World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Iran-Iraq War: Thirty Years Later (227) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Zayed University (UAE)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Federico Vélez

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: From a multidisciplinary perspective, this panel revisits the Iran-Iraq war thirty years after its start on September 22, 1980. Panellists will discuss the geostrategic consequences of the eight-year war in the Gulf region and the Middle East within the framework of the last period of the Cold War. The seismic event exacerbated sectarian divisions in the region, called for a realignment of forces, and the emergence of the United States as a Gulf power, our panel explore new approaches to the understanding of the effects on the war in the region. Special attention is placed on the emergence of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a regional body coordinating the foreign policy of the Arab countries bordering the Gulf, and the rise of the United States presence in the Gulf. The panel will then focus on the changes to internal political structures that the conflict brought to both countries and will explore how the legacies of that conflict are essential to understand the Iran’s foreign policy towards Iraq after the United States invasion of 2003 and the toppling of Saddam’s regime.

Humanists, from their part, will focus on the narration of the war and the post-war effects on Iranian and the Iraqi psyche. Oral history and paintings will be used as examples of a narrative of pain and guilt as both sides try to reconstruct, through art, the nightmare of the eight years war and the importance it has on their present lives.

Paper presenter: Wolf-Hagen von Angern (Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Cologne, Germany), “Dabblers versus Classics – Strategic Failures of the Iran-Iraq War in the Light of Clausewitz & Co.”
This paper argues that the Iran - Iraq War was unwinnable – for both sides, from beginning on and until its very last day of fighting due to fundamental mistakes in strategic thinking.

While Saddam Hussein in 1980 tried to “take the day” of revolutionary turmoil in Iran (accompanied by the inner breakdown of the Iranian Armed Forces) by invading the province of Khuzestan to “free” his Arab compatriots who – by coincidence – lived on the main share of the Iranian oil resources, the new clerical regime in Teheran “took the day” too by using the Iraqi invasion as pretence for a comprehensive wipe-out of its opposition. While both sides “took the day” – one voluntarily and one forced – neither side could take a prey.

Paper presenter: Federico Vélez (Zayed University – United Arab Emirates), “The years of living dangerously: Arab monarchies of the Gulf and the Iran-Iraq war”
This paper looks at the Iran – Iraq war from the perspective of the Gulf Monarchies by exploring the narratives of the war emanating from the Gulf Sheikhdoms. The paper will explore how the fierce battles and the unimaginable number of casualties shocked the governments of the region and intensified a sense of internal and external insecurity. As such the war deepen the divisions between Shi’a and Sunni communities in the Gulf, launched the countries into an arms race, and brought in the Soviet Union and the United States as guarantors of the uninterrupted flow of oil from the region. The paper explores how the post-war world was imagined in the Gulf, and why it was impossible for the monarchies to see that this was just the prelude to more years of instability and war.

Paper presenter: Nasser Palangi (Independent Artist - Australia), "Iranian post-war paintings"
This paper looks at the aesthetic narratives of the war as portrayed by the Islamic Revoluion. It will argue that art has been used by the Islamic Revolution as a vehicle to rally the masses through the use of cultural and religious slogans in murals across the country. As such, Art, was as well used a vehicle to legitimize the revolution and incite revolutionary fervor during the war against Iraq. Thirty years later, those murals left from the war are narratives of suffering and despair, the paper explores how those murals are seen, understood, and read from the perspective of modern Iranian artists

Paper presenter: Waleed Saleh (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid – Fundación Tres Culturas), “The legacy of the war in Iran’s foreign policy”
This paper explores a reading of Iran’s present foreign policy from the perspective of its 1980-1988 war. It argues that the bloodshed of the war changed Iran’s perspective vís-a-vís its neighbours in the region and created in Iran a deep sense of insecurity. For Teheran, the war only ended in 2003 with the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the arrival of a Shi’a government in Baghdad, but it did not assuage Iran’s besieged mentality as the United States, and Israel, are seen as inheritors of the threat that Saddam once represented and still informs part of Teheran’s relations with the other Gulf countries.

Paper Presenter: Shirin Shafaie (School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS - UK), "Iran's Treatment of POWs: An Iraqi Narrative"

This paper looks at the experience of Iraqi prisoners-of-war (POWs) during the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) until May 2003 when the final exchange of the POWs between the two countries took place.
This paper conducts a critical discourse analysis of the memoirs and narratives of the Iraqi POWs in Iran. Such in-depth and critical analysis is informed by an untapped and unparalleled pool of memoirs and narratives by the Iraqi POWs as well as hundreds of interviews with them by Iranian journalists, artists or veterans. These first hand resources are published in part in Iranian dailies during the Iran-Iraq War, and in part as independent volumes after 1988. This paper sheds light on these narratives by brining them to the international academic attention and thus initiates analytical conversation on Iran's treatment of the POWs from an alternative perspective, namely that of the Iraqi POWs.