Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars

By Dilip Hiro | Go to book overview
Save to active project

INTRODUCTION

On a clear day, from the embankment of the Shatt al Arab ( lit., The Arab River) - Arvand Rud (River), to the Iranians - near the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, you can see, beyond the mid-channel island covered with yellowing tall grass, Iraqi territory. Here the Shatt al Arab is only 75 yards (70 meters) wide, about a third of its girth at its mouth in the Gulf.

In January 1989 when I last visited the site it was strewn with marks of the Iran-Iraq War which had ended five months earlier: a sand-bagged bunker dug into the embankment with a helmeted soldier clutching his machine-gun, an armored personnel carrier covered by a dirty tarpaulin, and a rusty, sand-bagged fence near a quay. Not surprising. After all, the Shatt al Arab was at the core of the eight-year-long hostilities between Tehran and Baghdad.

For the last two-fifths of its 120 mile (190 km) length, the Shatt al Arab - beginning at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers at Qurna, Iraq - forms a fluvial border between the neighboring countries. The demarcation of this placid, muddy waterway has been a most contentious issue between Iran and Iraq for many decades - with Baghdad claiming all of the Shatt al Arab, and Tehran demanding a division along its deepest mid-channel, called the thawleg line.

Competition and rivalry between Iran and Iraq date back to the era of the Ottoman Turkish empire (1517-1918) and the Persian/Iranian empire under the Safavids (1501-1722). Iraq was then the easternmost province of the Ottomans, and Iran the nucleus of the Safavid realm. Disputes between the competing empires revolved around boundaries and interference in each other's domestic affairs, conducted through ethnic and sectarian minorities across the ill-defined common frontier.

Until the first quarter of the nineteenth century the presence of migratory tribes in the border areas militated against fixed boundaries. Then tensions continued under the tutelage of European imperial powers, chiefly Britain and Tsarist Russia. Finally, from the 1920s onward the nominally independent states of Iraq and Iran maintained their historical animosity in changed circumstances, at first under the direct influence of Britain, and later - after 1958 - as truly independent countries pursing their respective national interests.

After the Safavid chief, Shah Ismail (r.1501-24), had consolidated his newly

-1-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 389

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?