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Dynamic war
Personality of leaders and domestic conditions in international conflict


Steven M. Goldstein
March 7, 2007

The eight year Middle East War between Iran and Iraq is a relevant case study for examining two war theories:

1. The personality of leaders influences the outbreak of war. 

2. The domestic environment and whether it is internal country stability or instability which encourages war.                            

Several scholars shed light on these theories to explain international conflict. Paul Kennedy's “The Kaiser and German Weltpolitik” analyzing Kaiser Wilhelm II   places personality as a critical ingredient in examining the outbreak of World War I. Graham Allison's study of the Cuban Missile Crisis in “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis” (Political Science Rev. vol 63, 1969) promotes the theme that foreign policy is an unintended by-product of domestic politics. Richard Rosecrance's Action and Reaction in World Politics suggests that elite foreign policy making is determined by internal factors. Hoffman's In The State of War addresses whether it is a country’s stability or instability which provokes war.

Keeping in mind the above theorists we can apply our two theories to the last century’s longest, if not bloodiest, conflict: the Iran-Iraq war. First, we can examine how personality of leaders influenced the war and then proceed to explain the war through the domestic affairs in each country.

The Iran-Iraq War is an adequate case for testing the two theories because of the leadership and domestic dynamics of Iran and Iraq. Both states had authoritarian regimes where political power rested with one ruler who served as an ideological symbol of the nation, hence the importance of personality. Both Iran and Iraq are heterogeneous entities plagued by ethnic rivalries. A survey of the Iranian and Iraqi leadership and domestic politics will serve to highlight the relevance of personality and domestic affairs contributing to the war's outbreak and progression.

The War Defined by Personality
Iran: Ayatollah Khomeini and the War          
The personality of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was a critical element in defining Iran's war role. Khomeini's background, charisma, and thirst for revenge on those who inflicted personal injury upon him influenced the atmosphere leading to the war. One can understand Khomeini's personality and beliefs by examining his background. Khomeini’s paternal origins were not Iranian, but Indian, and he spent a substantial part of his life outside Iran. His devotion to Shia Islam, reflected by his simplistic ascetic lifestyle focused on spiritual matters, attracted the majority of Iranian peasant-oriented society. Many of these traditional citizens flocked to the modern cities seeking opportunity, only to wind up crowded into slums. Khomeini's Islamic ideology countered the former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's Iranian nationalism associated with the glory and affluence of the pre-Islamic Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great. Khomeini's connections outside Iran inhibited his adoption of Persian nationalist ideology in the war. But for many Iranians the Iraqi invasion reignited anti-Arab historic feelings dating from the medieval Islamic conquest. For Khomeini, his religious faith enabled him to confront stronger opponents in hostile environments.

Khomeini's charisma drew followers of Islam, especially in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, where Shiism dominates. The Shiites for centuries served as a low caste of underprivileged heretics throughout the Sunni dominated Moslem world. Shiism emphasizes martyrdom and suffering along with the belief in a messianic era entering upon the return of the Twelfth Imam, a descendant of Mohammad. Khomeini's life of suffering and final return to Iran replicated a legacy of the Shiite experience. Khomeini's life paralleled in many ways the sect’s medieval founder, Imam Hussein, whose army of followers were defeated by a mightier Sunni-led Umayyad Army. In the aftermath of his defeat, Hussein, the model of martyrdom, was beheaded and his followers were left persecuted and oppressed. Although Khomeini denied assertions of being the messianic 12th Imam returning to bring world redemption, Shiites called him “Imam,” alluding to his religious stature of messiah among the illiterate poor.

Khomeini's record of overpowering enemies such as the Shah, President Jimmy Carter, and Saddam Hussein through the Iranian Revolution, the American Hostage Crisis, and the Iran-Iraq war was viewed by his followers as miraculous and a reward for his piety.

There was a revengeful side to Khomeini's personality which was cast in religious terms of good overcoming evil among his faithful. Khomeini sought personal revenge on those who wronged him by equating personal enemies with enemies of the Iranian state. Khomeini’s targets for revenge were the Shah, Jimmy Carter, and Saddam Hussein. Khomeini suffered harassment and expulsion both under the Shah and Saddam Hussein.

To Khomeini, the Shah deserved punishment for opening Iran to American influence, diminishing the role of the clergy,  and the suspected murder of his son by the Savak (the Shah's secret police) in Iraq. Khomeini viewed Jimmy Carter as the symbol behind U.S. meddling in Iran since the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) reinstallation of the Shah in 1953. Following his Islamic Revolution which sent the Shah into exile, Khomeini feared American reenactment of the 1953 CIA coup to restore his throne. Khomeini's personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein stemmed from Hussein’s compliance with the Shah's request for the ayatollah’s expulsion to France. The expulsion sought to diminish Shiite fundamentalist insurrection in both countries but only served to allow Khomeini greater freedom in the West to further his religious revolution.

Khomeini's success in mobilizing his countrymen against his personal enemies- the Shah and Jimmy Carter- inspired his thirst for revenge on Saddam Hussein too. Khomeini rallied Iranians to the war by labeling the conflict as a struggle between true Islam and infidel Ba’thist secularism. But Iran officially demanded only Saddam Hussein’s ouster for ending the war, not necessarily with the Ba’th Party regime, illustrative of Khomeini's personal vendetta. The overthrow of the Ba'thists, unclear in Iran’s conflict resolution demands, later gained strength due to the length of the war, enabling it to lend support to the Iraqi Shiite opposition party al-Dawa. Today al-Dawa participates in the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.  In the war Iran hoped to persuade Iraqi Shiites, who comprised the majority of the Iraqi Army, to turn against their Sunni masters in favor of their co-religionist patron across the border. But Iraqi Shiites proved loyal to their national identity as Arabs over their religious affiliation with Persian Iran.

Iran proved determined to continue the war despite Saddam Hussein’s unilateral cease fire declaration during Israel's 1982 Lebanon Campaign.  Khomeini refused to bite Hussein’s bait for Islamic solidarity against Israel, despite his own hostility toward the Zionist enemy. Khomeini proved more determined to wage war against his personal foe as Iran continued waging a war which emerged as Khomeini's personal vendetta against Hussein, not Iraq, to force his ouster.

In the aftermath of Iraq’s self-declared cease fire the war evolved into “Khomeini's War" to punish the one who wronged him during his Iraqi exile. Despite Iraqi gestures to conclude the war, large Iranian soldier desertions and casualties, the war continued. Several disillusioned Iranian military officers, recognizing the war as Khomeini's enterprise to punish Saddam Hussein, even braved a Tehran demonstration in 1986 to request the ayatollah forgive his personal enemy. As the war stalemated Iran's fate was left to the whim of Khomeini whose revenge and Shiite expansionary  designs defined the conflict for Iranians. And indeed an accidental shooting down of a civilian Iranian jetliner by the U.S. prompted Khomeini to perceive eventual American intervention on behalf of Iraq. This fear of American intervention resulted in his agreeing to a 1988 United Nations (UN) enforced armistice. This armistice Khomeini confessed was like “drinking poison” feeling coerced by both his exhausted countrymen and pro-Iraqi superpower intervention.

Iraq: Saddam Hussein and the War

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s personality also drove the conflict. Hussein served as the symbol of Iraqi Ba'thist Pan-Arab ideology. Hussein viewed himself as successor to the great rulers of ancient and medieval Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamian empires comprising Iraq’s geographic and political center. With Mesopotamian Sunni Arab rule, nostalgia for ancient Babylonia and the Abbasid Caliph helped forge an Iraqi nation state identity which was weak ever since Iraq’s post-World War One British colonial founding. Hussein’s rhetoric included historical references to defeating non-Arab enemies, both Jews and Persians. Ba'thist popularity throughout the Arab world seeks Arab unity politically alongside state sponsored socialism without regard to religion. To Hussein the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin served as his authoritarian mentor for assuming Arab world leadership. In running the war Hussein’s pan-Arab Islamic rhetoric scripted himself in the role of past Arab or Moslem heroes who overcame external challenges whether Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd.

Unlike Khomeini's solely theological bent, Hussein's perspective was predominately militaristic. Hussein saw himself as military leader of the Arab world and acknowledged his mentors to be past warriors such as Imam Hussein, the Shiite legend, and Saladin the Great, of Kurdish origin, who captured medieval Jerusalem on Islam’s behalf. Hussein sought to restore the glory of both the Arab Abbasid and Babylonian empires headquartered in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Hussein filled the shoes of ancient Babylonia’s Nebuchadnezzar by seeking the end of Biblical Judea’s successor state-Israel. In the 1970s, Hussein inaugurated Iraq's first nuclear reactor with the name "Tammuz 17", the Hebrew date in which Babylonia captured Jerusalem in 589 B.C.E. Iraq's rivalry with Syria inspired Saddam Hussein to allude to the rivalry between the Damascus-based Umayyad Empire and the Iraqi Shiite sovereign Imam Hussein in southern Iraq during Islam’s early days. Hussein saw Iraq's war with Iran as parallel to the medieval Arab Moslem defeat and takeover of Persia.

Saddam Hussein used Arab nationalism of the Ba'th Party as an ideology for making Iraq a great state and leader of the Arab world. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Ba'athist dominated regimes in Iraq declared the Arab inhabited Iranian province of Khuzestan as "occupied Arabistan" and challenged Iran's 1971 Persian Gulf seizure of Arab populated islands in the Strait of Horrmuz. Saddam Hussein, as a Ba'athist leader in the 1970s, pursued Iraq's Arab agenda by crushing a Kurdish insurgency, holding unification talks with Syria, and hosting an Arab League Summit to expel Egypt from the Arab fold upon her alleged treasonous peace with Israel. Following his 1979 seizure of the Iraqi presidency, Hussein sought to achieve Arab unity by replicating the medieval Arab defeat of ancient Persia. He boasted upon attacking Iran that he planned to enter Teheran victorious in four days.

In the Iran-Iraq war Saddam Hussein behaved as a great military strategist, playing on Arab nationalism to justify his actions. With the war’s outbreak Hussein promoted Arab hegemony with Iraqi leadership by strengthening ties to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. He also hoped to cultivate Arab and Moslem unity against Israel's entry to Lebanon even declaring a cease fire in his war with Iran in 1982. Hussein's Arab solidarity appeal forced Iran's Arab allies Syria and Libya to mend ties with Iraq. Hussein’s flamboyancy in portraying himself defender of the Arab nation against Persians attracted weak Arab Sunni regimes in the Gulf, fearful of subversion from their own downtrodden Shiite subjects. Simultaneously, Hussein discouraged renewed Kurdish hostility by emphasizing the Arab nation's Islamic, predominantly Sunni character, with which most Kurds identify. Overall Hussein's motive for engaging Iran in war in 1980 was prompted by his personal desire to glorify himself as successor to the military geniuses of past Arab and Fertile Crescent civilizations.

Domestic Affairs Determined the War
Turning from personalities to domestic affairs and the war, it would be useful to identify the level of stability and instability inside both countries. Iran, plagued by revolutionary instability and the Shah’s departure in 1979 left a vacuum for competing political groups. But stability, however minor, also existed. Iraq appeared more stable compared to Iran yet Iraqi political instability was also present shortly before the war. Since both countries exhibited characteristics of both stability and instability it would be worthwhile to determine which description of each state's internal affairs influenced the war's outbreak.

Iran's instability, a prelude to revolution, concerned the world.  President Carter's 1978 Tehran New Year's party toast to the Shah declaring Iran to be, “an island of stability in an unstable region,” was quickly disproved by the year’s events. An Abadan movie house fire allegedly set by the Shah’s secret police, the Savak, resulted in hundreds of casualties. 

In the calamity’s aftermath revolution erupted through popular protests forcing the Shah's departure. The Shiite clergy mobilized the unemployed rural born migrants of the cities, dislocated by rapid industrialization, against the Pahlavi regime. Opposition groups of all political stripes rallied behind the Ayatollah Khomeini who returned from France where he resided since his Iraqi expulsion and declared an Islamic Republic.

Between 1978-1980 Iran was plagued by instability economically, politically, militarily and socially. Economically, Iran suffered from an oil strike against the Pahlavi regime in 1978. Shipyard workers also went on strike, upsetting trade. Politically, Iran was divided among Khomeini-led Islamists, the Communist Tudeh Party, Mujahadin and National Front leftists, and remaining Pahlavi monarchists. With the monarchists disgraced, each group, taking advantage of revolutionary turmoil, came out of hiding to loot military arsenals and recruit members. Militarily, Iran was weakened by low morale of the pro-Shah military whose leader abandoned them to revolutionaries. The military was promptly stigmatized as the force behind the Shah’s oppression. Following arrests and executions of the top officers’ corps many military remnants began fleeing the country. Iran, with a weakened military, confronted dismemberment as anti-government rebellions broke out in ethnic enclaves in Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and Baluchistan. Socially, the new revolutionary leadership was faced by the same social problem of the Shah: a restive wave of unemployed rural migrants descending upon the overpopulated crowded cities.

Externally, Iran was threatened by the Soviet Union, whose domination of neighboring Afghanistan and alliance with Iraq gave the country a feeling of encirclement. Soviet influence in Iran was reactivated by the revolutionary turmoil allowing the oppressed communist Tudeh Party to bid for political support. The U.S. posed yet another threat as the revolutionary leaders, many from the 1953 era, felt another American repeat of the 1953 CIA coup restoring the Shah was imminent. Iraq, Iran's Persian Gulf competitor, underwent a military build-up and expressed concern at Shiite revolution lurking at its backdoor to overthrow the Sunni dominated Ba’thists.

Although the above review of Iran prior to the war indicates instability, some signs of stability should be identified. First, although the Islamic revolution's rulers originally sought the dismantlement of the old regime for achieving their newly declared Islamic Republic, they soon realized that a complete purge of the well entrenched Iranian bureaucracy and military would leave the country vulnerable to internal and external enemies. While most Iranians sympathized with the Islamic revolution, they also had developed cosmopolitan concerns of a modern industrial society under the Shah. The military and bureaucratic elite of the Pahlavi regime had the technological expertise and skills needed to administer the country's daily affairs. Iran's new leaders, after purging token leaders of the Shah's regime, attempted to integrate the former bureaucratic and military apparatus into the Islamic Republic. Savak agents, well versed in leftist activities threatening cleric rule, and a prime source of intelligence, were recruited to serve in Savana, the intelligence agency of the Islamic Republic. Several Iranian generals, colonels and bureaucrats associated with the Shah continued their careers under Khomeini.
Another sign of stability was Khomeini’s use of Islam and hatred toward the Shah to unite the country. Islam reduced ethnic differences among Iranians, with 90% of the populace professing Shiism. The Islamic element sustained the loyalty of Khuzestan’s Shiite Arabs upon Iraq's invasion. Khomeini opened dialogue with rival Sunni ayatollahs in Turkish speaking Azerbaijan. The early Islamic Republic's leadership included secular intellectuals attractive to the Iranian middle class such as President Bani Sadr and Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.

Following decades of instability Iraq seemed headed for some stability at the time of the Iran-Iraq war. Like Iran, Iraq was plagued by ethnic and religious rivalries. Unlike Iran, which can be identified as unstable in September 1980, Iraq's level of instability was more ambiguous.        

Politically, Iraq lay divided among competing Sunni Arabs of the north who dominated Iraqi state politics. The 1958 Revolution eliminated the British imposed Hashemite monarchy and set the stage for continued political unsettledness throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The country was plagued by squabbles between Ba'athists, Communists, and pro-Nasser military leaders tied to Egypt. The Ba'athist Party consolidated its power in 1969 following a coup against General Aref and installed Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as President and Saddam Hussein his deputy.

The political instability of the 196Os and 1970s allowed for a Kurdish insurrection led by Mulla Mustafa Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) against the Iraqi military. This insurrection threatened the development of Iraq's oil industry located in the Kurdish north. The rebellion drained the Iraqi military and economy. It also allowed external powers such as Israel, the U.S. and Iran to threaten the state by aiding the Kurds and establish bases in rebel camps. These powers hoped that the intermittent Kurdish rebellions would prevent Iraqi subversive activities in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Persian Gulf. The Kurdish insurgency restricted the ruling Iraqi Ba'ath Party's ability to confront the restive Shiites in the south who gave sanctuary to anti-Shah fundamentalists regularly crossing the Iran-Iraq border on pilgrimage to Shiite shrines. The downtrodden Shiite majority, while playing a subordinate role in the country's Sunni dominated politics, posed yet another threat to the regime. 

In 1977, a bloody clash between Shiite pilgrims and the Iraqi Army led to riots at Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Subsequently, at the Shah’s request, Deputy Ba'ath Party Chairman, Saddam Hussein expelled Ayatollah Khomeini to quell growing fundamentalist unrest simmering throughout the region.

Iraq traditionally sought to divert attention from internal troubles through external activities. Following the 1958 Iraqi Revolution attempts were made to unite with Nasser ruled Egypt and Syria under the United Arab Republic to defend against Kurdish insurrection and a Communist takeover. The instability in Iran and Lebanon in 1979 prompted a short lived Syrian-Iraqi honeymoon aimed at unifying both countries governed by rival wings of the Arab Ba'ath Party. Iraq also hosted the 1979 Arab League Summit to protest the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, further offsetting publicity of internal problems. A year before the war, a mysterious change in power occurred quite unexpectedly as it was announced that Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr had resigned his presidency for “health reasons” in favor of the chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Saddam Hussein. Later reports surfaced that “health reasons” indeed contributed to Bakr's "resignation," as he later died of gunshot wounds traced to Saddam Hussein and/or his supporters. Following Bakr's death, Saddam Hussein had to consolidate his rule quickly to quell challenges questioning his legitimacy. Hussein must have recognized his weak position and the violent succession of past leaders.

In 1980 the Iran-Iraq War broke out. To early observers Iraq appeared the blatant aggressor as its military forces zoomed across the border September 22nd reaching deep into its long claimed “Arabistan” or Khuzestan. Historical revisionists seeking to justify Western sympathies toward Iraq later asserted Iraqi accounts of alleged Iranian border provocations of early September as inciting a pre-empted attack. Despite early successes against Iran, Iraq was pushed back by the Iranian military and Islamic revolutionary guards in 1982. Khomeini defined the war in religious terms, declaring it to be the first step toward liberating Jerusalem and rallying soldiers to the slogan "The road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad!" Ironically, circumstantial evidence points to Iranian military collusion with Israel, as the Israeli campaign against PLO-infested Lebanon coincided with an Iranian counteroffensive against Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s goal of quick Iraqi military victory to uplift his prestige at home and abroad failed, forcing him to sue for peace through international frameworks while utilizing Iraqi air force superiority to pressure Iran’s leadership to end the conflict he began.

Analysis of theories
The theory that holds personality of leaders to be the significant force behind international conflict is well illustrated by the Iran-Iraq War. Khomeini's quest for the downfall of the Ba’thist secular tyrant who expelled him from the holy city of Najaf caused Iran's persistence in the war. Iranians, despite national hardship, placed the fate of the war reluctantly in Khomeini's idealistic hands. To Khomeini, the war was a fight of moral and religious principle against Ba’thist secularism which couldn’t be compromised.

Saddam Hussein's personality, less idealistic, was more prone to compromise. To Hussein the war was a great Arab military campaign which had to be waged and adjusted according to the political and military circumstances of the Arab nation. Iraq failed to win Iran's Khuzestan populace over to unification with the Arab nation. The Iranian Arabs identified as Shiite Moslems tied to the Islamic Republic rather than as Arabs tied to the Arab world. When the Arabs were confronted with Israel's move into Lebanon, Hussein withdrew Iraqi forces from Iran in hopes of ending the war to concentrate on the Zionist enemy to the west. Despite Hussein's failure to annex Iranian Khuzestan or "Arabistan", he succeeded in uniting the majority in the Arab world, wary of Shiite fundamentalism, behind Iraq. Hussein's impulsiveness allowed him to invade Iran, suddenly withdraw and sue for peace. He nevertheless developed a personality cult by depicting himself as successor to the mighty Arab and Fertile Crescent warriors of yesteryear.

Thus the war can be described as a personal feud between two archenemies: Ayatollah Khomeini, the religious zealot and Sadaam Hussein, the Arab military conqueror. Although the war renewed historical Arab-Persian enmity, much of the war can be explained by the personal animosity between the two leaders prior to the conflict. One way to test this theory is to examine whether the war's eruption and pursuit would have existed had these two personalities not been in power. It can be argued that another Arab-Persian conflict was imminent regardless of leadership. If this assumption is true then the war may have looked different without Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps if the Shah had remained a war between Iran and Iraq would have erupted anyway. The Shah would have sought to mobilize the dislocated masses away from revolution to fight an external enemy in Iraq. The Pahlavi monarchy would have utilized the ideology of Pan-Aryanism to renew Iraqi Kurdish dissent with Shiism being subordinate in defining the war. In such a scenario the war would have been defined in more secular military terms between two nationalities, as Hussein often emphasized. Under these conditions both sides could have ended the war, recognizing the hardship of endless military stalemate. However, casting the war in Shiite religious terms as Khomeini did, especially where martyrdom was glorified, made a conclusion to the war difficult for Iran.

Stability versus Instability
What can be said for the theory that views a country's domestic environment as determining war when applied to the Iran-Iraq war? Hoffman asserts that instability tends to be prevalent in heterogeneous societies. Both Iran and Iraq are such societies plagued by ethnic and religious squabbles. Hence this theory can explain that both the instability in Iran and Iraq contributed to war as each actor sought to ward off internal conflict by uniting against an external enemy. Iraq used Pan-Arabism to unite its predominately Arab populace while Iran used Shiism to unite its ethnically divided yet predominately Shiite populace. However, signs of stability can be pointed to in both countries prior to the war. These signs create a counterargument that stability at home made each leader secure for adventure. Iran's stability can be shown through the Islamic Republic's ability to integrate institutions of the old regime into its apparatus after rallying the country against the American backed Shah. The characteristics of Iraqi stability include the collapse of the Kurdish insurrection in 1975 and Saddam Hussein’s ability to secure his rule for a whole year despite his questionable tactics in achieving it.

Let’s force ourselves to identify each country as stable or unstable in determining the reason for the war. Iran's domestic situation must be labeled unstable rather than stable. The Shiite clergy sought to consolidate their power through ongoing crisis to mobilize the peasant Iranian underclass on its behalf. The first crisis, revolution, erupted to depose the Shah. With this achievement the clergy bought time to consolidate their reign against its revolutionary rivals, thus creating another prolonged crisis through the seizure of American Embassy hostages. As this crisis concluded, further entrenching clerical rule, the mullahs still had to grapple with the same overpopulation dilemma. The mass rural influx to the cities contributing to the Shah’s downfall remained, to potentially undo their rule as well. The war with Iraq seemed a convenient way for getting rid of excess population and distracting Iranians in warfare. The war enabled a pro-Shah military to be distracted at the front fighting an external enemy rather than plotting against clerical theocratic rule at home. The war also diminished ethnic rivalries as the country united under the Islamic banner against secular Iraq. Iranian Kurdish grievances softened as their Iraqi Kurdish brethren across the border received the Islamic Republic’s backing for renewed insurrection against Baghdad.  

In the case of Iraq both stability and instability explain its behavior in sparking the war. The Iranian-inspired Kurdish insurrection of the past and unrest within the Shiite south remained chief concerns for the Baathist regime. To the Arab Shiites, Saddam Hussein offered both the carrot and stick: Khomeini's expulsion in 1978 alongside investment and development in the Shiite heartland to counter further sedition. Instability was also prevalent within the Sunni dominated Ba'athist government. Hussein's sudden installation as president and immediate purge of top Ba'athist leaders illustrated the shaky position he inherited. Saddam Hussein's insecurity as leader of Iraq's Ba'athist government and fear of Shiite rebellion motivated his decision of getting the country into an external adventure to prove his competency and legitimacy.

In conclusion, both personality and domestic condition theories can be applied to the Iran-Iraq Middle East war. Personality plays a vital role in shaping authoritarian regimes where the leader represents an appealing ideology. Khomeini's thirst for revenge and Hussein's impulsiveness, although influential aspects, by no means fully determined the war's outbreak, progression, or outcome. The hostility between Arabs and Persians was sooner or later to resurface even after the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC) and Arab League encouraged 1975 Algiers border agreement signed by the Shah and Saddam Hussein. In the Iran-Iraq war domestic politics also played a direct role. The instability in Iran following revolution forced the clerics to use war as an outlet to legitimize their rule and allocate the idle dislocated urban masses while short-term Iraqi stability enabled initial military success to consolidate and legitimize Sadaam Hussein’s rule.

S. M. Goldstein worked in the Foreign Service for the U.S. State Department at the American Embassy, Tel Aviv during the Iran-Iraq war.

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