Arms sales to Iraq 1973-1990

From Academic Kids

The Soviet Union and her satellites were the main suppliers of arms to Iraq following the 1972 signing of the Soviet-Iraqi Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. France was another important supplier of weapons to Iraq during the 1970s. The United States, the world's leading arms exporter, did not have normal relations with Iraq from 1967 (due to the Six-Day War) until 1984.

Soviet-Iraqi relations suffered strains in the late 1970s. When Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, the Soviet Union cut off weapons sales to Iraq and did not resume them until 1982. During the war, the People's Republic of China became a major new source of weapons for Iraq, with increasing sales from France, and to a lesser extent the United States and Egypt.


Imports of conventional arms by Iraq 1973-1990, by source

Values are shown in millions of US dollars at constant (1990) estimated values. "Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact" includes Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The majority of these transfers came from the Soviet Union, followed by Czechoslovakia.

YearSoviet Union
and Warsaw Pact
France China (PRC)United
Egypt Others
19731,3215000 0
19741,4715000 0
19751,08735000 0
19761,161119000 0
19771,062106000 0
19781,82726000 20
19791,10878000 17
19801,6652410012 114
19811,7807310046 182
19831,8987797452158 773
19842,8578831,06560 116
19852,6017001,036932 116
19862,663251918970 86
19881,202355301125118 196
19891,31911323047 67
1990537281000 33

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

SIPRI makes the following comment of the methodology of this table: "The SIPRI data on arms transfers refer to actual deliveries of major conventional weapons. To permit comparison between the data on such deliveries of different weapons and identification of general trends, SIPRI uses a trend-indicator value. The SIPRI values are therefore only an indicator of the volume of international arms transfers and not of the actual financial values of such transfers."

Arms suppliers to Iraq

As the table clearly shows, the overwhelming majority of the arms imported by Iraq during the 1970s, when the regime was building up the armies which were to attack Iran in 1980, were supplied by the Soviet Union and its satellites, principally Czechoslovakia. The only substantial western arms supplier to Iraq was France.

The United States did not supply any arms to Iraq until 1982, when Iran's growing military success alarmed American policymakers. It then did so every year until 1988 (briefly also supporting Iran during the Iran-Contra Affair and occasionally condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons).

France continued to be a major arms supplier to Iraq until 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and all legal arms transfers to Iraq ended. With the fall of the Soviet Union and of the communist regimes in its former satellites, and the alienation of Egypt from Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait, France became Iraq's principal diplomatic ally. This helps explain much of the antagonism between France and the United States over Iraq during the years between the first and second Gulf Wars.

Political implications

During the controversy over the April 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, it was frequently alleged the United States had supported the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq during the period of the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 and 1988. The figures above suggest that the United States was a relatively minor supplier of conventional weapons, and did not play a major role in arming Iraq for its attack on Iran. However, the US was officially neutral during the Iran-Iraq war, and the question of whether any such arms sales were ethical remains controversial. Those who allege US support for Iraq may not be referring solely to arms sales: the US also supported Iraq (though not necessarily the Iraqi military itself) through various financial and political means, and may have sold dual use technology to Iraq; see the external link "Shaking Hands with Saddam".

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