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The Iran-Iraq War

Increased interactions likely cause disagreements, which later lead to conflicts or war. Iran and Iraq had increased interactions with one another as they shared the longest border. Different factors led Iraq forces to invade the west of Iran and launch air strikes on Iran’s air basements. Iraq’s decision to invade Iran caused the Iran-Iraq war that lasted almost eight years, starting from September 1980 to August 1988. The war can be traced back to the World War after the Persian Gulf was left with no centralized political authority after Great Britain announced that it withdrew its powers from the region in the late 1960s (Pelletiere & Stephen, 1992).

The Shah of Iran had some interest in assuming the role of Britain as the “policeman” of the Gulf, which was more fueled by the United States encouraging the Shah to go and rule the Gulf. Due to these interests, the Shah made plans to make the Gulf an Iranian lake, and this caused tension between Iran and the Littoral states, especially Iraq, which fell. Moreover, Shah did not hide his hatred towards the national regime of Arabs ruling there (Pelletiere & Stephen, 1992). Tension in the Gulf was among the factors that led to the outbreak of war between Iran and Iraq.

Saddam Husayn-Iraq politician- had some motives that led to the war between Iran and Iraq. One of the motives for invading Iran was to get geopolitical advantages, as he wanted international factors to benefit him. To prevent the Iranian Revolution in Iraq, Saddam saw war as the best way to neutralize the revolution’s influence as he feared that those revolutions would cause his regime to be unstable. One of the reasons that Saddam felt that there were plans to overthrow his regime was the actions of Iran, as there was a statement they made claiming they would not rest until every criminal regime had been overthrown and trenching Saddam. Moreover, there was broadcast on an Iranian radio that incited Da’wa to rebel against Saddam’s regime (Nelson & Chad, 2018).

The series of events made Saddam want to strike back to protect his regime. Although there is no captured record of Saddam claiming to go to war, there were events that took place that showed his desire for him to fight the Iranians. He started by asking his army to prepare to go to war and trying to influence and consult certain Gulf countries against Iran and his intentions to invade Iran. After Saddam met with his advisors, who had ruled out war in the mid of September 1980, they gave Saddam the decision approval, and he decided to go to war at the end of September 1980 (Nelson & Chad, 2018). Moreover, tension was created as the members of Da’wa caused internal opposition, which bittered the Iraqi government as they believed that Da’wa members had met with the Iranian officials and made plans to overthrow the Iraqi regime. Furthermore, Saddam decided to invade Iran in 1980 as he had already dealt with the Da’wa and Shi’i groups that were a threat to Iraq. This made the regime of Iran diplomatically isolated as they had no allies as even their relationship with US had strained. Regardless of weak relations with those that could have helped Iran, their military was also weakened, although it is not clear what the Iraq leader had done to weaken the Iran military (Nelson & Chad, 2018).

Apart from the factors that led to the Iran-Iraq war, other factors led the war to last longer than modern wars. One of the reasons why Iran did not give up the war was because they were not sure that even after they ended the war, Iraq would continue to commit problems and that Saddam would regain strength and attack them again. Fear of Saddam continuing to cause problems was one of the reasons for the war’s continuation. Secondly, belief played a role that led to continued wars between Iraq and Iran as it made the weaker states believe they were strong and could keep up with the firm states. Moreover, religion made the people of Iran believe they are fighting a holy war and could not accept conceding to a holy war.

Furthermore, it made the adverse effects on the battlefield irrelevant as religion made the leadership expected to be high by keeping the war aims high. Although the war was not going on their side, they believed that the creator had the final decision on who would win the war, and their duty was to hold on as long as possible (Nilsson & Marco, 2017). Beliefs that God would make Iran win the war are among the factors that made the Iran-Iraq war last for long.

Among the early phases of the Iran-Iraq war was Iraq launching air force sorties against Iran on 22 September 1980. Iraq did this to copy what Israel had done to the Arabs in 1967, which weakened the military of Arabs. Iraq did this hoping to weaken the military superiority of Iran to have an advantage. Although these attempts were not as successful as Israel’s success because of the inefficiency in the air force of Iraq but all in all, they managed to penetrate about 15 kilometers of Iran’s territory from the south, and this gave them an excellent chance to invade the cities in western Iran. Iran struck back by launching counterattacks on Iran to regain the land it had lost, and these counterattacks were successful. By May 1982, they had quickly regained the land they had lost as Iraq had poor battlefield techniques, making Hussein withdraw the Iraq army from the old border (Nilsson & Marco, 2017).

The Iranians’ high expectations of winning made them announce higher goals like retaining the old Algiers and them having the right to navigate and use Shatt al-Arab. Rafsanjani also announced that over 100,000 Iraq citizens would be expelled from Iran and deported back to Iraq. Moreover, Iraq would pay 100 USD billion as war reparations, and Saddam would be charged as a war criminal. Iraq refused these terms and continued to launch attacks during the summer. Due to poor battlefield techniques, Iran lost many soldiers, between 600,000 to 700,000, since the war, but with the influence of religion, Rafsanjani claimed that they would still win they war and would not negotiate. Khomeini believed that the defeat of Iraq was inevitable and that they, Iran, would win the war by the following year. Iran’s arrogance put them in real trouble as they started to face mobilization as their economy was failing, and their troupes were running low on ammunition. All in all, Iran went against the theory of endogenous war termination, and they did not lower their war aims (Nilsson & Marco, 2017).

As the chances of Iran winning the war were shrinking, the chances of Iraq were rising as they improved their military strength professionally and its depth. Iraq had about 100,000 Revolutionary Guards who had received extensive training they would apply in offensive operations. Strengthening their military gave them quick advantages in the war as they gained the Fao Peninsula with the help of the nerve gas. Increased Iraq’s military depth made Iran’s religion to wan as some of their soldiers showed their willingness to die and this had not been experienced in the past armies. The weakness of Iran continued as the Iraq captured certain cities without much opposition, but Khomeini still refused to negotiate. On may 25, 1988 Iraq captured about 30 kilometer run away with less opposition, and this now started to make the difference between religious beliefs and what was happening in the battlefield too hard to ignore. Those that were encouraging Khomeini that God would ensure that they would win the battle now started to change this and started to claim that God wanted him to protect the religion as lack of ending the war would endanger the Islamic revolution (Nilsson & Marco, 2017).

On 12 July 1988 Iraq had gained control of almost all its old territory, but Saddam did not raise his war aims. On 17 July he made a speech and ceased fire and him and his armies returned to the international borders. On the same day, Khomeini, the president of Iran wrote to the president of the United Nations which request peace offers with Iraq and they agreed on these peace offers by accepting to enter into direct negotiations. Both parties agreed on the resolutions of the UN and agreed that the borders should be returned to where they were initially. Later Khomeini claimed that although he had sworn to fight till his last blood drop he had accepted God’s will, and that was to make peace (Nilsson & Marco, 2017). Both countries agreeing to sign the peace agreements marked the end of the Iran-Iraq war which had very many negative impacts.

As any other war The Iran-Iraq war led to immense destruction of infrastructure and human life. The war targeting even the civilians caused massive trauma and injuries mostly because of the massive arms that were used. From the research done it was recorded that in war zones there was trauma which led to morbidity and if appropriate care was done the risk of death would lower and less life would have been lost (Zarei et al., 2019). Apart from deaths and injuries the war lead to immigration as in two years in the war a large labor force fled their countries as United Nations estimated that about 900,000 Iraqis left their country between 1989and 1993 while trying to go to places where peace thrived (Li et al., 2016).


Li, J., Flaxman, A., Lafta, R., Galway, L., Takaro, T. K., Burnham, G., & Hagopian, A. (2016). A Novel Method for Verifying War Mortality while Estimating Iraqi Deaths for the Iran-Iraq War through Operation Desert Storm (1980-1993). PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0164709.,contains,results%20of%20Iran-Iraq%20war

Nelson, N., & Chad, C. (2018). Revolution and War: Saddam’s Decision to Invade Iran.

Nilsson, N., & Marco, M. (2017). Causal beliefs and war termination: Religion and rational choice in the Iran–Iraq War.,contains,causes%20of%20iran%20iraq%20war

Pelletiere, P., & Stephen, S. (1992). The Iran-Iraq War : chaos in a vacuum.,contains,background%20of%20iran%20iraq%20war

Zarei, M., Farzan, M., Firoozabadi, M., Khan, F., & Tavakoli, M. (2019). Extremity war injuries: A retrospective study of the Iran-Iraq war. Archives of Trauma Research, 8(1), 28–32.


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