There is much talk of how tough international response to Syria should prove a lesson to Iran, in particular. But Iran has already learned the brutal lessons of what it means to suffer a chemical weapons attack. Iran’s condemnation of chemical weapons blames the rebels, rather than its ally, the Syrian government, but its condemnation is quite clear. Below is a brief summary of articles related to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), where Iraq also used chemical weapons against its own Kurdish population, to devastating effect. Iraq built their chemical weapons program with support of the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

After Syria, Iran laments its own chemical weapons victims
Monday, September 16, 2013
As Iran searches to find a foothold between support for the Assad regime and universal condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, new president Hassan Rouhani is also struggling to ensure the Syrian civil war does not harm his chances of easing relations with western states. Meanwhile, the Iranian public, and especially victims of Iraqi chemical weapons attacks, accuse the world of turning a blind eye to their continued suffering.

Return Of Chemical Warfare Resonates Among Survivors In Iran, Iraq 
Radio Free Europe
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Victims of the 1988 chemical weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein on the Kurdish villages of Halabja, Iraq and Sardasht, Iran reflect on the legacy of those tragedies and their implications for the international community’s current response to the gassing of Syrians in Ghouta.

Blisters and Sanctions
Iran Review
Thursday, November 29, 2012
An Iranian soldier recalls a 1987 gas attack on his battalion during the Iran-Iraq war; despite investigations exposing Iraq as a violator of the Geneva Protocol for attacks of this nature throughout the eight-year war, as well as evidence implicating multi-national companies in supplying Iraq with chemical weapons materials, no entity was ever held legally accountable. Today Iran is home to the world’s largest population of chemical weapons survivors, many of whom are chronically ill and now face serious challenges to securing treatment due to international sanctions against the current Iranian regime.

Iran’s Victims of Chemical Weapons Outnumber Hiroshima and Nagasaki N-Attacks Casualties
Iran Review Friday
May 17, 2013
Hamid Hesam’s “A Journey Recounted by Coughs” is a travelogue of the author’s journey bringing a group of Iranian war veterans suffering from the effects of chemical weapons on a trip to Hiroshima in the summer of 1991. Although victims of chemical warfare from the Iran-Iraq war outnumber the casualties from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what Hesam describes as a ‘connection and closeness’ between the two groups, he and his associates lament a lack of global awareness of the Iranian victims’ experience.

In Iran, grim reminders of Saddam’s arsenal
The Star Ledger Monday
October 27, 2002
An Iranian soldier exposed to mustard gas during the 1986 Fao Peninsula battle describes the slow but terminal decline of his health, characteristic of the more than 100,000 soldiers exposed to chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as that of their children and relatives. In the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iranians cite United States complicity with Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons campaign of the 1980s.

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2 Responses to Use of chemical weapons against Iran

  1. Kaveh Khoshnood says:

    You may be interested in a study my former student conducted on this topic:

    Farnoosh Hashemian, Kaveh Khoshnood, Mayur M. Desai, Farahnaz Falahati, Stanislav Kasl, Steven Southwick. Anxiety, Depression, and Posttraumatic Stress in Iranian Survivors of Chemical Warfare. JAMA. 2006;296(5):560-566

  2. bateni says:

    “The Washington Post reported that in 1984 the CIA secretly started providing intelligence to the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq War. This included information to target chemical weapons strikes.
    The same year it was confirmed beyond doubt by European doctors and UN expert missions that Iraq was employing chemical weapons against the Iranians. Most of these occurred during the Iran–Iraq War, but WMDs were used at least once to crush the popular uprisings against Kurds in 1991.
    Chemical weapons were used extensively, with more than 100,000 Iranian soldiers as victims of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons during the eight-year war with Iraq.
    Iran today is the world’s second-most afflicted country by weapons of mass destruction, only after Japan. The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans.
    Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 90,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions.
    Many others were hit by mustard gas. Despite the removal of Saddam and his regime by American forces, there is deep resentment and anger in Iran that it was Western nations that helped Iraq develop and direct its chemical weapons arsenal in the first place and that the world did nothing to punish Iraq for its use of chemical weapons throughout the war.
    For example, the United States and the UK blocked condemnation of Iraq’s known chemical weapons attacks at the UN Security Council. No resolution was passed during the war that specifically criticized Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, despite the wishes of the majority to condemn this use.
    On March 21, 1986 the United Nation Security Council recognized that “chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian forces”; this statement was opposed by the United States, the sole country to vote against it in the Security Council (the UK abstained)”.
    – Jan Oberg

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