The Iran Iraq war officially began on Sept. 22, 1980, with an Iraqi land and air invasion of western Iran, although Iraq representatives to the UN maintained that Iran had been engaging in artillery attacks on Iraqi towns since Sept. 4. Iraqi president Saddam Husain claimed the war was actually a territorial dispute over the Shatt al Arab, a waterway that empties into the Persian Gulf and forms the boundary between Iran and Iraq. Iraq's foreign minister, Sa'adoun Hammadi, stated to the UN Security Council "The problem is neither new nor simple. It goes back over 460 years of history. It is not a border problem or a minor conflict over navigational rights. It is much wider than that." In 1975, a militarily weaker Iraq had signed an agreement to hand over to Iran the eastern side of Shatt al Arab, basically where the rivers run into the Persian Gulf. This was not a new dispute although Iraq also hoped to seize the western Iranian region of Khuzestan, an area known for its extensive oil fields, however, after the fall of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, “The Shaw of Iran”, in 1979, Iran's military was severely weakened. Iraq seized the opportunity to reclaim the Shatt al Arab and control the waterway into the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi offensive was initially successful, capturing the port city of Khorramshahr by the end of 1980. Iranian resistance proved strong and Iraqi troops had to withdraw from the occupied portions of Iran by early 1982 but Ayatollah Khomeini declared that Iran would not cease fighting until Saddam's regime was toppled. Iran began a series of offensives, which proved moderately successful. Sporadic air and missile attacks on cities and military installations became more common throughout the war, and in 1985 both sides began to strike their opponent's capital. The war fell into a war of attrition resulting in escalation of tactics by both sides.
The Shatt area of the Gulf is a historically disputed area. In the seventeenth century, the border...
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