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Sean Torr

Asess the causes of the Iran Iraq War of 1980-1988. The Iran-Iraq War of 1980 latest for eight years, and has become known as one of the most damaging conflicts of the 20th century, and devastating being that over a million and a half lives were lost and no territorial gains made. There are many reasons as to why Iraq under leadership of Saddam Hussein decided to invade Iran in 1980. One of the most significant causes of the Iran Iraq war was the cultural and religious differences and conflicts this created between the two countries. The area that encompasses Iraq and Iran had not been historically defined, Iraq would be the inheritor of the Babylonian Empire whereas Iran is the inheritor of the Persian Empire; as such Iraqis would identify themselves as Arabs and speak as such, whereas Iranians would be strictly Persian, and the national dialect would reflect that. Furthermore, the religious differences are also of considerable importance. The Iraqi government is of the Sunni sect whilst that of Iran is Shia. Furthermore, the two governments based their ideologies on different factors, Iraqs leading Baath party being secular and westernising whilst Irans revolutionist government was strictly fundamentalist, basing many laws on the Koran itself (Iran had also ceased any connection to the west, be it in music or governance). Therefore, with such opposing views and contrasting conductivity much conflict arose between the two nations. Whats more, Iraq though largely Shia (estimates include 65% of Iraqs population) was ruled by a government largely Sunni in denomination (such is a justification if not direct cause of the purposefully secular government). Hence Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government were likely to be very suspicious of the influence that Iran and its revolutionist government would have over the population of the country. The religious and cultural differences also help to justify a territorial claim by Iraq on the Khuzestan Province, which was Arak speaking and also Shia; hence Saddam Hussein could reasonably argue this territory belonged to Iraq, and that he wanted to liberate the peoples of Khuzestan province form the clutches of the revolutionist regime. As such, Saddam Hussein would have been greatly fearful of the Iranians and the threat they provided against Iraqs stability as both a nation and the control its own government had; this would have been heightened by Irans newly victorious revolution which ousted the Shah and his westernising views. The revolutionist regime in Iran had also angered Saddam Hussein in other ways, such as supporting Kurdish revolts in the north of Iraq. Moreover there had been evidence of Irans involvement in the assignation of leading Baath party members ( the ruling party of Iraq).

Sean Torr
Furthermore, following the collapse of the Shahs regime in Iran, the economy and organisation of the country was in chaos; and in direct consequence of Komenmi (Revolutionist leader of Iran) views on western ideologies and products- was facing a boycott of trade by western powers; provided Saddam Hussein with the best time of attack now that Iran was at a disadvantage, and Iraq had potential support of Western powers. The new revolutionist governmentof Iran, also heped strengthen the Iraqi invasion by alienating western powers, and such securing their assistance for Iraq ( The soviet union and france becoming unlikely allies in supply arms to Iraq). Also the Americans and British were fearful of allowing a greater extent of the Gulf State oil to come under control of the revolutionary regime in Iran. Another factor for conflict between the two nations would arise from continual territorial disputes. More specifically that of the Shatt el Arab waterway, the body of water to which both Iraq and Iran had borders with in the south. Moreover, Iraqs access to the sea was very narrow, while Iran enjoyed a very long coastline. Iraq therefore had desire to make territorial advances and also gain control of the Shatt el Arab waterway, which would have been highly beneficial to Iraq both in military stability and also with regard to trade. Another trade related factor, would be the importance of oil and the effect this had on stirring up conflict between the two nations, and leading to Iraqs invasion of Iran. Oil had long been the source of income for Gulf States, and Saddam Hussein was very conscious of boosting the wealth of Iraq by gaining control of the oil rich southern region of Iran. As thus to conclude the main reasons why Saddam Huseein decided to invade Iran in 1980 were: due to the threat of Revolutionists Government in Iran (over Shia majority in Iraq), historical territorial disputes (Province of Kuzestan and the Shatt el Arab waterway), the actions of Irans revolutionist government against the Iraqi government (supporting Kurdish Revolts, and role in the assignation of Baath party members), the added benefit of securing more oil and also the calculation of Iranian military and organisational weakness ( following the Iranian Revolution) and the support of western powers (owing to their opposition to the regime in Iran).