The Iran-Iraq War, which began in September 1980, now ranks as one of the longer interstate conflicts of the 20th century. In a strict military sense, it has been primarily a land conflict. Compared with the often bloody fighting on land, where an uneasy stalemate has developed, the "tanker war" in the waters of the Gulf has been a mere sideshow . The tanker war, however, has attracted considerable international interest because it has involved the shipping of many countries. It is seen as having the potential both to affect world oil exports and prices, and to draw other countries into the conflict.
The Tanker War
Fueled by bitter religious and political acrimony, the Iran-Iraq War, one of the longest interstate conflicts of the 20th century, spread into the Persian Gulf in 1987. Forced to protect vital petroleum tankers, NATO and Soviet naval forces in the Gulf faced new and old challenges from a variety of Iranian and Iraqi threats. As the war drags into 1988, there is little prospect of either belligerent raising a white flag.
By Ronald O'Rourke