The Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) of Mumbai, India, provides an interesting explanation of the US's interests in supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The analysis reads, in part: "In 1979, Saddam, already effectively the leader of Iraq, became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. The entire region stood at a critical juncture. For one, the pillar of the US in West Asia, the Pahlavi monarchy in Iran, was overthrown by a massive popular upsurge which the US was powerless to suppress. This made the US and its client states deeply anxious at the prospect of similar developments taking place throughout the region."
"For another, in Iraq Saddam had drawn on the country's oil wealth to carry out a major military build-up, with military expenditures swallowing 8.4 per cent of GNP in 1979. Starting in 1958 Iraq had become an increasingly important market for sophisticated Soviet weapons, and was considered a member of the Soviet camp. In 1972 Iraq signed a 15-year friendship, cooperation and military agreement with the USSR. The Iraqi regime was striving to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Apart from Israel, the only army in the region to rival Iraq's was Iran's. But after 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, much of the Iranian army's American equipment became inoperable. The Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 (on the pretext of resolving border disputes) thus solved two major problems for the US."
"Over the course of the following decade two of the region's leading military powers, neither of them hitherto friendly to the US, were tied up in an exhausting conflict with each other. Such conflicts among third world countries create a host of opportunities for imperialist powers to seek new footholds, as happened also in this instance. Despite its strong ties to the USSR, Iraq turned to the west for support in the war with Iran. This it received massively. As Saddam Hussein later revealed, the US and Iraq decided to re-establish diplomatic relations -- broken off after the 1967 war with Israel -- just before Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980 (the actual implementation was delayed for a few more years in order not to make the linkage too explicit). Diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq were formally restored in 1984 -- well after the US knew, and a UN team confirmed, that Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranian troops. ...In 1982, the US State Department removed Iraq from its list of 'state sponsors of terrorism,' and fought off efforts by the US Congress to put it back on the list in 1985. Most crucially, the US blocked condemnation of Iraq's chemical attacks in the UN Security Council. The US was the sole country to vote against a 1986 Security Council statement condemning Iraq's use of mustard gas against Iranian troops -- an atrocity in which it now emerges the US was directly implicated....
"Brisk trade was done in supplying Iraq. Britain joined France as a major source of weapons for it. Iraq imported uranium from Portugal, France and Italy, and began constructing centrifuge enrichment facilities with German assistance. The US arranged massive loans for Iraq's burgeoning war expenditure from American client states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The US administration provided 'crop-spraying' helicopters (to be used for chemical attacks in 1988), let Dow Chemicals ship it chemicals for use on humans, seconded its air force officers to work with their Iraqi counterparts (from 1986), approved technological exports to Iraq's missile procurement agency to extend the missiles' range (1988). In October 1987 and April 1988 US forces themselves attacked Iranian ships and oil platforms. Militarily, the US not only provided to Iraq satellite data and information about Iranian military movements, but...prepared detailed battle planning for Iraqi forces in this period -- even as Iraq drew worldwide public condemnation for its repeated use of chemical weapons against Iran. According to a senior DIA official, 'if Iraq had gone down it would have had a catastrophic effect on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the whole region might have gone down -- that was the backdrop of the policy.' ...A US Senate inquiry in 1995 accidentally revealed that during the Iran-Iraq war the US had sent Iraq samples of all the strains of germs used by the latter to make biological weapons. The strains were sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...and the American Type Culture Collection to the same sites in Iraq that UN weapons inspectors later determined were part of Iraq's biological weapons programme.... It is ironic to hear the US today talk of Saddam Hussein's attacks on the Kurds in 1988. These attacks had full support from the US."
"...The full extent of US complicity in Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction' programmes became clear in December 2002, when Iraq submitted an 11,800 page report on these programmes to the UN Security Council. The US insisted on examining the report before anyone else, even before the weapons inspectors, and promptly insisted on removing 8,000 pages from it before allowing the non-permanent members of the Security Council to look at it. Iraq apparently leaked the list of American companies whose names appear in the report to a German daily, Die Tageszeitung. Apart from American companies, German firms were heavily implicated. ...(Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, like his suppression of internal opposition, has been continuously useful to US interests: condoned and abetted during periods of alliance between the two countries, it is routinely exploited for propaganda purposes during periods of tension and war.) Given this history, we need to understand the strategic and economic aspects of the US's seemingly inexplicable turnaround on Iraq since 1990." -- RUPE