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Who Gave the Guns to Saddam Hussein? We Did

By Alexander Shumilin, Alexander Shumilin's article entitled ``The Thief of Baghdad'' appeared recently in the Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. This abridged version of his article was provided by Novosti press. / August 23, 1990



IRAQI President Saddam Hussein has announced the annexation of Kuwait. Was it a mockery of common sense or defiance of the world community? Both. Tragically, the Iraqi army - the most aggressive force in the region is, for the most part, the creation of the Soviet Union. We kept assisting Iraq, following the long-established tradition of giving ``military aid to the fraternal regimes'' and did not notice that the Iraqi army, led by the ``Victorious Marshal'' Saddam Hussein, gradually turned into a monster capable of intimidating not only its neighbors, but other nations as well.

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The 1 million-strong Iraqi army has 5,500 tanks, 4,100 of them Soviet-made. All of its 1,000 combat infantry vehicles and 7,100 armored personnel carriers, its Luna-M and other tactical missiles, its transportation helicopters MI-6, MI-8 and MI-17, 1,000 anti-aircraft weapons, and TU-22 and TU-16 aircraft were also supplied by the Soviet Union.

Soviet arms supply to foreign countries is considered a rather delicate issue. During the recent hearings with Defense Minister Yazov and Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Katushev, the USSR Supreme Soviet failed to get a clear answer to the question: Who ran and controlled Soviet arms exports? It looks like no one is to blame.

Yet it was the Soviet Union that first supplied weapons to the explosive Middle East that destabilized the military balance between rivals: TU-22 and TU-16 medium-range bombers and ballistic missiles. These weapons have regularly spurred the arms race in the region.

It appears that high moral principles were alien to our foreign policy. Far more important were ``strong friends'' with a ``revolutionary, anti-imperialist phraseology'' - disregarding the reputation of many of our ``reliable clients'' for encouraging international terrorism.

Recent events have raised a new question: Did this reliance on military cooperation through arms supplies to the third world enhance our own security? A few years ago Soviet generals would have answered in the affirmative. But, as a rule, use of the supplied armaments was outside the control of our military advisers in those countries. Also, in politically unstable regions it is almost impossible to foresee which target our cannons will choose. Today Iraq has occupied Kuwait, uttering threats against all those who have condemned that brazen act of aggression. But who knows what will happen in Algeria? Who can rule out the possibility of Islamic fundamentalists coming to power in that country?

Should all this have happened five years ago, the world would have looked differently at the destruction of Kuwait's sovereignty by Soviet tanks. The leader of the Soviet military experts in Iraq, according to Western sources, is General Makashov, a man known for faith in military might as the sole guarantee of state security and an angry critic of progressive politicians and current Soviet foreign policy.

I'm thankful it is not rivalry but cooperation that currently determines the Soviet and American efforts to settle the dangerous conflicts in the Persian Gulf.