Iran- Iraq war of 1980-88 inflicted enormous cost in lives. It was a permanent decline of civil rights, economic capacity, and national infrastructures for the two belligerent countries. For the IRI, war with Iraq preceded and paralleled the internal war in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran needed the Iraqi war, which started by Saddam Hussein and continued by Khomeini, to protect itself at home.
The 1982 war gains against Iraqi troops could actually result into an honourable end of the war, but the IRI refused Iraqi requests for a ceasefire and insisted on continuing the "blessing" war. The IRI's propagandas machinery promised a "glorious victory" until "freedom" of the Shiite holy city of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq.
Let us have a closer look at the true nature of Khomeini's "blessing" war and the harsh reality of life in war-torn Iran. In fact, behind the appearance of IRI's bravura and national mobilisation lies an increasing repression, an economic and political crisis of massive proportions that has been greatly exacerbated by the war.
Despite the fact that certain leading clerics made aggressive and adventurist statements about "continuing the struggle" until Saddam Hussein is overthrown, the war was eating into the country's resources at an estimated 250 million dollars or more a month.
As a result of the war, and the Islamic regime's gross mismanagement of the economy, men and women had to queue up for hours to buy their basic foodstuff and essentials. Iran, once a major producer of oil, could not (and cannot) meet its internal needs and demanded for the product. The war had all but destroyed the huge Abadan refinery plant and undermined oil production and export. At the same time, the regime desperately attempted to export what oil was produced in order to shore up its foreign exchange reserve which, having been used to finance the war effort, were nearly depleted.
Short of cash and at war with Iraq, the IRI since 1982 has started preparing to sell historic treasures hoarded for centuries by the dynasties of Iran. The sale of antiques was aimed at earning badly needed foreign exchange. During the war, oil export was constantly down and Iranian oil was not easily disposable in the current international oil glut.
Iran had to regularly slash her oil prices (even less than Saudi oil), but still was facing trouble finding customers. Most of what was left in foreign exchange was being spent on purchasing arms and spare parts at astronomical prices in fifth- or sixth-party deals on the international black market, little remained with which to buy food and other essentials for ordinary Iranians. Such have been the economic effects of the futile war.
While the war worsened the economic crisis, the clerical rulers were exploiting the war for political reasons, using it to rally certain sectors of the population behind their position. The Iranian Army once discredited and disarray has been reorganised, reequipped and rehabilitated. It was now an institution fully in the control of the regime.
In addition the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) has been mobilised as a parallel fighting force. Finally, another structure was created to mobilise masses of Iranian lower-class youth. Member of young Baseej (Mobilisation) were invariably teenaged boys who underwent military training at neighbouring mosques after school several afternoons a week. These were the youths, who were asked for martyrdom and "volunteer" to walk across mine field to clear the path for an attack. With the Koran at their breast, these boys were assured of a "ticket to heaven." (Le Mond (24, March, 1982). These two military and paramilitary forces became the regime's organs of repression.
Such was the price the Iranian masses had to pay for a military victory against the Iraqis to ensure a political victory for the Mullahs' regime. And such is the way that Islamic ideology has been used for political ends.
Wars (as distinct from national liberation struggles against occupying powers and / or totalitarian regimes) have historically been fought between ruling circles over political power or religious conflicts. They are called and organised by ruling classes and, religious influential leaders in their own interests or conviction and for their own benefit or their own belief system. Those that fight the wars are, however, simple and working people who are drawn into war through force (draft, induction, etc.) or through some sort of religious and ideological manipulation.
Most of soldiers on the Iraqi side were draftees, and it had been alleged that some Arab "guest workers" had been forced to take up arms and join the front. The lack of morale on the Iraqi side could be attributed to this, and to the fact that invading forces inevitably have difficulties with morale (as was the case with American soldiers in Vietnam, or now in Iraq).
On the Iranian side, the fact that Iranian territory had been occupied was in itself reason enough for Iranian masses to enlist in the war effort, and to willingly undergo enormous sacrifices to prevent Iran's territorial integrity. In the first months of the war, most of the Iranians population had supported the defence of the occupied southern part of Iran in the face of the Iraqi aggression. Yet, the Iranian side of the story was more complex and could not in any sense be compared to the US-Vietnam war. The 6 further years of the war were not to defend national territory but IRI's fully clerical establishment.
While it is true that the Iraqi regime and army was the aggressor, the needed such a war to survive there had been enormous tension and hostility between the two sides and charges of provocation had hurled back and forth for about a year before the war actually began. The issue was control over the Arvand Rood or, for Iraqi, Shat-al Arab waterway that divides the countries, and Iran's attempt to inflame the Shiite Muslim majority of Iraq.
The Islamic regime had been unwilling to renegotiate the 1975 Algiers agreement in which the Iraqi ceded the river to the former Shah in return for his pledge to withhold assistance to Iraqi Kurdish rebels. The provocative and adventurist policies of both sides culminated in the Iraqi attack in September 1980.
The start of the war occurred against the backdrop of a deepening political crisis within Iran, and an erosion of the democratic rights won by various strata during the revolutionary process. During the war, the Islamic regime reinforced its moves against women, opposition organisations and the Kurdish people. The regime continued crushing student movement, closing down all universities, to prepare the declared "Islamic cultural revolution."
All this was in the midst of the US hostage crisis, which was a move by the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), established in 1979 by Khomeini's approval, to consolidate itself. Thus, the heightening of the tensions between Iran and Iraq were viewed with alarm by many Iranians coming as it did against this backdrop of economic and political and ideological weapons necessary to consolidate themselves.
While the war with Iraq has been raging during 8 years, other developments have been taken place with grave implications for the Iranian people. The hostage crisis, in which Iran gained nothing financially, allowed the U.S to draw Iran into a lost process in the international Court of Justice. Parallel to this crisis, the regime launched from June 1981 on an all-out war against its critics, and began a systematic campaign to hunt, arrest, imprison, torture and execute thousands of political dissidents. The atrocities against Iranian political prisoners, political dissidents, women, students, workers, journalists, ethnic groups went on during the war.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said they have no desires on Iraqi territory, but they have also frequently called for the ousting of Saddam Hussein as one of their peace conditions. Iranian President Ali Khamenei, current Supreme Leader, speaking in April 1982 to a group identified as struggling Iraqi clergy, said in Tehran, "The Islamic theocracy will be the future course of Iraq and Imam Khomeini is the leader of the nation of Islam. Imam Khomeini's rule belongs to the entire nation of Islam, and is not limited by geographic boundaries."
After Iraqi withdrawal from the occupied territory, the Iraqis made many peace overtures with offers of war damage to Iran, but they were spurned by the IRI. The vindictive Khomeini regime continued this brutal war another 6 destructive and bloody years and finally accepted the truce in 1988 when Khomeini had decided to release his psychopathic rage by ordering in summer 1988, short after the failure in Iraqi war, the brutal massacre of thousands of Iranian political prisoners.
By presenting the war as one between Islam and infidels, the regime managed to establish its God's state by rallying vast numbers of people and mobilising the unemployed, youth, peasant migrants and other sectors in the war effort. Without these 6 further years of futile war, Khomeni regime could not probably promote into a totalitarian and completely clerical regime.
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