C P W Gammell at Literary Review:
The Iran–Iraq War ostensibly concerned sovereignty of the Shatt al-Arab, a stretch of water dividing the two nations. The Algiers Accord of 6 March 1975 allowed Saddam and the Shah of Iran to announce that they had put an end to their disagreements. The demarcation of terrestrial and fluvial borders resulted in the border running through the middle of the Shatt al-Arab, rather than along the Persian bank, which had served as the previous demarcation. For Saddam, the accord had been a humiliation and on 17 September 1980, after months of tension, he renounced it. On 22 September Iraq launched an air offensive, striking inside Iranian territory. The conflict continued, through phases of operations and different styles of warfare, only ending on 20 August 1988, after Iran accepted the UN Security Council’s Resolution 598. And yet, as Razoux shows, this conflict concerned more than a stretch of water separating Iran and Iraq. It covered everything from the Cold War to ancient Persian-Arab tensions to Islamic sectarianism and ethnic separatism.
One of the most fascinating insights this book offers is its illustration of the impact the conflict had on the Islamic Republic of Iran and how that nation moved from fledgling revolutionary state to an established Islamic theocracy. Razoux is right to argue that Iran’s real revolution occurred during the Iran–Iraq War; it was these years of bitter fighting against internal and external enemies that shaped the Iran we see today. The Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force, the Basij and the clerical hierarchy – all these were created, strengthened or became ascendant during the conflict.