Argo and the Roots of US-Iranian Tensions

by Narges Bajoghli | published December 26, 2012

The box-office hit Argo brings back long-faded memories of the Iran hostage crisis for many Americans.

News in November 1979 that US diplomats had been taken hostage in Tehran shocked the United States. Students stormed the US embassy, blindfolding 52 Americans and threatening them at gunpoint. The hostages, held captive for 444 days, immediately became the nation’s top news story and dogged President Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful reelection campaign.

Gulf War Refugees in Turkey

by Ömer Karasapan
published in MER156

A largely ignored byproduct of the Iranian revolution and the Gulf war has been the large influx of refugees into Turkey. The economic benefits of Turkish neutrality during the Gulf war led Ankara to downplay the problem, but the recent arrival of Kurdish refugees has strained regional ties and clouded Turkish hopes for lucrative post-war reconstruction deals. The large Iranian refugee population of a million or more is also causing worries, as struggles among Iranian political groups spill over into Turkey.

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The Islamic Republic at War and Peace

by Eric Hooglund
published in MER156

Ten years after the Iranian revolution swept the Shah from power, and contrary to innumerable prophecies of its demise, the Islamic Republic endures. Many of the revolution’s original leaders remain in power and many of their goals, although not yet fulfilled, continue to be policy objectives.

Iraq Since 1986: The Strengthening of Saddam

by Marion Farouk-Sluglett , Peter Sluglett
published in MER167

In June 1986, we wrote that the situation in which Iraq found itself “underlines the vital need for the establishment of democracy...however broadly this may be defined.” Four years later, this plea has become more urgent; the regime has become even more powerful and repressive and has now extended its rule to Kuwait, initiating a crisis whose possible consequences for the region, if not the world, are fearful to contemplate.

Guilty Bystanders

by Pete Moore
published in MER257

The Iran-Iraq war was fought entirely within the boundaries of the two combatant nations, but it was nonetheless a regional war. The war machine of Saddam Hussein’s regime was lubricated with billions of dollars in loans from the Arab oil monarchies, which were anxious to see the revolutionary state in Tehran defeated, or at least bloodied. Iraqi warplanes harried ships seeking to load Iranian oil at the Kharg island terminal and points south on the Persian Gulf coast. In 1987, the US Navy intervened to protect tankers and other commercial traffic from Iranian reprisals. These heated entanglements presaged the degree to which the war was to transform the political economies of many countries in the vicinity.

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A War on Multiple Fronts

by Nida Alahmad , Arang Keshavarzian
published in MER257

Lasting from 1980 to 1988, the war between Iran and Iraq was the longest inter-state war of the twentieth century. Yet standard narratives of the war, or of Iranian and Iraqi political history, for that matter, barely discuss the war’s legacy for the structure of the two states in question or the war’s effects upon the exercise of political power.

Deep Traumas, Fresh Ambitions

Legacies of the Iran-Iraq War

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER257

The seeds of future war are sown even as parties fight and, depleted or on the verge of defeat, sue for peace. The outcome is rarely stable and may be barely tolerable to one side or the other. This rule holds true for the two belligerents no less than for their respective sponsors, keen to protect their strategic interests. Ambitions thwarted are merely delayed, not abandoned; new traumas incurred are entered into the ledger for the settlement of what is hoped one day will be the final bill.

Bring In the Dead

Martyr Burials and Election Politics in Iran

by Rasmus Christian Elling | published March 19, 2009

Beating their chests and wearing black, a procession of young men and women filed toward the gates of Tehran’s Amir Kabir Polytechnic University on February 23. The mourners -- drawn primarily from the ranks of the Basij militia and unaffiliated hardline Islamist vigilantes -- were carrying the remains of five unknown soldiers, martyred during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, to campus, where they intended to rebury them. Inside the gates, a gathering of angry students had assembled to protest what they saw as a blatant show of state force, and when the procession crossed onto campus, a confrontation ensued. Students claimed the fight pitted 1,500 protesters against a smaller group of mourners, most of whom were armed with clubs, knives and martial arts weapons.

A Clean Slate in Iraq

From Debt to Development

by Justin Alexander , Colin Rowat
published in MER228

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Elusive Justice

Trying to Try Saddam

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER215

Saddam Hussein's regime has long been one of the world's worst human rights violators. But the international community largely ignored Iraq's record of human rights abuse -- brutal repression of internal dissent, atrocities during the eight-year war with Iran -- until after Hussein crossed the red line by sending his forces into Kuwait. Even since 1990, evidence of human rights violations has been marshaled solely to score political points or justify military action, and not to hold a vicious regime accountable for its crimes.

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