The Roots of the Iran-Iraq War: Causes of an Eight-Year Decisive Conflict

The Iran-Iraq War is considered as one of the longest and most violent battles in history. This eight-year long armed conflict was actually the result of many events. The rivalry between Iran and Iraq can be traced from the seventh century. It was a rivalry grounded on the antagonism between Persians and Arabs, just as it was based on the conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims. These ethnic and religious divisions were further intensified by territorial disputes, which would continue until the 20th Century.

In addition, politics played a role in initiating the war itself.

The rivalry existed many years ago, but the war was aggravated by the changes in governance in both countries. The Iran-Iraq War was a violent combat between the aforementioned nations from September 1980 until August 1988. The conflict was only stopped with the intervention of the United Nations. The battle proved to be a long and tedious one, as the tension between the countries extended for years.

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There were also countless casualties as a result of the disastrous occurrence. When the war ended, neither nation could truly be declared the victor.

Both Iran and Iraq did not succeed in gaining new territories or political advantages. It is important to note that Iraq was the nation responsible for starting the war. However, the aggression of Saddam Hussein was not the main cause of the war’s occurrence. In fact, there is no single cause to be blamed for the war. The origins of the Iran-Iraq War are deeply rooted in ethnic, religious and territorial conflicts which date back from the seventh century; it was exacerbated in the modern era due to ambitions of dominance.

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This term paper aims to discuss the reasons behind the Iran-Iraq War on two accounts: the dispute over the Shatt al-Arab river and the political tension caused by the Islamic Revolution and the rise of Ba’ath regime. The Iran-Iraq War occurred because of various reasons. The conflict between the two nations involved was characterized by other conflicts. The tension that had long persisted between Iran and Iraq were caused by differences in religious beliefs and political positions, as well as disagreements on the borders (Iran Chamber Society [ICS], 2009).

The problem between the countries was fueled by the problems between the following opposing parties: Sunnis and Shia Muslims, Arabs and Persians, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein (Ehteshami & Hinnebusch, 1997). Moreover, both Iran and Iraq sought to gain supremacy in the region (Brown, 2008). The Iranian-Iraq War which started in September 1980 was a testament to the extended conflict regarding the boundaries of their territories and their share in the Shatt al-Arab river (Hunseler, 1984). The war was also a result of the struggle of both parties to become the most dominant and influential in the region.

However, it is important to point out that there is a significant difference between the 1980 war and the conflicts prior to it. The early conflicts between Iran and Iraq were settled with the interference of European countries which only meddled to safeguard their respective interests. As for the 1980 war, both sides fought to preserve their own interests. No external power intervened with that war. Two main reasons why the conflict became prolonged are the mutual disputes over territory (especially the Shatt al-Arab) and the involvement of both sides in the domestic problems of the other (Hunseler, 1984).

The Beginning of the Persian-Arab Conflict The origins of the conflict between Iran and Iraq started many centuries before both nations were established. It is important for one to be familiar with the history of the conflict why the 1980 war began in the first place. According to Hunseler (1984), the Iran-Iraq tension had its roots in the seventh century with the Arab-Persian conflict. It was this centuries old rift which ignited the battle over the Shatt al-Arab. Persia stood out from the others because despite being under the control of the Arabs, it retained its national identity (Hunseler, 1984).

In AD 636, the Sassanids of Persia lost to the armies of Arab General Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas at the Battle of Qadisiya. Meanwhile, the Persian Empire became dissolved in AD 642 due to the Battle of Nihawand. While they held on to their state’s culture and territorial honor, the Persian population embraced Islam in the aftermath of the collapse of the Persian Empire. The Arabs and the people they conquered viewed Islam and Arabism as a union. However, despite being under the influence of Islam, the culture of Persia cannot be restrained (Hunseler, 1984).

An important thing to consider in understanding the history of Persia and its political and social existence is what Hunseler (1984) called the “juxtaposition of Persia and Islam” (p. 8). The principle was said to have been derived from the notion of the state based on Zoroastrianism. According to the Zoroastrian notion of a state, it must have the following: “a secularly-legitimized kingship, the survival of the Persian language and the proud awareness of a distinct Persian history” (Hunseler, 1984, p. 8). After two centuries, the Sunni-Arab Abbasid caliphate had become interested in the Persian literature (Hunseler, 1984).

In time, the Persian families which belonged to the caliphate of the Abbasids began to assume control by grabbing power repeatedly. From AD 954 until 1055, the Buyid dynasty possessed enough authority to manipulate politics in the western portion of Persia and Iraq. In addition, they also had the power to strictly limit the function of the caliphs of Abbasid to religion only. This was the reason why the legacy left by the Buyids in Iraq was considered as the conflict between Persianism and Arabism (Hunseler, 1984). In the 17th century, the Safavids in Persia declared Shi’ism as the state religion (Hunseler, 1984).

The Safavids exerted influence on Persia for 15 long years; they stayed in the state from 1623 to 1638 (Hiro, 1991). The declaration was seen as Persia’s attempt to establish its boundaries and separate itself from Arab nations while keeping the matters under the influence of Islam. Shi’ism became a crucial part of Islamic history, as it was the first to present a rift in the unified world of Islam. This was because Shi’ism founded itself in a separate state. The kings of the Safavids considered themselves as mainly secular leaders; they assigned the religious functions to the theologians.

In turn, the Shi’a ministers did not want to give up their posts which were assigned to them under the Safavid rule. Most especially during the time of the Qajar leaders, the clergy were given money and land. The awarding of such gifts allowed them to be financially independent from the king; it also gave them the opportunity to exert political influence. Meanwhile, no such similar progress had occurred in the Sunni Arab states (Hunseler, 1984). The Sunni-Shi’a Problem The existing Persian-Arab conflict had taken a complicated turn with the addition of yet another conflict: the Sunni-Shi’a problem (Hunseler, 1984).

The problem was not exactly about tension between the differing branches of Islam. Instead, there was antagonism due to the amount of influence that a particular religion has on the development of political power in the state. The conflict continues at present day, as there are still areas wherein the Arab communities consist of both Sunni and Shi’a factions (Hunseler, 1984). Those who head the Shi’a clergy in Arab countries such as Iraq and Bahrain found difficulty in assuming certain social positions (Hunseler, 1984).

In Persia, the Shi’a clergy had no problems exerting influence in society because Shi’ism was revered with national significance. In addition, Shi’a leaders faced with two issues regarding loyalty. First, they encouraged the spread of Shi’ism in states whose population were not exclusively Shi’a. Therefore, they became involved in the centuries-old conflict between the Shi’a and Sunni. Second, they were victims of the suspicions of Arab rulers who thought they were submitting to the influence of non-Arabs (Persians).

They were often seen by their Arab counterparts as promoting non-Arab causes. This situation caused the Arab Shi’as to be constantly detached from their political leaders. The separation was also caused by doubt on secular leadership, as well as Shi’a millennialism (Hunseler, 1984). The Persian-Arab conflict and the attempts of both sides to become more dominant and influential than the other in the Middle East became evident in areas where the Sunni and Shi’a groups, and the Arabs and Persians, fought against each other (Hunseler, 1984).

Even though the Persians and Arabs in the Arabian peninsula had the Persian-Arab Gulf to set them apart in terms of geography, the conflict eventually made itself apparent on the boundaries on land. This was the primary reason why the conflict persisted for many years; both sides incessantly tried to acquire the territories of the other and the quest for a mutual border dragged on (Hunseler, 1984). The Origin of the Conflict over the Shatt al-Arab The conflict between Iran and Iraq over the Shatt al-Arab river originated in the 17th century and began as the rift between the Ottoman Empire and Persia (Hunseler, 1984).

The sultan of Turkey, Murad IV, captured Baghdad in 1638 and the initial resolution regarding the boundaries with Persia was drafted a year later. The Kurds and the Armenians occupied the north while the Arabs dominated the south. The boundary fell on areas wherein the tribes did not consider either the Persians or Turks as their masters. As a result, the border settlement was drafted with consideration to the tribes and the names of the places. The agreement also took in consideration the intention of both parties to unite the tribes of Istanbul or Esfahan.

The Kurdish-Armenian boundary caused many conflicts after it was established, but order was always restored in reference to the 1639 resolution. Unfortunately, the 1639 agreement proved lacking in setting the boundaries in the Shatt al-Arab region. On one hand, Persians believed the river itself was a natural border. On the other hand, the Turks upheld the claim that the river belonged to the Ottoman Empire. According to the Turkish point of view, the Arab tribes which occupy both sides of the river are considered a single entity from Arabistan. Arabistan is part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hence, the Shatt al-Arab was to be considered as under the possession of the Ottoman Empire (Hunseler, 1984). In the 19th Century, boundary problems continued. In 1823, a boundary problem surrounding the Muhammarah surfaced and Persians settled in the city (Hunseler, 1984). Both Russia and Great Britain extended their assistance on the matter. On May 15, 1843, a boundary committee was formed and gathered in Erzerum, a city in Turkey. The committee consisted of representatives from Turkey, Persia, Russia and Britain. A treaty was created on May 31, 1847, and contained three major guidelines.

First, Muhammarah and its harbor, as well as Khidhr Island, were awarded to Persia. Meanwhile, Turkey was granted admission to Zuhab and Sulaymaniyah. Second, the committee was designated “in situ” to delineate the specific course of the boundary (Hunseler, 1984, p. 11). Lastly, the Ottoman Empire was given the entire Shatt al-Arab extending to the marker on the east, except for the territories mentioned above (Hunseler, 1984). The treaty of 1847 was rather ambiguous, and its inherent vagueness proved to be its biggest flaw (Hunseler, 1984).

The treaty did not address the question of which nation had the responsibility over the eastern shore. While the Shatt al-Arab was placed under Turkish jurisdiction, the specifications of the border were not indicated. Turkey wanted to resolve the issue over the treaty’s vague statements regarding Arabistan/ Khuzistan. As a result, Russia and Great Britain included an “explanatory note” to assert that the problem raised by Turkey was not compromised by the treaty’s lack of clarity (Hunseler, 1984, p. 11). Turkey declined to approve the treaty until Persia acknowledged the note as part of the treaty (Hunseler, 1984).

Mirza Muhammad Ali Khan acknowledged the note and signed the treaty as a delegate of the Persia. After the Persian administration discovered the inclusion of the added note, it nullified the treaty and failed to approve it. They argued that the Persian representative had no power to sign the document (Hunseler, 1984). To address the issue, the boundary committee inspected the Turkish-Persian border from 1850 until 1852 (Hunseler, 1984). Unfortunately, the commission was not able to do its job properly because of the opposing claims of Turkish and Persian commissioners.

Persia maintained that they were given the entire expanse found east of the Shatt al-Arab, while Turkey opposed the claim. The committee was unable to provide a definite proposition to solve the problem. While the committee continued its efforts in the northern area of the Shatt al-Arab, the determination of the boundaries of the river’s region was postponed indefinitely (Hunseler, 1984). Persia was relentless in its efforts to claim territories and continued to bring up its border issues in the succeeding years. Persia sought Russia and Britain to mediate on the border problem (Hunseler, 1984).

Persia wanted to share control of the Shatt al-Arab with Turkey; the state also wanted to discuss the rights with regards to the harbor. Unfortunately, Britain and Russia were not in agreeable terms since the mid-19th Century. Hence, both nations were not prepared to mediate in behalf of the Shatt al-Arab tension. On August 31, 1907, the Anglo-Russian convention had an agreement. This agreement divided Persia into three separate zones. In the northern part of Persia, Russia maintained a sphere of influence. In the southern area, Britain had its own sphere.

Meanwhile, the middle area was considered as neutral ground. It was not until after this division was established that the Anglo-Russian concern for the Turkish-Persian border was revived (Hunseler, 1984). Russia became once again involved with Persian-Turkish affairs because it was specifically interested with the province of Azerbaijan in Persia (Hunseler, 1984). The interest was the result of strategic and economic factors in relation to Turkey. On the contrary, Britain was different from Russia because its interests were not limited to Persia alone.

Britain was also focused on the Turkish territory of the Shatt al-Arab because it played a crucial part in British interests in the Gulf area. In July 1911, an Anglo-Turkish mediation in attempt to come up with a resolution that would define the territorial claims and rights in the Arab-Persian Gulf region began. On July 29, 1913, the resolution was signed by Turkey and Britain. The agreement included the decisions regarding the status of Arab sheikdoms. The resolution also included the agreements about the Shatt al-Arab and its significance to the increasing British authority in Arabistan and Iraq.

The resolution proved to be beneficial for Turkey, but only because Britain acted on it for its own advantage. Meanwhile, Russia was outraged by the Anglo-Turkish agreement and initially renounced it. Britain caught Russia by surprise by awarding the Shatt al-Arab in its entirety to Turkey. Russia had its own interests to protect in Shatt al-Arab and the Gulf area, and the agreement served as a hindrance to the Russian cause. However, Britain gave Russia the guarantee that it would offer assistance in the latter’s interest in the northern section of the Turkish-Persian border.

After Britain gave its guarantee, Russia acknowledged the Anglo-Turkish agreement (Hunseler, 1984). On December 21, 1911, Persian Foreign Minister and Turkish representatives from Tehran gathered in Istanbul to create a boundary commission to resolve the Turkish-Persian border problem (Hunseler, 1984). The commission began to meet in March 1912; by August, the commission had convened a total of 18 times. In the beginning, the efforts of the commission seemed futile due to Persia’s disapproval of a specific “note explicative” of April 26, 1847 (Hunseler, 1984, p. 13).

However, Russia exerted influence and Tehran was forced to agree on the note on August 15, 1912. The early progress of the Turkish-Persian commission was accompanied by statements already found in the Four-Power Protocol of Constantinople dated on November 17, 1913. With regards to the area of the Shatt al-Arab, the definition of the border was determined in conformity with the Second Treaty of Erzerum of 1847. According to the treaty, the Shatt al-Arab is considered as a Turkish territory excluding the limitations concerning Abadan and Muhammarah. By November 1913, two-thirds of the border assignment was completed.

The task of settling the complete boundary was given to a Four-Power Delimitation Commission. This commission had to define the border based on what was 1869’s “carte identique” (Hunseler, 1984, p. 13). The commission started working in 1914. Unfortunately, the First World War broke out. The emergence of the war hindered Persia and Turkey from acknowledging the border (Hunseler, 1984). The Aftermath of World War I: The Iranian-Iraq Disagreement on the Shatt al-Arab The conflict and rivalry between Iran and Iraq officially started after the First World War (Hunseler, 1984).

The outcome of the war significantly altered the issue over the borders concerning the Shatt al-Arab. Hunseler (1984) explained: “The British mandate of Iraq, which had come about in Mesopotamia, entered into the Turkish boundary claims against Iran, although it also impinged upon British navigational privileges on the Shatt al-Arab” (p. 14). The aftermath of the Great War also allowed Iran to experience a dramatic political transformation. In 1921, Muhammad Reza Khan came into power. Under his reign, Iran became resistant to the established agreements regarding the Shatt al-Arab (Hunseler, 1984).

It was also in 1921 when Khaz’al, the Sheik of Muhammarah, lost. Khaz’al was a known supporter of the British cause. With his defeat, Iran was granted the opportunity to fervently defend its own interests on the Shatt al-Arab conflict. Due to the new found empowerment of Iran, Britain was suddenly placed in a position wherein it should implement its rules without putting its Iranian interests in jeopardy (Hunseler, 1984). Meanwhile, Iraq asserted its control over the Shatt al-Arab (Hunseler, 1984). Due to the claim, Iran declined to recognize the state of Iraq.

In 1929, Iran did give diplomatic recognition to Iraq, but only because it sought to gain the attention of Britain. Iran hoped that by acknowledging Iraq as a state, Britain would be sympathetic towards the Iranian cause. Britain was still interested in Iran because of economic reasons; the former is involved with the latter through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Moreover, Britain was still interested with the Shatt al-Arab issue. This was because it could provide the British complete access to the refineries located in Abadan. On August 11, 1929, the Iranian and Iraqi governments had interchanged several notes.

This exchange gave way to the establishment of a temporary arrangement to manage the relations between the two states involved. The arrangement included settlements on trade and navigation. However, the negotiations failed because Iraq and Britain refused to recognize the jurisdiction of Iran on the half of the river (Hunseler, 1984). When Britain decided to remove its authority on Iraq and break away from their alliance in 1930, it imposed the right of the British navy to pass through the Shatt al-Arab anytime, regardless if it was wartime or peacetime (Hunseler, 1984).

However, Iran had no intention in being involved in a peaceful settlement. The Iranian government also declined to accept the legitimacy of the border. On March 25, 1924, Iran announced its non-acceptance of determination of the boundary as stated in the Constantinople Protocol. The Iranian government also refused to recognize similar settlements created on September 20 and December 2 in 1931. The situation worsened when Iran sent four gunboats to pass through Shatt al-Arab and proceed until Muhammarah.

Due to this incident, problems regarding the pilot and the flags of the ships were added to the already intense conflict (Hunseler, 1984). The boundary issue as well as the flag and pilot inquiries which remained unanswered increased the tension surrounding the conflict (Hunseler, 1984). On November 29, 1934, the Iranian government was forced to seek assistance from the League of Nations in an effort to address the problem. Unfortunately, the League of Nations and the representatives it sent failed to bring any positive change in the current situation.

The only thing which provided temporary resolution to the problem was the Middle East pact of 1935, which Iran had introduced with the help of Turkey. The pact presented an opportunity wherein all points of disagreement could be settled. On July 4, 1937, a treaty on the Iranian-Iraqi border was agreed upon in Tehran. The treaty upheld the conditions indicated in the 1913/14 Protocols of Constantinople. According to the treaty, the Iran-Iraq border would remain along the east bank of the Shatt al-Arab. There were specific considerations made for Abadan and Muhammarah. Iran was also awarded an anchorage zone in Abadan which was four miles long.

In addition, the treaty rendered the river as open territory, as it allowed access to naval ships of Iran and Iraq and traders of all countries. A transit fee was imposed, but this would be utilized for purposes of maintenance as well as the development of the shipping lanes in the river. In another decision, both sides agreed to accept the protocol within two years after the agreement had been reached (Hunseler, 1984). The adoption of the covenant was not implemented (Hunseler, 1984). On December 8, 1938, the commission in charge of the Iranian-Iraqi boundary started working on the confluence of the Shatt al-Arab and the Khayeen.

The efforts of the commission were stalled by opposing translations of the treaty and the definite determination of the border. The Iranian government submitted suggestions regarding the balance of power between Iran and Iraq with regards to supervising and safeguarding the Shatt al-Arab shipping lanes. Meanwhile, the Iraqi administration saw this move as a threat to the sovereignty of the Iraqis on the river (Hunseler, 1984). In the 1950s, Iran and Iraq had another opportunity to resolve their issues regarding the Shatt al-Arab border (Hunseler, 1984).

In 1955, both countries, along with Britain, Pakistan and Turkey agreed upon the Baghdad Pact (Karsh, 2002). This pact was initiated by the West and was established to strengthen defense and security in the region. In October 1957, King Faisal of Iraq paid a state visit to Iran (Hunseler, 1984). In this encounter, both nations reached an agreement regarding the Shatt al-Arab problem. Iran and Iraq agreed on two points. First, there will be a commission to be based in Baghdad which is assigned to work out the details of the joint supervision of the Shatt al-Arab.

Second, a Swedish adjudicator will be in charge of delineating the border; this arbitrator is to be situated in Tehran and must work with the joint commission. Once again, an agreement between Iran and Iraq was hindered by yet another occurrence. On July 14, 1958, a revolution broke out in Baghdad (Hunseler, 1984). The change in Iraqi governance eventually disrupted the recently resumed development of Iranian-Iraqi ties (Hunseler, 1984). Also, the political change once again awakened the border conflict on the Shatt al-Arab and the land borders.

Four short months after General Abd al-Karim took control, the revolutionary administration of Iraq declared that they would extend their claim on the river to 12 miles. On November 28, 1959, Iranian Shah Reza Pahlevi revived their request to have the border line of the river drawn along the middle. He justified his demand on grounds of Iraq’s clear violation of the 1937 treaty. He also argued that because they were already in the 20th Century, a river which served as a boundary such as Shatt al’Arab cannot be attached to the absolute sovereignty of either nation.

General Qasim addressed the demand of the shah with another demand. Iraq sought to regain the anchorage zone awarded to Iran in the 1937 treaty. Despite their counter demand, Qasim still wanted to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Iraq was willing to withdraw their claim of the anchorage zone if Iran would acknowledge the Iraq’s demands on the river and the treaty of 1937. The peaceful settlement was not reached. On December 10, 1959, Abbas Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Aram declined Iraq’s offer.

Nine days later, General Qasim reasserted Iraq’s legal right to the anchorage zone without insisting on its return. He also appealed for Iran to value the early treaties. General Qasim suggested that they could address the problem with the help of the United Nations. However, Iran provoked Iraq again when the local newspaper Ettelaat stated that “the existence of Iraq was in any event a historical misunderstanding and the whole of Iraq a Persian province” (as cited in Hunseler, 1984, p. 17). An armed struggle between Iran and Iraq was quelled before the further tension could develop.

On March 5, 1959, Iran became involved with the United States in a defense settlement (Hunseler, 1984). Soon after, Iran felt coerced by Russia. Iran had reasons to be concerned. It was threatened by Soviet influence and the possible circulation of further revolutionary ideals. Meanwhile, Iraq was also concerned with the threat of the United Arab Republic, a state established in 1958 as a result of the merger between Syria and Egypt. Abd al-Karim Qasim was frightened that Syria might provide assistance to Iraqi Nasserites if and when a war with Iran occurs.

Hence, there was no real war between both parties at that time. The tension manifested itself through a media war between Iran and Iraq (Hunseler, 1984). In 1967, Britain declared its wishes to pull out from the Gulf area. Prime Minister Harold Wilson expressed the desire of the British administration to remove its military troops located ‘east of Suez’ (as cited in Hunseler, 1984, p. 17). With this announcement, Iran wanted to replace British forces with their own troops on the moment of the latter’s departure (Hunseler, 1984).

The 1967 blockage of the Suez Canal was a welcome development, as it prevented Soviet activity in the Gulf region. In terms of security concerns, Iran wanted to unify and lead the Arab countries in the region. The supposed partnership had the goal of preventing the spread of Soviet control and power of revolutionary nations and factions, such as South Yemen and Iraq. The Arab countries in the Gulf were cautious in dealing with Iran. While they were hesitant to collaborate with Iran which was associated with Israel, they did not want to create a rift among the states (Hunseler, 1984).

Iran continued to strongly pursue its ambition of becoming an unshakeable force in the Gulf region (Hunseler, 1984). In 1969, it condemned the 1937 treaty. The shah knew that if Iran wanted to govern and manipulate the shipping lanes in the Gulf, it must have exclusive control of the river. This move would also liberate the Iranian ports on Abadan and Khorramshahr from Iraqi jurisdiction. On one instance, an Iranian vessel sailed despite the absence of an Iraqi pilot. It departed from the Khorramshahr port with the assistance of Iranian patrol vessels and successfully arrived at the Persian-Arab Gulf.

Iraq was aware of the violation, but it did not wage a war against Iran due to the weakness of the military (Hunseler, 1984). After 1972, the shah became more determined to cripple Iraq. After the completion of the Iraqi-Soviet friendship treaty, the Shah approached American President Richard Nixon to ask for assistance in the Kurdish cause in Iraq (Hunseler, 1984). This action was done with the objective of weakening the Iraqi army through an attack on its internal disputes. In August 1972, another uprising emerged in Kurdistan.

The Iraqi administration and Kurdish chief Mullah Mustafa Barzani met in March 1970 and agreed on the autonomy of Kurdistan beginning in 1974. However, the agreement was threatened by the support of Iran and the United States for Barzani. Because of this, the Kurdish insurgents continued to hold on to their weapons and proceed with the civil war. Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces benefited from the Iraqi-Soviet friendship treaty, for it allowed for a steady supply of ammunition from Russia. The weapons were instrumental in guaranteeing the military success of Iraq.

Nevertheless, the malfunctioning of the army’s weapons and the failure of the Soviet Union to provide more ammunition endangered the progress Iraq had in its fight against the Kurds. In the early part of March 1975, the Iraqi government was prompted to consider Iran’s proposition that it would refrain from supporting the Kurds if the former would approve the latter’s suggestion to resolve the border issue by placing the border line along the thalweg (Hunseler, 1984). On June 13, 1975, Iran and Iraq agreed on yet another treaty in Baghdad (Hunseler, 1984).

The treaty consisted of four crucial agreements. First, the boundaries will be definitely marked based on the Constantinople Protocol of 1913 and the 1914 proposal created by the committee regarding the establishment of the boundary. Second, the river boundaries would be situated in the middle, or the thalweg. According to Willet (2004), the thalweg was the “central deepest part of the river” (p. 7). Third, there are two things to be rebuilt: the mutual trust between both nations as well as the security of the land boundaries they shared.

Also, the invasion on both sides will be stopped. Lastly, the problem will be settled upon with the acknowledgement of the aforementioned points. When Iraq signed the treaty, the country accepted the thalweg agreement for the first time. After five years, it became evident that the said recognition was merely the result of coercion from Iran’s side. The acceptance of Iraq was also caused by the failure of the Soviet Union to provide weapons. Nonetheless, the compromise made regarding the Shatt al-Arab paved the way for the Kurdish civil war to stop.

Meanwhile, the relevance of the river in terms of Iranian strategy was relatively reduced. This was because Iran transferred its navy from Khorramshahr to the Bandar Abbas port in August 1978 (Hunseler, 1984). The Iran-Iraq War from a Political Perspective The dispute over the borders and boundaries of the river of Shatt al-Arab was instrumental in the emergence of the war between Iran and Iraq in 1980. While the territorial conflicts played a crucial role in causing the war, the political conditions in both countries must also be considered as initiators.

The transition in the governments helped influence the leaders on how to deal with the Shatt al-Arab issue. In Iran, there was a dramatic shift in leadership as the Shah was removed from power through a revolution led by a radical Muslim. In Iraq, several coups have altered governance while the rise of the Ba’ath Socialist Party to power resulted in the domination of Saddam Hussein. Both countries longed to dominate the other and emerge as the most powerful in the region (Jacoby, 2008). The Iranian-Iraqi situation under the Rule of the Shah

In the 1970s, the tension between Iran and Iraq was heightened (Karsh, 2002). This was because of the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, became aggressive and tried to present Iran as the dominant force in the Persian Gulf. The Shah had been governing the Iran for decades. However, he was temporarily overthrown from power. In 1953, the head of the Iranian Parliament started a coup to remove the Shah (Willett, 2004). The coup succeeded and Pahlavi vacated the Iranian leadership for a brief time. However, the United States

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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The Roots of the Iran-Iraq War: Causes of an Eight-Year Decisive Conflict essay
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