This invasion has a lot in common with the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. What can she teach? The worldʼs leading media about the war on February 10

Anton Semyzhenko


“History can teach if you ask the right questions,” says the author of an article about analogies between the Russian-Ukrainian war and the Iran-Iraq conflict of 1980-1989, which was published in War on the Rocks Roman Mainprize, a researcher at the University of Warwick in Britain, draws attention to the fact that many compare the Russian attack on Ukraine with the First World War as a trench war or with the Second World War because of the terrain on which the battles are fought. However, far more parallels can be seen with another war — between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s. Iraq, considering part of the Iranian territories as its “eternal lands”, attacked the neighboring country and at first quickly advanced through its territory. However, when Saddam Husseinʼs forces were exhausted, Iran conducted several successful counteroffensive operations and entered Iraqi territory — because, as it turned out, Tehran also has territorial claims to Iraq. After that, a long positional war began, which smouldered for another eight years, until it ended.

As in the Russian-Ukrainian case, coalitions of allied states were formed around Iran and Iraq, which supported one or the other side, and weapons were also actively supplied. And like the current war, that confrontation was decisive for the future of the region and a large part of the world. As now Ukraine does not leave the columns of the world media, then the main international topic of many publications was often the Iran-Iraq war.

During that war, Iraq used weapons of mass destruction, poisoning the Iranian military with toxic gases. Now we are also talking about weapons of mass destruction, which Putin threatens from time to time. Importantly, Baghdad resorted to the use of mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin and tabun only when Iranian troops entered Iraqi territory. It is clear that Putin is ready to use the same tactical nuclear weapons when the "red lines" are crossed — the only question is what they are for him. Probably, Mainprize suggests, such a "red line" can be the recapture the Crimea by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Therefore, in this direction, the author suggests not to put pressure on Russia "too quickly and strongly", opening the possibility for a diplomatic solution to the issue when the loss of Crimea becomes a real prospect for the Kremlin in the near future.

Also, the experience of the Iran-Iraq war shows that it is important for the allies to calculate the forces for a "long run" — to be able to support Ukraine in a sufficient amount financially and with weapons until Russia dies. Moreover, if this is done decisively, the invaders will wear out faster than if the West shows its hesitation.

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