For each government, this produces at once a level of anxiety about internal disaffection and a nearby target of opportunity for potential subversion or liberation. Indeed, both parties had long been active in stirring up potentially friendly populations on the other side of the border (Hiro, 1991, pp. 12; 23-24). The contest for control of the Shatt-al-Arab thus involved higher stakes than the waterway itself, or even the purely military aspects of its role as a barrier. For both sides, the immediate issues in dispute were proxies for larger issues of dominance over the upper Gulf region. This, however, cannot qualify as what Fearon calls "private information" (no date, p. 381), since both sides were well aware of the other's activities and potential threat.
In 1975, when the two parties came close to war over this issue, Iran accepted rather minor concessions rather than take the risk of war. In contrast, in 1980, Iraq was willing to risk war after failing to reverse these concessions. It is probable that the Iraqis never in fact expected the Iranians to concede, and were seeking a pretext rather than a favorable negotiated settlement.
Why were the Iraqis willing to risk war? To answer this question (and the parallel question of why Iran did not risk war in 1975), we must first evaluate the scope and nature of the war risks involved. These risks in fact were much greater for Iraq than for Iran, both in strictly military terms and in the broader sense of the possible worst-case consequences of national military defeat. Iran has approximately three times the population of Iraq, and a much greater land area. The economic development levels of the two countries were comparable; hence their underlying economic capacity to sustain war was roughly in proportion to population.
This disparity was significantly leveled, in 1975 -- and even more in 1980 -- by two special factors: oil exports and superpower alignment. Bo...
Historical Roots on the Iran-Iraq War. (2000, January 01). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 19:21, November 25, 2015, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303364905.html