The Shatt Al-Arab waterway is formed by the converging Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, emptying into the Persian Gulf. As such, it has strategic and economic significance intensified by its demarcation of traditional Arab and Persian spheres of influence. By the 1980s, these respective spheres of influence were in the grip, respectively, of Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini, both of whom were not known for the subtlety of their diplomacy. The 1975 Treaty of Algiers decreed the border ran along the thalweg (deepest point) of the river channel, but Saddam decided he should have control of the whole river, and invaded Iran to underline his position. In the ensuing war, over half a million lives would be sacrificed. Much of the fighting focussed on the Shatt Al-Arab, with repeated battles for the possession of Khorramshahr and Basra, and aerial bombing and missile attack on the oil refineries at Abadan and Al-Faw.
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