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The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict Paperback – 21 Dec 1990

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Product details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reprint edition (21 Dec. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415904072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586090381
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 994,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Hiro's work, clearly written and balanced, illustrated with photographs that portray the war in all its horror, is the best book on the subject so far."From the reviews of the British edition: -Patrick Seale, "The Observer "Outstandingly objective . . . an object lesson in how an acocmplished journalist can and should reconstruct events of world-wide importance."-Justin Wintle, "The Independent "Authoritative . . . Hiro's exacting, analytical approach is especially appropriate for a war which has never been quite what it seems."-Amanda Mitchison, "New Statesman and Society "Pakistani journalist Dilip Hiro takes us well beyond images of Khomeini dart boards and Saddam voodoo dolls to reveal calculating interest groups whom the West might have manipulated more skillfully . . . . captures the human motivations behind the war."-"Los Angeles Times ." . . with his maps and photographs, his chronology and documentary appendixes, he succeeds in chronicling with powerful detail what, to contemporary eyes, is that conflict's cruel and utter futility."-Lisa Anderson, "New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Dilip Hiro is a writer and journalist living in London. He is the author of Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism (Routledge, 1989) and Iran Under the Ayatollahs (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987) among others.

Inside This Book

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The Iran-Iraq War was the result both of long-term and immediate causes. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Stokle on 22 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, the definitive account of the Iran-Iraq War has yet to be written, and in fact probably never will be. The destruction of Iraq (including much state/historical documentation), and the difficulty of interviewing major participants on both sides of the conflict (several are already dead), have made this a near-impossible task.

Nevertheless, Dilip Hiro's book provides an excellent source on the conflict. He bases most of his research on newspaper articles, official documents and speeches, and his own extensive war reporting. His account therefore relates an insider's view of the war, written by someone who witnessed the course of events on the ground. The book is organized on a chronological basis, offering first a reflection on the causes of the war before moving on to a detailed recounting of events, and ends with a final chapter of personal conclusions. Hiro does not hesitate to supplement his historical narrative with personal analysis. He does a good job of backing up his interpretations by using statistics, charts, economic data, etc. The maps he provides are adequate but by no means exceptional. There is also a section of approximately thirty photographs; however their print quality is extremely poor and diminishes their analytical value.

The author attempts to remain neutral in his work, and generally tries to base his investigation on facts. The war is clearly portrayed as having been triggered by Iraq, with the tacit support of the US and its allies in the Gulf. Hiro makes it clear that this constituted an attempt to smother the Iranian Revolution, and that it ended up seriously backfiring. Instead of inspiring the Iranians to oust Khomeini, the war had the opposite effect and united the population in support of his new regime.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S Wood on 21 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dilip Hiros book on the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's is up to his usual standard; the facts are presented in an impartial and systematic way giving the reader a thorough if somewhat prosaic account of the lengthy and bloody Iran-Iraq War.

The Longest War is divided into four phases, each having a chapter that accounts for the action (political and military) in Iran and Iraq and with an accompanying chapter on the role played by outsiders. The book also puts the war into context with regard to Saddams rise, the Shahs fall and the founding of the Islamic Republic in Iran.

Saddam, with support from Saudia Arabia and Kuwait, and a nod and a wink from Washington initiated a war he expected to last weeks against an Iran in turmoil after its 1979 revolution. Instead it dragged on for nearly a decade resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands on each side.

Hiro dispassionately reports the developments on each side- the Iraqi attempts to extracate themselves once it became clear that it wouldnt be a walkover, the Iranian Islamic Republic, consolidating itself in the face of the attack from Iraq and sticking out for what in world war 2 terms would be called "total surrender". The outside powers roles are also documentated, the then USSR seems to be constantly reacting to events, half the American government supports Iraq at first tentively and then more overtly including supplying Iraq with intelligence, financial credits and the deeply dubious Donald Rumsfield aswell as militarily intervening in the Gulf. The other half of the American government is meanwhile selling Arms to the Iranians to fund their murderous war in Central America. The British, Germans, French, Swedes, Israelis are selling arms willy nilly in pursuit of profit to one side or the other.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gareth Smyth VINE VOICE on 10 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
Thorough account of the twentieth-century's longest 'all out' war, and therefore a very useful reference work. Sometimes the detail is a little much (Efraim Karsh's book concentrates on the purely military aspects), and for the casual reader it lacks colour.
But it's difficult to fault Mr Hiro' analysis. He brings out very well how the war aims of each side fluctuated according to their fortunes on the battlefield and in the arena of international diplomacy. No-one comes out of it with much credit.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Good synopsis of the Iran-Iraq conflict 23 Nov. 2004
By Jeremy H. Burton - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Longest War" by Dilip Hiro provides a thorough political history of the Iran-Iraq conflict. Those with little to moderate exposure to the war will probably find it interesting, while more knowledgeable students of the era will most likely gain little insight, as it is largely based on press clippings.

Readers of other military histories will be disappointed to find a lack of primary evidence into motives; however, it is important remember that such evidence was not available at the time of publication, as it is with, for example, a history of World War II.

One interesting factor about this book is that it was (apparently) written prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. This has positive and negative effects. For instance:

(1) Hiro does not have the benefit of being able to use future events to improve his analysis. For example, given the later invasion of Kuwait, Sadaam Hussein's invasion of Iran seems much more like a megalomaniac stab at natural resources (and their commensurate power) than the establishment of a bulwark against Shi'ite Islamism.

(2) Hiro's analysis does not suffer from bias created by later events. For example, American support of the Iraqi regime in the latter stages of the war is presented in the context of (a) Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, (b) protecting American interests in the gulf states from Iranian interference and (c) the political climate in America following the Iran-Contra affair. Today, it is common to see such support described as misguided or even hypocritical, given what happened in 1990-1 and in 2003. Hiro lays out reasons for American support to Iraq that were indeed very rational given what was known to American policymakers at the time.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Excellent history. 21 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Lasting eight years, and at a cost of over a trillion
dollars and a million casualties, this savage
conflict (which featured chemical weapons and genocide
against the Kurds), largely unknown to most
Westerners, is far from over.

Hiro, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, traces
the ancient animosities and territorial
aspirations which animated the slaughter, describes
in detail the actual fighting, and connects the
war to the Great Powers which covertly aided the

Finally, in his Epilogue, he notes the "no war, no
peace" status of the region and warns of an
arms-race between Iran and Iraq, which bodes ill for
the stability of an area which contains most of the world's
crude oil reserves.

(The numerical rating above is a default setting
within Amazon's format. This reviewer does not
employ numerical ratings.)
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Political not Military History 20 Dec. 2000
By Gerry Fahrenthold - Published on
Format: Paperback
A thorough review of the religious and geopolitical, but not militry, history of the Iran Iraq war. The author provides little critical analysis in what is an almost textbook like format. There is extensive coverage of the political issues and of the internal battles fought by both of the combatants, especially Iraq, to maintain internal public support. When one reads how well Hussien managed the internal political challenges of the Iran Iraq war, his survival of the Gulf War seems less of a surprise. The economic issues of waging the war, an issue often left out of military history, is well documented. There is good analysis of the involvement of the superpowers and the legal and illegal sale of arms to both sides. There is only very minimal coverage of military strategy, tactics, and weapons and only a cursory description of the campaigns.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A story of power politics and political hypocrisy 28 Nov. 2004
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on
Format: Paperback
Now that the U. S. led coalition has invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein from power, the current fashion is to demonize him as much as possible. However, there was a time when the United States was strongly allied with Iraq when it was at war with Iran. The Iraqi invasion of Iran was launched by Saddam Hussein at a time when Iran appeared weak. His goal was to achieve a quick victory and gain control over the Shatt al Arab waterway and perhaps even some of the Iranian oilfields. Therefore, there was no doubt that Iraq was the aggressor.

However, this was a serious miscalculation on the part of Hussein, Iran did not fold and was able to counterattack and even occupy significant segments of Iraq. Once it appeared that Iran was militarily gaining the upper hand the United States weighed in heavily on the side of Iraq, even launching military attacks against Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it can be strongly argued that American support kept Iraq from being defeated. All throughout the war, U. S. spy satellites provided regular intelligence on Iranian troop movements, enabling the Iraqi forces to anticipate their attacks. The second reason why Iraq was able to fend off the Iranians is due to their extensive use of several types of poison gas in combat. Therefore, as is explained very well in this book, the United States was allied with a nation that launched an aggressive war against another nation and used poison gas, an explicit violation of several major international treaties. However, because an Iranian victory was considered contrary to U. S. interests, these actions were met with implicit approval.

The Iran-Iraq war was the longest declared war of the twentieth century, lasting eight years and ending right where it started. The political machinations among all the nations in that area were extensive, and they were very complex. Hiro explains the background of the shifting and partial alliances among the Muslim nations, detailing why each nation adopted the policies that they did. Considering that Iraq has been involved in two wars since then, one where Iraq invaded Kuwait and was clearly the aggressor, the Iran-Iraq war has not received the attention that it should. Many nations were eager to engage in commercial relations with Iraq during the conflict, even against stated international embargoes. Those contacts continued after the first gulf war, when Iraq was hit with economic sanctions. Some of these violations are now coming to light, but the origins are clearly described by Hiro.

With American troops now fighting in Iraq under the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons and was willing to use them, it is forgotten that he received tacit approval when he used them against the Iranians. Given the dependence of Iraq on American assistance in the middle years of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq could not have ignored a strong statement of U. S. disapproval of their use of chemical weapons. The U. S. sided with Iraq because it considered strong Iranian influence in Iraq to be contrary to the national interest. Now, recent reports are that Iranian agents are exerting strong influence in Iraq and the Iraqi Shi'ites are poised to take power in Iraq. This may lead to a religious based government in Iraq with close ties to Iran. Therefore, the American invasion may accomplish an Iranian goal that eight years of war could not.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Very Detailed,Informative, and a timely piece. 30 Sept. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
As Pres. Bush tries to talk everyone into supporting an attack on Iraq, this is a wonderful book for getting a little background on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. It doesn't give too much detail over his chemical weapons program, except how the use of Nerve and Mustard gas on the front was the tool that gave Saddam the ability to push the Iranians out of Iraq(and influence Iran's ability to recruit for the frontlines). The book uses GDP and other economic indicators throughout the middle east repeatedly to tell how the war was affecting the populaces involved. A very interesting read.
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