Twenty years ago on 16 Aug, Iran and Iraq concluded a peace agreement after an 8-year war. The date invites a look at the war and at a recent challenge to 20 years of Iran-Iraq peace. The start date of the war is a point of contention, but most accounts of the conflict blame it on a dispute over control of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in southeast Iraq. Ambiguity in sections of the borders in maps drawn by World War I conquerers left the door open to the dispute, and to a recent spat over a oilfield.
Iraq says the 1980 war began on 4 Sep when Iran shelled several border posts. Iran says it began on 22 Sep when Iraqi forces invaded western Iran. The modern boundaries of the Middle East emerged from the 1914-1918 conflict. So did modern Arab nationalist movements and Islamic movements that are causing headaches in both the region and in western countries. The maps drawn by the British and others did not resolve the historic argument about sovereignty over and access to the Shatt Al-Arab waterway, which forms the Iran-Iraq border for part of its length. The maps also left other Iran-Iraq border areas poorly defined, an lapse that has grown more important with the growth of the oil industry in both countries. Many oilfields are situated in border regions. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties and a vast loss of oil revenues for both countries. The peace deal resulted in the division of sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway. It left several other border disputes unresolved, but a dispute in December over the Al-Fakkah oil field at the border showed that neither country is willing to risk war again. It resulted in a brief stanoff and talk of arbitration to resolve the question of which country owns it. Iran newspapers report that the two countries are also negotiating over other disputed border areas. (last updated Jul 2010)
Date written/update: 2010-08-16