Saddam Sent Secret Messages to Khamenei, Rafsanjani

publisher: الشرق الأوسط

Publishing date: 2021-05-01


In the sixth episode of Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam’s memoirs, Asharq Al-Awsat publishes excerpts of exchanged messages between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, and President Hashemi Rafsanjani before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Khaddam doesn’t disclose how he obtained these secret messages, some of which are being published for the first time. In his draft book about Syrian-Iranian relations, he states that Saddam, “in preparation for the invasion of Kuwait, took the next step, which is to ease tension with Tehran, to be able to withdraw his forces from the Iraqi-Iranian borders, on one hand, and also to prevent Iran from launching an attack in the event of war against Kuwait.”

Between April 21 and August 4, 1990, many messages were exchanged between Saddam and Iranian leadership.

Khaddam comments, “I present to the readers these messages between both sides, to show them that the invasion of Kuwait was not a transient state, but had a goal that is broader than disagreements over debts and oil prices.” Today, Asharq Al-Awsat publishes the exchanged messages before the invasion of Kuwait:

“His Eminence Ali Khamenei, His Eminence Hashemi Rafsanjani,

Peace be upon you,

I have previously addressed you on several occasions, during the Iraq-Iran 1980 – 1990 war, indirectly, through Iraqi media, which was the only available means (…), and I was also listening to what you say through your media in return. Our last initiative towards you had the intention of achieving complete and comprehensive peace, which we announced on January 5, 1990. However, we have not yet reached what we hope for in terms of peace between our two countries, to collectively leave behind the tragedies of war and the potential of its resurgence. It is understood that suspicions, concerns, and interpretations that cast doubt on what is good and can be built upon are matters that surround us. Now, in order not to stray from the field and constructive purposes of dialogue, let’s turn towards the pursuit of truth for actual, comprehensive, and immediate peace, not only between Iraq and Iran, but also between the Arab nation and Iran, God willing.

This time, I am addressing you directly, in this blessed month during which Muslims fast as they seek to obtain the pleasure of the Most Merciful, to propose a direct meeting between us. In this meeting, Abdullah, the sender of this message (Saddam), and (his deputy) Ezzat Ibrahim (Al-Douri) will represent us, along with a team of our assistants. On your side, Messrs Ali Khamenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani will represent you, accompanied by a team of your assistants. I also propose that the meeting be held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, the Qibla of Muslims in prayer to Allah, and the ancient House built by our master Abraham (peace be upon him), or in any other place agreed upon between us, so that we may work with God’s help to achieve the peace that our peoples and the entire Islamic nation await. By doing so, we spare lives that may flow again for any reason. Among the possibilities carried by this situation, the forces that had a hand in the discord between Iran and Iraq are likely to seek to renew war once again, thus distancing peace from our two countries.

You must be following the threats facing Iraq and the Arab nation from Zionism and some major powers and countries. There is no doubt that you are aware that the main goal of these threats is to keep the hand of the Zionist entity free to spread corruption on Earth, and to allow it to oppress those who stand against the path of falsehood, thwart its ambitions, and prevent it from pursuing its evil desires in the region. They aim to remove its occupation from the Arab land of Palestine and the noble Jerusalem, which is dear to every Muslim, and indeed to anyone who believes in God, His Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgment.

These evil forces, which we hope will be disappointed and whose arrows will be foiled with God’s help, must be anticipated to work towards the resurgence of armed conflict between Iran on one side and Iraq and the Arab nation on the other. They have the means to achieve this. At that point, Muslims as a whole will not lose the opportunity to channel their potential and resources towards the liberation of their sacred places in Palestine and beyond. They will not lose a lot of what they have.

We believe that what Iraq considers a right, and what Iran considers a right, can be reached by us through direct dialogue, which puts an end to opportunities for those who plot against peace. If intentions are genuinely directed towards peace, as it appears from your message, we send you this response. However, we hope that we will not waste time from now on exchanging messages except in necessary cases.

You mentioned that you found some expressions and content in our response to be unsatisfactory. We certainly do not accept that messages of peace raise harmful or painful issues. Unfortunately, the foundation of this discourse was laid in the first letter you sent us, which contained a claim that the side facing us is the Arab nation. Despite great efforts being made, it remained without success or result.

Furthermore, the decorum of official correspondence was not observed in your first and second letters. We found phrases and expressions that contained negative and painful arguments, similar to what you pointed out in our message. Therefore, it is best to overlook them.

As for the level of representatives in the talks, it is better to clarify that Mr. Khamenei will not participate in the meetings. Of course, the President of the Republic and the other officials will not act contrary to the leader’s opinion. If the President of the Republic participates, he will naturally have full authority.

Regarding the venue for the summit, the territory of Saudi Arabia is not currently a suitable place for peace talks. Given our common bonds and respect with our brethren in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we hope that our brother King Fahd bin Abdulaziz will provide what is necessary and appropriate for such an endeavor. It should be noted that we have not yet informed him of the content of this message.

For the ease of preparation and requirements for the meeting, you might consider, as we do, that a representative from us should be present in Tehran and a representative from you should be present in Baghdad. Additionally, direct telephone lines between the two capitals should be established to ensure necessary communication.

O Almighty God, bear witness that I have conveyed this message.

Peace be upon you.

Saddam Hussein

Baghdad, April 21, 1990


And just a few days later, Saddam received a response from Rafsanjani:

Mr. Saddam Hussein,

I have reviewed your message. In reality, if the topics of this message had received attention eight years ago and the act of sending messages were in place of sending soldiers, perhaps today Iran, Iraq, and possibly the entire Islamic Ummah would not be facing all these losses and casualties. Everyone knows that the Islamic Revolution from its inception, has placed issues of Islamic countries’ rapprochement, the grandeur and glory of Islam and Muslims, and the struggle against the usurping Israeli government and the liberation of Palestine at the top of its priorities. If all the governments of the Arab region, as some did, had acknowledged the status of this revolution against Zionism and arrogance and cooperated with it, the equation of power and strength in the Middle East would now be in favor of Islam. Israel and arrogance would not have found this opportunity to expand their presence. Naturally, we have no problems with the Arab nation. It is unfortunate that a historic opportunity was lost in the past ten years. Since the beginning of the revolution, we were imposed upon a destructive war that we did not seek. Large areas of our territories on the western borders of the country were occupied. Human, economic, and military potentials were squandered by Iran and Iraq that were supposed to be utilized for the struggle. Enemies of Islam and the major powers have taken advantage of the pretext of protection or increased interference. Israel managed to carry out part of its aggressive expansionist plans as a result of which the Camp David Accord and some Arab countries’ compromise with Israel have become ordinary matters.

We have said repeatedly that if the war had not started and the available potentials of the Iranian and Iraqi peoples were used for unity and safeguarding Muslims’ interests, Western arrogance and Zionism would not have dared to act like that.

In any case, lessons must be drawn from all that has happened and it must be noted that continuing a state of neither peace nor war or triggering war again will cause more damage and destruction to both countries, the Iranian and Iraqi peoples, weaken the Islamic Ummah, and provide the infidel world with joy and opportunities. Naturally, the imposed war experience made those who were skeptical believe that a military attack will not be able to shake the foundations and pillars of the revolution based on the will of the Islamic masses.

Here, I must emphasize that if the occupation of parts of our Islamic territories continues, our movement on the path of achieving a comprehensive peace will be slow or unfruitful. You know that after our decision to stop the war, we withdrew all our forces inside Iraq without delay. Be confident that this situation, in the eyes of the Iranian people, who have dedicated themselves to Islam and the revolution, creates a serious doubt about the goodwill of the other side. We are determined to gain the trust of the people during our path to peace as we did in the defense phase.

Another point is that before initiating contacts between the presidents of both republics, a representative from our side and a representative from your side must sit down in one of the countries that have friendly relations with both sides. They should discuss the necessary actions to create the required conditions and the preliminary steps for the final decision without wasting time.

On the other hand, the approach to procedures should be such that there is no disruption in adopting Resolution 598 as the appropriate framework for conflict resolution.

I want nothing but to set things right to the best of my ability. I trust in Him and turn to Him. Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani