By Shirin Saeidi ∙ CASMII ∙ April 6, 2008
Kimberly Kagan’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on April 3rd with the misleading title “The Second Iran-Iraq war” presents a false depiction of the Islamic Republic’s current role in Iraq.  Kagan argues Iran is the source of havoc in the current civil war between the US-backed Iraqi government and local militias organized under Muqtada al-Sadr. However, she fails to provide any references for her bold assertions aside from the discourse originating out of Washington D.C., and apparently is also not clear on the history of the Iran-Iraq war. While claiming Iran as the real cause of unrest, she redefines “the longest and bloodiest conventional war of the century” to support her vilifying thesis. 
Iran has played a crucial role in assuaging the current war between local militias and the US-backed Iraqi government, with as recent as last week brokering an impressive cease-fire between the two warring factions . There was also a call for the unity of Iraq to be maintained and for national focus to shift on ending the foreign occupation which debilitates the country. Additionally, the US government has supplied the Iraqi military with helicopters and weaponry, bracketed Sadr City, imprisoned civilians in the area and created a real life inferno in one of the poorest regions of the occupied country.  By calling a halt to the conflict “what has happened is essentially that Iran has frustrated the joint US-British objective of gaining control of Basra, without which the strategy of establishing control over the fabulous oil fields of southern Iraq will not work.”  Therefore, we can only hope that there are peoples and governments in the world with enough political will and moral integrity to support the Iraqi right to self-determination. More importantly, the Iraqi army has refused to continue its fight against militia forces, due either to its inability to resist rigorous combat or a collective refusal to view local fighters as enemies. 
I would also like to present an alternative narrative on the Iran-Iraq war than the one Kagan suggests by her title. The eight year war which resulted in the death of over one million Iranians, and interrupted the 1979 revolution began with Iraqi bombardments followed by an invasion of Southern Iran on September 23, 1980 with full military, logistical, and moral support of the international system. It took the United Nations Security Council two years to define the encounter as “conflict,” instead of “situation,” and another six years to begin labeling Iraq as the aggressor. As the world silently watched, young Iranian men and women volunteered in the thousands, with many of them moving into the warfront without any form of weaponry. It was at the junction of a popular uprising and an imposed war that Iranian women established their visions for the new state: many remember starting careers, participating in the war politically and militarily, and falling in love, at the same time. As Kagan writes to distort Iranian national history, veterans continue living in pain, and victims of chemical weapons still await American and European leaders to be held accountable. The landscape of contemporary Iran is imbued with images from the war, and there exists burgeoning national debates over its memory.  I agree with Kagan’s subtle suggestion that the war was momentous, molding the constructs of the post 1979 state, and defining Iran as one of the most influential countries in world politics. However, the destruction we see in Iraq today is very much a continuation of US foreign policy, so perhaps this is what Kagan’s title should have instead signified. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120718691572085211.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
 Hiro, D. 1989. The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict. London: Grafton Books.
 See for example: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2008-03-30-iraqnews_N.htm; http://www.mcclatchydc.com/iraq/story/32055.html; http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=106609
 Bhadrakumar, M K.. “Iran torpedoes US plans for Iraqi oil.” Asia Times Online. 2 April. 2008.
 See for example: http://www.etemaad.com/Released/86-11-18/213.htm or the translation, http://188.8.131.52/main/blog/shirin-saeidi/only-5-female-martyrs-streets-tehran
Shirin Saeidi is an Iranian-American PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her thesis examines the impact of the Iran-Iraq war on Iranian women’s political identity. She is also a member of CASMII Steering Committee, UK.
[Edited for style. –DT]