The alliances seen in the Iran-Iraq War showed how dangerous it was for the West to allow an anti-imperialist government to arise in Iran. The memory of the MI6 and CIA-backed coup of 1953 (orchestrated in order to safeguard Western oil interests in Iran) fuelled the Iranian Revolution, and the West couldn’t allow such an independently-minded revolution to succeed. The following facts from the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) show how the international community related to Iran.
1) Iraq Was Supported by Imperialist Interests
Iraq was mostly supported militarily by the USSR, France, and China. However, the USA also improved its relations with Iraq to try and counteract Iranian influence. Iraq also gained significant financial support from powerful Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE.
2) Iran Was Supported by Anti-Imperialists
Iran’s only direct allies were the Kurdish rebels of the PUK (centre-left) and KDP (centre-right). received arms from China, and also support from Libya, Syria, and North Korea. The support of these latter nations is one example of the position these nations played in the world as an anti-imperialist bloc. It can also explain why the USA had, and has, rocky relations with these nations under Gaddafi, the Assads, and the Kims. All of these nations were looking to fight against US and European imperialist domination, having previously experienced imperial interference themselves.
3) Communist Super-Powers
China followed its economic interests in the region rather than any specific political aim, selling arms to both Iran and Iraq. The USSR, on the other hand, wanted to forge an alliance with Iran but didn’t want to lose the trade in arms that it had with Iraq. As major world powers, both the USSR and China seem to have focussed mostly on their own economic ambitions in the conflict rather than on any anti-imperialist or political beliefs.
4) Iran-Contra Scandal
The USA, eager to combat the spread of social justice in Latin America, struck a deal with Iran in exchange for US hostages in the region. It would sell arms to Iran and funnel the money earned to the right-wing Contras who were fighting against the newly-triumphant Sandinistas in Nicaragua. This action did not represent any US détente with Iran. Instead, it was simply seen as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.