Middle East Report 257 Winter 2010
As photo editor of MER, I would like to point out the powerful photos by Alfred Yaghobzadeh (as seen on the cover here) of the Iran-Iraq war, as well as great photos by Manca Juvan, Mohammad Kheirkhah, Yahya Ahmed, and Isabel Ellsen among others.
From 1980 to 1988, Iran and its western neighbor Iraq fought one of the bloodiest and most futile wars of the late twentieth century. The precise number of fatalities is unknown, but certainly reaches into the hundreds of thousands. And, as war retrospectives inevitably point out, neither side gained an inch of territory. Yet, as argued in the winter 2010 issue of Middle East Report, 'The Iran-Iraq War 30 Years Later,' it is not quite right to conclude that this 'senseless' conflict left no legacy but death and destruction.
Joost Hiltermann, author of A Poisonous Affair, about the Iraqi chemical attack upon Halabja in 1988, surveys the landscape and finds that the war did not thwart the respective ambitions of Iran and Iraq so much as it delayed their pursuit. For the Kurds of Iraq, the war was a disaster and, eventually, an opportunity. For Turkey, the Gulf monarchies and the United States, it has meant enduring nervousness over the balance of power in this most strategic of world regions.
A war so long and taxing, requiring such extensive social mobilization, by necessity transformed the political economies of the combatant states, as well as states in the immediate vicinity. Nida Alahmad and Arang Keshavarzian explain how the war reordered the Iraqi and Iranian regimes; accelerated the physical connection of Baghdad and Tehran to hinterlands and rural areas further afield; rerouted oil flows; reallocated control of key revenue streams; and built entirely new institutions, such as the welter of social welfare funds in the Islamic Republic. Kevan Harris fleshes out the crucial role of one such welfare organization, the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee. Pete Moore demonstrates why Kuwait fared poorly and Jordan modestly well amidst the conflagration.
The eight-year war also left an indelible imprint upon cultural production in both countries. Iraqi novelist and poet Sinan Antoon tells the story of the 'Victory Arch,' the gargantuan crossed swords erected by Saddam Hussein’s regime to commemorate what it called a great triumph. In post-Saddam Iraq, the arches are on a list of monuments targeted for demolition.
Also featured: Jacob Mundy measures the fallout of November’s “48 hours of rage” in Western Sahara; Vijay Prashad reviews the history of Indian-Israeli relations; and more.
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