1980 to 1988 Iran and Iraq War

Iran and Iraq conflict have a long history in which, as practiced in any confrontation, it is difficult to find "right or wrong" as it involves ethnic and political factors. During this period, the situation was complicated by the fact that quite aggressive authoritarian regimes have come to power in both countries. In this situation, the conflict was totally predictable. This war was very brutal and resulted in numerous victims on both sides. Yet, even even though the authorities had officially solved the dispute and ceased the hostility, the cause of the conflict was not resolved. The Iran-Iraq War shows the consequences towards which the permissive policy of the international community may lead. In fact, there were no attempts to solve the conflict (apart from efforts of the UN). This paper aims to analyze the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988.

“On 1 April 1980, the Iranian backed al-Daawa party attempted to assassinate Iraq`s Deputy Premier, Tariq Aziz” (Kostiner, 2009, p. 48). Dozens of young people were killed and wounded. Soon another bomb was neutralized. On the 5th of April, during the funeral of the victims of the terrorist sabotage in Baghdad, another bomb exploded. It was thrown into a crowd from the window of an Iranian school, which was open by the Iranian-Iraqi agreement on cultural cooperation. Thus, once again the victims of the explosion were innocent people.

Since these bloody events, the war between Iran and Iraq had become almost inevitable. Saddam Hussein gave the order to bomb the Iranian border town of Qasr-e Shirin. According to the official memorandum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, from 23 February 1979 to 26 July 1980, Iranian naval, air, and ground forces committed 244 “acts of aggression” against Iraq. Among them are bombardments of Iraqi border posts, captures of border guards, seizures of aircraft and ships in the area of Shatt al-Arab. From 23 February to 26 May 1980, the Iranian Air Force violated the state borders of Iraq 54 times.

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“Beginning on 4 September 1980, Iran initiated aggression activities against Iraq, particularly along that border” (Woods, Murray, Nathan, Sabara & Venegas, 2011, p. 171). That day, according to Iraqi sources, Iran’s heavy metal, aircraft, and warships fusilladed Iraqi border towns of Khanaqin, Zurbatiya, Mandali, Naft-Khan, and others, which led to numerous victims. Iraqi border guards and part of regular troops started a fire. On the 17th of September, the Iranian bombardment of the Iraqi part of the Shatt al-Arab increased. Battles took place at Abadan Airport. The headquarters of the Iranian armed forces published a notice in which the whole area of the Shatt al-Arab had been declared a battle zone.

Saddam Hussein had intended to attack the south of the Iran-Iraq border, take possession of Shatt al-Arab and capture the two largest cities of Khuzestan Province – Ahwaz and Dezful. At the same time, the Iraqi President had planned to rebuff the expected invasion of the enemy in oil-rich northern Iraq. “On the afternoon of 22 September 1980, the Iraqis expanded the border conflict” (Bergquist, 1988, p. 57).

The Iraqi air force raided the land and air bases on Iranian territory. These raids led to the strong destruction of airfields in Bakhtaran (before the Islamic revolution – Kermanshah), Sanandaj, and Ahwaz, as well as military bases in Hamadan, Tehran, Isfahan, Dezful, Shiraz, and Tabriz. After the airstrikes, the Iraqi army crossed the border and invaded the land of Iran, capturing Qasr-e Shirin. On the southern front, Iraqi forces invaded Khuzestan. Their further aim was Ahvaz. In response, the Iranian aircraft attacked Basra, Wasit, Baghdad, and Nineveh; the aerial bombardments carried out six Iraqi airports. The invaders put out of action several petrochemical plants.

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“Iraq launched the war with general aims that combined Iraqi and Arab territorial and political claims: regaining control over the Shatt al-Arab waterway and other territories, and removal of Iran`s occupation of the three Gulf islands, Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa” (Potter, 2004, p. 126). Having failed to take Dezful, Ahwaz, and Khorramshahr, the Iraqi part surrounded these cities and exposed them to intense bombardment by artillery and mortars. However, they did not achieve the expected result, as the major Iranian cities had large reserves of ammunition, food, and water. It allowed them to resist the attack of the enemy. In late September, the Iranians stopped an offensive impulse of Iraqi troops. The invasion of Iraq has led to the unprecedented growth of patriotic sentiment among the peoples of Iran.

“Throughout the Iran-Iraq War, Iran demanded Iraq be recognized as the initiator of the war and branded as the aggressor, a demand that was incorporated into Resolution 598” (Amirahmadi & Entessar, 2002, p. 176). At the end of May 1988, Iran and Iraq committed themselves not to cross the border and not to invade the enemy territory in case of release of their occupied lands. Both sides tried to follow this commitment and clearly demonstrated a desire to settle the conflict peacefully. Iranians did not cross the border after the liberation of their region, and Iraqis immediately returned to their territory. In summer, Iraq "liberated" the majority of its territory seized by Iran.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 did not reveal a winner. None of the problems that poisoned relations between the two countries have been solved, and both sides of the conflict failed to achieve their goals. After Iraq’s aggression, Syria and Libya criticized Saddam Hussein and took the side of Iran. Thus, the Iran-Iraq War had no winners but, in terms of foreign policy, it raised the credibility of Iran among the Arab states.

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