War in Iraq

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War in Iraq

Introduction

In 1979, President Bakr resigned under pressure from Hussein, who then became president. Immediately after his succession, Hussein called a Baath Party meeting and had all of his opposition systematically murdered. As president, Hussein continued to reinforce his power base by enlarging security forces and employing family members in the government.

One 1984 analysis indicated that 50 percent of Iraqis were either employed by the government or military or had a family member who was -- thus making the population intimately connected to and dominated by Hussein.

For the past two decades, Hussein has tyrannically ruled Iraq. He started a war with Iran, and his invasion of Kuwait led to the Persian Gulf War. While his abuses are widespread, opposition groups receive little popular support, and uprisings have been minor and easily squelched. Fear of reprisals forced nearly unanimous positive votes for Hussein in the 1995 and 2002 referendums on the presidency. In addition, many in the Middle East seem to believe that if Hussein is deposed the country will break into pieces, leading to more problems in the already troubled region.

Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Gulf War I

The Iran-Iraq War permanently altered the course of Iraqi history. It strained Iraqi political and social life, and led to severe economic dislocations. Viewed from a historical perspective, the outbreak of hostilities in 1980 was, in part, just another phase of the ancient Persian-Arab conflict that had been fueled by twentieth-century border disputes. Many observers, however, believe that Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran was a personal miscalculation based on ambition and a sense of vulnerability. Saddam Hussein, despite having made significant strides in forging an Iraqi nation-state, feared that Iran's new revolutionary leadership would threaten Iraq's delicate SunniShia balance and would exploit Iraq's geostrategic vulnerabilities--Iraq's minimal access to the Persian Gulf, for example. In this respect, Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran has historical precedent; the ancient rulers of Mesopotamia, fearing internal strife and foreign conquest, also engaged in frequent battles with the peoples of the highlands.

Iraq and Iran had engaged in border clashes for many years and had revived the dormant Shatt al Arab waterway dispute in 1979. Iraq claimed the 200-kilometer channel up to the Iranian shore as its territory, while Iran insisted that the thalweg--a line running down the middle of the waterway--negotiated last in 1975, was the official border. The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement.

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