Iran's New Grand Strategy

by Fred Halliday
published in MER144

The controversy over US-Iranian relations has implications as drastic for the government in Tehran as for that in Washington. The disputed character of the opening to Washington forced Majlis Speaker Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani to go public about the talks in early November. Even Ayatollah Khomeini himself has come under attack from Islamic radicals after his explicit support for talks with the US. Khomeini, although using the title "imam" or religious leader, has never claimed to be infallible, as the 12 imams of Shi&‘i Islam are supposed to be. But when a congress of radicals in December proclaimed that the imam was “not infallible,” this was designed to challenge Khomeini’s overall authority within the revolutionary regime.

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Nonneman, Iraq, the Gulf States and the War

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER148

Gerd Nonneman, Iraq, the Gulf States and the War (London: Ithaca Press, 1986).

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When I Found Myself

by Dia' Khudair
published in MER148

This story first appeared in Arabic in the Paris-based Kull al-‘Arab, September 3, 1986.

The men in our unit branded me “the intellectual,” a term that connoted for them more sarcasm than conviction. They pronounced it in mincing tones, and played comically with its derivatives. This ought not, of course, be imputed to intrinsic dislike among the well-meaning fighters for intellectuals. Rather, I suppose, to their belief in the futility of making oneself attend to matters other than the tangible tasks of fighting or getting ready for combat. And being, as they said, a bookworm, I had only myself to blame.

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Primer: The War

published in MER148

Iraq is a country of 15.5 million people living in an area somewhat larger than the state of California. Most of its land is a plain descending from mountains in the north to desert in the southwest. The area near the Gulf is marshy. This plain includes the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, between which the ancient Mesopotamian civilization arose. Iraq’s people are 75 percent Arab and 15 percent Kurdish, with a small Turkish minority. The population is 55 percent Shi‘i Muslim, 40 percent Sunni Muslim and 5 percent Christian.

The Elusive Quest for Gulf Security

by 'Abd al-Hadi Khalaf
published in MER148

Iran’s revolution had a profound impact on the regional balance of forces in the Gulf. Until 1979, the two most powerful and ambitious states in the region, Iran and Iraq, were sufficiently constrained by each other, and by the presence of United States forces and Washington’s friendly relations with most of the Gulf states, that neither seriously attempted to overturn the status quo.

Iran and the Gulf War

by Eric Hooglund
published in MER148

September marks the seventh anniversary of the war between Iran and Iraq. It now ranks as the longest inter-state military conflict in the Middle East in this century. It has also been the most costly in terms of human lives lost, property destroyed and numbers of people uprooted from their homes. Although there are few accurate statistics on the destructive effects of the war, estimated deaths include some 300,000 Iranians and about 100,000 Iraqis, and at least an equal number wounded. The destruction of homes, factories and critical infrastructure in southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran exceeds $400 billion. At least 1.5 million persons have fled their homes since 1980, mostly Iranians from the cities of Khuzestan. More recently, thousands of Iraqis have left the Basra area.

The USSR and the Gulf War

Moscow's Growing Concern

by Fred Halliday
published in MER148

In the seven years since the Iran-Iraq war began, Soviet policy toward the conflict has been quite constant. Moscow regards the war as “senseless” and has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire and return to the status quo ante, as outlined in the 1975 Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq. Moscow considers the war as dangerous not only because of its destructiveness to both combatant states, but also because, by alarming the Arab states of the Peninsula, it has provided a justification for greater US military deployment in the region. In the longer run, Moscow is concerned about the collapse of either the Tehran or the Baghdad regimes, and the uncertainty that could result in a region so near the Soviet Union’s borders.

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"Little Satan" Stuck in Arms Export Trap

by Diana Johnstone
published in MER148

France is finding out that being a “Little Satan” can be more uncomfortable than being a big one. Whatever the outcome, the Gulf war threatens to end in political and economic disaster for France, which has become number two demon in the eyes of the ayatollahs by selling Iraq more arms than it can pay for.

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Reagan Reflags the Gulf

by Joe Stork
published in MER148

As the Iran-Iraq war moves into its eighth year, it threatens to explode into a shooting war between Iran and the United States, a war that could involve the Soviet Union as well. Escalation of the US military presence in the Gulf involves more than the 11 Kuwaiti tankers now flying the stars and stripes. What the Reagan administration wants to do is “reflag” the Gulf itself, using the US Navy’s protective service to draw the Arab states there into open and explicit military alliances with Washington against Tehran and Moscow.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER155

“The wars are winding down. The streets are heating up.” This was how Baltimore radio commentator Sean Connolly led off his “minimalist news” broadcast one day in mid-September. It is hard to find a more succinct way
to describe the state of the world, the Middle East included, on the cusp of transition from the Reagan years.

Reagan came to office very much in the slipstream of the Iranian revolution, a pivotal political moment decided in the streets but consolidated in the counter-revolutionary war launched by Iraq. That revolution and its confrontational stance towards the US provided much of the political fuel that powered the buildup of US interventionary forces in the early 1980s.