Free «The Iran-Iraq War» Essay

The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War is very significant because lessons from it can help such nations as the United States and Israel predict how Iranians may respond to an attack. The tension between Iran and the rest of the world because of its manufacture of nuclear weapons proves that the world leaders should plan how to deal with it. Therefore, the choice of the topic is essential because it provides insights into Iran and its possible reaction to a prospective military attack. Creating effective strategies depends on the analysis of the country and its likely actions in response to such strategies. This research paper will analyze the Iran-Iraq War and highlight lessons learned from it that can help manage future conflicts.

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Research and Analysis

The Iran-Iraq War started in 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran. Different historians have divergent opinions on the actual causes of the war, even though consensus exists as well. According to Hiro (2013), the idea of the Iraq’s government that the revolution in Iran had weakened its leadership precipitated the conflict. Consequently, Iraq viewed the revolution as a rare opportunity to exert its dominance on the Arab world. On the contrary, Johnson (2010) argues that the motivation for war came from Iraq’s desire to reclaim the Khuzestan region from Iran. Saddam Hussein considered Khuzestan a part of Iraq that the Ottoman rulers gave to Iran. The presence of rich oil deposits in the area and the large Arab-speaking population encouraged him to take the action. Another reason why Saddam wanted to invade Iran was to take control of the Shatt al-Arab that the two countries contested. Additionally, the personal animosity between Saddam and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini contributed to the decision of Iran to attack Iraq. The rise of the revolutionary Iran would threaten the Sunni-Shia balance in Iraq, which Saddam considered a threat to his nation’s stability.

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Iraq’s leadership made a strategic mistake by assuming that the revolution in Iran had weakened the country’s military, which would give Iraq quick victory (Karsh, 2009).  Immediately after the Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980, the Iranian leaders rallied the country together using nationalism, religious zeal and revolutionary mission against the foreign invader. Therefore, Iran’s reaction and quick mobilization of troops surprised the Iraqis.

The Iraqi forces ceded most of the territories they had acquired immediately after the attack of 1982 because the Iranian military and volunteers repulsed them. Once the Iraqi army had withdrawn to its country, Ruhollah Khomeini refused a cease-fire until Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. Iran launched an offensive attack deep into Iraq that targeted critical infrastructure, oil installations, and cities. In response, Iraq started using chemical weapons despite the condemnation of the international community (Hiro, 2013). Both countries had opportunities that they failed to utilize to win the war. Iran could have been victorious if it persisted in its attacks in Iraq. However, its limited supply of machinery spare parts and finances to purchase weapons became its major weakness. On the other hand, Iraq could have achieved a victory if it was willing to incur fatalities during the initial stages of the conflict. Iraq could have advanced into Iran before the Iranians got organized. However, the Iraqi troops feared massive casualties and thus failed to overrun Iran. In 1984, Iran captured the oil-rich Majnoon Islands, which were under control of the Iraqi government. In 1986, Iran took control of Iraq’s Fao peninsula. The air strikes intensified throughout 1985. By 1986, each country was bombing its opponent’s cities.

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The war took a dramatic turn when the western countries and the United States became involved in 1987 after Iran attacked Kuwaiti oil tankers cruising through the Persian Gulf (Johnson, 2010). The attack further ruined Iran’s international reputation and the chances of getting weapon supplies. Both countries accepted a cease-fire mandated by UN Resolution 598. The resolution demanded that both parties should stop the fight and operate within the pre-war boundaries.


The causes of the war included Iraq’s desire to annex Khuzestan and control Shatt al-Arab, and personal conflicts between Saddam Hussein and Khomeini. Saddam’s fear that the rise of the revolutionary regime in Iran could jeopardize the balance between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq influenced his war plans. Saddam’s decision to attack Iran was a strategic mistake made on the basis of his assumption that Iran’s revolution had weakened its military power. Some of the mistakes that the two sides made include Iraq’s fear of incurring casualties and Iran’s failure to persist in attacks because of weapons and financial shortage. Consequently, there was no definite winner in the war.

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There are several lessons that should be learned from the war as they may prevent serious problems for the current and future world leaders. First, the use of chemical weapons is an indication of the extent to which countries in the Middle East might go to defeat an enemy. Secondly, the Iranians are resilient people and can quickly mobilize to fight a common enemy. Their persistence in the war, despite being seemingly a weak nation, shows how future conflicts are likely to proceed. Both Israel and America should be aware of Iran’s possibilities in case they need to take a military action against the country. They should evaluate any perceived weakness with caution before launching an attack, given the ability of Iranians to unify their state for a common cause. Any nation that may be engaged in a military confrontation with Iran should expect the nation to use even unconventional methods to win the war. The lessons that Iran learned during the war may have helped the country to prepare better for future conflicts. Consequently, the country may be even more dangerous than people perceive it to be.

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