Iran Iraq war
Iran Iraq war ( 1980-1988) was the longest 20th-century war triggered by ethical, religious, economic and territorial conflicts. Let us go deep into the details of what led to this war and what were the impacts of this terrible conflict.
Back in 1978, before the Iranian revolution was introduced to the world, the relationship between the governments of Iran and Iraq was comparatively better. Iranian agents in Iraq discovered the plans of coup d’état against Iraq’s government and informed this plot to Saddam. Saddam when he came to know about the pro soviet strategies building inside Iraq, ordered the execution of dozens of his army’s officers. In the name of reconciliation, he sent Ayatollah Khomeini back to Iran. However, after the Iranian revolution, Iraq felt a threat from the Pan- Islamic force getting promoted in Iran that was against the Arab culture of Iran. The sizeable Shiite community that was living in Iraq was mobilized against the Ba’ath government in Iraq.
Iran’s new Islamic administration was regarded in Baghdad as a threat to the Ba’ath government, especially because the Ba’ath party, having a secular nature, discriminated against the fundamentalist Shia movement in Iraq, whose clerics were Iran’s allies within Iraq. Khomeini saw the Shia community in Iraq as oppressed and wanted to relieve them from oppression. While, Saddam considered the 1975 Algiers Agreement to be merely a truce, and waited for an opportunity to contest it. Saddam’s desire was also to become a regional superpower replacing Egypt as the “leader of the Arab world” and achieve hegemony over the Persian Gulf. Though skirmishes were going on between two countries, however, taking advantage of Post-revolutionary chaos in Iran, Iraq finally invaded Iran on 22 September 1980.
Causes of the Iran Iraq war
The roots of the war lay in a number of territorial and political disputes between Iraq and Iran. However, a few main causes of the war were:
Religious tensions between Iran and Iraq
Both Iran and Iraq are Moslem states in which the Shi’ite sect is dominant. At the time Khomeini came to power, Iran was as much as 90% Shi’ite and Iraq was 50% Shi’ite. While most of Iraq’s Ba’athist leaders were Sunni. Saddam Hussein felt a threat from the rise of the Shia community against his Ba’athist government due to Pan- Islamic culture and the Islamic revolution in Iran. Khomeini’s rise to power created a concept in Iran of that the Shi’ite religion should play the main role in all Islamic states. Moreover, Khomeini believed that Shia under the Ba’athist and Saddam Hussein’s government are being oppressed and that revolution must spread to Iraq as well.
The border conflict between Iran and Iraq
The first was over the control of the Shatt al Arab, the major waterway connecting the Gulf with Iraq’s port of Basra and Iran’s ports of Khorramshahr and Abadan. Iraq lacked secure access to the Gulf, so, Saddam wanted to get control over both banks of the Shaṭṭ al-ʿArab. The second was the control of key defensive points along the land border, and particularly the land approaches to Iraq’s capital of Baghdad and its key oil facilities at Kirkuk. In short, Iraq’s oil reserves were not that safe from Iran and Iraq also had little access to the gulf to export its oil.
Quest of Regional influence
Saddam wanted to fulfill his desire of annexing Khuzestan and becoming the regional superpower. His goal was to replace Egypt as the “leader of the Arab world” and to achieve his hegemony over the Persian Gulf.
Iraq’s dissatisfaction on Algiers Agreement 1975
Algiers agreement was signed in 1975 to settle the disputes and conflicts between Iran and Iraq. Saddam Hussein always considered the agreement of 1975 to be merely a truce to stop the conflict and waited for an opportunity to challenge it. Iranian revolution chaos, sanctions by US and international isolation gave him a chance to invade Iran to get his purposes achieved.
Impacts of the Iran Iraq war
Oil production and prices
Iran and Iraq both are major oil-producing countries and members of OPEC. They were unable to reach prewar production levels. The war disturbed the global and regional production of oil. Oil prices rose significantly. Though Saudi Arabia was the uncontested largest producer of oil, its oil industry, situated very close to the war front and export lines were affected by the war. In fact, war-affected oil production all over the Gulf area.
Use of Chemical weapons
Iraq started using chemical weapons on the Iranian troops and Kurds. Iran had suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq’s use of several chemical weapons. 20,000 Iranian soldiers were killed on the spot by nerve gas and many civilians were also affected. The use of chemical weapons for the first time in the Middle East ushered the Middle East into a ballistic era, affecting not only the Gulf but also the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Economic crises in Iran and Iraq
War pushed the countries into an unending economic crises. Both the countries faced a whole lot of sanctions from US and other Arab countries.
Execution of Saddam Hussein
Saddam was hanged till death in 2006, as he was convicted of crimes against humanity and use of chemical weapons. Though the execution was done after the invasion of Iraq by United States in 2003, however, the reason behind it was the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites in the town of Dujail in 1982.
Death toll of Iran Iraq war
According to estimates, 1.2 million lives were lost in the war, and 2.2 million wounded. Up to 1.5 million people were displaced by the fighting. At least 157 Iranian towns with populations of more than 5,000 were damaged or wholly destroyed during the war, and some 1,800 border villages were virtually wiped off the map.