. Secretly, the
administration would tilt back and forth in the Iran-Iraq war, between
aiding the Iranians with missiles and spare parts and helping the
Iraqis with intelligence and indirect military shipments.
When the Soviets shot down an Israeli-leased Argentine plane carrying
U.S. military supplies to Iran on July 18, 1981, the State Department
showed it, too, valued confidentiality. At the time, State denied U.S.
knowledge. But in a later interview, assistant secretary of state
Nicholas Veliotes said
it was clear to me after my conversations
with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could
transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.
According to a sworn affidavit by former Reagan national security
staffer Howard Teicher, the administration enlisted the Egyptians in a
Bear Spares program that gave the United States access
to Soviet-designed military equipment. Teicher asserted that the
Reagan administration funnelled some of those weapons to Iraq and also
arranged other shipments of devastating cluster bombs that
Saddam's air force dropped on Iranians troops.
In 1984, facing congressional rejection of continued CIA funding of
the Nicaraguan contra rebels, President Reagan exploited the
special status again. He tapped into the Saudi slush funds for
money to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels in their war in Central
America. The President also authorized secret weapons shipments to
Iran in another arms-for-hostages scheme, with the profits going to
off-the-shelf intelligence operations. That gambit, like the
others, was protected by walls of
deniability and outright
Some of those lies collapsed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the administration quickly constructed new stonewalls that were never breached. Republicans fiercely defended the secrets and Democrats lacked the nerve to fight for the truth. The Washington media also lost interest because the scandals were complex and official sources steered the press in other directions.
When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was
troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among
international players in the 1980s.
Oh, no, no, no, no, he
boomed, shaking his head.
On that kind of thing? No. Come
on. Jesus! God! You know, you'd better get out and read
Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you're living in a
dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do
and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they're going to lie
through their teeth.
But sometimes the game-playing did have unintended consequences. In 1990, a decade after Iraq's messy invasion of Iran, an embittered Saddam Hussein was looking for pay-back from the sheikhdoms that he felt had egged him into war. Saddam was especially furious with Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraq's oil fields and refusing to extend more credit. Again, Saddam was looking for a signal from the U.S. president, this time George Bush.
When Saddam explained his confrontation with Kuwait to U.S. Ambassador
April Glaspie, he received an ambiguous reply, a reaction he
apparently perceived as another
green light. Eight days later,
Saddam unleashed his army into Kuwait, an invasion that required
500,000 U.S. troops and thousands more dead to reverse.