Meanwhile, next door in Iraq, Saddam Hussain, head of a secular political movement, the Ba’ath party, perceived the time ripe to emerge from the yoke of Ottoman and Western colonialism and return Iraq to glory not witnessed since the Islamic golden age and rule of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad from 750–1258 AD. Hussain believed that Iraq, though much smaller than Iran, could exploit ongoing Iranian turmoil and appeal to newly found Shia religious zeal, much of which adhered to theocratic beliefs established in marja’iyat—the holiest of Shia cities and institutions, located in southern Iraq and under Arab control. He also believed the some six million Iranian Arabs living on the eastern shores of the Arabian (vice Persian) Gulf would readily rise up and join Iraq’s return to glory. He miscalculated and underestimated Iranian unity and/or the iron fist of control the Iranian revolutionaries fervently wielded over their newly bolstered countrymen. 

Hussain’s invasion of Iran in September 1980 embroiled both countries in an eight-year war that cost around one million lives and resulted in untold destruction. This conflict re-introduced chemical warfare to the world and induced the shameful use of children as mine detectors. It also led to Iraq’s ill-fated 1990 invasion of Kuwait, largely an attempt to recoup war damages lost in the useless conflict that resulted in no border changes, just death and the destruction of both economies.