The Iran-Iraq War: Chaos in a Vacuum

The Iran-Iraq War: Chaos in a Vacuum

The Iran-Iraq War: Chaos in a Vacuum

The Iran-Iraq War: Chaos in a Vacuum


This book is a major reinterpretation of the Iran-Iraq War, and is a source for reexamining the U.S. involvement in the Gulf. Pelletiere demonstrates that the war was not a standoff in which Iraq finally won a grinding war of attrition through luck, persistence, and the use of poison gas. Instead, Iraq "planned the last campaign almost two years prior to its unfolding. [The Iraqis] trained intensively and expended enormous sums of money to make it [their effort] succeed. What won for them was their superior fighting prowess and greater commitment. Gas--if it was used at all--played only a minor part in the victory.''


This study of the Iran-Iraq War is designed for the general reader. The war was a complex business, with peculiar features that have to be grasped before any understanding is possible. For example, geopolitics was an extremely important part of the war. The Persian Gulf region -- the area where it took place -- is one of the world's most strategic locations. Both superpowers claimed it as their sphere of influence. They regarded it as their right to interfere in the war whenever they felt their interests were threatened.

Iran, a revolutionary state, rejected this interference; Iraq sought to cooperate with the superpowers, and even to exploit their interference. Baghdad found this expedient, since its aims and those of the superpowers were similar: The United States, the Soviet Union, and Iraq all wanted a negotiated end to the fighting. Iran, on the other hand, wanted to destroy Iraq and set up an Islamic republic in its place.

For reasons explained in this study, Iraq's objectives changed, and it then no longer had an incentive to cooperate with the superpowers. In secret, it planned a military solution that defied both Washington and Moscow. This decision by the Iraqi leadership brought Iraq the victory it craved but subsequently unleashed a storm of difficulties that led directly to the invasion of Kuwait.

The war also was heavily influenced by demography. The Iranians vastly outnumbered the Iraqis (45 million Iranians, 16 million Iraqis), and a significant proportion of Iran's forces were religious zealots. Against such odds Iraq could do little but husband its relatively meager human re-

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