The Algiers Accord: Old Conflict in a New Context

  October 10, 2021   Read time 1 min
The Algiers Accord: Old Conflict in a New Context
Throughout the hectic days leading up to the shah’s overthrow, the Ba’thists generally avoided interfering in events. Had they wished, they probably could have become involved quite easily. Instead, they remained alooffrom events in their neighbor’s territory. 

Evidently they feared that the regime which replaced the shah would complicate the arrangements for security in the Gulf that they had brokered. When the shah was at last swept away, the Ba’thists faced the uncomfortable reality that they had been badly compromised. The Algiers Accord—on which they had banked so heavily—had now been absolutely undercut. The accord had been concluded with the shah, not with the shah’s government and certainly not with Iranian society at large. It had been a personal arrangement, in which the shah with a nod and a handshake had undertaken certain obligations. With him gone, there was no way the Ba’thists could hold his successors to account.

Starting immediately after the shah’s overthrow, there was an increasingly determined effort on the part of the Ba’thists to bring to the clerics’ attention the matter of Iran’s unfulfilled obligations under the Algiers Accord. Specifically, they wanted several parcels of land that the shah had promised to hand over. Moreover, there appears to have been some understanding—at least on the Ba’thists’ side—that the shah would withdraw from the disputed islands in the Strait of Hormuz. Not only did the clerics put the Ba’thists off, but they adopted an arrogant stance culminating in the utter rejection of all the latter’s claims.

On top of this, the Khomeini regime began trafficking with the Ba’thists’ nemesis, Masoud Barzani, the son of the late Mulla Mustafa Barzani, who had succeeded his father as the leader of the rebel Iraqi Kurds. The remnants of the Kurdish guerrillas, having fled to Iran after the movement’s collapse in 1975, were still there, living in refugee camps. Khomeini had offered to subsidize them, in order that they might resume their insurrectionary activities in northern Iraq—an absolute violation of the Algiers Accord.

On the evidence of statements by the Ba’thists, it is clear that the actions of the Khomeini government irritated them no end. Still, there is nothing to suggest that they were prepared to go to war with the Islamic Republic until events occurring in the international arena changed their thinking—the U.S. hostage crisis of 1979.

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