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Unformatted text preview: 7 The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1990 Saddam Hussein assumed the Baathist presidency in 1979, and within one year Iraq became embroiled in a cataclysmic conflict with neighboring Iran. In retrospect, the lead-up to the Iran- Iraq war actually began when two very different personalities assumed power in each combatant country. In Iraq, as already stated, the secularist Hussein assumed the Baathist presidency; that same year, Islamic forces replaced the Western-oriented Reza Pahlavi Shah (1919-1980) with the theocratic Shii Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989). Hussein and his Baathist cohort felt threatened by Islamic Iran. Shiis, after all, were a majority in Iraq, so it seemed possible that Khomeini might be able to influence their behavior. This fear was heightened by the fact that some Iraqi Shiis were beginning to form opposition groups based on religious beliefs. Fearing Shiism as a political force, Hussein outlawed the al-Dawa party and then executed its leader Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr and his sister. Irans Ayatollah Khomeini, a charismatic figure, was justifiably incensed, and he threatened to call on Iraqi Shiis to overthrow the secular Baathist regime. This, in turn, led Saddam Hussein to exile about 40,000 long-established Shiis in Iraq, claiming their loyalties were with Iran. Ever wary, and maybe reasonably so in this case, Hussein believed that Iran would aid both the Kurds and the Shiis in order to destabilize his regime. Given this political assessment, Hussein decided that he needed to strike at Iran before Khomeini could consolidate his power and spread Islamic revolution. As an excuse for making war on his neighbor, Hussein claimed that Iraq should have full rights to the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which was located at the head of the Persian Gulf. He would also claim that this was in fact a preventive war with Iran. Expecting a quick victory, Hussein ordered the invasion of Iran on 22 September 1980. The war, however, which is called either the Iran-Iraq War or the First Gulf War, lasted brutal eight years. The historian Hala Fattah notes that the Iran- Iraq War of the 1980s was the longest and costliest war ever fought between two countries (Fattah, 223). Much like World War I, soldiers fought from trenches that were surrounded by barbed wire, and they charged the enemy with bayonets. And, also like World War I, poison gas was used as a weapon. Fighting such a war of attrition requires a lot of manpower, and the numbers in the army grew to staggering numbers. In Iraq, the military increased from 190,000 men to 1 million (Cleveland, 419). The Iran-Iraq War ended on 20 August 1988, although the official cease-fire was not actually signed until 1990....
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This note was uploaded on 02/17/2011 for the course HIST 246 taught by Professor Holden during the Spring '11 term at Purdue University-West Lafayette.
- Spring '11