World Citizen: Why Iran Launched a Raid in Iraq

World Citizen: Why Iran Launched a Raid in Iraq

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has faced challenging times before, but in recent months, Tehran has been confronted with one crisis after another. The threats of severe international sanctions over its nuclear program are mounting, just as domestic strife undermines the legitimacy of the regime. With its plate so full, why did Iran suddenly decide to taunt Iraq -- a country with which it fought an eight-year war -- by provocatively raising the Iranian flag on an Iraqi-controlled oil field? The answer may point to even more trouble on the horizon for Iran's leaders.

The startling news came on Friday, when Baghdad announced that Iranian forces had crossed into Iraq, "invaded" an oil field near Basra, and raised the Iranian flag. The announcement sparked ominous memories of the devastating war the two countries fought in the 1980s -- in which 1 million people died -- while sending oil prices higher on international commodities markets and throwing diplomats and military men into feverish action. As Iraqi forces started massing near the border with Iran, Baghdad mustered its national security council and summoned the Iranian ambassador.

Twenty-four hours after the initial report, Iran was still issuing denials. On the Iraqi side of the border, meanwhile, Gen. Zafer Nazmi, head of the border police in Basra, reported that the Iranians were fortifying their hold of well No. 4 in the Fauqa field, claiming the Iranians had "positioned tanks around the well and dug trenches."

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