The Lion of Babylon Roars - a Ba'athist Iraq wank

Basically, the PoD is that Iraq wins the Iran-Iraq War through some more competence and luck on their side and slightly less competence and luck on the Iranian side. Enjoy.


The Lion of Babylon Roars

Chapter I: The Whirlwind War, 1980-1983.
The history of the Republic of Iraq in the 1980s was completely dominated by the consolidation of power in Saddam Hussein’s clutches. President Al-Bakr resigned as President in 1979 out of “health reasons”, but in reality he had been outmanoeuvred by Saddam who had been the power behind the throne for much of the 1970s anyway. He became President and also assumed the positions of chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, secretary-general of the Iraqi Ba’ath party, and head of the armed forces. Soon after, Saddam conveniently discovered a plot against him that necessitated the execution of his main rivals. A personality cult followed that made him known across Iraq while a semblance of democracy remained: a national assembly convened for the first time in twenty years, but it was nothing more than a rubber stamp institution. The party controlled schools, trade unions, and the government and had its own militia. A massive security state ruthlessly persecuted dissidents and opponents of the regime and censorship was tight. The Ba’ath regime didn’t just use a stick but a carrot as well: it built mosques, roads, hospitals, schools, continued emancipation policies for women, and rewarded young elite Shi’ites and Kurds who would cooperate with the regime. Saddam used symbols in an attempt to evoke the historic legacy of pre-Islamic and early Islamic Iraq in an attempt to invigorate Iraqi nationalism. Sculptors, architects, cartoonists and other artists of various kinds were employed to create an overwhelming amount of propaganda.

By the early 1980s, the Ba’ath rulers of Iraq were in complete control of their once chaotic country, while Iran was undergoing revolutionary turmoil. That situation led Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, believing it to be an easy prey, his goal being to advance his prestige as the leader of the Arab world. He also feared that the new Islamic Republic of Iran could incite a revolt among the Iraqi Shi’ites, who formed 60% of the population. Socialist, secular and Arab nationalist Iraq was an obvious candidate to export the Iranian Revolution of the Ayatollahs to. Longer term causes included the competition for dominance in the region and ideological, ethnic and religious differences. There was also Iraq’s desire to secure a border alignment that would give it control over the entire Shatt-al-Arab waterway, which it shared with Iran due to the 1975 border agreement considered to be humiliating by Baghdad. Lastly, there was a personal antipathy between Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini because the former had expelled the latter from Iraq in the late 70s. Iraq decided to launch what Saddam Hussein referred to as the “Whirlwind War”.

Iraq assembled an army of 190.000 men, 2.200 tanks and 450 aircraft. In addition, the area around the Shatt al-Arab posed no obstacle for the Iraqis, as they were armed with Soviet equipment to cross rivers. Iraq correctly deduced that Iran’s defences at the crossing points around the Kharkeh and Karoun Rivers were undermanned and that the rivers could be easily crossed. Iraqi intelligence was also informed that the Iranian forces in Khuzestan (which consisted of two divisions prior to the revolution) now only consisted of several ill-equipped battalions and a handful of company-sized tank units. The only qualms the Iraqis had were over the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force or IRIAF (formerly the Imperial Iranian Air Force). Despite the purge of several key pilots and commanders as well as the lack of spare parts, the air force showed its power during local uprisings and rebellions. They were also active after the failed American attempt to rescue its hostages from the occupied embassy in Teheran. As such, Iraq's leaders decided to carry out a surprise air strike against the Iranian air force's infrastructure prior to the main invasion.

In Iran, severe officer purges, and shortages of spare parts for Iran’s American made equipment (M48 and M60 Patton tanks as well as F-14 Tomcat jetfighters, delivered to the Shah) had crippled the once powerful Iranian armed forces. Between February and September 1979, Iran's government had executed 85 senior generals and had forced all major-generals and most brigadier-generals into early retirement. By September 1980, the government had purged 12.000 army officers. These purges resulted in a drastic decline in Iranian military operational capacities. Their regular army (which, in 1978, was considered the world's fifth most powerful) had been badly weakened by purges and lack of spare parts. The desertion rate had reached 60%, and the officer corps was devastated. The most highly skilled soldiers and aviators were exiled, imprisoned, or executed, a crippling capital flight that seriously reduced the competence of the Iranian army. Continuous sanctions prevented Iran from acquiring many heavy weapons, such as tanks and aircraft. When the invasion occurred, many pilots and officers were released from prison, or had their executions commuted to combat the Iraqis and many junior officers were promoted to generals. Iran still had at least one thousand operational tanks and several hundred functional aircraft, and could cannibalize equipment to procure spare parts.

Saddam Hussein decided to change his plan of attack somewhat after, according to him, having an epiphany (in reality some of his generals had suggested it, but Saddam’s bloated ego didn’t allow him to admit that). The original plan was for four out of six divisions would attack in the south into the province of Khuzestan (this province was predominantly Arab rather than Persian and Saddam hoped in vain that the local Arab population could be persuaded to support Iraq). The two remaining divisions were to attack on the central and northern part of the border in the original plan, but Saddam altered it considering the conquest of Khuzestan was the operational goal and because the largely mountainous borders were suboptimal for large military operations. Five divisions were to be used in the conquest of Khuzestan while remaining Iraqi army and paramilitary forces were to dig trenches and create powerful fixed field fortifications on and around the mountain passes that the Iranians were most likely to attack through, with an emphasis being placed on Baghdad’s safety. Subsequently, viewing the size and still fairly potent strike force of the Iranian air force, also decided it was more productive to establish regional air superiority over Khuzestan instead of the entire country, which was three times bigger than Iraq itself.

The Iraqis started with an aerial offensive against western Iran on September 22nd 1980. Most of the Tu-22 medium bombers and Sukhoi Su-20 fighter bombers (capable of carrying heavy duty ordinance for hardened facilities) along with most of the handful of MiG-23BNs (the ground attack variant of the MiG-23) were focused on Khuzestan. The Iraqis managed to destroy the armed concrete hangars with two tonne bombs, the Tu-22 being capable of carrying 9.000 kilos of bombs and the Su-20 being able to carry 4.000 kilos on wing mounted hard points. Many planes were destroyed on the ground as a result of their hangars, despite being made out of armed concrete, buckling under free fall bombs. In addition to that, MiG-23s used air-to-surface missiles and their 23 mm cannon to attack aircraft on the ground with some serious successes. On the morning of September 22nd Iranian pilots found their airbases in Khuzestan under attack and tried to scramble their fighters, mostly failing due to the almost complete element of surprise.

Simultaneously, a massive artillery bombardment was launched, predominantly with Katyushas and 152 mm M1955 howitzers (both of them Soviet-built weapon systems). An armoured assault commenced afterward spearheaded by T-72 tanks and Lion of Babylon tanks (an Iraqi modified version of the T-72) which were followed by the more numerous Chinese-built Type-69 tanks, the mainstay of the Iraqi armoured forces (they were an improvement of the Type 59, which themselves were Soviet T-55 knock-offs). In one week the Iraqis advanced over 120 kilometres, reaching the provincial capital of Ahvaz and the port of Bandar Mahshar. The Iraqi offensive consisted of two pincers focused on these two cities, and largely due to lacking Iranian defences and an incompetent enemy response, the Iraqis managed to converge 20 kilometres east of the Ahvaz-Bandar line. As planned, Iraqi forces entrenched along the line they had reached and the modern SA-2 Guideline anti-aircraft missiles and SA-6 mobile triple SAM launchers were moved forward into Khuzestan.

The Iraqis did that just in time, because the superior IRIAF came down hard on Khuzestan with F-14 Tomcats, F-4 Phantoms and F-5 Tigers, supplied by the US during the reign of the last Shah. As they ran into the SA-2 and SA-6 missiles, they incurred severe losses while not seriously damaging Iraqi ground forces. Iranian ground troops, in the meantime, attacked Iraqi positions consisting of trenches, barbed wire fields, mine fields, artillery positions and tanks dug in as casemates in frontal human waves. Iranian counteroffensives over late 1980 and early 1981 failed to dislodge the Iraqis from their positions in Khuzestan. In similar fashion to WW I armies and the Japanese in WW II, the Iranians mindlessly assaulted enemy positions head-on, and as a result shrapnel shells and machine guns mowed them down.

Khomeini, in the meantime, remained distrustful of the military because it had always been a pillar of support to the Shah. He’s rather listen to the fanatically loyal Revolutionary Guard and the equally fanatical Basji militia which, however, was poorly equipped and counted many boys as young as 14 and elderly men as old as 70 among its ranks. Any strategy that didn’t make liberation of Iranian territory its first and foremost priority was dismissed by Khomeini, and as a result Iranian numbers were decimated every single time. That was worsened when Saddam Hussein deployed mustard gas and chlorine gas: especially the first few times were horrible because the Iranians at the time weren’t wearing gasmasks and had to resort to urine drenched pieces of cloth instead. Serious losses affected the Iranian air force, diminishing what could have been an advantage to Iran. Their ground forces suffered the most and even with a 3:1 numerical advantage, the Iranians couldn’t bear such losses for too long. Such costly battles for no gain were also very demoralizing, except for the fanatical supporters of Khomeini.

In the meantime, spare parts were getting even harder to obtain as US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev both tacitly chose the Iraqi side, deeming them the “lesser of two evils”. The US gladly supplied intelligence while Moscow had no qualms about selling MiG-25 interceptor fighters, T-72 main battle tanks, AK-47 assault rifles, Dragunov sniper rifles, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, and surface-to-air missiles to Saddam. By late 1981, the Iraqis were armed to the teeth, compared to 1980 (though that didn’t stop the surprise attack of Israel against the Osirak reactor, which the Israelis didn’t believe was a scientific reactor for peaceful purposes rather than a means to create an Iraqi atomic bomb).

Over the course of winter 1981-’82, Khomeini finally changed his mind on allowing a more indirect strategy. An attack on the central part of the Iran-Iraq border toward Baghdad, which army commanders had been advocating, was now favoured by him. His forces, however, proved too weakened for that to succeed, despite capturing the Iraqi town of Mandali (ten kilometres from the border) inflicting heavy losses on the Iraqi defenders as well. The victory proved Pyrrhic and that was combined with the increasing repressiveness of the Khomeini regime (with Khomeini blaming internal dissent and godlessness as the cause of the losses in the war). Leftist elements gained support as the regime grew harsher: the communist Tudeh Party, the social-democratic Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (or Fedayan-e Khalq) and the Islamic Marxist “People’s Mujahideen” banded together and started strikes and demonstrations across the country while engaging in a guerrilla and sabotage campaign against Khomeini’s forces.

As popular support for the radical Islamist regime ebbed and protest reached tremendous sizes, Khomeini couldn’t squash opposition anymore. In a coup d’état Noureddin Kianouri, General-Secretary of the Tudeh Party, was proclaimed President of Iran in the so-called April Revolution of 1983. Kianouri immediately proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire and requested an armistice before Saddam Hussein could make a good thing out of it and then cash in. All Khomeini could do was to curse those who he blamed for his defeat and flee the country. He fled to Turkey where he requested political asylum and he was granted this asylum despite protests of the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey in Ankara, and from there he could only watch what Saddam Hussein would do to his country.
 
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Update time :D.


Chapter II: The Rise of Iraq and the End of the Cold War, 1983-1990.
Although the war had lasted quite a bit longer than the Ba’athist leadership had thought, as they had thought Iran to be weak, the war had been concluded in a way favourable to Iraq. Iran was in chaos once again and its military was temporarily paralyzed by disorder, leaving Baghdad in a position to dictate terms, at least for as far as the international community didn’t consider them to be too outrageous. In the so-called Peace of Baghdad, Iran was to cede the predominantly Arab and petroleum rich province of Khuzestan and the islets of Abu Musa, Greater Tunbs and Lesser Tunbs (they had been a part of the Emirate of Sharjah, but had been occupied by Iran in 1971 after Britain left and the United Arab Emirates were formed).

The addition of Khuzestan, a province of that had produced a significant part of Iran’s oil, boosted Iraq’s economy through enormously increased oil revenue. With the additional income, which compensated for relatively low oil prices of the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was able to continue socialist policies that were extremely popular. Dams and irrigation projects continued, boosting agriculture production. The education system was expanded further, with women making up 40% of students in 1985 rather than a third as in the late 1970s, and free healthcare continued to exist. Paternal leave was introduced and other progressive social policies (especially progressive in an Arab country) like decriminalization of homosexuality took place. The government also continued to encourage scientific and technical education as existing universities were expanded and new ones were opened. As a result of educational policies, 95% of the population was literate by the end of the decade. In the meantime, infrastructure was expanded too with new highways and railroads, especially in the Western Sunni regions where roads were much less developed, let alone highways. As a result car ownership increased as well, especially imported Russian Ladas, East German Trabants, Yugoslavian Yugos and Italian Fiats. In an attempt to kick-start the development of an indigenous automotive industry, Iraq started to build the Fiat 126 under license. Concurrently, state media started to reach ever more people: television had reached 350.000 homes in the mid 70s and that had quintupled to 1.75 million by the late 1980s (almost half of the population). Also, state determined content increased in quantity, replacing foreign imports that had dominated Iraqi TV for a long time with Ba’ath propaganda material. Iraq could count on an average 7% annual economic growth per year in the mid and late 1980s and GDP per capita almost doubled from $7.000 in 1980 to $13.500 in 1990, despite the economic crisis and low oil prices of the time.

The regime exported propaganda to Khuzestan as well, picturing Saddam Hussein as the one who had liberated the local Arabs from centuries of Persian oppression (expressing Saddam’s rabid Persephobia). Statues for him were erected across the new Iraqi province and the same carrot and stick policies were implemented: a welfare state, major governmental investments in infrastructure and schooling, and co-opting those willing to collaborate into the state and party apparatus. Considering that Iraq now had a significant coastline, the oil money was used to erect splendorous, luxurious beach resorts and hotels to create a Riviera on the Persian Gulf. That whacky project of Saddam’s proved successful with many of the jet set visiting Iraq from the late 1980s onward.

This progress, however, came with a dark side. Some Kurdish elements had risen up with Iranian support, mainly the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The Iraqi Army, which was armed to the teeth with Soviet equipment, mustered 150.000 men with air support to combat a number of guerrillas lower than ten thousand. The same Tu-22s and Su-20s used against the Iranians were now turned against civilian targets, destroying some 4.000 Kurdish villages and killing tens of thousands of people. Tanks rolled through Kurdish cities and re-established Saddam’s control, arresting males aged 16-65 suspected of being insurgents or political dissidents. Most of them were sent to detention centres, in reality no more than concentration camps, where they were gathered in overcrowded rooms, and then tortured for information and later executed (only very few escaped the execution squads). Many women and children died as well, albeit from different causes such as exposure, starvation, chemical weapons and wilful neglect. Family members of those who were determined to be actual insurgents and dissidents also usually didn’t escape the Kalashnikovs of the firing squads. Arabization took place as well. “Arabization” was a tactic used by Hussein’s regime to drive pro-insurgent populations out of their homes in villages and cities like Kirkuk, which are in the valuable oil field areas, and relocate them in the southern parts of Iraq. The campaign used heavy population redistribution, most notably in Kirkuk. The Ba'athist regime built several public housing facilities in this city as a part of his to lure poor Arabs from the south with the promise of inexpensive housing and employment in the petroleum industry. 100.000 Kurds are estimated to have died in the campaign, and the prevarication of the US State Department ensured Iraq faced no serious consequences: this was the unintended and undesired result of the recent American tilt toward Iraq.


Iran, in the meantime, organized elections in which the Islamists incurred serious losses while a centre-left government consisting of Tudeh, the social-democratic Fedayan-e Khalq and the Islamic Marxist “People’s Mujahideen” emerged. Faced with a structural economic crisis due to the loss of important oil fields, the new government made some serious reforms: it heightened the interest rate to curb inflation and introduced wage and price controls (which was exception in normal situations, but fairly normal in times of war and rationing, like the early and mid 1980s were for Iran). Taxes were raised for the upper classes to compensate for the loss of oil revenue. As part of a Five Year Plan, the government invested heavily in key industries other than oil like manufacturing, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, the services sector and the IT sector. Mining and mining infrastructure was especially invested in, not surprising considering Iran besides oil also has deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, lead zinc, molybdenum, silica, uranium and gold. Mining and mining related industries had made up less than 4% of GDP in the late 1970s, but by the 1980s that had increased to 10%. The presence of gold and silica, coupled with cheap labour and state subsidies for “innovative industries”, led to the development of an IT sector from the late 1980s, the largest in the region. Lots of parts for PCs that would end up in Western homes and offices were manufactured in Iran because it was cheap to outsource it there and because Iran delivered good quality. While progressive, most of these reforms were structural and therefore slow to catch on, leaving Iran in an economic malaise with unemployment above 10% for the 1980s and early 1990s. Much needed military reform was therefore difficult to afford for now, especially when combined with stonewalling from major arms suppliers: Iran remained unstable with an Islamic insurgency plaguing the countryside and dominating fringe regions on the Afghan and Pakistani borders; major arms suppliers like the US and the Soviet Union were wary of sending weapons if they could fall into the wrong hands.

Iran’s standing in the Middle East, in the meantime, improved little after the Iran-Iraq War. Earlier, Iran had been as an enormous threat to the Arab world, but now it wasn’t taken seriously anymore with Saddam himself describing Iran as “a neutered dog who doesn’t have it in him to be aggressive anymore”. His description of the ordeal as emasculating was fairly accurate considering Iran was no longer a viable threat, at least for now. It was also the latest Iranian setback in a range of humiliations since the late 19th century which included Anglo-Russian imperialism, the Anglo-Soviet occupation in WW II in violation of Iran’s neutrality and the fate of Mossadegh, culminating in the Iran-Iraq War. It provoked a sense of despair and apathy rather than the radical enthusiasm of the White Revolution of the Shah or the more recent Iranian Revolution.

The stature of Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the Middle East, on the other hand, was on the rise. Saddam was considered the champion of the Arab cause and the defender of the Arab world against Shi’ite Iran (Iran being the only Shi’ite dominated Middle Eastern country, with Saddam disenfranchising the Shi’ites in the only other country where they had a majority as well, and ethnically non-Arab to boot). Economically and socially, most Arab countries tried to imitate, in part or completely, what Iraq had built with its oil money: secularization, free healthcare, cheap education, the emancipation of women, good and modern infrastructure etcetera. In accordance with his position in the Arab world, Saddam intervened in the Lebanese Civil War by providing the Sunni Muslims and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with weapons, most notably AK-47 assault rifles, RPG-7s and Dragunov sniper rifles.

In the meantime, he maintained his ties with the Soviet Union, but the USSR was losing its ability to act as a sugar daddy to the Arab world. Brezhnev’s era had been a time of stagnation and the Soviet Union had mainly survived because of high oil prices, but these were much lower in the 1980s (allegedly because the US asked Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices so that the Soviets wouldn’t be able to make a profit from selling oil). Brezhnev’s successors Andropov and Chernenko both lasted less than two years and they were succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev. He introduced reforms in the economy and party leadership (perestroika) and freed access to information (glasnost) after decades of rigid state censorship)
. Gorbachev also moved to end the Cold War. In 1988, the Soviet Union abandoned its nine-year war in Afghanistan and began to withdraw its forces. In 1989, he refused military support to the Soviet Union’s former satellite states, resulting in the toppling of the Eastern European communist regimes. With the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and with East Germany and West Germany pursuing unification, the Iron Curtain finally came down after more than four decades.

In the late 1980s, the constituent republics of the Soviet Union started legal moves towards potentially declaring sovereignty over their territories. Many held their first free elections in the Soviet era for their own national legislatures in 1990. Many of these legislatures proceeded to produce legislation contradicting the Union laws in what was known as the “War of Laws”. In 1989, the Russian SFSR (the largest constituent republic, with about half of the USSR’s population) convened a newly elected Congress of People's Deputies. Boris Yeltsin was elected its chairman. On June 12th 1990, the Congress declared Russia's sovereignty over its territory and proceeded to pass laws that attempted to supersede some of the USSR's laws. The period of legal uncertainty continued throughout 1991 as constituent republics slowly became de facto independent. A referendum for the preservation of the USSR was held on March 17th 1991, with the majority of the population voting for preservation of the Union in nine out of the 15 republics. The referendum gave Gorbachev a minor boost. In the summer of 1991, the New Union Treaty, which would have turned the Soviet Union into a much looser Union, was agreed upon by eight republics. The signing of the treaty, however, was interrupted by the August Coup – an attempted coup d'état by hardliners within the government and the KGB who sought to reverse Gorbachev’s reforms and reassert the central government’s control over the republics. The Soviet Union would subsequently collapse with all its member republics breaking away in 1991, formally dissolving in December of that year.

In the meantime, United States politics had taken an unexpected turn when on September 20th 1988 the Republican President candidate, George H.W. Bush, had died of a severe stroke, leaving his running mate Dan Quayle to run for President instead. That had a bad effect on the Republican election campaign: they liked to ridicule the Democrat opponent Michael Dukakis for his supposed softness on defence issues, but Quayle himself had mishandled questions about his military record, leaving questions dangling, while Dukakis could prove his military service. Quayle also bungled during a debate against Dukakis on October 13th by rattling and at other times being evasive or uncertain when asked questions, causing his poll numbers to drop from 51% to 44% overnight. He never had the full support of the Republican Party, even just as a candidate for the Vice Presidency, because questions were being raised about his experience or lack thereof. Michael Dukakis was considered to be uninspiring and uncharismatic, with him being referred to as “Zorba the Clerk”, but proved more liked than Quayle. Dukakis carried the District of Columbia and nineteen other states, mostly the more densely populated ones where the voters he tried to appeal to resided (minorities, youth, workers and women), thereby scoring in both the rust belt states and more progressive ones like New York. These states were: Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii. That gave him a majority in the popular vote and a majority of 277 seats in the Electoral College out of 537. The Republicans had therefore gained 260 votes in the Electoral College, but insisted on a recount in Indiana, where the vote had been extremely close. After the recount it was concluded that the Democrats had still won that state and thus still had a majority in the popular vote and the Electoral College (Indiana represented twelve votes in the Electoral College). It was a close victory for the Democrats, but a victory nonetheless and Michael Dukakis became the 41st President of the United States.

The change in US politics didn’t affect the end of the Cold War and Iraq stood poised to lose its long time sponsor. Saddam Hussein would have to reorient himself in what was now likely to become a multi-polar world, though dominated by the United States, which was the only remaining superpower, a hyper power. Iraq would have to learn to fend for itself now that it seemed that Russia would cooperate with the USA in the arena of international politics.
 
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You've definitely got my attention. I assume that Tudeh-ruled Iran became a Soviet client, at least de facto, during what remained of the Cold War?
 
Update time :D


Chapter III: The Gulf Crisis, 1990-1991.


The new decade almost immediately opened with a crisis caused by Saddam Hussein which President Michael Dukakis and Soviet Premier Gorbachev, on his way out though he didn’t realize it yet, had to deal with. The main cause was the consistent overproduction of oil by Kuwait (and by the United Arab Emirates), which had caused the price for a barrel of oil to drop to $10. Iraq lost 7 billion dollars a year because of this and besides that Saddam accused Kuwait of slant drilling into Iraq’s Rumaila oilfield near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, costing Iraq hundreds of millions of dollars more annually. By July 1990, Iraq was threatening with military intervention if Kuwait didn’t comply, but Kuwait didn’t budge on the matter and offered a monetary compensation that Baghdad deemed insufficient. Saudi Arabia, which had signed a pact of non-aggression and a pact of non-interference with Iraq, agreed with Iraq’s position and heckled Kuwaiti obstinacy. Jordan agreed with Iraq too, and most other OPEC members tacitly did so as well considering Iraq and Saudi Arabia were the most prominent members. Only Gaddafi’s Libya supported Kuwait, which followed from the fact that it had supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq War and was an international pariah. Syria, not an OPEC member, which had a troubled relation with Iraq at best, also supported Kuwait.

President Dukakis, in the meantime, was divided on the matter. He wasn’t keen on foreign entanglements, certainly not at this time when the US economy was recovering from the 1980s slump. He also wasn’t interested in strengthening the view that America wanted to increase its influence in the Middle East, not after he had created goodwill by not vetoing a UN mission to the Israeli-occupied territories where Palestinian deaths had occurred during riots. In the end, his message to Saddam Hussein (via his ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, and also in a public announcement) was rather mixed. He said internal OPEC discipline wasn’t of concern to the US and also said that he had no interest in inter-Arab conflicts. He, however, also stated that Kuwait had a right to independence and sovereignty and that the United States would guarantee that.

The phrasing proved poor because it said nothing about Kuwait’s territorial integrity and Saddam ran with it, publishing this statement in its exact wordings in the newspaper Babil owned by his son Uday, much to the embarrassment of the United States government. The Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait at midnight on August 2nd 1990 with 120.000 men and 850 tanks for the above reasons and because Iraq deemed Kuwait a historical province: it had been a part of the Ottoman Empire’s Basra province, and Basra itself was now in Iraq; the reigning al-Sabah family had concluded a protectorate agreement with Britain in 1899, signing over foreign policy to London; Britain had subsequently drawn the modern border in 1922, leaving Iraq almost landlocked. Thusly the “thieving British” had stolen land that according to Iraq had historically belonged to it (even though Iraq wouldn’t be cobbled together from Ottoman provinces until after World War I).

At the time of the invasion, the Kuwaiti military numbered about 16.000 men, arranged into three armoured brigades, one mechanised infantry brigade and one under-strength artillery brigade. The pre-war strength of the Kuwait Air Force was around 2.200 Kuwaiti personnel, with forty helicopters and eighty aircraft, including Douglas A-4 Skyhawk ground attack planes. In spite of Iraqi sabre rattling, Kuwait didn't have its forces on alert; in fact, the army had been stood down on July 19th. By 1988, by which time Iraq had completed an ambitious project to enlarge and strengthen its armed forces, the Iraqi Army was the world’s fourth largest army: it was capable of fielding one million men and 850.000 reservists, 5.500 tanks, 3.000 artillery pieces, 700 combat aircraft and helicopters; and it held 53 divisions, twenty special-forces brigades, and several regional militias, and had a strong air defence. The cited war goals of Iraq were: 1) putting a stop to Kuwait’s illegal slant drilling into the Rumaila oilfield 2) enforcing conformance to OPEC agreements 3) obtaining a border correction to “correct the historical theft, but which leaves those not of Iraqi origin independent and sovereign”. The Iraqi Army’s offensive into Kuwait was two-pronged: one pincer followed the highway along the coast and the other attacked from the northwest. At 04:30 AM on August 2nd, 1990, the Kuwaiti Army command ordered the 35th Armoured Brigade to stop the columns of the advancing Iraqi Republican Guard in the city of Al Jahra, west of the capital of Kuwait City. It was only around 05:00 AM that the first Kuwaiti Land Forces unit, a battalion of Chieftain tanks, moved out of its base and towards Al Jahra. Led by Colonel Salem Masoud Al-Sorour, they entered Al Jahra with the intention of mounting a delaying action. Due to lack of preparedness, the armoured brigade was only able to mobilize one of its two Chieftain tank battalions, a company of BMP-2 armoured vehicles and a single 155-mm artillery battery. The Iraqi force consisted of a full strength division of the Iraqi Republican Guard, the Hammurabi Armoured Division.

Despite the general Kuwaiti thought that this would be a last stand, however, it didn’t turn out as such. The Iraqi spearhead simply stopped about 4 kilometres north of Al-Jahra on the tip of Kuwait Bay, about 30 kilometres away from Kuwait City and less than a day after the invasion had begun. Saddam had taken to heart that President Dukakis wouldn’t stand for a complete annexation of the country, especially considering the US had dispatched battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin and two carrier groups built around USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Independence. President Dukakis had also raised the alert posture of US forces from DEFCON 5, the lowest state of readiness, to DEFCON 4 (“increased intelligence watch and strengthened security measures, above normal readiness”), although Saddam didn’t know that detail. His forces maintained a defensive position and thusly didn’t advance any further, which the Americans knew thanks to satellite images. As a result, a tentative and unofficial ceasefire took hold because Kuwaiti commanders wisely decided they wouldn’t provoke the vastly superior enemy, especially considering it was uncertain whether they’d get US support.

Considering most OPEC members were at the least sympathetic to Iraq due to their irritation over Kuwait ignoring OPEC rules (more so because Saudi Arabia, a principle US ally, was among them) the US government was hesitant about acting too rashly. Besides that, Iran had moved significant forces to the border and that galvanized support for Iraq in the Arab world because Iraq was seen as the major anti-Persian bulwark. Saddam himself, in the meantime, despite his enormous ego, had also managed to restrain himself: 98% of the population was urban and the urbanized regions were largely confined to the southern half of Kuwait, mostly along the coast (which Iraq hadn’t occupied). As a result, the House of Representatives, which had been won by the Democrats in 1990, was opposed to an armed American intervention, especially considering public opinion wasn’t very much in favour of it and because a Soviet veto to a UN intervention complicated things.

Iraq proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire on August 9th, which Kuwait grudgingly acknowledged, after which an official armistice was signed between the two countries. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia, as a “neutral” country in the Kuwaiti-Iraqi conflict, offered to mediate. The US State Department issued a positive response to the cessation of hostilities and the continuation of diplomatic negotiations, although Republicans vehemently criticized the American stance of non-intervention. Republicans believed it made the United States look weak and aloof, which was a bad signal toward the principal US ally in the region, Israel. Furthermore, they pointed out that Saddam Hussein was now allowed to negotiate from a position of strength. This was even more the case since he could use the clumsily phrased statement of President Dukakis to his advantage, because an American intervention would make the US look hypocritical.

Only Syria, Libya and Iran were around to decisively take Kuwait’s side in the conflict, which wasn’t of much help: Israel was an enemy to both Syria and Iraq and therefore one of the most powerful players refrained from choosing a side in the matter; Libya was an international pariah and Muammar Gaddafi wasn’t taken seriously at all because of his antics, such as the recent Lockerbie Affair; lastly, any attempted Iranian intervention could be used by Iraq to call for an anti-Persian crusade. Kuwait was alone in the matter and had little choice but to fold when faced with Iraq’s ability to bully around Kuwait at its leisure with its military muscle. Kuwait, followed soon by the fearful United Arab Emirates, agreed in accordance with the other OPEC countries that the price for a barrel of oil was to be $21 rather than just $10. The northern half of Kuwait, up to the tip of Kuwait Bay, was annexed as the nineteenth province of Iraq, which also automatically ended (alleged) Kuwaiti slant drilling into the Rumaila oilfield. This was agreed upon in the so-called Kuwait Agreement signed on Monday October 29th 1990.

Saddam appointed his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”) as governor of the “Kuwait Governorate” in a feat of nepotism. Saddam had gained a major success through bluff, intimidation and a show of military force and had increased his standing and popularity in the Arab world even more (except in Kuwait of course, where he was seen as a tyrannical dictator and an unprovoked aggressor). Iraqi economic growth increased shortly afterward.

As was always the case with Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraq’s march forward came at a price. A small insurgency by radical Shia elements had taken place during the Gulf Crisis, and the Mesopotamian Marshes in southern Iraq had been used as a base/hiding place. In response, the regime decided to revive an old plan to drain those marshes to eliminate the food source(s) of the so-called “Marsh Arabs” living there. As a result, 90% of the marshes would become desiccated by 2000 and the Marsh Arabs were forced to adopt a sedentary lifestyle and conventional agriculture. Whereas March Arabs had numbered half a million in the 1950s – their numbers had declined since then due to government interference – their number dwindled further to the lower ten thousands. This policy was an ecological disaster as well: desertification and salinization were the consequence with a resulting decline in dairy production, fishing and rice cultivation; it also probably meant the extinction of several species of plant and animal endemic to the marshes; another result was the loss of a migration area for birds, leading to a decline in bird populations in Ukraine and the Caucasus. It was the first time that Saddam’s younger son Qusay played a role of importance.
 
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Fantastic stuff, I'll definitely be following this. I take it Iraq's acquisition of those islands in the Strait of Hormuz are going to play a role somewhere down the line?
 
If Saddam hangs on until the Arab Spring, I can imagine his reponse would make Assad look like a democratic, western leader. Keep the up the good work :).
 
If Saddam hangs on until the Arab Spring, I can imagine his reponse would make Assad look like a democratic, western leader. Keep the up the good work :).
Well, his response to the revolts in the South after Gulf War One certainly made even the Hama massacre look like a playground scuffle. Still, there is a kind of morbid interest in seeing a TL where Saddam does much better.
 
Interesting TL so far - I saw something that the Soviets had a somewhat different collapse in TTL - did some of the Soviet republics stick around in the Russian Federation? Belarus and Kazakhstan I could certainly see vote to remain as part of Russia in favor of independence.
 
Interesting TL so far - I saw something that the Soviets had a somewhat different collapse in TTL - did some of the Soviet republics stick around in the Russian Federation? Belarus and Kazakhstan I could certainly see vote to remain as part of Russia in favor of independence.

No, the fall of the USSR was the same.

While I'm here, I might as well ask: can anyone make a map of what the Middle East currently looks like? Iraq has annexed Khuzestan and the northern half of Kuwait.
 
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While I'm here, I might as well ask: can anyone make a map of what the Middle East currently looks like? Iraq has annexed Khuzestan and the northern half of Kuwait.

Here you go:
TheLionOfBabylonRoars.png

TheLionOfBabylonRoars.png
 
Update time :D.


Chapter IV: Iraq and the Post-Soviet Era, 1991-1999.
While Iraqi growth had slowed to just 4% in 1990 and 1991, which was relatively low compared to the enormous grow Iraq was used to (7% in the 1980s and 11% in the 1970s), it picked up again as a result of higher oil prices in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, opened the prospect of cheaper Russian oil flooding Western markets which would diminish Western dependence on the Middle East for oil. One comment was that, with oil taken out of the equation, the Middle East’s exports were as high as Finland’s. Iraq had to adapt to its changing environment, much like the other Arab states.

Saddam used oil money to invest in industries other than petroleum. Mining of phosphates, sulphur and salt commenced with the foundation of state subsidized mining companies, which resulted in the development of secondary industries, also stimulated by the government with subsidies. Phosphate and sulphur were used to produce artificial fertilizer indigenously and sulphur was additionally used to domestically produce pesticides and fungicides for export and also to successfully increase agricultural production. Salt, or sodium chloride, was used to develop an Iraqi industry based on PVC, plastics and paper pulp (upon which indigenous paper production was based). The fishing industry in the Persian Gulf noticeably took off in the 1990s thanks to the lengthened coastline that Iraq enjoyed. A remarkable shift took place here since most of these companies were, at least officially, privately owned. This was the result of the fact that authoritarian state socialism was discredited after the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a reorientation toward Arab Nationalism in Iraq’s case.

More important was the development of an automotive industry from the factories constructed to build the Fiat 126 under license. While Fiat itself had discontinued production of the Fiat 126 in 1980 and Poland largely stopped production in 1992, Iraq continued to produce this model, colloquially known as the “Fiat Iraq” or the “Fiat Saddam”, and it was highly popular. This two-door fastback for four persons became incredibly popular in Iraq because the cost price was only about $1000, slightly less than an average month’s pay in the early and mid 1990s. Iraq also exported it to neighbouring countries and North Africa. The so-called “Baghdad Car Company” produced them by the hundreds of thousands and would continue to do so until 2007 (many are subsequently still in use today as family cars, and also as taxis). The company, however, would diversify in response to the continued and large growth of the Iraqi middle class and would introduce a luxury sedan, priced at $12.000, in 1994. Tourism, after a short stint in 1990-’91 also continued to be an important contributor to the Iraqi economy, at least in the southern part of the country, more so with the government transforming what had been northern Kuwait into a tourist resort: artificial oases were created all over the place to attract tourists. At any rate, Iraq achieved 7% growth in 1992 and 9% in 1993.

Iraq also resumed its atomic energy program, having reconstructed the Osirak-1 reactor, destroyed by Israel, in the late 1980s. Osirak-1 had been a 40 MW light water reactor and was reconstructed as such: UN and IAEA inspections showed that the reactor was absolutely unsuitable for the development of nuclear weapons, which mildly assuaged Israeli fears. What made them more concerned was that the reactor was rebuilt underground and encased in hardened concrete, which in Israeli opinion proved Saddam Hussein was up to no good. Furthermore, construction commenced on a full-fledged nuclear power plant, also equipped with light water reactors, in December 1990 about 75 kilometres east of Baghdad (also with French help). The Israelis would have struck again were it not for the fact that anti-aircraft defences around the power plant were powerful and because of the fact that Iraq had a fighter base close by. After the action against Osirak-1 in 1981, Israeli F-16s and F-15s had returned on kerosene fumes; this reactor was further away and most likely a fight would be put up, something the Israeli air force couldn’t afford. The plant was commissioned in late 1996 and its three reactors combined had a total output of 2 GW, providing electricity to about 150.000 homes or around and about three quarters of a million people, if not more. Construction on a second similar nuclear power plant commenced near Basra in 1992 and was completed in early 1998. A third nuclear power plant with four reactors, producing 2.8 GW, was completed in 2000 and powered Tikrit and Kirkuk.

While these plants were not conducive to an Iraqi atomic bomb program, Saddam Hussein after the Gulf Crisis certainly started to manifest ambitions in that direction. In line with Iraq’s status as the strongest Middle Eastern military power besides Israel, he was of the opinion that his country should be the nuclear power of the Arab world. This was in accordance with his ambition to unequivocally establish Iraq as the dominant Arab power. Additionally, he believed quite firmly that Israel already possessed nuclear weapons simply because of the fact that the Israeli government always responded ambiguously when asked questions about their country’s status as a nuclear power (and also because of the so-called Vela Incident of 1979, which is believed by some to be a joint South African-Israeli nuclear test). The Iraqi despot was also paranoid about a joint Syrian-Iranian-Israeli alliance against him (although, realistically, the chances of that happening were low) and therefore felt Iraq needed a last resort if conventional means failed. He secretly established the Iraqi Atomic Energy Committee (IAEC), of which he himself was chairman, in 1993.

This fit with a general Iraqi rearmament trend of the early and mid 1990s. The Iraqi Army, the fourth largest in the world with more than one million men, sorely lacked up-to-date equipment. While the use of T-72s and the Lion of Babylon variant in the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf Crisis made it seem that these were the most common Iraqi tanks, reality was different. Iraq fielded some 1500 Type 59 and Type 69 (both of them Chinese derivatives of the Soviet T-55, which by 1991 was a 45 year old design). The fall of the USSR proved a boon in that Russia cut back heavily on defence and subsequently sold a lot of mothballed equipment for bottom prices. Iraq purchased 300 T-72 main battle tanks from Russia as well as 150 T-80 main battle tanks while selling 450 Type 59 and Type 69 to Sudan, Pakistan and Tanzania. These new T-72s and T-80s came with features such as infrared, electronic fire control, laser rangefinders, optical coincidence rangefinders, and composite armour. Besides that, Iraq also purchased 250 BTR-80 amphibious armoured personnel carriers to replace the older BTR models in service as well as 150 BMP-2 and 50 BMP-3 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles to replace the BMP-1s dating back to the 1960s. These vehicles complemented Iraq’s armoured forces and augmented the strength of its infantry considering it now had improved armoured transport.

For its air force, Iraq purchased 45 MiG-29 multi-role jet fighters and 25 MiG-25 interceptors, which had been proven to be worthy designs, and additionally purchased two Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role jetfighters for test trials with an option for ten more if tests proved satisfactory. Iraq, now having a sizeable coast of its own, established a naval base in Kuwait Bay and sought to buy foreign ships. The Iraqi Navy bought two Kresta I-class (anti-ship) missile cruisers, two Kresta-II-class (anti-aircraft) missile cruisers, two Kara-class cruisers, one incomplete Slava-class cruiser (from Ukraine rather than Russia) which Iraq would incomplete with paid for Russian help, four Sovremenny-class (anti-surface) destroyers and lastly four Udaloy-class destroyers. Together these vessels constituted the Iraqi surface fleet, which was quite potent for a country of Iraq’s size to say the least. Iraq also bought six Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines and bought Russia’s only remaining nuclear-powered Alfa-class hunter-killer submarine, the K-123. It was the fastest military submarine ever built and with its titanium hull could dive deeper than other submarines of similar size. More important was the K-123’s lead-cooled fast-neutron reactor: it was more environment-friendly due to producing less waste, waste which also had a shorter half-life, but more important were its specifics concerning enrichment. Due to the low cross sections of most materials at high neutron energies, critical mass in a fast reactor is much higher than a thermal reactor. In practice, this means significantly higher enrichment: >20% enrichment in a fast reactor compared to <5% enrichment in typical thermal reactors. Since enrichment is the most expensive step in the fuel cycle, this significantly increases the initial costs of a fast reactor. Fast reactors hereby also open the door to nuclear proliferation issues, but it didn’t register much on the international radar since so many Soviet weapons ended up in the Middle East and the Third World.

The United States, in the meantime, saw new Presidential elections in 1992. The Republican candidate was Jack Kemp, who was chosen by his party because he had a broad set of political convictions that spanned the political spectrum: from his conservative anti-abortion view to his more libertarian views on immigration policy. His running mate was Alexander Haig due to his military experience in the Korean War, his role as a staff officer at the Pentagon, service in the Vietnam War and as a regimental commander at West Point. He was believed to be able to inject a more hawkish foreign policy into the new administration. With a moderately social and pro-minority position, undermining the more popular points of Dukakis, the Republicans managed to draw Dukakis’s voter base away from him. Dukakis was also attacked on his foreign policy with his Republican opponents mainly attacking Dukakis’s criticisms of Israel and letting Saddam Hussein get away with bullying around his neighbours. The Dukakis/Bentsen ticket lost both California and Indiana and was left with 191 votes in the Electoral College out of 538 as well as a minority of the popular vote, making him a one term President. The Kemp/Haig ticket got 347 votes in the Electoral College and obviously a majority of the popular vote.

President Kemp pretty much unilaterally broke down the Israeli-Palestine peace process by assuming a hard line stance against the newly created Palestine National Authority which controlled the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The US government reduced spending as Kemp, of the Chicago school of economics, favoured small government and economic non-interventionism. The freed up money was used to increase military spending which, among others, allowed for the Iowa-class battleships to remain in service in the 1990s (contrary to plans under the Dukakis administration to retire them). This was also possible because the US economy experienced serious growth in the 1990s as opposed to the 1980s.

Relations with Israel improved but relations between the United States and Iraq noticeable chilled. As early as 1993, the Kemp administration accused Iraq of having an atomic bomb program, but UN and IAEA inspectors found no evidence pointing in that direction when Saddam Hussein let them inspect Iraqi nuclear facilities. Iraq started to look for a new great power sponsor, recognising that it needed one to ward off the Americans, and found one in a fast rising superpower: the People’s Republic of China. A delegation consisting of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf and Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih visited Beijing in April 1995. There they met with Chinese Premier Li Peng and Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of China. Talks were fruitful considering China was interested in gaining a proxy in the Middle East since it didn’t have one and because Iraq was a very interesting place to invest in. In 1996, the same delegation travelled to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, where they met with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto for talks concerning an Iraqi-Pakistani commercial treaty. The real nature of that treaty would prove to be very different: Iraq was paying Pakistan for intelligence on its nuclear program. These so-called loans from Iraq to Pakistan, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, were meant for “infrastructural development” and Pakistan erected a few shell companies that were enough to fool the average analyst of the CIA, Mossad, KGB or MI6. Iraq also sold Type 59 and Type 69 tanks to Pakistan for bottom prices, which was also because Saddam wished to shore up the country against internal threats. The result, however, would be a military coup d’état that same year, but the new government adhered to the agreements that Bhutto had made with Iraq.

The United States government would soon be distracted by a new threat. Osama bin Laden, a mujahideen fighter from Saudi Arabia who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets, had become disgruntled by staunch American support for Israel and had become disillusioned by the stance of his home country toward the US. Considering the inter-Arab strife caused, in his view, by ideologies like Arab Nationalism and Arab Socialism, which he came to see as repugnant, he turned to fundamentalist Islam as an ideology that could bring unity and defeat the US and Israel. He considered it a holy duty of all Muslims to kill Americans and acted in accordance with that when his organization Al Qaeda bombed the American embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998 with 223 deaths as a result. In the meantime, over a million Afghan refugees fleeing from the violence in their country and from the Taliban were allowed to enter Iran. Following the emergence of the Taliban government and their harsh treatment of Afghanistan’s minorities, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats. In the Republic of Iran that led to outrage unseen for years in a country where apathy, cultural pessimism and nihilism had reigned for at least fifteen years.

The Kemp administration (Jack Kemp had won the 1996 elections) decided to make the best of it taking a hard line stance against Al Qaeda and the Taliban (that there was a relation between the two was common knowledge among intelligence agencies ever since Bin Laden had left Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996). A carrier strike group built around USS George Washington was dispatched to the Persian Gulf and readiness level was raised to DEFCON 4 once again. Iran, which by now was a growing economic power and a significant military power once more, assembled 175.000 men on the Iran-Afghan border. It launched air strikes with its own air force and it got help from American carrier based F-18s: copious amounts of JDAM freefall bombs as well as AGM-65 Maverick and SLAM missiles were used against ground targets in Afghanistan. Besides that B-2 stealth bombers and B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers carpet bombed targets with Mk. 82 freefall bombs and took out more serious targets with heavy duty ordinance. Where all else failed C-130 Hercules cargo planes were used to deploy daisy cutters, often at the request of the Iranian Army operating on the ground. Military operations officially commenced on August 28th 1998, although CIA agents of the Special Activities Division (SAD) had already infiltrated Afghanistan by that point to conduct reconnaissance and sabotage as well as to secure certain key areas and traffic nodes for the Iranians.

The Iranians were able to pulverize the Taliban in conventional warfare, not really caring about the PR side of the story and therefore keeping Washington DC from getting its hands dirty. The Northern Alliance, the Taliban’s opponent and ally of Iran, assisted in the effort and managed to significantly gain ground in tandem with Iranian ground forces and American air support. Iran launched two offensives, one aimed at Kabul and another aimed at Mazar-i-Sharif, killing more indiscriminately as Taliban reprisals against Shi’ites increased in number and casualties. As a result, the Northern Alliance managed to conquer the provinces of Ghor, Herat, Bamyan, Farah, Nimruz and Kabul. This meant the Northern Alliance controlled the north and west of the country, including the capital of Kabul, while the Taliban persisted in the south and east. After this “punitive expedition” Iran withdrew most of its forces in December 1998, save for two 5.000 men strong mechanized regiments stationed in Kabul and an air force base with a fighter squadron and a ground attack squadron near Herat.

Iran, with US political and financial backing, continued to support the Northern Alliance with air strikes, artillery bombardment, occasional small interventions and by providing equipment and training. Pakistan supported the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which was rather ironic considering Islamabad was informally allied to Iraq, a country despised by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was opposed to any alliance with Iraq and persisted in that opinion, something which got him killed in early 1999 by his subordinates who were eager to obtain any support they could get. Iraqi-Pakistani support to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan irritated the US government, but they couldn’t produce much more than circumstantial evidence of said support. Therefore Iraq could remain on the same course.
 
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