SOCIAL UPHEAVALS HAVE PLAYED a major role in Iraq's perception
of its national security. Internal political instability, coupled
with recurrent revolts by the Kurdish minority, mobilized the
energies of successive regimes to crush opposition forces and
to restore order. During the mid- and late 1970s, however, the
Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party leaders succeeded in
establishing a revolutionary government, which temporarily subdued
the Kurdish revolt in northern Iraq and, using repressive measures,
consolidated its power.
The higher prices of petroleum following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli
War, and the Arab oil embargo, resulted in an accumulation of
wealth that enabled Iraq to expand its armed forces in an attempt
to match, in strength as well as in strategic importance, the
capacity of its neighbor, Iran. Having signed a border treaty
with Tehran in 1975, Baghdad assumed that its search for military
parity would not result in conflict, in particular because the
two states enjoyed economic prosperity; however, regional events,
ranging from the Soviet Union's expulsion from Egypt in 1972 to
Egypt's eventual expulsion from the League of Arab States (Arab
League) in 1979, following the signing of the separate Israeli-Egyptian
peace treaty, strengthened Baghdad's resolve to make a bid for
regional leadership. Armed with modern weapons and with sophisticated
equipment from the Soviet Union and France, Iraq gained a sense
of invincibility and, when the opportunity arose, implemented
its resolve. Threatened by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran
and by its potential influence on Iraq's majority Shia (see Glossary)
population, Iraq attacked Iran on September 22, 1980.
For most of the 1980s, Iraq has been preoccupied with that war.
In contrast to the first forty years of Iraqi independence, when
the military participated in several coups, the Iraqi armed forces
demonstrated growing professionalism in the 1980s by limiting
their direct role in the country's political life. The armed forces'
loyalty has also been assured by the Baath Party, however, which--after
conducting purges against the military during the 1970s--continued
to maintain a close eye on every aspect of military life and national
security in the late 1980s.
Data as of May 1988