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Iran: Legacy of the Iran-Iraq War
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Military Doctrine > Legacy of the Iran-Iraq War


In the aftermath of the war with Iraq, changes in Iran’s regional, political, and geo-strategic situation required adjustments of military strategy and defense doctrine for which the revolutionary government was unprepared. However, the Iran– Iraq War had the positive result of highlighting grave military shortcomings. The war proved to the government that without a system of alliances Iran needed more aggressive “defensive” weapons, or some type of WMD, that could deter a ruthless enemy such as Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. During the war, Iraq had used its missile capability to hit Tehran and other targets, while Iran could hardly respond. In the last stages of the war, Iraq also used chemical weapons to inflict severe casualties on Iranian troops and civilians.

The war experience enabled Iran to identify two military prerequisites: access to high technology to enhance military capacity and military self-reliance. During the war, the lack of replacements for U.S.-supplied aircraft, coupled with Iraq’s missile attacks, further motivated a shift of emphasis from aircraft to missiles.

After the Iran–Iraq War, Iran’s security policy generally shifted from revolutionary adventurism to a more conservative, less confrontational approach. However, this policy faced a new strategic environment after the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf began to expand in the early 1990s. The conflict with the United Arab Emirates over the Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs, the steady buildup of Iran’s capacity to threaten tanker traffic, Iran’s development of long-range ballistic missiles, and allegations of an active WMD program in Iran alienated the Persian Gulf states and the West. Furthermore, after the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Iran confronted a strong coalition dominated by the United States and continued exclusion from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional security organization that included all the other Persian Gulf states except Iraq when it was founded in 1981.

Data as of 2008

Last Updated: January 2008

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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