From the infobox of the Wikipedia article for the Iran-Iraq war:


  • Stalemate; both sides claim victory.
  • Iraqi failure to capture Iranian territories and bolster Arab separatism in Iran's Khuzestan Province.
  • Iranian failure to topple Saddam Hussein and destroy Iraqi military power as well as inspire sectarian divide in Iraq.
  • United Nations Security Council Resolution 598 cease-fire.

But which side really achieved more successes? Which side can be declared winner based on the successes achieved?

  • 3
    This appears to be more about history than politics. See, Cutoff between Politics and History.
    – Rick Smith
    Jul 16, 2023 at 16:36
  • 6
    These attempts at trying to classify a war as if it was an sports match are meaningless. What is more important, 10 small victories by one side or a big victory by the other? If one side loses more men but the other keeps the territory, who won? If one is more willing than the other to take losses, how do you take that into account? By all military metrics the USA "won" the Vietnam War, yet in the end it lost.
    – SJuan76
    Jul 16, 2023 at 20:56
  • @SJuan76, By all military metrics the USA "won" the Vietnam War, yet in the end it lost. --- Vietnam was the biggest defeat of the USA in any proxy war ever. It can be proven by the fact that Vietnam is still a communist country.
    – user366312
    Jul 16, 2023 at 21:06
  • Near the end, Iraq was very much suing for peace. Can't remember exactly why Iran let it go, probably because they had bled themselves dry, but Iraq did not do well out of it. Call it a pointless bloody stalemate. But, yes, history question, this dates back 35 years and has limited bearings on modern day politics. Jul 17, 2023 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Neither side can be declared an outright "winner" of the Iran-Iraq War. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and economic losses. The conflict is estimated to have cost over 1 million casualties and $1 trillion in damages. There were no major territorial changes as a result of the war.

While Iraq initially made some progress in invading Iran, the conflict eventually became a prolonged military deadlock. Neither side was able to achieve its strategic aims through military means, and the war ultimately ended in a ceasefire with the pre-war borders largely intact.

The real "winners," if any, were the Western powers and Gulf states that supported Iraq.

The West's profit

Firstly, the war helped Iran's Islamic revolution from spilling into other parts of the Middle East.

Secondly, the long and destructive war significantly weakened both Iran and Iraq militarily and economically, making them less of a threat to Western interests for years after the war ended. This created a broader power vacuum in the region that the West could exploit. The main downside for the West was Iraq's use of chemical weapons during the war, which the West turned a blind eye to in order to maintain Iraq's fragile balance against Iran's larger military.

Thirdly, the West sold large quantities of arms to both Iran and Iraq during the war, generating billions of dollars in revenue for Western arms companies. The United States in particular sold weapons to both sides throughout the conflict.

Fourthly, the West's support for Iraq during the war boosted its diplomatic influence in the Middle East. The United States in particular wielded more political clout through its backing of Baghdad.

Finally, the Soviet Union backed Iraq in the early stages of the war, but its influence declined as the conflict dragged on. The West saw the war as an opportunity to displace Soviet influence in both Iran and Iraq.

The GCC's profit

In addition to some common interests with the West, the oil-rich Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, massively benefited from the Iran-Iraq war.

Firstly, with both Iran and Iraq's oil production disrupted by the war, the Gulf states were able to increase their own oil production and exports to make up for the shortfall. This resulted in higher oil revenues for them.

Secondly, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the biggest financial backers of Iraq during the war, providing hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, credit lines, and aid. This strengthened their political influence over Iraq. This actually resulted in the invasion of Kuwait afterward.

  • Your first point is unclear. You probably wanted to say that the war "prevented", rather than "helped", the iranian revolution from spilling to other parts of the Middle East. However, it's not clear how this would have happened. I don't see why Iraq's use of chemical weapons was a downside for the USA (the only "West" remotely involved in the war). I doubt very much that the amount of weapons sold to two ruined Middle East countries would be "billions". The Iran-Contra papers mention just $47M for Iran. Iran is considered the winner just like Ukraine will be the winner if it survives.
    – Rekesoft
    Jul 17, 2023 at 8:40
  • 2
    The way this answer is phrased sounds almost as if the West got the war started. Thing is, Saddam was a Soviet-backed tyrant, who IIRC had a fondness for Hitler and fancied that his great military genius would let him pull off a Guderian on his enfeebled and divided neighbor that he'd been squabbling with. The West may have helped him to avoid a spreading Iranian revolution, but that war was initiated by his stupidity only. You could also say that the war cemented the Ayatollahs' hold on Iran, so hardly a win win for the West. Jul 17, 2023 at 17:08
  • @Rekesoft, I doubt very much that the amount of weapons sold to two ruined Middle East countries would be "billions". --- You have to take into account that the West also sold arms to GCC by showing them Saddam as a boogeyman.
    – user366312
    Jul 17, 2023 at 22:39
  • 1
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: The last para of the answer is also patently ridiculous. The Gulf countries had nothing to show for for backing up Saddam in the end. Kuwait got invaded as "repayment" when it refused to write off the loans etc. Yeah, the GCC may have cashed in a bit more on their own oil sales, and may have stemmed the spreading of the Iranian influence a little, but on the balance of things, it's really hard to say the GCC came up ahead. Jul 21, 2023 at 8:31
  • 1
    And exactly how much Iranian influence was reduced is also pretty hard to assess. See for example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Brothers which however pitted the Syrian-backed faction against Hezbollah. Syria and Iraq also competed, to the point where Assad (the elder) even took part in the first Gulf War. Jul 21, 2023 at 8:49

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