Shoring Up Iraq, 1983 to 1990: Washington and the Chemical Weapons Controversy

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President Ronald Reagan's White House leaned toward Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq War because it sought to prevent an Iraqi defeat. Though the White House deemed Iraqi chemical weapons use abhorrent, it found the implications of an Iranian victory or expanded Soviet influence in the Middle East far more alarming. Newly released documents from the Iraqi state archives now allow an exploration of the chemical weapons controversy from both Iraqi and American perspectives. This evidence, along with sources from American archives, demonstrates that Washington and Baghdad had radically different assessments of the Iran-Iraq War. American officials hoped to mould Iraq into a useful ally, but Saddam interpreted American support as subterfuge. Saddam's hostile view of American intentions indicates that Washington had less influence over Iraqi behaviour during the 1980s than both contemporary American officials and many scholars writing since have realised. To insist that Washington could have deterred Iraqi chemical weapons use overstates American clout. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.






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Fredman, Z (2012). Shoring Up Iraq, 1983 to 1990: Washington and the Chemical Weapons Controversy. Diplomacy and Statecraft, 23(3). pp. 533–554. 10.1080/09592296.2012.706541 Retrieved from

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Zach Fredman

Associate Professor of History at Duke Kunshan University

Zach Fredman is a diplomatic and military historian whose research focuses on the United States in the world, modern China, and US-East Asian relations. His first book, The Tormented Alliance: American Servicemen and the Occupation of China, 1941–1949 (UNC Press, 2022), examines the U.S. military presence in China during World War II and the Chinese Civil War. He has begun research on a second monograph, tentatively titled R&R: The US Military's Rest and Recreation Program during the Vietnam WarR&R explores the political work women's bodies did for the state during the Vietnam War, when American servicemen's access to sex and good times underpinned the US war effort, capitalist economic development and anti-communist state-building in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia. 

He has published scholarly articles in Diplomatic History, The Journal of Modern Chinese History, Modern American History, Frontiers of History in China, and Diplomacy and Statecraft. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College's John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding (2017-2018) and Nanyang Technological University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences (2016-2017). His research has been supported with grants and fellowships from the Institute of International Education, the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Association for Asian Studies. 

He earned his Ph.D. at Boston University in 2016. In 2017, he received the Edward M. Coffman First Book Manuscript Prize from the Society for Military History and the Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. 


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