Q1. What were the causes of the Iran-Iraq War? How did these factors contribute to the Iraq’s
invasion of Kuwait? Please explain. (25 points)
The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 through 1988, was prompted by ideological fears and some
strategically based interests.
An analysis of the war’s causes can begin with land-based interests. Iraq, because of its shared borders
with Kuwait and Iran, has a very limited access to waterways. Hussein believed that an attack on what
he believed to be a newly weakened Iran could lead to significant land gains which might expand Iraq’s
access to the Gulf. Hussein was particularly interested in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
Iran’s recent revolution also inspired some fears that the ideals of the revolution could expand to
neighboring nations – including Iraq. Hussein attacked partly in an effort to suppress the ideas of the
revolution and keep himself in power. An easy victory would have also been a way of consolidating
Hussein’s power and legitimizing his government.
Furthermore, the United States backed Iraq’s efforts for fear that the overthrow of American allies in
the Middle East could lead to the spread of communism. This would have had significant impacts on
American oil interests so the United States attempted to compensate by supporting Hussein with
weapons and resources.
Much of Iraq’s efforts during the war were funded by neighboring Kuwait. By the end of the war, Iraq
had borrowed almost $80 billion to finance the war effort. Relations between Iraq and Kuwait turned
sour because of Iraq’s inability to repay its debts. Saddam Hussein then proceeded to accuse Kuwait of
slant drilling into Iraq’s petroleum and stealing oil reserves. This was the excuse he used to launch the
invasion in 1990. Hussein also sought to garner political support after the embarrassing defeat in the
Iraq-Iran war. He believed that a war with Kuwait would be quick, decisive, and successful.
Q2. What is the impact of rentierism on democratization and industrialization in the Middle
East? What kind of difference does the nature of resources (e.g. oil versus poppy) make on
democratization in particular? Please explain. (25 points)
Rentierism, in which developed nations paid “rents” to Middle Eastern countries for rights to natural
resources such as oil, has significant impacts on democratization and industrialization in Middle Eastern
Rentierism brings revenues to the state renting out its natural resources, however, these revenues do
not come with industrial development. Rentierism historically slows economic growth and hampers efforts to promote industry. This economic model also creates sharp social disparities in which those
who own the resources make all the profits but the general population is left in poverty.
In the area of democratization, the resource being “rented” is critical. In oil-states, the disparities
created by the model being implemented can create civil unrest. However, the power of the social and
political elite is backed by enormous wealth – enough wealth, in fact, to pay for the suppression of any
civil unrest. Iran is a perfect example. For a time, the country’s elites controlled the oil wealth and were
able to keep themselves in power. Democratization in the country suffered.
Non-oil rentierism-practicing states have experienced different effects on democratization in their
respective countries. Morocco, for example, benefits from certain resources which are not completely
legal. The drug trade has long been a staple of the Moroccan economy. This has created a combination
of conflict and cooperation between the government and those running the drug trade. The drug trade
in Morocco has created jobs for youth and created massive fortunes. With this in mind, the government
has only really stepped in when there is a possible risk of a power shift.
Other countries have begun to practice a more modern form of rentierism. Many non-oil states have to
rely on such resources as tourism to bolster their economies. This type of rentierism has promoted
economic growth and political change.
An analysis of the Middle East currently reveals the differences in rentierism and their effects on
democratization. The most powerful oil-states in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq) did