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In an unusual display of rhetorical anger, the Soviet Union’s General Secretary, Yuri Andropov, responds to the US’s announcement of its development of an anti-ballistic missile defense (SDI, or “Star Wars”—see March 23, 1983) by accusing President Reagan of “inventing new plans on how to unleash a nuclear war in the best way, with the hope of winning it.” CIA analyst Benjamin Fischer will later call Andropov’s statement “unprecedented.” Ignoring the counsel of his own advisers to remain calm, Andropov, with unusually heated rhetoric, denounces the US program as a “bid to disarm the Soviet Union in the face of the US nuclear threat.” Such space-based defense, he says, “would open the floodgates of a runaway race of all types of strategic arms, both offensive and defensive. Such is the real significance, the seamy side, so to say, of Washington’s ‘defensive conception.‘… The Soviet Union will never be caught defenseless by any threat.… Engaging in this is not just irresponsible, it is insane.… Washington’s actions are putting the entire world in jeopardy.” Andropov’s statement violates what Fischer will describe as a “longstanding taboo” against “citing numbers and capabilities of US nuclear weapons in the mass media” as well as “referr[ing] to Soviet weapons with highly unusual specificity.” Fischer will go on to note: “[F]or the first time since 1953, the top Soviet leader was telling his nation that the world was on the verge of a nuclear holocaust. If candor is a sign of sincerity, then Moscow was worried.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 134]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Strategic Defense Initiative, Yuri Andropov, Benjamin Fischer

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Reagan administration ignores the recommendations of a panel of experts named, at Congress’s behest, to provide alternatives to the stalled START arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union (see January 1983-April 1983). Spurred by hardliners in the administration, President Reagan instead instructs his negotiators to offer, not one unacceptable alternative, as initially offered to the Soviets (see May 1982 and After), but two unacceptable alternatives: either accept drastic limits on “throw weights,” or payloads, of their nuclear missiles, or accept harsh reductions in the number of ICBMs they can deploy, which will also reduce Soviet throw weight. The Soviets retort that the US is again trying to force them to disarm without agreeing to any reductions in their own nuclear arsenal. One Soviet official observes, “Your idea of ‘flexibility’ is to give a condemned man the choice between the rope and the ax.”
'Firing' the Executive Branch - Congressional leaders have had enough of the administration’s obstructionism, and brings in panel leader Brent Scowcroft to craft an alternative. In his 1984 book Deadly Gambits, future State Department official Strobe Talbott will write, “The Legislative Branch had, in effect, fired the Executive Branch for gross incompetence in arms control.” Scowcroft writes a proposal that enables both the US and USSR to reduce their nuclear arsenals with a measure of equivalence, taking into account the disparities between the two.
Misrepresenting the Proposal - The administration accepts Scowcroft’s proposal with some minor amendments, but the Soviets balk at the agreement, in part because chief US negotiator Edward Rowny, a hardliner who opposes arms negotiations on ideological grounds, misrepresents the proposal to his Soviet colleagues. The “basic position of this administration has not changed,” Rowny declares. In turn, the Soviets declare, “Ambassador Rowny is not a serious man.” When the talks come to their scheduled end in December 1983, the Soviets depart without setting a date for resumption.
More 'Sophisticated' Obstructionism - In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write of the negotiations: “The conservative position had by now become far more sophisticated. By never rejecting negotiations outright, the administration could always claim that it was pursuing them with vigor, and if critics complained that its proposals were nonnegotiable, it could simply, if disingenuously, claim that it wanted to substantively reduce nuclear arsenals, not just perpetuate the status quo.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 124-125]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, Ronald Reagan, Strobe Talbott, Brent Scowcroft, Edward Rowny, J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Iraq warns Iran of “new weapons… [to] be used for the first time in war… not used in previous attacks because of humanitarian and ethical reasons… that will destroy any moving creature.” [US Department of State, 11/1/1983 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The South Korean government informs the State Department that it received a request from Iraq to militarize some helicopters. [Battle, 2/25/2003]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The US announces that the Soviet Union has established a large early-warning radar system near the city of Krasnoyarsk. The installation violates the 1972 ABM Treaty (see May 26, 1972), which requires that such installations be located near the nation’s border and oriented outward. It is possible that the Soviet radar installation is built in response to the US’s recent decision to violate the ABM treaty by developing a missile defense system (see March 23, 1983). [Federation of American Scientists, 1/15/2008]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Korean Airlines Flight 007 before takeoff.Korean Airlines Flight 007 before takeoff. [Source: Check-Six (.org)]A Soviet Su-15 fighter plane fires two missiles into a Korean Airlines 747 passenger plane, KAL 007. The plane, en route from Alaska to Seoul, South Korea, had strayed into Soviet air space, had not responded to radio communications, and had either ignored or not seen warning shots fired at it. The 747 crashes into the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers, including conservative House Representative Larry McDonald (D-GA) and 62 other Americans. The Soviets insist that the passenger plane was deliberately sent into their airspace to test their military readiness; later investigation shows that a US spy plane had just left the area, agitating Soviet radar units, and, according to their own radio transmissions, the Soviets had honestly believed the 747 was another spy plane, most likely an American RC-135. Though it has definitely strayed into Soviet airspace at least twice, and flown over a sensitive Soviet airbase on the Kamchatka Peninsula, it is most likely shot down in international airspace. [Fischer, 3/19/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 131]
Angry White House Officials Respond - Reagan administration officials are furious. Secretary of State George Shultz, dubbed “The Sphinx” by journalists for his remote demeanor, rails at the Soviets in a press conference called just four hours after the White House learns of the incident. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 131] Four days later, Reagan will denounce the Soviets in a primetime televised speech (see September 5, 1983).
Massive PR Campaign against USSR - The US will use the shootdown to mount a tremendous public relations campaign against the Soviets, focusing on the Soviet civilian leadership as well as Soviet international business interests; for example, the US will demand a global boycott of the Soviet airline Aeroflot. According to a memo issued to the Politburo by the Defense Ministry and the KGB, the Soviets well understood the political ramifications of the shootdown: “We are dealing with a major, dual-purpose political provocation carefully organized by the US special services. The first purpose was to use the incursion of the intruder aircraft into Soviet airspace to create a favorable situation for the gathering of defense data on our air defense system in the Far East, involving the most diverse systems including the Ferret satellite. Second, they envisaged, if this flight were terminated by us, [the US would use] that fact to mount a global anti-Soviet campaign to discredit the Soviet Union.” In its own counter-propaganda efforts, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov will say that an “outrageous military psychosis” has taken over US foreign policy. He adds, “[T]he Reagan administration, in its imperial ambitions, goes so far that one begins to doubt whether Washington has any brakes at all preventing it from crossing the point at which any sober-minded person must stop.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007]
Exacerbating Tensions - After the shootdown and its aftermath, according to the Soviet ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, both sides go “a little crazy.” The shootdown gives the US hard evidence of its worst-case assumptions about the Soviets. For the Soviets, the US reaction gives them hard evidence of their own assumptions about the US’s attempts to provoke the USSR into some sort of confrontation (see 1981-1983) and to embarrass the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world. Reagan’s use of the KAL 007 incident to ask Congress for more defense funding is, in the Soviets’ eyes, proof that the entire incident was engineered by the Americans for just such an outcome. [Fischer, 3/19/2007]
Alternative Accounts - A number of alternative accounts about the incident spring up, in particular concerning McDonald. [Insight, 4/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, Anatoly Dobrynin, Larry McDonald, Yuri Andropov, Steven Symms, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Four days after the Soviet shootdown of a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983), President Reagan delivers a televised speech from the Oval Office calling the incident a “massacre,” a “crime against humanity,” and “an atrocity.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 131] The shootdown is, Reagan says, “an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

A week after President Reagan publicly denounced the Soviet Union for shooting down a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983 and September 5, 1983), Secretary of State George Shultz meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Gromyko later recalls the conversation as “the sharpest exchange I ever had with an American secretary of state, and I have had talks with 14 of them.” The Reagan administration will deny Gromyko permission to fly into New York City, where he is scheduled to attend the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 131]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, Andrei Gromyko, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown.Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown. [Source: Central Intelligence Agency]The Soviet Union, flustered and angry at the harsh denunciations heaped on it by the US after their shootdown of a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983, September 5, 1983, and Mid-September, 1983), reacts badly to the US’s response. Between the KAL incident and other episodes—President Reagan’s terming the USSR an “evil empire” (see March 8, 1983), the refusal of the US to negotiate on arms reduction (see April 1983-December 1983), and the US’s launch of the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program (see April 1983-December 1983), the Soviets are not prepared to accept the US’s position on the shootdown, nor are they prepared to accept responsibility for shooting down a passenger plane full of civilians. Instead, the KAL incident provides what Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the US, will later call “a catalyst for the angry trends that were already inherent in relations during the Reagan presidency.” Newly installed Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov issues a statement saying that US-Soviet relations cannot improve so long as Reagan is president: “If anybody ever had any illusions about the possibility of an evolution to the better in the policy of the present American administration, these illusions are completely dispelled now.” Soviet statements begin referring to the danger of war and US nuclear first strikes. The Soviet press calls Reagan a “madman” and compares him to Adolf Hitler. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko worries that “the world situation is now slipping towards a very dangerous precipice.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 132]

Entity Tags: Yuri Andropov, Adolf Hitler, Ronald Reagan, Andrei Gromyko

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Yuri Andropov.Yuri Andropov. [Source: BBC]Soviet leader Yuri Andropov issues an unusual “declaration” on US-Soviet relations that demonstrates the tension and mistrust between the two countries since the KAL 007 shootdown (see September 1, 1983). “The Soviet leadership deems it necessary to inform the Soviet people, other peoples, and all who are responsible for determining the policy of states, of its assessment of the course pursued in international affairs by the current US administration,” Andropov says. “In brief, it is a militarist course that represents a serious threat to peace.… If anyone had any illusion about the possibility of an evolution for the better in the policy of the present American administration, recent events have dispelled them completely.” According to the Soviet ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, the last phrase is the key: the word “completely” was carefully chosen to express the Soviet consensus that the USSR cannot hope to reach any sort of understanding with the Reagan administration. In the following months, a “war scare” mentality engulfs the Soviet populace, fed by Soviet-generated propaganda, until it becomes so widespread that the Kremlin, fearing the agitation will get out of hand, takes steps in early 1984 to calm the fears it has helped generate. [Fischer, 3/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Yuri Andropov, Anatoly Dobrynin, Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

William Eagleton, the chief of the US-interests section in Baghdad, writes a memo that asserts the US can secretly supply arms to Iraq for use against Iran through third-party nations. “We can selectively lift restrictions on third party transfers of US-licensed military equipment to Iraq,” he writes. Although Eagleton is not the architect of this policy—that is primarily Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State George Shultz, and Shultz’s assistant, Richard Murphy, who fear that Iran will lead a rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region—Eagleton’s memo heralds the onset of US arms transfers to Iraq through several regional countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt. The arms transfers are almost certainly illegal, a direct violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which directs the president to inform Congress if any such third-party arms transfers are enacted. Reagan officials decide not to inform Congress because they know Congress will never approve the arms transfers, particularly in light of the US’s stated policy of neutrality towards the Iran-Iraq War. Congress also knows nothing of the Reagan administration’s secret supplying of arms to Iran (see 1981). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: William Eagleton, George Shultz, Richard W. Murphy, Caspar Weinberger

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In a speech, President Reagan states what later becomes part of the ideology behind the “Reagan doctrine” of American assistance to anti-Soviet insurgencies (see May 5, 1985). “The goal of the free world must no longer be stated in the negative,” he says, “that is, resistance to Soviet expansionism. The goal of the free world must now be stated in the affirmative. We must go on the offensive with a forward strategy for freedom.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

An Iraqi warplane drops a chemical bomb near the Iranian village of Bademjan. Iranian ambassador Said Rajaie Khorassani claims, ”]A white fume spread in the area causing severe skin injuries and several cases of loss of eyesight among people in the vicinity and 11 people lost their lives.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Said Rajaie Khorassani

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

US State Department official Jonathan T. Howe tells Secretary of State George P. Shultz that intelligence reports indicate that Saddam Hussein’s troops are resorting to “almost daily use of CW [Chemical Weapons]” against their Iranian adversaries. [US Department of State, 11/1/1983 pdf file; Washington Post, 12/30/2002; London Times, 12/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Jonathan T. Howe, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Test firing of a US Pershing II IRBM.Test firing of a US Pershing II IRBM. [Source: US Army / Public domain]The US and its NATO allies carry out a military exercise called “Able Archer,” or “Able Archer 83,” designed to simulate the use of nuclear weapons in an assault against the Soviet Union, and to test command and control procedures. The military exercise comes perilously close to touching off a real nuclear exchange with the USSR. The exercise—not the first of its kind, but the most expansive—is huge, spanning Europe from Turkey to Scandinavia; it involves the heads of state of countries like Great Britain and Germany; and, perhaps most alarmingly for the Soviets, involves NATO forces escalating their military alert levels to DEFCON-1, at which point NATO nuclear weapons have their safeguards disabled and are ready for launch. The Soviet’s VRYAN program to detect a possible assault (see May 1981) is extremely active. On November 8, Moscow sends high-priority telegrams to its KGB stations in Western Europe demanding information about a possible surprise first attack on the USSR. Though little actual evidence exists, some sources erroneously tell Moscow that NATO ground forces are mobilizing. The KGB concludes that “Able Archer” is a cover for a real military assault; Warsaw Pact fighter units armed with nuclear weapons are put on alert in East Germany and Poland. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 134-135; Cardiff Western News, 11/10/2008]
'Frighteningly Close' to Nuclear War, Says Soviet Intelligence Official - Oleg Gordievsky, the intelligence chief of the Soviet embassy in London and a British double agent, warns the British that the West is entering what he calls a “danger zone.” The Daily Telegraph will later write, “It was on Nov. 8-9 that the Kremlin had pressed what came close to a panic button.” [Washington Post, 10/16/1988] In his memoirs, Gordievsky will write: “In the tense atmosphere generated by the crises and rhetoric of the past few months, the KGB concluded that American forces had been placed on alert—and might even have begun the countdown to war.… [D]uring ABLE ARCHER 83 it had, without realizing it, come frighteningly close—certainly closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007]
Reagan 'Shocked' at Soviet Reaction - The exercise ends without incident, but National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane will later admit, “The situation was very grave.” Secretary of State George Shultz terms the exercise “a close call” and “quite sobering.” In early 1984, when the CIA reports that the Soviets had been convinced that the US was readying a nuclear strike, President Reagan will be, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “shocked” to realize that he and his administration “had nearly started a nuclear war.” Reagan, in McFarlane’s recollection, will show “genuine anxiety” and begin talking about the concept of Armageddon—the Biblical end times—with his advisers. [Fischer, 3/19/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 134-135]

Entity Tags: Operation VRYAN, Ronald Reagan, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, KGB, J. Peter Scoblic, George Shultz, Robert C. McFarlane, ’Able Archer’, Central Intelligence Agency, Oleg Gordievsky

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Poster for ‘The Day After.’Poster for ‘The Day After.’ [Source: MGM]The made-for-TV movie The Day After airs on ABC. It tells the story of a group of Americans in Lawrence, Kansas—the geographical center of the continental United States—who survive a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, and the harrowing days and weeks of their existence afterwards, as they slowly die from radiation poisoning and a lack of food and water. “Bootleged” copies of the movie have been available for months, adding to the anticipation and the controversy surrounding it.
Concerns of 'Anti-Nuclear Bias' from White House - The movie, described by Museum of Broadcast Communications reviewer Susan Emmanuel as “starkly realistic,” caused concern in the White House because of what it saw as its “anti-nuclear bias.” (The production had taken place without the cooperation of the Defense Department, which had insisted on emphasizing that the Soviet Union had started the exchange depicted in the movie. The filmmakers did not want to take a political stance, and preferred to leave that question unclear.) To address the White House’s concerns, ABC distributed a half-million viewers’ guides to schools, libraries, and civic and religious groups, and organized discussion groups around the country. It will also conduct extensive social research after the broadcast to judge the reactions among children and adults. A discussion group featuring Secretary of State George Shultz takes place immediately after the broadcast. Its original broadcast is viewed by roughly 100 million viewers, an unprecedented audience. It is shown three weeks later on Britain’s ITV network as part of a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament recruitment drive. Emmanuel will later write, “Not since then has the hybrid between entertainment and information, between a popular genre like disaster, and the address to the enlightened citizen, been as successfully attempted by a network in a single media event. ” [Lometti, 1992; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 133; Museum of Broadcast Communications, 1/26/2008] Even though the filmmakers tried to remain politically neutral—director Nicholas Meyer says his film “does not advocate disarmament, build-down, buildup, or freeze”—proponents of the “nuclear freeze” movement hail the movie and conservatives call it a “two hour commercial for disarmament.” (ABC’s social research later shows that the film does not have a strong impact on viewers either for or against nuclear disarmament.) Conservative evangelist Jerry Falwell threatens, but does not execute, a boycott of the commercial sponsors of the film. Some Congressional Democrats ask that the movie be made available for broadcast in the Soviet Union. [Lometti, 1992]
Powerful Impact on President Reagan - The movie has a powerful impact on one viewer: President Reagan. He will reflect in his memoirs that the film leaves him “greatly depressed” and makes him “aware of the need for the world to step back from the nuclear precipice.” Author J. Peter Scoblic will later write: “If it seems vaguely ridiculous for a Cold War president to reach this conclusion only after watching a made-for-TV movie, remember that Reagan biographers have long noted that his connection to film was often stronger than his connection to reality. He also became far more intellectually and emotionally engaged when presented with issues framed as personal stories, rather than as policy proposals.” Reagan’s visceral reaction to the film heralds a fundamental shift in his approach to the US-Soviet nuclear arms race. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 133]

Entity Tags: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, George Shultz, Nicholas Meyer, American Broadcasting Corporation, Reagan administration, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, Susan Emmanuel, US Department of Defense, J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

US President Ronald Reagan issues National Security Directive 114 on the United States’ policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The document—which makes no mention of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons—calls for increased regional military cooperation to protect oil facilities and for improving US military capabilities in the region. The directive states, “Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic.” [US President, 11/26/1983 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

President Reagan, still shaken from the near-catastrophe of the “Able Archer” exercise (see November 2-11, 1983) and his viewing of the nuclear holocaust film The Day After (see November 20, 1983), receives a briefing on the nation’s nuclear war plans (see March 1982). Reagan had put off the briefing for almost two years, causing some of his more hardline advisers and officials to wonder if the president was losing his taste for a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. Some of them privately believe that Reagan might never order a nuclear attack on the USSR no matter what the provocation. The briefing is anchored by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Vessey. They explain to Reagan that the US has 50,000 Soviet sites targeted for nuclear strikes; half of those sites are economic, industrial, political, and population centers. If the US launches such a strike, they say, the USSR would almost certainly retaliate, destroying the US as a functional society. Officials at the briefing later recall Reagan appearing “chastened” and brooding afterwards. In his diary, Reagan calls the briefing a “most sobering experience,” and writes of how much the briefing reminds him of The Day After: “In several ways, the sequence of events described in the briefings paralleled those in the ABC movie.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 133] He also writes in his diary how he is “even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and the Russians had nothing to fear from us.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 139]

Entity Tags: Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan, John Vessey

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Secretary of State George P. Shultz will later recall that reports of Iraq using chemical weapons against Iranian military personnel “drifted in” at about this time (see, e.g., November 1, 1983). [Schultz, 1993, pp. 238; Jentleson, 1994, pp. 48; Cole, 1997, pp. 87]

Entity Tags: George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

US intelligence begins receiving reports that Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran has increased. [Shultz, 1993, pp. 238; Jentleson, 1994, pp. 48; Cole, 1997, pp. 87]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

December 1983: US Ships Helicopters to Iraq

By the end of 1983, 60 Hughes MD 500 “Defender” helicopters have been shipped to Iraq despite objections from four Republican senators. The US Department of Commerce had decided that the exporting of aircraft weighing less than 10,000 pounds to Iraq did not require an export license. [Middle East Defense News, 11/9/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Though President Reagan has long vowed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons between the US and Soviet Union (see April 1981 and After and March-April 1982), because of a variety of factors—his recalcitrant anti-communism (see May 27, 1981, June 8, 1982, and March 8, 1983), his belief that escalating the arms race between the two countries would force the Soviets to give up their attempt to stay abreast of the Americans (see Early 1981 and After, Early 1981 and After, and Spring 1982), and his aides’ success at sabotaging the US-Soviet arms negotiations (see January 1981 and After, September 1981 through November 1983, May 1982 and After, and April 1983-December 1983)—recent events (see November 2-11, 1983 and November 20, 1983) have convinced him that he must fundamentally change the way he approaches the US’s dealings with the Soviets. He tells reporters that he will no longer refer to the USSR as “the focus of evil.” He drops what is known as “the standard threat speech” and begins speaking more frequently and openly of nuclear disarmament, to the dismay of many of his hardline advisers. In one speech, he says: “The fact that neither of us likes the other system is no reason to refuse to talk. Living in this nuclear age makes it imperative that we do talk.” Speechwriter Jack Matlock, a pragmatist recently put in charge of the National Security Council’s Soviet affairs desk, wins Reagan’s approval to insert a quote from a speech by President Kennedy: “So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.” He stops using terms like “conflict” in favor of terms such as “misunderstandings.” The rhetoric of “good vs evil,” of “us vs them,” is set aside in favor of discussions of mutual interests and problem solving. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 138-139]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Jack Matlock, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The US State Department invites Bechtel officials to Washington to discuss plans for constructing the proposed Iraq-Jordan Aqaba oil pipeline. Former Bechtel president George Shultz is US Secretary of State at this time. [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Bechtel, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The US launches Operation Staunch, advising other countries not to sell weapons to Iran to force a negotiated settlement to the Iran-Iraq war. [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

President Reagan dispatches US envoy to the Middle East, Donald Rumsfeld, to convey the administration’s intention to “resume [US] diplomatic relations with Iraq” (see December 20, 1983). [American Gulf War Veterans Association, 9/10/2001; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Rumsfeld greets Hussein.Rumsfeld greets Hussein. [Source: Washington Note.com]US Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld—formerly the Secretary of Defense and now the CEO of the pharmaceutical company, GD Searle and Co.—personally meets with Saddam Hussein for 90 minutes in an attempt to reestablish diplomatic relations with Iraq. Rumsfeld also discusses US interest in the construction of the Iraq-Jordan Aqaba oil pipeline [to be built by Bechtel (see December 2, 1983)]. [US Department of State, 12/10/1983 pdf file; Iraqi television, 12/20/1983; US Department of State, 12/21/1983 pdf file; MSNBC, 8/18/2002; Newsweek, 9/23/2002; Washington Post, 12/30/2002; London Times, 12/31/2002; Vallette, 3/24/2003; New York Times, 4/14/2003] Rumsfeld does not raise the issue of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons with Saddam. [US Department of State, 12/21/1983 pdf file] Rumsfeld also delivers a letter to Hussein from Reagan administration officials declaring that for Iraq to be defeated by Iran (see September 1980) would be “contrary to United States interests.” Rumsfeld’s visit represents one side of the somewhat double-edged US foreign policy in the region: the US has allowed Israel to sell US-made arms to Iran for use against Iraq (see 1981). By this time, the US has already started clandestinely providing arms to Iraq as well (see October 1983). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992] After his meeting with the Iraqi president, Rumsfeld meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. They agree that “the US and Iraq… [share] many common interests.” Rumsfeld briefly mentions US concerns about Iraq’s chemical weapons, explaining that US “efforts to assist [Iraq]… [are] inhibited by certain things that made it difficult for us….” [US Department of State, 12/21/1983 pdf file] On September 19, 2002, almost two decades later, Rumsfeld will be questioned in Congress about this visit (see September 19, 2002). [US Congress, 9/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein, Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s, Iran-Contra Affair

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

By his own account, Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe runs a covert Israeli arms network, primarily supplying weapons to the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran for use in the Iran-Iraq War. Huge profits are made. “At various times the fund reached peaks of more than $1 billion,” he later explains in his book, Profits of War. “At its height it stood at $1.8 billion.… Between 1984 and 1989 no less than $160 million was funneled to [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Shamir’s [Likud] faction.” He also says that the money helped finance the intelligence community’s “black” operations including “Israeli-controlled ‘Palestinian terrorists’ who would commit crimes in the name of the Palestinian revolution but were actually pulling them off, usually unwittingly, as part of the Israeli propaganda machine.” The Israeli government will later deny that Menashe had any association with their intelligence services. But faced with evidence, the government will change its story, alleging that he was only a low-level translator who had taken to freelancing arms deals. However, Ben-Menashe is able to produce strong evidence to support his version of events and his 1991 trial in New York will culminate in his acquittal on the grounds that the jury disbelieves the Israeli government’s denials. [Ben-Menashe, 1992, pp. 120; Consortium News, 1997; Coll, 2004, pp. 120]

Entity Tags: Yitzhak Shamir, Ari Ben Menashe

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks

Vice-President George H.W. Bush becomes involved in the Reagan administration’s covert arming of Iraq, an operation which eventually comes to be known as “Iraqgate.” There is no evidence to show that Bush knew about the Pentagon’s efforts to arm Iraq through third parties (see October 1983), but subsequent aspects of the operation go through the National Security Planning Group, of which Bush is a member. According to participants in the group’s meetings, Bush is a strong advocate of the Aqaba pipeline project (see January 14, 1984) and other aspects of the Reagan administration’s covert tilt towards Iraq. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Richard Murphy.Richard Murphy. [Source: Richard W Murphy.org]Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy writes a potentially explosive classified memo about arming Iraq. Murphy, along with his boss George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, are strong proponents of supporting Iraq in its war with Iran (National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and two of his staffers, Howard Teicher and Oliver North, support arming Iran; the argument is causing deep divides within the administration). Murphy’s memo is so sensitive that its recipients are ordered to destroy it and to keep records of its destruction. Murphy suggests that the US can arm Iraq with “dual use” items—nominally civilian items that also have military use, such as heavy trucks, armored ambulances, and communications gear. Murphy also advocates helping Iraq build a new oil pipeline that will pump oil to the Jordanian port of Aqaba, on the Israeli border, which will allow Iraq to circumvent the Iranian blockade of Iraq’s Persian Gulf ports. Murphy also mentions the State Department’s desire to fund a number of projects in Iraq through the US Export-Import bank (EXIM), chaired by Reagan appointee William Draper. Murphy writes, in part: “Liberalizing export controls on Iraq: we are considering revising present policy to permit virtually all sales of non-munitions list dual use equipment to Iraq…. Egyptian tank sales: in the context of recommending ways to improve our relations with Iraq, Egypt has suggested that we provide it additional M-60 tanks beyond those we are now providing under FMS [Foreign Military Sales]. Egypt would use the additional M-60s to replace used Soviet T-63s, which it would sell to Iraq…. EXIM financing: [Under-Secretary of State Lawrence] Eagleburger has written EXIM director Draper to urge EXIM financing of US exports to and projects in Iraq…. Such major EXIM financing could boost Iraq’s credit rating, leading to increased commercial financing for Iraq. However, EXIM does not favor involvement in Iraq.” Murphy warns that Congress might begin sniffing around the State Department’s secret policy of arming Iraq. He advocates fobbing off Congress with background briefings that emphasize “our efforts to deter escalation and bring about a cessation of hostilities.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: Oliver North, Export-Import Bank, Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, Lawrence Eagleburger, US Department of Defense, Robert C. McFarlane, William Draper, Howard Teicher, US Department of State, Richard W. Murphy

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Secretary of State George Shultz announces that the State Department has designated Iran as a state sponsor of international terrorism. [PBS, 2000] As of mid-2008, Iran is still designated as a terrorism sponsor.

Entity Tags: US Department of State, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Tariq Aziz.Tariq Aziz. [Source: BBC]Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, the author of a secret policy memo detailing the administration’s new and covert military support for Iraq (see January 14, 1984), meets with Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, in Baghdad. Murphy later describes Aziz as wearing olive-green fatigues, clenching a Cuban cigar between his teeth, and sporting a pearl-handled revolver. Aziz welcomes the covert arms supplies from the US, and is particularly interested in the proposed construction of an oil pipeline to run from Iraq to Jordan, very near the Israeli border. However, mindful of the recent destruction of Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak by the Israelis (see June 7, 1981), Aziz insists that the US help finance the pipeline, both with government funds and private participation. Murphy agrees that the project is invaluable both in a geopolitical and an economic sense, and says he will so inform his Washington superiors. Murphy gingerly raises the question of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops (see 1982), but Aziz denies any such usages. Murphy doesn’t press the issue, but says that Iraq must, according to Murphy, “eliminate doubts in the international community by making their positions and explanations as clear and understandable to the international public as the allegations have been.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: Tariq Aziz, Richard W. Murphy

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

An Iraqi military spokesman warns Iran, “The invaders should know that for every harmful insect, there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it… and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide.” [US Department of State, 11/1/1983 pdf file; Washington Post, 12/30/2002]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Western journalists reporting on the war between Iraq and Iran verify the use of chemical weapons. [New York Times, 2/13/2003]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

President Reagan’s new tone of reconciliation with the Soviet Union (see December 1983 and After) wins a positive response from Soviet Premier Konstantin Chernenko, a pragmatist who has just replaced the far more ideologically hardline Yuri Andropov. Chernonko writes that he sees an “opportunity to put our relations on a more positive track.” The National Security Council and State Department both begin moving to renew serious dialogue with the Soviets. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 139]

Entity Tags: National Security Council, Konstantin Chernenko, Yuri Andropov, Ronald Reagan, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Bechtel executive H.C. Clark notes in an interoffice memo that “the State Department has exerted strong pressure on Ex-Im [the US Export-Import Bank] to make additional credits available [in Iraq], including for this [Aqaba ] pipeline.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: H.C. Clark, US Department of State, Export-Import Bank

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The United Nations dispatches experts to the conflict zone in the war between Iran and Iraq who document Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 76]

Entity Tags: United Nations

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

European-based doctors examine Iranian troops and confirm exposure to mustard gas. [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 76]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Lt. Col. William Buckley.Lt. Col. William Buckley. [Source: Arlington Cemetery (.net)]William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, is kidnapped by militants who claim to be part of a mysterious organization they call Islamic Jihad. Buckley will die in June 1985, after 15 months of captivity, neglect, and torture. The CIA will not acknowledge his death until 1987. His body will not be returned to the US until December 1991. Buckley’s captivity, and that of at least five other American hostages, will be cited as one of the precipitating factors in the Iran-Contra arms deals. [PBS, 2000; Arlington Cemetery (.net), 4/23/2006] (Note: Some sources cite the date of his capture as March 16, not March 3.) [New York Times, 11/19/1987] It remains unclear exactly who Buckley’s captors are. This “Islamic Jihad” organization is not the same group as is later led by Sunni militant Ayman al-Zawahiri, nor is it the Palestinian organization of the same name. In the 2001 book Sacred Rage, author Robin B. Wright notes that a group spokesman claims, “We are neither Iranians, Syrians nor Palestinians, but Muslims who follow the precepts of the Koran.” Wright calls the organization “a mysterious group about which nothing was known” except for its “pro-Iranian” ideology, probably “more of an information network for a variety of cells or movements rather than a cohesive or structured independent group of extremists.” [Wright, 2001, pp. 73, 85] New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg later writes that he believes the organization is either a precursor to the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah or a more violent adjunct to that organization. [New Yorker, 10/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Jeffrey Goldberg, William Francis Buckley, Central Intelligence Agency, Hezbollah, Robin B. Wright, Islamic Jihad Organization

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The US State Department issues a public condemnation of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons (see 1984, March 15, 1984). [New York Times, 12/23/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

A US Department of State telegram reports, “The United States has concluded that the available evidence substantiates Iran’s charges that Iraq used chemical weapons.” [US Department of State, 3/1984 pdf file; New York Times, 3/6/1984; Cole, 1997, pp. 24; New York Times, 2/13/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Frank Ricciardone, a US State Department desk officer, urges the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with short-term loans “for foreign relations purposes.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Frank Ricciardone, Export-Import Bank, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

George Shultz.George Shultz. [Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology]US Secretary of Defense Lawrence Eagleburger meets with Iraqi diplomat Ismet Kattani to minimize the damage that the State Department’s March 5 condemnation (see March 5, 1984) of Iraqi chemical warfare has caused to US-Iraqi relations. Secretary of State George Shultz is also present and later sends a cable to embassies in the Middle East with a summary of the meeting. “Eagleburger began the discussion by taking Kittani aside to emphasize the central message he wanted him to take back: our policy of firm opposition to the prohibited use of CW [chemical weapons] wherever it occurs necessitated our March 5 statement condemning Iraq’s use of CW,” the note explains. “The statement was not intended to provide fuel for Khomeini’s propaganda war, nor to imply a shift in US policy toward Iran and Iraq. The US will continue its efforts to help prevent an Iranian victory, and earnestly wishes to continue the progress in its relations with Iraq. The Secretary [Shultz] then entered and reiterated these points.” [US Department of State, 3/1984 pdf file; New York Times, 12/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Eagleburger, George Shultz, Said Rajaie Khorassani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Iran presents a draft resolution to the UN which condemns Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. The US delegate to the UN is instructed to push for a “no decision” on the resolution, or if not possible, cast an abstaining vote. Iraq’s ambassador meets with the US ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and asks for “restraint” in responding to the issue of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. [Battle, 2/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Jeane Kirkpatrick, United Nations

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

US intelligence officials says they have “incontrovertible evidence that Iraq has used nerve gas in its war with Iran and has almost finished extensive sites for mass-producing the lethal chemical warfare agent.” [New York Times, 3/30/1984]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Iran accuses Iraq of poisoning 600 of its soldiers with mustard gas and Tabun nerve gas. [United Press International, 3/23/1984; American Gulf War Veterans Association, 9/10/2001]

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The US State Department briefs Donald Rumsfeld, who is preparing to make another visit to Baghdad (see March 26, 1984). In a memo to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State George Shultz laments that relations with Iraq have soured because of the State Department’s March 5 condemnation (see March 5, 1984) of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons and expresses considerable concern over the future of the Aqaba pipeline project [to be built by Bechtel (see December 2, 1983)] which the US is pushing. Shultz writes: “Two event have worsened the atmosphere in Baghdad since your last stop there in December: (1) Iraq has only partly repulsed the initial thrust of a massive Iranian invasion, losing the strategically significant Majnun Island oil fields and accepting heavy casualties; (2) Bilateral relations were sharply set back by our March 5 condemnation of Iraq for CW [chemical weapons] use, despite our repeated warnings that this issue would emerge [as a public issue] sooner or later. Given its wartime preoccupations and its distress at our CW statement, the Iraqi leadership probably will have little interest in discussing Lebanon, the Arab-Israeli conflict, or other matters except as they may impinge on Iraq’s increasingly desperate struggle for survival. If Saddam or Tariq Aziz receives you against consider, and to reject, a pending application from Westinghouse to participate in a $160 million portion of a $1 billion Hyundai thermal power plant project in Iraq, this decision will only confirm Iraqi perceptions that ExIm [Export-Import Bank] financing for the Aqaba pipeline is out of the question. Eagleburger tried to put this perception to a rest, however, emphasizing to Kittani the administration’s firm support for the line (see March 15, 1984). The door is not yet closed to ExIm or other USG [US government] financial assistance to this project….” At the very end of the cable, it is noted that “Iraq officials have professed to be at a loss to explain our actions as measured against our stated objectives. As with our CW statement, their temptation is to give up rational analysis and retreat to the line that US policies are basically anti-Arab and hostage to the desires of Israel.” [US Department of State, 3/24/1984 pdf file; Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: George Shultz, Donald Rumsfeld, Lawrence Eagleburger, Elda James, Esq.

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Donald Rumsfeld travels to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. While in Iraq, Rumsfeld discusses the proposed Iraq-Jordan Aqaba pipeline [to be built by Bechtel (see December 2, 1983)], relays an Israeli offer to help Iraq in its war against Iran, and expresses the Reagan administration’s hope that Iraq will obtain Export-Import Bank credits. [Affidavit. United States v. Carlos Cardoen, et al. [Charge that Teledyne Wah Chang Albany illegally provided a proscribed substance, zirconium, to Cardoen Industries and to Iraq], 1/31/1995 pdf file; American Gulf War Veterans Association, 9/10/2001; Common Dreams, 8/2/2002; Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Tariq Aziz, Reagan administration, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

A UN investigation concludes that Iraq has been using mustard gas laced with a nerve agent on Iranian soldiers. “[C]hemical weapons in the form of aerial bombs have been used in the areas inspected in Iraq by the specialists,” the report says. [American Gulf War Veterans Association, 9/10/2001; Common Dreams, 8/2/2002; Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: United Nations

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

The United Nations Security Council issues a presidential statement condemning the use of chemical weapons without a specific reference to Iraq, despite Iran’s insistence that the Security Council pass a binding resolution condemning Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran. Interestingly, the previous day (see March 29, 1984), Iraqi diplomat Kizam Hamdoon and US diplomat James Placke had met and Hamdoon had stated Iraq’s preference that no resolution be passed and that any statement avoid referring directly to Iraq. As a State Department memo by James Placke notes, “The statement, by the way contains all three elements Hamdoon wanted.” [US Department of State, 3/30/1984 pdf file; Battle, 2/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Kizam Hamdoon, United Nations, James Placke

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

US President Ronald Reagan issues presidential directive NSDD 139, titled, “Measures to improve US posture and readiness to respond to developments in the Iran-Iraq War.” The directive stresses the importance of ensuring US access to military facilities in the Gulf region and preventing “an Iraqi collapse.” Though the directive says that the US should maintain its policy of “unambiguous” condemnation of chemical warfare—without mentioning Iraq—the document also emphasizes that the US should “place equal stress on the urgent need to dissuade Iran from continuing the ruthless and inhumane tactics which have characterized recent offensives.” The directive does not suggest ending or reducing US support for Iraq. [US Department of State, 3/30/1984 pdf file; Battle, 2/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Representatives from Bell Helicopter meet with Department of State officials in the Baghdad interests section to discuss a possible deal with Iraq involving the sale of 20-25 helicopters to Iraq’s Ministry of Defense. A State Department document summarizing the meeting says that the “Bell reps are fully aware that any helicopters they sell the Iraqis can not be in any way configured for military use.” [US Department of State, 3/1984 pdf file; Washington Post, 12/15/1986]

Entity Tags: Bell Helicopter, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Duane Clarridge, a CIA officer who has cultivated contacts with Nicaraguan rebels, introduces National Security Council staffer Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North to the leaders of the Nicaraguan “Contras,” currently operating out of Honduras. The Contras are dedicated to the overthrow of the Socialist, democratically elected Sandinista government. Because the US government views the Sandinistas as aligned with the Communist government of Cuba, it too opposes the Sandinistas, and views the Contras as a band of “freedom fighters” worthy of support. Clarridge tells the Contra leaders that if Congress cuts off aid to the Contras in light of recent revelations that the CIA mined Nicaraguan harbors, North will continue working with them on a covert basis. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: Contras, Central Intelligence Agency, Duane Clarridge, Oliver North, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The Reverend Benjamin Weir, a US citizen, is kidnapped by Hezbollah in Beirut. He will be held hostage for over a year [New York Times, 11/19/1987] until his release in September 1985, concurrent with covert Israeli arms sales to Iran (see September 15, 1985).

Entity Tags: Benjamin Weir, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

A Department of State memo from the special adviser to the secretary on nonproliferation policy and nuclear energy affairs titled “US Dual-Use Exports to Iraq: Specific Actions,” states that the government is reviewing its policy for “the sale of certain categories of dual-use items to Iraqi nuclear entities” and the review’s “preliminary results favor expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities.” [Department of State, 5/9/1984 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Reagan meets with Contra leaders in the Oval Office. NSC staffer and Contra “handler” Oliver North is at the far right; when this photo is released to the public, North will be cropped out.Reagan meets with Contra leaders in the Oval Office. NSC staffer and Contra “handler” Oliver North is at the far right; when this photo is released to the public, North will be cropped out. [Source: National Security Archives]President Reagan tells the nation in a televised address that the US must help the Nicaraguan Contras. “The Sandinista rule is a Communist reign of terror,” Reagan says. “Many of those who fought alongside the Sandinistas saw their revolution betrayed. They were denied power in the new government. Some were imprisoned, others exiled. Thousands who fought with the Sandinistas have taken up arms against them and are now called the Contras. They are freedom fighters.” [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Contras, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Iran-Contra Affair

Bechtel official H.B. Scott informs his colleagues in a memo that “US government officials at the highest level in Washington know of the [Aqaba pipeline] project and the president supports the concept…. I cannot emphasize enough the need for maximum Bechtel management effort at all levels of the US government and industry to support this project. It has significant geopolitical overtones… The time may be right for this project to move promptly with very significant rewards to Bechtel for having made it possible.” [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: H.C. Clark, Bechtel

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

On June 12, Charles Hill, the executive secretary to Secretary of State George Shultz, sends a confidential memo to Vice President George Bush. The memo suggests that Bush telephone William Draper, the chairman of the US Export-Import Bank, and press for the bank to agree to finance the construction of an oil pipeline from Iraq into Aqaba, Jordan (see January 14, 1984). The bank had previously refused to extend any credit to Iraq for the pipeline, holding that the war-ravaged nation could not meet the bank’s legal requirement of providing a “reasonable assurance of repayment.” Bush went to Yale with Draper; that and his position in the White House makes him an ideal person to influence Draper. Bush is to use the “talking point” prepared for him, that the loan affects the US’s vital interests, and the US’s primary goal in the Iran-Iraq War is “to bring the war to a negotiated end in which neither belligerent is dominant.” The pipeline is key to accomplishing a negotiated peace, Bush is told to argue: “At present time, Iran is the intransigent party, unwilling to negotiate in part because it believes it can win in a war of attrition. We must therefore seek a means to bolster Iraq’s ability and resolve to withstand Iranian attacks as well as to convince Iran that continuing hostilities are useless.” Bush makes the call, and Draper immediately reverses his position on financing the pipeline. Because of an inability to obtain insurance, the pipeline will never be built, but Bush’s pressuring of Draper may be his first active role in the covert US policy of supporting Iraq. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: William Draper, Export-Import Bank, George Herbert Walker Bush, Charles Hill

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

The Export-Import Bank approves a preliminary commitment of $484.5 million in loan guarantees for the Iraq-Jordan Aqaba pipeline project (see Mid-June, 1984). This commitment will remain in effect until 1986. [Vallette, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Export-Import Bank

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Saudi Arabia begins making secret monthly payments of $1 million to the Contras. The money is deposited into a secret Cayman Islands account owned by Contra leader Adolfo Calero. [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Contras, Adolfo Calero

The CIA establishes a direct intelligence link with Iraq. [Washington Post, 12/15/1986]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

During a sound check prior to a radio broadcast, Ronald Reagan jokes into the microphone that he has ordered the bombing of the USSR: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” The gaffe, replayed during news broadcasts for days, cuts heavily into Reagan’s campaign poll lead over Democratic challenger Walter Mondale. [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane asks US government agencies to reassess their policies towards Iran. The government currently considers Iran a sponsor of terrorism (see January 20, 1984) and officially has no dealings with its government. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: Robert C. McFarlane

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

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: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Congress passes the second Boland Amendment, which outlaws the use of “third-party nations” to support the Contras. The bill also bars the use of funds by the CIA, the Defense Department, or any intelligence agency for “supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization or individual.” [PBS, 2000] The amendment is largely in response to the efforts of the Reagan administration to get around the restrictions of the first amendment (see December 1982), and the CIA’s mining of three Nicaraguan harbors. This amendment is far more restrictive than the first, saying flatly, “During fiscal year 1985, no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which would have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual.” [New York Times, 7/10/1987; House Intelligence Committee, 2005; Savage, 2007, pp. 53] “There are no exceptions to the prohibition,” says Edward Boland (D-MA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the primary sponsor of the amemdment. Contra supporters in Congress denounce the bill, with Dick Cheney (R-WY) calling it a “killer amendment” that will force the Contras “to lay down their arms.” After President Reagan signs it into law, Cheney launches a lengthy, determined effort to persuade his colleagues to rescind the amendment. Inside the White House, particularly in the National Security Council, a number of Reagan officials, including National Security Adviser John Poindexter and his aide Colonel Oliver North, begin conspiring to circumvent the amendment with a complex scheme involving selling arms to Iran at inflated prices in exchange for American hostages held by Lebanese militants, and using the profits to fund the Contras. [Savage, 2007, pp. 53]

Entity Tags: US Congress, US Department of Defense, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, National Security Council, John Poindexter, Edward Boland, Contras, Central Intelligence Agency, Ronald Reagan, Reagan administration, Oliver North

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The Reagan administration formally restores diplomatic relations with Iraq. The US had broken off relations with Iraq in 1967. Administration officials, who are already involved in secretly supplying military aid to Iraq for use against Iran (see October 1983), ignore allegations that Iraq is using lethal chemical weapons against Iranian troops, including mustard gas and fungal poisons. Administration officials will later claim that no one had any idea that those allegations were true, but according to a government official, the administration has indeed known of the Iraqis’ use of chemical weapons for over a year by this time. Officials have privately chided Iraq for its use of such weapons, but Reagan officials continue to press forward with the administration’s agenda of increased economic and military cooperation even though the Iraqis ignore the US’s protests against the use of chemical weapons. [New York Times, 3/6/1984; New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Battle, 2/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Neoconservative academic Michael Ledeen, who left the Defense Department under suspicion of engaging in espionage on behalf of Israel (see 1983), gains a position at the National Security Council. His boss is Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989). According to Iran-Contra investigators, it is Ledeen who suggests to North “that Israeli contacts might be useful in obtaining release of the US hostages in Lebanon” (see November 4, 1979-January 20, 1981). Ledeen is granted high-level security clearance. [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

Peter Kilburn.Peter Kilburn. [Source: US Department of State]Peter Kilburn, a professor at the American University of Beirut, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants. In April 1986, Kilburn will be murdered by his captors, apparently in retaliation for US military strikes against Libya. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: Peter Kilburn, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Deputy Director of Intelligence Robert Gates sends what he calls a “straight talk” memo to his boss, CIA Director William Casey. Gates recommends the US openly deploy military forces to cripple Nicaragua’s “Marxist-Leninist” Sandinista government and elevate the Contras into power. Among his “politically more difficult” recommendations, Gates pushes for “the use of air strikes to destroy a considerable portion of Nicaragua’s military buildup.” Gates’s recommendations, which would be tantamount to the US declaring war on Nicaragua, will in large part not be followed. [Central Intelligence Agency, 12/14/1984 pdf file; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]

Entity Tags: William Casey, Robert M. Gates

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, US-Nicaragua (1979-), Iran-Contra Affair

Donald Gregg, Vice President Bush’s national security and foreign policy adviser and one of the architects of the secret plan to fund the Nicaraguan Contras (see March 17, 1983), introduces his partner Felix Rodriguez to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council (NSC). North will head the NSC’s Contra resupply and funding operations. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 12/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Oliver North, Contras, Donald Gregg, National Security Council, George Herbert Walker Bush, Felix Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

US Secretary of State George Shultz successfully convinces Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) to drop a House bill that would have put Iraq back on the State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism. Shultz’s argument is that the United States is actively engaged in “diplomatic dialogue on this and other sensitive issues.” He asserts that “Iraq has effectively distanced itself from international terrorism” and insists that if the US discovers any evidence implicating Iraq in the support of terrorist groups, the US government “would promptly return Iraq to the list.” [Jentleson, 1994, pp. 54]

Entity Tags: George Shultz, Howard Berman

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Eminent academic, foreign policy analyst, and neoconservative Albert Wohlstetter (see 1965) introduces his proteges Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz to Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (see 1992-1996), who is already plotting to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Wolfowitz and Perle will become key players in the run-up to the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq (see Late December 2000 and Early January 2001). [Unger, 2007, pp. 44]

Entity Tags: Albert Wohlstetter, Ahmed Chalabi, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

President Reagan unilaterally withdraws the US from the 1956 Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty with Nicaragua. He also ends the US’s acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction for disputes heard by the UN International Court of Justice, which had cited the treaty in a ruling against the US over its mining of Nicaraguan harbors. The actions are well beyond any presidential powers granted by the Constitution, but neither Congress nor the media raise any serious objections. [Savage, 2007, pp. 354]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Iran-Contra Affair

US banker Douglas McDermott says of the US-backed Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez, “You have the freedom here to do what you want with your money, and to me, that is worth all the political freedom in the world.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 9]

Entity Tags: Marcos Perez Jimenez, Douglas McDermott

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, US-Venezuela (1948-2005), Global Economic Crises

Christopher Drogoul of the Atlanta branch of the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro begins embezzling funds to Iraq. The funds consist of government backed loans meant for agricultural purposes as well as unreported loans that have been made in secret. While roughly half the funds will be used by Saddam Hussein’s government to purchase agricultural goods, the remainder will be used to “supply Iraqi missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs with industrial goods such as computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods.” Additionally, the money spent on agriculture will allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to divert a significant portion of its own funds to the task of weapons development. [US Congress, 4/28/1992; Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1993] Between 1985 and 1989 roughly $5 billion makes its way to Iraq from the US. Internal government memos reveal that both the Federal Reserve and Department of Agriculture suspect that Iraq is using these funds inappropriately. Iraq eventually defaults on the government-backed loans, leaving US taxpayers with $2 billion dollars in unpaid debts. [Mother Jones, 1/1993; Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Christopher Drogoul, Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

Buoyed by recent breakthroughs in dialogue with the Soviet Union (see February 23, 1984), the US and USSR resume arms control talks, these combining both the INF (see September 1981 through November 1983) and START (see May 1982 and After) talks into a single set of discussions. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 139]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Friar Lawrence Jenco.Friar Lawrence Jenco. [Source: Jenco Foundation]Friar Lawrence Jenco, an American serving as the director of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants. He will be freed in July 1986. [New York Times, 11/19/1987; Jenco Foundation, 9/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Jenco, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko, in office just 13 months, dies of a long illness. Chernenko had moved to reopen talks with the US (see February 23, 1984 and Early 1985). President Reagan sends Vice President George H. W. Bush to the funeral with an invitation to hold a summit meeting with Chernenko’s successor, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev signals his acceptance (see November 16-19, 1985). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 139]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Konstantin Chernenko

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The US and the Soviet Union engage in the Nuclear and Space Talks (NST) in Geneva. The US wants to discuss a transition from mutual nuclear deterrence based solely on the threat of nuclear retaliation (the concept of MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction) to increased reliance on ground- and space-based defense systems such as its Strategic Defense Initiative (see March 23, 1983). In its turn, the USSR wants a comprehensive ban on research, development, testing, and deployment of “space-strike arms.” [Federation of American Scientists, 1/15/2008]

Entity Tags: Strategic Defense Initiative

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

A photograph of Terry Anderson provided by his captors.A photograph of Terry Anderson provided by his captors. [Source: Maher Attar / Corbis]Terry Anderson, a reporter with the Associated Press, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants in Beirut. [New York Times, 11/19/1987] Anderson will be held hostage for seven years, longer than any other American captive. His name will become synonymous with the Iran/Lebanese hostage crisis. He will be released in 1991, as the 16-year civil war in Lebanon comes to a close. [CNN, 1996]

Entity Tags: Hezbollah, Terry Anderson, Associated Press

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The Turkish-US Business Council is formed by the Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) to represent Turkish business interests. [White House, 1999] According to the DEIK’s own website, however, the DEIK itself is not established until 1986, after which point it functions as an umbrella organization for a number of foreign trade organizations, of which the Turkish-US Business Council is the largest and most important. [Turkish-US Business Council, 2004] The Turkish-US Business Council is the parent organization of its American counterpart, the American-Turkish council (see February 9, 1988).

Entity Tags: Turkish-US Business Council

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

NSC Middle East analyst Donald Fortier writes to his boss, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, of his concerns that NSC consultant Michael Ledeen (see Late 1984) might be a risk for passing classified information to Israel (see 1983). According to Fortier, NSC staffers agree that Ledeen’s role in the secret hostage negotiations with Iran should be limited to ferrying messages to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres regarding Israel’s role in the negotiations, and Ledeen should specifically not be entrusted to ask Peres for detailed operational information. [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen, Robert C. McFarlane, National Security Council, Donald Fortier

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

Secretary of State George Shultz offers prominent neoconservative and State Department official Elliott Abrams (see Early 1970s) the position of assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (ARA), overseeing the department’s South and Central American issues and initiatives, as well as those for the Caribbean. Abrams accepts and, according to State Department notes of the meeting, promises to “manage the emergence of EA [Abrams] as King of LA [Latin America].” Abrams begins his duties in July 1985, and quickly becomes one of the State Department’s most vocal supporters of Nicaragua’s Contra movement, often appearing before Congress as an emissary of the Reagan administration to ask for funds for the insurgent group. [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993]

Entity Tags: George Shultz, Contras, Reagan administration, US Department of State, Elliott Abrams

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Graham Fuller.Graham Fuller. [Source: Ohio University]The US tilts ever more sharply towards Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, even though the Reagan administration continues to maintain a posture of overt neutrality in the conflict. The administration has provided covert military aid for both sides in the struggle (see 1981 and October 1983), and has been divided over which regime to support (see January 14, 1984). It is already involved in “Operation Staunch,” a program designed by Secretary of State George Shultz to stem the flow of weapons to Iran. Now, some officials are arguing that it is time to reverse that course. Graham Fuller, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Middle East, writes two controversial secret memos advocating that the administration begin providing support for Iran against Iraq. Fuller is presenting a position long held by national security director Robert McFarlane and two of McFarlane’s aides, Oliver North and Howard Teicher. This pro-Iran group has recently been joined by CIA director William Casey. Both McFarlane and Casey are supportive of Fuller’s memo. Fuller writes in a May 17 memo, “Our tilt to Iraq was timely when Iraq was against the ropes and the Islamic revolution was on a roll. The time may now have to come to tilt back.” Fuller argues that the US should once again authorize Israel to ship US arms to Iran. Ironically, this is the mirror image of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s argument in favor of supporting Iraq: the US must counter one covert policy with another (see Early 1982). The pro-Iranian coalition within the administration gives scant consideration to the hostage-taking of seven Americans by Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite militant group with strong ties to Iran’s theocratic regime. On May 20, Fuller circulates a second memo, called a “Special National Intelligence Estimate” (SNIE), that is only read by a handful of senior White House officials (Ronald Reagan is one of the recipients; George Bush is not). Fuller’s memo is written almost entirely for Reagan’s benefit, and in its arguments, becomes a basis for renewed arms sales to Iran and the resulting Iran-Contra scandal. Fuller evokes one of Reagan’s favorite themes, the trouncing of the Soviet Union in the global arena: “We know that the USSR views Iran as ‘the prize’ in the Gulf. Moscow will improve relations when and where it can… until it gains major influence in that state. The disturbing possibility is that the USSR is far more likely than the US to be first in finding opportunities to improve its ties to Iran.” Interestingly, in 1991, during Robert Gates’s Senate hearings on becoming the director of the CIA, it is learned that Fuller’s memo contradicts the views of career Soviet analysts at the agency, who believe that the Soviet Union has no real hope of making inroads into the Iranian regime. The USSR is the chief arms supplier for Iraq, Iran’s bitter enemy and current opponent in a long and bloody war. Iran is arming the Afghan mujaheddin, the Islamist resistance fighters viewed as a threat by Saddam Hussein. Several CIA analysts will later testify that they believe Fuller deliberately slanted his memo for political reasons. In 1992, Fuller himself will admit that he was wrong, but will deny any politicization. Regardless, Fuller’s memo becomes a critical document shaping the Reagan policy to arm Iran. It is not clear whether Vice President Bush ever saw the memo, but whether he did or not, beginning in 1985 he takes part in numerous White House meetings where the arming of Iran is discussed. If he has objections to the policy, he never voices them. [Time, 11/17/1986; New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Saddam Hussein, William Casey, Robert M. Gates, Oliver North, Reagan administration, Robert C. McFarlane, George Herbert Walker Bush, Graham Fuller, Central Intelligence Agency, Howard Teicher, Caspar Weinberger, Hezbollah, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Iran-Contra Affair

Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative author who consults for the National Security Council (see Late 1984), meets informally with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Ledeen tells Peres that the Reagan administration will quietly support Israeli arms shipments to Iran. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, National Security Council, Shimon Peres, Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

May 5, 1985: Reagan Visits Nazi Cemetery

President Reagan places a wreath on a grave at Bitberg Cemetery.President Reagan places a wreath on a grave at Bitberg Cemetery. [Source: Forward / Getty Images]Ronald Reagan, on a trip to Germany to honor the victims of World War II and the Holocaust, visits the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He also visits the Bitberg Cemetery, which contains the graves of Nazi Waffen SS. Some see the Bitberg visit as an indirect expression of Reagan’s support for, or sympathy with, the Nazis. [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Reagan officials admit the administration’s policy of sponsoring armed insurgencies against Soviet-backed governments in developing nations. This policy is soon labeled the “Reagan doctrine” (see October 1983) [PBS, 2000] and credited with helping bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. However, author J. Peter Scoblic will later write that the “Reagan doctrine” never really existed.
Aid to Anti-Soviet Insurgencies Far Less than Generally Thought - It is true, he will observe, that the US under President Reagan gave some assistance to countries with popular uprisings against Soviet-backed governments, but only in one—the “geostrategically insignificant” Grenada—did he send American troops to overthrow a Cuban-backed government and install a puppet government favorable to the US. In other countries such as Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Poland, and Angola, the US supported anti-communist or anti-socialist movements by funding and supplying arms to insurgents. But there is far more going on with these countries than conservatives will acknowledge. In Afghanistan, for example, the anti-Soviet mujaheddin were backed not only by the Carter administration, but by Chinese communists who opposed Soviet expansion into Central Asia. And Reagan’s support is, in Scoblic’s words, “equivocal”; by the time Reagan officials admit their administration’s policy of supporting anti-Soviet insurgencies, it has already rolled back many of the Carter-era sanctions against the USSR even though Soviet troops still occupied Afghanistan. In 1981, when the USSR ordered the Polish government to crack down on the labor movement Solidarity, the US did little except briefly impose economic sanctions on high-tech goods. And though many Reagan officials and conservatives outside the administration called for military intervention against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, the US never sends troops into that country, even though the idea of Soviet expansionism in Central America—the US’s geopolitical “back yard”—is anathema to most Americans. (Reagan once complained to his chief of staff Donald Regan, “Those sons of b_tches [presumably administration hardliners] won’t be happy until we have 25,000 troops in Managua, and I’m not going to do it.” And it was certainly not in line with conservative thought to sell arms to Iran, even if it was to obtain the release of American hostages.
No Actual Analysis of Support Strategies - Reagan’s National Security Adviser, Robert McFarlane, will later say: “Doctrines are things which come from thoughtful analysis of problems, threats, possible ways of dealing with them.… Not one nanosecond went into any [analysis] associated with the support of pro-democracy insurgent elements through the world.” The Reagan administration reacted to events rather than followed thought-out guidelines laying out a plan of action against Soviet expansionism.
Term Created by Neoconservative Columnist - The term “Reagan doctrine” was actually coined in April 1985 by neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, an obdurate advocate of the Nicaraguan Contras and for escalated US support of anti-Soviet insurgencies. He later explained that he “hoped that a ‘doctrine’ enshrining the legitimacy of overthrowing nasty communist governments would obviate the need for rhetorical ruses… and keep the debate—and the administration—honest.” Scoblic will later write, “In other words, he knew that the administration was not naturally inclined to such an aggressive strategy.”
Policies Aligned with Predecessors - The Reagan policies towards the Soviet Union are actually much in line with those of his predecessors, stretching all the way back to Harry Truman, Scoblic will write. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 145-149]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Reagan administration, Robert C. McFarlane, Charles Krauthammer, J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

David Jacobsen.David Jacobsen. [Source: BBC]David Jacobsen, a US citizen and an administrator of Beirut’s American University Hospital, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. He will be freed in November 1986. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: David Jacobsen, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Summer 1985: Costa Rica Allows Contra Airstrip

Lewis Tambs becomes the US Ambassador to Costa Rica. Tambs is under orders to open what is called a “southern front” for the Nicaraguan Contras; a small force of Contras is striking into southern Nicaragua from northern Costa Rica, and the Costa Rican government wants them out of their territory. Tambs believes that the orders for the “southern front” come from National Security Council (NSC) officer Oliver North, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, and their Restricted Interagency Group (RIG—see Late 1985 and After). Tambs, with the assistance of North’s liaison in Central America, Felix Rodriguez (see Mid-September 1985), secures permission from the Costa Rican government to build an airstrip for use by the Contras in northern Costa Rica, as long as it is not close enough to the border to allow the Contras to use it as a staging area for ground raids. One of Abrams’s first questions to North after being tasked to “monitor” the NSC officer (see September 4, 1985) is why the Costa Ricans are allowing the airstrip. The airstrip will be built at Santa Elena, Costa Rica, by the Udall Corporation, one of the private firms controlled by North’s partner, retired General Richard Secord (see November 19, 1985 and February 2, 1987), and will be called “Point West.” Abrams will later testify, falsely, that no US officials were involved in securing permission to build the airstrip. Notes taken by the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin Corr, about discussions concerning the airstrip, will prove that Abrams lies under oath about the airstrip. [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters: Chapter 25: United States v. Elliott Abrams: November 1986, 8/4/1993]

Entity Tags: Felix Rodriguez, Contras, Edwin Corr, Elliott Abrams, Richard Secord, Lewis Tambs, Udall Corporation, Restricted Interagency Group, Oliver North

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Iran-Contra Affair

The US Congress votes to authorize “non-military” aid to Nicaragua’s Contras: $38 million over two years. [PBS, 2000]

Entity Tags: Contras, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Secretary of State George Shultz writes to National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane that “Israel’s record of dealings with Iran since the fall of the Shah and during the hostage crisis [shows] that Israel’s agenda is not the same as ours.” Referring to the plan concocted by NSC staffer Oliver North and North’s consultant, neoconservative and likely Israeli spy Michael Ledeen (see 1983), to seek Israeli help in freeing the American hostages in Lebanon (see Late 1984 and April 9, 1985), Shultz writes, “Consequently doubt whether an intelligence relationship such as what Ledeen has in mind would be one which we could fully rely upon and it could seriously skew our own perception and analysis of the Iranian scene.” [CounterPunch, 2/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Robert C. McFarlane, George Shultz, Oliver North, Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

Thomas Sutherland, a US citizen working at Beirut’s American University, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. [New York Times, 11/19/1987]

Entity Tags: Hezbollah, Thomas Sutherland

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Tensions between the pro-Iran and pro-Iraq factions in the White House (see January 14, 1984) come to a head after Robert McFarlane’s National Security Council staff drafts a presidential directive advocating that the US help Iran obtain weapons. The opposing faction, led by Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, protest angrily, with Weinberger calling the proposal “almost too absurd to comment on….” But the arms-for-hostage deal will go forward over Shultz’s and Weinberger’s objections (see July 3, 1985). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: National Security Council, Robert C. McFarlane, George Shultz

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Iran-Contra Affair

Time magazine cover from June 24, 1985 featuring report on the hijacking of Flight 847.Time magazine cover from June 24, 1985 featuring report on the hijacking of Flight 847. [Source: Time]Islamic militants with the Shi’ite Amal group, an affiliate of Hezbollah, hijack TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome. 135 of the 153 passengers are Americans.
Demanding Release of Militant Prisoners - The hijackers demand the immediate release of 17 members of a Shi’ite militant group, Al Dawa, who were arrested in Kuwait for the December 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Kuwait City. (This group, the “Kuwait 17,” features prominently in other hijackers’ demands as well. They will accidentally be released during Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.) The hijackers also demand the release of some 700 fellow Shi’ite Muslim prisoners held in Israeli prisons and in prisons in southern Lebanon run by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Navy Diver Murdered - The TWA pilot is forced to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, where, after their demands are not met, the hijackers shoot and trample Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem to death and dump his body on the tarmac. The plane is flown to Algiers and then back to Beirut again. Most of the passengers are released, but 39 are held captive in Lebanon. President Reagan holds a press conference largely focusing on the hostage crisis, and says that the US will never give in to terrorist demands.
Hostages Freed - After intervention by Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad, the remaining 39 hostages are freed on June 30 in Damascus; the hijackers are allowed to escape. Some of the hostages later compliment their captors for treating them well during their captivity. Nothing is ever confirmed, but speculation is widespread that some sort of quiet deal between Israel and the hijackers has been struck, as Israel begins releasing Shi’ite prisoners immediately after the hostages’ release. The US will deny that any such deal was ever made. In 1985, four of the hijackers will be indicted for their participation in the TWA takeover, but only one will ever be convicted. [PBS, 2000; PBS Frontline, 10/4/2001; BBC, 2008]

Entity Tags: Robert Dean Stethem, Hafiz al-Assad, Amal, ’Kuwait 17’, Ronald Reagan, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Fawn Hall, the secretary to National Security Council officer Oliver North, asks North if she can borrow money from him. North gives her $60 in traveler’s checks drawn on a Central American bank, and says, as Hall will later testify to Congress (see December 19, 1986): “Make sure you return—pay back the money. It is not mine.” The money is part of the illegal funds raised by North and others for the Nicaraguan Contras. [United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 12/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Oliver North, Contras, Fawn Hall

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

National Security Council officials, led by NSC Director Robert McFarlane, Deputy Director John Poindexter, and senior NSC official Oliver North, develop a two-part strategy to topple the regime of Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. The plan is dubbed “Operation Flower,” with its two components called “Operation Tulip” and “Operation Rose,” respectively. Operation Tulip would be a covert CIA strategy using Libyan exiles to move into Tripoli and overthrow al-Qadhafi in a coup d’etat. Operation Rose proposes a joint US-Egyptian military campaign against the Libyan government. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger considers the entire idea “ludicrous,” as do his deputy Richard Armitage and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, CIA Director William Casey orders his deputy, Robert Gates, to study the idea. When the CIA produces Gates’s report favoring the idea, the Pentagon develops a military plan deliberately designed to scuttle the idea. The proposed US-Egyptian deployment, the Pentagon strategy says, would require six divisions and 90,000 US troops. Gates says the strategy looks “a lot like the [World War II] invasion of Normandy.” He registers his opposition to such a huge operation, warning that many American citizens as well as US allies would oppose any such overt military campaign. State Department officials concur with Gates’s analysis, and the US ambassador to Egypt, Nick Veliotes, says he believes Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would want nothing to do with the idea, in part because Mubarak has little confidence in the US military’s willingness to fight for an extended period of time, and so it would leave Egyptian forces to fight alone. Although Poindexter and other NSC officials continue to push the plan, even proposing it to an unimpressed Mubarak, no one else in the Reagan administration supports it, and it is never implemented. [Wills, 2003, pp. 172-175; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Poindexter, Hosni Mubarak, Caspar Weinberger, National Security Council, Reagan administration, Nick Veliotes, US Department of Defense, Oliver North, Robert M. Gates, Robert C. McFarlane, William Casey, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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