News of Russia’s proposal to help eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons naturally brings out American suspicions about how genuine Russia’s efforts are. After all, the argument goes, hasn’t Russia been a supplier ofweapons to Syria for years? How can we trust their intentions?
The problem with that argument is that it assumes that a country must have a pure heart and clean hands in order to contribute to a diplomatic effort. If that were so, then the United States would hardly be in a good position to be lecturing Syria and Russia about their attitudes towards chemical weapons. After all, as recently released records, the United States played a significant role in enabling the last great user of chemical weapons in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Check out the complete report, but here is a portion of a story in the WashingtonPost:
Foreign Policy published a disturbing article over the weekend about U.S. complicity in Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s. Recently declassified CIA documents uncovered by the magazine and interviews with experts reveal that not only did the U.S. government know that Iraq was using chemical weapons in the conflict earlier than disclosed, it gave satellite intelligence to Iraqi forces that helped them plan future chemical weapon offenses:
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that [Saddam] Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.