Analyses of the Risk of War: Iran-Iraq Discord, 1979-1980
The history of the drift into the Iran-Iraq war, following the Islamic revolution, has become overshadowed by the changing fortunes in the war since its outbreak in September 1980. Yet the geopolitical, political, and sectional motivations that were at work in the prelude to the conflict retain importance of considerable magnitude. Any peace settlement will require an allocation of responsibility for the war under the political and juridical terms laid down by the Islamic Republic as a precondition for negotiations. The choice of 1979-80 as the core period in any chronology for determining how and through whose errors the conflict arose is a deliberate selection by the author. Sustaining this premise will be critical in the final resolution of the matter.
I will argue that there was an underlying movement into conditions where an Iran-Iraq war was feasible, perhaps even inevitable, in 1979- 80. I examine two strands of evidence. First, I look at observers' writings, proclamations, and published opinions that were committed to print before the outbreak of the war to see what indications of incipient conflict there were and what they pointed to at that time. Second, I discuss the findings of the principal studies concerned with the war and published after its beginning. This contemporary review of the literature from sources other than the belligerents is designed as a first step in helping others make their own judgments about the situation.
The risks of a war with Iraq clouded the future of the nascent Is-