The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988

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The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
The Iran-Iraq War was one of the numerous armed conflicts between these historic countries. Conflict dates back centuries to the days of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the Persian Empire under the Safavids. Iraq was the easternmost province of the Ottomans and Iran, the center of the Persians. Disputes then stemmed from many of the same things that conflict arises from today. This includes border disputes, religious animosity, cultural differences, and interference in each other’s internal affairs.

Leading up to this conflict, the Iranian revolution had just taken place, making Iran an Islamic republic. The leader of the revolution, Khomeini, took the reigns of Iran. The Iranian Revolution put fear into Iraq because they felt Iraqi Shias could turn against them, motivated by the Islamic revolution in Iran. Iraqi Shias have long been considered second-class citizens because Sunni Baathist Party leads Iraq. Border disputes were also a main factor in the dispute leading up to the war. The Shatt-al-Arab, which is the river that forms the lower border between Iran and Iraq, was the main area in question. The country this River belongs to has long been disputed. As recently as five years prior to the start of the war, each side signed off on the Algiers Accord, which stated that the River would essentially be partitioned in half. Another area, which Iraq was interested in, was the western Iranian region of Khuzestan because of its extensive oil fields. In 1980, before the official start of the war, a devout Shia group known as Al Dawah, which was supported by Iran, was responsible for the assassination attempt of Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. After the failed attempt on Aziz, Al Dawah tried to assassinate another ranking member of the Iraqi government: Minister of Culture and Information, Latif Nayyif Jasim. In response to this, the president of Iraq, Saddam Husain, gathered all members of the Al Dawah party and had thousands of Iranian Shias deported back to Iran. In the summer of 1980, Hussein ordered the executions of suspected Al Dawah leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Bakr as Sadr and his sister (Pelletiere 31). Following these events, Hussein felt that it was the right time to go into war with Iran. He thought that after their recent revolution, Iran in general, including its military would be in a weakened state. Also, he suspected that Arabs in Iran who were unhappy about the revolution would rally behind the Iraqi troops and help lead them to victory. One thing that Hussein was concerned about was the Iranian air force, which held state of the art aircrafts from the United States. However, these concerns were lessened because of the fact Iran was holding American diplomats hostage, therefore America would not supply Iran the necessary parts to service their aircrafts. On the official start of the war, September 22, 1980, the Iraqi air force bombed every Iranian airbase in western Iran (Pelletiere 35). These attacks did not have their desired effect because of poor strategy and lack of intelligence. The Iraqis, as ordered by Hussein, did a high-altitude bombing mission, rather then low-altitude, which would have had a greater chance for accuracy. In the water, Iran held a superior naval arsenal. In the first week of the war, Iraq conceded control of the Gulf to the Iranian military. These factors would loom large in the fact that this war would last eight years. Iraq planned to end the war quickly by crippling Iran’s air capabilities and controlling the ground with infantry and artillery. Yet, after Iraq failed to do this, Iran quickly countered with bombings deep inside Iraqi territory. Strategic targets included several oil refineries, the hydroelectric plant at Darbhandi Khan, Iraq’s nuclear facility, which was damaged, and the capital of Iraq, Baghdad. The Iranian navy also attacked the oil refinery at Al Faw, which caused extensive damage and greatly reduced Iraq’s ability...
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