From the Soviet point of view, Iraq under the Baath Party has been a troubling enigma, in terms of its place in the Third World generally and its political position in Middle East diplomacy. In the first respect, Iraq during the 1970s did not manage to consolidate itself as one of the USSR’s dependable allies, which official Soviet parlance refers to as “states of socialist orientation.” Most Soviet scholars sooner or later reached the conclusion that Iraq has really been on the capitalist path of development, although neither Moscow nor Baghdad could state this openly.

In the second respect, Iraq has been so far from a Soviet client state that it has arguably caused Soviet diplomats more headaches in the last decade than any other state in the region. It is obvious to all observers that there is no love lost between the Soviet leadership and Saddam Hussein.

There exists some diversity of opinion within the Soviet elite about Iraq, as about most other subjects. According to one Soviet scholar, there are less than a dozen Soviet researchers working on contemporary Iraq. The specialists who help make Soviet foreign policy work predominantly in the research institutes of the USSR Academy of Sciences, not in the foreign policy bureaucracy, though they regularly provide confidential reports to the latter. The Soviet foreign ministry lacks long-term policy planning. Arkady Shevchenko reports that an attempt was made in the mid-1960s to set up a directorate within the ministry for this task, but it soon became a haven for old diplomats and acquired the dismissive nickname of “the garbage can.” [1] Bureaucrats are too busy with day-to-day policy to concern themselves with the accuracy of their basic assumptions. In the USSR this task is performed by senior specialists in academic institutes. [2]

Soviet Discussion Since 1968

The most interesting debates among Soviet specialists occur over general questions such as the dominant trend of social development in the Third World, both because these questions have greater implications for Soviet policy and because open disagreements about specific issues are wont to be misinterpreted by other governments. Nevertheless, significant differences concerning the controversial question of the likelihood of Iraq becoming a dependable ally of the USSR are evident in published sources. [3]

Soviet specialists usually display a sensible concern for the past history of their subject, partly because the sensitivity of contemporary problems often means they are allowed to publish serious research only about earlier periods. One paradoxical by-product of this is that the “conclusion” of Soviet books sometimes contains a brief commentary on recent events rather than a summary of the historical argument.

Three important facets of modern Iraqi history stand out in Soviet writings. First, there is the importance of nationalism in the long struggle against British colonial rule. According to Soviet scholars, the role of nationalist ideology was crucial in uniting “patriotically minded circles of the national bourgeoisie” and “democratic forces” into a broad alliance capable of overthrowing the monarchy.

Second, the revolution of July 1958, which Soviet writers classify as “bourgeois-democratic,” promised much more for the Iraqi people than it actually produced. During its first year or so, the new regime led by General ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim pursued a number of progressive internal and external policies, but when the danger of a counter-revolutionary restoration faded the new ruler became increasingly authoritarian. This move to the right led to Qasim’s political isolation and eventually his overthrow in a 1963 coup by the “extreme right wing of the Baath party,” which proceeded to terrorize both Communists and Kurds.

Third, and perhaps most important, political instability seemed an unavoidable aspect of Iraqi life, in the 1960s as in the period before the success of the Iraqi national liberation movement. While Soviet writers have considered the 1958 revolution as a “turning-point” for Iraq’s socioeconomic development, it seemed to have changed little in terms of the political process. [4]

This background is important for understanding the dominant Soviet view of the second Baath regime which came to power, through another coup, in July 1968. In retrospect this view seems to have been overly optimistic about the prospects for Baathist Iraq becoming the USSR’s most dependable ally in the Middle East. But the changes which occurred in 1968-73 seemed at the time to promise a different future for the Iraqi state, and a fuller break from its troubled past.

The key Baath policies which impressed most Soviet observers in this period were: a renewed agrarian reform, an end to the fratricidal war against the Kurds and an agreement to grant them some significant administrative autonomy, the nationalization of most Western oil properties, the signing of a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the USSR in April 1972, and political cooperation with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) in the form of a “national progressive front” in July 1973. Two senior Soviet experts on Iraq wrote in early 1974 that these changes constituted “important objective prerequisites for a successful struggle for the creation in Iraq of a front of revolutionary-democratic and progressive forces.” [5]

In Soviet terms such forces are the determining actors of a “national democratic revolution,” which is the key step in the consolidation of a so-called “state of socialist orientation.” Most Soviet commentators in the mid-1970s viewed Iraq as one of the most promising “states of socialist orientation” in the Third World. The leading Soviet expert on the Arab world, Georgi Mirsky, concluded a very candid conference paper in 1975 which examined the inherent problems of such allies by mentioning Iraq as a case where positive “counter-tendencies are active, giving a basis for optimism.” [6]

The main Soviet book on Iraq’s socioeconomic development in the mid-1970s, Grigory Shakhbazian’s The State Sector in the Economy of Iraq, presented a more cautious evaluation. Although published at the height of Soviet-Iraqi mutual admiration in 1974, Shakhbazian argued that the reforms implemented since 1968 were only changes of degree, not direction. In his view, Iraq had merely entered another, higher stage of state capitalist development. He pointed out that the Baath’s economic reforms had not always been pursued consistently, and had even sometimes favored the national bourgeoisie. In an afterword to this book, Shakhbazian’s supervisor Aleksei Levkovsky commented on the domestic economic problems of moving from a state capitalist regime to a “state of socialist orientation.” [7] Soon thereafter Levkovsky engaged in an open polemic with senior policy official Rostislav Ul’yanovsky about the importance of the USSR’s allies having a sound economic basis.

Shakhbazian’s pessimistic evaluation of the chances of the Iraqi state developing on a “non-capitalist path” was essentially the same as that subsequently offered by Tsam al-Khafaji, an exiled Iraqi Communist. [8] This view has proven accurate, but during the 1970s only a minority of commentators on Iraq within the Soviet foreign policy establishment supported it.

“Tendency of Bourgeois Rebirth”

The illusions of the majority view were clearly evident in a book published in early 1979 under the pseudonym “Fuad Zevarov.” (The book was written by a non-Soviet citizen but a leading Soviet expert on Iraq, Sergei Alitovsky, helped in its production and acted as responsible editor.) This book viewed the second Baath coup in 1968 as a “decisive movement” and asserted that Iraq’s socioeconomic evolution now had “an anti-imperialist and, in essence, anti-capitalist direction” which was “guaranteed” both by the “existing union” of the Iraqi Communist Party with the Baath government and that government’s Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet state. [9]

This guarantee soon came unstuck, confirming the skepticism of Soviet scholars such as Nodari Simoniya who doubted whether “revolutionary-democratic” forces such as the Baath could provide a stable base for “non-capitalist development.” [10] The changing attitude of Soviet experts on Iraq was evident at a conference in Yerevan in May 1979, when T.B. Gasanov from Baku ended a paper on Iraq’s sociopolitical development after 1968 by stating that future prospects largely depended upon creating “a democratic atmosphere.” Shakhbazian, for his part, concluded that “one should not underestimate the chances” in Iraq of “forces of reaction resting on private capital and possessing definite positions in the state apparatus.” Shortly after this conference, the journal of the Institute of the International Workers’ Movement in Moscow published a brief article criticizing the Baath regime for its repression of the ICP. [11]

Other speakers at the Yerevan conference, such as Nikolai Oganesian (who edited the resulting book), still spoke of Iraq as a “state of socialist orientation.” Mirsky was now more pessimistic but still held that “the tendency of bourgeois rebirth” in such states “should not be considered as fatally inevitable.” Even after the Baath regime took advantage of the revolutionary turmoil in Iran to try to extend its border, proponents of the view that it was historically “non-capitalist” and hence progressive continued to assert their optimism in no uncertain terms. [12]

Soviet articles about Iraq during the war have generally been placid, because of the restrictions upon critical discussion which result from the Treaty of Friendship. But almost all Soviet authors are well aware of the “increasing dependence of the Iraqi economy on the world capitalist market” and the “financial dependence” of the Iraqi state on Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states. Domestically they have recognized the existence of a “bureaucratic elite” which has been “undermining the state sector from within and complicating the realization of its progressive, anti-imperialist potential.” [13]

One outspoken commentator has been Vladimir Lukin of the Institute of USA and Canada, who made some frank observations about Iraq in his book “Power Centers”: Conceptions and Reality, published in 1983. He noted that the unprecedented domestic political stability of Iraq during the 1970s had provided the basis for Saddam Hussein’s subsequent foreign policy adventures, particularly by allowing him to build up the military forces of the Iraqi state. Lukin pointed to the “active rapprochement between Baghdad and the monarchical regimes of Saudi Arabia and Jordan” in the period leading up to Hussein’s bungled attempt to win a quick war as a means of asserting leadership of the Arab world. It was clear, he said, that the Arab countries were now “split on the question of the character, causes and guilty parties of the Iran-Iraq conflict,” giving the West “new opportunities for maneuvering in the Near and Middle East.”

Iraq’s withdrawal from Iranian territory in June 1982, in Lukin’s view, was an act that had been “evaluated by many observers as compelled.” “As usual,” he noted, “the pretentious, nationalist ambitions of the top people are being paid for by those below.” He concluded that such “pretensions of some ruling circles of Iraq to be the main and only leader of the Arab world have little basis,&rduqo; since

neither in force, nor on the political-ideological plane does this country possess opportunities for realizing such a project over a more or less prolonged period. It is more probable that Baghdad will have an active role in one or other coalition of Arab countries and peoples struggling against American-Israeli pressure. [14]

Soviet Policy During the War

These writings of various specialists provide a backdrop to Soviet policy during Iraq’s war with Iran and provide some insight into the specific political tinge of Soviet perceptions. The first policy phase lasted from the outbreak of the war until mid-June 1981. During this time there was no agreed commitment to supply weapons to either side. But this lack of Soviet involvement at the start of the war was not the simple result of a policy of neutrality.

It is clear that in the first few days of the war the USSR tersely refused to supply any substantial weapons to Iraq (including some already on contract). This was in reaction to Baghdad’s failure to inform the Soviets of its war plans. The Treaty of Friendship implied that Soviet-supplied weapons should be used only for defensive purposes.

Soviet displeasure with Iraq derived mainly from a fundamental disagreement with Hussein’s policy of using the unstable situation in Iran in order to change existing borders. On top of his repression of the ICP, Hussein’s adventurist foreign policy indicated to Soviet leaders that under his leadership Iraq was unlikely to become again a reliable ally of the USSR.

Soviet statements about Iraq during this first phase were as cool as diplomatic protocol allowed. The only mention of Iraq at the 26th CPSU Congress in February 1981 occurred not in General-Secretary Brezhnev’s report but in the speech of the leader of the ICP, ‘Aziz Muhammad, who was permitted to use this forum to call for Iraqi withdrawal from Iranian territory. The Soviet statement on the 9th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, in April 1981, said that the accord “can well serve the fundamental long-term interests of the peoples of the Soviet Union and Iraq,” implying that certain short-term interests (i.e., resupplying Iraq with weapons) have not been and should not be served. In late April 1981 the Soviet press reported that Iraq was receiving weapons through Saudi Arabia from Somalia, North Yemen and Egypt, three countries to which the USSR had supplied weapons in the past. [15]

The first critical decision period for the USSR occurred in the first few months of the war, and resulted in a Soviet offer of arms to Iran in exchange for some form of hard currency payment. [16] The main Soviet motivation was to preserve Iran’s anti-Western foreign policy from the combined pressures of a destructive war and the international criticism it was receiving as a result of the hostage crisis. Nevertheless, Soviet perceptions of Hussein’s Iraq were an important contributing factor.

The critical view of the Baath regime advanced in the 1970s by Shakhbazian, together with the frank views later published by Lukin, became dominant among Soviet officials at this time. Since these views foresaw no prospects of any reversal of the Iraqi trend toward closer contacts with the main capitalist states, one rationale of Soviet support for Iran may have been simply to complicate Hussein’s plan of a short, successful war, thereby upsetting his ambition of making Iraq the dominant partner in an alliance with pro-Western Arab states. Iran rejected the Soviet offer, probably because of dissatisfaction with the price as well as unwillingness to appear dependent on the USSR. In any case, as Lukin duly noted, Hussein’s “hope of a quick war did not come true,” so the probable Soviet objective of restricting Hussein’s hegemonic aspirations came to pass all the same. [17]

The second crucial decision period for the USSR began in June 1981, when Deputy Premier Taha Yasin Ramadan visited Moscow following Israel’s bomb attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. By this time it would have been clear to Soviet leaders that Hussein’s adventure had got well and truly stuck in the mud, and that Iran&rsuqo;s superior troop strength would eventually force Iraq onto the defensive militarily. This development had quite different policy implications for the USSR. Supporting the territorial integrity of Iraq and even the continued rule of the Baath was not the same as supporting Hussein’s pretensions to be the regional power.

“Supplies in Other Areas”

The Soviet officials with whom Ramadan talked in June 1981 included then-chief of staff of the Soviet armed forces, Nikolai Ogarkov. The TASS report of the negotiations said that “both sides expressed their readiness to broaden trade and economic relations and supplies in other areas on a stable and mutually profitable basis.” [18] The phrase “supplies in other areas” meant military supplies, and the improvement of Soviet-Iraqi relations is apparent in the tone of Ramadan’s letter to Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Tikhonov from on board the plane taking him back to Baghdad: “Upon leaving your beautiful country, I am happy to express to you my deep appreciation for the hospitality and cordial welcome given to us during our visit to Soviet soil.” [19]

It seems clear that at these negotiations the USSR decided in principle to resupply Iraq with weapons, when Iraq needed them for defensive purposes and could arrange a suitable form of hard currency payment. The change in Soviet policy was evident in a Pravda interview with Aziz Muhammad, who this time was warning Arabs to be “on their guard,” presumably against an upcoming Iranian attack. [20]

The key point is that the Soviet policy change was a response to the changing circumstances of the war, in particular to the fact that Iraq was now on the defensive and less likely than Iran to upset Soviet interests in the region. This assessment is confirmed by Iraq’s decision at this time to reestablish diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, even though it had sharply criticized the Soviet invasion of that country only 18 months previously.

Soviet perceptions of Iraq from this point onwards did not return in any sense to the illusions of the 1970s. Moscow’s change of policy was clearly a balance-of-power decision. The view that Iraq could sometime in the future return to a “state of socialist orientation” without a change of the Baath regime was now very decidedly a minority opinion among Soviet specialists.

The dominant Soviet perception of Iraq at this time distinguished between matters of foreign and domestic policy and gave priority to the former, although the ICP was still sharply repressed and Iraq was increasingly opening its economy to Western capital. Evgenii Primakov, then director of the Institute of Oriental Studies and now a close adviser to Gorbachev, was an exponent of this view. He emphasized the importance of military-strategic factors in international relations, although he also warned about the ability of small powers to drag their backers into dangerous situations. [21]

The second phase in Soviet policy during the war lasted from the decision in principle in June 1981 to resupply Iraq until the Iranian invasion of Iraq in June 1982. In mid-1982, Soviet arms deliveries to Iraq resumed and some new contracts were signed. During the bargaining period over the conditions of resupply, the Soviet commitment to defending Iraq increased significantly because of three conjunctural factors. First, Iraq was now willing to resolve the conflict through negotiation. Second, Iraq’s improved relations with the US presented the possibility of an alternative major source of arms in addition to France. Finally, the Soviets were now recognizing that in spite of Tehran’s clear anti-imperialist policy, the long-term prospects for Iran becoming a Soviet ally were probably quite a bit worse than even the small likelihood that Iraq would return to such a position.

The third phase in Soviet policy, from mid-1982 onwards, has seen a continued improvement in Soviet-Iraqi relations, including a steady supply of weapons, although the USSR has made the token gesture of refusing to supply Iraq with the more modern weapons that it supplies to non-belligerent states such as India. The two countries have signed some new economic agreements, particularly in 1984, but there has been a complete lack of the rhetorical unity characteristic of the early 1970s. After all, it is only thanks to many billions of dollars from the conservative Gulf states that Iraq has been able to sign agreements to purchase Soviet as well as French and other weapons.

The Soviet commitment to Iraq’s war effort since 1982 has been basically a pragmatic response to Iran’s continued insistence on prosecuting the war until the fall of the current Iraqi regime. Some Soviet scholars consider it probable that domestic forces would have forced Hussein to pay for his mistaken adventure had the mullahs stopped the war in mid-1982, after the Iraqi withdrawal. They did not, largely in order to consolidate their own regime domestically, and consequently the USSR has made the most of Iraq’s need for external assistance. [22]

From Brezhnev to Gorbachev

There has been remarkably little change in Soviet policy from the last months of Brezhnev through Gorbachev because the regional situation does not permit the USSR much room for maneuver. Apart from supporting Iraq, the USSR has repeatedly tried to persuade Iran to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict. The Islamic Republic has steadfastly maintained its “familiar position,” as the Soviet press puts it, about the need for an unconditional Baath surrender. [23] During the third phase of the war, the dominant Soviet perception of Iraq (which some Soviet scholars privately describe as a totalitarian state) has not been that of a reliable ally under attack, as was the case with the similarly repressive Ethiopian regime in 1977, but rather that of the lesser evil of two senseless nationalist regimes committed to destroying one another in order to preserve their own rule.

A significant factor in continued Soviet support for Iraq has been a Soviet perception that escalation of the war is unlikely, despite Iraq’s provocative attacks on oil tankers since 1984. This perception is based on the view that it will not be easy for the US to intervene. In a discussion on Moscow Radio in July 1982, Soviet commentator Aleksandr Bovin responded to a colleague’s statement that “the US would very much like to get in there, although this is bound up with very great problems” by remarking that “of course they want to, but it is a thorny issue….It is certainly a very thorny issue without a doubt.” [24] Most Soviet specialists continued to hold this opinion through 1987.

Since 1985 there have been regular Soviet-American consultations about the course of the war, and these have continued even after the Iran-Contra scandal. The USSR would not have been too surprised about the US attempt to sell weapons to Iran, since it knows well the duplicity of the Reagan administration on such matters and itself tried the same trick at the start of the war. As early as 1983 the Soviet military newspaper Krasnaia Zvezda reported that US weapons were being sold to Iran, and Soviet scholars have for some time recognized the inevitability of substantial Western investment in economic reconstruction in both Iran and Iraq once the war finally ends. [25]

This does not mean that the USSR has an interest in perpetuating the war, so as to postpone this probable increase in Western influence in the northern Gulf. Soviet policy during the war has tended to be reactive, to adjust to changes in circumstances rather than try to prevent them. While the USSR has not been neutral, it has consistently supported the side on the defensive. During 1987 the Soviets increasingly called attention to the urgency of a political settlement of the conflict. This began with an official declaration in early January, continued during the year with the visits of Vorontsov and Petrovsky to Tehran and Baghdad, and ended in late December with a statement during the visit of Jordan’s King Hussein to Moscow supporting a boycott on arms supplies to any belligerent that does not accept the UN ceasefire resolution. This is a change in the official Soviet position, which hitherto had placed the need for an arms boycott rather gingerly in the “too difficult” basket.

Since Iraq has formally accepted the UN ceasefire resolution, the likely target of an arms embargo will be Iran. Soviet support for an embargo does not alter the short-term, purely tactical nature of the USSR’s support for Iraq during the war. The experience of the 1970s showed that Baathist Iraq is a difficult partner even when in a dependent situation, as it was then and is again now. Soviet policy during the war has taken advantage of this dependence to maintain some influence in Baghdad, but with no hint of any unrealistic expectations about recreating a “national progressive front.” The lesson of Soviet scholarship on Iraq, that an independent and intensely nationalist state is not necessarily progressive even in the elastic definition of that term used in the USSR, has not been lost on Soviet policy makers. They have been content to support Saddam Hussein when that has been the most convenient thing to do. If circumstances change, they will probably not be disposed to protect him.



[1] Arkady Shevchenko, Breaking with Moscow (NY: Knopf, 1985), pp. 160-61.
[2] Cf. Georgi Arbatov, The Soviet Viewpoint (NY: Dodd Mead, 1983), p. 22: “Our task is to study long-term problems and trends, and to develop fundamental research that can contribute to understanding more deeply and reliably the countries we study.”
[3] For a good discussion of Soviet debates see Jerry F. Hough, The Struggle for the Third World: Soviet Debates and American Options (Washington, DC: Brookings, 1986).
[4] G.I. Mirsky, Irak v Smutnoe Vremia 1930-1941 [Iraq in a Dark Time] (Moscow, 1961), pp. 56, 176; S. Pegov and S. Alitovsky, Irak (Moscow, 1966), pp. 13-14; O. Gerasimov, Irakskaia Neft’ [Iraqi Oil] (Moscow, 1969), p. 166; A.F Fedchenko, Irak v bor’be za nezavisimost’ 1917-1969 [Iraq in the Struggle for Independence] (Moscow, 1970), pp. 220-23; N.O. Oganesian, Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie v Irake [The National Liberation Movement in Iraq] (Yerevan, 1976), pp. 333-36, 366-86.
[5] S.N. Alitovsky and A.F. Fedchenko, “Front Natsional’nogo Edinstva v Irake,” [“The Front of National Unity in Iraq”] Rabochii Klass i Sovremennyi Mir 1 (1974), pp. 137-38; on p. 137 there is a very negative reference to “separatist and chauvinist elements” in the Kurdish national movement.
[6] G.I. Mirsky, “K Voprosu o Protivorechiiakh Sotsial’noekonomicheskogo Razvitiia Stran Sotsialisticheskogo Orientatsii,” [“On the Question of the Contradictions of the Socio-Economic Development of Countries of Socialist Orientation”] in A.I. SoboFev, ed., Rabochee Dvizhenie Razvivaiushchikhsia Stranakh (Moscow, 1977), p. 147.
[7] G.S. Shakhbazian, Gosudarstvennyi Sektor v Ekonomike Iraka (Moscow, 1974), pp. 231-35, 237-43. The debate between Levkovsky and Ulyanovsky (using the pseudonym Roslavlev) occurred in Rabochii Klass i Sovremennyi Mir between late 1974 and early 1977.
[8] ‘Isam al-Khafaji, “State Incubation of Iraqi Capitalism,” MERIP Middle East Report #142 (September-October 1986), pp. 4-9.
[9] F. Zevarov, Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskie Preobrazovaniia v Irakskoi, Respublike 1958-1976 [The Socio-economic Transformation in the Iraq Republic] (Moscow, 1979), pp. 109,122-26. A similar view was expressed in a brief book by two conservative specialists from the Institute of Oriental Studies, A.S. Kaufman and G.F. Kim, Revoliutsionnaia Demokratiiai; Natsional’no-osvoboditel’nye revoliutsii [Revolutionary Democracy and the National-liberation Revolutions] (Moscow, 1976), pp. 25-26.
[10] N.A. Simoniya, Strany Vostoka:puti razvitiia [Countries of the Orient: Paths of Development] (Moscow, 1975), pp. 312-32.
[11] T.B. Gasanov, “O Nekotorykh Voprosakh Sotsial’no-politicheskogo Razvitiia Iraka posle 1968 g.” [“About Some Questions of the Socio-political Development of Iraq after 1968”], p. 77, and G.S. Shakhbazian, “K Voprosu o Tendentsiiakh v Izmenenii Sotsial’no Struktury Naseleniia Iraka v 70-e gg.” [“On the Question of Tendencies in the Change of the Social Structure of the Population of Iraq in the 1970s”], p. 110, in N.O. Oganesian, ed., Kharakternye Cherty Sotsial’nopoliticheskogo Razvitiia Arabskikh Stran v 1950-1970e gody [Characteristic Features of the Socio-political Development of Arab Countries] (Yerevan, 1980).
[12] N.O. Oganesian, “Neravnomernoe Razvitie Arabskikh Stran (50-70 gg)” [“The Unequal Development of Arab Countries”], p. 44, and G.I. Mirsky, “Stanovlenie i Razvitie Arabskikh Stran Sotsialisticheskoi Orientatsii,” p. 41 in ibid. For a rather strange claim about the anti-capitalist position of the Iraqi peasantry see S.N. Alitovsky, “Agrarnye Otnosheniia i Krest’ianstvo v Kolonialnom Irake: k voprosu o predposilkakh nekapitalisticheskogo puti razvitiia stran Azii i Afriki” [“Agrarian Relations and the Peasantry in Colonial Iraq: On the Question of the Prerequisites of the Non-Capitalist Path of Development in the Countries of Asia and Africa”], Narody Azii i Afriki 4 (1981), pp. 95-96.
[13] S.N. Alitovsky and G.S. Shakhbazian, “Vlianie Dokhodov ot Nefti na Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskogo Protsessy v Irake” [“The Influence of Revenue from Oil on Socio-economic Processes in Iraq”], in R.N. Andreasian, ed., Arabskie Strany: Neft’ i differentsiatsiia (Moscow, 1984), pp. 225, 229; S.A. Dunaev and L.N. Rudenko, “RoF Gosudarstva v Ekonomicheskom Razvitii Iraka” [“The Role of the State in the Economic Development of Iraq”], in I.M. Smilianskaia, ed., Gosudarstvennaia Vlast’ i Obshchestvenno-politicheskie Struktury v Arabskikh Stranakh (Moscow, 1984), pp. 253-54. Only provincial scholars like Oganesian now consider Baathist Iraq to be even potentially a “state of socialist orientation”; a recent general article on the subject notes that Iraq was so defined “in the 1970s.” V.F. Vasilev, “Nekotorye Voprosy Sotsialisticheskoi Orientatsii” [“Some Questions of Socialist Orientation”], Narody Azii i Afriki 5 (1986), p. 14, n. 3.
[14] V.R Lukin, “Tsentry Sily”: Kontseptsii i real’nost’ (Moscow, 1983), pp. 169-74. On p. 170 Lukin openly stated that the USSR was the main supplier of weapons to Iraq during the 1970s. This is common knowledge but not stated in other Soviet publications, though it is implied in a handbook for Soviet military technicians, F.P. Penkin, Irakskaia Respublika i ee Vooruzhennye Sily [The Republic of Iraq and its Armed Forces] (Moscow, 1977), pp. 101-2.
[15] Izvestiia, April 24,1981, reported in The Soviet Union and the Middle East 4 (April 1981), pp. 6-7.
[16] Alvin Z. Rubinstein, “The Soviet Union and Iran Under Khomeini,” International Affairs (Autumn 1981), p. 610.
[17] Lukin, p. 173.
[18] Pravda, June 19,1981, pp. 2-4. Oles Smolansky pointed out to me the significance of these negotiations.
[19] Pravda, June 21,1981, p. 2.
[20] Ibid.
[21] See Hough, p. 255.
[22] The importance of the Iranian leadership’s “internal political calculations” is noted in a recent Soviet commentary: “V Triasine Bessmyslennoi Voiny: chto meshaet uregulirovaniu Irano-Irakskogo konflikta?” [“In the Depths of a Senseless War: Who Obstructs a Settlement of the Iran-Iraq Conflict?”] Mezhdunarodnaia Zhizn 3 (1987), p. 85; on p. 87 Iraq is said to be adopting a “complex approach” to resolving the conflict, whereas Iran is not.
[23] Pravda, February 15, 1987, p. 2, reporting the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Velaiati to Moscow.
[24] Reported in FBIS, USSR, July 19, 1982, p. CC5. See also Lukin’s comments on the war in Rabochii Klass i Sovremennyi Mir 2 (1985), p. 85, where he suggests it is principally a regional rivalry between two nationalist states.
[25] Cf. Krasnaia Zvezda, June 7, 1983, reported in FBIS, USSR, June 8,1983, p. H7: “reports have appeared suddenly in the foreign press to the effect that the United States is surreptitiously supplying Iran with arms and spare parts for combat hardware purchased under the shah’s regime.”

How to cite this article:

Roderic Pitty "Soviet Perceptions of Iraq," Middle East Report 151 (March/April 1988).

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