Both Iran and Iraq relied on oil revenue to fuel the war, and both had suffered when oil prices fell from $28 a barrel to $11 a barrel in late 1985. The costs of the war were such that even though OPEC cut production to restore the price rose to $18 barrel a year later, both Iraq and Iran were finding the economic costs crippling.1 The critical importance of oil and the stalemate on the battlefield made attacks on enemy oil exports a tempting strategic option. The risk, however, was of alienating foreign support that was just as vital for the continued flow of arms. This strategic dilemma was not easily resolved. Foreign intervention made a significant difference to the protagonists’ ability and willingness to attack tankers and oil installations. Indeed, these attacks on the oil supply of the world made Western intervention inevitable, and it is interesting to see how both sides attempted to manage the strategic problems they faced.
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