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40 Years since Start of Stalemated War between Iraq, Iran
An Iranian soldier wears a gasmask during fighting against Iraq. Date and place unknown. (Wikimedia Commons)

40 Years since Start of Stalemated War between Iraq, Iran

Tuesday marks four decades since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched a war against Iran to establish himself as the undisputed leader of the region. The year before, Shi’ite mullahs in Iran had instigated the ouster of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and declared an Islamic republic. In addition to his dreams of regional domination, Saddam, a Sunni presiding over a Shi’ite majority in his own country, viewed the takeover next door as a threat to his own rule, and something to be acted upon. With the mullahs now having executed or forced into early retirement the shah’s generals, the Iraqi dictator made his move. Eight years later, after a UN-brokered cease-fire, the war was over. Neither side could realistically declare victory, and both armies ended up pretty much where they had started – although with a combined death toll, among both soldiers and civilians, estimated at around half a million, and militaries and economies left thoroughly decimated. The war also marked the widespread use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and allegations that Iran relied on “martyrdom” among children and youths by sending them ahead of advancing troops to detonate landmines. If anything, historians say the eight years of fighting sharpened the lines in what has since become a clear struggle by both Sunnis and Shi’ites for dominance in the Middle East.

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