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Department of Political Science

P.S. 270 Politics and Society in the Middle East

THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR:
CAUSES AND ORIGINS OF THE WAR

by:  Ahmed H. El-Afandi*

Introduction Historical Claims Legal Claims Hegemony Ideological Imperative
Nationalism vs Religiosity Sunni-Shi'i Split Shi'i - Shi'i Split Opportunity Factor Personality Clashes

Footnotes

INTRODUCTION:

The causes of the war between Iraq and Iran are historic and deeply rooted in concerns over internal security and territorial boundaries. Of more recent vintage are issues related to ideology and ambitions of the leaders of the respective countries to gain and maintain control over internal and regional politics.

Concerns over internal security result from the heterogeneous mix of both countries. While Iraq's ethnic majority are Arabs, there is a significantly large minority of Kurds as well as other smaller ethnic groups. Iran's ethnic composition is even more complex, as it contains Persian, Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmans, and other Turkic groups. Along with these ethnic groupings there exist linguistic differences and national aspirations. In addition to the ethnic divide, there is also a religious divide. While the Sunni stream of thought predominates among the vast majority of the Muslims in the world, the Ja'afari Shi'i doctrine dominates among the populations of Iran and Iraq. The Iranian population is well over 80% Shi'i in allegiance, and the Iraqi Shi'is constitute a majority of more than 50% of the population. Minority populations in Iran tend to be Sunni. The Sunni/Shi'i controversies over the legitimacy and authenticity of the claims to following the "true" religion date back to the eighth century of the common era. Their present manifestation found expression in the latest round of fighting between Iraq and Iran.

Concerns over security of the borders result from a long history of invasions and counter-invasions that date back to the days of the ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and Persia. They have lasted for thousands of years and have caused border adjustments and re-adjustments based on which of the two powers appeared to have the upper hand in military and/or political terms. Such transfers of territories and titles of claim to them have given rise to legal claims that were at times settled around a bargaining table and at others in the battle field.

Concerns over ideology relate to issues of nationalism and how these could be translated into territorial claims by one side or the other over lands that might have been under their control at certain periods in history. As neighbors of long standing, the border populations are of mixed ethnic origins, and have fallen under the control of, or declared their allegiance to, both powers at different times. In this sense, both powers can stake a legal claim, or at least a political one, to certain pieces of real estate. These claims can be manipulated to be the catalysts of a rising tide of nationalism. The conflict has been basically between the Persian and Arab nationalism. However, other forms of nationalism have also entered the picture, particularly Kurdish nationalism. In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of hostility between Iraq and Iran in 1980, the manifestation of ideology came in the form of contrasting religiosity, a traditional concept, with nationalism, a more modern; i.e., Western-oriented, concept. Both types of ideological orientation sought to establish a basis for unification of populations of divergent interests. Proponents of both ideologies saw mutual exclusivity between them and difficulty in strict adherence to both. While in the purist sense the ideological conflict took on the form of tradition vs. modernity, in reality it was translated once again in the form of Arab vs. Persian. Both countries were facing the same threats to their political and social stability which threats resulted from the rapid acquisition of wealth following the sudden rise of revenue from the sale of oil in the 1970s.

Personal ambitions of the leaders concern the issues of consolidation of their political power at home and projecting an image of strength in the region that would assure dominance over neighboring countries or, at least, a veto power over the range of policy choices the neighbors might have in regional politics. Additionally, and of purely personal nature is the question of calculation of risks to be taken in choosing between policy options and the gains to be made by the leaders.

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HISTORICAL CLAIMS:(1)

Relationships between the two modern states and their predecessors have been characterized by self-aggrandizement at each other's expense. From the time of their ancient civilizations the two peoples simultaneously developed a healthy sense of mutual respect and antagonism. They could see their own growth by weakening their neighboring antagonists. At one time the Persian influence extended to the Mediterranean, and at another, the Mesopotamian and other Tigris/Euphrates civilizations extended well into the heartland of Persia. The tug of war between the two peoples seemed to reach a truce when they were both united under the banner of Islam following the battle of Qadisiyya in 635, when the Muslim Arabs defeated the Zoroastrian Persians. A period of cultural integration followed and the influence of the one appeared in the other. The sequence of confrontations between the two peoples remained tied to the inter-Islamic conflicts for power and succession.

It was not until the 1420s that the traditional rivalry was revived when the Safawi (Safavide) dynasty was established in Persia and set up Shi'ism as the state religion. While the Safawis were rebelling essentially against the dominance of the Ottoman Empire, they formalized the split in Islam between two distinct branches of theology that grew more and more irreconcilable. Up to that time, the Shi'a school of thought was perceived as a fifth school of jurisprudence, alongside of the other four schools that are collectively labeled as Sunni, or traditionalist; i.e., followers of the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad.

With the formal change over to Shi'ism, the Safawi dynasty pitted Arabs against Persians once again. Dormant rivalries were awakened, and the earlier forms of conflict gave birth to modern-day nationalism and dispute over national boundaries. Claims began to be made as to which piece of territory legitimately belonged under the jurisdiction of which state.

A further complication was added when the Ottoman and Persian empires were too weak to withstand the tides of the rising European powers and their policies of colonialism. Two European powers in particular, Britain and Russia, played pivotal roles in weakening and capitalizing on the weaknesses of the Ottomans and the Persians. In the latters' continuous squabble, the British and Russians enjoyed the role of mediators. In that role they were not moved by purely selfless purposes. They sought to weaken the two regional powers, for in their weakness were opportunities the colonialists could capitalize on.

In the seventeenth century, the border between Iraq and Persia was the subject of political confrontation and negotiations. And while the two conflicting parties were willing to settle their disputes they agreed on vaguely defined boundaries that included areas of influence rather than boundary lines, in the Treaty of Zuhab (1639).(2) The boundary areas were re-confirmed in the eighteenth century in the Treaty of Kurdan (1746) which was not ratified by the Ottoman Sultan but remained the guidepost for the relationship between the two empires until 1823 when the first Treaty of Erzerum (Ard-el-Rume) was reached.(3) Both the Treaty of Erzerum and the Second Treaty of Erzerum (1847) reaffirmed the agreements of Zuhab and Kurdan in their delineation of boundary areas between the two Islamic empires.(4) It is noteworthy that the treaties of Erzerum were reached with mediation and concurrence of the British and Russians. All these treaties recognized sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire over the Shatt al-Arab waterway and some territories to its east. The Treaties of Erzerum, however, guaranteed freedom of navigation to Persian vessels in the Shatt.(5)

The aforementioned settlements were not considered entirely satisfactory by the Persians who continued to push their claims westward. Their aim was to control part, if not all, of the Shatt to allow their vessels' unhindered rights of navigation. When the post-World War I redefinition of boundaries were being considered after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, Persia staked a claim on parts of Iraq. But these claims were contrary to the British plans. The British acquired a Mandate over Iraq and secured the territory as their zone of influence, notwithstanding Iranian claims to application of the thalweg principle to define the Iran-Iraq boundaries. Application of the thalweg would have meant drawing the boundary line in the middle of the navigation channel. However, during the British Mandate, some minor concessions were made to Iran, particularly after the British involvement in production and export of Iranian oil by Anglo-Persian. The thalweg was applied in the waters near Abadan and Muhammara, to facilitate the movement of oil tankers in the porting areas.(6)

When Britain decided to grant Iraq independence and made that conditional on admission to the League of Nations, Persia, now Iran, withheld its recognition of the new country pending recognition of Iranian territorial claims. A compromise was reached that called for negotiations to start between the two neighbors to define their boundaries. A treaty was concluded in 1937 that was expected to settle the disputes between the parties. The treaty provided for the boundaries to run along the left bank (east bank) of Shatt al-Arab, except for a stretch of 8 kilometers in front of Abadan where the thalweg would apply.(7)

The two monarchies enjoyed a working relationship between them as far as the boundaries were concerned after 1937. But when the monarchies' stability was challenged, first in Iran in 1953 during the Mosaddiq era, and then in Iraq in 1958, with the end of the monarchy at the hands of a military coup, relationships between the two countries deteriorated once again. Iran renewed her claims to the thalweg to be applied to the entire Shatt. As part of their effort to reconcile their differences, Iran and Iraq, along with others, joined in the Baghdad Pact, a military alliance which was aimed at curbing the spread of Communism in the area. The fall of the Iraqi monarchy increased the Shah's fears of the spread of Communism in the region. This fear was reinforced when Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact. The Shah began to apply military and political pressures on Iraq to get his point across. But when the Ba'ath regime took control of power in Iraq in 1968, the Shah's alarm mounted.

The Ba'ath's return to power signified an increased desire to establish a united Arab front (after the Arabs' defeat in the war with Israel in 1967) under Iraqi tutelage. This would mean shifting the power centers, and the conflict potential, close to the Iranian borders. It was then that the Shah abrogated the 1937 Treaty, demanding the application of the thalweg as the boundary between the two states.

The Shah's 1969 decision to abrogate the 1937 treaty was successfully challenged by Iraq in the International Court. However, the Shah shifted the battle front from the legal arena to the political/military arena. He began to support the claims of the Kurdish population for autonomy within Iraq. He actively supported the Kurdish military insurgency and vowed to not limit his support until the Shatt al-Arab dispute was settled to his satisfaction. In 1975, in Algiers, the Shah and Iraq's Vice-President, Saddam Hussein, signed an agreement that gave Iran the thalweg in return for Iran's pledge to not interfere in Iraqi internal affairs and to stop supporting the Kurdish rebellion. Commissions were established to redraw the boundary lines.(8) The work of these commissions was not complete when the Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah's regime took place in 1979. Renewed hostilities were once again evident. Both Iraq and Iran accused each other of interfering in each other's internal affairs and of fomenting instability and disorder. Political disagreements were backed up by military confrontations throughout the latter part of 1979 and all of 1980. In September 1980, Iraq abrogated the 1975 Agreement under the claim that Iran had failed to live up to its treaty obligations. Four days later, the Iraqi troops and air force crossed the borders into Iran in what marks the beginning of the Iraq-Iran war.

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LEGAL CLAIMS:

To the extent that this is not an attempt to write a comprehensive treatise about the legal aspects attenuating to the war, we shall limit our discussion to the claims made by each of the two parties surrounding the start of the war.(9) It should be remembered that as a condition for accepting a UN-sponsored ceasefire, Iran insisted on having an international commission to assess the responsibility for the war. Such terms were written into UN Security Council Resolution 598. As of this writing, the UN-created commission has not finished its proceedings.(10) It would be presumptive to attempt to speculate on their findings. It will suffice here to cite some of the legal precedents governing the relationships between the two principals and the disputes related thereto.

In the world of unequal opportunities, the party which displays the greater force will dictate its will on the weaker party. One of the dangers of the use of this principle is that it leads to perpetual conflict. The weaker party will seek to strengthen itself until it can do unto the other what has been done unto it. The Iran-Iraq relations seem to have been governed by this principle for some time. Another characteristic of the Iran-Iraq relationship is a tendency to unilaterally abrogate treaties which no longer seem to serve the interests of the stronger party. The question of legality has traditionally held second place to political expediency.

Iraq's foreign minister, Sa'adoun Hammadi, said in an address before the UN Security Council in early 1981 "The problem is neither new nor simple. It goes back over 460 years of history. It is not a border problem or a minor conflict over navigational rights. It is much wider than that."(11) The legal issues, however, relate to border problems and navigational rights.

Iraq's longest border is with Iran. It is also the border where there has been the most persistent and longest controversy. Iraq's north is inhabited by Kurds with whom the Iranians have common cause in undermining the authority of the Baghdad government. The Iranians claim that their relationship with the Kurds is a natural one since the two peoples are closer ethnic kin than either of them is to the Arabs of Iraq. The Kurdish nationalists do not agree with the Iranians' assessment. They claim that it was their misfortune that the British reneged on their promise of independence to the Kurds. The British had pledged to grant the Kurds the right of self-determination at war's end in return for the Kurds' help in bringing down the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds claim that they fulfilled their part of the bargain while the British failed to fulfil theirs.(12) As a result of this failure, the Kurds found themselves divided between five countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the Soviet Union) none of which is willing to give up control over "their" Kurds. Kurdish nationalists demand the realization of their long-held national aspiration of creating an independent Kurdistan.

For the Kurdish nationalist goal to be realized, the sovereignty and political integrity of the regional states would be undermined. Of the five "host" countries, Iraq is the most vulnerable and volatile since the Kurds constitute a full 20% of the population, a much higher percentage than in any of the others. It is for this reason that Iraq has been targeted for the most intensive and persistent nationalist demands by Kurdish nationalists. Violent encounters in the form of guerilla warfare and rebellion have broken out since the 1920s.(13) The Kurds have demanded autonomy, or self rule, for their region. The Iraqi government, on the other hand, has fought to establish hegemony and to keep the ethnically and religiously heterogeneous society from fragmentation. Aside from the question of national pride, which plays a major role, the northern provinces of Iraq are rich in oil. Until recently, when oil was discovered in the southern sectors, Iraqi Kurdistan was the major source of revenue for national economic development. To give up the region was considered tantamount to committing economic suicide.

While none of the "host" countries, where the Kurds live, would allow a Kurdish secessionist movement to succeed, some of them might have common cause with rebels in a neighboring country to help extract political concessions from their neighbors. This has been the nature of the relations between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iranian government on the one hand and the Iranian Kurds and the Iraqi government on the other. The most pronounced example of this type of relationship is the support the Iranian government gave to the Iraqi Kurdish rebels during the civil war of the early to mid-1970s. The Shah's Iran actively supported the Kurdish rebellion financially, politically and militarily. They were provided sanctuary, offered military training, and supplied with arms, ammunitions and logistics. The Iranians presented the case for the Iraqi Kurds in the international arenas and opened doors that would have otherwise remained closed.(14) It is noteworthy that the sympathy of the Iranian government did not extend to the Iranian Kurds who were suppressed with impunity. The support for the Iraqi Kurds ceased in April 1975 following the signing of the Algiers Treaty between Iran and Iraq. When the support ceased, so did the rebellion. Unwittingly, the Iraqi Kurds were serving the Iranians' political objectives of applying the thalweg principle to Shatt al-Arab.

Prior to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, Shatt al-Arab played a very significant role in the economic development of both countries. Overlooking the Shatt are the port cities of Abadan and Mohammarah on the Iranian side and Basra on the Iraqi side. These ports served as the link with the outside world in the export of the vital cash commodity, oil. So long as these ports performed the functions assigned to them, there was no incentive to search for alternative means or sites to export the oil. Only after the Shatt al-Arab was blocked in the first few days of the fighting, and after the oil facilities along the Gulf were damaged, did the two countries find the alternative substitutes. But as long as the dependence relationship existed between the Shatt and the two countries, the principals were wedded to the idea of dominance and sovereignty over the Shatt.

Despite the fact that, at least in relative terms, Shatt al-Arab has greater significance to Iraq than to Iran, due to the relative length of the coastal shore line of both countries, overlooking the Gulf. Iran's politics since the 1600s have been marked by an obsession with seeking at least partial, if not full, control over the Gulf. Iran has demonstrated repeatedly its willingness to trade territorial claims in the Kurdish north lands for more concessions along the Shatt. This was the case in the treaties of Zuhab (1639), Kurdan (1746), the first (1823) and the second (1847) treaties of Erzerum, the treaties of 1869 and 1873 between Persia and the Ottoman Empire, the Tehran (1911) and the Constantinople (1913) Protocols, and the Boundary Treaty (1937) between Iran and Iraq. In all of these agreements Tehran was willing to give up claims to Sulaymaneyya and Mosul districts in the Kurdish north in return for recognition of Iran's right to extend its sovereignty to the left (east) bank of the Shatt and for a guarantee of unhindered access of Iranian ships to ports on the Shatt. The Kurdish north card was played once again, albeit in a different form, in 1969 following the unsuccessful bid by Iran to unilaterally abrogate the 1937 Treaty. When Iraq acceded to Iranian demands by conceding the thalweg as the boundary between the two states, Iran's support for the Kurds ceased.

The 1975 Algiers Agreement and the Baghdad Treaty based on it, as far as the Iraqis were concerned, contained a quid pro quo. If Iraq conceded the thalweg, Iran would cease support for the Kurds, and would prevent infiltration by insurgents across the borders. In addition, Iran was to compensate Iraq territorially by ceding an area about 400 square kilometers in the central Ahwaz zone.(15) As far as Iraq was concerned the terms of the agreement were binding not only on the Shah's regime but also on its successor regimes. Any violations of the terms of the treaty, the Treaty states, would not be in keeping with the spirit of the agreement (Article 4). Such violations would be subject to direct negotiation between the parties, then mediation, and finally arbitration, if necessary, by international bodies (Article 6). What the contracting parties failed to do was to set a termination date for the agreement. Presumably this was a deliberate omission, since border treaties assume a degree of permanence, according to international convention. It is well to remember, in the relationship between the two countries, that the 1937 Boundary Treaty had the same degree of "permanence" as the 1975 Treaty. The Treaty also failed to spell out the terms and conditions under which one or both parties can abrogate it. This omission left the matter for future legal and political disputes to determine the acceptable conditions, as actually happened five years later.

When the Iranian Revolution overthrew the monarchy, the new leaders demonstrated initial inability to maintain law and order in the lands, particularly in the "ethnic" provinces. It would appear that Iraq would have been willing to overlook the resulting infiltration of Kurdish insurgents from Iran into Iraq and the increased intensity of hostile activities along the border area. However, from the outset, the new Iranian leaders expressed their intentions to export their revolution to neighboring countries, especially Iraq.(16) The Iraqis began to interpret the increase in hostilities in the Kurdish areas as not only resulting from the desire of some Kurdish leaders to destabilize Iraqi politics, but as a deliberate policy by the Iranian new leaders to foment revolutionary activities there. This was coupled with the calls of the Da'wa Party and its Shi'i leader Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr for the overthrow of the Ba'ath government and its replacement by an Islamic revolutionary government. Al-Sadr was known to be a personal friend and a protege of Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranians were suspected of supporting the Sadr movement.(17) As far as the Iraqis were concerned, these activities constituted violations of the letter and the spirit of the Algiers Agreement. With the Iranian leaders' apparent intent on overthrowing the Iraqi government, Baghdad did not see any room for direct negotiations to settle the disagreements, nor did they feel that there was enough time to allow the legal process to run its course. They thus felt justified in abrogating the agreement, which they considered to have turned into dead letter by the time they took formal action. In his announcement of the abrogation of the treaty, President Saddam Hussein said that Iraq was restoring her rights to the Shatt al-Arab and that the Shatt was being returned to its "rightful owner."(18)

Saddam Hussein's decision to abrogate the treaty is considered by the Iranians to be a violation of international law and of the terms of the treaty itself. They argue that the same principles that prevailed in challenging the abrogation of the 1937 treaty by Iran are also valid in face of Iraq's decision to abrogate the 1975 treaty.(19) They claim that it was Hussein's intention all along to launch an offensive against Iran and to undermine the Iranian Revolution. Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, even in his exile, claims that as president he obtained Iraqi war plans two months prior to the advance of the Iraqi troops across the borders, from a Latin American source and from a Soviet source.(20) The Iranians then claim malice and ill intent on the part of the Iraqis and deny the validity of the Iraqi decision of abrogation.

Another topic related to legal issues is that concerned with the date of the start of the war, and the consequent issue of responsibility for the war. The Iranians mark the beginning of the war as September 22, 1980, the day the Iraqi forces crossed the Iranian borders by land, sea and air. The Iraqis mark the date as September 4, 1980, when the Iranians pounded several civilian, economic and military targets in the Shatt al-Arab area. They further argue that Iran had placed its military forces on high military alert (one step short of full mobilization) as early as April 1980 (following the attempted assassination of Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and the execution of Baqir al-Sadr) in preparation for war. They claim that the accelerating tempo of hostilities between the two countries had only one conclusion: war. Iraq could not sit and wait for an Iranian offensive but had to take a preemptive action in self-defense.(21)

The year preceding the start of the war, regardless of which date is finally selected, witnessed increased hostility in the political and military relations between the two countries. Border clashes were increasing in frequency and in intensity. Iran was supporting Shi'i elements in Iraq and encouraging them to stage a take-over of politics; and Iraq was supporting ethnic unrest in Khozestan and Baluchistan, in addition to Kurdistan. The uncovering of an attempted "plot" to overthrow the Iraqi Ba'ath regime resulted in deportation of thousands of Iraqis of Iranian origin to Iran in mid-1980.

The above presentation clearly shows that the problems between Iran and Iraq are basically political in nature and that the legal issues are secondary in importance. A UN-created commission is looking into these and other legal issues.

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HEGEMONY, PRESTIGE AND LEADERSHIP:

Closely related to the legal claims are the desires for hegemony in the region, enhanced prestige and leadership in the Middle East and around the Gulf.

The traditional rivalry between Iran and Iraq can be summed up in the repeated attempts by both powers to impose their hegemony on the Gulf region, and in the process disrupt the internal hegemony by encouraging separatist movements of ethnic minorities in each other's territory. But while Iranian hegemony was expressed in terms of "Persianization" of the Gulf. Iraq's was expressed in terms of "Arabization" of the Gulf, and of Western Asia and North Africa. Both powers have approached hegemony as a zero-sum game. Consequently, suspicions and mistrust have characterized their attitudes towards each other and antagonism has marked their relationships.

The Shah saw himself as the sole guardian of Gulf security. In 1971, he articulated this role when he stated `I believe that the Persian Gulf must always be kept open - under Iranian protection - for the benefit of not only my country but the other Gulf countries and the world.' In his memoirs, he maintained that after the British withdrawal from the Gulf, the safety and security of the area had to be guaranteed, adding `who but Iran could fulfil this function?'(22)

In preparation for fulfilling this function, the Shah embarked on a massive military build-up. He wanted Iran to be the most powerful force in the region.

Within five years, Iran will have the most powerful army in the Middle East - greater that those of Egypt, Turkey, or Israel. By then, we will be able to guarantee, in cooperation with our neighbors, the security of the entire region.(23)

He justified his program by arguing that "often military might alone had been our sole guarantee of survival."(24) He cultivated strong relations with President Nixon, with whom he had established good rapport during the latter's vice- presidency of the United States. The close ties amounted to Nixon giving the Shah a carte blanche with both the State Department and the Pentagon.(25)

In pursuit of his goal of regional hegemony, the Shah declared in May 1970 his readiness to "enter into some kind of regional co-operation, treaty or pact" with the Gulf countries.(26) He proposed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait the signing of such a pact.

The Shah's military build-up raised the suspicions of the Iraqis that it was aimed against them. Chubin and Zabih confirm that suspicion by stating that "Iran's aspirations to play the role of the protector [in the Gulf] should be understood as protection from Iraq in the first instance, and secondarily from revolutionary movements in the Gulf."(27)

Iraq's suspicions of Iran's intentions were reinforced by the Shah's attempts to create a Gulf States alliance that would provide for acknowledgment of Iran's dominant role in the region by other Gulf states, but would exclude Iraq from the alliance, and by the naval agreement of 1971 between Iran and Oman over patrolling of the Strait of Hormuz.(28) The further steps taken by Iran to occupy the Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in 1971, which the British acknowledged and endorsed as an expression of Iranian hegemony,(29) along with attempts to annex Bahrain,(30) were further evidence to reinforce Iraq's fears.

After the Shah's regime was overthrown, the revolutionary regime did not disavow Iranian hegemony. Despite the initial weakening of Iran's military power, the new regime refused to surrender control over the Gulf islands to the United Arab Emirates, and claims to sovereignty over Bahrain were renewed. The Iranian reported that there was serious concern in September 1979 in Manamah over "claims made by well-placed religious and political figures in Iran that the Persian Gulf archipelago should return to Iran's fold."(31) Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Rouhani, who first raised Iran's post-revolutionary claim to Bahrain, warned Sheikh Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the Emir of Bahrain, that "an Iranian-style Islamic revolution could rock his country if he did not free all imprisoned clergymen at once."(32)

To further establish Iranian hegemony in the Gulf, the revolutionary regime encouraged the Shi'i population in particular, and the entire population of the Gulf states in general, to stage "Iranian-style" Islamic revolutions. The Iraqis were least pleased when the appeal went out to their own Shi'i population through al-Da'wa Party and other organizations.

Whether by deliberate calculations or as a result of accidental fall-out of internal instability in Iraq resulting from unrest among the Shi'is and the Kurds, Iran stood to gain a better standing in its struggle for hegemony in the Gulf region. Encouragement of such unrest was not to be unexpected. Nor could it be tolerated by Iraq.

Iraqi efforts to extend their hegemony in the Gulf were restricted by the relative weakness of its naval forces and limited access to the Gulf waters and to the shared sovereignty over Shatt al-Arab after 1975. However, sharing common borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia tended to offer partial compensation for the loss of advantage along the sea coast. Also, the availability of Iraqis as members of the work force in the Gulf states offered a natural outlet for spreading Iraqi ideas among their fellow Arabs. Iraq attempted to gain further advantage by negotiating a 90-year treaty with Kuwait to lease Bubyan Island, which would give Iraq more breathing room in the Gulf. But Kuwait's reluctance to accept offers of territorial concessions in return for the lease agreement demonstrated the difficulties that Iraq had to face prior to the outbreak of the war, and since.

However, Iraq's ambitions have not been limited to the Gulf area. Iraq's Ba'athist ideology and the Iraqi leaders' perceptions of their special role in the drive of Pan-Arabism require Iraq to pursue the quest for leadership of the Arabs of North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region. When Egypt negotiated a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Iraq and Syria vied for the role previously played by Egypt as the spokesman of the Arabs and the defender of Arab claims in international arenas. The leaders of both countries collaborated to suspend Egypt's membership in the Arab League and led the push for an Arab boycott of Egypt. A successful war against Iran could do nothing but boost Iraq's chances of becoming the undisputed leader of the Arab world.

Iraq's attempts for hegemony were checked by the Shah by causing internal instability. In 1975 the Shah apparently felt that the Iraqi regime had been contained enough that he was willing to negotiate the Baghdad Treaties which were based on the Algiers Agreement. The Iraqi regime had been overshadowed by the rise to prominence of President Sadat of Egypt following the October 1973 War with Israel. But in 1979, coincidental with the Iranian Revolution, changes occurred in both Egypt and Iraq. Sadat's Egypt had been moving closer to a rapprochement with Israel which culminated in the peace treaty of 1979 and Egypt's isolation from the Arab camp and the resulting loss of her leadership role. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein succeeded Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr as President. Hussein's ambitions were to confer Egypt's vacated leadership role upon Iraq. Should he succeed in realizing his objective a threat to Iranian hegemony would exist. It was necessary, therefore, for Iran to destabilize Iraqi politics in order to prevent such eventuality. These competing and simultaneous efforts to gain hegemony can help explain the accelerating tempo of border hostilities from September 1979 to September 1980.

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THE IDEOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE:

The ideological struggle between Iran and Iraq should not be seen strictly from the perspective of religiosity vs secularism, or religious mobilization vs nationalist mobilization alone. This, without a doubt is an important factor. But additionally, the Iranian Revolution revived an inter-Islamic rivalry that had been dormant for centuries between Sunni and Shi'i elements. And even within Shi'ism, Ayatollah Khomeini advocated positions that did not receive the full support of other clergymen, especially the concept of vilayat-e faqih and the direct involvement of the clergy in running the affairs of the government. Furthermore, he proclaimed himself, or was proclaimed, as the Imam. Such a title would accord him a position of authority over all other clergy. This authority was not universally recognized by other Grand Ayatollahs in Qom where some refused to attach the term to him but simply referred to him as Ayatollah al Ozmah, or Grand Ayatollah. This, in turn, has caused ideological splits within the Shi'a community. But while this last debate can conceivably be considered apart from the issue at hand, the Iran-Iraq war, it did have consequences regarding the attitude towards the war within Iran itself as the fighting progressed.

The Sunni-Shi'i split had its repercussions throughout the Islamic world, especially in areas where a significant Shi'i population can be found. Affected by this were states on the Arab side of the Arabian/Persian Gulf, as well as Syria and Lebanon.

While Saddam Hussein's brand of Arab nationalism which he advocated prior to the war, and indeed during the war, never gained universal approval in the Gulf area, the leaders of the Gulf states saw greater threats coming from Iranian- inspired secessionist movements among their Shi'i populations or revolutionary movements that would aim to overthrow the regimes than perceived threats coming from Iraq. It stood to reason that they would gain from a limited Iranian-Iraqi conflict that would keep them too pre-occupied to meddle in the affairs of the smaller states. It has generally been argued that this is why Kuwait and Saudi Arabia underwrote the major part of the cost of the war on behalf of Iraq. Leaders of both countries, however, have argued that their reasons were purely nationalistic and in response to a call for help from a "sister country against a neighbor."

In addition to these elements, there was also the traditional rivalry between Iraqi nationalism and Iranian nationalism. Both Shatt al-Arab and the ethnic minority questions served as theaters of activity for demonstrating that nationalist rivalry. Iran's actions throughout the twentieth century made Iraq the more suspicious of Iran's intentions when a revolutionary regime took over in 1979 and declared its intention to spread their revolution. It was perhaps this single factor more than any other that prompted Iraq to follow a policy of not relenting in face of perceived Iranian pressures and eventually choosing to go to war in September 1980.

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A. NATIONALISM VS RELIGIOSITY:

The relations between Iran and Iraq, leading to the Iran-Iraq War, have centered around two areas of ideological conflict: national and religious. On the national front, and in an effort to impose their hegemony on the region, there existed a conflict between proponents of Arab nationalism and Iranian nationalism. The Iraqi Ba'athists proclaimed themselves the spokesmen of Arab nationalism and Arab hegemony over the Gulf. The Shah earlier, and Khomeini later, expressed Iranian nationalism, and attempts at hegemony over the Gulf by building up the military force and making claims on Iraqi territory. Both forms of nationalism were perceived as constituting mutual threats to the principals. The religious ideological conflict is two dimensional: a Sunni-Shi'i conflict and an intra-Shi'i conflict. While the differences are theological and are of more interest to the learned scholars than to the average person on the street, it is the average followers of the religion that becomes the tool used for settling these disagreements.

The ruling Ba'ath party in Iraq is an advocate of Pan- Arabism. It calls for a comprehensive unity of all of the Arabs.(33) The ideology advocated by the Ba'ath is secularist, socialist, and particularistic (to the Arabs only) in orientation. It recognizes the special contributions of Islam to the Arabs, but does not agree with the preposition that without Islam there would not have been an Arab culture. Arab civilizations had existed prior to Islam, and Islam came to give the Arabs the special characteristics that they now have. The Arabs, however, are not all Muslims but are a mix of different religious orientations. They gain their identity from their cultural heritage, which is influenced by Islam as well as other influences. For the Arab nationalists to express their identity, they need not set aside their religious affiliation or abandon their religious practices. They need to place religion in its proper perspective, side-by- side with other considerations. Religious and temporal affairs can and should exist independent of each other. The political philosophy is thus secularist but not atheistic. It advocates freedom of conscience. State laws, while they must adhere to certain universal moral precepts, should not be subject to supervision or final approval by a religious body, nor should religious rules be dictated by the state.

The Ba'athist ideology is socialist in the sense of being egalitarian. It is not a socialism that is based on a Western philosophy or experience, but on Arab philosophy and experience. To the extent that the Arab people did not undergo the ravishes of industrialization that Western countries experienced, and to the extent that a classical class structure did not evolve in the Arab world, Western socialist ideas are irrelevant to the Arab east. However, the concepts of egalitarianism and social justice are not alien to the Arabs. Arab socialism is based on equal opportunity for individuals within a caring patrimonial society. Under the guise of socialism, Iraq nationalized the major industrial, commercial and service sectors of the economy. Individuals were allowed to own small plots of land, small businesses, or industrial projects. Employment became a guaranteed right to all who seek it, as did health care, education and social services.

The Ba'ath ideology is also particularistic in that it addresses itself to the "Arabhood" of the people. Arabhood becomes the common experience that binds the people together. It also seeks to unify those Arabs within the boundaries of one Arab nation-state "from the Gulf to the Ocean." Only with this unity will the Arabs restore their past glory. The Pan-Arab character of Ba'athism views the present political boundaries as temporary and artificial and as foreign inspired and imposed.

It is this view that is the most threatening. Pan-Arabism presents a challenge to the Iranians' traditional claim of being the "policeman of the Gulf" and to their hegemony in the area. To the Israelis, it represents a threat in the expressed desire to "liberate Palestine" from "Zionist control". To the traditional Arab leaders of the present states, it represent loss of power and position. To the smaller and wealthier states, it represents wealth- sharing. To the other ethnic groups, it represents loss of identity to a yet larger political unit that exists expressly to minimize their share in the political power distribution.

The Ba'ath line of thinking, or at least that of Saddam Hussein, is that the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party is the only valid expression of Arab nationalism. Iraq plays a pivotal role in this Arab nationalism as it is from there that the past glory of the Abbasides will be revived. It was from Baghdad that the Abbasides built their vast and flourishing empire, and it is from Baghdad that this will come to pass again. The fact that the Ba'ath is in charge of Iraq's politics is more than a mere co-incidence. And it is because of this unique role of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq that it has enjoyed a virtual monopoly of power there.

During the reign of the Shah, it was this Pan-Arab nationalism which did not appeal to either the Shah or to the other Gulf rulers.(34) The Shah saw the Iraqi Ba'ath regime as inviting Communism into the area. He could only see the growing cooperation between Iraq and the Communist bloc. Fearful that the Soviet Union would establish permanent presence in the Gulf, thus surrounding Iran from both the north and the south, the Shah established closer ties with the United States. Iran became America's first line of defense against Soviet expansionism in the region. Political, military and economic advisors were dispatched to Iran with a great deal of regularity. Both Congress and the White House adopted policies of not denying Iran's requests for military upgrading. The Shah wanted to build Iran's military forces to rival those of the major powers, and the United States helped get him there. Multi-billion dollar contracts were signed annually, and deliveries of weapons and equipment were prompt. Some newer weapons were delivered to Iran even prior to their delivery to American forces. By the time of his departure, the Shah had built Iran's military power to be the sixth strongest in the world.(35)

Iranian military build-up was an expression of Iranian nationalism. It could not have deterred the Soviets if they had entertained aggressive or hostile intentions towards Iran. Nor was it certain that the United States would have risked an all-out war with the Soviets to curb Soviet expansion in the region. The Iranian military build-up was designed to impress Iran's other neighbors, particularly the Arabs. And it did. When the Iranian forces took over control of the three islands at the mouth of the Gulf (Abu Mousa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs) in 1971 from the newly created United Arab Emirates (UAE), no Arab state dared to challenge Iran's actions with more that rhetoric. The Shah proclaimed Iran as the policeman of the Gulf and cultivated goodwill among the Gulf rulers, excluding Iraq's.(36)

Questions dealing with the competition between Iranian and Iraqi nationalism are as old as are the two countries. Yahya Arjamani asserts that a deep-seated hatred exists for the Arabs by the Iranians dating back to the time of the Persians' defeat at the hands of the Arabs at Qadisiyya in 638. He claims that all other conquests and defeats that Iran had suffered were forgotten except the one at the hands of the Arabs. This hatred drives Persian politics to avenge their defeat.(37) Saddam Hussein, apparently aware of this and wanting to issue a reminder, called his battles against Iran "The New Qadisiyya".

In the twentieth century manifestations, the rivalry between the two neighbors has been expressed in a number of arenas nor are they limited to post-revolutionary periods in either country. Iraq's fear of Iranian expansionism is so pervasive that frequent warnings go out of Baghdad about the creation of a second Palestinian-type problem.(38) Accusations are also frequently made that Iran is trying to "Persianize" the Gulf region through encouraging migration of Iranians to other Gulf states.(39) There is the suspicion that the Iranian immigrants constitute a fifth column and are the main source of information about the Gulf states to the outside world, and especially to Iran. The Iraqi regime views itself as the defender of the Arabs against possible Iranian incursions.(40) The close ties between Iran and the United States during the Shah's regime and between Iraq and the Soviet Union during the same period helped only to contribute to these fears and to mutual suspicions and mistrust.

Iran's massive military modernization program in the 1970s was understood by Iraq to have only one objective: expansionism at the expense of the Arab neighbors. A CIA report, published in The Washington Post in 1982 raised the same concerns:

In 1985 when oil revenues from Iranian production have peaked and his oil rich neighbors are just across the Gulf, what does the Shah intend to do with his accumulated weaponry? Will he still claim and demonstrate concern for the stability of the area? Or will he have destabilizing objectives?(41)

Iran's decision to create an "exclusive fishing zone in the waters superjacent to its continental shelf in the Persian Gulf and extending to a distance of fifty nautical miles in the Sea of Oman"(42) was additional proof to the Iraqis of Iran's ill-conceived intentions, and another step towards the goal of gaining control over all choke points to the Strait of Hormuz.(43) Iran's occupation of the islands of Abu Mousa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, even if it were with the acquiescence of the emirates of Sharjah and Ras El-Kheimah was unacceptable to Iraq. While Sharjah was pressured by the British to accept a modest compensation for its possession, Abu Musa, Ras El-Kheimah refused to accept a similar arrangement. The ruler of Ras El-Kheimah received correspondence from the British Foreign Office advising him not to be surprised if Iran decided to militarily take control of the islands, nor should he expect British assistance. Iraqi suspicion was aroused regarding collusion to undermine the Arab interests in the region. Iraq did not immediately recognize the independence of the UAE after the British departure in 1972.(44)

Iraq had additional reasons to fear Iran's "expansionism". In 1974, an agreement was signed between Iran and Oman that enabled the Iranian Navy to control the Strait of Hormuz. Also, in 1970 Iran attempted to establish a regional security alliance that excluded Iraq but would have included Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Furthermore, Iran continued to press demands for the reacquisition of Bahrain, claiming that it was Iranian territory; that it historically had been under Iranian control; and that the only time Iran did not have control over Bahrain was during periods of European colonialism. Iran's claims disregarded the Arab composition of the population and the attitudes of the people towards their future alignments.(45) Additionally, Iran continued to support the Kurdish rebels in Iraq which added fuel to the fire of the traditional rivalry.

All of this record adds to the Iraqi experience with the Pahlavi regime. But when the revolutionary regime took over in Iran in 1979, the attitudes towards nationalist issues did not seem to change. By October 1980, Iraq was charging that Iran had been supplying the Barazani-led Kurdish Democratic Party rebels with political and material support and encouraging insurgency into Iraq, in violation of the 1975 agreements. Iraq charged that Iran was supplying weapons, materials and propaganda instruments to the Kurdish rebels and opened borders for the insurgents.(46)

Revolutionary Iran's active moral and material support for the underground Shi'i-dominated Da'wa Party, led by Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr was another contributing irritant to the Iraqis and further evidence of the Persianization attempts by Iran, regardless of who is in charge.

And while Saddam Hussein appointed himself spokesman and defender of Pan-Arabism, and restorer of Arab rights, taking on the responsibility of "liberating" the entire Arab side of the Gulf region from Iranian control, Khomeini responded with the only language that he knew. He called Saddam Hussein an "infidel" who only resembled the Shah. He called on the Iranian people not to fear anything:

You are fighting to protect Islam and he [Saddam Hussein] is fighting to destroy Islam. At the moment, Islam is completely confronted by blasphemy, and you should protect and support Islam .... There is absolutely no question of peace or compromise and we shall never have any discussion with them [the Iraqis] ... Our weapon is faith....(47)

It was the sense of nationalism, among other things, which Khomeini said he was revolting against. He considered nationalism as a divisive force and anathema to Islamic thought and practice. He saw nationalism as a Western influence designed to corrupt the leaders and the people. It is part of an imperialist conspiracy which aims at destroying the Islamic Umma (nation) which is made up of all Muslims throughout the world. Western-style nationalism, on the other hand, creates artificial boundaries that can only keep the Muslims apart rather than bring them together. It can only lead to rivalry and conflict. Religion, Khomeini argued, was the means to the salvation of not only the Arabs but of all the Muslims. He saw the Islamic Revolution in Iran as the first brick in a much larger structure, the Islamic homeland. Only when the corrupt and corrupting rulers of Muslims throughout the world are replaced by Islamic revolutions will the Umma be restored to its rightful place, the service of God and doing his work on earth.(48)

Khomeini's approach follows in the footsteps of many who preceded him in earlier and more recent times throughout the Muslim world, and who called for revival of Islamic ideals and traditions as the means of salvation of the Muslim peoples from their present status. His ideas build on those advanced by earlier thinkers such as Hassan El-Banna, Sayyed Qotb, Muhammed Iqbal, Muhammed Abduh, Jamal Eddin El-Afghani, and others. His movement was part of a larger trend in the Islamic world that includes the Nahdat al-'Ulama and the Masslumi Party in Indonesia, the Islamic Party in Malaysia, the Noorsi Movement and Erbakan National Salvation Party in Turkey, the Ikhwan-el-Muslimin in Egypt, North Africa, and Arabia, the struggle of the Muslims in the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe for greater freedoms to believe and worship without interference from the temporal authorities.

While Khomeini vocally expressed opposition to Iranian nationalism during the time of the Shah, he professed no similar opposition to Arab nationalism until after he had a falling out with the Ba'ath Party in Iraq as a result of the signing of the Algiers Agreement of 1975. Ironically, it was the assumption of power by the Ba'ath Party in Iraq in 1968 that gave him his biggest boost in his opposition to the Shah. There was mutual antagonism between the Ba'ath and the Shah's regime. Wedded by their anti-Shah attitudes, the Ba'ath and Khomeini had a marriage of convenience.(49) Khomeini was used by the Ba'ath in the Iraqi anti-Shah propaganda. And according to Saddam Hussein's later admissions, three radio stations were placed under the disposal of the Khomeini supporters to broadcast to Iran. When the Algiers Agreement was signed, and Iraq, along with Iran, pledged to cease hostile propaganda against its neighbor, Khomeini's messages no longer served the national purposes of Iraq. Responding to a request from the Shah, Khomeini, in addition to having been pressured earlier to stop his anti-Shah broadcasts, was exiled from Iraq. The Shah might have wanted to take back his request for removing the "Khomeini menace" from Iraq, for it was a harmless "menace" that had a limited audience. But when Khomeini ended up in France, he had an uncensored press and a world-wide audience. The attention that Khomeini received from the world press gave his movement added legitimacy.

The initial response of the Iraqis to the Khomeini take over in Iran was one of attempted reconciliation. However, it was not long before relations began to sour and the Iraqis began to see the rule of the clergy in Iran as a return to medieval politics, and to see Khomeini's call for Islamic ideals as another manifestation of Iranian nationalism.(50) Iraqi clergy took offense at Khomeini's claim of leading the world Shi'is. After all, it is in Iraq that the two holiest shrines, outside of Mecca and Medina, exist. The shrines of Karbala and Najaf had been the place of pilgrimage of millions of Shi'is for centuries. It is even argued that pilgrimage to Najaf and Karbala is far more rewarding than pilgrimage to Mecca. It should not be the Persians then who should teach the Iraqis how to worship, or to "cleanse" Islam of all impurities.

Ideologies and ideological disagreements do not start wars or cause wars to start. It is when the "true believers" of a given ideology assume a messianic responsibility to "spread the word" that wars become more of a reality. Had Khomeini and his supporters been content with their achievements in Iran, or, had they established a successful role model to be followed in other Muslim countries, or had they not called for the overthrow of all regimes in Muslim countries, which are, by Shi'i definition, illegitimate usurpers of power, the war would probably not have started. It was the messianic zeal of Khomeini's supporters that threatened and irritated the Iraqis and other Gulf leaders. Khomeini had declared that his revolution was for export.(51) But other Gulf leaders put up very stiff import barriers.

After the war broke out, the propaganda arms of both states began to harp on the issue of nationalism, directly and indirectly, by emphasizing the perceived superiority of their side and the perceived threat from the other side. Hateful and insulting comments were regularly broadcast or printed that aimed at creating a gulf between the national population and the enemy.

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B. THE SUNNI-SHI'I SPLIT:

The Sunni-Shi'i split started as a political disagreement over the right of succession (khilapha or caliphate) after the Prophet Muhammad's death. Eventually, the Shi'a evolved a theory of Imamate (leadership) based on the right of Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, and his male descendents to leadership of the Umma. Any other head of state, and any appointee of any other head of state, is a usurper of power, and thus illegitimate. The disappearance or occultation of the Twelfth Imam under mysterious circumstances gave rise to the concept of the "second coming" of the "Living Imam".(52)

The Great Occultation of the Twelfth Imam, Muhammed el- Mahdi, raises the question of legitimacy of any temporal ruler until the Imam's return. According to Shi'i doctrine, the Imam rules by divine authority. The Imam possesses a distinctive quality which makes him the supreme political leader and teacher. This authority comes from his 'ilm (knowledge). The Imam passes on his 'ilm to the 'ulama (pl., singular, 'alim). In the Imam's absence, the mujtahids (religious scholars) become custodians of that 'ilm and thus become responsible for safeguarding the faith until the Imam's return. The mujtahids derive their authority from the 'ilm that was passed on to them by the Imams. Thus the 'ulama or learned men, or men of knowledge, are the interpreters of the will of the Imam because of their 'ilm. The 'ilm of the Imam makes him infallible. However, he never passed on all of his knowledge to the 'ulama. Thus the infallibility was not transferred to the 'ulama along with the 'ilm.

The Imam's 'ilm leads him to be a'adil, or just, for knowledge is justice.(53) A just ruler would not usurp power. A usurper of power is ja'ir or illegitimate. Thus the first three Caliphs who succeeded Muhammed and the Umayyids who took the power away from Ali and his children by force, were all illegitimate, because the first claimed the khilapha which did not belong to them, even if Ali acquiesced, and the latter because they used force to take and keep it from its rightful claimants.

The Shi'is did not only reject the authority and legitimacy of the earlier Caliphs but also the Sunni legal system and methodology and their science of jurisprudence. The Sunni 'ulama, according to the Shi'is, had derived their authority from their qualifications as jurists appointed by illegitimate rulers. Instead of accepting the Sunni shari'a (Islamic law), the Shi'is developed their own. While both use the Quran and the Prophet's Traditions as bases for their jurisprudence, they differ on some of the specifics of the Traditions.

The differences between the Sunni and Shi'i jurisprudence remained the domain of the scholars to argue about for centuries. But the average "man on the street" remained oblivious to these differences, quite unaware in most cases, that they do exist. When Khomeini took over in Iran and attempted to export his revolution, he caused a religious re-awakening and re-education among Sunnis and Shi'is alike that these differences exist and that they are real. The attempt by Shi'i communities in predominantly non-Shi'i societies to gain separate identities led to violent confrontations and to widening the gaps that might have existed previously. This was the case in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Syria, and Lebanon. Where Shi'i majority populations were ruled by Sunni rulers, the disagreements threatened to be even more serious in consequences, as in the cases of Iraq and Bahrain. Not only did that type of "dialogue" contribute to political instability and disharmony between followers of one Muslim school of thought and another, but it spread to other communities creating inter-religious clashes, as in the cases of Lebanon, Egypt, India, the Philippines, Israel, and Indonesia.

In Iraq's case, the Sunni-Shi'i split was manifested in the formation of the Da'wa Party by Ayatollah Muhammed Baqir Al-Sadr with membership being primarily Shi'i. The Da'wa was formed while Khomeini was still in Iraq, and Al-Sadr, one of Khomeini's disciples and close associates, believed in the same principles as his mentor. Following Khomeini's return to Iran, the Da'wa became more vocal and active in the Shi'i community of Iraq. On April 1, 1980, the Foreign Minister of Iraq and member of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council of the Ba'ath Party, Tariq Aziz, was the subject of an assassination attempt at the Mustansiriyya University while delivering a speech. While Aziz was wounded, a number of students were killed. A few days later, another attempt was made on the life of the Iraqi Minister of Information; again two of his guards were killed. The period following witnessed a number of attempted assassinations of government officials, some of which were successful. More civilians died. In all of these attempts, the fingers were pointed at Al-Da'wa. Earlier in the year, there had been disturbances in Najaf and Karbala, in which some Da'wa members were implicated. The government's response was to deport about 30,000 Iranians and Iraqis of Iranian ancestry to Iran. The suspected collaborators in the violence as well as the leadership of the Da'wa were tried. Al-Sadr and other leaders were sentenced to death and executed, and another number were imprisoned.(54) But rather than put an end to the intra-religious conflict, the government actions contributed to an increase in the level of tension not only in Iraq but also in the relationship between Iran and Iraq. The Iranian military forces were placed on full alert and the level of internal violence in Iraq increased. It was not until well after the war started between Iran and Iraq, and after the Iraqi Shi'a saw on their television screens and heard and read the reports about the well publicized executions of thousands of Iranians and about the leadership conflict there that the level of violence within the Iraqi Shi'i community subsided.

Much has been said about the religious composition of Iraq and the alleged ill-treatment of the majority by the minority. However, the Iraqi military forces, particularly the combat units, were made up of Shi'is in the most part nearing 80% of the non-coms. No distinction seemed to have been made between Shi'is and others except that between those who are fighting on one's side and the enemy.

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C. THE SHI'I-SHI'I SPLIT:

Khomeini's advocacy of direct involvement of the clergy in running the daily affairs of the state is perhaps the most controversial point discussed by Sunnis and Shi'is alike. The concept of vilayat-e faqih or authority or mandate of the jurisconsult was developed in the nineteenth century and did not gain wide circulation among the Shi'i clergy.(55)

While generally speaking the Shi'i clergy have traditionally assumed more politicized positions than their Sunni counterparts, their role remained primarily that of advisors or consultants to the temporal rulers. They held a virtual veto power over government action (executive or legislative) and participated in the administration of Islamic law on the Muslim masses. This role gave them political power, as no ruler wanted to challenge their authority while expecting to retain the loyalty of his subjects. This role was institutionalized in the 1906 Iranian constitution which provided that a law might not go into effect if it does not get the endorsement of at least five Grand Ayatollahs.(56) Although this provision was never invoked, it nevertheless existed as proof of the power of the mullahs. Additionally, the clergy were given broad latitude in the administration of justice in religious affairs, side-by-side with Western-style courts. Only the death penalty needed the endorsement of the Shah.

In his Islamic Government, Khomeini argued that in the Islamic state only religious law needs to be applied. And, "only the [religious] jurisprudent (the faqih) and nobody else, should be in charge of government."(57) The 'ulama would have exclusive authority over all affairs. "They have been entrusted with governing, ruling and running the affairs of the people."(58) His faith in the 'ulama stems from his notion that they are "representatives of the prophets."(59) It is only in the Islamic state that the interests of the Muslims can best be safeguarded and promoted. Since the Islamic state is the best form of government, it follows that the faqihs should be in charge because they are the only ones endowed with the full knowledge of Islamic law and Islamic justice. Only through vilayat-e faqih will there be spiritual regeneration of Muslims. Nineteenth century Shi'i theologians had disagreed on the interpretation of the role of the faqih. Leading authorities such as Sheikh Ansari took the concept of vilayat-e faqih "to mean only that orphans and widows with no next of kin should become the wards of pious ayatollahs. The 'custodianship' in question should, in other words, be restricted only to vulnerable individuals and not to society as a whole."(60)

The concept of vilayat-e faqih could not have developed without the incorporation of the concept of ijtihad (use of best judgement based on probable interpretations, or juristic authority) in Shi'i jurisprudence in the seventeenth century, as pioneered by 'Allama Al-Hilli.(61) Until then, the Shi'i 'ulama had insisted on the principle of certitude as the norm for any legal judgment. It was felt after the Great Occultation that venturing into areas of jurisprudence about which there was no specific nass (text) was too dangerous. Usul-ul-fiqh, or principles of jurisprudence, were confined to only written authentic and well documented texts. There was no room for ijtihad in uncharted area, as the Sunnis had done.(62) The concept of ijtihad became a crucial part of Shi'i juristic thinking after its introduction by Al-Hilli and served as a basis for giving the 'ulama the latitude to become mujtahids (jurists) in name as well as in fact by the eighteenth century. When the doctrine of ijtihad was combined with the doctrine of taqlid (imitation or emulation) which required all Shi'is to follow the interpretations and fatwas (decrees) of a living mujtahid in juristic matters,(63) the foundations of clerical authority were firmly established in Shi'ism in Iran. This was a reinforcement of the position they had received under the Safavides in the sixteenth century.

The rapid changes that Iran experienced in the period of increasing wealth in the 1970s combined with the repressive measures taken by the Shah raised anew the question about the proper role of the clergy in the state. Many of the clergy, if not most of them, had worked closely with the Shah, and some of them had been in his inner circle. If they did not approve of what the Shah was doing they at least acquiesced or remained silent in their opposition. Ayatollah Khomeini was of the school of thought that advocated an active clergy that is not only politically active in opposing the government's policies, but is also pro-active by participating in the government to assure that the proper government actions are taken. According to Arjomand

From the perspective of the evolution of Shiite theory of authority, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran completed the medieval revolution in Shiite thought which consisted in the adoption of the principle of ijtihad. From the perspective of institutionalization of clerical authority in Shiite Iran, it completes the amazing trajectory `from the state's theologians to the theologians' state.' It can thus be viewed as culmination of the intermittent growth of Shiite clerical authority which ... has transformed Iran into the first Shiite theocracy in history.(64)

Arjomand also argues:

As part of the general revival of religion in the late 1960s and 1970s, there was a marked increase in the popularity of Dou's-yea nodbeh, the supplication for the return of the hidden Imam as the Mehdi, and special sessions were being arranged for its recital. Without claiming to be the returning Mehdi, Khomeini ingeniously exploited this messianic yearning by encouraging his acclamation as the Imam from about 1970 onward. An unmistakably apocalyptic mood was observable during the religious month of Moharram 1399 (December 1978) among the masses in Tehran. Intense discussions were raging as to whether or not Khomeini was the Imam of the age and the Lord of Time.(65)

No consensus was developed among the Grand Ayatollahs about Khomeini's claim to the Imamate. While initially they might have not paid notice to the claim, or might have thought it innocuous since he was in exile at the time, they later had to give the claim more serious consideration. After his return to Iran in 1979, the Grand Ayatollahs refused to acknowledge the claim by ignoring it, following the same approach as they had followed under the Shah. A rift existed between two major factions of the ruling clergy known as Imam's line - the followers of Khomeini's idea of velayat-e faqih and the Hojjatieh, the more fundamentalist and non-pragmatic elements. Khomeini embarked on a plan to eliminate this active opposition among the clergy leadership by intimidation in some cases and by "demoting" one of the Grand Ayatollahs, Shariat-Madari, in another when Ayatollah Talagani criticized the war with Iraq.(66)

The attention given to religious differences and disagreements is bound to direct the attention away from the real issues and to suggest that the war might have been a religious war. It is true that Khomeini used the term "jihad" in reference to the war. However, the use of this term is illusory when translated into English. Neither the Iranians were attempting to convert the Iraqis into their brand of Islam, nor were the Iraqis attempting to do the same. Jihad, however, can be used in many different senses, one of them is that used by Khomeini to mean restoring religion to its proper place in the individuals' lives.

While the Iraqis code named their military operation the "new Qadisiyya,"(67) and while the Iranians referred to Saddam Hussein as "Saddam Yazid,"(68) and while Khomeini referred to Saddam Hussein as kafir (infidel) and Saddam referred to Khomeini as the "bearded Shah", the two leaders never referred to their fight as one between Sunnis and Shi'a. Khomeini constantly called for an "Islamic revolution", not a Shi'i revolution. Saddam Hussein claimed that he was fighting the battle of destiny for the Arabs against the Persians.

To demonstrate their allegiance to Islam, the Iranians made Arabic a required subject in school and the second official language in the country. This is not a concession to the Arab minority in Khozestan, nor was it to better understand the enemy. It is to allow the Iranians the opportunity to better understand their religion through readings of the Quran and other religious sources. In addition to the formal school instruction, Arabic is now taught in mosques, Husseiniyyas and Alawiyyas.

The armed forces of both belligerents fought with full commitment, whether they were regular forces or volunteers, not in the name of religious sectarianism but in the name of country. When their own soil was under attack the armies fought the hardest and the conflict was no longer considered one between the leaders but to defend the homeland. The presence of foreign troops on the national soil brought the people together in a unity that their own leaders were unable to accomplish. The commitment of the fighting forces was not reduced when they were on the offensive, it is the will to defend the homeland (i.e.; nationalist feelings) that increased when they were on the defensive.(69)

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THE OPPORTUNITY FACTOR AND THE MISCALCULATIONS:

Wars must be fought on the political front as well as the military front in a partnership between the two. The decision to enter into a war or to end a war is a political one. The timing of the decisions is extremely important. The military decides which battles to enter, how many troops to commit, how these troops will be used and how much and what types of equipment to use. The politicians and the military must live with the consequences of their partners' decisions. Both partners must capitalize on the opportunities available at the time of decision making. Since timing determines chances of success one must select the circumstances which are most favorable, or those that are least unfavorable for the particular decisions. It is when timing is not properly observed that miscalculations take place, and when improper weight is given to certain factors that incorrect or inappropriate decisions are made. The war between Iran and Iraq seems to have had its share of miscalculations.

In the relations between Iran and Iraq during the Shah's regime, Iran offered many provocations and pressed for her demands, as outlined above. However, Iraq could only respond by making concessions. The crucial factor motivating Iraqi moves must have been the perceived relative military strength of both countries. The Iraqi armed forces were no match to their Iranian counterparts in numbers, equipment or training.

However, when the monarchy was overthrown and replaced by an unstable regime, the picture and perceptions changed. The new regime was in charge of restructuring the society and the politics of Iran. Many of the institutions of the Shah's regime fell in disfavor under the new rules. Particularly affected were the armed services. The Shah was personally involved in the promotion and retention of the high ranking officers of all branches of the service. When his regime fell, the higher ranks among the military were among the first casualties of the new regime. Nearly all officers with ranks above colonel were eliminated either through leaving the country in a hurry, or through executions. The military forces, hit hard by the executions of the first two years of the revolution were virtually leaderless. The lower ranking officers and the soldiers were demoralized as they felt that they were paying for crimes that they had not committed. A pro-Shah stigma was attached to serving in the military. A general sense of mistrust prevailed between the civilians and the military. A new military group was being recruited to be the sons of the revolution, to be called the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Pasdaran, and replace the old imperial forces. Desertion rates became high among the regular military personnel. And as the war between Iraq and Iran broke out, the Pasdaran had not had enough time to group itself or to be properly equipped for combat.

Ethnic rebellions, demanding autonomy, were starting, spreading and gaining strength throughout the provinces.(70) Disappointed by the lack of an open mind on the part of the revolutionary forces towards ethnic groups' grievances, the Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Azores and other ethnic minorities saw the only available option to them as open rebellion in pursuit of more democratic objectives and autonomy.(71) The Pasdaran became pre-occupied with ethnic violence and engaged in counter-violence, leaving the national borders unguarded.

The Iranian economy was in a shambles in the aftermath of the revolutionary months. Production stoppage and import and export reductions occurred with much frequency.(72) Oil production had reached a screeching halt during the revolutionary months, and with that there was loss of revenues and markets. In the first few months after the revolution, shortages in basic commodities, especially food and petroleum by-products were worse than during the Shah's days. There was growing dissatisfaction among the middle and upper classes which were no longer able or permitted to lead the lives they were accustomed to under the old regime. Many of them went into self-exile, either internally or out of the country. All productive forces found themselves stressed by the new conditions.

Radical student elements were holding Americans hostage in their own embassy. The act of the students became the subject of intense diplomatic activities that pre-occupied the leaders and peoples of the United States and Iran for almost a year before the start of the war with Iraq.

And, as if the above was not enough, there was a struggle within the leadership of the revolution. The outcome of that struggle would determine the future direction of the revolution: should it be a modernizing Islamic revolution that finds "Islamic" answers to modern problems; or, should it be a revolution that seeks to supplant the entire social structure and values and replace them with "Islamic" ones? The first alternative would allow the Westernized modernizers to take charge of the revolution, while the second would place the conservative mullahs in charge. The first alternative would allow a certain mixing of elements of secularism and religious dogma, while the second would attempt to retain the purity of Islamic values. The questions raised were not for idle academic debate but had far-reaching consequences not only for the revolution but for the country and the region. But perhaps more importantly for the actors themselves, the likelihood of their political, and physical, survival depended on the answers to these questions. In the annals of the Iranian Revolution, the ousting of the Shah marked the success of the "first revolution." The take-over of the American Embassy marked the success of the "second revolution," as it symbolized victory over foreign dominance and imperialism. The "third revolution" was realized when the conservative elements among the leaders of the "first revolution" succeeded in ousting the secular and modernizing elements, either by execution, as in the case of Sadik Qotbzadeh, or removal from office and self-exile, as in the case of Abolhassan Bani Sadr.

It should not, therefore, be surprising that Taher-Kheli states:

Iraq's leaders chose an excellent moment to attack Iran. September is the right season for an infantry assault, and in late 1980 both superpowers had focused their attention elsewhere (Afghanistan and Poland in the case of the Soviet Union, the hostage crisis and the presidential elections in the US case). It was a time also when the Iranians seemed least capable of defending themselves. One and a half years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned triumphantly to Tehran, the Revolution had frayed; oil revenues remained low while inflation and unemployment ran high; many Iranians, alienated from the government, especially the Kurds and leftists, had openly rebelled; and, most important, the large and well armed military forces built up for years by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi had apparently collapsed. Morale plummeted, discipline eroded, and troops deserted as the armed forces fell into deep disfavor under Khomeini. The Mullahs purged officers, cancelled weapons purchases, terminated military privileges, and established a rival force that was loyal to them (the Pasdaran, or Revolutionary Guards). US supplied materiel had been cutoff on November 9, 1979, five days after the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, though Iran did manage to acquire some spare parts through third parties.(73)

All of these factors no doubt entered into the considerations of the Iraqi planners. They anticipated defections from the military, as they had been promised by fugitive generals who consulted with the Iraqis for about six months prior to the start of the war, such as Shahpur Bakhtiyar and Ghulam Ali Oveisi.(74) But these generals who were out of touch with the political realities during the Shah's time were not any closer to reality in the post- revolutionary era. They heard only what they wanted to hear, and when the others spoke they did not listen. Consequently, their advice was as good as their information. Their advice, furthermore, was self-serving as they entertained wishful thinking of returning triumphantly to rule Iran after a defeat at the hands of the Iraqis. But neither their objectives nor those of the Iraqis were to be realized.

The Iraqi planners also anticipated that their efforts on behalf of the ethnic minorities, and particularly the Arabs in Khozestan,(75) would be rewarded at least with a show of understanding of Iraq's objectives, if not with full cooperation that would serve mutual objectives. The results were quite different from the expectations. The Arabs of Khozestan became war refugees in the inland, or put up stiff resistance. Khorramshahr became Khuninshahr, the City of Blood, as it fell only after tens of thousands of casualties. When the Iraqis finally took it over they found little more than rubble. Abadan, despite a long siege and much destruction, never fell to the Iraqis.

It appears that the Iraqi planners had planned for a war with limited objectives that aimed to get their military forces deep enough in Iran to destabilize the Iranian authorities, but not too deep to cut the Iraqi forces off from their main supply lines or to risk the possibility of a guerilla warfare with the Iranians. From their experience with the Kurds, a guerilla warfare was not a desirable outcome. They apparently had hoped that with their forces on Iranian soil there would be counter-revolutions and further ethnic unrest. But the counter-revolutions did not occur. The Iraqi forces became so bogged down in protracted war,(76) first on Iranian soil and later, after June 1982, on Iraqi soil, that they could not declare victory.

It also appears that the Iraqi planners' perceptions were that the war would be a quick surgical operation that would end in few days, or weeks at most. They apparently did not, and could not, calculate the economic damage that might result from a protracted war. The Iranians quickly gained the upper hand by blocking off the Shatt al-Arab, and then by inflicting heavy losses on Iraqi oil facilities. At first unable to ship her oil, Iraq's economic difficulties began to appear and accumulate. It was only the economic assistance from other Arab Gulf states, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, that helped Iraq withstand the mounting costs of the war. At the end of the war, Iraq had accumulated debts, not counting those to Gulf Cooperation Council members, estimated at $54 billion.(77) "Given Iraq's limited physical access to Gulf waters, its proximity to Iranian fire power, and its experience with Iran's ability to impose its will on Iraqi navigation, it is incomprehensible that Iraqi leaders did not foresee Iran's ability to cripple with impunity their oil exports to world markets through the Gulf at the outset of the war."(78)

Nor did Iraq have a monopoly on miscalculations. The Iranians also underestimated the Iraqi response to increasing hostile actions on the common border. And even though they had the Iraqi war plans given to them two months prior to the crossing of the borders by Iraqi forces,(79) they disregarded their intelligence information and continued the shelling and bombardment of Iraqi targets between April and September 1980. Apparently they thought that the Iraqi plans were a bluff which they intended to call. After all, past experience had taught the Iranians that the Iraqis always backed down under pressure. Furthermore, the internal struggle for power led the mullahs to believe that Bani Sadr's claims about an impending Iraqi attack or war plans were a ploy to give him advantage over them. They discounted his claims and pushed on in their desire to gain control over the internal political scene.

Also, the Iranians assumed that the added pressure on the border would destabilize the Iraqi government and cause an internal rebellion that would overthrow the government, or that the Shi'i majority would rise in rebellion and form an Islamic republic in Iraq. But neither of these assumptions proved correct. Later, as the war progressed and the Iranian army crossed the Iraqi border in 1982, the Khomeini group apparently believed that the Iraqi Shi'is would rise in rebellion after having been "liberated". They had a group ready to assume the mantle of power once the Saddam Hussein regime collapsed.(80) But neither did the Shi'is in Iraq rebel nor did Saddam Hussein's regime collapse. The thought of being taken over and controlled by Iran must have been too much for Iraqi nationalist Shi'is.

Furthermore, numerous opportunities were offered to the Iranians by the Iraqis, the United Nations and other international bodies and organizations to bring the fighting to an end, but Iran declined in all cases. Iran could have had more favorable conditions for negotiations of peace with Iraq had Khomeini opted for a peaceful settlement prior to 1988, even under the terms of the first peace offers by Iraq, made between October 1980 and March 1982. During the earlier period, Iraq appeared to be willing to offer peace with magnanimity. Furthermore, world public opinion, including the opinion of most of the supporters of Iraq, felt either that the war was unnecessary or that the Iranians were victims of Iraqi ambitions. Many had branded Iraq as the aggressor. Even by June 1982 when Iran recovered all of its territory, there could have been peace on Iran's terms. But when Iran insisted on revenge, the sympathy of world public opinion eroded, Iraqi magnanimity began to disappear, and the sub-surface and mostly rhetorical support of the Arab Gulf states for Iraq began to be real and above board. By the time Iran accepted the UN-proposed cease fire in July 1988, the conditions, outside of Iran, were decidedly the least favorable for Iran.

One other miscalculation which both Iran and Iraq committed was the assumption that they would have steady and reliable supplies of weapons and ammunitions. Facts were to prove differently. By the end of the war, fifty-three countries had supplied weapons to the combatants, not to mention private weapons suppliers, with less than twenty countries, primarily Middle Eastern ones, supplying weapons to only one party. Ironically and according to Jane's Defence Weekly, Iraq sold to Iran, through a third party, weapons that had been captured in earlier battles, at a profit. It appears that the profit motive was the sole objective behind the multi-billion dollar arms deals throughout the eight years of fighting.

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PERSONALITY CLASHES:

Perhaps least significant among reasons cited for the war between Iraq and Iran are those related to personal conflicts between the leaders of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini. Some commentators, however, seem to give such differences prominence in their analyses. For example, Speedhar refers to the "bad blood" between Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini.(81) Amin states that Khomeini alleged that "President Saddam Hussein of Iraq was `more criminal than the Shah.'"(82) Ghareeb cites "deep personal ... differences" which continued to divide the two countries.(83) Taheri argued that "Khomeini would be portrayed as a mad mullah seeking personal power to return Iran to the 'dark ages'."(84)

The aforementioned and others allege that the personality clashes date back to disagreements following Iraq's decision to enter into a political truce with the Shah in 1975, which effected the exile of Khomeini from Iraq to France in 1978. They agree with the Third World International which states that "what really surprised the Iraqis is that though they risked the wrath of the Shah for harboring Ayatollah Khomeini for years on end, the latter within a year of his return to Iran went on the war path with them."(85)

There is no denying that politics in the Middle East, including the Gulf region, tend to focus on personal relations between the leaders and to fluctuate with these relations. And there is no denying that personal distaste and even hatred developed and grew between the Iraqi and Iranian leaders. But if consistency is to be preserved, there has not been a war in the Middle East as a result of personal differences between leaders of countries. The Iran- Iraq war could not be an exception. Leaders would be hard put justifying a war on purely, or even largely, personal animosities. Deeply seated national and ideological differences, legal and territorial claims, minority politics, and other factors discussed above, are much more compelling as causes of the war between the two neighbors than "bad blood" or "deep personal differences". To argue to the contrary is to deny the leaders' commitment to their causes and ideologies and their life-long struggle to make their ideologies into realities. The leaders of the two countries could be classified as "true believers" who felt compelled to convert everyone else to their ideas, and who were driven by their beliefs.

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FOOTNOTES

*  This article is in copyright.  No reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of the author.

1.  For a fuller understanding of the historical relations between Iraq and Iran, see for example: Majid Khaddouri, The Gulf War: The Origins and the Implications of the Iraq-Iran Conflict (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988); Paul Balta, Iran-Irak: Une Guerre de 5000 ans (Paris: editions anthropos, 1987); M.S. El-Azhary, The Iran-Iraq War: An Historical, Economic and Political Analysis (London and Canberra: Croom Helm, and University of Exeter, Centre for Arab Gulf Studies; and Basra: Centre for Arab Gulf Studies, 1984); Richard N. Schofield, The Evolution of the Shatt al-Arab Boundary Dispute (Cambridgeshire, England: Middle East and North African Studies Press Limited, 1986); John W. Limbert, Iran at War With History (Boulder: Westview Press; London and Sydney: Croom Helm, 1987); Said Amin Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order and Societal Changes in Shiite Iran from the Beginning to 1890 (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984); Phebe Marr, The Modern History of Iraq (Boulder: Westview Press; and London: Longman, 1985); Nikki Keddi, ed., Religion and Politics in Iran: Shi'ism from Quietism to Revolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983).

2.   Khaddouri, op. cit., pp. 33-35.

3.   Ibid.

4.   Ibid., also Nick Childs, The Gulf War (East Sussex, England: Wayland, 1989) p. 21; Kaiyan Homi Kaikobad, The Shatt al-Arab Boundary Question: A Legal Reappraisal (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 68-69; and Khalid Al-Izzi, The Shatt al-Arab River Dispute in Terms of Law (Baghdad: The Ministry of Information, 1972), p. 78.

5.  Same sources as above

6.  Childs, loc. cit., Khaddouri, op. cit., pp. 38-39.

7.  League of Nations, League of Nations Treaties, Vol. 190, Treaty No. 4423 (Geneva, Switzerland: League of Nations, 1938). (See Appendix I for text of the Treaty.)

8.  United Nations, Treaty Series, Treaties and International Agreements Registered or Filed and Recorded with the Secretariat of the United Nations, Vol. 1017, Treaty No. 14903 (New York: United Nations, 1976). (See Appendix II for text of the Treaty.)

9.  For treatment of the legal issues related to the Iran-Iraq War and to the historical and legal disputes between the two countries, as well as related issues in international law, see: Kaikobad, ibid.: Thomas Naff and Ruth C. Matson, Water in the Middle East: Conflict or Cooperation (Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1984); R.K. Ramazani, International Straits of the World: The Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz (Alpen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1979); S.H. Amin, International Legal Problems of the Gulf (London: Middle East and North Africa Studies Ltd., 1981); Khalid Al-Izzi, The Shatt al-Arab River Dispute in Terms of Law (Baghdad, Iraq: The Ministry of Information, 1972); R. Sanghvi, Shatt al-'Arab: The Facts Behind the Issues (London: Transorient, 1969); D.P. O'Connel, International Law, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965); Max Sorenson, ed., A Manual of Public International Law (New York: Macmillan, 1968); G. Swarzenberger, A Manual of International Law, 5th ed. (London: Stevens Max, 1967); L. Openheim, International Law, 8th ed. (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1955); Charles G. MacDonald, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Law of the Sea: Political and International Legal Development in the Persian Gulf (Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1980).

10.  See Appendix III for text of UN Security Council Resolution No. 598.

11.  Cited in John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, The Gulf War: Its Origins, History and Consequences (London: Metheun, 1989), p. 35.

12.  For promises made to the Kurds and Kurdish attitude after WW I, see publications under the heading, Iraq, Office of the Civil Commissioner, as follows: Diary of Major E.M. Noel, C.I.E., D.S.O., On Special Duty in Kurdistan: From June 14 to September 21, 1919 (Basrah: Superintendent, Government Press [1920]); Precis of Affairs in Southern Kurdistan During the Great War (Baghdad: Government Press, 1919); Reports on the Civil Situation in Iraq, 1918-1920: Memorandum on Kurdistan Affairs (Baghdad: Civil Commissioner in Mesopotamia, 1920).

13.  See sources cited in Footnote 12 above for the earliest civil unrest in Kurdistan following WW I.

14.   For a more comprehensive look at the Kurdish question, see: Cardri, Saddam Hussein's Iraq: Revolution or Reaction? (London: Cardri; Committee Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq; Zed Books Ltd., 1989); Phebe Marr, The Modern History of Iraq (Boulder: Westview Press; and London: Longman, 1985); Stephen C. Pelletiere, The Kurds: An Unstable Element in the Gulf (Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1984); Sa'ad Jawad, Iraq and the Kurdish Question: 1958-1970 (London: Ithaca Press, 1981); The Truth About Kurds in Iraq (London: The Iraqi Press Office in London, July 1989); Edmund Ghareeb, The Kurdish Question in Iraq (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1981).

15.  See terms of the Treaty.

16.  See the Ideological Imperative below.

 17. Ibid., also see Naff, op. cit., p. 109.

18.  Al Thawrah, September 20, 1980.

19.  Kaikobad, loc. cit.

20.  Statements made in an interview with John Bulloch and Harvey Morris. See their The Gulf War (London: Methuen, 1989), pp. 47-49.

21.  Interviews by this writer with Iraqi officials in the Iraqi Embassy  in London  during the months of November 1989 through January 1990.

22.  Quoted in Abdul Ghani, op. cit., p. 75.

23.  The Guardian, October 16, 1971.

 24. Quoted in Abdul Ghani, op. cit., p. 55.

 25. Ibid., pp. 56-57.

 26. The New York Times, May 10, 1970.

27.   Chubin and Zabih, op. cit., p. 189.

28.  See above.

29.  In June 1971, Sir William Luce, Special Envoy to the Gulf region, was instructed to "tell the rulers of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah that they could expect no help from Britain in the Persians saw fit to occupy Abu Musa and the Tunbs by force, and that they would be wise, therefore to seek an accommodation with the Shah." See Abdul Ghani, op. cit., p. 91.

30.  Ibid., p. 87.

31.  The Iranian, Vol. 1, N0 11, September 12, 1979, p. 2.

32.  Ibid.

33.  For a comprehensive look at the Ba'ath philosophy and history, see, for example: J.M. Abdul Ghani, Iran & Iraq: The Years of Crisis (London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1984); Tim Niblock, ed., Iraq, the Contemporary State (London & Canberra: Croom Helm; and Exeter: Centre for Arab Gulf Studies, 1982); Khaddouri, The Gulf War; A.H.H. Abidi, "The Iran-Iraq War: A Balance Sheet," in R.C. Sharma, Perspectives on Iran-Iraq Conflict (New Delhi: Bajesh Publications, 1984); Nick Childs, The Gulf War (East Essex, England: Wayland, 1989); Mark A. Heller, The Iran-Iraq War: Implications for Third Parties, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 1984); Majid Khaddouri, Socialist Iraq: A Study in Iraqi Politics Since 1968 (Washington, D.C.: Middle East Institute, 1978); Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Politics in Perspective, translated by A.W. Lu'lu'a (Baghdad: Translation and Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1981); Saddam Hussein, Nazrah fil Dein wal Turath (Baghdad: Dar al Hurriyah, 1978); John Devlin, The Ba'ath Party: A History from Its Origins to 1966 (Stanford: Hoover Institute Press, 1976).

34.  See Heller, The Iran-Iraq War; Khaddouri, The Gulf War; Abdul Ghani, p. 46; The Iranian, An Independent Weekly, Vol. 1, No. 5, July 25, 1979, p. 7.

35.  Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (London and other cities: Hutchinson, 1985), p. 19.

36.  James A. Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988); also, Abdul Ghani, ibid., p. 55; Shahram Chubin and Sepehr Zabih, The Foreign Relations of Iran: A Developing State in a Zone of Great Power Conflict (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1974), p. 189.

37.  Yahya Armajani, Iran (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972), p. 62.

38.  Abdul Ghani, op. cit., p. 78.

39.  See an example of such changes in Al Thawrah, December 27, 1972.

40.  Ibid.; also, this attitude was pervasive in interviews held with numerous Iraqi officials and is most evident in government publications.

41. The Washington Post, February 2, 1982, quoted in Abdul Ghani, ibid., p. 85.

42.  MacDonald, Iran and Saudi Arabia, p. 117-118.

43.  Al Thawrah, February 3, 1975.

44.  Abdul Ghani, op cit., pp. 89-92; J.B. Kelley, Arabia, the Gulf and the West (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 89; R. K. Ramazini, Persian Gulf, Iran's Role (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1972). See Appendix C for terms of the agreement between the Shah and the Sheikh of Sharjah.

45.  Abdul Ghani, op. cit., pp. 86-87.

46.  Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Al-Niza'a al-' Iraqi-al-Iran fil Qanoon al-Duwali (Baghdad: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1981), p. 15.

47.  Quoted in Ramazani, Revolutionary Iran, p. 64.

48.  For Khomeini's views on nationalism, see, for example: Belta, Iran-Irak; Khaddouri, The Gulf War; Daniel Piper, "A Border Adrift: Origins of the Conflict" in Tahir-Kheli, op. cit., pp. 3-26; Nazih N. Ayubi, "Arab Relations in the Gulf; the Future and Its Prologue" in Tahir-Kheli, op. cit., pp. 146-171; Abdul Ghani, ibid., pp. 170-179; Ruhollah Khomeini, Islamic Government [n.p.] [n.d.], p. 14; David Simpson, Behind Iranian Lines, pp. 198-199; Ayatollah Khomeiny, Principes Politiques, Philosophiques, Sociaux et Religioux: Extraits de trois ouvrages majeurs de l'Ayatollah (Paris: Editions Libres-Hallier, 1979); Amir Tahir, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Government (London and other cities: Hutchinson, 1985).

49.  See Khaddouri, The Gulf War, pp. 107-112.

50  Piper, op. cit., p. 7; Abdul Ghani, op. cit., pp. 182-184; Al Thawrah, September 18, 1980 and May 15, 1982; The Iranian: An Independent Weekly, Vol. 1, No. 25, July 25, 1979, p. 7; Saddam Hussein, The Khomeini Religion (Baghdad: Dar al Mamun, 1988); Latif Naseif Jasim, Al-Zahira al-Khomeiniyya (The Khomeini Phenomenon) (London: Iraqi Press Office, 1981).

51.  Revolutionary Iran's intentions to "export" their revolution were declared as early as February 25, 1979, when Ibrahim Yazdi, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Revolutionary Affairs, said that "the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran has shown our Arab neighbors that Islam provides the ideological basis for change within Muslim countries and that it can also replace Arab nationalism as a rallying point for the Arab people.... From now on, all Islamic movements which were dormant and apologetic in their approach to change or action will come out in the open." (cited in Martin Wright, Iran: The Khomeini Revolution: Countries in Crisis [Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1989], pp. 52-53.) Yazdi was echoing Khomeini's call in Islamic Government, "We have no alternative but to work for destroying the symbol of treason and injustice among the unjust rulers of peoples. This is a duty that all Muslims wherever they may be are entrusted - a duty to create a victorious and triumphant Islamic political revolution." (p. 14) It is worth recalling that, by definition, all rulers are "unjust rulers of peoples" in the absence of the true Imams. Also, see Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations, translated and annotated by Hamid Algar (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981), p. 48, where Khomeini said: "Both law and reason require that we not permit governments to retain this non-Islamic or anti-Islamic character. The proofs are clear. First, the existence of a non-Islamic political order necessarily results in non-implementation of the Islamic order...."

52. For better understanding of the Shi'i theory of authority and legitimacy of government, see: Khomeini, Islamic Government; Khomeini, Islam and Revolution; Khomeini, Principes Politiques; Khomeini, Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi, A Clarification of Questions: An Unabridged Translation of Resaleh Towzih al-Masael, translated by J. Borujerdi (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984); Said Amir Arjomand, Authority and Political Culture in Shi'ism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988); Arjomand, The Turban and the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988); Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Social Order and Societal Change in Shiite Iran from the Beginning to 1980 (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984); Abdul Fazil Ezzati, The Revolutionary Islam and the Islamic Revolution (Tehran: Ministry of Islamic Guidance, 1981); R.A. Henry, Pensees Politiques de l'Ayatollah Khomeyni (Paris: Editions A.D.P.F., 1980); Ayatollah Yahya Noori, Islamic Government and Revolution in Iran (Glasgow: Royston Limited, 1985)

53.  According to Khomeini, "The 'quality of justice' that is demanded of a religious scholar includes not only the practice of equity in all social dealings, but also complete abstention from major sins, the consistent performance of all devotional duties, and the avoidance of conduct incompatible with decorum." Islam and Revolution, p. 59.

54.  Khaddouri, The Gulf War, pp. 109-111 and Piper, op. cit., p. 11.

55.  Keddi, Religion and Politics, p. 9

56.  Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (London and other cities: Hutchinson, 1985), p. 151.

57.  Khomeini, Islamic Government, p. 32.

58.  Ibid., p. 37.

59.  Ibid., p. 30.

60.  Taheri, op cit., p. 163.

61.  Arjomand, Authority and Political Culture, pp. 3-6.

62.  Ibid.

63.  Nizar, op. cit., p. 1.

64.  Arjomand, op. cit., p. 17.

65.  Arjomand, The Turban..., p. 101.

66.  Ibid., p. 156.

67.  Thus emphasizing the victory of the Arabs over the Persians, not the Sunnis over the Shi'is.

68.  In reference to Yazid, the second Umayyad Caliph whose forces fought in Karbala and killed Hussein, the third Imam.

69.  A.H.H. Abidi, "The Iran-Iraq War, A Balance Sheet," in Sharma, ibid., pp. 67-93, rightfully states: "...it was not a war between Sunnis and Shias, although the dominant leadership was so. If it were a Sunni-Shia war, how could the bulk of Iraqi soldiers who are Shias take to the field?

70.  It appears that the better-off socially and economically the ethnic groups were, and the more access they had to political leaders, the more active they were in pressing their demands for autonomy and political expression. According to Nikki R. Keddi, the Kurds were the most favored of the ethnic groups by having access to the Shah and the various cabinet positions held by their ranks, and were also the most politically aware. The Baluchis had "the poorest and most backward region of Iran," which looked much like a colony of Tehran..." But they were willing to express only "resentment" but not rebellion. The exceptions were the Turkmans who "were not among the groups most hostile to Mohammed Reza Shah, and soon after the 1979 revolution, they began to show concern about economic issues and fear that the Sunnis were being discriminated against by an increasingly Shiite state." The Azerbaijanis' opinions were divided, as some of them desired autonomy and others, such as Ahmed Kasravi and Hassan Taqizadeh, "favored Persianization of Azerbaijan and all of Iran." "The Minorities Question in Iran," in Tahir-Kheli, op. cit., pp. 85-108.

71.  Edgar O'Balance, The Gulf War (London and other cities: Brassy's Defence Publishers, A Member of the Bergamon Group, 1988), p. 21.

72.  By contrast, Iraq's economy was improving, as Iraq had replaced Iran as the second leading oil producer after Saudi Arabia. See Ramazani, Revolutionary Iran, p. 57.

73.  Abdel Majid Farid, ed., Oil and Security in the Arabian Gulf (London: Croom Helm, in association with the Arab Research Centre, 1981), p. 2.

74.   Khaddouri, The Gulf War, p. 84.

75.  "On 26 April [1980] over 100,000 Arabs demonstrated in Khorramshahr in favor of their leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Taher Khanqani, an advocate of autonomy, and for a greater share in the oil revenue. An even larger demonstration took place at Abadan on 30 May, which got out of hand. Admiral Madani [the Defense Minister] as the Governor of the Province, had mustered a detachment of sailors and soldiers and he ordered them to open fire." O'Balance, ibid., see also Balta, Iran-Irak, p. 7.

76.  "... it is possible that President Hussein and his advisors underestimated the ability of the Iranian army to resist even a low-intensity attack. They may have overestimated the military effectiveness of their own military forces or allowed their expectations to place too high a probability on an anticipated uprising of the Arab population." William D. Staudemeier, "A Strategic Analysis" in Tahir-Kheli, op. cit., p. 45.

77. The Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Iraq, No. 4, 1988.

78.  Ramazini, Revolutionary Iran, pp. 70-71.

79.  Bulloch and Morris, op. cit., p. 47.

80.  Abdul Ghani, op. cit., pp. 185-86, states that "In order to increase her pressure on the Iraqi government, Iran designated Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakeem, a prominent Iraqi Shi'i theologian exiled in Iran, as head of the 'Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq'." Bulloch and Morris claim that the Iranians were ready to set up a government under the leadership of dissident Iraqi army officer, General Hassan al-Naqib, "as the Quisling they would use if the Iraqi army rose against Saddam Hussein. And if, as the Iranian leaders believed, the experience of Iran were repeated and the Shia masses of the south revolted against the Ba'ath party, then they had ready the man they really wanted to put in charge of Baghdad, Abdel Bakr al-Hakim, son of the murdered Iraqi ayatollah and a man who would faithfully transform secular Iraq into an extension of Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic empire." (p. 148) The Iraqi government claimed to have obtained detailed plans, tactics and the organizational structure of the Da'wa Party from Abdul-Amir Humay al-Mansuri, who had been taken into custody. Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Al-Niza'a al-'Iraqi-al- Irani fil Qanun al-Duwali, (Baghdad: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1981) p. 15.

81.  Speedhar, Iran-Iraq War (New Delhi: ABC Publishing House, 1985), p. 2.

82.  Amin, op. cit., pp. 68-69.

83.  Edmund Ghareeb, "Iraq in the Gulf," in Axelgard, op. cit., p. 73.

84.  Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (London and other cities: Hutchinson, 1985), p. 202.

85.  Third World International, October 1988, Vol. 12, No. 10, p. 30.

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From the New York Times
November 5, 2000
MIDDLE EAST MANEUVERING

Palestinians Fight, but Iraq and Iran May Be the Winners

By ELAINE SCIOLINO

W ASHINGTON -- As Israelis and Palestinians battle for the same small piece of land, Iraq and Iran are using the conflict to portray themselves as the true champions of the Palestinian cause, and hence as the leaders of the entire region.

Iraq, in particular, has already benefited so much that it looks as if the Palestinians, believing that they're liberating Palestine, may be liberating Saddam Hussein instead.

The current crisis has accelerated the erosion of international sanctions against Iraq, allowing Mr. Hussein to argue that doing business with him is, by implication, striking a blow against America, which is excoriated regionally as the protector of Israel.

Since Saddam International Airport in Baghdad opened in August, more than 40 planes have landed from abroad, carrying aid as well as businessmen and government officials. Jordan announced last month that it would no longer let Lloyd's of London agents inspect shipments bound for Iraq arriving at the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Syria and Iraq plan to reopen their cross-border oil pipeline this month, in defiance of sanctions, and Turkey has recently become the first NATO country to upgrade relations with Baghdad to ambassadorial level. Even Iraq's Kurds have established a relationship of coexistence with the regime, denying Iraqi opposition leaders access to Kurdish territory.

The end of Iraq's isolation is especially worrisome, given that even before the outbreak of violence more than a month ago, Mr. Hussein had made a series of startlingly belligerent speeches, as he did before the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Last August, for example, he criticized "those rulers and kings who have sold out their souls" by allowing what he called the occupying foreigner to rule over them. He has called on the Arab masses to overthrow their rulers and told his people never to trust outsiders. At the recent emergency Arab summit in Cairo (the first such meeting Iraq had been invited to in a decade), Iraqi officials criticized their Arab brothers for not waging holy war against Israel. Iraq also mobilized several divisions on its western border, offering to step in if Syria needed military help. (The United States, aided by a number of Arab states, including Syria, ordered him to pull them back. He did.)

"We're seeing the old Saddam," said Judith Yaphe, a senior research professor at National Defense University. "He's trying to prove to his own population and to the Arab street that he's the only Arab standing up to the West. He's trying to send a message that, `I'm in charge. I can do whatever I want. Watch me.' "

No one yet knows what, exactly, to watch for. Mr. Hussein "will use the pressure that he hopes the street could bring to demolish sanctions and to remind his neighbors that they will have to deal with him again as a legitimate Arab leader," Ms. Yaphe said, adding that even the next American president will have to wait for "what his next move will be in testing the resolve of the new administration."

Iran's role in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis is more complicated, because the Islamic Republic is trying to do two things at once.

On the one hand, its reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, has worked for three years to position Iran as a responsible regional power and a reliable economic partner, forging alliances with key Arab and European governments. Last week Mr. Khatami was in Japan, the first Iranian leader to visit since the 1979 revolution, promoting his campaign for a "dialogue among civilizations" and granting Japanese firms negotiating rights for the development of Azadegan, the world's biggest undeveloped oil field.

On the other hand, one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy (and domestic legitimacy) has always been enmity toward Israel and support for the Palestinians. Iran continues to provide the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah with weapons and money. It also gives money and possibly weapons to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Half a dozen of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the remnants of a far larger force deployed years ago, still train "Islamic warriors" near Baalbek in Lebanon.

Should the Palestinians and Israel make a comprehensive peace, however, the Iranian people may begin to question the point of their country's remaining a militant theocracy. For that reason, the current crisis hurts Iran's democratic reform movement and strengthens the hand of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader (who wields more power than the elected president) and the conservative clerics behind him.

Mr. Khamenei has called Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, "a traitor and an idiot" for making concessions to Israel. And in a sermon to more than 100,000 military volunteers two weeks ago, he said the only solution to the Middle East crisis was to destroy "the Zionist regime."

The crowd responded with chants of "Ready, leader, we are ready," and some current and former military commanders said the volunteers were ready to fight and die to liberate Palestine.

It is unlikely their government will give them the chance. Iran cannot afford another war. Indeed, it cannot do anything terribly provocative and still continue to repair its international reputation. But if the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues, Iran may find it more difficult to maintain its balance between re-entering the community of nations and calling for the destruction of one of its members.

Even Ayatollah Khamenei seems to recognize this. Instead of pledging arms shipments, troops or massive aid in his sermon, he called for Palestinians to stage a referendum to decide what kind of government they want.

Ultimately, the greatest fear of leaders in the region and Washington policymakers is that the two battle-tested powers of the Persian Gulf might forge an alliance against Israel, however temporary. But Iran and Iraq have never even signed a peace treaty ending their eight-year border war. Each still holds some of the other's prisoners, and Iraq allows an armed Iranian opposition group to operate from its territory, while Iran gives refuge to an Iraqi Shiite opposition group.

Instead, Iran and Iraq will probably continue to use this moment for their separate purposes. One thing neither is likely to do is offer much more support to the Palestinians.

 

 

 

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