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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Sat Jul 27 10:30:06 2002
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 00:11:50 -0500 (CDT)
From: Lev Lafayette <lev@student.unimelb.edu.au>
Subject: Who armed Saddam
Organization: The University of Melbourne
Article: 142758
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Who armed Saddam?

From Lev Lafayette, 26 July 2002

1. The British Foreign Office's Report on Strategic Export Controls (released last night) shows that:

a. Arms sales to Indonesia increased from #2m to #15.5m. Licences include all-wheel vehicles, components for aircraft cannon, combat aircraft and military aero-engines. This to a country that committed state-sponsored terror in East Timor.

b. Arms sales to Pakistan increased from #6m to #14m. This to a military dictatorship that created the Taliban.

2. In light of these figures, and the rhetoric of war against Iraq, some points need to be made. Given that Saddam is often described as a man who is willing to kill his own people by using chemical weapons, it's worth examining who armed him in the first place.

3. In the 1970s, Saddam approached the USSR, until then his conventional weapons supplier, to buy a plant to manufacture chemical weapons, but his request was refused. Saddam then began courting the West, and received a much more favourable response.

4. An American company, Pfaulder Corporation of Rochester, New York, supplied the Iraqis with a blueprint in 1975, enabling them to construct their first chemical warfare plant. The plant was purchased in sections from Italy, West Germany and East Germany and assembled in Iraq. It was located at Akhashat in north-western Iraq, and the cost was around $50 million for the plant and $30 million for the safety equipment.

5. British, French and German multinationals turned the request down on moral grounds or because the Iraqi delivery schedule couldn't be met—not because their governments objected.

6. The United States took other steps to ensure that Saddam's rule was strengthened. Mobile phone systems were mainly in the military domain at the time, but the United States government approved the 1975 sale by the Karkar Corporation of San Francisco of a complete mobile telephone system. The system was to be used by the Ba'ath Party loyalists to protect the regime against any attempts to overthrow it.

7. The United States also supplied Saddam with satellite pictures of Iranian positions during the Iran-Iraq war.

8. France provided Saddam with extended-range Super Etendard aircraft capable of hitting Iranian oil facilities in the lower Gulf.

9. While Britain's Margaret Thatcher mouthed platitudes about not supplying either Iran or Iraq with lethal weapons, Britain's Plessey Electronics supplied Saddam with an electronic command center.

10. Iraq was also able to buy French-built Mirage-1 aircraft and Gazelle and Lynx helicopters from the British company Westland.

11. In 1976, while on a visit to France, Saddam concluded the purchase of a uranium reactor. Jacques Chirac, then the Prime Minister and now the President, approved the deal. The supplier was Commissart l'Energie Atomique (CEA) and the plutonium reactor was called Rhapsodie. France also signed a Nuclear Cooperation Treaty with France, providing for the transfer of expertise and personnel.

12. In 1978, the Italian firm Snia Technit, a subsidiary of Fiat, signed an agreement with Iraq to sell nuclear laboratories and equipment.

13. Whenever the declared policies of the Western countries stood in the way of an arms deal, Western governments used two methods to get around their own rules and thereby manage public opinion.

a. The first method was the well-established use of the 'front'. Thus, Western governments supplied Saddam through the pro-West countries of Jordan and Egypt, which acted as a front for Iraq. This was done to overcome Congressional, parliamentary and press hurdles, even when it was obvious to military experts that Jordan and Egypt had no use for the weapons in question. Saddam also set up his own weapons buying offices in the West, with the knowledge of the host governments. For example, Matrix Churchill was a weapons purchasing company set up in Britain.

b. The second method was to extend Saddam massive credits which he could then use for military purposes. Thus, the Banco di Lavoro in the United States gave Saddam US$4 billion worth of credits, ostensibly to buy food, but which was diverted to buy weapons with the knowledge of everyone involved. Britain's Export Credit Guarantee department kept increasing his credit and much of the money went to the direct purchase of arms. The French government guaranteed US$6 billion worth of loans to French arms makers to sell Saddam whenever he wanted. Whenever the declared policies of the Western countries stood in the way of an arms deal.

14. When Saddam did in fact use chemical weapons against his own people, he did so on the afternoon of 17 March 1988, against the Kurdish city of Halabja. The United States provided diplomatic cover by initially blaming Iran for the attack. The Reagan Administration tried to prevent criticism of the atrocity. The Bush (senior) administration authorised new loans to Saddam in order to achieve the goal of increasing US exports and put us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record.

15. The US Department of Commerce licensed the export of biological materials—including a range of pathogenic agents—as well as plans for chemical and biological warfare production facilities and chemical-warhead filling equipment—to Iraq until December 1989, 20 months after the Halabja atrocity.


Saod K. Aburish, Saddam Hussein, The Politics of Revenge, New York, 2000.

Mark Phythian, Arming Iraq, Boston, 1997.

Geoff Simons, Iraq from Sumer to Saddam, London, 1996.

Kenneth R. Timmermann, The Death Lobby, How the West Armed Iraq, London, 1994.