Created: 5/12/1982

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Outcomes and Implications of the Iran-Iraq War


Recent military successes by Iran make clear that it will emerge the victor from its war with Iraq, although fighting likely will continue for some time. At this point there seems little the Iraqis can do, alone or in .combination with other Arabs, to salvage much from the military situation.

Saddam Hussein's total identification with the costly and unpopular war with Iran makeshallenge to his rule. The most serious threat probably will come from among the current political and military leaders. Some of them may want to topple the President to preclude popular uprisings against, the regime and Iranian efforts to foment or encourage such uprisings among Iraq's Shia cormunity. eriod of Iraqi instability exploited bv Iran could result in an Islamic fundamentalist government in Baghdad. '

Iran's goal is to create the conditions that favor the coming to power ofovernment. Addressed below are four possible outcomes to the war as Iran seeks togoal, their implications for US Interests and for the regionhole.

Outcome I: Bordero Peace, But No Invasion

The most likely immediate outcome of the war will be that Iran pushes Iraq out, or Iraq withdraws voluntarily. Iran then refuses to negotiate, maintains military pressure through border clashes and subversion, and refuser to allow reopening of the Shatt al Arab.T


Subsequent developments are dependent on the Iraqi Army's ability tointact. The Armyssential to the ability of Iraq's Sunniercent of the population) to maintain control over the majority Shia (See Attachment A) and other ethnic groups. The Army's disintegration would improve the prospects of Iranian supported groups such as the Shia Dawa Party.

Implications for the US. The most immediate consequence of this outcome woulo ne continued closure of Iraq's Gulf ports and Iraqi dependence on Arab oil producers for aid, precluding Iraq's resumption of major oil shipments or the rebuilding of its economy.

The US would still be faced witholicy toward Iraq that

did not violate neutralityhe war.

Iran would use the Kurdsehran-controlled Army of Liberation to work for Saddam's overthrow. Iran's "revolutionaryherefore, would be highly visible in the regionpecific target that Iranian propaganda could link to the US. Pragmatism and economic development,esult, would be even less likely to be the focus of Iran's leadership.

Politics in the entire region would revolve around Iran's attempts to stimulate an Islamic revolt in Iraq. This could be used by the US as the major regional threat around which tooncensus. The cost to the US, however, would be abandonment of any public stance of neutrality or understanding for Iran's revolution. I

Outcome. II: Ceasefire. Withdrawal, and Negotiations

A less likely outcome wouldotal Iraqi military withdrawal, followedeasefire and protracted negotiations, probably through the Islamic Conference (See Iraq remains desperate for negotiations, but Iran has shown no interest and would only enter into them if assured of complete public vindication of its position,orresponding humiliation of the current Iraqito its downfall. Tehran also would demand substantialhave used the figure0 billion. | I

Implications for the US. This scenario would be the most satisfactory for US interests.

Saddam's regime probably would stayower longer, reducing the

prospects of an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Baghdad in the near


Iraq could turn to rebuilding Its economy, which would reinforce its drift away from the Soviet orbit.

Negotiations probably would slow Egypt's reentry Into the Arab orbit; there would be less need for quick Egyptian entry as the protector of


^ moderate Arabs against Iranian Shia revolutionaries. Thisgi stiffen Arab terms for Egypt'sin the form of more pressure on Cairo toougher line toward Israel.

Oik The Iraqi oil industry would benefit the most from this scenario.

onths Iraq probably could resume crude exports from the Persian Gulf and withinonths exports could probably be restored to pre-war levels of moreillion barrels per day. Most of the equipment needed to repair Iraq's offshore terminals is already stockpiledahrain.

-- If Damascus allowed Iraq to resume pumping oil through the Iraq-Syria pipeline system, Baghdad could Immediately increase production from the current level ofarrels per dayillion barrels per day. This wouldillion barrels per day above Baghdad's OPEC production quota.

An Iraqi attempt to increase exportsillion barrels per day would renew downward Drlce pressures. Defense ofPEC benchmark price would require the continuation of an effective OPEC production allocation scheme, with Saudi Arabia willing to continue to produce at relatively low levels. Iraq might be willing to phase in production more slowly thanllow in exchangeontinuation of loans from other OPEC members.

A ceasefire would havemall impact on Tehran's ability to produce and export crude. The war has not Imposed any significant constraints on Iranian- export capabilities. eduction In war-risk insurance on tankers calling at the Kharg island export terminal, however, would further improve the price competitiveness of Iranian oil and make it easier for Tehran to increase exports.

Outcome III: Iranian Military Enters Iraq

Tehran could opt for any of three forms of direct military intervention to try to bring down Saddam Hussein (See

a "liberation army" of Iraqi exiles, ex-POHs, and oossibly Iranian volunteers.

-- Limited military incursions to support local uprisings.

all-out attack toeneral insurrection.


The Iranians are providing military training to some of the0 Iraqis expelled from Iraq during the past three years. They could be Introduced into Iraqi Kurdistan where, combined with local Kurdish rebels, they couldajor city androvisional government. The same tactic could be used in Basrah, if Iraqi regular units in the south collapse. The Iranian army would need to maintain pressure along the border, to prevent BaohQad from dispatching units to crush the fledqllnq liberation army.

Egyptian populace. Nonetheless, the Arabs could decide to make symbolic deploj0>ents in support of Saddam in the hope that these might constrain the Irantans (See Attachment

Implications for the US. Active Arab intervention presents the most serious dangers for US interests, with broad implications for the regionhole. Although Intended to preclude an Iranian Invasion of Irap^and thereby limit theprobably would have the opposite effect. | |

Likely Iranian responses to such moves could quickly escalate to war along the length of the Gulf.

The Strait of Homru* could be closed by Iran, ending the flow of oil.

Vulnerable oil targets on both sides of the Gulf would be open to attack.

-- Syrian involvement could not be precluded.

-- The moderate, pro-Western Gulf states would turn rapidly to the US for assistance, raising the prospect of superpower involvement.

temporizinq in the face of Arab calls for support would be viewed as another US abandonment of the Arabs.

Regional Reactions

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States will do whatever is within their limited power to help Saddam Hussein stay in power and check Iran. However much Iraqi forces have been discredited by the war, the Gulf states still believe that only the present Baghdad regime, or one like it, stands between them and the spread of luoifln and radical Arab (Syrian, Libyan, Palestinian) influence in the Gulf.

If Iran stops its advance at the border and Initiatesar of attrition or protracted negotiations designed to undermine Saddam, the Gulf states will continue to provide financial and. If necessary, logistic support to prevent Iraq's position from deteriorating further. They also will encourage Jordan and probably Egyot to help bolster Baghdad in whatever way they can. At the same time, they might renew Gulf offers to Iran to help pay warthe hope of inducing Iran's leaders tooaproaise with Baghdad

The Gulf states are unlikely to contnit military forces to the fighting. They know this would have no impact on the outcome and only Increase the risk of Iranian retaliation.f

Were Iran to Invade Iraq In force or to open supply lines to Shia and Kurdish rebels Inside Iraq, the Saudis and others, in panic, might cast about for some way to Involve the Arab League or even the UN to shore up Saddam Hussein. They probably also would look more anxiously to the US for help and support to deter Iran from taking action against them. I ^




ome down squarely on the side of Tehran in Its war with Iraqident Assad Is unlikely to fundamentally alter this stance even If Iranlnvades Iraq. Assad will suDport Tehran's position if it recovers all Iranian territory, continues to keep military and economic pressure on the regime in Baghdad, but does not invade Iraq. He likely would alsoimited Iranian invasion of Iraq and the use of Iraqi dissidents to foment uprisings, hoping to hasten the ouster of his arch rival. President Saddam


Syrian backing for an all-out Iranian invasion of Iraq might be less wholehearted. Assadhia fundamentalist regime in Baghdad. It might Increase Iraqi support for Syrian Muslim fundamentalists opposed to his secular minority AlawUe-dominated regime. Koreover, support of an all-out invasion and Iranian seizure of large areas of Iraqi territory would Intensify Syria's isolation from most of the Arab world.

Jordan will not be able to offer much more than the suDoort it is already giving, regardless of the war's scenario. Although the King has sent Jordanian volunteers,OO-man Yarmouk Brigade, he would be reluctant to send regular units because that would weaken Jordanian defenses against Syria and Israel. |

Jordan can be expected to Intensify its efforts to galvanize Arab support for Iraq as the possibility of an Iraqi defeat becomes more real. King Hussein might broach Arab military intervention on behalf of Iraq to bolster Saddam Hussein, but probably would not send any more forces unless Egypt or Saudi Arabia also agreed to participate. The King probably will encourage the US to become involvedchieving an end to the war.

Libya provides Iran with limited military and political support and would continue Such aid if Iran regained all its territory and continued to keep economic and military pressure on Iraq. Libyan leader Qadhafi might, however, be interested in acting as an intermediaryegotiations with Baghdad In the event of an Iraqi withdrawal followedeasefire and prolonged negotiations. An Iranian Invasion of Iraq, particularly one using Iraqi dissidents as surrogates,nlikely to upset the Libyans. Oadhafi might,act, use Libyan influence to help stir up the Kurds against the Saddam Hussein regime.

Egypt- though alarmed by the prosoect of an Iranian military victory,onstrainedack of popular supportonfrontation with Tehran. To help contain Iran, Egypt probably would continue arms sales to Baghdad and allow Iraq to recruit additional volunteers from the large Egyptian work forceraq. Cairo also could offer to send military advisers to the Gulfnd ^appeal to the US to Increase its security assistance to these states.

If Iran invaded Iraq, President Mubarak proably would again ask the US to provide discreet aid to Iraq, or request that the US give Egypt the means to increase Us own military assistance effort. Host Egyptians, however, including the officer corps, appear to have little enthusiasm for direct involvement In distant wars. Egypt is unlikely to commit large numbers of ground forces to the fray, and in any case, lacks the capability to rapidlyignificant force to Iraq. arge Iranian military advance into Iraq


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