More Bergdahl news


I should have included this in a previous post but just saw it.  Seems there’s more to the Bergdahl story than meets the eye.  Daily Kos points out several inconsistencies that when brought to light should permanently mute the strings of discord currently being played by the #DemonicGOP.

Bergdahl had left his base without permissions on at least one prior occasion, and had come back! This is according to a report in the Army Times. In fact, his fellow soldiers failed to report it at the time. (The 35 page classified Army report (as reported to the New York Times) that was compiled 2 months after Bergdahl disappeared, concluded that he had left his unit twice, not once. And the Army blamed lax security practices and a lack of discipline. Moreover, the supposed letter he left confessing to everything was not mentioned in the report at all.)

According to the now famous article by Michael Hastings about Bergdahl, his unit was basically a bunch of undisciplined fuck ups who went out on patrol without helmets, lost weapons, totally lacked morale and respect for military authority, etc. At least two commanders were actually demoted! So, you have to take with a grain of salt the accusations being made against Bergdahl by these people. Especially now that we know they failed to report Bergdahl left the base without permission on a prior occasion, and are still telling the media that he is a “deserter” when they know damn well that’s not true.

The New York Times has also reported that it is almost impossible to attribute the losses the unit suffered to Bergdahl, or looking for Bergdahl. Given the lack of unit discipline, etc. One wonders whether Bergdahl is being scapegoated by these people, who were drummed up by GOP political operatives.

Bergdahl’s apparent heroism while in captivity has been almost completely ignored and glossed over. The Daily Beast originally reported that Bergdahl lulled his captors into believing he was sympathetic to them, and when they let their guard down he escaped for 3 days. When they finally found him in a hand-dug trench he covered with leaves, he was nearly naked an exhausted. Yet, it took 5 Taliban to subdue him as he fought back trying to avoid being recaptured.

 

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Remember this?


Not only did Reagan deal with terrorists as president, as revealed in
the Iran-Contra scandal, the preponderance of evidence now supports the charge that his campaign negotiated with Iranian hostage-takers while he was running for president in 1980, to delay the release of hostages before the election, which could have helped Carter win reelection — what was known as “The October Surprise.” Given that Reagan wasn’t president then, but was negotiating to thwart a president’s attempt to get hostages released, this is not simply questionable behavior, it is arguably an act of treason. Democrats’ reluctance to vigorously investigate Reagan’s misdeeds — the exact opposite of GOP attitudes toward Clinton and Obama — has left much of the true story still shrouded in mystery, but what we do know is damning enough in itself, and still cries out for a truly thorough investigation.

First of all, there’s no doubt that Reagan himself set the precedent of Iran-TIMEdealing with terrorists — and encouraging more hostage-taking. He and his administration convinced themselves they were dealing with “moderates” in Iran. But they also famously sent Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to hang out with Saddam Hussein, and collaborated with Osama bin Laden in building up the most extreme mujahideen elements fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan — the very forces that eventually gave birth to the Taliban. When his own hand-picked “Tower Commission” confirmed the basic facts of the Iran-contra scandal, Reagan went on national TV and said, “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” (emphasis mine)

So goes an article which goes into detail about Ronald Reagan’s romp with terrorism and negotiations and how he failed at it miserably.  The problem for America is Reagan is a right wing ‘god’ who cannot be blamed for anything he did or was done while he was in office no matter how terrible the results were for the American people….and too many of us won’t call him on it.  Oh sure….a few articles like the one sourced above come out but even it claims

….

As we watch the current manufacture of “scandal” surrounding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, it’s illuminating to contrast this with the way in which multiple very real interconnected scandals under Ronald Reagan were both isolated from one another and then minimized, never receiving the sort of thorough investigation that Republicans are now demanding every time that President Obama so much as coughs.

I’m glad those in opposition to the #DemonicGOP haven’t resorted to the tactics of such a forlorn ex-political party….truth stands out clear from error.  There’s no need to mislead people in order to gain their loyalty but whenever anyone says Obama negotiated with terrorists remind them he did a better job of it than Ronald Reagan who started the practice.

Saudi racism


English: Saudi Arabia

English: Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following editorial is not unique to Saudi Arabia, rather it’s an Arab Gulf mentality that is steeped in tribalism and nationalism and from the looks of the comments generates intense feelings among many of the people who live there.  I remarked after reading it, what would the king of Abyssinia or the people of Medina say to the nascent Islamic community that came to them seeking shelter from the oppression of the Quraish; would there even be an Islamic community if they were not afforded freedom from oppression that all mankind is entitled?  If these two diverse communities of faithful….the Christian king of then Abyssinia or the at that time faithless people of Medina (Yathrib) had not been forthcoming with this fundamental right would there even be a Saudi Arabia today?  Of course one could not know that….but equally certain, the all encompassing faith of Islam cannot coexist with the racialism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Read on and then take time to read the comments posted after the article

Since the beginning of the campaign against illegal workers, some foreigners who were born in the Kingdom or spent years working here have started calling on the authorities to consider granting them Saudi citizenship.
Those born in the Kingdom argue that they have spent most of their lives here, speak Arabic and adapted to its culture. They say it would be very difficult to adjust in their home countries.
This sounds to be a valid argument if one was born in a developed industrialized nation. In those countries, a foreigner makes efforts to assimilate in society by learning local languages and adapting to its ways of life.
However, in most Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia most foreigners rarely interact with locals and if they do, they communicate in a language, which is a mix of badly spoken Arabic and sign language. It could be termed gibberish. Moreover, almost every ethnic group lives nearly in complete isolation from the rest of the local community, and other ethnic groups. Every group lives in self-designated neighborhoods busy with its communal activities. For instance, Ethiopians mostly inhabit Riyadh’s neighborhood Manfouha.
In such neighborhoods, there are community schools that only teach their own curriculum instead of using Saudi textbooks. The students only engage with those from the same ethnic background and are deprived of any possibility of interacting with Saudi children. Moreover, communal activities are limited to the same group, including social visitations and functions, as well as religious celebrations, such as Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. These communities even have their medial care and business systems, which cater specifically to their needs. How could a person living in such a social and economic setup hopes to become a Saudi, not to mention if that person is living illegally in the country?
On the other hand, there are those who claim that they have lived long years in the country enough to earn the right to Saudi citizenship. But for decades they have taken away jobs that rightfully belong to the Saudis and yet they demand citizenship.
In my opinion, it would be a grave mistake to grant foreigners Saudi citizenship on any basis. These demands run counter to the objectives of Saudization of the labor market, which is controlled by foreigners with skills that can be found among the local population or Saudis can be trained to occupy these jobs.
Observers may recall that when the new naturalization law was introduced a few years back, the naturalized citizens were flocking to government’s financial institutions seeking loans of all types and to even avail themselves of the benefits of Hafez, a program that provides monthly stipends to the unemployed. One can obviously conclude that the primary purpose for seeking citizenship is to acquire monetary benefits rather than a genuine sentiment of belonging to the Saudi society. We have seen in the past that thousands of foreigners succeeded in obtaining Saudi citizenship and most of them started their businesses in various areas. Interestingly, when one visits their establishments, one would find people belonging to their native countries only.
This situation has been exacerbated by the investment law that permitted foreigners with almost trivial financial resources to invest in projects that have no added value to the economy or in the employment of Saudis. Nevertheless, they are eligible to receive all economic benefits. One of the consequences of opening doors to foreign investors is that they began operating as monopolies. Ubiquitously known among Saudis, each ethnic group controls a particular type of trade, and does not like outside competition. When a Saudi decides to start a new business, such groups work to drive this person out of business or force him to sell his business project to the group. Moreover, these ethnically dominated businesses only hire staff belonging to the same group. In case they hire a Saudi national, it is because of the labor law, and eventually this person would be driven out of his job by creating uncomfortable environment or by alienating and undermining his skills and potentials.
The local press frequently reports the same methods being practiced by most foreigners at managerial or mid-level positions in the private sector. It is not hard to imagine what such elements would do to Saudis if they were granted citizenship.
The Saudi education system and various training programs have produced thousands of competent graduates for the job market. They can easily occupy most of the managerial and mid-level jobs currently occupied by individuals from the developing countries. Hence, the cause of the massive unemployment of Saudis is not due to a lack of skills; it is because of an unfriendly environment and the continuous undermining of the skills and potentials of the Saudi youth by foreigners, pushing them away from their rightful jobs.

Fareed nailed this one….


When I first read the news headline that Saudi Arabia declined a seat on the United Nations Security Council my first reaction was who cares?  Citing the UN’s inability to solve the Syrian conflict and how Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime continues to kill its one people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any punishment Saudi Arabia has some nerve.  Syria opened itself up tosaudi_arabia_map inspection in ways the Kingdom would never dare do; chemical weapons are no longer an issue there and yes Syria is still embroiled in a civil war but it’s really a matter of degree.  What Middle Eastern Arab country is NOT killing or otherwise oppressing its citizens?  Fareed states the case rather well.

Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries in the world to recognize and support the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan until the 9/11 attacks……

Saudi Arabia’s objections to the Obama Administration’s policies toward Syria and Iran are not framed by humanitarian concerns for the people of those countries. They are rooted in a pervasive anti-Shi’ite ideology. Riyadh has long treated all other versions and sects of Islam as heresy and condoned the oppression of those groups. A 2009 report from Human Rights Watch details the ways in which the Saudi government, clerics, religious police and schools systematically discriminate against the local Shi’ite population, including arrests, beatings and, on occasion, the use of live ammunition. (And not just the Shi’ites. In March 2012, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti issued a fatwa declaring that it was “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.”)……

Saudi royals have been rattled by the events in their region and beyond. They sense that the discontent that launched the Arab Spring is not absent in their own populace. They fear the rehabilitation of Iran. They also know that the U.S. might very soon find itself entirely independent of Middle Eastern oil.

Given these trends, it is possible that Saudi Arabia worries that a seat on the U.N. Security Council might constrain it from having freedom of action. Or that the position could shine a light on some of its more unorthodox activities. Or that it could force Riyadh to vote on issues it would rather ignore.

The US must learn to say to all those in the Middle East that America will act to preserve its interests and sometime they will not concur with those of our allies in which case we must be able to say good riddance, so long and if an ally has a conniption fit because America is doing something that ally doesn’t like the US must stay the course of whatever interest it has embraced, all others be damned.

 

Protest or parody


women driversWomen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been asking for the right to drive for sometime and it culminated in a recent protest whereby they took to the wheel of vehicles and drove them without official permission.  However, such protests aren’t without some risks to those involved or for those who might tacitly support the protest.

Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi-American made a video whose timing coincides with the women’s protest but I leave it up to you whether it is in support of the protest or of the government’s position on the subject of women as drivers.  No doubt Fageeh is well aware of how  the Kingdom handles dissent or the ridiculous lengths the monarch goes to persuade women NOT to want to drive.  I’m a bit incredulous but does driving really damage women’s ovaries?!?!

 

 

UPDATE

At least 16 Saudi women have received fines for taking the wheel on a day set by activists to defy the kingdom’s traditional ban on female driving, police and reports said on Sunday.

Only few women braved official threats of punishment and drove on Saturday in response to an online campaign headlined “Women’s driving is a choice”.

“Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh, and fined them 300 riyals (Dh293.67) each,” said the capital’s police deputy spokesman, Colonel Fawaz Al Miman.

Each of the women, along with her male guardian — who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle, or grandson — had to “sign a pledge to respect the kingdom’s laws”, Miman told AFP.

In Jeddah, police also fined two women for driving, according to the Red Sea city’s police spokesman, Nawaf Al Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women were stopped by police in the Eastern Province, and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

A dozen Saudi women posted videos on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving, showing themselves driving.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving”.

The next day ministry spokesman General Mansour Al Turki told AFP: “It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. Public gatherings are officially banned.

……and the beat goes on.

Rihanna and the Emiratis


I don’t like Rihanna, neither her music nor her look.  Perhaps it stems from the time when she and Chris Brown were an item and allowed herself to be his punching bag.  I dislike like women who don’t have a high enough regard for themselves to keep from being abused by anyone, especially men with Napoleonic complexes, however I was slightly perplexed to hear she was thrown out of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi for what some thought were inappropriate photographs she took there the day of a concert she was to perform later in the same city.     Looking at the photos, they are typically Rihanna, toned down quite a bit.

rihanna et.co

When you consider she sometimes looks like this, however Rihanna’s photo shoot was timid in comparisonrihanna swimsuit

Everybody knows Rihanna’s schtick, EVERYBODY except those in the UAE it appears.  She is no secret, she’s not an enigma she is what you see and as the photos and others on her instagram account show, sometimes you see more of her than at other times.

The UAE has had this problem however for some time of people who go to that country and flaunt themselves in ways Emiratis consider disrespectful of their way of life.  For many westerners, baring skin, drinking and carousing is as natural to them as it is for people of the Gulf praying five times a day or covering one’s self fully in 100 degree weather. How then do you reconcile the two opposites into a peaceful coexistence?  It’s clear for Emiratis, that kind of existence is not desirable if it means accommodating the likes of Rihanna which is why she was kicked out from the masjid.  It’s important to note that she was allowed to continue with her lackluster concert according to some, but the bigger problem is how can a country that wants to live its austere religious lifestyle justify making itself a center of tourism and commerce that invites a lifestyle completely opposite of those principles?  Emiratis want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to live as Muslims while entertaining people from all walks of life who are only interested in that country as a place of fun and sun and for the moment it’s hard to imagine how that integration can happen without conflict of the sort that resulted at Shaikh Zayed’s masjid.  Emiratis should not be surprised nor upset that what you see is what you get is coming into their country they just have to figure out if they want to keep having them come.

Before we go any further, lets reflect on the past


WMDs & Saddam

We’ve been here before haven’t we.  In the lead up to the Iraqi war….both of them….we heard politicians we trusted come out and declare that the foe of the day was complicit in crimes against humanity or some such charge drastic enough to call for American intervention.  In both cases we found out later, after many lives were lost and a lot of damage inflicted on innocent people the charges were not true.  Before we embark on another potential mis-adventure let’s take time to rehash what happened to the last Middle East tyrant we both embraced and deposed

The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen,Foreign Policy has learned.

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 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. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.

Chemical_weapon1According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. The CIA declined to comment for this story.

In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

In the documents, the CIA said that Iran might not discover persuasive evidence of the weapons’ use — even though the agency possessed it. Also, the agency noted that the Soviet Union had previously used chemical agents in Afghanistan and suffered few repercussions.

It has been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.

Top CIA officials, including the Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, a close friend of President Ronald Reagan, were told about the location of Iraqi chemical weapons assembly plants; that Iraq was desperately trying to make enough mustard agent to keep up with frontline demand from its forces; that Iraq was about to buy equipment from Italy to help speed up production of chemical-packed artillery rounds and bombs; and that Iraq could also use nerve agents on Iranian troops and possibly civilians.

Officials were also warned that Iran might launch retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East, including terrorist strikes, if it believed the United States was complicit in Iraq’s chemical warfare campaign.

“As Iraqi attacks continue and intensify the chances increase that Iranian forces will acquire a shell containing mustard agent with Iraqi markings,” the CIA reported in a top secret document in November 1983. “Tehran would take such evidence to the U.N. and charge U.S. complicity in violating international law.”

At the time, the military attaché’s office was following Iraqi preparations for the offensive using satellite reconnaissance imagery, Francona told Foreign Policy. According to a former CIA official, the images showed Iraqi movements of chemical materials to artillery batteries opposite Iranian positions prior to each offensive.

Francona, an experienced Middle East hand and Arabic linguist who served in the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he first became aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran in 1984, while serving as air attaché in Amman, Jordan. The information he saw clearly showed that the Iraqis had used Tabun nerve agent (also known as “GA”) against Iranian forces in southern Iraq.

The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.

But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.

The CIA noted in one document that the use of nerve agent “could have a significant impact on Iran’s human wave tactics, forcing Iran to give up that strategy.” Those tactics, which involved Iranian forces swarming against conventionally armed Iraqi positions, had proved decisive in some battles. In March 1984, the CIA reported that Iraq had “begun using nerve agents on the Al Basrah front and likely will be able to employ it in militarily significant quantities by late this fall.”

The use of chemical weapons in war is banned under the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which states that parties “will exert every effort to induce other States to accede to the” agreement. Iraq never ratified the protocol; the United States did in 1975. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the production and use of such arms, wasn’t passed until 1997, years after the incidents in question.

The initial wave of Iraqi attacks, in 1983, used mustard agent. While generally not fatal, mustard causes severe blistering of the skin and mucus membranes, which can lead to potentially fatal infections, and can cause blindness and upper respiratory disease, while increasing the risk of cancer. The United States wasn’t yet providing battlefield intelligence to Iraq when mustard was used. But it also did nothing to assist Iran in its attempts to bring proof of illegal Iraqi chemical attacks to light. Nor did the administration inform the United Nations. The CIA determined that Iran had the capability to bomb the weapons assembly facilities, if only it could find them. The CIA believed it knew the locations.

Hard evidence of the Iraqi chemical attacks came to light in 1984. But that did little to deter Hussein from using the lethal agents, including in strikes against his own people. For as much as the CIA knew about Hussein’s use of chemical weapons, officials resisted providing Iraq with intelligence throughout much of the war. The Defense Department had proposed an intelligence-sharing program with the Iraqis in 1986. But according to Francona, it was nixed because the CIA and the State Department viewed Saddam Hussein as “anathema” and his officials as “thugs.”

The situation changed in 1987. CIA reconnaissance satellites picked up clear indications that the Iranians were concentrating large numbers of troops and equipment east of the city of Basrah, according to Francona, who was then serving with the Defense Intelligence Agency. What concerned DIA analysts the most was that the satellite imagery showed that the Iranians had discovered a gaping hole in the Iraqi lines southeast of Basrah. The seam had opened up at the junction between the Iraqi III Corps, deployed east of the city, and the Iraqi VII Corps, which was deployed to the southeast of the city in and around the hotly contested Fao Peninsula.

The satellites detected Iranian engineering and bridging units being secretly moved to deployment areas opposite the gap in the Iraqi lines, indicating that this was going to be where the main force of the annual Iranian spring offensive was going to fall, Francona said.

In late 1987, the DIA analysts in Francona’s shop in Washington wrote a Top Secret Codeword report partially entitled “At The Gates of Basrah,” warning that the Iranian 1988 spring offensive was going to be bigger than all previous spring offensives, and this offensive stood a very good chance of breaking through the Iraqi lines and capturing Basrah. The report warned that if Basrah fell, the Iraqi military would collapse and Iran would win the war.

President Reagan read the report and, according to Francona, wrote a note in the margin addressed to Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci: “An Iranian victory is unacceptable.”

Subsequently, a decision was made at the top level of the U.S. government (almost certainly requiring the approval of the National Security Council and the CIA). The DIA was authorized to give the Iraqi intelligence services as much detailed information as was available about the deployments and movements of all Iranian combat units. That included satellite imagery and perhaps some sanitized electronic intelligence. There was a particular focus on the area east of the city of Basrah where the DIA was convinced the next big Iranian offensive would come. The agency also provided data on the locations of key Iranian logistics facilities, and the strength and capabilities of the Iranian air force and air defense system. Francona described much of the information as “targeting packages” suitable for use by the Iraqi air force to destroy these targets.

The sarin attacks then followed.

The nerve agent causes dizziness, respiratory distress, and muscle convulsions, and can lead to death. CIA analysts could not precisely determine the Iranian casualty figures because they lacked access to Iranian officials and documents. But the agency gauged the number of dead as somewhere between “hundreds” and “thousands” in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive. According to the CIA, two-thirds of all chemical weapons ever used by Iraq during its war with Iran were fired or dropped in the last 18 months of the war.

By 1988, U.S. intelligence was flowing freely to Hussein’s military. That March, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq.

A month later, the Iraqis used aerial bombs and artillery shells filled with sarin against Iranian troop concentrations on the Fao Peninsula southeast of Basrah, helping the Iraqi forces win a major victory and recapture the entire peninsula. The success of the Fao Peninsula offensive also prevented the Iranians from launching their much-anticipated offensive to capture Basrah. According to Francona, Washington was very pleased with the result because the Iranians never got a chance to launch their offensive.

The level of insight into Iraq’s chemical weapons program stands in marked contrast to the flawed assessments, provided by the CIA and other intelligence agencies about Iraq’s program prior to the United States’ invasion in 2003. Back then, American intelligence had better access to the region and could send officials out to assess the damage.

Francona visited the Fao Peninsula shortly after it had been captured by the Iraqis. He found the battlefield littered with hundreds of used injectors once filled with atropine, the drug commonly used to treat sarin’s lethal effects. Francona scooped up a few of the injectors and brought them back to Baghdad — proof that the Iraqis had used sarin on the Fao Peninsula.

Syria_3In the ensuing months, Francona reported, the Iraqis used sarin in massive quantities three more times in conjunction with massed artillery fire and smoke to disguise the use of nerve agents. Each offensive was hugely successful, in large part because of the increasingly sophisticated use of mass quantities of nerve agents. The last of these attacks, called the Blessed Ramadan Offensive, was launched by the Iraqis in April 1988 and involved the largest use of sarin nerve agent employed by the Iraqis to date. For a quarter-century, no chemical attack came close to the scale of Saddam’s unconventional assaults. Until, perhaps, the strikes last week outside of Damascus.