Events in the Gulf, 1970-2000


Iraq, 1920-1958

  • 1920- Iraq created by the British from three parts of the Ottoman Empire
  • 1921- King Faisal I put on the throne by the British
  • Iraq was a difficult country to rule because:
    • 20% of the population was Kurdish and did not speak Arabic like the majority
    • The government was dominated by Sunnis, but Iraq and neighbouring Iran was mostly Shia
    • Oil was controlled by a foreign firm and 95% of revenue went to Western powers
    • The borders created by the British gave them little access to the sea and meant continual conflict with Iran. Many felt that Kuwait, which had better access to the Gulf, should have been part of Iraq. They blamed the British for limiting their influence in the Gulf.
  • 1932- Iraq granted independence; British kept control of its oil, defence, and foreign policy
  • After a rebellion in 1941, Britain occupied Iraq until the end of WW2
  • 1958- Monarchy and government overthrown in a military coup. They were unpopular because the British supported them and kept them in power. The King, Crown Prince and Prime Minister were all killed.
  • The new government was led by Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim
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Rise of the Ba'ath Party

  • The Ba'ath Party represented pan-Arabism- the aim to unite all Arabs and end western influence in the Middle East
  • They pushed for greater Arab nationalism in the 1960s and opposed the new government
  • 1963- Ba'athists overthrew and executed Qasim, but lost power to Colonel Abd al-Salam Arif
  • 1966- Colonel Arif died and passed the power to his brother
  • Ba'ath Party banned; secretly reorganised by Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr
  • 1968- Al-Bakr and his relative Saddam Hussein overthrew Arif and kept control
  • Consolidated their power by removing potential enemies in the army and putting trusted Ba'athists in all positions of power
  • The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was the most important government body. They made laws and key decisions. Al-Bakr was chairman and Saddam made deputy in 1969.
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Rise of Saddam Hussein

  • 1957- Joined the Ba'ath Party
  • 1959- Escaped to Cairo after being part of an attempt to assassinate Qasim
  • 1963- Jailed after the failed Ba'athist coup; managed to escape
  • Made Deputy Secretary General when the party was reorganised
  • 1968- Took control of the security network and militia
  • In the early 1970s, Saddam worked well with al-Bakr, but their relationship became more tense as Saddam gained power
  • 1979- Al-Bakr resigned as President, allegedly on health grounds but possibly as a result of pressure from Saddam, who took the role as President
  • By 1979, Saddam was President, Chairman of the RCC. head of the armed forces and Secretary general of the Ba'ath Party. He had complete control of the country.
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Saddam's rule of Iraq

  • The National Assembly contained the Ba'ath Party in majority, but also Kurds, Shi'ites and communists. However, the National Assembly held no real power. The communists were only there to keep the USSR, Iraq's biggest ally, happy.
  • Saddam often purged the army and government of those he thought to be disloyal
  • He developed a cult of personality using propaganda, as Stalin did
  • Improved living standards in the 1970s:
    • Women were given more rights and opportunities in education and jobs
    • Ownership of land was restricted and surplus was given to the poor
    • Oil industry nationalised; extra income used to improve public services
    • Education was a priority; 2 million people learned to read and write
  • However, war in the 1980s and 1990s meant:
    • Iraq left in extreme debt and trade was restricted after the Gulf War
    • Little money was left for education
    • Women lost rights as Saddam began to rely on tribal support
    • Overproduction of oil meant Iraq was making less money
  • Saddam did not have good relations with Shi'ites or Kurds, who rose in rebellion against him. He crushed these rebellions using heavy bombing and chemical weapons.
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Iran, 1926-1971

  • 1926- Army officer Reza Khan took power and was crowned Reza Shah after WW1
  • Reza Shah made Iran more secular and restricted religious influence
  • 1935- Changed the country's name from Persia to Iran
  • Oil was discovered by the British, who got 84% of the profits
  • In WW2, it was feared that the Nazis would occupy the oil fields. Britain did not want the Shah to nationalise the oil as Iraq did, so with the help of the USSR, they deposed him in 1941. They put his son in power and occupied Iran until 1945.
  • 1950- Growing American influence led to an uprising led by Mohammad Mossadeq. He became Prime Minister in 1951 and nationalised the oil industry
  • Britain and the US led a boycott of Iranian oil and the CIA helped to depose Mossadeq
  • The Shah had many opponents, such as the communist Tudeh party and the Muslim clerics. He banned opposition parties and persecuted political opponents with the secret police, SAVAK. He restricted free speech.
  • The Shah negotiated a new deal with the West that gave Iran 50% of oil revenue. He used this to expand the military and fund reforms.
  • Kennedy pressured the Shah to relax political control, so he began the White Revolution, which had three aims- reform, education and women's rights.
  • The benefits did not reach everyone. The Shah was out of touch with everyday Iranians; he held lavish parties costing millions while many were living below the poverty line.
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Iranian Revolution, 1963-1979

  • 1963- Ayatollah Khomeini gained fame by preaching against the Shah's corruption and American influence in Iran
  • He was arrested by SAVAK but released after protests in Tehran
  • 1964- He was exiled to Turkey but went to Iraq, where he continued to preach
  • American influence increased in the 1960s and 1970s; many Americans working in defence came to Iran because the US supplied Iran with weapons. Advertisements were for Hollywood films and American products, many of which were offensive to Khomeini.
  • Khomeini was supported because he exposed the great inequality of wealth
  • He argued that religious scholars like himself should be running the country instead of the Shah
  • 1977- Jimmy Carter became President. He urged the Shah to end political oppression, so he released many political activists from jail, which led to an outpouring of criticism
  • 1978- A news article attacking Khomeini led to an uprising, where many people were killed; after the period of mourning was over, protests continued, and the cycle continued
  • Iran became unsafe for Khomeini, so he left and went to France
  • The Shah, ill with cancer, refused to attack his people any more, so left Iran in 1979 with his family
  • Khomeini returned a month later; millions came out to celebrate
  • Foreign influence ended and a new government led by religious leaders began
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Causes of the Iran-Iraq War

  • Dispute over the Shatt al-Arab waterway:
    • The waterway was incredibly important to Iraq as it was their only access to the Gulf
    • Iran and Iraq made an agreement in 1937 over the waterway
    • When the Ba'ath Party came into power the Shah ended the agreement in 1969
    • The Algiers Agreement of 1975 made a new deal which gave Iran greater rights over the waterway in exchange for ending support to the Kurds in Iraq
  • Kurdish resistance in the north of Iraq
    • In 1969 the Shah began to support the Kurdish resistance
    • The Algiers Agreement ended support, but Khomeini resumed this when he came to power
  • The rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini
    • Saddam was initially friendly towards the new government and wanted to keep the peace
    • Khomeini accused Saddam of being 'un-Islamic' and resumed support for the Kurds
    • Khomeini called on Iraq's Shia population to overthrow Saddam; he responded by dumping 100,000 Shi'ites over the border into Iran
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Events of the Iran-Iraq War

  • Sept 1980- Iraq invades Iran
  • 1981- Iran launched attacks
  • 1982- Saddam withdrew and asked for peace talks; Khomeini refused
  • 1984- Tanker War begins; both sides bombed each other's oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to weaken their economy
  • 1984- War of the Cities begins; both sides bombed each other's cities
  • 1985- Both sides launched attacks; Iran failed to break Iraqi lines
  • 1986- Iran captured the Fao Peninsula; Iraq held on to the Shatt al-Arab
  • 1986- Iraq relieved Fao and briefly invaded Iran
  • July 1987- UN called for a ceasefire with Resolution 598; Iran refused
  • 1988- Iraq attacked Tehran and ordered chemical attacks on Kurds in the north
  • July 1988- Iran accepted a ceasefire
  • 1990- Final peace deal reached
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Consequences of the Iran-Iraq War

  • Iran's oil fields were damaged so they could not produce as much oil
  • Kuwait refused to limit its oil production so Iraq's oil revenue went down
  • Iraq left in millions of dollars of debt
  • UN passed Resolution 688, which stopped Iraq from attack Kurdistan
  • Both countries' economies were collapsing
  • Casualties were extensive, around a million altogether
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Causes of the First Gulf War

  • Short-term economic causes
    • Iraq owed $100 billion in loans
    • Their infrastructure was damaged; costs of rebuilding were even higher than the debts
    • If the army was demobilised, one million men would become unemployed
    • Gulf Cooperation Council refused to cancel his debts
    • Kuwait was refusing to lower its oil production, which meant the price of oil dropped
    • Iraq claimed Kuwait was stealing from their shared Rumaila oil field by slant-drilling
  • Long-term political causes
    • When Iraq was created, it refused to recognise Kuwait
    • Kuwait had superior borders and better access to the Gulf
    • When Iraq demanded $10 billion from Kuwait, they offered $9 billion, a calculated snub in Arabian politics
  • Although Saddam had promised he would not attack, he invaded Kuwait on 2nd August 1990.
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Events of the First Gulf War

  • A UN resolution condemned the invasion and 32 nations agreed to take action if Iraq refused to withdraw
  • Winter 1990-91- Operation Desert Shield:
    • Defence of Saudi Arabia
    • UN Security Council ordered Saddam to withdraw by 15 January 1991
    • US sent troops to the Arabian peninsula; by November, troops numbered 400,000
    • Saddam did not withdraw by the deadline
  • 17 Jan 1991- Operation Desert Storm:
    • Operation Instant Thunder- disrupted communications, attacked strategic sites and hit Iraqi ground forces
  • Saddam wanted to undermine the coalition forces, which included Arab countries, so he launched Scud missiles; it was rumoured that they had warheads in Israel; this almost broke the coalition
  • 29 Jan 1991- Battle of Al Khafji: Iraq attacked Saudi Arabia, coalition defeated Iraq
  • Iraq attacked from both sides; forced to retreat, bombed from the sky on the 'highway of death'
  • 3 March 1991- Ceasefire accepted
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Consequences of the First Gulf War

  • Saddam lost his chemical and biological weapons
  • Economic sanctions were maintained
  • Iraq was not allowed to import chlorine so water could not be treated
  • Rationing remained throughout the 1990s
  • Infant mortality increased five-fold
  • No oil could be produced in Kuwait for two years because Iraq set fire to their oil fields as they retreated
  • Two of the largest ever oil spills seeped into the Gulf
  • 82,000 Iraqi soldiers and 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed
  • 139 coalition soldiers were killed
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