The Soviet Union and Iraq Since 1968

by Francis Fukuyama


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The Soviet Union and Ba'thist Iraq have maintained a close political relationship since 1968 on the basis of their shared anti-imperialism. Soviet arms transfers and political and economic support have enabled Iraq to remain independent of and often hostile to the West. Otherwise, Ba'thist Arab nationalism and Soviet Marxism-Leninism diverge. From 1968 to 1972 Soviet-Iraqi relations were cordial but disputes emerged over the Kurds and the Arab-Israeli dispute. They were closest between 1972 and 1975, when Iraq's conflicts with Iran, the Kurds, Israel, and Western oil companies drove it to heightened dependence on Soviet arms transfers. In the third phase from 1975 to the present (1980), relations have deteriorated because of a reversal of the earlier dependencies. Iraqi oil wealth, the role that France has played as an alternative arms supplier, and increasingly sharp ideological disputes suggest that Iraq's present alienation from the Soviet Union may persist into the future.

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