Du temps où le chimique, ça allait...

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Du temps où le chimique, ça allait...

C’est une occurrence sympathique que la CIA ait dû déclassifier les documents montrant l’attitude positive, sinon attendrie, des USA vis-à-vis de l’emploi massif de gaz chimiques contre les Iraniens par Saddam Hussein, en 1987-1988. La déclassification se fait donc en temps opportun, grâce à la machinerie bureaucratique qui ne s’arrête pas à des détails tels que la contradiction révélatrice du contenu des documents déclassifiés avec l’attitude absolument furieuse, outrée, indescriptible d’indignation, du bloc BAO, à l’encontre de l’emploi massif de gaz sarin, bien évidemment par Saddam, – oups, pardon ! par Assad-le-Syrien. Foreign Policy, qui a obtenu les documents en question, consacre un long article, le 27 août 2013, encombré de fac-similé de notes et d’analyses de la CIA.

La publication est opportune dans le sens où elle met en évidence, d’une part la flexibilité incroyable de la machinerie de communication US pour assumer et promouvoir toutes les narrative possibles, selon les intérêts en cours et sans la moindre restriction de principe ; d’autre part combien la fixation d’aujourd’hui sur l’armement chimique, – une violation parmi tant d’autres des “lois” et normes de la guerre, – constitue une opportunité elle aussi liée aux “intérêts en cours”. Cette déclassification rend encore plus pesant l’argument général de communication de l’intervention des pays du bloc BAO, dans un climat où la communication joue évidemment un rôle vital. Il ne faut certainement pas sous-estimer l’effet de cette sorte de révélations, même si nul ne doit se faire d’illusions sur les discours humanitaires du jour, compte tenu de la pauvreté psychologique et intellectuelle des élites-Système. Il y a une différence entre l’absence d’illusions et la confirmation formelle, documents à l’appui, que ces illusions sont effectivement déplacées parce que complètement faussaires et trompeuses.

On peut faire l’hypothèse que cette sorte de révélations, et celles-ci particulièrement, ont tout de même un effet “opérationnel”. Elles rendent quasiment impossible d’assurer les alliances et les appuis sur une certaine confiance réciproque qui fait parfois la différence dans des circonstances extrêmes, et faisant ainsi dépendre complètement ces alliances et appuis de rapports de force et de corruption qui établissent certes des liens pesants mais qui peuvent se défaire très vite selon les circonstances. L’absence d’une certaine confiance dans les rapports constitue un des handicaps fondamentaux des pays du bloc BAO, qui ne cachent plus rien de la complète fabrication de leur rhétorique tout en axant l’essentiel de leur politique sur cette rhétorique. D’autre part, l’effet intérieur (aux USA même pour ce cas) peut être également très négatif, là aussi selon les circonstances. La mise en évidence d’un opportunisme cynique si complet dans la politique n’est pas vraiment un atout dans le climat actuel.

Au reste, en lisant les détails des documents déclassifiés, on imagine très bien BHO, lisant un rapport sur les récentes défaites des rebelles face aux Syriens d’Assad, écrivant dans la marge “An Assad’s victory is unacceptable”... Qu’on en tire la conclusion qu’on veut.

«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.

»According 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.» [...]

»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.... [...]

»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.»

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