By Ehsan Qaraee
In this series of articles, I will discuss the 8-year war between Iran and Iraq during the 1980’s, and the history behind it. In order to cover the many aspects of this historical event, I will focus on a few points in each article.
The Iranian regime called this conflict the “Imposed War” or “Holy Defense”. However, the question remains, was this war really an act of defense, or was it imposed on the nation?
According to UN reports, the war began when Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980. On that day, Iraqi aircrafts bombed Iranian airfields and the war officially began. However, what happened before that day which led to this devastating and brutal war is mostly untold. In these texts I am going to review some facts according to newspapers and interviews from those days.
From the very first day after the revolution in Iran, Khomeini said that he was going to expand the revolution to other parts of the world. For example, only two weeks after the revolution, Khomeini said that “all the Islamic countries must be under one flag and one government.” These slogans especially worried the Arab countries in the Middle East.
Montazeri (then the Deputy Supreme Leader and second person in charge after Khomeini) described those days in his book:
“All the countries in the region were afraid of those slogans calling for expansion. One day I came to see Imam; I told him that after every revolution in the world, revolutionaries send their representatives to other countries to describe their policies and show their respect towards their neighbors. We should do the same. He told me that it is not necessary; that we do not need governments since nations are with us” (Memories of Hossein Ali Montazeri, 2000, P310).
Among all the Arab countries, Iraq was special. It has unique potentials that suited Khomeini’s expansionist policy. First of all, the majority of the people of Iraq were Shi’as and the ruling party was Sunni. Secondly the other countries in the region were mostly allies with either the USA or the Soviet Union and Khomeini knew that his regime could not fight with those superpowers. However, Iraq was the most independent country in the Middle East. That’s is why Khomeini and his propaganda system focused on Iraq as a strategic target.
Ebrahim Yazdi (Iran’s foreign minister at the time) said in an interview that their first move was to choose an ambassador in Iraq that knew the country and had secret contacts with Islamic opposition groups… the fifth move was making TV and radio programs in Arabic against Iraqi regime.” (Interview with Keyhan newspaper, 27.09.1980)
Finally, Khomeini himself stepped in and encouraged the Iraqi people and soldiers to overthrow their government. He called Saddam a criminal, infidel and an American puppet who should be burned. (Sahife Noor, Vol 13, P 40)
At the same time it was only the Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI / MEK) that practically tried to prevent the war. PMOI leader Masoud Rajavi and Hani AL Hassan, the Palestinian ambassador in Iran, worked on an agreement based on mutual respect and non-interference relation between the two countries and they asked Yasser Arafat to present it to both countries.
Even then-President Abolhassan Banisadr threatened Iraq and said “we will crush our enemy… They (Iraq) sent their delegates a few times and wanted to resolve problems but I told them that we don’t have any discussion with you. Last time Yasser Arafat came, I told him the same answer.” (Ettelaat newspaper, 12.04.1980)
Khomeini planed everything but he needed a stronger excuse. in the next article we will discuss this excuse and what occurred after.
Ehsan Qaraee is an Iranian human rights activist and civil engineering student at Agder University in Norway.