U.S.-Iran: Lessons from an Earlier War

New Book—Becoming Enemies—Explores Roots of the Current Crisis with Iran: Ex-Officials’ Candid Accounts & Declassified Documents Provide Fresh Details, Illuminate Ongoing Hostility – Published on The National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book No. 364, by Malcolm Byrne, Oct. 12, 2012.

As the crisis between the United States and Iran continues to spiral upwards, it becomes increasingly important to understand how the roots of the two governments’ unrelenting mutual animosity may be driving Washington and Tehran toward conflict. A new book featuring remarkably candid recollections by former U.S. officials, along with selected declassified documents, provides an original perspective on the current state of tensions by exploring one of the periods of highest friction—that included direct military clashes—between the two countries since the 1979 Islamic revolution. 

The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 was a pivotal episode in the modern Middle East, in addition to being one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent memory. For various reasons, the United States tilted toward Baghdad. Over the course of the war, Washington provided extensive diplomatic, economic and even military backing to the Iraqis, including tacit support (despite public expressions of opposition) for Baghdad’s use of chemical weapons against Iran. These actions, punctuated by direct firefights and the accidental shoot-down of a civilian Iranian airliner, placed Washington and Tehran in direct, bitter opposition.

Becoming Enemies presents new angles with which to view those events—as well as today’s unfolding crisis. It consists of the results of an unusual conference of former U.S. officials, primarily from the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency, along with a key U.N. diplomat. The meeting was designed to get beyond the available historical record by eliciting first-person accounts, from those directly involved, of how events developed, why U.S. policy took the path that it did, and what the outcomes—intended or otherwise—were.

The participants (and their posts at the time of the war) included: … //

… The conference took place at the Musgrove conference facility on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The National Security Archive and its partners are grateful to the following for their support of the project to date: the Carnegie Corporation of New York; an anonymous family at MIT; the Arca Foundation, and especially the hospitality of the Brenn Foundation’s Musgrove facility; and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference and Study Center.
(full text and Documents 1 to 12).

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