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2 - Turmoil in the Gulf: The Iran–Iraq War and the Spread of Radical Islam, 1980–1989

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 August 2021

Malcolm Byrne
Affiliation:
National Security Archive/George Washington University
Kian Byrne
Affiliation:
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC
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Summary

After 444 days in captivity, the Iranians finally release the hostages in Iran on the same day Ronald Reagan is inaugurated president – a final insult to the hated Jimmy Carter. Despite this initial positive step, the 1980s turn out to be a low-point in the relationship. Hoping to capitalize on the chaos of the revolution and regain oil-rich provinces ceded to the Shah a decade earlier, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invades Iran and sparks an eight-year war of attrition at tremendous cost to both sides. Incensed at the lackluster response from the West over the invasion and the use of chemical weapons, Iran further isolated itself from the US and sought alternative means of promoting its interests, chief among them the spread of revolution through the region. Iranian support for Shia militant groups, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon, in turn outraged Reagan and his team, as Americans became key targets for kidnapping and terrorist attacks. Despite the mutual enmity, the two countries maintained some forms of communication, however ineffective. The greatest consequence of this, however, was the Iran-Contra Affair, which nearly brought down the Reagan White House.

Type
Chapter
Information
Worlds Apart
A Documentary History of US–Iranian Relations, 1978–2018
, pp. 62 - 135
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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