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The Broader Stakes of Syrian Crisis

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The second expose came in a detailed report published by Foreign Policy Magazine on Monday entitled: "CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran." This account, replete with declassified CIA and other documents, will likewise be a highly painful reminder of the troubled past and great grist for those Iranians bent on exposing U.S. treachery.

In sum, the Foreign Policy report by Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid provides a wealth of detail on how Washington was aware that the Iraqis were using mustard and Sarin nerve gas in their war with Iran in the 1980s, and nonetheless enabled the Iraqis to use it to maximum effect by providing all manner of intelligence, including up-to-date information from satellites.

The nerve gas, in particular, was effective in thwarting the last major Iranian offensives and left thousands dead. The impression given by the documents is that toward the end of the war, Iran had the upper hand and may have ultimately prevailed were it not for Washington's precise intelligence support for Iraq and blind eye to the first major use of chemical warfare since it was banned after World War I.

A CIA memo dated Nov. 4, 1983, is titled "Iran's Likely Reaction to Iraqi Use of Chemical Weapons" included this paragraph: "Iran is unlikely to be deterred from pursuing the war because of Iraq's use of chemical weapons. ... Iran will be forced to adjust its military tactics and acquire additional protective gear but it will continue to launch attacks on Iraq. We have no evidence that Iran has lethal chemical agents or that it is making an effort to acquire any."

These will be very painful reminders of the tragic history of Iranian-American relations and seem bound to make negotiations even more difficult.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 
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