Middle East

Iran-Iraq War of 1980

The Iran-Iraq war started in September 1980 when Iraqi forces officially began a full-scale invasion of Iran, a neighbouring country. Among the factors that led to the outbreak of the war include religious, political and territorial factors.

No cease-fire was established until eight years after, making the war to end in a stalemate. At the end of the war, not less than 500, 000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the war, or as a direct consequence of the war.

Iraqi soldiers come into conflict with Iranian troops
along the border region of Iran and Iraq in July
1984 during the Iran and Iraq War. |
Location: Border of Iran and Iraq.
(Photo by Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma via Getty Images)

Iran-Iraq War: Background

The tensions between Iran and Iraq have a historic attachment; it was an age-long suspicion between these states which grew after the establishment of Iraq in the aftermath of WWI. The first contentious issue was the struggle over the control of a waterway.

This waterway was formed by the meeting of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and notably, the southern part of the Euphrates Rivers forms the border between Iran and Iraq. Clearly, an agreement was signed by these two states in 1975, that is, the Algiers Agreement, which limited the control of Iraq over the water and in return, Iran withdrew its aid for insurgency in Iraq.

Element of the Western influence collapsed in Iran with the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979. The pro-Western government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pallavi was overthrown and a fundamentalist regime led by Shi’ite Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini mounted the mantle of leadership.

Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq and a Sunni Muslim had some kinds of ideological fear. Hussein feared that the Iranian Revolution might instigate Shi’ite-dominated Iraq and those people might also topple his government. He appealed to the minority Sunni Muslim population for support to prevent or launch pre-emptive attacks on their neighbouring Iran.

Saddam began to make moves to dispute the border agreements of 1975 and reclaim control over both sides of the Shatt al-Arab, which was Iraq’s only access point to the Persian Gulf.

Iran-Iraq War: Invasion of Iran

Absolutely, Iran never recovered from the military sickness of the revolution and it was quite glaring to Iraq. Hussein used this as a room to further weaken and destroy the remnants of Iranian militarism.

On September 22, 1980, Iranian airbases suffered several airstrikes from the Iraqi launched airstrikes, and to further one of the Iraqi interests in the war, the troops invaded Khuzestan, the oil-producing border region.

In this lieu, it could be seen that Iraq did not only tend to destroy the Iranian stuff of military or any other kind of resisting elements but also sought to control the oil-producing border region.

(Original Caption) 10/22/1980-Basra, Iraq- Iraqi troops riding in
Soviet-made tanks head for a pontoon bridge in an effort
to cross the Karum River northeast of K
hurramshahr. cr: Getty Images

Iraq of course first made some successful invasions and captured the city of Khorramshahr and advanced imperialism with forceful invasion of territories of Iran.

Success was not long-lasting for Iraq as Iran with stiff resistance repelled the attacks and launched a counteroffensive, as well as regaining its once lost territories to Iraq. By 1982, almost all the lost territories of Iran had been regained.

Now, Iraq wanted peace as their forces retreated to the border before the war, but Iran refused to listen to any hearing, rather it decided to also topple the Sunni government of Iraq. Iran furthered the conflict by making an attempt in 1982 to gain control of the port city of Basra, but it was an unsuccessful one.

Iran-Iraq War: A Protracted Conflict

Now Iran had been on the offensive side, but Iraq was not totally submitting or feeling any kind of defeat. Rather, Iraq further solidified its defences and also launched several both air and missile attacks, just as the Iranian forces also never stopped launching their missiles against cities.

Many cities, military sites and oil facilities and transports were seriously affected by the war. The affected oil facilities prompted the United States to send warships to the Persian Gulf to “regulate the output of oil to the global market”

Although Iran had numerical strength, the support Iraq enjoyed from significant regional and extra-regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Arab states and the United States made its weaponry quite sophisticated.

Finally, Iran found itself being isolated from the international community, especially after the 1979-81 hostage crisis involving diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The duo allies of Iran then were Libya and Syria.

However, Iraq did not also meet any favour in the global community as well because of its use of chemical weapons against pro-Iranians in Iraq including Iranian troops as well as Kurdish civilians in Iraq, as alleged.

Ceasefire, Peace Agreement and Legacy

After heavy humiliation with several failed offensives, Iran lost hopes of definite victory over Iraq; meanwhile the latter launched its ground attacks.

In July 1988, the “two nations agreed to accept a United Nations-brokered ceasefire under Security Council Resolution 598; the war ended formally on August 20, 1988.”

The number of total casualty in the war was uncertain, but the estimates range from 1 to 2 million and over half a million killed, which include thousands of Kurds killed by Iraqi forces.

The body of an Iranian soldier following combat
that took place in Al Beida in Iraq in 1984.
The war between Iran and Iraq broke out in 1980
and lasted until 1988 following disputes over border
disagreements. (Photo by Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma via Getty Images)

Receiving support from nearly all Arab nations during the war, Iraq emerged from the war with more power in this region. Fueled by the trusted military capacity and all-time wants of its leader, “on August 2, 1990, Saddam ordered the invasion of Kuwait, beginning the first Persian Gulf War


  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Iran-Iraq War.” Encyclopedia Britannica, October 15, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/event/Iran-Iraq-War.
  2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Iran-Iraq War summary”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Oct. 2009, https://www.britannica.com/summary/Iran-Iraq-War. Accessed 18 April 2022.
  3. Ranj Alaaldin. How the Iran-Iraq war will shape the region decades to come.  (October 9, 2020). Brookings.Edu. Accessed link: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/10/09/how-the-iran-iraq-war-will-shape-the-region-for-decades-to-come/
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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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