On 18 February 1984, Iran and Iraq agreed to UN terms that there should not be attacks on urban population centres. Saddam, therefore, immediately ordered air attacks to be made against Iranian oil facilities, ships and ports. By 1 March, Iraq claimed to have hit seven Iranian vessels in the Gulf and announced that Kharg Island was ‘under siege’, which was a statement designed to deter foreign powers from purchasing Iranian oil. On 27 March, Iraq made use of French-made Exocet missiles to attack two small tankers south-west of the strategic island. In April, a tanker from Panama was struck; then a Saudi Arabian vessel carrying Iranian oil bound for France. The strategic aim was clear, to reduce Iranian revenue and isolate Tehran by waging an economic war in the Gulf. By these means, it was thought Iraq’s air power would compel Iran to negotiate. The Iraqis may also have intended to internationalise the war, bringing the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), Europe and the United States into the conflict against Iran. Believing that any threat to the developed world’s oil resources would elicit a rapid and belligerent response, Baghdad expected greater support at the very least, if not outright participation.
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