Invasion Revisited: How Saudi Arabia backed Saddam’s war on Iran?

Alwaght- Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and removal of the Shah regime, a military and security vacuum ensued in the country. The post-revolution chaos and division in Iran tempted Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq under Ba’athist regime, to seize the moment and so invade his eastern neighbor.

The Ba’athist army forces launched assaults at the Iranian territories on September 22, 1980 after receiving orders from Saddam, a dictator who had the dream of leadership of the Arab world in head. He imposed on the newly-founded Islamic Republic of Iran an 8-year full-scale war.

Meanwhile, the regional and international powers that deemed the Islamic Revolution a threat to their interests in the region sided with the Iraqi Ba’athist regime to uproot the newborn Islamic revolution in Iran before it gained strength.

Among these pro-Saddam regional sides was the Al Saud regime that during the 8 years of war against Tehran spared no political, financial, intelligence, and weaponry help for Saddam regime, a truth King Fahd of Saudi Arabia confessed to after Iraq under Saddam invaded the neighboring Kuwait. The Saudi king said: “the action of leader of Iraq (in invading Kuwait) showed his ingratitude to the Saudi military supports for him during 8 years of war against Iran. If Iraq says it sacrificed its forces, we say we sacrificed our money, our modern weapons, and our international cooperation during the war. How he (Saddam) can forget all these and try to destroy the reality?”

A focus on the political, financial, intelligence, and weaponry role of Al Saud regime in the 8-year-long imposed war of Iraq’s Ba’athist regime against the Islamic Republic uncovers even wider aspects of the Saudi hostility against the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

 Al Saud: a political regional player to defeat Iran

The Saudi leaders during the years of imposed war on Iran used all of their diplomatic capacities to isolate Tehran and have the back of Saddam regime.

They negotiated political issues of war with the US, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Another move was dominating the Organization of Islamic Conference (now Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and adjusting its manifesto and rules to make them suit their efforts for putting pressures on Iran. Additionally, one of most significant places for the Saudis to make anti-Iranian decisions was the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, or (P)GCC for short. The regional body was under power of Saudi Arabia.

The Al Saud regime moved to build military and political strength for the PGCC on the one hand and  on the other hand put strains on Syria, the only Arab world’s backer of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, in a bid to weaken Tehran. They stipulated that the Syrian support for Iran must be accompanied by backing the imposed peace proposal, supporting 1981 King Fahd plan for Arab peace with the Israeli regime, and recognizing Tel Aviv.

Furthermore, after recapturing Iranian territory from the Iraqi forces and launching counterattack and gaining control of Iraq’s Al-Faw in Operation Wal-Fajr 8( Dawn 8), the PGCC held a meeting on March 4, 1986 and took anti-Iranian positions.

Immediately, in 1987 in a pro-Saddam move Riyadh told Turkey should it cut off trade relations with Iran, the kingdom will make up for all of the economic damages that Ankara would witness as a result of its cut-off decision.

Al Saud’s most destructive anti-Iran measure was cooperation with the MKO (Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization) terrorist organization in massacring the Iranian Hajj pilgrims in 1987 that led to severing Iranian-Saudi diplomatic ties.

According to words of Massoud Rajavi, the co-chief of MKO, during his secret conversation with General Saber al-Douri, the chief of Iraq intelligence service under Saddam Hussein, in 1987 and in time with the Mecca massacre, he received an official invitation letter from King Fahd and secretly visited Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, Hashem al-Maskari, the deputy secretary general of the PGCC, in an interview with the UAE-based Al Bayan daily officially confessed that what happened in Mecca was not part of consequences of the Iraqi-Iranian war.

The Saudi regime didn’t stop at this point of anti-Iranian actions, and launched oil war against the Islamic Republic in hopes of reducing the Iranian economic power and plaguing its source of income. The Saudis pushed the oil prices down in a bid to scourge the Iranian economy.

 The oil prices even touched $6 per barrel.

 Along with other oil producers, Saudi Arabia raised production and oversupplied the market and so disturbed Iran’s oil exports. This move that was taken under the cover of “market share strategy” kept the crude prices down for 2 years.

Reacting to the Saudi measures, the Iranian oil minister at the 77th meeting of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) lashed out at the kingdom for showing hostility against Tehran and asserted that oil prices war was an American plan implemented by the Saudis. He continued that the overbearing powers sought to press down the oil prices to press the Iranian economy and thus affect the course of war.

Saudi petrodollars make fire for Ba’athist artillery

Fears of revelation of Saudi Arabian support for Saddam regime pushed the Saudi leaders to further focus their backup on secret financial helps to affect the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Saudi oil cash made the major sources of income for Saddam Hussein during the years of anti-Tehran war. In 1983, shortly after breaking the Iraqi-imposed siege of the Iranian southern city of Khorramshahr and inflicting a heavy loss on the Ba’athist army, it was disclosed that Saddam Hussein was granted $20 billion in aids from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab regimes to continue war against the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

In addition, during the time between Operations Badr and Wal-Fajr 8, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states of south Persian Gulf provided $29 billion worth of aids to the Iraqi regime.

Additionally, the Saudi rulers played as mediators when Saddam sought buying arms from different countries. Riyadh announced it was ready to pay for the Iraqi arms bought from France culminated to 10 billion in French franc during the 8-year.

The Reuters on January 15, 1991 quoted the Saudi king as saying that the accurate sum of Saudi Arabian financial supports to Iraq topped $27 billion.

King Fahd said: “the total value of the funding, interest-free loans, and other supports in form of oil cargoes or facilities were over $27.2 billion”.

The items included $5.84 billion in credit, $6.75 billion in oil grants, $9.25 billion in interest-free loans, and $2.74 in military equipment and transportation vehicles.

The Saudi Arabian all-out supports turned Saddam regime into a political mercenary. From the key military equipment to the basic needs of the Iraqi soldiers were paid for by the Saudi petrodollars. When after all these rich services to Iraq the kingdom faced threats from the Saddam regime following invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Saudi defense minister said: “ Iraq now aims to invade Saudi Arabia, perhaps it forgot that in wartime we even provided its soldiers’ beverages.”

Saudi intelligence cooperation with Iraq goes beyond Ba’athists’ expectations

In fact, we can evaluate the Saudi intelligence support for Iraq in its war on Iran as being unprecedented during recent century’s wars.

This intelligence collaboration shows that the Saudis from victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 up to 1981 strove after dealing a blow to the Iranian revolution.

Exactly a month and a half before beginning of war, the Saudi leaders rewarded Saddam Hussein with a royal present during his visit to the kingdom. The present was a report on the economic, social, and military conditions of the Islamic Republic, provided by the US secret services.

Further, during the imposed war, Saudi Arabia used the cutting-edge spy equipment like the US AWACS flying radars to collect intelligence and offer it to Iraq according to agreement with the US. The information was so significant and strategic and in some cases led to discovery of the Iranian anti-Iraqi operations. They also gave high-accuracy satellite images from the Iranian forces’ positions and their mode of stationing. These data gave Iraq intelligence supremacy. Saddam himself confirmed in May 1984 that he received intelligence from Saudi Arabia.

On the other side, Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the US, commented on his country’s backing for the Ba’athist regime of Iraq during the wartime, saying that Riyadh in the final years of Iraqi war against Iran played role of a mediator between Washington and Baghdad and supplied the latter with precious military information on the Iranian forces’ moves in the battlefields that wasgathered by the US intelligence agencies. Bin Sultan continued that the Iraqis more than everything wanted the American army’s help for the Iraqi army on military data provision and advices to take on Iran. Saudi Arabia provided them with all of the necessary data, and even more than enough, according to the Saudi prince.

Saudi Arabia’s direct war against Iran using US military equipment

The Saudi rulers not only bought weapons for Saddam regime but also engaged in direct logistic and weaponry backing for Iraq.

In his diary, Jimmy Carter, the former president of the US, has pointed to the fears of the Saudi leaders from the Iranian power, saying that he talked to the Saudi officials about a specific threat against Iran and decided to deploy some AWACS planes to the Arabian Peninsula to help them protect themselves. He also said he was ready to send American F-15s to the kingdom to help confront the Iranian F-5s.

The AWACS flying radars, F-15 fighter-bomber jets, tanker aircraft, and air-to-air missiles, were part of the military equipment Washington sent to Saudi Arabia to back the Iraqi war on Iran.

The Saudi weapons support did not stop at traditional arms, rather, it included providing Baghdad with WMDs and their infrastructures in the Iraqi territories. The military equipment was transferred to Iraq from Port of Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Saudi kingdom didn’t withhold involvement in direct anti-Iranian military operations. For example, the F-1 Iraqi fighters struck Iran’s oil port in Larak Island from a military airport in east of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi embassy in London declined to deny the news.

This came while Saud al-Faisal, the former Saudi Arabian foreign minister, confirmed Saudi role in equipping and empowering Iraq for war against Iran.

As the informed Arab sources said in 1982, the Saudi and Saddam regimes reached big agreements on expansion of military cooperation against Iran. At that time, the Arab sources said that Riyadh provided Saddam with a great deal of weapons, regardless of the other generous aids that were presented to keep the Iraqi regime from collapse due to the war on Iran. The same sources maintained that visit of prince Abdullah, who later became king of Saudi Arabia, to Baghdad was made for this end.

A focus on role of Al Saud regime in the Iraqi imposed war on Iran lays bare the Saudis’ deep hostility to the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

However, despite all abovementioned hostilities against Iran, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in hypocritical positions confirmed in a press conference in January 1991 that the kingdom offered full-scale support for the Ba’athist regime, and insolently hoped that Tehran forgets the “past time saddening events that overshadow relations of the Islamic Republic with the Persian Gulf Arab states”.

By Alwaght