In February 2016, following rising tension between the radically opposed nations, Iran invaded the secular democracy of Iraq. The Iranians first launched chemical cruise missile attacks against major Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Kirkuk and Basra, and military bases. The Iranian airforce rapidly established air superiority and its army overwhelmed Iraqi resistance on the ground. By April of that year Iraq had effectively been absorbed by Iran, in spite of continuing guerrilla activity. The Iranian government declared the Islamic Empire of Parthia.
Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States, alarmed by the sudden presence on their doorstep of an expansionistic fundamentalist nation and fearful of further invasions, requested aid from the UN. A further request was made by the Iraqi government in exile to free their country. Sanctions were rapidly imposed and a UN force headed by EF troops was deployed to Arabia in April 2016. The USA supplied only a small contingent and a single aircraft carrier, as the bulk of the US military was being rapidly dragged into the increasingly bloody Brazilian War.
By June the leaders of the fledgling New Parthian Empire realised that they were in deep trouble. With the economy of Iran being weakened by sanctions, the Afghan majority in the east of the country saw a chance of independence and rebelled. The Iranian military was forced to withdraw troops from the stand-off with UN forces on the Iraq-Saudi border to deal with this revolt. The EF-led coalition saw this distraction as an opportunity to start the operation to free Iraq. Following a three week air campaign the coalition invaded Iraq on 27 July. The Iranians responded with chemical attacks on allied troops and Saudi Arabian cities. Following a month of furious ground fighting the Iranian army was forced to withdraw from its positions in Iraq.
The Iraqi and Arabian armed forces had been shattered by the war. To prevent a further crisis threatening the oil supply from the Middle Eastern fields, the EF deployed permanent garrisons to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This arrangement was formalised in 2021 when the two nations were declared European Protectorates at the request of their governments. They maintained all control over internal politics but the militaries of both became attached to the European command structure. It was originally intended that this arrangement should last until the two nations had rebuilt their armed forces and could again defend themselves. In reality the Federation gained increasing control of the internal affairs of both nations (most notably control of their economies). This set a precedent for the formation of further Protectorates.
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