How dangerous was the Iran-Iraq war for stability in the Gulf?

The Iran-Iraq War lasted 8 years and cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. Neither side made significant territorial gains yet the war had serious repercussions for the Gulf region and international peace.

How did the war affect Iran and Iraq?




Green= positive outcome for that country


Red= negative outcome for that country

Who benefited more from the War?

  • Iraq Benefited More

  1. During the war, the Iraqi army was expanded. Iraq was also sold weapons by the West, China and the USSR. This meant that by the end of the war, Iraq had the world’s fourth largest army. This made Iraq more secure and safe from attack and increased support for Saddam as he was keeping the people safe.

  2. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait provided Iraq with money and routes to export their oil during the war. This showed that Saddam had significant support from many Arab countries in the region. If they were invaded by Iran, they could use these countries as their allies for support in the conflict.

  • Iran Benefited More

  1. Many Iranians supported the war against Iraq and even volunteered to fight in the jihad against Saddam. This showed that the Islamic revolution in Iran had wide support, so if Iraq invaded again, there would still be people to fight and resist the invasion.

  2. Countries such as Syria and Libya provided Iran with financial and military aid during the war. This showed that the Islamic government in Iran had some support from many Arab countries in the region. This showed that Iran would have allies and help if Iraq invaded again.

  • Neither Side Benefited

  1. The war ended in a stalemate. Neither side achieved their goals, while many soldiers and civilians were killed in the conflict.

  2. The cost of the war and falling oil prices crippled the Iraqi economy. This led to the Iraqi government cutting back on their spending on education, healthcare and welfare for the Iraqi people. This could result in less support from the Iraq people, and as there were many casualties, there may not be many soldiers to defend Iraq.

How serious a threat was the Iran-Iraq War to stability in the Gulf?

It was a serious threat to stability in the Gulf

  • If Iran had won the war, they would have controlled most of the world's oil reserves. This terrified the USA and other Western powers who were reliant on oil from the Gulf. they may have taken military action against Iran if they had won the war.

  • During the war, Arab states in the Gulf either supported Iran or Iraq. This led to divisions and increasing tensions between the Arab countries of the Middle East.

  • New weapons of mass destruction such as scud missiles and chemical weapons were used in the war. These weapons had the power to cause huge devastation. This concerned both Arab leaders and the international community.

  • Iraq built up a huge army and developed new weapons during the war. This led to it becoming one of the strongest military powers in the Gulf. Saddam began to threaten other Arab neighbours like Kuwait which caused increasing tensions in the Gulf.

It wasn't such a serious threat to stability in the Gulf

  • The war ended in a stalemate. This meant that the balance of power in the Gulf remained intact between Iran and its supporters and Iraq and its supporters.

  • The Iran‐Iraq war was focused mainly around the Persian Gulf. This meant that the devastation that it caused was contained to that region.

On the one hand, the war was a serious threat to stability in the gulf.

Firstly, it affected regional peace and stability. This is because it caused a division among Arab countries in the middle east as they either supported Iran and Iraq. In addition, as Iraq’s army became stronger and more advanced, Saddam began to threaten other leaders in the gulf.

Secondly, it also affected international stability. This is because the West relied on the middle east for their oil reserves, so they were terrified of Iran’s beliefs and proposed policies, so if Iran had won the war, they would have entered into conflict with them to regain control and access to the oil and natural resources.


On the other hand, the war was not a very serious threat to stability in the gulf.

Firstly, the war ended in stalemate and no country got what they wanted or gained anything. Therefore, there were no changes to the oil policy like Iran had proposed and been fighting for and Iraq had not been seized by an Islamic government, so there were not any changes politically.

Secondly, there was not much damage to international infrastructure. This is because the conflict was contained in the Persian Gulf, so damage was kept to that region and there was minimal damage elsewhere.

How important was Western involvement to the outcome of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88?

Western involvement was important

  • The US provided intelligence to Iraq about Iran’s movements, so they knew what attacks were planned and were able to defend themselves effectively.

  • The US provided weapons and sent battleships to the persian gulf, so the Iraqi army was able to become much stronger than the Iranian Army.

Western involvement was not so important or was not as important as other factors

  • There were many other countries in the middle east which got involved. Supporting Iraq, Saudi Arabia provided 40 billion dollars of subsidy and other middle eastern countries helped them to export resources (e.g. oil). Syria and Libya on the other hand, provided help and support to Iran.

  • Military tactics were very important factors to the war ending in stalemate. While Iraq used their air force to bomb Iran, Iran were able to safely store their air force to attack Iraq later on. Also, fierce fighting in the towns made more time for volunteer soldiers to arrive. Furthermore, Iran attacked in waves while Iraq built trenches and defended themselves. Very little progress was made.