Pakistan and the Iran–Iraq War

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Pakistan and Iran.

Since the starting and the ending of the Iran–Iraq War in 1980s, the Foreign policy of Pakistan respectively played a complex role in the conventional settlement of the Iran-Iraq war.[1]

According to the national security experts, the role of Pakistan in the Iran-Iraq war, however, was based more on maintaining a delicate balance.[2] During the conflict, Pakistan sought to portray as "strictly neutral" but cultivated friendly relationship with Iran.[3][4] In a state visit paid by President General Zia-ul-Haq to the United Kingdom in mid-1980s, President Zia successfully calculated that the Iran–Iraq conflict would eventually "will ended up in military stalemate."[4]


The Pakistan military initiated a covert regime change action under chief of army staff General Zia-ul-Haq and chief of naval staff Admiral Mohammad Shariff which imposed the military martial law in all over the country in 1979. In 1980, the Iranian revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini evoked a strong reaction throughout the Muslim world. The spill-over effect of the revolution worried the Arab world, as well the military government of President General Zia-ul-Haq. Considering this issue, the religiously influenced military government of Zia-ul-Haq then provided a rare opportunity and the political change in Pakistan and the Islamic Revolution in Iran suited well to one another and, therefore, no diplomatic and political cleavage occurred between them.[5] Responding swiftly to this great revolutionary change, Foreign Minister of Pakistan Agha Shahi immediately paid a state visit to Tehran who met the Iranian counterpart Karim Sanjabi on March 10, 1979.[5] Both expressed confidence by stating that Iran and Pakistan were going to march together to a brighter future.[5] The next day, Agha Shahi held talks with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in which developments in the region were discussed.[5] On 11 April 1979, Zia famously declared that: "Khomeini is a symbol of Islamic insurgence".[5] Reciprocating President Zia's sentiments, Imam Khomeini, in his letter, called for Muslim unity.[5] He declared: "Ties with Pakistan are based on Islam."[5] By 1981, Pakistan under President Zia-ul-Haq was close allies again with the United States, and came under its sphere of influence; a position Pakistan has remained in since.[5]

In 1980, Iraqi President Saddam Hussain went on to the proposal which invaded Iran.[2] Pakistan immediately deployment its military contingent to protect the Gulf states against the Iranian threat, placing ~40,000 military personnel in Saudi Arabia for security and training purposes. Reportedly, Pakistan also began to supply conventional weapons to Iran, and both neighbours supported the Afghan jihad, albeit different factions.[2]

The military assistance and cooperation increased in support to the Iran and Pakistan never openly supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War despite tremendous pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia.[6] There are reports of Pakistan financially helping Iran at the operational level.[6] The Pakistan military officials strongly objected killing of Iranian Iranian pilgrims by Saudi Arabian army on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 1985.[1] Conversely, Pakistan exported and sold numbers of Chinese and US made weapons to Iran, specifically the Silkworm and Stinger missiles which proved to be a crucial integrating factor in Tanker War, originally bounded for Afghan mujahideen.[7]


  1. ^ a b Shah, Mehtab Ali (1997). The foreign policy of Pakistan : ethnic impacts on diplomacy, 1971-1994. London [u.a.]: Tauris. ISBN 1860641695. 
  2. ^ a b c Ansar, Arif (January 27, 2013 on 10:41 PM). "Preventing the next regional conflict". Pakistan Today. Retrieved 20 October 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ ELAINE SCIOLINO, Special to the New York Times (November 1, 1987). "U.S. Sees 'Troubling' Tilt by Pakistan to Iran". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Zia Ul-Haq On The Iran/Iraq War". BBC World. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Officials. "Pak-Iran Relations Since Islamic Revolution: Genisis of Cooperation and Competition". Government of Iran. Embassy of Iran, Islamabad. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Allam, Shah (October–December 2004). "Iran-Pakistan Relations: Political and Strategic Dimensions" (PDF). Strategic Analysis (The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses) 28 (4): 526. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Mir, Furrukh (2011). Half Truth. [u.s.]: iUniverse. ISBN 1450286453.