Inilah Sejarah Perang Iran-Irak dan Invasi AS ke Irak
Perang Iran-Irak tahun 1980-1988 di mana diperkirakan 1,3 juta orang tewas dan total kerugian US$ 1 trilyun (Rp 9000 trilyun):
Tahun 1980 Saddam menyerang Iran dgn harapan menguasai wilayah dan minyak Iran. Selain itu ada sentimen Arab vs Persia dan Sunni vs Syi’ah. Berbagai senjata termasuk senjata kimia digunakan:
Saat perang tsb, sempat juga terjadi perang Tanker antara Iran dgn AL AS dan Inggris.
Ternyata perang Iran-Iraq, Iraq dibiayai beberapa negara Arab seperti Kuwait dan Arab Saudi. Ternyata biaya perang itu adalah hutang yang harus dibayar. Tidak gratis.
Sehingga akhirnya Saddam menyerbu Kuwait dan menewaskan beberapa keluarga kerajaan dan juga Arab Saudi. Kuwait dan Arab Saudi pun akhirnya minta bantuan AS untuk melawan Iraq.
Iraq pun akhirnya hancur dan Saddam Husein tertangkap dan dihukum mati:
Hadis riwayat Jarir ra., ia berkata:
Ketika haji wada, Nabi saw. bersabda kepadaku: Suruhlah orang-orang diam. Setelah orang-orang diam, beliau bersabda: Janganlah sesudah kutinggalkan, kalian kembali menjadi orang-orang kafir, di mana sebagian membunuh sebagian yang lain. (Shahih Muslim No.98)
Prajurit Iran dengan masker gas di medan pertempuran
|Pihak yang terlibat|
Persatuan Patriot Kurdistan
Mujahidin Rakyat Iran
| Ruhollah Khomeini
| Saddam Hussein
Ali Hassan al-Majid
500.000 Pasdaran dan MilisiBasij
1.000 kendaraan berat
4.000 kendaraan berat
|Est. 500,000-750,000 prajurit/milisi/sipil terbunuh atau luka||Est. 375,000-500,000 prajurit/milisi/sipil terbunuh atau luka|
Perang Iran-Irak juga dikenali sebagai Pertahanan Suci dan Perang Revolusi Iran di Iran, dan Qadisiyyah Saddam (قادسيّة صدّام, Qādisiyyat Saddām) di Irak, adalah perang di antara Irak dan Iran yang bermula pada bulan September 1980 dan berakhir pada bulan Agustus 1988. Umumnya, perang ini dikenali sebagai Perang Teluk Persia sehingga Konflik Iraq-Kuwait meletus pada awal 1990-an, dan untuk beberapa waktu dikenali sebagai Perang Teluk Persia Pertama.
Peperangan ini bermula ketika pasukan Irak menerobos perbatasan Iran pada 22 September 1980 akibat masalah perbatasan yang berlarut-larut antara kedua negara dan juga kekhawatiran Saddam Hussein atas perlawanan Syiah yang dibawa oleh Imam Khomeini dalam Revolusi Iran. Walaupun Irak tidak mengeluarkan pernyataan perang, tentaranya gagal dalam misi mereka di Iran dan akhirnya serangan mereka dapat dipukul mundur Iran. Walaupun PBB meminta adanya gencatan senjata, pertempuran tetap berlanjut sampai tanggal 20 Agustus 1988; Pertukaran tawanan terakhir antara kedua negara ini terjadi pada tahun 2003. Perang ini telah mengubah wilayah dan situasi politik global.
Perang ini juga memiliki kemiripan seperti Perang Dunia I. Taktik yang digunakan seperti pertahanan parit, pos-pos pertahanan senapan mesin, serangan dengan bayonet, penggunaan kawat berduri, gelombang serangan manusia serta penggunaan senjata kimia(seperti gas mustard) secara besar-besaran oleh tentara Irak untuk membunuh pasukan Iran dan juga penduduk sipilnya, seperti yang dialami juga oleh warga suku Kurdi di utara Irak. Dalam perang ini dipercaya lebih dari satu juta tentara serta warga sipil Irak dan Iran tewas, dan lebih banyak lagi korban yang terluka dari kedua belah pihak selama pertempuran berlangsung.
[sunting]Asal Usul Sejarah
Walaupun perang Iran-Irak yang dimulai dari tahun 1980-1988 merupakan perang yang terjadi di wilayah Teluk Persia, akar dari masalah ini sebenarnya dimulai lebih dari berabad-abad silam. Berlarut-larutnya permusuhan yang terjadi antara kerajaanMesopotamia(terletak di lembah sungai Tigris-Eufrat, yang kini menjadi sebuah negara Irak modern) dengan kerajaan Persia atau negara Iran modern
Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
The Iran-Iraq War permanently altered the course of Iraqi history. It strained Iraqi political and social life, and led to severe economic dislocations. Viewed from a historical perspective, the outbreak of hostilities in 1980 was, in part, just another phase of the ancient Persian-Arab conflict that had been fueled by twentieth-century border disputes. Many observers, however, believe that Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Iran was a personal miscalculation based on ambition and a sense of vulnerability. Saddam Hussein, despite having made significant strides in forging an Iraqi nation-state, feared that Iran’s new revolutionary leadership would threaten Iraq’s delicate SunniShia balance and would exploit Iraq’s geostrategic vulnerabilities–Iraq’s minimal access to the Persian Gulf, for example. In this respect, Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Iran has historical precedent; the ancient rulers of Mesopotamia, fearing internal strife and foreign conquest, also engaged in frequent battles with the peoples of the highlands.
The Iran-Iraq War was multifaceted and included religious schisms, border disputes, and political differences. Conflicts contributing to the outbreak of hostilities ranged from centuries-old Sunni-versus-Shia and Arab-versus-Persian religious and ethnic disputes, to a personal animosity between Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini. Above all, Iraq launched the war in an effort to consolidate its rising power in the Arab world and to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Phebe Marr, a noted analyst of Iraqi affairs, stated that “the war was more immediately the result of poor political judgement and miscalculation on the part of Saddam Hussein,” and “the decision to invade, taken at a moment of Iranian weakness, was Saddam’s”.
Iraq claimed territories inhabited by Arabs (the Southwestern oil-producing province of Iran called Khouzestan), as well as Iraq’s right over Shatt el-Arab (Arvandroud). Iraq and Iran had engaged in border clashes for many years and had revived the dormant Shatt al Arab waterway dispute in 1979. Iraq claimed the 200-kilometer channel up to the Iranian shore as its territory, while Iran insisted that the thalweg–a line running down the middle of the waterway–negotiated last in 1975, was the official border. The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement.
The Iraqis also perceived revolutionary Iran’s Islamic agenda as threatening to their pan-Arabism. Khomeini, bitter over his expulsion from Iraq in 1977 after fifteen years in An Najaf, vowed to avenge Shia victims of Baathist repression. Baghdad became more confident, however, as it watched the once invincible Imperial Iranian Army disintegrate, as most of its highest ranking officers were executed. In Khuzestan (Arabistan to the Iraqis), Iraqi intelligence officers incited riots over labor disputes, and in the Kurdish region, a new rebellion caused the Khomeini government severe troubles.
As the Baathists planned their military campaign, they had every reason to be confident. Not only did the Iranians lack cohesive leadership, but the Iranian armed forces, according to Iraqi intelligence estimates, also lacked spare parts for their American-made equipment. Baghdad, on the other hand, possessed fully equipped and trained forces. Morale was running high. Against Iran’s armed forces, including the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) troops, led by religious mullahs with little or no military experience, the Iraqis could muster twelve complete mechanized divisions, equipped with the latest Soviet materiel. With the Iraqi military buildup in the late 1970s, Saddam Hussein had assembled an army of 190,000 men, augmented by 2,200 tanks and 450 aircraft.
In addition, the area across the Shatt al Arab posed no major obstacles, particularly for an army equipped with Soviet river-crossing equipment. Iraqi commanders correctly assumed that crossing sites on the Khardeh and Karun rivers were lightly defended against their mechanized armor divisions; moreover, Iraqi intelligence sources reported that Iranian forces in Khuzestan, which had formerly included two divisions distributed among Ahvaz, Dezful, and Abadan, now consisted of only a number of ill-equipped battalion-sized formations. Tehran was further disadvantaged because the area was controlled by the Regional 1st Corps headquartered at Bakhtaran (formerly Kermanshah), whereas operational control was directed from the capital. In the year following the shah’s overthrow, only a handful of company-sized tank units had been operative, and the rest of the armored equipment had been poorly maintained.
For Iraqi planners, the only uncertainty was the fighting ability of the Iranian air force, equipped with some of the most sophisticated American-made aircraft. Despite the execution of key air force commanders and pilots, the Iranian air force had displayed its might during local riots and demonstrations. The air force was also active in the wake of the failed United States attempt to rescue American hostages in April 1980. This show of force had impressed Iraqi decision makers to such an extent that they decided to launch a massive preemptive air strike on Iranian air bases in an effort similar to the one that Israel employed during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Iraqi Offensives, 1980-82
Despite the Iraqi government’s concern, the eruption of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran did not immediately destroy the Iraqi-Iranian rapprochement that had prevailed since the 1975 Algiers Agreement. As a sign of Iraq’s desire to maintain good relations with the new government in Tehran, President Bakr sent a personal message to Khomeini offering “his best wishes for the friendly Iranian people on the occasion of the establishment of the Islamic Republic.” In addition, as late as the end of August 1979, Iraqi authorities extended an invitation to Mehdi Bazargan, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to visit Iraq with the aim of improving bilateral relations. The fall of the moderate Bazargan government in late 1979, however, and the rise of Islamic militants preaching an expansionist foreign policy soured Iraqi-Iranian relations.
The principal events that touched off the rapid deterioration in relations occurred during the spring of 1980. In April the Iranian-supported Ad Dawah attempted to assassinate Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. Shortly after the failed grenade attack on Tariq Aziz, Ad Dawah was suspected of attempting to assassinate another Iraqi leader, Minister of Culture and Information Latif Nayyif Jasim. In response, the Iraqis immediately rounded up members and supporters of Ad Dawah and deported to Iran thousands of Shias of Iranian origin. In the summer of 1980, Saddam Hussein ordered the executions of presumed Ad Dawah leader Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqr as Sadr and his sister.
In September 1980, border skirmishes erupted in the central sector near Qasr-e Shirin, with an exchange of artillery fire by both sides. A few weeks later, Saddam Hussein officially abrogated the 1975 treaty between Iraq and Iran and announced that the Shatt al Arab was returning to Iraqi sovereignty. Iran rejected this action and hostilities escalated as the two sides exchanged bombing raids deep into each other’s territory, beginning what was to be a protracted and extremely costly war.
Baghdad originally planned a quick victory over Tehran. Saddam expected the invasion of the in the Arabic-speaking, oil-rich area of Khuzistan to result in an Arab uprising against Khomeini’s fundamentalist Islamic regime. This revolt did not materialize, however, and the Arab minority remained loyal to Tehran.
On September 22, 1980, formations of Iraqi MiG-23s and MiG21s attacked Iran’s air bases at Mehrabad and Doshen-Tappen (both near Tehran), as well as Tabriz, Bakhtaran, Ahvaz, Dezful, Urmia (sometimes cited as Urumiyeh), Hamadan, Sanandaj, and Abadan. Their aim was to destroy the Iranian air force on the ground–a lesson learned from the Arab-Israeli June 1967 War. They succeeded in destroying runways and fuel and ammunition depots, but much of Iran’s aircraft inventory was left intact. Iranian defenses were caught by surprise, but the Iraqi raids failed because Iranian jets were protected in specially strengthened hangars and because bombs designed to destroy runways did not totally incapacitate Iran’s very large airfields. Within hours, Iranian F-4 Phantoms took off from the same bases, successfully attacked strategically important targets close to major Iraqi cities, and returned home with very few losses.
Simultaneously, six Iraqi army divisions entered Iran on three fronts in an initially successful surprise attack, where they drove as far as eight kilometers inland and occupied 1,000 square kilometers of Iranian territory.
As a diversionary move on the northern front, an Iraqi mechanized mountain infantry division overwhelmed the border garrison at Qasr-e Shirin, a border town in Bakhtaran (formerly known as Kermanshahan) Province, and occupied territory thirty kilometers eastward to the base of the Zagros Mountains. This area was strategically significant because the main Baghdad-Tehran highway traversed it.
On the central front, Iraqi forces captured Mehran, on the western plain of the Zagros Mountains in Ilam Province, and pushed eastward to the mountain base. Mehran occupied an important position on the major north-south road, close to the border on the Iranian side.
The main thrust of the attack was in the south, where five armored and mechanized divisions invaded Khuzestan on two axes, one crossing over the Shatt al Arab near Basra, which led to the siege and eventual occupation of Khorramshahr, and the second heading for Susangerd, which had Ahvaz, the major military base in Khuzestan, as its objective. Iraqi armored units easily crossed the Shatt al Arab waterway and entered the Iranian province of Khuzestan. Dehloran and several other towns were targeted and were rapidly occupied to prevent reinforcement from Bakhtaran and from Tehran. By mid-October, a full division advanced through Khuzestan headed for Khorramshahr and Abadan and the strategic oil fields nearby. Other divisions headed toward Ahvaz, the provincial capital and site of an air base. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the troops made a rapid and significant advance–almost eighty kilometers in the first few days. In the battle for Dezful in Khuzestan, where a major air base is located, the local Iranian army commander requested air support in order to avoid a defeat. President Bani Sadr, therefore, authorized the release from jail of many pilots, some of whom were suspected of still being loyal to the shah. With the increased use of the Iranian air force, the Iraqi progress was somewhat curtailed.
The last major Iraqi territorial gain took place in early November 1980. On November 3, Iraqi forces reached Abadan but were repulsed by a Pasdaran unit. Even though they surrounded Abadan on three sides and occupied a portion of the city, the Iraqis could not overcome the stiff resistance; sections of the city still under Iranian control were resupplied by boat at night. On November 10, Iraq captured Khorramshahr after a bloody house-to-house fight. The price of this victory was high for both sides, approximately 6,000 casualties for Iraq and even more for Iran.
Iraq’s blitz-like assaults against scattered and demoralized Iranian forces led many observers to think that Baghdad would win the war within a matter of weeks. Indeed, Iraqi troops did capture the Shatt al Arab and did seize a forty-eight-kilometer- wide strip of Iranian territory.
Iran may have prevented a quick Iraqi victory by a rapid mobilization of volunteers and deployment of loyal Pasdaran forces to the front. Besides enlisting the Iranian pilots, the new revolutionary regime also recalled veterans of the old imperial army, although many experienced officers, most of whom had been trained in the United States, had been purged. Furthermore, the Pasdaran and Basij (what Khomeini called the “Army of Twenty Million” or People’s Militia) recruited at least 100,000 volunteers. Approximately 200,000 soldiers were sent to the front by the end of November 1980. They were ideologically committed troops (some members even carried their own shrouds to the front in the expectation of martyrdom) that fought bravely despite inadequate armor support. For example, on November 7 commando units played a significant role, with the navy and air force, in an assault on Iraqi oil export terminals at Mina al Bakr and Al Faw. Iran hoped to diminish Iraq’s financial resources by reducing its oil revenues. Iran also attacked the northern pipeline in the early days of the war and persuaded Syria to close the Iraqi pipeline that crossed its territory.
Iran’s resistance at the outset of the Iraqi invasion was unexpectedly strong, but it was neither well organized nor equally successful on all fronts. Iraq easily advanced in the northern and central sections and crushed the Pasdaran’s scattered resistance there. Iraqi troops, however, faced untiring resistance in Khuzestan. President Saddam Hussein of Iraq may have thought that the approximately 3 million Arabs of Khuzestan would join the Iraqis against Tehran. Instead, many allied with Iran’s regular and irregular armed forces and fought in the battles at Dezful, Khorramshahr, and Abadan. Soon after capturing Khorramshahr, the Iraqi troops lost their initiative and began to dig in along their line of advance.
Tehran rejected a settlement offer and held the line against the militarily superior Iraqi force. It refused to accept defeat, and slowly began a series of counteroffensives in January 1981. Both the volunteers and the regular armed forces were eager to fight, the latter seeing an opportunity to regain prestige lost because of their association with the shah’s regime.
Iran’s first major counterattack failed, however, for political and military reasons. President Bani Sadr was engaged in a power struggle with key religious figures and eager to gain political support among the armed forces by direct involvement in military operations. Lacking military expertise, he initiated a premature attack by three regular armored regiments without the assistance of the Pasdaran units. He also failed to take into account that the ground near Susangerd, muddied by the preceding rainy season, would make resupply difficult. As a result of his tactical decision making, the Iranian forces were surrounded on three sides. In a long exchange of fire, many Iranian armored vehicles were destroyed or had to be abandoned because they were either stuck in the mud or needed minor repairs. Fortunately for Iran, however, the Iraqi forces failed to follow up with another attack.
Iran stopped Iraqi forces on the Karun River and, with limited military stocks, unveiled its “human wave” assaults, which used thousands of Basij (Popular Mobilization Army or People’s Army) volunteers. After Bani Sadr was ousted as president and commander in chief, Iran gained its first major victory, when, as a result of Khomeini’s initiative, the army and Pasdaran suppressed their rivalry and cooperated to force Baghdad to lift its long siege of Abadan in September 1981. Iranian forces also defeated Iraq in the Qasr-e Shirin area in December 1981 and January 1982. The Iraqi armed forces were hampered by their unwillingness to sustain a high casualty rate and therefore refused to initiate a new offensive.
Despite Iraqi success in causing major damage to exposed Iranian ammunition and fuel dumps in the early days of the war, the Iranian air force prevailed initially in the air war. One reason was that Iranian airplanes could carry two or three times more bombs or rockets than their Iraqi counterparts. Moreover, Iranian pilots demonstrated considerable expertise. For example, the Iranian air force attacked Baghdad and key Iraqi air bases as early as the first few weeks of the war, seeking to destroy supply and support systems. The attack on Iraq’s oil field complex and air base at Al Walid, the base for T-22 and Il-28 bombers, was a well-coordinated assault. The targets were more than 800 kilometers from Iran’s closest air base at Urumiyeh, so the F-4s had to refuel in midair for the mission. Iran’s air force relied on F-4s and F-5s for assaults and a few F-14s for reconnaissance. Although Iran used its Maverick missiles effectively against ground targets, lack of airplane spare parts forced Iran to substitute helicopters for close air support. Helicopters served not only as gunships and troop carriers but also as emergency supply transports. In the mountainous area near Mehran, helicopters proved advantageous in finding and destroying targets and maneuvering against antiaircraft guns or man-portable missiles. During Operation Karbala Five and Operation Karbala Six, the Iranians reportedly engaged in large-scale helicopter-borne operations on the southern and central fronts, respectively. Chinooks and smaller Bell helicopters, such as the Bell 214A, were escorted by Sea Cobra choppers.
In confronting the Iraqi air defense, Iran soon discovered that a low-flying group of two, three, or four F-4s could hit targets almost anywhere in Iraq. Iranian pilots overcame Iraqi SA-2 and SA-3 antiaircraft missiles, using American tactics developed in Vietnam; they were less successful against Iraqi SA-6s. Iran’s Western-made air defense system seemed more effective than Iraq’s Soviet-made counterpart. Nevertheless, Iran experienced difficulty in operating and maintaining Hawk, Rapier, and Tigercat missiles and instead used antiaircraft guns and man-portable missiles.
Iraqi Retreats, 1982-84
The Iranian high command passed from regular military leaders to clergy in mid-1982.
In March 1982, Tehran launched its Operation Undeniable Victory, which marked a major turning point, as Iran penetrated Iraq’s “impenetrable” lines, split Iraq’s forces, and forced the Iraqis to retreat. Its forces broke the Iraqi line near Susangerd, separating Iraqi units in northern and southern Khuzestan. Within a week, they succeeded in destroying a large part of three Iraqi divisions. This operation, another combined effort of the army, Pasdaran, and Basij, was a turning point in the war because the strategic initiative shifted from Iraq to Iran.
In May 1982, Iranian units finally regained Khorramshahr, but with high casualties. After this victory, the Iranians maintained the pressure on the remaining Iraqi forces, and President Saddam Hussein announced that the Iraqi units would withdraw from Iranian territory. Saddam ordered a withdrawal to the international borders, believing Iran would agree to end the war. Iran did not accept this withdrawal as the end of the conflict, and continued the war into Iraq. In late June 1982, Baghdad stated its willingness to negotiate a settlement of the war and to withdraw its forces from Iran. Iran refused.
In July 1982 Iran launched Operation Ramadan on Iraqi territory, near Basra. Although Basra was within range of Iranian artillery, the clergy used “human-wave” attacks by the Pasdaran and Basij against the city’s defenses, apparently waiting for a coup to topple Saddam Hussein. Tehran used Pasdaran forces and Basij volunteers in one of the biggest land battles since 1945. Ranging in age from only nine to more than fifty, these eager but relatively untrained soldiers swept over minefields and fortifications to clear safe paths for the tanks. All such assaults faced Iraqi artillery fire and received heavy casualties. The Iranians sustained an immmense number of casualties, but they enabled Iran to recover some territory before the Iraqis could repulse the bulk of the invading forces.
By the end of 1982, Iraq had been resupplied with new Soviet materiel, and the ground war entered a new phase. Iraq used newly acquired T-55 tanks and T-62 tanks, BM-21 Stalin Organ rocket launchers, and Mi-24 helicopter gunships to prepare a Soviet-type three-line defense, replete with obstacles, minefields, and fortified positions. The Combat Engineer Corps proved efficient in constructing bridges across water obstacles, in laying minefields, and in preparing new defense lines and fortifications.
Throughout 1983 both sides demonstrated their ability to absorb and to inflict severe losses. Iraq, in particular, proved adroit at constructing defensive strong points and flooding lowland areas to stymie the Iranian thrusts, hampering the advance of mechanized units. Both sides also experienced difficulties in effectively utilizing their armor. Rather than maneuver their armor, they tended to dig in tanks and use them as artillery pieces. Furthermore, both sides failed to master tank gunsights and fire controls, making themselves vulnerable to antitank weapons.
In 1983 Iran launched three major, but unsuccessful, humanwave offensives, with huge losses, along the frontier. On February 6, Tehran, using 200,000 “last reserve” Pasdaran troops, attacked along a 40-kilometer stretch near Al Amarah, about 200 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Backed by air, armor, and artillery support, Iran’s six-division thrust was strong enough to break through. In response, Baghdad used massive air attacks, with more than 200 sorties, many flown by attack helicopters. More than 6,000 Iranians were killed that day, while achieving only minute gains. In April 1983, the Mandali-Baghdad northcentral sector witnessed fierce fighting, as repeated Iranian attacks were stopped by Iraqi mechanized and infantry divisions. Casualties were very high, and by the end of 1983, an estimated 120,000 Iranians and 60,000 Iraqis had been killed. Despite these losses, in 1983 Iran held a distinct advantage in the attempt to wage and eventually to win the war of attrition.
Beginning in 1984, Baghdad’s military goal changed from controlling Iranian territory to denying Tehran any major gain inside Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq tried to force Iran to the negotiating table by various means. First, President Saddam Hussein sought to increase the war’s manpower and economic cost to Iran. For this purpose, Iraq purchased new weapons, mainly from the Soviet Union and France. Iraq also completed the construction of what came to be known as “killing zones” (which consisted primarily of artificially flooded areas near Basra) to stop Iranian units. In addition, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly and other sources, Baghdad used chemical weapons against Iranian troop concentrations and launched attacks on many economic centers. Despite Iraqi determination to halt further Iranian progress, Iranian units in March 1984 captured parts of the Majnun Islands, whose oil fields had economic as well as strategic value.
Second, Iraq turned to diplomatic and political means. In April 1984, Saddam Hussein proposed to meet Khomeini personally in a neutral location to discuss peace negotiations. But Tehran rejected this offer and restated its refusal to negotiate with President Hussein.
Third, Iraq sought to involve the superpowers as a means of ending the war. The Iraqis believed this objective could be achieved by attacking Iranian shipping. Initially, Baghdad used borrowed French Super Etendard aircraft armed with Exocets. In 1984 Iraq returned these airplanes to France and purchased approximately thirty Mirage F-1 fighters equipped with Exocet missiles. Iraq launched a new series of attacks on shipping on February 1, 1984.
The War of Attrition, 1984-87
By 1984 it was reported that some 300,000 Iranian soldiers and 250,000 Iraqi troops had been killed, or wounded. Most foreign military analysts felt that neither Iraq nor Iran used its modern equipment efficiently. Frequently, sophisticated materiel was left unused, when a massive modern assault could have won the battle for either side. Tanks and armored vehicles were dug in and used as artillery pieces, instead of being maneuvered to lead or to support an assault. William O. Staudenmaeir, a seasoned military analyst, reported that “the land-computing sights on the Iraqi tanks [were] seldom used. This lower[ed] the accuracy of the T-62 tanks to World War II standards.” In addition, both sides frequently abandoned heavy equipment in the battle zone because they lacked the skilled technical personnel needed to carry out minor repairs.
Analysts also assert that the two states’ armies showed little coordination and that some units in the field have been left to fight largely on their own. In this protracted war of attrition, soldiers and officers alike failed to display initiative or professional expertise in combat. Difficult decisions, which should have had immediate attention, were referred by section commanders to the capitals for action. Except for the predictable bursts on important anniversaries, by the mid-1980s the war was stalemated.
In early 1984, Iran had begun Operation Dawn V, which was meant to split the Iraqi 3rd Army Corps and 4th Army Corps near Basra. In early 1984, an estimated 500,000 Pasdaran and Basij forces, using shallow boats or on foot, moved to within a few kilometers of the strategic Basra-Baghdad waterway. Between February 29 and March 1, in one of the largest battles of the war, the two armies clashed and inflicted more than 25,000 fatalities on each other. Without armored and air support of their own, the Iranians faced Iraqi tanks, mortars, and helicopter gunships. Within a few weeks, Tehran opened another front in the shallow lakes of the Hawizah Marshes, just east of Al Qurnah, in Iraq, near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iraqi forces, using Soviet- and French-made helicopter gunships, inflicted heavy casualties on the five Iranian brigades (15,000 men) in this Battle of Majnun.
Lacking the equipment to open secure passages through Iraqi minefields, and having too few tanks, the Iranian command again resorted to the human-wave tactic. In March 1984, an East European journalist claimed that he “saw tens of thousands of children, roped together in groups of about twenty to prevent the faint-hearted from deserting, make such an attack.” The Iranians made little, if any, progress despite these sacrifices. Perhaps as a result of this performance, Tehran, for the first time, used a regular army unit, the 92nd Armored Division, at the Battle of the Marshes a few weeks later.
Within a four-week period between February and March 1984, the Iraqis reportedly killed 40,000 Iranians and lost 9,000 of their own men, but even this was deemed an unacceptable ratio, and in February the Iraqi command ordered the use of chemical weapons. Despite repeated Iraqi denials, between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran charged Iraq with forty uses of chemical weapons. The year 1984 closed with part of the Majnun Islands and a few pockets of Iraqi territory in Iranian hands. Casualties notwithstanding, Tehran had maintained its military posture, while Baghdad was reevaluating its overall strategy.
The major development in 1985 was the increased targeting of population centers and industrial facilities by both combatants. In May Iraq began aircraft attacks, long-range artillery attacks, and surface-to-surface missile attacks on Tehran and on other major Iranian cities. Between August and November, Iraq raided Khark Island forty-four times in a futile attempt to destroy its installations. Iran responded with its own air raids and missile attacks on Baghdad and other Iraqi towns. In addition, Tehran systematized its periodic stop-and-search operations, which were conducted to verify the cargo contents of ships in the Persian Gulf and to seize war materiel destined for Iraq.
The Iraqi Air Force’s first real strategic bombing campaign, the so-called war of the cities, aimed at breaking civilian morale and disrupting military targets. Iraq’s two efforts early in 1985, from 14 March to 7 April and 25 May to 15 June, were reportedly very effective. Opposition from the Iranian Air Force was negligible to nonexistent, as the Iraqis hit air bases and military and industrial targets all over Iran (in Tabriz, Urmia, Rasht, Bakhteran, Hamadan, Tehran, Isfahan, Dezful, Ahvaz, Kharg, Bushehr, and Shiraz). Even Iraq’s lumbering old Tu-16 bombers were getting through, presumably with MiG-25 and Mirage F-1 escorts, as the Iraqis hit targets as far away as Kashan, more than 360 miles from their own bases. Iran’s official Kayhan daily confirmed this, reporting that Tehran was being bombed by “Tupolevs (Tu-16 Badger and Tu-22 Blinder bombers) flying at very high altitudes.” The brunt of Iraq’s bombing offensive, borne by nearly 600 smaller Iraqi combat planes, has fallen on Tehran in an effort to crush Iranian morale. the Iraqis boasted of 180-plane raids on the Iranian capital. Antiwar feeling in Tehran was at an all-time high, as the Iraqis hit the city an average of twice a day and, on two occasions, six times. Among the areas hit were the Bagh-e Saba Revolutionary Guard Barracks, Tehran’s main power station, the Military Staff College, the Military Academy, the main army barracks, and the Abbas Abbad Army Base. Southern Tehran’s locomotive works and the heavy industrial area near Javadieh were also hit, and even the three military airfields that were supposed to protect the city-Mehrabad, Jey, and Qual’eh Murgeh-were repeatedly attacked with impunity.
Iraq’s air force and ‘Scud’ stikes at Iranian cities pushed the Islamic Republic to look for a comparable response. Iran began the Iran-Iraq War with no SSM capability but managed to import SS-1 ‘Scud Bs’ (R-17Es) in 1985 from Libya and in 1986 from Syria. The Revolutionary Guard Corps, which took charge of the weapons, used them against Iraq between 1985 and 1988. Iran used ‘Scud Bs’ from Syria, Libya and possibly North Korea against major cities, including Baghdad and Basra. During this first war of the cities, Iran’s strategic depth prevented Iraq’s missiles from reaching major targets such as Tehran. By 1988, however, Iraq had developed its extended range ‘Scud’, the al-Hussein, and took Iran by surprise with its strikes on key urban conurbations. In the spring of 1988, Iraq launched up to 200 SSMs against Tehran, Qom and Isfahan. Although only 2000 people were killed in these attacks, they caused panic in the populace and hundreds of thousands fled the cities.
During the war, Iranian leaders frequently exaggerated their capabilities in the missile field. Although their ‘Scud Bs’ could hit Baghdad, these weapons lacked the accuracy or destructive power to do significant damage. In addition, Iran was unable to match Iraq’s quantity of missiles. Iraq fired 361 ‘Scud Bs’ at Iran from 1982 to 1988 and about 160 al-Hussein’s at Tehran in early 1988. In contrast, Iran fired 117 ‘Scuds’ throughout the war, including perhaps 60 fired at Baghdad.
The only major ground offensive, involving an estimated 60,000 Iranian troops, occurred in March 1985, near Basra; once again, the assault proved inconclusive except for heavy casualties. In 1986, however, Iraq suffered a major loss in the southern region. On February 9, Iran launched a successful surprise amphibious assault across the Shatt al Arab and captured the abandoned Iraqi oil port of Al Faw. The occupation of Al Faw, a logistical feat, involved 30,000 regular Iranian soldiers who rapidly entrenched themselves. Saddam Hussein vowed to eliminate the bridgehead “at all costs,” and in April 1988 the Iraqis succeeded in regaining the Al Faw peninsula.
Late, in March 1986, the UN secretary general, Javier Perez de Cuellar, formally accused Iraq of using chemical weapons against Iran. Citing the report of four chemical warfare experts whom the UN had sent to Iran in February and March 1986, the secretary general called on Baghdad to end its violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. The UN report concluded that “Iraqi forces have used chemical warfare against Iranian forces”; the weapons used included both mustard gas and nerve gas. The report further stated that “the use of chemical weapons appear[ed] to be more extensive [in 1981] than in 1984.” Iraq attempted to deny using chemicals, but the evidence, in the form of many badly burned casualties flown to European hospitals for treatment, was overwhelming. According to a British representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in July 1986, “Iraqi chemical warfare was responsible for about 10,000 casualties.” In March 1988, Iraq was again charged with a major use of chemical warfare while retaking Halabjah, a Kurdish town in northeastern Iraq, near the Iranian border.
Unable in 1986, however, to dislodge the Iranians from Al Faw, the Iraqis went on the offensive; they captured the city of Mehran in May, only to lose it in July 1986. The rest of 1986 witnessed small hit-and-run attacks by both sides, while the Iranians massed almost 500,000 troops for another promised “final offensive,” which did not occur. But the Iraqis, perhaps for the first time since the outbreak of hostilities, began a concerted air-strike campaign in July. Heavy attacks on Khark Island forced Iran to rely on makeshift installations farther south in the Gulf at Sirri Island and Larak Island. Thereupon, Iraqi jets, refueling in midair or using a Saudi military base, hit Sirri and Larak. The two belligerents also attacked 111 neutral ships in the Gulf in 1986.
Meanwhile, to help defend itself, Iraq had built impressive fortifications along the 1,200-kilometer war front. Iraq devoted particular attention to the southern city of Basra, where concrete-roofed bunkers, tank- and artillery-firing positions, minefields, and stretches of barbed wire, all shielded by an artificially flooded lake 30 kilometers long and 1,800 meters wide, were constructed. Most visitors to the area acknowledged Iraq’s effective use of combat engineering to erect these barriers.
By late 1986, rumors of a final Iranian offensive against Basra proliferated. On 08 January 1987, Operation Karbala Five began, with Iranian units pushing westward between Fish Lake and the Shatt al Arab. This annual “final offensive” captured the town of Duayji and inflicted 20,000 casualties on Iraq, but at the cost of 65,000 Iranian casualties. In this intensive operation, Baghdad also lost forty-five airplanes. Attempting to capture Basra, Tehran launched several attacks, some of them well-disguised diversion assaults such as Operation Karbala Six and Operation Karbala Seven. Iran finally aborted Operation Karbala Five on 26 February 1987. Although the Iranian push came close to breaking Iraq’s last line of defense east of Basra, Tehran was unable to score the decisive breakthrough required to win outright victory, or even to secure relative gains over Iraq.
In late May 1987, just when the war seemed to have reached a complete stalemate on the southern front, reports from Iran indicated that the conflict was intensifying on Iraq’s northern front. This assault, Operation Karbala Ten, was a joint effort by Iranian units and Iraqi Kurdish rebels. They surrounded the garrison at Mawat, endangering Iraq’s oil fields near Kirkuk and the northern oil pipeline to Turkey.
Believing it could win the war merely by holding the line and inflicting unacceptable losses on the attacking Iranians, Iraq initially adopted a static defensive strategy. This was successful in repelling successive Iranian offensives until 1986 and 1987, when the Al-Faw peninsula was lost and Iranian troops reached the gates of Al-Basrah. Embarrassed by the loss of the peninsula and concerned by the threat to his second largest city, Saddam ordered a change in strategy. From a defensive posture, in which the only offensive operations were counterattacks to relieve forces under pressure or to exploit failed Iranian assaults, the Iraqis adopted an offensive strategy. More decision-making authority was delegated to senior military commanders. The change also indicated a maturing of Iraqi military capabilities and an improvement in the armed forces’ effectiveness. The success of this new strategy, plus the attendant change in doctrine and procedures, virtually eliminated Iranian military capabilities.
As the war continued, Iran was increasingly short of spare parts for damaged airplanes and had lost a large number of airplanes in combat. As a result, by late 1987 Iran had become less able to mount an effective defense against the resupplied Iraqi air force, let alone stage aerial counterattacks.
The Tanker War, 1984-87
Much of Iraq’s export capability was lost during the Iran-Iraq War, either to war-related damage or due to political reasons. In 1982, for instance, Syria (allied with Iran at the time) closed the 500-mile, 650,000-bbl/d-capacity Banias pipeline, which had been a vital Iraqi access route to the Mediterranean Sea and European oil markets. By 1983, Iraq’s export capabilities were only 700,000 bbl/d, or less than 30% of operable field production capacity at that time.
Iran’s revenue share fell after the 1978/79 Iranian Revolution, followed soon thereafter by the Iran-Iraq War for much of the 1980s [and has not recovered since]. All Iranian onshore crude oil production and output from the Forozan field (which is blended with crude streams from the Abuzar and Doroud fields) is exported from the Kharg Island terminal located in the northern Gulf. The terminal’s original capacity of 7 million bbl/d was nearly eliminated by more than 9,000 bombing raids during the Iran-Iraq War.
The tanker war seemed likely to precipitate a major international incident for two reasons. First, some 70 percent of Japanese, 50 percent of West European, and 7 percent of American oil imports came from the Persian Gulf in the early 1980s. Second, the assault on tankers involved neutral shipping as well as ships of the belligerent states.
The tanker war had two phases. The relatively obscure first phase began in 1981, and the well-publicized second phase began in 1984.
The relatively obscure first phase began in 1981, and the well-publicized second phase began in 1984. As early as May 1981, Baghdad had unilaterally declared a war zone and had officially warned all ships heading to or returning from Iranian ports in the northern zone of the Gulf to stay away or, if they entered, to proceed at their own risk. The main targets in this phase were the ports of Bandar-e Khomeini and Bandar-e Mashur; very few ships were hit outside this zone. Despite the proximity of these ports to Iraq, the Iraqi navy did not play an important role in the operations. Instead, Baghdad used Super Frelon helicopters equipped with Exocet missiles or Mirage F-1s and MiG-23s to hit its targets. Naval operations came to a halt, presumably because Iraq and Iran had lost many of their ships, by early 1981; the lull in the fighting lasted for two years.
In March 1984, the tanker war entered its second phase when Iraq initiated sustained naval operations in its self-declared 1,126-kilometer maritime exclusion zone, extending from the mouth of the Shatt al Arab to Iran’s port of Bushehr. In 1981 Baghdad had attacked Iranian ports and oil complexes as well as neutral tankers and ships sailing to and from Iran; in 1984 Iraq expanded the so-called tanker war by using French Super-Etendard combat aircraft armed with Exocet missiles.
In March 1984 an Iraqi Super Etendard fired an Exocet missile at a Greek tanker south of Khark Island. Until the March assault, Iran had not intentionally attacked civilian ships in the Gulf.Neutral merchant ships became favorite targets, and the long-range Super-Etendards flew sorties farther south. Seventy-one merchant ships were attacked in 1984 alone, compared with forty-eight in the first three years of the war. Iraq’s motives in increasing the tempo included a desire to break the stalemate, presumably by cutting off Iran’s oil exports and by thus forcing Tehran to the negotiating table. Repeated Iraqi efforts failed to put Iran’s main oil exporting terminal at Khark Island out of commission, however.
The new wave of Iraqi assaults, however, led Iran to reciprocate. In April 1984, Tehran launched its first attack against civilian commercial shipping by shelling an Indian freighter. Iran attacked a Kuwaiti oil tanker near Bahrain on May 13 and then a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters five days later, making it clear that if Iraq continued to interfere with Iran’s shipping, no Gulf state would be safe. Most observers considered that Iraqi attacks, however, outnumbered Iranian assaults by three to one. Iran’s retaliatory attacks were largely ineffective because a limited number of aircraft equipped with long-range antiship missiles and ships with long-range surface-to-surface missiles were deployed. Moreover, despite repeated Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, Iran itself depended on the sea-lanes for vital oil exports.
These sustained attacks cut Iranian oil exports in half, reduced shipping in the Gulf by 25 percent, led Lloyd’s of London to increase its insurance rates on tankers, and slowed Gulf oil supplies to the rest of the world; moreover, the Saudi decision in 1984 to shoot down an Iranian Phantom jet intruding in Saudi territorial waters played an important role in ending both belligerents’ attempts to internationalize the tanker war. Iraq and Iran accepted a 1984 UN-sponsored moratorium on the shelling of civilian targets, and Tehran later proposed an extension of the moratorium to include Gulf shipping, a proposal the Iraqis rejected unless it were to included their own Gulf ports.
Iraq began ignoring the moratorium soon after it went into effect and stepped up its air raids on tankers serving Iran and Iranian oil-exporting facilities in 1986 and 1987, attacking even vessels that belonged to the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Iran responded by escalating its attacks on shipping serving Arab ports in the Gulf. As Kuwaiti vessels made up a large portion of the targets in these retaliatory raids, the Kuwaiti government sought protection from the international community in the fall of 1986. The Soviet Union responded first, agreeing to charter several Soviet tankers to Kuwait in early 1987. Washington, which has been approached first by Kuwait and which had postponed its decision, eventually followed Moscow’s lead. United States involvement was sealed by the May 17, 1987, Iraqi missile attack on the USS Stark, in which thirtyseven crew members were killed. Baghdad apologized and claimed that the attack was a mistake. Ironically, Washington used the Stark incident to blame Iran for escalating the war and sent its own ships to the Gulf to escort eleven Kuwaiti tankers that were “reflagged” with the American flag and had American crews. Iran refrained from attacking the United States naval force directly, but it used various forms of harassment, including mines, hit-and-run attacks by small patrol boats, and periodic stop-and-search operations. On several occasions, Tehran fired its Chinese-made Silkworm missiles on Kuwait from Al Faw Peninsula. When Iranian forces hit the reflagged tanker Sea Isle City in October 1987, Washington retaliated by destroying an oil platform in the Rostam field and by using the United States Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) commandos to blow up a second one nearby.
Within a few weeks of the Stark incident, Iraq resumed its raids on tankers but moved its attacks farther south, near the Strait of Hormuz. Washington played a central role in framing UN Security Council Resolution 598 on the Gulf war, passed unanimously on July 20; Western attempts to isolate Iran were frustrated, however, when Tehran rejected the resolution because it did not meet its requirement that Iraq should be punished for initiating the conflict.
In early 1988, the Gulf was a crowded theater of operations. At least ten Western navies and eight regional navies were patrolling the area, the site of weekly incidents in which merchant vessels were crippled. The Arab Ship Repair Yard in Bahrain and its counterpart in Dubayy, United Arab Emirates (UAE), were unable to keep up with the repairs needed by the ships damaged in these attacks.
Gradual Superpower Involvement
Iranian military gains inside Iraq after 1984 were a major reason for increased superpower involvement in the war. In February 1986, Iranian units captured the port of Al Faw, which had oil facilities and was one of Iraq’s major oil-exporting ports before the war.
In early 1987, both superpowers indicated their interest in the security of the region. Soviet deputy foreign minister Vladimir Petrovsky made a Middle East tour expressing his country’s concern over the effects of the Iran-Iraq War. In May 1987, United States assistant secretary of state Richard Murphy also toured the Gulf emphasizing to friendly Arab states the United States commitment in the region, a commitment which had become suspect as a result of Washington’s transfer of arms to the Iranians, officially as an incentive for them to assist in freeing American hostages held in Lebanon. In another diplomatic effort, both superpowers supported the UN Security Council resolutions seeking an end to the war.
The war appeared to be entering a new phase in which the superpowers were becoming more involved. For instance, the Soviet Union, which had ended military supplies to both Iran and Iraq in 1980, resumed large-scale arms shipments to Iraq in 1982 after Iran banned the Tudeh and tried and executed most of its leaders. Subsequently, despite its professed neutrality, the Soviet Union became the major supplier of sophisticated arms to Iraq. In 1985 the United States began clandestine direct and indirect negotiations with Iranian officials that resulted in several arms shipments to Iran.
By late spring of 1987, the superpowers became more directly involved because they feared that the fall of Basra might lead to a pro-Iranian Islamic republic in largely Shia-populated southern Iraq. They were also concerned about the intensified tanker war.
To avoid defeat, Iraq sought out every possible weapon. This included developing a self-sustaining capability to produce militarily significant quantities of chemical warfare agents. In the defense, integrating chemical weapons offered a solution to the masses of lightly armed Basif and Posdoran. Chemical weapons were singularly effective when used on troop assembly areas and supporting artillery. When conducting offensive operations, Iraq routinely supported the attacks with deep fires and integrated chemical fires on forward defenses, command posts, artillery positions, and logistical facilities.
During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq developed the ability to produce, store, and use chemical weapons. These chemical weapons included H-series blister and G-series nerve agents. Iraq built these agents into various offensive munitions including rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, and warheads on the Al Hussein Scud missile variant. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraqi fighter-attack aircraft dropped mustard-filled and tabun-filled 250 kilogram bombs and mustard-filled 500 kilogram bombs on Iranian targets. Other reports indicate that Iraq may have also installed spray tanks on an unknown number of helicopters or dropped 55-gallon drums filled with unknown agents (probably mustard) from low altitudes.
Iran launched an unsuccessful attack on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor on 30 September 1980. On 07 June 1981 Israel initiated an air attack on the same Iraqi Osirak reactor, destroying it. Iraq launched seven air attacks on the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr between 1984 and 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War, ultimately destroying the facility.
In response to Iranian missile attacks against Baghdad, some 190 missiles were fired by the Iraqis over a six week period at Iranian cities in 1988, during the ‘War of the Cities’. The Iraqi missile attacks caused little destruction, but each warhead had a psychological and political impact — boosting Iraqi morale while causing almost 30 percent of Tehran’s population to flee the city. The threat of rocketing the Iranian capital with missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads is cited as a significant reason why Iran accepted a disadvantageous peace agreement.
Four major battles were fought from April to August 1988, in which the Iraqis routed or defeated the Iranians. In the first offensive, named Blessed Ramadhan, Iraqi Republican Guard and regular Army units recaptured the Al-Faw peninsula. The 36-hour battle was conducted in a militarily sophisticated manner with two main thrusts, supported by heliborne and amphibious landings, and low-level fixed-wing attack sorties. In this battle, the Iraqis effectively used chemical weapons (CW), using nerve and blister agents against Iranian command and control facilities, artillery positions, and logistics points. Three subsequent operations followed much the same pattern, although they were somewhat less complex. After rehearsals, the Iraqis launched successful attacks on Iranian forces in the Fish Lake and Shalamjah areas near Al-Basrah and recaptured the oil-rich Majnun Islands. Farther to the north, in the last major engagement before the August 1988 cease-fire, Iraqi armored and mechanized forces penetrated deep into Iran, defeating Iranian forces and capturing huge amounts of armor and artillery.
In the fall of 1988, the Iraqis displayed in Baghdad captured Iranian weapons amounting to more than three-quarters of the Iranian armor inventory and almost half of its artillery pieces and armored personnel carriers.
The Iran-Iraq war lasted nearly eight years, from September of 1980 until August of 1988. It ended when Iran accepted United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 598, leading to a 20 August 1988 cease-fire.
Casualty figures are highly uncertain, though estimates suggest more than one and a half million war and war-related casualties — perhaps as many as a million people died, many more were wounded, and millions were made refugees. Iran acknowledged that nearly 300,000 people died in the war; estimates of the Iraqi dead range from 160,000 to 240,000. Iraq suffered an estimated 375,000 casualties, the equivalent of 5.6 million for a population the size of the United States. Another 60,000 were taken prisoner by the Iranians. Iran’s losses may have included more than 1 million people killed or maimed.
Without diminishing the horror of either war, Iranian losses in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war appear modest compared with those of the European contestants in the four years of World War I, shedding some light on the limits of the Iranian tolerance for martyrdom. The war claimed at least 300,000 Iranian lives and injured more than 500,000, out of a total population which by the war’s end was nearly 60 million. During the Great War, German losses were over 1,700,000 killed and over 4,200,000 wounded [out of a total population of over 65 million]. Germany’s losses, relative to total national population, were at least five times higher than Iran. France suffered over 1,300,000 deaths and over 4,200,000 wounded. The percentages of pre-war population killed or wounded were 9% of Germany, 11% of France, and 8% of Great Britain.
At the end, virtually none of the issues which are usually blamed for the war had been resolved. When it was over, the conditions which existed at the beginning of the war remained virtually unchanged. Although Iraq won the war militarily, and possessed a significant military advantage over Iran in 1989, the 1991 Persian Gulf War reduced Iraq’s capabilities to a point where a rough parity existed between Iran and Iraq-conditions similar to those found in 1980. The UN-arranged cease-fire merely put an end to the fighting, leaving two isolated states to pursue an arms race with each other, and with the other countries in the region. The Iraqi military machine — numbering more than a million men with an extensive arsenal of CW, extended range Scud missiles, a large air force and one of the world’s larger armies — emerged as the premier armed force in the Persian Gulf region. In the Middle East, only the Israel Defense Force had superior capability.
The Ayatollah Khomeini died on 03 June 1989. The Assembly of Experts–an elected body of senior clerics–chose the outgoing president of the republic, Ali Khamenei, to be his successor as national religious leader in what proved to be a smooth transition. In August 1989, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the speaker of the National Assembly, was elected President by an overwhelming majority. The new clerical regime gave Iranian national interests primacy over Islamic doctrine.
A variety of unresolved humanitarian issues from the Iran-Iraq war include a failure to identify combatants killed in action and to exchange information on those killed or missing. Iran agreed to the release of 5,584 Iraqi POW’s in April 1998, and news organizations reported intermittent meetings throughout the remainder of the year between Iranian and Iraqi government officials toward reaching a final agreement on the remaining POW’s held by each side. The Iranian government pledged to settle the remaining POW issues with Iraq in 1999. And joint Iran-Iraq search operations were initiated to identify remains of those missing in action.
|Part of the Persian Gulf conflicts|
Clockwise from above: Iranian soldiers wearing gas masks to counter Iraqi chemical weapons, Iranian soldiers rejoicing after the liberation of Khorramshahr, Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein meeting in Baghdad to discuss US military aid to Iraq, Iranian oil platform burning after attack by US Navy in Operation Nimble Archer
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ruhollah Khomeini
Mohammad-Ali Rajai (KIA)
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Mostafa Chamran (KIA)
Ali Sayad Shirazi
Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
| Saddam Hussein
Ali Hassan al-Majid
Taha Yassin Ramadan
Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri
Salah Aboud Mahmoud
100,000 to 150,000Pasdaran and Basij, 100,000 militia,
4,000 armored vehicles,
7,000 artillery pieces,
|850,000 in 1980,
1,500,000 by 1988,
8,630 armored vehicles,
12,330 artillery pieces,
|Casualties and losses|
|500,000 to 1,000,000 dead;>
Economic loss of more than US$500 billion
|Estimated 300,000 soldiers, militia, and civilians killed or woundedEconomic loss of more than US$500 billion|
|¹ With support from the USSR, France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States, and other Arab, NATO and Warsaw Pact countries for Iraq.|
The Iran–Iraq War (also known as the First Persian Gulf War and by various other names) was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the 20th century. It was initially referred to in English as the “Persian Gulf War” prior to the “Gulf War” of 1990. The war began when Iraq invaded Iran, launching a simultaneous invasion by air and land into Iranian territory on 22 September 1980 following a long history of border disputes, and fears of Shia Islam insurgency among Iraq’s long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq was also aiming to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of the revolutionary chaos in Iran and attacked without formal warning, they made only limited progress into Iran and were quickly repelled by the Iranians who regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive. Despite calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations Security Council, hostilities continued until 20 August 1988. The war finally ended with a United Nations brokered ceasefire in the form of United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, which was accepted by both sides. It took several weeks for the Iranian armed forces to evacuate Iraqi territory to honor pre-war international borders between the two nations (see 1975 Algiers Agreement). The last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003.
The war came at a great cost in lives and economic damage—half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers as well as civilians are believed to have died in the war with many more injured—but it brought neither reparations nor change in borders. The conflict is often compared to World War I, in that the tactics used closely mirrored those of that conflict, including large scale trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches, human wave attacks acrossno-man’s land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas by the Iraqi government against Iranian troops and civilians as well as Iraqi Kurds. At the time, the UN Security Council issued statements that “chemical weapons had been used in the war.” However, in these UN statements it was never made clear that it was only Iraq that was using chemical weapons, so it has been said that “the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds.”
The war was commonly referred to as the Gulf War or Persian Gulf War until theIraq-Kuwait conflict (Jan–Feb 1991), and for a while thereafter as the First Persian Gulf War. The Iraq-Kuwait conflict, while originally known as the Second Persian Gulf War, later became known simply as the “Gulf War”. The United States-ledinvasion of Iraq in 2003 and the following occupation of the country from 2003–2011 has since been called the “Second Persian Gulf War”.
The war of 1980-1988 is also known in Iran as the Imposed War (جنگ تحمیلی, Jang-e Tahmīlī) and the Holy Defense (دفاع مقدس, Defā’-e Moqaddas). In Iraq, the president,Saddam Hussein initially dubbed the conflict the “Whirlwind War“. It was also referred in Iraq as Saddām’s Qādisiyyah (قادسية صدام, Qādisiyyat Ṣaddām), in reference to the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah.
One of the factors contributing to hostility between the two powers was a dispute over full control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway (known as Arvand Rud in Iran) at the head of the Persian Gulf, an important channel for the oil exports of both countries. In 1937, Iran and Iraq signed a treaty that settled the long-standing dispute, which dated back to the Ottoman-Persian wars of the 16th and 17th centuries over the control of the Shatt. In the same year, Iran and Iraq both joined the Saadabad Pact, and relations between the two nations remained good for decades afterwards. In 1955, both nations joined the Baghdad Pact. The 1937 treaty recognized the Iranian-Iraqi border as along the low-water mark on the eastern side of the Shatt except at Abadan and Khorramshahr where the frontier ran along the thalweg (the deep water line) which gave Iraq control of almost the entire waterway; provided that all ships using the Shatt fly the Iraqi flag and have an Iraqi pilot, and required Iran to pay tolls to Iraq whenever its ships used the Shatt.
The overthrow of the Hashemites in Iraq in 1958 brought to power a new regime that was more stridently nationalist, and which promptly left the Baghdad Pact. On 18 December 1959, the new leader of Iraq General Abdul Karim Qassim, declared: “We do not wish to refer to the history of Arab tribes residing in Al-Ahwaz and Mohammareh [Khorramshahr]. The Ottomans handed over Mohammareh, which was part of Iraqi territory, to Iran.” The Iraqi regime’s dissatisfaction with Iran’s possession of the oil-rich Khuzestan province (which Iraqis called Arabistan) that had a large Arabic-speaking population was not limited to rhetorical statements; Iraq began supporting secessionistmovements in Khuzestan, and even raised the issue of its territorial claims at the next meeting of the Arab League, without success. Iraq showed reluctance in fulfilling existing agreements with Iran—especially after the death of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 and the rise of the Ba’ath Party which took power in a 1968 coup, led Iraq to take on the self-appointed role of the “leader of the Arab world“. At the same time, by the late 1960s, the build-up of Iranian power under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had gone on a gargantuan military spending spree, led Iran to take a more assertive stance in the Near East. In April 1969, Iran abrogated the 1937 treaty over the Shatt, and as such, Iran ceased paying tolls to Iraq when its ships used the Shatt. The Shah justified his move by arguing that almost all river borders all over the world ran along the thalweg, and by claiming that because most of the ships that used the Shatt were Iranian, the 1937 treaty was unfair to Iran. Iraq threatened war over the Iranian move, but when on 24 April 1969 an Iranian tanker escorted by Iranian warships sailed down the Shatt, Iraq being the militarily weaker state did nothing. The Iranian abrogation of the 1937 treaty marked the beginning of a period of acute Iraqi-Iranian tension that was to last until the Algiers Accords of 1975. In 1969, the deputy prime minister of Iraq stated: “Iraq’s dispute with Iran is in connection with Khuzestan which is part of Iraq’s soil and was annexed to Iran during foreign rule.” Soon Iraqi radio stations began exclusively broadcasting into “Arabistan”, encouraging Arabs living in Iran and even Balūchīs to revolt against the Shah of Iran‘s government. Basra TV stations even began showing Iran’s Khuzestan province as part of Iraq’s new province called Nasiriyyah, renaming all its cities with Arabic names.
In 1971, Iraq broke diplomatic relations with Iran after claiming sovereignty rights over the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunbin the Persian Gulf, following the withdrawal of the British. Iraq then expropriated the properties of 70,000 people it said were Iraqis of Iranian origin and expelled them from its territory, after complaining to the Arab League and the UN without success. Many, if not most of those expelled were in fact Iraqi Shias who had little to no family ties with Iran, and the vast majority of whom spoke Arabic, rather than Persian. In retaliation for Iraq’s claims to Khuzestan, Iran became the main patron of Iraq’s Kurdish rebels in the early 1970s, giving the Iraqi Kurds bases in Iran and providing the Kurdish groups with weapons. In addition to Iraq’s fomenting of separatism in Iran’s Khuzestan and Iranian Balochistan provinces, both countries encouraged separatist activities by Kurdish nationalists in the other country. In the winter of 1974–75, Iran and Iraq almost went to war over Iran’s support of the Kurds in Iraq. However, given Iran’s greater military strength and population, the Iraqis decided against war, and chose to make concessions to Tehran to end the Kurdish rebellion. In the 1975 Algiers Agreement Iraq made territorial concessions – including the waterway – in exchange for normalized relations. In return for Iraqi recognition that the frontier on the Shatt run along the entire thalweg, Iran ended its support of the Iraqi Kurdish guerrillas. The Algiers Agreement was widely seen as a national humiliation in Iraq. However, the Algiers Agreement meant the end of Iranian and US support for thePeshmerga, who were defeated by the Iraqi government in a short campaign that claimed 20,000 lives. The British journalist Patrick Brogan wrote that “…the Iraqis celebrated their victory in the usual manner, by executing as many of the rebels as they could lay their hands on”.
The relationship between the Iranian and Iraqi governments briefly improved in 1978, when Iranian agents in Iraq discovered a pro-Soviet coup d’état against the Iraqi government. When informed of this plot, Saddam Hussein, who was vice president at the time, ordered the execution of dozens of his army officers, and to return the favor, expelled Ruhollah Khomeini, an exiled leader of clerical opposition to the Shah, from Iraq.
After the Islamic Revolution
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Iran’s Pan-Islamism and revolutionary Shia Islamism and Iraq’s Arab nationalism were central to the conflict. Initially, the Iraqi government welcomed the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978–79, having had a common enemy with them in the deposed Shah. The call, first made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in June 1979 for Iraqi Shias to overthrow the Ba’ath regime was therefore received with considerable shock in Baghdad. On 17 July 1979, despite Khomeini’s call, the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave a speech praising the Iranian revolution, and called for Iraqi-Iranian friendship based upon non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. When Khomeini ignored Hussein’s overture, and continued with his call for a Shia revolution in Iraq, the Iraqi regime was seriously alarmed. The new Islamic regime in Iran was regarded in Baghdad as an irrational, existential threat to the Ba’ath regime.This was especially the case as the Ba’ath regime, despite its secular nature, was dominated by Arab Sunnis, with the Arab Shia majority together with the Kurdish minority being assigned the status of an underclass.
Above all, Hussein was keenly interested in elevating Iraq to a strong regional power . A successful invasion of Iran would enlarge Iraq’s petroleum reserves and make Iraq the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region. With Iran engulfed in chaos, the chance for Iraq to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province seemed too good for Hussein to pass up. In addition, Khuzestan’s large ethnic Arab population would allow Hussein to pose as the liberator of the Arabs from Persian rule. In 1979–80, Iraq was the beneficiary of an oil boom that saw it take in $33 billion US, which allowed the Iraqi government to go on a lavish spending spree on both civilian and military projects. On several occasions Hussein alluded to the Islamic conquest of Iran in propagating his position against Iran. For example, on 2 April 1980, half a year before the outbreak of the war, in a visit by Hussein to al-Mustansiriyyah University in Baghdad, drawing parallels with the 7th century defeat of Persia in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, he announced:
In your name, brothers, and on behalf of the Iraqis and Arabs everywhere we tell those Persian cowards and dwarfs who try to avenge Al-Qadisiyah that the spirit of Al-Qadisiyah as well as the blood and honor of the people of Al-Qadisiyah who carried the message on their spearheads are greater than their attempts.”
In turn the Ayatollah Khomeini believed Muslims, particularly the Shias in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, andKuwait, whom he saw as oppressed, could and should follow the Iranian example, rise up against their governments to join a united Islamic republic. Khomeini and Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries despised Hussein’s secularist, Arab nationalist Ba’athist regime in particular as un-Islamic and “a puppet of Satan,” and called on Iraqis to overthrow it. In 1979–1980, there were anti-Ba’ath riots in the Shia areas of Iraq, and the Iranian government extended its support to Iraqi Shia militants working for an Islamic revolution in their country. In April 1980 alone, 20 Ba’ath officials were assassinated by Shia militants with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz being almost killed in an assassination attempt on 1 April 1980.Later in April, the Information Minister Latif Nusseif al-Jasim barely survived an assassination attempt by Shia militants. The repeated calls for the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime and the support extended to Iraqi Shia groups by the new regime in Iran led Hussein to increasingly perceive the Iranian regime as a mortal threat that if ignored, might one day overthrow him. In April 1980, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Amina Haydar (better known as Bint al-Huda) were hanged as part of the crack-down on Iraqi Shia activists. The hanging of Iraq’s senior most Ayatollah caused outrage throughout the Shia world. Starting in May 1980, skirmishes on the Iranian-Iraqi border became a daily event. At the same time in Iran, severe officer purges (including several executions ordered by Sadegh Khalkhali, the post-revolution sharia ruler), and spare parts shortages for Iran’s US-made equipment, had crippled Iran’s once mighty military. Between February–September 1979, the Iranian government shot 85 senior generals while forcing all major-generals and most brigadier-generals into early retirement. By September 1980, the Iranian government had purged 12,000 army officers. The effects of this purge was a drastic decline in the operational capacities of the Iranian military. The bulk of the Iranian military was made up of poorly armed, though committed, militias. Iran had minimal defenses at the Arvand river.
Iraqi pretext for war and Iraqi war aims
Relations deteriorated rapidly until in March 1980, Iran unilaterally downgraded its diplomatic ties to the charge d’affaires level, withdrew its ambassador, and demanded that Iraq do the same. The tension increased in April following the attempted assassination of Aziz and, three days later, the bombing of a funeral procession being held to bury students who had died in an earlier attack. Iraq blamed Iran, and in September, attacked.
An armed Iranian militia woman in front of a mosque during the Iraqi invasion ofKhorramshahr, September–October 1980
On 17 September, in a statement addressed to the Iraqi parliament, Saddam stated that “The frequent and blatant Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty…have rendered the 1975 Algiers Agreement null and void… This river…must have its Iraqi-Arab identity restored as it was throughout history in name and in reality with all the disposal rights emanating from full sovereignty over the river.”,
The objectives of Iraq’s invasion of Iran were:
- Control of the Arvand river waterway by Iraqis
- Acquisition of the three islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, on behalf of the UAE
- Annexation of Khuzestan to Iraq
- Prevent the spread of the Islamic Revolution in the region
The border between Iran and Iraq is very mountainous, which made a deep ground invasion almost impossible. The ferocity Iran showed in defending its territory made a ground attack to the heart of Iran even more difficult. “Invading forces would need to be prepared for a deeply embedded and enduring insurgency, due to extreme challenges presented by terrain, and resolve….
Therefore air strikes were used instead to attack in depth. The first waves of the invasion were a series of airstrikes targeted at Iranian airfields. Iraq also attempted to bomb Iran’s capital (and command centre) Tehran into submission. Iraq also had much to gain economically, such as oil reserves and access to trade routes by taking over Iran.
This strategy did not succeed as planned. Saddam Hussein underestimated the importance of the vast distances that made up Iran and overestimated the firing capacity and range of his nation’s aircraft. The Iraqi air force barely hit Iranian airfields and was only able to slightly damage Tehran’s airport and take out a few planes there. The airstrikes were largely ineffective due to the sheer size of Iran.  This was a costly mistake for Iraq as they had wasted large sums of money to carry out these strategies only to fail. This did not deter Hussein, as the potential gains kept him going.
Despite the rivalry held between the Iraqis and the Iranians, Saddam Hussein knew that Iran’s natural resources were an economic blessing, and that gaining control over them would catapult Iraq into a new domain of control. It would effectively make Iraq one of the most feared powers in the Middle East and make it an economic contender in the world. For example, oil: “Iran and its oil industry play a major role in the Middle East and in the global economy” . Not only was Iran rich in resources but it also had with it an extensive set of old trade routes established between the Soviet Union and Iran connecting the Persian Gulf, opening on Africa and Asia, and Eastern Europe/Russia to the north.
Though the reasons for taking Iran were favorable, the conditions were not. Rough terrain, vast distances and overestimating strategies all went to the disadvantage of Iraq’s war efforts. Despite the geographic gains at stake that motivated Iraq to spark an invasion, it was Iran’s determination and devotion to the defense of their homeland that enabled them to show sufficient prowess that ultimately won them the war. Saddam overlooked the geographic factors and that had contributed to the stalemate of the war. Due to the natural resources and geographic proximity to the Soviet Union, had Iraq taken over Iran it would have become one of the most (if not the most) powerful nations in the Middle East.
Iran’s rich natural resources were one reason that made it economically desirable to Iraq. They also had various trade routes established throughout the country. This territory was beneficial to take over as it would have given Iraq access to these trade routes, along the southern lines (territory skirting the gulf) and access to trade with Iran’s neighbors, such as Pakistan, Armenia, India, and others. Iran was also considered to be a gateway to Russia, direct train lines were established from the capital region into the Soviet Union along the west coast of the Caspian sea and taking it over would allow for practically direct trade between Iraq and Russia: “any appreciable flow of materials can be attained by the various Iranian routes to Russia.” . If Iraq took over Iran, they would become a very powerful force on the global scale.
1980: Iraqi invasion
Iraq launched a full-scale invasion of Iran on 22 September 1980. The Iraqi Air Force launched surprise airstrikes on ten Iranian airfields with the objective of destroying the Iranian Air Force on the ground. The attack demolished some of Iran’s airbase infrastructure, but failed to destroy a significant number of aircraft. The Iraqi Air Force was only able to strike in depth with a few MiG-23BN, Tu-22 and Su-20 aircraft, largely ineffective due to Iran’s sheer size. Three MiG-23s managed to attack Tehran, striking its airport but damaging only a few aircraft. The next day, Iraq launched a ground invasion of Iran along a front measuring 644 kilometres, in three simultaneous thrusts. The purpose of the invasion, according to Saddam, was to blunt the edge of Khomeini’s movement and to thwart his attempt to export his Islamic revolution to Iraq and the Persian Gulf states.” Saddam hoped that by annexing the oil-rich province of Khuzestan that he would send such a blow to the prestige of the Islamic Republic, that it would lead to the downfall of the new government, or at very least put an end to Iranian calls for his overthrow.
Of the six Iraqi divisions that were invading, four were sent against the Iranian province ofKhuzestan, which was located near the southern end of the border, to cut off the Arvand river from the rest of Iran, and to establish a territorial security zone. The other two divisions invaded through the northern and central part of the border, to prevent an Iranian counter-attack into Iraq. Two of the four Iraqi divisions operating near the southern end, one mechanized and one armored, began a siege of the strategically important towns of Abadan and Khorramshahr.
The other two divisions, both armoured, secured the territory bounded by the line Khorramshahr-Ahvaz-Susangerd-Musian, due to an enveloping movement. On the central front, the Iraqis occupied Mehran, advanced towards the foothills of the Zagros Mountains; and were able to block the traditional Tehran–Baghdad invasion route by securing some territory forward of Qasr-e Shirin. On the northern front, the Iraqis attempted to establish a strong defensive position opposite Suleimaniya to protect the Iraqi Kirkuk oil complex. Iraqi hopes of an uprising by the ethnic Arabs of Khuzestan failed to occur, and most the ethnic Arabs, who were Shiite remained loyal to Iran. The Iraqi troops advancing into Iran in 1980 were described by the British journalist Patrick Brogan as “badly led and lacking in offensive spirit…”
The Iranian regular military and the Pasdaran resisted, but conducted their operations separately. As a result, the Iraqi invading forces did not face co-ordinated resistance. The Pasdaran fought against the Iraqi invasion with “great fervour and tenacity”, and bore the brunt of the invasion. By the second day of the invasion, dozens of Iranian F-4s attacked Iraqi targets, and in a few days the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force gained air superiority over the Iraqis, allowing them to conduct ground attack missions with fighter-bombers and helicopters against Iraqi forces. The Iraqi Army was also subjected to attacks by entrenched Iranian artillery. On 24 September, though, the Iranian Navyattacked Basra and, on the way, had destroyed two oil terminals near the Iraqi port of Fao, which reduced Iraq’s ability to export oil. TheIranian Air Force also began air strikes in September against strategically important Iraqi targets, including oil facilities, dams, petrochemical plants, and a nuclear reactor near Baghdad.
On 28 September, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution urging Iran and Iraq to stop the fighting and accept mediation. The Iraqi invasion encountered unexpectedly fierce resistance, however, and by December 1980 it stalled. Also, rather than turning against the Islamic Republic as some experts had predicted, the people of Iran rallied around their country and resisted. An estimated 200,000 additional troops arrived at the front by November, many of them “ideologically committed” volunteers.
Baghdad was subjected to eight air attacks by 1 October. In response to these air attacks, Iraq launched a number of aerial strikes against Iranian targets. In October 1980, a prolonged urban battle took place for Khorramshahr with both sides losing about 7,000 dead.Reflecting the bloody nature of the struggle, both sides came to call Khorramshar “Khunistan” (City of Blood). On 24 October,Khorramshahr was finally captured and by November, Saddam ordered his forces to advance towards Dezful and Ahvaz, but their thrusts were repulsed. On 7 December 1980 Saddam announced that Iraq was going on the defensive. For the next eight months, both sides were with the exception of the Battle of Dezful to be on the defensive as the Iranians needed more time to reorganize their forces to undo the damage inflicted by the purge of 1979–80. During this period, the war consisted mainly of artillery duels and raids. Iraq had mobilized 21 divisions for the invasion, while Iran countered with only 13 regular army divisions and one brigade. Of these divisions, only seven were deployed to the border.
On 5 January 1981 the Iranians launched an armoured offensive at Susangerd that saw the Iranians break through the Iraqi lines. However, the Iranian tanks raced through the Iraqi lines with their flanks unprotected, and as a result, the Iranian armoured division was cut off by Iraqi tanks. In the ensuing battle, the Iranian division was almost totally destroyed in one of the biggest tank battles of the entire war. The Iraqis lost 50 T-62 tanks while the Iranians lost 100 Chieftain and M-60 tanks. The Battle of Dezful had been ordered by PresidentAbulhassan Banisadr who was hoping that a victory might shore up his deteriorating political position; instead the failure of the offensive helped to hasten his fall. A major distraction for Iran was the internal fighting between the regime and the leftish Mujaheddin e-Khalq group on the streets of Iran’s major cities in June 1981 and again in September.
In May 1981, the Iranians retook the high ground above Susangerd, and in September 1981, the Iranians put an end to the Iraqi Siege of Abadan, which had commenced in November 1980. By the fall of 1981, serious morale problems had developed in the Iraqi Army with many Iraqi soldiers seeing no point to the invasion of Iran. On 29 November 1981 Iran began Operation Tariq al-Qods (Operation Jerusalem Way) with three Army brigades and seven Revolutionary Guard brigades retaking the town of Bostan from the Iraqi division that was holding it by 7 December. Operation Jerusalem Way saw the first use of the Iranian “human wave” tactics with the Revolutionary Guard charging the Iraqi positions time after time without the support of artillery or air power until victory. The fall of Bostan massively increased the Iraqi logistical problems as to supply their troops, Iraq was forced to use the roundabout route from Ahvaz far to the south.
1982: Iraqi retreat, Iranian offensive
For about a year after the Iraqi offensive stalled in March 1981 there was little change in the front, but in mid-March 1982 Iran took the offensive and the Iraqi military was forced to retreat. By June 1982, an Iranian counter-offensive had recovered all the areas lost to Iraq earlier in the war. InOperation Jerusalem launched on 24 April 1982, 70,000 Revolutionary Guardsmen using infiltration tactics at night and human wave attacks by day had by 12 May driven all Iraqi forces out of the Susangerd area. On 20 May 1982 the Iranians began the drive towards Khorramsahr. An especially significant battle of this counter-offensive in the Khuzestan province was the Liberation of Khorramshahr from the Iraqis on 24 May 1982. A total of 7,000 Iraqis were killed or wounded in Khorramshahr and 19,000 taken prisoner, while the Iranians had suffered 10,000 casualties.
Saddam decided to withdraw his armed forces completely from Iran, and that they should be deployed along the international border between Iraq and Iran. Efraim Karsh states that Saddam made this choice because the Iraqi leader believed that his army was now too demoralised and damaged to hold onto any territory in Iran, and that Iran could be successfully resisted through a line of defence on Iraqi land near the border. Equally important, in April 1982 the rival Ba’athist regime in Syria at the request of Iran closed the Kirkuk–Banias pipeline that allowed Iraqi oil to reach tankers on the Mediterranean, which reduced the Iraqi budget by $5 billion US/month. The effects of the Syrian move was to place Iraq under dire financial pressure. The British journalist Patrick Brogan wrote:
“From the time the southern front stabilized at the end of 1980, Iran was able to prevent all Iraqi oil exports through the Shatt. In April 1982, as the tide of war turned against Iraq, Syria closed Iraq’s pipeline to the Mediterranean, and it appeared for a while that Iraq would be strangled economically before it was defeated militarily”.
After Syria closed the pipeline, Iraq’s only means of exporting oil was the pipeline to Turkey that had a capacity of only 500,000 barrels per day (79,000 m3/d) that was quite insufficient to pay for the war. Only generous financial support from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Gulf states, who feared the consequences of an Iranian victory saved Iraq from bankruptcy. It was estimated that the Gulf states provided Iraq with an average of $60 billion US in subsides/per year. Brogan wrote in 1989:
“The other Arab states came to the rescue. Iraq has one of the most unpleasant governments in the region and had shown constant hostility to the monarchies in Jordan, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. However, the threat of Persian fundamentalism was far more to be feared, and thus the conservative Arab states could not afford to let Iraq be defeated.”
The Gulf states were especially inclined to fear an Iranian victory after Khomeini announced that monarchy was an illegitimate and un-Islamic form of government. Khomeini’s statement was widely understood as a call for the overthrow of the Gulf monarchies. Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had less than friendly relations with Iraq before 1982, and the reluctant decision to support Iraq was taken only because the consequences of an Iranian victory were considered worse than the continued existence of Saddam’s regime. The British journalists John Bulloch and Harvey Morris wrote:
“The virulent Iranian campaign, which at its peak seemed to be making the overthrow of the Saudi regime a war aim on a par with the defeat of Iraq, did have an effect on the Kingdom, but not the one the Iranians wanted: instead of becoming more conciliatory, the Saudis became tougher, more self-confident, and less prone to seek compromise”.
Saudi Arabia was said to provide Iraq with $1 billion US/month starting in mid-1982.
On 20 June 1982 Saddam announced that he was prepared to accept a ceasefire on the basis of the pre-war status quo. Bulloch and Morris wrote:
“If the leaders in Tehran had accepted [the Iraqi ceasefire offer], they might have gained at the conference table what over six years they failed to achieve at a huge cost in men and material; but true to the bitterness and intransigence shown by both sides, Ayatollah Khomeini rejected the ceasefire offer and the Iranian troops fought on. Iran would remain at war until all of its demands were met, the Ayatollah said – and one of those demands was the removal of Saddam Hussein, the one condition which the Iraqi President could never accept”
On 21 June 1982 Khomeni rejected the Iraqi peace offer in a speech and proclaimed that Iran would invade Iraq and would not stop until the Ba’ath regime was replaced by an Islamic Shia republic. Given that Saddam’s offer of 1982 served as the basis of the 1988 ceasefire, Khomeini’s decision extended the war for the next six years.
The decision to invade Iraq was taken after much debate within the Iranian government. One faction comprising Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, President Ali Khamenei and the Army Chief of Staff General Ali Sayad Shirazi urged that now that all of Iranian soil had been liberated to accept the Iraqi ceasefire offer rather embark upon an invasion that was likely to take a heavy toll on Iran’s youth and with uncertain prospects for victory. In particular, General Shirazi was opposed to the invasion of Iraq on logistical grounds and said he was considering resignation if “unqualified people continued to meddle with the conduct of the war”. On the other side, there was a hardline fraction led by clerics on the Supreme Defence Council, whose leader was the politically powerful Speaker of theMajlis Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who favored continuing the war until the Ba’ath were overthrown. Khomeini sided with the hardliners.In Baghdad, at a cabinet meeting, the minister of health Dr. Riyadh Ibrahim Hussein suggested that Hussein step down temporarily as a way of easing Iran towards a ceasefire. An annoyed Saddam asked if anyone else in the Cabinet agreed with the Health Minister’s idea. None raised their hands in support, and Dr. Hussein was shot later that day for treason.
Under the slogans “War, War until Victory” and “The Road to Jerusalem Goes through Karbala”, Iran advanced. A tactic used in this advance noted throughout the world was the encouragement of heroism among young Iranian basij volunteers who launched human wave attacks on Iraqi positions. The volunteers were inspired before battle by tales of Ashura, the Battle of Karbala, and the supreme glory ofmartyrdom, and sometimes by an actor (usually a more mature soldier), playing the part of Imam Hossein himself riding a white horse, galloping along the lines, providing the inexperienced soldiers a vision of “the hero who would lead them into their fateful battle before they met their God.” The “martyrs” signed “Passports to Paradise” as admission forms to the Basij were called, given a week of basic military training by the Pasdaran, and then were sent to the front. These attacks cost Iran massive casualties, as they were met with fierce resistance from defensive positions, along with artillery and rocket fire. A great advantage that the Iraqis were to enjoy in the defense of their country was logistical. The front was close to all of the main Iraqi bases and arms depots, and Iraq’s excellent roads allowed the Iraqi Army to be efficiently supplied. By contrast, the front in Iran was a considerable distance from the main Iranian bases and arms depots, and as such, Iranian troops and supplies had to travel through difficult roads across several mountain ranges before arriving at the front.
On 13 July, the Iranian units crossed the border in force, aiming towards the city of Basra, the second most important city in Iraq. However, the enemy they encountered had entrenched itself in formidable defenses. Unlike the hastily improvised defenses that the Iraqis had manned in Iran during the 1980–1981 occupation of the conquered territories, the border defenses were, by necessity, well developed even before the war, and the Iraqis were able to utilize a highly-developed network of bunkers and artillery fire-bases. Unlike the fighting in Iran, Iraqi morale improved in 1982 when the Iraqis were fighting in the defense of their nation. Saddam had also more than doubled the size of the Iraqi army from 200,000 soldiers (12 divisions and 3 independent brigades) to 500,000 (23 divisions and nine brigades).
Saddam’s efforts bore fruit. Iran had been using combined-arms operations to great effect when it was attacking the Iraqi troops in its country, and had launched the iconic human-wave attacks with great support from artillery, aircraft, and tanks. However, lack of ammunition meant that the Iranians were now launching human-wave assaults with no support from other branches of the military. The superior defenses of the Iraqis meant that tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers were lost in most operations after 1982, and the Iraqi defenses would continue to hold in most sectors. During the advance on Basra, the Basij were used to clear the Iraqi minefields with their feet in order to allow the Pasdaran to advance.
In the Basra offensive, or Operation Ramadan, five human-wave attacks were met with withering fire from the Iraqis. The boy-soldiers of Iran were particularly hard-hit, especially since they volunteered to run into minefields, in order to clear the way for the Iranian soldiers behind them. The Iranians were also hard-hit by the employment of chemical weapons and mustard gas by the Iraqis.
In 1982, with Iranian success on the battlefield, the U.S. made its backing of Iraq more pronounced, supplying it with intelligence, economic aid, normalizing relations with the government (broken during the 1967 Six-Day War), and also supplying “dual-use” equipment and vehicles. Dual use items are civilian items such as heavy trucks, armored ambulances and communications gear as well as industrial technology that can have a military application. President Ronald Reagan decided that the United States “could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran”, and that the United States “would do whatever was necessary to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran.” President Reagan formalized this policy by issuing a National Security Decision Directive (“NSDD”) to this effect in June, 1982. The Security Council passedResolution 552 condemning attacks on commercial ships in the region.
1983–84: Strategic stalemate
In January 1983, an Iraqi-Soviet arms deal was signed in Moscow, which led to the Soviet Union supplying Iraq with T-62 and T-72 tanks; Mig-23 and Mig-25 jets; and SS-21 and Scud-B missiles. By 1987, the Soviet Union had provided Iraq with 800 T-72 tanks, and dozens upon dozens of modern fighters and bombers. Between 1980–82, France had supplied Iraq with $5.6 billion US worth of weapons such as fighters, tanks, self-propelled guns and helicopters.
After the failure of their 1982 summer offensives, Iran believed that a major effort along the entire breadth of the front would yield the victory that they desired. Iranian numerical superiority might have achieved a break-through if they had attacked across all parts of the front at the same time, but they still lacked the organization for that type of assault. Iran was getting supplies from countries such as North Korea, Libya, and China. The Iraqis had more suppliers such as the USSR, the NATO nations, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the United States.
During the course of 1983, the Iranians launched five major assaults along the front. None met with substantial success as the Iranians staged massive “human wave” attacks on well-dug Iraqi positions without artillery, air or armored support. Khomeini’s position on a truce remained unchanged.
On 7 February 1984, Saddam ordered aerial and missile attacks against the eleven cities that he had designated. The bombardment ceased on 22 February 1984. Iran soon retaliated against Iraqi urban centers, and these exchanges become known as the first “war of the cities”. There would be five such exchanges throughout the course of the war.
The attacks on the Iranian cities did not destroy the Iranian government’s resolve to fight. On 15 February 1984 the Iranians launched a major attack against the central section of the front where the Second Iraqi Army Corps was deployed with 250,000 Iranians faced 250,000 Iraqis. The Iranian “final blow” offensives entitled Operation Dawn 5 (5–22 February 1984) and Dawn 6 (22–24 February 1984) saw the Iranians attempting to take Kut al-Amara and sever the highway connecting Baghdad to Basra. Capture of this road would have made it extremely difficult for the Iraqis to supply and co-ordinate the defenses, but the Iranian forces only came within 15 miles (24 km) of the highway. After advancing to within 15 miles (24 km) of the highway after much heavy fighting, on 24 February, the Iranians began Operation Kheibar, the offensive intended to take Basra, which ended in failure as the Iraqi trenches proved to be too tough of a nut for the Iranians to crack.
However, Operation Kheibar met with much greater success. The Iranians fought their way through the marshes of southern Iraq to take Majnun Island, 40 miles (64 km) to north of Basra. Involving a number of thrusts towards the key Iraqi city of Basra, the operation started on the 24 February and lasted until 19 March. The Iraqi defenses, under continuous strain since 15 February, seemed close to breaking conclusively. The Iraqis were saved by use of a defense-in-depth with one defensive line after another; even if the Iranians stormed through the first line, they were usually so exhausted and had taken such heavy losses that attempts to storm through the second line resulted in failure. The Iraqis successfully stabilized the front but not before the Iranians captured part of the Majnun Islands. Despite a heavy Iraqi counterattack coupled with the use of mustard gas and sarin nerve gas, the Iranians held their gains and would continue to hold them almost until the end of the war. The Iranian offensive ended on 19 March 1984 after much desperate fighting in the marsh land with the Iraqis making heavy use of chemical weapons to halt the Iranian advance on Basra, through the Iraqis failed in their attempts to re-take Majnun. At least 3,000 Iranians were killed in the fighting in the marshes with Iraqi helicopter gunships being deployed to “hunt” the Iranian troops in the marshes.
1984: ‘Tanker War’ in Persian Gulf
Hengam LSLH logistical transport<http://www.iranmilitaryforum.net/naval-forces/iran’s-landing-craft/?PHPSESSID=edd94c3ab73431659dbec9cadd38a705>
The Tanker War started when Iraq attacked Iranian tankers and the oil terminal at Kharg Island in early 1984. Iran struck back by attacking tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait and then any tanker of the Persian Gulf states supporting Iraq. Both nations attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including those of neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade. Iraq declared that all ships going to or from Iranian ports in the northern zone of the Persian Gulf were subject to attack. Saddam’s hope in beginning the “tanker war” was that in response to Iraqi attacks against its shipping, the Iranians might do something extreme in retaliation such as closing the Strait of Hormuz to all shipping. The United States had threatened several times to go to war if the Strait of Hormuz was closed. For this reason, the Iranians refused to rise to the bait, and so limited their attacks in retaliation to Iraqi shipping. Iran attacked tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait and then any tanker of the Persian Gulf states supporting Iraq. The air and small boat attacks did very little damage to Persian Gulf state economies and Iran just moved its shipping port to Larak Island in the strait of Hormuz.
Iraq used its air power to enforce its threats, primarily helicopters, F-1 Mirage and MiG-23 fighters armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles. After repeated Iraqi attacks on Iran’s main exporting facility on Khark Island, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker near Bahrain on 13 May 1984, and a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters on 16 May. Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter, and this phase of the Iraq-Iran war was dubbed the “Tanker War.” The Iranian attacks against Saudi shipping led to Saudi F-15s shooting down an Iranian aircraft on 5 June 1984.
The Iranian Navy imposed a naval blockade of Iraq, using its British-built frigates to stop and inspect any ships thought to be trading with Iraq. They operated with virtual impunity, as Iraqi pilots had little training in hitting naval targets. Some Iranian warships attacked tankers with ship-to-ship missiles, while others used their radars to guide land-based anti-ship missiles to their targets.
Though the “tanker war” alarmed the United States, it was not followed up with any significant American action until 1987. After several Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti shipping, the United States Navy started in March 1987 to escort Kuwaiti tankers provided that they flew the American flag.In April 1987, the Soviet Navy also started escorting Kuwaiti tankers. A US Navy ship, the USS Stark, was struck on 17 May 1987 by two Exocet antiship missiles fired from an Iraqi F-1 Mirage plane. The Iraqi fighter fired the Exocet missiles at about the time the fighter was given a routine radio warning by the Stark.The frigate did not detect the missiles with radar and warning was given by the lookout only moments before the missiles struck. The missiles hit the ship and one exploded in crew quarters, killing 37 sailors and wounding 21.
Attacks on shipping
Lloyd’s of London, a British insurance market, estimated that the Tanker War damaged 546 commercial vessels and killed about 430 civilian sailors. The largest portion of the attacks were directed by Iran against Kuwaiti vessels, and on 1 November 1986, Kuwait formally petitioned foreign powers to protect its shipping. The Soviet Union agreed to charter tankers starting in 1987, and the United States offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag on 7 March 1987 (Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance). During the course of the war Iran attacked two Soviet Navy ships which were protecting Kuwaiti tankers. One of the ships which was damaged as a result of an attack during the war was the Seawise Giant carrying Iranian crude which was struck by Iraqi Exocet missiles, resulting in the damage of the largest ship ever built in history.
1985 – 86: Offensives and retreats
With his armed forces now benefiting from financial support from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states, and substantial arms purchases from the Soviet Union, China and France (among others), Saddam went on the offensive on 28 January 1985, for the first time since early 1980. This offensive, however, did not produce any significant gains, and the Iranians responded in kind with their own offensive directed against Basra, codenamed Operation Badr, on 11 March 1985. The Imam Khomeini urged Iranians on saying, “It is our belief that Saddam wishes to return Islam to blasphemy and polytheism. … if America becomes victorious … and grants victory to Saddam, Islam will receive such a blow that it will not be able to raise its head for a long time … The issue is one of Islam versus blasphemy, and not of Iran versus Iraq.”
By this time, the failure of the unsupported human wave attacks during 1984 meant that Iran was trying to develop a better working relationship between the army and the Pasdaran. The Iranian government also worked on molding the Revolutionary Guard units into a much more conventional fighting force. The attack did succeed in capturing a part of the Baghdad-Basra highway that had proven elusive during Operation Dawn 5 and Operation Dawn 6. Reflecting the improved Iranian tactics, Iraq suffered 10,000–12,000 casualties in Badr while the Iranians took 15,000 casualites. Saddam responded to this strategic emergency by launching chemical attacks against the Iranian positions along the highway and by initiating the second ‘war of the cities’ with a massive air and missile campaign against twenty Iranian towns, including Tehran.
On 9 February 1986, the Iranians launched Operation Dawn 8, which saw 100,000 troops comprising 5 Army divisions and 50,000 men from the Pasdaran and the Basji advance in a two-pronged offensive in southern Iraq. Unlike the earlier offensives, Dawn 8 was planned entirely by professional Army officers, all of whom had began their careers under the Shah. The Iranians launched a feint attack against Basra, which was stopped by the Iraqis. At the same time with the Iraqis distracted by the offensive against Basra, the main Iranian blow fell on the strategically important Fao peninsula, which fell after only 24 hours of fighting. The Iranians launched their assault on the Fao at night with their men arriving via rubber boats. After taking the Fao, the Iranians built a pontoon bridge and began to dig in. On 12 February 1986 the Iraqis began a counter-offensive to re-take the Fao, which failed after a week of intense fighting. Saddam sent one of his best commanders, General Maher Abd-Rashid and the Republican Guard to begin an new offensive to re-capture the Fao on 24 February 1986. A new round of intensive fighting took place with the Iraqis losing 10,000 men and the Iranians 30,000 over the next four days.The Iraqi offensives were supported by helicopter gunships, hundreds of tanks and a huge bombing offensive by the Iraqi Air Force.Despite having an advantage in firepower and the extensive use of chemical warfare, the Iraqi attempt to re-take the Fao again ended in failure. The fall of the Fao and the failure of the Iraqi counter-offensives were huge blows to the prestige of the Ba’ath regime, and led to fears all over the Gulf that Iran might win the war. In particular, Kuwait felt menaced with Iranian troops only ten miles away, and increased its support of Iraq accordingly. In March 1986, the Iranians tried to follow up their success by attempting to take Umm Qasr, which would had the effect of severing Iraq from the Gulf and placing Iranian troops on the border with Kuwait. The Iranian offensive failed. In May 1986, the Iraqis took the Iranian border town of Mehran, and made a proposal for swapping Mehran for Fao. The Iraqi offer was rejected and in July 1986 the Iranians re-took Mehran.
1987 – 88: Towards a ceasefire
People’s Mujahedin of Iran supported by Saddam started their ten-day operation after both the Iranian and Iraqi governments accepted UN Resolution 598. Casualties ranged from 2,000 to 10,000.
1987 saw a renewed wave of Iranian offensives against targets in both the north and south of Iraq. Iranian forces launched Operation Karbala-5 in an attempt to capture Basra, but repulsed after more than two months of fighting which saw 20,000 Iraqi and 65,000 Iranian casualties. Among those killed was Iranian commander Hossein Kharrazi. The Iranians came close to breaking through the Iraqi lines and taking Basra, but in the end, the strength of the Iraqi lines halted the Iranian offensive. However, the Iranians came close enough to Basra to bring up their artillery, and in the ensuing bombardments, Basra was largely destroyed.The Iranians were met with more success later in the year in the north as Operations Nasr 4and Karbala-10, threatening to capture the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk and other northern oilfields. However, the Iranian forces were unable to consolidate their gains and continue their advance, and so 1987 saw little land change hands. On 20 July, the Security Council of the United Nations passed the US-sponsored Resolution 598, which called for an end to fighting and a return to pre-war boundaries.
In February 1988, Saddam began the fifth and most deadly of the “war of the cities”. Over the next two months, Iraq was to fire over 200 missiles at Iranian cities. In March 1988, the Iranians began an offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan with the aim of capturing the Darbandi Khan reservoir and the power plant at Dukan, which supplied Iraq with much of its electricity. Through the Iranians advanced to within sight of Dukan, and captured 400 square miles (1,000 km2) and 4,000 Iraqi troops, the offensive failed to the Iraqi use of chemical warfare. On 17 April 1988, an Iraqi offensive was started which saw the Fao peninsula recaptured after three days of fighting. After retaking the Fao, the Iraqis began a sustained drive to clear the Iranians out of all of southern Iraq. In May 1988, the Iraqis expelled the Iranians from Salamchech and took Majnun Island.During the fighting in the spring of 1988, the Iranians showed all the signs of collapsing morale. The British journalist Patrick Brogan reported:
“Reports from the front, both at Faw [Fao] and outside Basra, indicated that the Iranian resistance was surprisingly weak. The army that had shown such courage and élan early in the war now broke in a rout, and fled before the Arabs.”
During the 1988 battles, the Iranians seemed tired and worn out by the nearly eight years of the war, and “put up very little resistance” to the Iraqi offensives. At the same time that Iraq was in the process of expelling the Iranians from its territory, a series of American-Iranian naval clashes in the Gulf led Iran to fear American intervention. At this point, led by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, elements of the Iranian leadership had decided to sue for peace. On 20 July 1988, Iran announced its willingness to accept a ceasefire by accepting Resolution 598. In a radio address, an announcer read out a statement by Khomeini, in which he expressed his deep displeasure and reluctance about accepting the ceasefire by saying:
“Happy are those who have departed through martyrdom. Happy are those who have lost their lives in this convoy of light. Unhappy am I that I still survive and have drunk the poisoned chalice…”.
Iraq for its turn announced it was not willing to accept Resolution 598 until Khomeini explicitly disavowed his call for the overthrow of Saddam . Over the next few weeks, Iraq launched several limited offensives into Iran to seize border territory as a way of pressuring Khomeini to disavow his calls for regime change in Iraq. At the same time, Saddam came under heavy pressure from the Gulf states, who were his largest creditors to accept the Iranian offer and finally end the war.
In July 1988 Iraqi airplanes dropped chemical cyanide bombs on the Iranian Kurdish village of Zardan (as they had done four months earlier at their own Kurdish village of Halabja). Hundreds were killed at once, and the survivors are still suffering from a variety of physical and mental disorders. Following these major setbacks, Iran accepted the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 and on 20 August 1988 peace was restored. The news of the end of the war was greeted with scenes of wild celebration in Baghdad with people dancing in the streets while in Tehran, the end of the war was greeted with a glum, sad silence as Iran settled for the same terms it had rejected in 1982, thus meaning that the last six years of the war had been in vain.
The People’s Mujahedin of Iran started their ten-day operation (Operation Mersad) after the Iranian government accepted UN Resolution 598. While Iraqi forces attacked Khuzestan, the Mujahedin attacked western Iran and battled the Pasdaran for Kermanshah. Close air support from the Iraqis contributed to whatever gains the Mojahedin made. However, Iranian paratroopers landed behind their lines, and they were met with fierce resistance. Under heavy international pressure for ending the war, Saddam withdrew his fighter aircraft and the sky opened for the Iranian airborne forces to be deployed behind Mojahedin lines. The operation ended in a defeat for the Mojahedin. Casualty figures range from 2,000 to as high as 10,000.
At first, Saddam followed a policy of attempting to ensure that Iraqi population suffered from the war as little as possible. There was little rationing, and civilian projects began before the war continued. At the same time, the already extensive personality cult around Saddam reached new heights of adulation while the regime tightened its control over the military. After the Iranian victories of the spring of 1982 and the Syrian closure of Iraq’s main pipeline, Saddam did a volte-face on his policy towards the home front. A policy of austerity andtotal war was introduced with the entire population being mobilized for the war effort. All Iraqis were ordered to donate blood, mass demonstrations of loyalty towards Saddam became more common, and some 100,000 Iraqi civilians were ordered to sever the reeds in the southern marshes. To secure the loyalty of the Shiites, Saddam began a policy of allowing more Shiites into the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the government, and started efforts to improve Shiite living standards, which tended to be much lower than those of the Iraqi Arab Sunnis. As part of the effort to ensure Iraqi Shia support for the war, Saddam had the Iraqi state pay for the costs of restoring the tomb of the Imam Ali with white marble being imported from Italy. Despite the costs of the war, the Iraqi regime made generous contributions to Shia waqf (religious endowments) as part of the price of buying Iraqi Shia support. The importance of winning Shia support could see that the expansion of welfare services in Shia areas went on at a time when the Iraqi regime was pursuing a policy of rigid austerity in all other fields other than the military. Khomeini’s behavior during his time in exile in Najaf in the 1960s-1970s where he often quarrelled with the leaders of the Iraqi ulema helped to explain why many of the Iraqi Shia ulema supported the Iraqi regime against him in the 1980s. On the whole, Iraqi Shiites supported their country’s war effort against Iran. The British journalist Patrick Brogan reported:
“Even the Shiites of Iraq preferred the vicious tyranny of Saddam Hussein, Sunni though he was, to the Ayatollah’s Shiite paradise: Hussein was an Arab, Khomeini a Persian, and 13 centuries of hostility are not to be dispersed by a Friday sermon”.
During the first years of the war in the early 1980s, the Iraqi government tried to accommodate the Kurds in order to focus on the war against Iran. In 1983, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan agreed to cooperate with Baghdad, but the Kurdish Democratic Party remained opposed. In 1983, Saddam signed an autonomy agreement with Jalal Talabani of the PUK, through subsequently Saddam reneged on his promise of Kurdish autonomy. By 1985, the PUK and KDP had joined forces, and Iraqi Kurdistan become the scene of widespread guerrilla warfare right up to the end of the war in 1988.
As a counterpart to the new policy of the “carrot”, there was a policy of the “stick”. A campaign of terror was begun in the summer of 1982 with more than 300 Iraqi Army officers being shot for their failures on the battlefield. In 1983, a major crackdown was launched on the leadership of the Shiite community with 90 members of the al-Hakim family (an influential family of Shia clerics whose leading members were the émigrés Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim) being arrested and six being hanged. Even more extensive was the crackdown on the Kurds that saw 8,000 members of the Barzani clan, whose leader Massoud Barzani was also the leader of the KDPsummarily executed. From 1983 onwards, a campaign of increasingly brutal repression was started against the Iraqi Kurds that the Israeli historian Efraim Karsh wrote “assumed genocidal proportions” by 1988. The Al-Anfal Campaign was intended to “pacify” Iraqi Kurdistan permanently.
The outbreak of the war was seen by the Iranian government as a heaven-sent chance to strengthen its position and consolidate the Islamic revolution. The war was presented to the Iranian people as a glorious jihad and a test of Iranian national character. Right from the beginning, the Iranian regime followed a policy of total war, and attempted to mobilize the entire nation for the struggle. The war furthered the decline of the Iranian economy that began with the Islamic revolution in 1978–79. Between 1979 and 1981, foreign exchange reserves fell from $14.6 billion US to $1 billion. As a result of the war, living standards dropped quite dramatically in Iran in the 1980s. The British journalists John Bulloch and Harvey Morris described 1980s Iran as “…a dour and joyless place” ruled by a harsh regime that “…seemed to have nothing to offer, but endless war”. As part of the total war effort, the regime established a group known as the Reconstruction Campaign, who enjoyed exemption from conscription and sent into the countryside to work on the farms and replace the men serving at the front. Iranian workers had a day’s pay deducted from their pay cheques every month to help finance the war, and mass campaigns were launched to encourage the public to donate food, money and blood for the soldiers. To help pay for the war, the Iranian government banned the import of all non-essential items, and started a major effort to rebuild the damaged oil plants. Iranian oil technicians, “masters of invention and innovation”, did much to keep their nation’s oil industry going in the face of much difficulty, and thus ensured that Iran could pay for the war.
In 1981, a condition of near-civil war took place on the streets of Iranian cities as the left-wing Mujaheddin e-Khalq (MEK) attempted to seize power. In June 1981, street battles between the MEK and the Revolutionary Guard raged for several days with hundreds killed on both sides. The MEK started an assassination campaign that killed hundreds of regime officials by the fall of 1981. On June 28, 1981 the MEK assassinated secretary-general of the Islamic Republican Party, Mohammad Beheshti and August 30, killed the President,Mohammad-Ali Rajai. In September 1981, street battles again raged between the MEK and the Revolutionary Guard. Thousands of left-wing Iranians (many of whom were not associated with the MEK) were shot and hanged by the government in the aftermath. Even after their defeat, the MEK waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations which was met with a policy of mass executions of suspected MEK members that lasted until 1985. Other than the MEK, the Iranian government was faced with a rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan supported by Iraq, which was gradually put down through a campaign of systematic repression. Besides for the MEK and the Kurds, anti-war student demonstrations took place in 1985, which were crushed by government activists.
One of the few exceptions to the repressive policies of the government was the tolerance shown to the anti-war Islamic Liberation Movement led by a former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan. In January 1985, Bazargan criticized the war after 1982 in a telegram to the United Nations as un-Islamic and illegitimate, arguing that Khomeini should have accepted Saddam’s truce offer of 1982 instead of attempting to overthrow the Ba’ath. Khomeini was annoyed by Bazargan’s telegram, and issued a lengthy public rebuttal in which he defended the war as both Islamic and just. By 1987, there were increasing signs that Iranian morale was breaking as reflected in the failure of several government campaigns to recruit “martyrs” for the front. The Israeli historian Efraim Karsh wrote that it was signs of declining morale in 1987–88 that played a major role in Iran’s decision to accept the ceasefire of 1988. The British journalist Patrick Brogan wrote that by 1988:
“The economy was collapsing. War and revolution had taken their toll. Only war industries survived, and the standard of living was dropping precipitously. There were no longer enough recruits for the Revolutionary Guards; the Iranian war machine was no longer capable of supplying the huge armies that had marched singing to war in the early days…The country was sliding steadily into bankruptcy. Strict Islamic law forbids usury, and Khomeini interpreted that to mean Iran could not borrow against future oil revenues to meet the expenses of war. Iran paid cash, and when the reserves were exhausted, Iran had to rely on income from its oil exports. Oil revenue dropped from $20 billion in 1982 to $5 billion in 1988. At an OPEC meeting in June 1988, Saudi Arabia, who had broken diplomatic relations with Iran two months earlier, vetoed a last, desperate Iranian initiative to cut production and thus raise prices again”
In a public letter to Khomeini sent in May 1988, Bazargan wrote:
“Since 1986, you have not stopped proclaiming victory, and now you are calling upon population to resist until victory. Is that not an admission of failure on your part?”
Bazargan went to criticize Khomeini for the war, which Bazargan stated was bankrupting Iran, and slaughtering its youth for no good purpose.
Comparison of Iraqi and Iranian military strength
At the commencement of hostilities, Iraq held a clear advantage in armour, while both nations were roughly at parity with artillery. The gap only widened as the war went on. Iran started with a stronger air force, but over time, the balance of power flipped towards favoring Iraq. The United States and the United Kingdom sold arms and weaponry to Iraq throughout the eight year war. Estimates for 1980 and 1987 were:
|Imbalance of Power (1980–1987)||Iraq||Iran|
|Tanks in 1980||2700||1740|
|Tanks in 1987||4500+||1000|
|Fighter Aircraft in 1980||332||445|
|Fighter Aircraft in 1987||500+||65 (serviceable)|
|Helicopters in 1980||40||500|
|Helicopters in 1987||150||60|
|Artillery in 1980||1000||1000+|
|Artillery in 1987||4000+||1000+|
Foreign support to Iraq and Iran
During the war, Iraq was regarded by the West (specifically the United States) and Soviet Union as a counterbalance to post-revolutionary Iran. The Soviet Union, which was Iraq’s main arms supplier for the entire duration of the war did not wish for the end of its alliance with Iraq, and was alarmed at Saddam’s threats if the Kremlin did not provide him with the weapons he wanted, then Iraq would find new arms suppliers in the West and in China. The British journalists John Bulloch and Harvey Morris wrote:
“Throughout the war the Soviet Union remained Iraq’s main supplier, as it had always been – the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed by Moscow and Baghdad in 1972 was a formalisation of the special relationship between the two countries which had existed from the time of the overthrow of the monarchy, and survived the rift between the Ba’ath and the Communist Party of Iraq, with all the bloodshed that entailed”.
In addition, the Soviet Union hoped to use the prospect of reducing arms supplies to Iraq as leverage for forming a Soviet-Iranian alliance. The basis of American policy was described by Bulloch and Morris as follows:
“Part of the US dilemma in the Gulf was that the United States was committed to the territorial integrity of a state, Iran, whose rulers were implacably hostile to it. Washington wished to protect other states in the region from Iranian expansionism [sic] as well as protecting Iran from that of the Soviet Union, so that coupled with a natural and publicly supported wish to do down the Khomeini regime was a more pragmatic need to see the survival of a stable, independent and anti-communist Iran. The central importance of Iran in America’s geopolitical strategy, until the advent of the Gorbachev era forced a reappraisal, was outlined by Henry Kissingner in 1982:
“The focus of Iranian pressure at this moment is Iraq. There are few governments in the world less deserving of our support and less capable of using it. Had Iraq won the war, the fear in the Gulf and the threat to our interest would be scarcely less than it is today. Still, given the importance of the balance of power in the area, it is in our interests to promote a ceasefire in that conflict; through not a cost that will preclude an eventual rapprochement with Iran either if a more moderate regime replaces Khomenini’s or if the present rulers wake up to geopolitical reality [sic] that the historic threat to Iran’s independence has always come from the country with which it shares a border of 1,500 miles (2,400 km): the Soviet Union. A raprochement with Iran, of course, must await at a minimum Iran’s abandonment of hegemonic aspirations [sic] in the Gulf”.
Iran, in other words, should be befriended if possible, but must above, be contained.”
The support of Iraq took the form of technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment and satellite intelligence to Iraq. While there was direct combat between Iran and the United States, it is not universally agreed that the fighting between the U.S. and Iran was specifically to benefit Iraq, or for separate, although occurring at the same time, issues between the U.S. and Iran. American ambiguity towards which side to support was summed up by Henry Kissinger when the American statesman remarked that “it’s a pity they [Iran and Iraq] both can’t lose.” Richard Murphy, the Assistant Secretary of State testified to Congress in 1984 that the Reagan administration believed that a victory for either Iran or Iraq was “neither militarily feasible nor strategically desirable”. France, which from the 1970s onwards had been one of Iraq’s closest allies was a major supplier of military hardware to Iraq. The French sold weapons equal to the sum of $5 billion US, which comprised well over a quarter of Iraq’s total armory. China, which had no direct stake in the victory of either side, and whose interests in the war were entirely commercial freely sold arms to both sides.
More than 30 countries provided support to Iraq, Iran, or both. Iraq, in particular, had a complex clandestine procurement network to obtain munitions and critical materials, which, in some transactions, involved 10–12 countries. Also, a number of Arab mercenaries and volunteers from Egypt and Jordan (called the Yarmouk Brigade) participated in the war alongside Iraqis.
Iraqi attack on U.S. warship
On 17 May 1987, an Iraqi Mirage F1 attack aircraft launched two Exocet missiles at theUSS Stark, a Perry class frigate. The first struck the port side of the ship and failed to explode, though it left burning propellant in its wake; the second struck moments later in approximately the same place and penetrated through to crew quarters, where it exploded. The detonation killed 37 crewmembers and left 21 injured. The question of whether or not Iraqi leadership authorized the attack is still unanswered. Initial claims by the Iraqi government (that Stark was inside the Iran–Iraq War zone) were shown to be false, so the motives and orders of the pilot remain unanswered. Though American officials claimed he had been executed, an ex-Iraqi Air Force commander since stated that the pilot who attacked Stark was not punished, and was still alive at the time. The attack remains the only successful anti-ship missile strike on an American warship.
U.S. military actions toward Iran
However, U.S. attention was focused on isolating Iran as well as maintaining freedom of navigation, criticizing Iran’s mining of international waters, and sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 598, which passed unanimously on 20 July, under which it skirmished with Iranian forces during Operation Earnest Will. During the Operation Nimble Archer in October 1987, the U.S. attacked Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for an Iranian attack on the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker Sea Isle City.
On 14 April 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine, wounding 10 sailors. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on 18 April, the United States Navy‘s largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian oil platforms, two Iranian ships and six Iranian gunboats were destroyed. An American helicopter also crashed. (see also Oil Platforms (Iran v. United States))
U.S. shoots down civilian airliner
A missile departs the forward launcher of Vincennes during a 1987 exercise. This ship later shot down civilian airliner Iran Air 655.
In the course of these escorts by the U.S. Navy, the cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with the loss of all 290 passengers and crew on 3 July 1988. The American governmentclaimed that the airliner had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat, and that the Vincennes was operating in international waters at the time and feared that it was under attack, which later appeared to be untrue. The Iranians, however, maintain that the Vincennes was in fact in Iranian territorial waters, and that the Iranian passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. U.S. Admiral William J. Crowe also admitted on Nightline that the Vincenneswas inside Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles. At the time, the captain of theVincennes claimed that the Iranian plane did not identify itself and sent no response to warning signals from the Vincennes.
According to an investigation conducted by ABC News’ Nightline, decoys were set during the war by the U.S. Navy inside the Persian Gulf to lure out the Iranian gunboats and destroy them, and at the time USS Vincennes shot down the Iranian airliner, it was performing such an operation.
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Among major powers, the United States’ policy was to “tilt” toward Iraq by reopening diplomatic channels, lifting restrictions on the export of dual-use technology, overseeing the transfer of third party military hardware, and providing operational intelligence on the battlefield.
As will be seen in some of the country-specific sub-articles of this page, Iraq made extensive use of front companies, middlemen, secret ownership of all or part of companies all over the world, forged end user certificates and other methods to hide what it was acquiring. At this time, the country-level sub-articles emphasize the country in which the procurement started, but also illustrate how procurement infrastructure was established in different countries. Some transactions may have involved people, shipping, and manufacturing in as many as 10 countries.
In their documentary Saddam-The Trial You Will Never See, made for European audience, Barry Lando and Michel Despratx claim that United States secretary of state Alexander Meigs Haig Jr. wrote in a secret memo to President Ronald Reagan, about United States previous president Jimmy Carter‘s green light to Saddam[unreliable source?] for launching a war against Iran using Saudi Arabia delivering the go ahead message to Iraqis. British support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war especially illustrated the ways by which Iraq would circumvent export controls. Iraq bought at least one British company with operations in the U.K. and the U.S.
Iraq had a complex relationship with France and the Soviet Union, its major suppliers of actual weapons, to some extent having the two nations compete for its business.
Singapore support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war discusses land mines assembled there, as well as chemical warfare precursors shipped from Singapore, possibly by an Iraqi front company.
Another country that had an important role in arming Iraq was Italy, whose greatest impact was financial, through the U.S. branch of the state-owned largest bank in Italy. The Italian article is one example of how Iraq circumvented a national embargo, by, as one example, moving land and sea mine production to Singapore.
Although the United Nations Security Council called for a cease-fire after a week of fighting and renewed the call on later occasions, the initial call was made while Iraq occupied Iranian territory. Moreover, the UN refused to come to Iran’s aid to repel the Iraqi invasion. The Iranians thus interpreted the UN as subtly biased in favor of Iraq.
While the United States directly fought Iran, citing freedom of navigation as a major casus belli, as part of a complex and partially illegal program (see Iran-Contra Affair), it also indirectly supplied weapons to Iran.
North Korea was a major arms supplier to Iran, often acting as a third party in arms deals between Iran and the Communist bloc.. DPRK support included domestically manufactured arms and Eastern-Bloc weapons for which the major powers wanteddeniability.. Libya and China were arms suppliers and supporters of Iran as well.
Besides the US and the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia also sold weapons to both countries for the entire duration of the conflict. Likewise, Portugal helped both countries: it was not unusual seeing Iranian and Iraqi flagged ships moored side-by-side at the port of Sines.
From 1980 to 1987 Spain sold €458 million in weapons to Iran and €172 million in weapons to Iraq. Spain sold to Iraq 4×4 vehicles, BO-105Helicopters, explosives and ammunition. A research party discovered that an unexploded chemical Iraqi warhead in Iran was manufactured in Spain.
Although neither side did acquire any weapons from Turkey, both sides enjoyed Turkish civilian help during conflict. Having managed to remain neutral and refused to support trade embargo imposed by US, Ankara turned out to be the one upon whom both warring sides developed high degree of economic dependancy, since Turkey was one of their few outlets to the west and source of local goods. Turkey’s export jumped from $220 million in 1981 to $2 billion in 1985, making up 25% of Turkey’s overall exports. Additionally, Turkish construction projects in Iraq totaled $2.5 billion between 1974 and 1990. These benefits helped Turkey to offset the ongoing Turkish economic crisis, though they decreased with the end of the war and vanished with the Invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and Turkish response to it.
The Iraqgate scandal revealed that an Atlanta branch of Italy’s largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents finally raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, the branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq – some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology.
The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and ABC‘s Ted Koppel, covered the Iraq-gate story, and the investigation by the U.S. Congress. This scandal is covered in Alan Friedman’s book The Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq.[clarification needed]
Beginning in September 1989, the Financial Times laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the Financial Times provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the Financial Times, were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohiobranch.[clarification needed]
In all, Iraq received $35 billion in loans from the West and between $30 and $40 billion from the Persian Gulf states during the 1980s.
Use of chemical weapons by Iraq
In a declassified report, the CIA estimated in 1991 that Iran had suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq’s use of several chemical weapons, but today the actual number of victims is estimated to more than 100,000, since the long term effects still cause casualties to this day.
The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans of Iran. According to a 2002 article in the Star-Ledger:
“Nerve gas killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 90,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions.”
Iraq also used chemical weapons on Iranian civilians, killing many in villages and hospitals. Many civilians suffered severe burns and health problems, and still suffer from them.
On 21 March 1986, the United Nations Security Council made a declaration stating that “members are profoundly concerned by the unanimous conclusion of the specialists that chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian troops and the members of the Council strongly condemn this continued use of chemical weapons in clear violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prohibits the use in war of chemical weapons.” The United States was the only member who voted against the issuance of this statement. A mission to the region in 1988 found evidence of the use of chemical weapons, and was condemned in Security Council Resolution 612.
According to retired Colonel Walter Lang, senior defense intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, “the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern” to Reagan and his aides, because they “were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose.” He claimed that the Defense Intelligence Agency “would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival”, The Reagan administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports of the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians. There is great resentment in Iran that the international community helped Iraq develop its chemical weapons arsenal and armed forces, and also that the world did nothing to punish Saddam’s Ba’athist regime for its use of chemical weapons against Iran throughout the war – particularly since the US and other western powers soon felt obliged to oppose the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and eventually invade Iraq itself to remove Saddam.
The U.S. also accused Iran of using chemical weapons. These allegations however, have been disputed. Joost Hiltermann, who was the principal researcher for Human Rights Watchbetween 1992–1994, conducted a two year study, including a field investigation in Iraq, capturing Iraqi government documents in the process. According to Hiltermann, the literature on the Iran–Iraq War reflects a number of allegations of chemical weapons use by Iran, but these are “marred by a lack of specificity as to time and place, and the failure to provide any sort of evidence”.
Gary Sick and Lawrence Potter call the allegations against Iran “mere assertions” and state: “no persuasive evidence of the claim that Iran was the primary culprit [of using chemical weapons] was ever presented”. Policy consultant and author Joseph Tragert also states: “Iran did not retaliate with chemical weapons, probably because it did not possess any at the time”.
At his trial in December 2006, Saddam said he would take responsibility “with honour” for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons during the 1980–1988 war but he took issue with charges he ordered attacks on Iraqis. A medical analysis of the effects of Iraqimustard gas is described a U.S. military textbook, and contrasted with slightly different effects in the First World War.
Distinctions and peculiarity
Iran attacked and partially damaged the Osirak nuclear reactor on 30 September 1980 with two F-4 Phantoms, shortly after the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War. This was the first attack on a nuclear reactor and one of only three on a nuclear facility in the history of the world. It was also the first instance of a pre-emptive attack on a nuclear reactor to forestall the development of a nuclear weapon, though it did not achieve its objective as France repaired the reactor after the Iranian attack. It took a second pre-emptive strike by the Israeli Air Force to disable the reactor, in the process killing a French engineer and causing France to pull out of Osirak. The decommissioning of Osirak has been cited as causing a substantial delay to Iraqi acquisition of nuclear weapons, which Saddam announced an intention to develop in response to the Iranian revolution.
This war also saw the only confirmed air-to-air helicopter battles in history of warfare with the Iraqi Mi-25s flying against Iranian AH-1 SuperCobra on numerous occasions. The first instance of these helicopter “dogfights” happened when on the starting day of the war (22 September 1980), two Iranian SuperCobras crept up on two Mi-25s and hit them with TOW wire-guided antitank missiles. One Mi-25 went down immediately, the other was badly damaged and crashed before reaching base. The Iranians won another similar air battle on 24 April 1981, destroying two Mi-25s without incurring losses to themselves. According to some unclassified documents, Iranian pilots achieved a 10 to 1 kill ratio over the Iraqi helicopter pilots during these engagements and even engaged Iraqi fixed wing aircraft.
As has been the case in many wars, this war had an impact on medical sciences. A new surgical intervention for comatosed patients with penetrating brain injuries which was created by Iranian physicians treating Iranian wounded soldiers during the war later on helped make new neurosurgical treatment guidelines for use of civilians who have suffered blunt or penetrating skull injuries, thereby greatly improving survival rates. The previously used surgical technique and its resultant guidelines developed by US army during World War II and Vietnam War has been replaced by this new treatment module and it has been reported that US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords benefited from the new guidelines after she was shot in head.
Iran’s government is said to have “become famous” for its use of human waves to clear minefields or draw enemy fire during the war. While very costly in human lives, the tactic sometimes worked. Basij volunteers who were used were swept up in the atmosphere of patriotism of the war mobilization and Shi’ite love of martyrdom encouraged by the revolution. The young were encouraged through visits to the schools and an intensive media campaign.
According to journalist Robin Wright
“During the Fateh offensive [in February 1987], I toured the southwest front on the Iranian side and saw scores of boys, aged anywhere from nine to sixteen, who said with staggering and seemingly genuine enthusiasm that they had volunteered to become martyrs. Regular army troops, the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards and mullahs all lauded these youths, known asbaseeji, for having played the most dangerous role in breaking through Iraqi lines. They had led the way, running over fields of mines to clear the ground for the Iranian ground assault. Wearing white headbands to signify the embracing of death, and shouting “Shaheed, shaheed” (Martyr, martyr) they literally blew their way into heaven. Their numbers were never disclosed. But a walk through the residential suburbs of Iranian cities provided a clue. Window after window, block after block, displayed black-bordered photographs of teenage or preteen youths.” 
“War of the Cities”
Bodies of Iranian students killed in an Iraqi Bomber Attack on a school inBorujerd, 10 January 1987.
Toward the end of the war, the land conflict regressed into stalemate largely because neither side had enough self-propelled artillery or air power to support ground advances.
The relatively professional Iraqi armed forces could not make headway against the far more numerous Iranian infantry. The Iranians were outmatched in both towed and self-propelled artillery, which left their tanks and troops vulnerable. This led the Iranians to substitute infantry power for artillery.
Iraq’s air force soon began strategic bombing against Iranian cities, chiefly Tehran, in 1985. To minimize losses from the superior Iranian Air Force, Iraq rapidly switched to Scud and Al-Husseinimproved Scud launches. In retaliation, Iran fired Scud missiles acquired from Libya and Syria against Baghdad. In all, Iraq launched 520 Scuds and Al-Husseins against Iran and received only 177 in exchange. In October 1986, Iraqi aircraft began to attack civilian passenger trains and aircrafts on Iranian soil, including an Iran Air Boeing 737 unloading passengers at Shiraz International Airport.
In retaliation for the Iranian Operation Karbala-5, an early 1987 attempt to capture Basra, Iraq attacked 65 cities in 226 sorties over 42 days, bombing civilian neighborhoods. Eight Iranian cities came under attack from Iraqi missiles. The bombings killed 65 children in an elementary school inBorujerd alone. The Iranians also responded with Scud missile attacks on Baghdad and struck a primary school there. These events became known as “the War of the Cities”.
The Iran–Iraq War was extremely costly in lives and material, one of the deadliest wars since World War II. Both countries were devastated by the effect of the war. It cost Iran an estimated 1 million casualties, killed or wounded, and Iranians continue to suffer and die as a consequence of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. Iraqi casualties are estimated at 250,000–500,000 killed or wounded. Thousands of civilians died on both sides in air raids and ballistic missile attacks.
The financial loss was also enormous, at the time exceeding US$600 billion for each country ($1.2 trillion in total). But shortly after the war it turned out that the economic cost of war is more profound and long-lasting than the estimates right after the war suggested. Economic development was stalled and oil exports disrupted. These economic woes were of a more serious nature for Iraq that had to incur huge debts during the war as compared to the very small debt of Iran, as Iranians had used bloodier but economically cheaper tactics during the war, in effect substituting soldiers’ lives for lack of financial funding during their defense. This put Saddam in a difficult position, particularly with his war-time allies, as by then Iraq was under more than $130 billion of international debt, excluding the interest in an after war economy with a slowed GDP growth. A large portion of this debt was loaned by Paris Club amounting to $21 billion, 85% of which had originated from seven countries of Japan, Russia, France, Germany, United States, Italy and United Kingdom. But the largest portion of $130 billion debt was to Iraq’s former Arab backers of the war including the $67 billion loaned by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Jordan.
After the war, Iraq accused Kuwait of slant drilling and stealing oil which lead to the invasion of Kuwait, which in turn worsened Iraq’s financial situation as the United Nations Compensation Commission awarded reparations amounting more than $200 billion to victims of the invasion including Kuwait, United States, individuals and companies among others, to be paid by Iraq in oil commodity. To enforce payment of these reparations Iraq was put under a complete international embargo. This put further strain on the Iraqi economy, pushing its external debt and international liabilities to private and public sectors including interest to more than $500 billion by the end of Saddam‘s rule. Combined with negative economic growth of Iraq after the prolonged international sanctions, this produced a Debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 1,000%, making Iraq the most indebted poor country in the world. This unsustainable economic situation compelled the new Iraqi government formed after the fall of Saddam to request the writing off of a considerable portion of loans incurred during the Iran–Iraq war.
The war and its outcome, also had a marked effect on the scientific and technological advancement of the countries involved. In case of Iraq, after the war, its scientific and technological productivity collapsed and has not yet recovered. Kuwait’s scientific output on the other hand was slowed initially due to the funding it extended to Saddam and later on became stagnant. Iran on the other hand experienced a scientific revival due to the war and has the fastest scientific growth rate in the world today.
Much of the oil industry in both countries was damaged in air raids. Iran’s production capacity has yet to fully recover from the damages of the war. 10 million shells had landed in Iraq’s oil fields at Basra, seriously damaging Iraq’s oil production.
Prisoners taken by both sides were not released until more than 10 years after the end of the conflict. Cities on both sides had also been considerably damaged. Not all saw the war in negative terms. The Islamic Revolution of Iran was strengthened and radicalized.The Iranian government-owned Etelaat newspaper wrote:
“There is not a single school or town that is excluded from the happiness of “holy defence” of the nation, from drinking the exquisite elixir of martyrdom, or from the sweet death of the martyr, who dies in order to live forever in paradise.”
The war left the borders unchanged. Two years later, as war with the western powers loomed, Saddam recognized Iranian rights over the eastern half of the Arvand rud, a reversion to the status quo ante bellum that he had repudiated a decade earlier.
Declassified US intelligence available has explored both the domestic and foreign implications of Iran’s apparent (in 1982) victory over Iraq in their then two-year old war.
On 9 December 1991, the UN Secretary-General reported the following to the UN Security Council:
“That Iraq’s explanations do not appear sufficient or acceptable to the international community is a fact. Accordingly, the outstanding event under the violations referred to is the attack of 22 September 1980, against Iran, which cannot be justified under the charter of the United Nations, any recognized rules and principles of international law or any principles of international morality and entails the responsibility for conflict.” “Even if before the outbreak of the conflict there had been some encroachment by Iran on Iraqi territory, such encroachment did not justify Iraq’s aggression against Iran—which was followed by Iraq’s continuous occupation of Iranian territory during the conflict—in violation of the prohibition of the use of force, which is regarded as one of the rules of jus cogens.” “On one occasion I had to note with deep regret the experts’ conclusion that “chemical weapons had been used against Iranian civilians in an area adjacent to an urban center lacking any protection against that kind of attack” (s/20134, annex). The Council expressed its dismay on the matter and its condemnation inResolution 620 (1988), adopted on 26 August 1988.”
In 2005, the new government of Iraq apologized to Iran for starting the war.
Leaked Iraqi intelligence documents
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, United States forces captured a voluminous archive of documents and recorded meetings that chronicle the deliberations of Saddam Hussein and his inner sanctum. Much of the collection has yet to be made public. But the Conflict Records Research Center, a government archive, has released 20 transcripts and documents in conjunction with a conference on the Iran-Iraq war that was convened by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars   .
The publicized documents can be viewed here:
- Iran Ajr, the minelaying ship captured by the U.S.
- Kaveh Golestanb
- Persepolis (comic)
- Reagan Doctrine
- Iraq – United States relations
- Saddam’s Trial and Iran-Iraq War
- Scott Report
- The Night Bus (film)
- Iran–Iraq relations
- US-Iran relations
- Baluchi Autonomist Movement
- Iran–Iraq War in the Air 1980–1988
- List of conflicts in the Middle East
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Al-Fakkah Field dispute
- Frans Van Anraat
- Morteza Avini, prominent photographer of the Iran–Iraq War
- List of Iranian commanders in the Iran–Iraq War
- Composite Index of National Capability
- History of Iran
- History of Iraq
- Military history of Iran
- Military of Iran
- Military of Iraq
- Post–World War II air-to-air combat losses
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Iran-Iraq War|
|Wikisource has several original texts related to: Iran–Iraq War|
- Documentary about the war (on Google Video)
- Iran–Iraq War at the Open Directory Project
- FMFRP 3-203 – Lessons Learned: Iran–Iraq War, 10 December 1990.
- Dutchman charged for selling chemicals to Saddam, BBC, 18 March 2005.
- Sasan Fayazmanesh, Historical Amnesia: The Shoot Down of Iran Air Flight 655, Counterpunch, 11 July 2008, Counterpunch.org.
- Global Security: Iran-Iraq war
- Bibliography: The Iran-Iraq War, and U.S. Involvement in It.
- Pictures Iran-Iraq War Times Online Photo Gallery
- Peter Krogh discuses the Iran-Iraq War and the question of American involvement with Thomas L. McNaugher and Richard Helms OnAmerican Interests, 1984
Perang Teluk I
Pesawat tempur AS melintasi kilang minyak yang terbakar.
|Pihak yang terlibat|
|Norman Schwarzkopf||Saddam Hussein|
Perang Teluk Persia I atau Gulf War disebabkan atas Invasi Irak atas Kuwait 2 Agustus 1990 dengan strategi gerak cepat yang langsung menguasai Kuwait. Emir Kuwait Syeikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah segera meninggalkan negaranya dan Kuwait dijadikan provinsi ke-19 Irak dengan nama Saddamiyat Al-Mitla` pada tanggal 28 Agustus 1990, sekalipun Kuwait membalasnya dengan serangan udara kecil terhadap posisi posisi Irak pada tanggal 3 Agustus 1991 dari pangkalan yang dirahasiakan (kemungkinan berada di Arab Saudi.
Invasi Irak ke Kuwait disebabkan oleh kemerosotan ekonomi Irak setelah Perang Delapan Tahun dengan Iran dalam Perang Iran-Irak. Irak sangat membutuhkan petro dolar sebagai pemasukan ekonominya sementara rendahnya harga petro dolar akibat kelebihan produksi minyak oleh Kuwait serta Uni Emirat Arab yang dianggap Saddam Hussein sebagai perang ekonomi serta perselisihan atas Ladang Minyak Rumeylasekalipun pada pasca-perang melawan Iran, Kuwait membantu Irak dengan mengirimkan suplai minyak secara gratis. Irak juga terjerat utang luar negeri dengan beberapa negara, termasuk Kuwait dan Arab Saudi. Irak berusaha meyakinkan kedua negara tersebut untuk menghapuskan utangnya, namun ditolak. Selain itu, Irak mengangkat masalah perselisihan perbatasan akibat warisan Inggris dalam pembagian kekuasaan setelah jatuhnya pemerintahan Usmaniyah Turki.
Tengah malam tanggal 2 Agustus 1990 Irak secara resmi menginvasi Kuwait, dengan membombardir ibu kota Kuwait City dari udara. Meskipun Angkatan Bersenjata Kuwait, baik kekuatan darat maupun udara berusaha mempertahankan negara, mereka dengan cepat kewalahan. Namun, mereka berhasil memperlambat gerak Irak untuk memaksa keluarga kerajaan Kuwait untuk meloloskan diri ke Arab Saudi, beserta sebagian besar tentara yang masih tersisa. Akibat invasi ini, Kuwait meminta bantuan Amerika Serikattanggal 7 Agustus 1990. Sebelumnya Dewan Keamanan PBB menjatuhkan embargo ekonomi pada 6 Agustus 1990.
Amerika Serikat mengirimkan bantuan pasukannya ke Arab Saudi yang disusul negara-negara lain baik negara-negara Arab dan AfrikaUtara kecuali Syria, Libya dan Yordaniaserta Palestina. Kemudian datang pula bantuan militer Eropa khususnya Eropa Barat (Inggris, Perancis dan Jerman Barat, ditambah negara-negara Eropa Utara dan Eropa Timur), serta 2 negara Asia - Bangladesh dan Korea Selatan. Sementara, dari Afrika, Niger turut bergabung dalam koalisi. Pasukan Amerika Serikat dan Eropa di bawah komando gabungan yang dipimpin Jenderal Norman Schwarzkopf serta Jenderal Collin Powell. Pasukan negara-negara Arab dipimpin oleh Letjen. Khalid bin Sultan.
Misi diplomatik antara James Baker dengan menteri luar negeri Irak Tareq Aziz gagal (9 Januari 1991). Irak menolak permintaan PBB agar Irak menarik pasukannya dari Kuwait 15 Januari 1991. Akhirnya Presiden Amerika Serikat George H. Bush diizinkan menyatakan perang oleh Kongres Amerika Serikat tanggal 12 Januari 1991. Operasi Badai Gurun dimulai tanggal 17 Januari 1991 pukul 03:00 waktu Baghdad yang diawali serangan serangan udara masif atas Baghdad dan beberapa wilayah Irak lainnya.
Target utama koalisi adalah untuk menghancurkan kekuatan Angkatan Udara Irak dan pertahanan udara, yang diluncurkan dari Arab Saudi dan kekuatan kapal induk koalisi di Laut Merah dan Teluk Persia. Target berikutnya adalah pusat komando dan komunikasi. Saddam Hussein merupakan titik sentral komando Irak, dan inisiatif di level bawah tidak diperbolehkan. Koalisi berharap jika pusat komando rusak, semangat dan koordinasi tempur Irak akan langsung kacau dan lenyap. Target ketiga dan yang paling utama adalah instalasi rudal jelajah, terutama rudal Scud. Operasi pencarian rudal ini juga didukung oleh pasukan komando Amerika dan Inggris yang mengadakan operasi rahasia di daratan untuk mencari, dan bila perlu, menghancurkan instalasi rudal tersebut. serta operasi di daratan yang mengakibatkan perang darat yang dimulai tanggal 30 Januari 1991.
Irak melakukan serangan balasan dengan memprovokasi Israel dengan menghujani Israel terutama Tel Aviv dan Haifa, Arab Saudi di Dhahrandengan serangan rudal Scud B buatan Sovyet rakitan Irak, yang bernama Al Hussein. Untuk menangkal ancaman Scud, koalisi memasang rudal penangkis, Patriot, serta memaksimalkan sorti udara untuk memburu rudal-rudal tersebut sebelum diluncurkan. Irak juga melakukan perang lingkungan dengan membakar sumur sumur minyak di Kuwait dan menumpahkan minyak ke Teluk Persia. Sempat terjadi tawar-menawar perdamaian antara Uni Sovyet dengan Irak yang dilakukan atas diplomasi Yevgeny Primakov dan Presiden Uni Sovyet Mikhail Gorbachev namun ditolak Presiden Bush pada tanggal 19 Februari 1991. Sementara Sovyet akhirnya tidak melakukan tindakan apa pun di Dewan Keamanan PBB semisal mengambil hak veto, meskipun Uni Sovyet pada saat itu dikenal sebagai sekutu Irak, terutama dalam hal suplai persenjataan. Israel diminta Amerika Serikat untuk tidak mengambil serangan balasan atas Irak untuk menghindari berbaliknya kekuatan militer Negara Negara Arab yang dikhawatirkan akan mengubah jalannya peperangan.
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