Title: Iran and Iraq: A Prediction for Future Conflict
Subject: The Causes of War
Author(s): Francis V. Xavier
The Iran-Iraq War ended in 1989 after nearly eight years of bloodshed. When
it was over, the conditions which existed at the beginning of the war remained
virtually unchanged. Consequently, considerable potential exists for another
war. This paper presents the argument that the war was essentially a struggle
between two men, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Saddam Hussein. Saddam feared Khomeini
because Khomeini threatened Saddam's power base in Iraq. Consequently, he
started the war after a cost-benefit calculation convinced him that an attack on
Iran could solve his external problem (Khomeini) and shore up internal support
for his government.
Saddam Hussein used the rallying cries of culture and religion to convince the Iraqi people to fight, but in reality, culture and religion were simply tools which he utilized to carry out his personal struggle against Khomeini. Khomeini and his advisors set the stage for war, and, in many ways, provoked Saddam's attack-they should not have been surprised by it.
Although Iraq won the war militarily, and possessed a significant military advantage over Iran in 1989, the 1991 Persian Gulf War reduced Iraq's capabilities to a point where a rough parity now exists between Iran and Iraq-conditions similar to those found in 1980. Ayatollah Khomeini has been replaced by Ayatollah Khameini, who appears to be somewhat more pragmatic in his approach to exporting Islamic revolution than was his predecessor. The relationship, however, between Saddam Hussein and the government of Iran has not changed appreciably since 1980 and there are several unresolved issues which could ignite renewed hostilities.
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Last updated 1998 Mar 12
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