(h/t Israel Matzav) The United States has released a small number of documents taken from an Iraqi archive during the 2003 invasion. The documents reveal that Saddam Hussein could not believe that Iran was as strong as it turned out to be, and thought that he was being attacked by Israel.
(NYTimes) Mr. Hussein so grievously underestimated Iran’s military that he wrongly assumed Iran’s initial airstrikes in the war had actually been carried out by Israeli warplanes. He personally selected the rockets to use on one attack against an Iranian city, and he boasted that Iraq had a chemical weapons arsenal that “exterminates by the thousands.” He felt threatened enough by the rise of fundamentalist Islamic groups that he discussed his desire to “trick” the public, into thinking that his government, too, endorsed Islamic values.
From a historical perspective, Mr. Hussein’s decision to take on Iran and his reaction to the Iran-contra affair are two of the most intriguing areas in the papers.
Mr. Hussein set the stage for war with Iran by repudiating a 1975 agreement that had settled a disputed over the Shatt al Arab, the strategic waterway along their border. According to Amatzia Baram, an Israeli expert on Iraq who has studied the archive, the pivotal decision appears have been made in a meeting on Sept. 16, 1980, when Mr. Hussein took the optimistic view that the Iranians, fearing the Iraqi forces massed near the border, would give in without much of a fight.
A top secret report from the Iraqi General Military Intelligence Directorate supported Mr. Hussein’s assessment. “It is clear that, at present, Iran has no power to launch wide offensive operations against Iraq or to defend on a large scale,” the report noted. It also predicted “more deterioration of the general situation of Iran’s fighting capability.”
But the war, which ultimately lasted eight years and resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties, turned out to be far more difficult than Mr. Hussein had expected. Soon after it began, Iranian aircraft bombed a series of targets, including Iraqi oil refineries and the Osirak nuclear plant south of Baghdad. The feat so surprised the Iraqis that they assumed the attack could not have emanated from Iran.
“This is Israel,” Mr. Hussein exclaimed in an Oct. 1, 1980, meeting. He then complained that Iraqi officials had not followed his suggestion to bury the nuclear facility under the Hamrin Mountains north of Baghdad, before approving a plan to fortify the complex with millions of sandbags. But those sandbags proved to be of little use when Israeli warplanes actually did strike the site, in June 1981.
Later, Mr. Hussein said he was not surprised that Israel felt threatened by Iraq, which he asserted would defeat Iran and emerge with a military that was stronger than ever. “Once Iraq walks out victorious, there will not be any Israel,” he said in a 1982 conversation. “Technically, they are right in all of their attempts to harm Iraq.”
The notion that Israel and the West had joined forces to undermine his government persisted well after the Iran-Iraq war ended. In 1990, Mr. Hussein himself intervened to ensure the execution of Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born journalist working for The Observer, a British newspaper. Mr. Bazoft was investigating a mysterious explosion at a military complex south of Baghdad when he was arrested and charged with spying for Israel. The Bazoft case drew worldwide attention, and the British government appealed for clemency. Mr. Hussein was unmoved. Told that it would take a month for the Iraqi legal process to be completed, he took charge of the matter.
“A whole month?” he exclaimed. “I say we execute him in Ramadan, and this will be the punishment for Margaret Thatcher.”
Mr. Bazoft was hanged on March 15, 1990, six months after his arrest and shortly before Ramadan began. In response, Britain recalled its ambassador. Less than five months later, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait.
I suspect that if we got the same types of documents from other Arab countries, we would find that they too suspect Israel as being the root of all their problems. The paranoia is a primary characteristic. Read the whole thing