EXPLAINING THE IRAN – IRAQ WAR

Topics: Iraq, Iran, Saddam Hussein Pages: 13 (4624 words) Published: October 4, 2013
EXPLAINING THE IRAN – IRAQ WAR

Hostilities and border clashes occurred between Iraqi and Iranian forces before the 22nd of September 1980;[1] however, this date marks the official start of an eight year war that has in many ways become the most destructive and the bloodiest conflict since World War Two.[2] On that date the Iraqi government initiated synchronised strikes against Iranian airfields located within the range of its bombers, while Iraqi ground forces advanced into the Iranian province of Khuzistan.[3] Numerous explanations of causality and attempts to identify the origins of the conflict have been put forward, ranging from geopolitics and territorial disputes, to the attribution of the outbreak of war to the religious and ethnic divide that has separated Persians and Arabs, to grand design theory and finally to explanations claiming that this conflict is merely a continuation of an age-old rivalry between Arabs and Persians.[4] The aim of this essay is to look at the Iran-Iraq War through the lens of Realism and more specifically through that of the Security Dilemma with the intention of identifying the major causes of the conflict. In dealing with a causal question such as that above, one ultimately works with independent variables (IV) and a dependent variable (DV); the IV’s being those that cause the DV. For the purposes here, the DV is the Iran-Iraq War, and the IV’s are (i) perception, (ii) offense vs. defense and (iii) opportunity. The IVs identified here are the three components of the Security Dilemma, hence the abovementioned emphasis on the Security Dilemma as the primary tool in providing a causal analysis of the conflict.[5] This essay will provide an understanding of the Realist paradigm to ensure conceptual clarity. The Security Dilemma will be applied to the case of Iraq with the aim of identifying the IVs mentioned above towards the aim of establishing causality and finally will provide criticism of Security Dilemma and the Realist paradigm.

The Realist paradigm as a theoretical approach to the study of international relations was born in the inter war period of 1919-39 and served primarily as an ideological rival to Idealism.[6] The theoretical approaches arising from within the Realist tradition aim to provide an explanation of politics as it occurs in reality, as opposed to normative paradigms which aim only provide recommendations and instructions for political behaviour and activity as it should ideally be.[7] The Realist approaches tend to focus on the enduring nature of historical experience and are somewhat doubtful of efforts and attempts to transcend the competitive character of political life in the international realm.[8] It has been mentioned that a number of theoretical perspectives arise from within the Realist family, yet despite this, these numerous denominations all subscribe to same fundamental assumptions underlying the Realist tradition, namely, statism, survival and self help.[9] With regards to the principle of statism, Realists argue that “territorially organized entities”[10] namely, modern states and city-states, are the principal actors in international relations and world politics. Primarily due to the fact that states are the principal actors in the international system and because no state recognizes the authority of another over its own, the realm in which states act, the international system, is seen to be lacking an overarching authoritative figure.[11] Precisely due to the lack of a central authority, the purpose of which is to govern and regulate global affairs, the international system is characterised by a state of anarchy.[12]Furthermore, due to the fact that the international system lacks any central authority and is populated by sovereign states, provides an explanation for the perceived insecurities, threats and dangers to state survival.[13] Finally, within this anarchic international system, states will increasingly compete for markets, security...
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