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By - Mahipal Singh Rathore

Iran-Iraq War
Gulf War
Iraq War
1920 - Iraq
a League of
mandate under
British control –
Sunni ruling elite
under King Faisal

©DrMahipalRathore Independence*
Middle east
borders are
shaped by the
geopolitics of
20th century and
not by

Access to
sea –limited

4th largest
proven oil
(acc. to

Administrative divisions

Iraq is composed of
governorates or provinces

Iraqi Kurdistan –
Autonomous since 1991 .
Ethnic Kurds have their
own government,
parliament and army
Religion in Iraq

Political History
1941 - Coup against Hashemite king (restored later)
1958 - Military Coup (Hashemite rule over)
1968 - Ba’ath party comes to power

*Sunni rule over Shia majority

Ba'athist Iraq 1968-2003
Ba'ath Party - ‘Resurrection/Renaissance’
Arab Nationalism + Socialism

Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr  : 1st president 1968 - 1979

• This period began with high economic growth and

soaring prosperity
• But due to Wars and several internal policies of the
regime - social and political problems, economic
stagnation during later period of Ba’ath rule
Saddam Hussein (1979 –
• From Tikrit
• Vice president under Al-Bakr
• President at age 42
• Brutal dictator
• Multiple wars
• Purges
• Rebellions by Shias and Kurds
• Genocide of Kurds
• Regime overthrown by US led
invasion in 2003
Iraq – Iran war

• Saddam wanted
regional dominance
• He wanted to take
advantage of chaos in
Iran after the revolution

• Historical Border
Khuzestan Province

Shatt -al-Arab waterway
• Euphrates and Tigris
• Historical boundary
between Persia and Arab
• Oil producing region
• Vital Transport link for
Iraq and Iran

Iranian revolution

• 1978 –1979
• Caused by Discontent with
the Shah's rule
• Resulted in Overthrow of the
Shah and monarchy

Supreme leader
Ayatollah Khomeini asked
the Shias of Iraq to bring a
revolution and overthrow
Saddam Hussein ©DrMahipalRathore
captured large amount of
territory in the initial phase
It was supported by USA
covertly(to subvert Iran’s
revolution) and USSR
too(banning of communist party
by Iran)

1982 : Iran gathered a large

number of volunteers and
retaliated, liberating its
territories and attacking
BASRA . Iran now wanted to
enter Iraq and overthrow
Saddam’s rule

1984-86 War of attrition –

• Human wave attacks by Iran
Iraq bombed Iranian cities
Iran aligned with Kurds in the North

• 1984- Iraq started bombing Iran’s oil tankers

• Iran blockaded the straits of Hormuz to retaliate
• 1987- USA and other nations sent their navies to
protect their own oil transport ships

• Kurdish Genocide 1988-89
Anfal campaign
Chemical and Biological weapons (Sarin
and Mustard gas) used on Kurds
• 1 lakh+ civilians died
• Over 2000 Kurd villages burned or destroyed

•  World War I similarities :  in terms of the tactics used
trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across trenches,
manned machine gun posts, bayonet charges, "human
wave attacks", use of chemical weapons by Iraq, deliberate
attacks on civilian targets.
• The world powers United States and the Soviet Union,
together with France and most Arab countries provided
support for Iraq, while Iran was largely isolated.
• After eight years of war, war-weariness, lack of international
sympathy as Iraq was targeting Iranian civilians with
weapons of mass destruction, eventually led to a UN-
brokered ceasefire.
• 0.5 – 1 million soldiers
• ~1 million civilians

• No change in borders
• ‘Status quo ante bellum’
• Iraq and Iran both failed in their objectives

The Gulf War 1990-91
• Other names : Persian Gulf War ,1st Gulf War , Kuwait
War, First Iraq War and  Iraq War
• Three phases of the war :
1. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait – August 1990
2. Operation Desert Shield (2 August 1990 – 17 January
1991) for operations leading to the build up of troops
and defence of Saudi Arabia
3. Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28
February 1991) The combat phase

• Iraq owed a large debt to Kuwait due to the previous war
(Iran Iraq war)
• Kuwait was a rich oil producing nation .Iraq depended on
Kuwait for transporting its oil ,especially during war time

• Kuwait was over producing oil, beyond its OPEC Quota -

leading to falling Oil prices
• Kuwait was side drilling into Iraqi oil fields
• Iraq was losing precious oil revenues due to this

• Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq’s
southern neighbour in August
1990 when they refused to pay
$10 billion
• Iraqi army occupied Kuwait city
, the capital .
• The Govt, royal family and elite
fled and the country collapsed
in 2 days

Later, Akshay ‘Khiladi’ Kumar hatched

a heroic rescue plan for all Indians

Uncle Sam intervenes
• UN sanctions on Iraq
• Iraq army deployed on border with Saudi Arabia
• Fear of Saudi Arabia being invaded led to Operation
Desert Shield
• A coalition of 35 nations under UN banners was
gathered by George H.W. Bush
• USA+ started amassing its forces along Saudi Iraq border
• Iraq was given a deadline of January 15 1991 to leave

The Coalition

Operation Desert Storm
• 17 January 1991- Heavy air bombing of Iraq’s military
installations, communication systems for weeks
• Iraq launched missiles on Israel to retaliate
• February 1991 – A fast moving attack that defeated
Iraqi army within 100 hours

• Ceasefire signed on 28 Feb

The retreating Iraqi army set fire to many oil
wells – ‘’scorched earth’’

Q. Why didn’t the coalition attack Baghdad and topple
Saddam’s Govt. for good ??
A. Rebellions by Kurds in the north and Shia soldiers made
them complacent

• The US did establish a No fly zone over Kurdish areas in

North Iraq that led to respite from Air attacks over Kurds
but did not provide any other assistance ,as
• Saddam crushed the uprisings and stayed in power
• The economic sanctions over Iraq continued till 2003

• 20-30,000 Iraqi Soldiers KIA
• 200 Coalition soldiers KIA
• 3500 Iraqi civilians dead
• Heavy losses for Iraqi Infrastructure

• The first live
war – CNN

• Video game

IRAQ WAR 2003-2011
• At the end of Gulf war in 1991, Saddam Hussein had
agreed to destroy all nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons stockpile

• After 9/11, George Bush Jr. declared Saddam Hussein

regime as a threat to the world (New axis of evil)
• War on Terror declared
• November 2002 - UN resolution charged Iraq of violating
sanctions and threatened serious consequences

A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is
a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological or
other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm
to a large number of humans or cause great damage
to human-made or natural structures or the biosphere

Operation Iraqi Freedom
• March 2003
• US,UK,Australia and Poland attacked Iraq
• Objective – To remove Saddam from power and
destroy the WMDs**
• Shock and Awe!
• In 3 weeks ,Baghdad and all other major cities were
captured by ground forces
• Saddam Hussein captured in December 2003

Aftermath of US Invasion
• The power vacuum left by Saddam Hussein was
filled by multiple groups leading to armed
struggle/insurgency against the occupying forces -
• Elections held in 2005
• Power was now in hands of the long oppressed
Shia majority but they started oppressing the
Sunnis leading to violent clashes, ethnic violence
for years
• Iran, Saudi Arabia– major players were vying for
influence in Iraq,were supporting their respective
proxy militias
• Al-Qaeda became active in Iraq- leading the
resistance at many places

• Large scale ethnic violence from 2004-07

• 2 pronged fight –
Against US and Iraqi security forces + sectarian
conflict among various groups


• 2007 - Troop surge by US to contain Violence
• Finally, US forces withdrew from Iraq in December

Initial invasion (March to May 2003)
 200 coalition soldiers
 7,000 Iraqi civilians

Insurgency (2003-2011)
 5000 Coalition soldiers
 18,000 ISF soldiers
 ~5,00,000 civilians

Nouri Al Maliki ,Prime minister from 2006-2014

• Centralized power and ran govt on Shia sectarian lines

• His policies led to alienation of Sunni population
(Ex: Arrest of the Sunni vice president  Tariq al-Hashemi
in 2011)
• The Sunnis rose up in protests(2012-13) in many
provinces –they were repressed brutally
• Many oppressed Sunnis favoured a military solution.
• Such conditions paved the way for ISIL’s rise in North
western Iraq in 2013-14

Mahipal Singh