Saddam Hussein had been aware that Iran had isolated itself diplomatically prior to the outbreak of the war. Iran had condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 and had taken hostages from the American Embassy, thereby breaking international protocols and alienating the two superpowers. When Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, the superpowers were officially neutral. The United States had no embassy in Iraq, but its interests were represented by the Belgian Embassy in Baghdad. The Iranians, perhaps predictably, argued that they had evidence of collusion between Iraq and the United States through transcripts of meetings between Iraqi, American, French and Israeli officials with dissident Iranian officers. It was further alleged that the United States had passed on information to Iraq that emphasised Iranian military weakness and therefore encouraged an invasion. The internal assessment was, apparently, that Iran would require spare parts within three weeks of the outbreak of war for its largely American-manufactured munitions, planes and equipment, and these could be swapped for the American hostages. If this was the calculation, then it misfired as the Iranians looked initially to Vietnam to supply former American spare parts, albeit ones that were already obsolete in most cases.
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