This is the last book in the trilogy which started with my book The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict - followed by Desert Shield to Desert Storm: The Second Gulf War. Its sub-title "Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars" is self-explanatory; and like its predecessors, it is meant for the general reader. The common thread that holds the trilogy together is Saddam Hussein, who became president of Iraq in 1979 and shows no sign of relinquishing office.
Iraq and Iran are heavyweights in the Gulf which possesses two-thirds of the global reserves of petroleum on which Western economies depend heavily. At the current rate of extraction these reserves will last eighty-three years. By contrast, at present production levels, the American oil deposits will be exhausted in ten years, the British in five, and the Norwegian in nine. 1 Between them, Iran and Iraq have a fifth of the world's petroleum reserves and its second largest natural gas deposits. They are the two most populous states in the region, and occupy strategic positions on the globe.
Each of them has the distinction of having impacted directly on recent US presidential elections. One of the main reasons why Democrat President Jimmy Carter (r. 1977-80) lost his campaign for re-election in 1980 was his failure to secure the release of the American hostages held by Iran. After his victory in the Second Gulf War between the US-led Coalition and Iraq in March 1991, President George Bush (r. 1989-92), a Republican, became so popular - with his ratings soaring to 91 percent - that his re-election in 1992 seemed assured. This perception discouraged leading Democrat politicians from entering the race for their party's nomination, and inadvertently paved the way for the election as president of a comparatively unknown governor of an obscure southern state of Arkansas, Bill Clinton (r. 1993-2000).
These, in short, are the compelling reasons why it matters a lot to the West what happens in Iraq and Iran.
The relationship between them has a long history. As part of the ancient Persian empire, the Mesopotamian plain to the west of the Zagros Mountains was called Eraq (Persian, lowland), the name that has survived to this day. And Baghdad is made up of the Persian words Bag, meaning God, and dad, meaning gift.
Since Persia (a derivative of Pars/Fars) was officially renamed Iran (a derivative