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History, War with Iran

Shatt, Iran-Iraq War, Barzani, Sunni Muslim, severe blow

In early 1974 heavy fighting erupted in northern Iraq between government forces and Kurdish nationalists, who rejected as inadequate a new Kurdish autonomy law based on the 1970 agreement. The Kurds, led by Mustafa al-Barzani, received arms and other supplies from Iran. After Iraq agreed in early 1975 to make major concessions to Iran in settling their border disputes, Iran halted aid to the Kurds, and the revolt was dealt a severe blow. In July 1979 President Bakr was succeeded by General Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim and fellow member of the Arab Baath Socialist Party.

In 1979 Islamic revolutionaries in Iran succeeded in overthrowing the countryís secular government and established an Islamic republic there. Tension between the Iraqi government and Iranís new Islamic regime increased during that year, when unrest among Iranian Kurds spilled over into Iraq. Sunni-Shia religious animosities exacerbated the conflict. In September 1980 Iraq declared its 1975 agreement with Iran, which drew the border between the countries down the middle of the Shatt al Arab, null and void and claimed authority over the entire river. The quarrel flared into a full-scale war, the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq quickly overran a large part of the Arab-populated province of Khuzestan (Khuzistan) in Iran and destroyed the Abadan refinery. In June 1981 a surprise air attack by Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The Israelis charged that the reactor was intended to develop nuclear weapons for use against them. In early 1982 Iran launched a counteroffensive, and by May it had reclaimed much of the territory conquered by Iraq in 1980. In the ensuing stalemate, each side inflicted heavy damage on the other and on Persian Gulf shipping. After a ceasefire with Iran came into effect in August 1988, the Iraqi government again moved to suppress the Kurdish insurgency. During the late 1980s the nation rebuilt its military machine, in part through bank credits and technology obtained from Western Europe and the United States.



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