Saad Bin Ubaid

This essay is in sequel. Its previous part can be read here.

Iran faced a historical revolution in 1979 in which Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini dethroned Pahlavi imposing an Islamic Sharia law in whole country. The Islamic revolution was brought about by Khomeini who in exile in Iraq monitored it and revolution claimed 10000-40000 lives with a huge number of the injured. The revolution was a success because Iranians were frustrated with the overcoming of Americans in every aspect of life of Iranians. This was strongly condemned by the locals as it raised their grievances. This was the end of monarchy as millions of people took part in march following the overthrow of Iraqi and Egyptian monarchy. Actually, this was the major turning point of Muslim cold war when Saudi perceived it as a Shia-Sunni conflict as Khomeini claimed the state to be Twelver Shite state with freedom of religion to other schools of thoughts. While Iran after securing its position as a giant Muslim anti-monarchy state in region wanted to remove monarchy from all gulf as well as all Muslim countries led to creation of two Muslim blocks along with several small blocks of different views.

Iran’s second revolution was considered more important in its post monarchy history when Iranian supreme council declared America “Satan” and it lost its last sign, the embassy in Tehran, which served as a headquarter of American aims in region. The following year of 1980 was to be important in Muslim history as the great incident of seizure of grand mosque of mecca took place. Actually, it was a de facto coup by one Wahabi extremist named Juhayman who seized the grand masjid of Haram to base another Islamic state entirely on the name of prophet Muhammad saw. On failing of Saudi army to coup with it, Saudi called American forces to lead this mission which could not be successful and at end, Saudi royals asked Pakistan for help, and after all this problem came to end. This incident raised many problems in kingdom which were discussed in COSU meeting which resulted in closing of all non-Islamic activities in country.

The West especially the US propagated that Iran was behind the incident of Grand Mosque seizure as its aim was penetrate to whole Muslim world. However, Khomeini stated that it was in fact USA behind the incident. After this protests were staged so abruptly against Americans throughout the world, that two Americans got killed in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad in American embassy. This incident compelled king Khalid for reforms in government for which he shuffled his cabinet, restructured its institutes, and banned all non-Islamic activities under strict orthodoxy. Even the base field of Dhahran near Dammam which was thought to be excluded from Wahhabist doctrine was subjected under strict Wahabism. The universities were ordered to add more Islamic subjects as credit hours than in the past. 

But depressed Shia in Eastern province of Saudi thought it as an opportunity to get rid of strong Sunni hold and protests and demonstrations were held in Awamiya on large scale but Saudi govt crushed the move with power. While in Iran, under Khomeini regime, the Mujahideen e Khalq and Fedai Khalq showed extreme behavior of Islamization and anti-imperialism in Iran and the era saw Islamic Republican Party in Iran to be active in all life spans of Iranians under senior clerics who chose Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh as PM and Al Sadr as president.

Following 1975 Algiers pact between Iran and Iraq over Shatt-al-Arab, the Arab socialist Ba’athist party was active in depressing Shia majority in Iraq which based the foundation of Shia based Al-Dawa party in Karbala, Iraq to secure rights of Iraqi Shias but Saddam through his party strongly oppressed it by assassinating and hanging its 97 members. This caused eruption of a volcano of sectarian conflict in Iraq which was backed by Iran. On 2 Sept 1979, using Iran’s involvement in sectarian conflicts in Iraq as a justification, Saddam tore Algiers pact and clashes occurred on Iran-Iraq border and on 17 September Saddam declared full scale war against Iran. The conflict began on 730 km long border at more than 17 points with Iraq’s 240,000 active troops following the Iranian 100,000 troops with low morale who had just escaped from after shocks of revolution. Besides Saddam asked Bakhtiari and Owaisi to spread anti-Iranian propaganda throughout world which helped Iraq more in war. At this stage Kuwaiti and Saudi royals were in bullish mood as their income increased up to $106 billion after filling gap of production of Iranian oil in market by raising its capacity from 3.2 million barrel to 9.5 million barrel in 1980 which led them to support Iraq on several bases.

From battle of hill 270 to capturing of Fao peninsula by Iranian forces, the war costed $13.5 billion with estimated casualties of around 1.2 million. Starting with capturing of Mehran area by Iraqi invading forces and capturing of Khuzestan oil rich province of Iran, UNSC treated invader and victim on equal terms on behalf of KSA and US. Khomeini called this war a holy war. Due to lesser number of personnel of Iran, Iraq invaded about 1000 km territory of Iran, through which Khomeini decided to inaugurate Islamic revolution Guard Corps and Baseej forces which played an important role in changing the dynamics of war and later played an important role in Iranian security. This war gave GCC about $119 billion of profit in 1980. Following the benefits, Arab as well as US decided to back Iraq but dynamics of war changed on 24 May 1982 as Iran retook Khorramshahr which ultimately led to Iranian invasion of Fao Peninsula known as backbone of Iraq in 1985-86. Iraq employed doctrine of tanker war and city bombing but failed causing many casualties. On the contrary, Saudi pursued weakening of the Iranian economy using its oil production as a tactic. This led to more frustratiton and anger against Saudi in Iranian masses which became more evident during 1987 hajj clashes which Saudis depressed without any difficulty. This was the start of major Arab-Iran cold war. After Iraq’s failure on every front, on the behalf of KSA and US, UN forced both countries to cease deadly war.

The efforts of influencing Muslim world started in 1970s by both giants, Iran and Saudi, as we saw that Saudi king Faisal paid visit to Pakistan to forge a strong Muslim alliance of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia-Libya in a bid to develop third world Muslim countries and initiate many mega projects like Faisal masjid and establishment of capital. Saudi also backed Zia’s Islamization in Pakistan, giving huge funds to Madrassas in Pakistan and also backed Islamabad in the war against Russian intervention in Afghanistan. Similarly, king Khalid also followed this trajectory after assassination of king Faisal by his nephew. Saudi also backed Egypt to buy weapons by giving it an aid of $7 billion. Similarly, both countries tried to increase their influence through proxy wars in Pakistan through many organizations like TNFJ, TFJ of Shia militants and LeT and LeJ of Sunni militants.

While Kuwait in the end of 1989 demanded Iraq to return its total loan which Saddam Hussain denied and continuous harassment of Saddam by Kuwaiti emir led to a 43 day 1991 gulf war in which America tried to act as saviour of Saudi Arabia.  While maintaining the cold war, National guard of Saudi and IRGC of Iran created their unique positions. The last decade of twentieth century saw a warm relationship between both giants. Tehran also improved ties with Washington to lessen the burden on its economy. Proxy war in Afghanistan continued as Saudi backed Taliban and Iran backed Northern alliance, sectarian conflicts in Pakistan also continued on behalf of the backing of the giants. Riyadh also had some fears, from Iranian nuclear program, which would worsen in the following years.

This essay has been split into three parts for readers’ convenience and is to be continued.


About The Author
Saad Bin Ubaid studies Mathematics at Quaid-i-Azam University. He is interested in National Security as well as Agricultural and Industrial development. He is a keen observer of International Relations and Strategic Affairs.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.


2 thoughts on “The Cold War in the Muslim World (Part-2)

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