The war between Iran and Iraq dated back decades before 1980. It was characterized with heightened violation of human rights especially children. The war was the longest in the 20 th century spanning 8 years (Tarock, 1998) . The way was prompted by the desire for Iraq leaders to control the Arab world, as they tried to coerce other countries to submit to them. From border conflicts, to conflicts between clans, the war was inevitable after the Iranian revolution in 1979. The damages were long and amounted to billions of dollars, and created social unrest amongst the Iranians and Iraqis. This paper will evaluate the war, its setup and its aftermath.

The Iran-Iraq War lasted 8 years and changed the history of both countries. The hostilities emerged from border conflicts. However, observers argue that the decision by the Iraq president to invade Iran was in self-interest, as he feared that the leaders in Iran would attack his country (Abrahamian, 2008) . The conflict involved several aspects combined together. There were religious issues, political issues and border conflicts. Some of these disputes were old while others were emerging. Iraq saw a victory over Iran as a way to intimidate other Arab countries and tame the rising Iranian rule (Bulloch and Morris, 1989) . At the time, Iraq had enough muscle to beat Iran as opposed to Iran who did not have a well-organized army and equipment.

Get a Price Quote


The offensive war started in 1980 when Iran attempted to assassinate an Iraqi minister. The assassinating group, Ad Dawah was supported by Iran and Saddam Hussein ordered the killing of Ad Dawah leader. This was then followed by border issues where Iraq and Iran exchanged fire. The first day of war was however on 22 nd September in 1980, where Iraqi warplanes attacked Iran air bases in different locations (Cordesman and Wagner, 1990) . The attacks were unsuccessful as Iranian retaliatory attacks on Iraq were very successful. Iraq then entered Iran and occupied its territory. They captured Mehran and Khorramshahr and other oil fields.

The two countries fought to a stalemate in 1981 at Dezful, before an Iraqi airbase was attacked and badly destroyed. Iran gathered people as volunteers who joined in the war in human wave attacks that overwhelmed the Iraqis (Bulloch & Morris, 1989) . Iran increased attacks until the Iraqis started to retreat in 1982. They liberated Khorramshahr. The international world reacted in 1982 and proposals for peace were fronted even by Saddam Hussein (Tarok, 1998) . Iran refused to listen and invaded Iraq and Iraq continued the total war policy. Fighting continued through 1982, and a stalemate between 1983 and 1984. They then started to attack supplies especially ships and stopped any supply for their rivals. Although Iran had many offensive moments, they were unable to win the battle and they started to retreat. Strategies to end ceasefire started in 1987 and eventually succeeded in 1988. Iran accepted ceasefire and operation Mersad became the last military action of the war. About 200,000 people were killed.

Chemical Weapons

The Iran Iraq War was largely criticized due to the use of chemical weapons. Investigations determined that the Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against the Iranians, which contravened the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Later reports argued that the gas was never used in civilians, but was more focused on neutralizing the military. However, there were reports that the Kurdish civilians suffered from gas chemicals, reports unto which the United States responded feebly. Although Iraqis also claimed that Iran used chemical weapons, the allegations were never substantiated. Over 50,000 people in Iran suffered from the chemical weapons, most of which developed different forms of complications (Bulloch & Morris, 1989) . Some of the countries that aided Iraq in the use of chemical weapons were United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Holland. The chemical weapons were originally targeted to attack the military, but it was ascertained that it was used ion civilians as well (Bulloch & Morris, 1989) .

Violation of Human Rights

When the war started, Iran realized that they did not have a big army that could match Iraq’s. They were well defeated in the first few battles until they had to devise new plans. One of their remedies was the use of children in battle. Although the children were not mostly involved directly in fighting, they played a major part in providing the Iran army enough footing to fight the Iraq army. An army of volunteering children, known as Basiji was created where the children were either lightly armed or unarmed. The use of children on battle fields was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, as well as the protocols added in 1977 (Tarock, 1998) .

The second violation of these conventions was the treatment of prisoners of war. Both Iran and Iraq were said to have violated the set standards for treatment of prisoners of war. Complaints over mistreatment of prisoners came from both sides, with Iraq claiming that their prisoners held by Iranians were liquidated and kept incommunicado. Their Shia soldiers were then brainwashed and forcefully recruited into Badr Brigade (Tarock, 1998) . On the other hand, Iran complained that their prisoners held in Iraq were denied basic freedoms like praying together, which Iraq confirmed, but cited their security to the national security. Both countries refused ICRC from visiting and interviewing these prisoners of war. The declaration of end of war was supposed to be followed by the repatriation process (Bulloch & Morris, 1989) . However, the stubbornness of the two countries led to delays. First, ICRC could not clearly ascertain the number of prisoners and secondly, the two countries were always in suspicion of each other. Until 1998, the two countries held prisoners from the other side (Tarock, 1998) . Iraqis who had joined Badr Brigade were even reluctant to return home due to the brainwashing and new beliefs they had been fed with.

The Role of the International Community in the War

The first involvement of the international community in the war came in 1982. Syria, who supported Iran closed Iraq’s oil outlet and reduced the latter’s monthly budget by $ 5 billion. Iraq then started to receive support from the United States and some European countries such as Germany and France. Although Iraq wanted ceasefire in 1982, the Iranian government was pursuing their interests in that they wanted to hold parts of the Iraq territory before they asked any diplomatic negotiation (Abrahamian, 2008) . This would give them an upper hand in negotiations. It also explains why Iran went offensive through 1983 when Iraq was asking for ceasefire. Persian Gulf States, Soviet Union, France and China decided to start supporting Iraq, which made retreating Iraq go further offensive. With all the support from other countries, Iran was under immense pressure to retreat. They knew that Iraq was ready to go further offensive and invade their country further (Abrahamian, 2008) . The international community acted in support of Iraq because there were no measures to restrict their progress. The international community continued to stay away from proceedings even after Iraq dropped chemical weapons on Iranian villages, killing many. At this time, Iran agreed to ceasefire. The United Nations then moved into the two countries and deployed peacekeepers. They were set to develop the terms to be followed by each country to ensure the ceasefire worked. Iran was less favored by the negotiators and they used the prisoners of war who at the time were estimated to be around 70,000 held in Iran (Abrahamian, 2008) .

Economic Implications

The total loss as a result of the war was estimated to be in excess of $1.2 trillion for both countries. The war also stopped all economic developments and led to lots of government debts for both countries as they tried to fund the war as they continued to invest in non-developmental project of war (Bulloch & Morris, 1989) . Iraq had a debt estimated at around $130 billion, which had come from different countries in Europe. Both countries lost a lot of their oil industry infrastructure as they attacked one another through air strikes.


The Iran-Iraq war marked a very important era of international conflicts. Although the war involved just two countries in geographical terms, there were other countries that were indirectly involved in the provision of weapons. The war left many casualties, many of whom are still suffering to date especially due to the chemical weapon used then. The war violated international treaties such as the Geneva Protocol, as the use of chemical weapons was violated by a large scale. It also led to the violation of children rights, where both parties, Iran and Iraq employed children to work in the army to increase their numbers. The war was the longest in the century and was a sign of interreligious conflicts, as well as fight for sovereignty of nations leading to massive losses of lives and property. It was also an epitome of the old and well known conflicts in the Persian Gulf that was fueled by power, territory and traditions. The level of destruction is a good indicator of how badly a country can suffer due to poor leadership and wrong allegiances. The war was intertwined by global politics, which showed the importance of strong foreign policy anchored on realism.

Related essays