U.S.-Iraq Relations, Part 1: Lesser Evil

Soon after the United States began supplying Saddam's Iraq with critical intelligence, the American military launched an active — and secret — campaign against Iran. U.S. helicopters attacked Iranian gunboats from a secret platform in the Gulf. And on April 18, 1988, the U.S. military destroyed much of the Iranian navy just as Iraq launched a major offensive. Iraq was on its way to victory. America's tilt toward Saddam had kept him in power.

In 1988, the same year the Iran-Iraq war ended, a new U.S. president was elected. George Herbert Walker Bush came into office determined to pursue a policy of engagement with Saddam. In fact, his first year in office, President Bush signed a secret executive order, National Security Directive Number 26. It called for even closer ties between the United States and Iraq.

Part 2: War | Part 3: Containment

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