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|Part of the Persian Gulf conflicts|
|Clockwise from the top: Iranian soldiers wear gas masks to counter Iraqi chemical weapons; Iranian soldiers rejoice after the liberation of Khorramshahr; Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein meet in Baghdad to discuss U.S. military aid to Iraq; Iranian oil platform burn after attack by U.S. Navy in Operation Nimble Archer|
|Ruhollah Khomeini Supreme Leader of Iran |
Abulhassan Banisadr 1st President of Iran Mohammad-Ali Rajai † 2nd President of Iran Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Chairman of the Parliament Ali Khamenei 3rd President of Iran Mir-Hossein Mousavi Prime Minister of Iran Mostafa Chamran † Minister of Defence Mohsen Rezaee IRGC Commander Ali Sayad Shirazi Chief of Staff Massoud Barzani Leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Jalal Talabani Leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Nawshirwan Mustafa Deputy Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
|Saddam Hussein President of Iraq |
Ali Hassan al-Majid General and Iraqi Intelligence Service head Taha Yassin Ramadan General and Deputy Party Secretary Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri Deputy Chairman, Revolutionary Command Council Salah Aboud Mahmoud General Tariq Aziz Foreign Minister and Revolutionary Command council member Adnan Khairallah Minister of Defence Saddam Kamel Republican Guard Commander Uday Hussein Son of Saddam Hussein Qusay Hussein Son of Saddam Hussein Maher Abd al-Rashid General Massoud Rajavi President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran Maryam Rajavi co-leader of PMOI
|600,000 soldiers, 100,000 to 150,000 Pasdaran and Basij, 100,000 militia, 1,000 tanks, 4,000 armoured vehicles, 7,000 artillery pieces, 747 aircraft, 750 helicopters||850,000 in 1980, 1,500,000 by 1988, 3,500 tanks, 8,630 armoured vehicles, 12,330 artillery pieces, 3000+ aircraft, 1900+ helicopters|
|320,000–720,000 soldiers and militia killed:3||150,000–375,000 soldiers and militia killed|
|100,000+ civilians killed on both sides|
|¹ With support from the USSR, People's Republic of China, France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States, and other Arab, NATO, and Warsaw Pact countries for Iraq. Syria and Libya supported Iran.|
The Iran–Iraq War, also known as the First Persian Gulf War, was an armed conflict between Ba'athist 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 "Persian Gulf War" of the early 1990s.
The Iran-Iraq War began when Ba'athist Iraq invaded Iran, launching a simultaneous invasion by air and land on September 22, 1980, following a long history of border disputes, and motivated by fears of Shia Islam insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. 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 20 1988. The war finally ended with United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations which was accepted by both sides. It took several weeks for the Iranian armed forces to evacuate Iraqi territory to honour pre-war international borders between the two nations set by the 1975 Algiers Agreement. The last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003.
The war cost both sides 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; however, it brought neither reparations nor changes in borders. The conflict has been compared to World War I:171 in terms of the tactics used, including large scale trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across trenches, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, human wave attacks across a no-man's land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas by the Iraqi government against Iranian troops, civilians, and Iraqi Kurds. At the time of the conflict, the U.N. Security Council issued statements that "chemical weapons had been used in the war." However, due to various outside pressures, the statements never clarified that only Iraq was using chemical weapons, and retrospective authors have claimed, "The international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds."
The Iran–Iraq War was originally referred to as the Gulf War until the Persian Gulf War of 1990 and 1991, after which it was referred to as the First Persian Gulf War. The Iraq-Kuwait conflict, while originally known as the Second Persian Gulf War, eventually became known simply as the Gulf War. The United States-led occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011 has since been called the Second Persian Gulf War.
In Iran, the war is known as the Imposed War (جنگ تحمیلی, Jang-e Tahmīlī) and the Holy Defence (دفاع مقدس, Defā'-e Moqaddas). In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had initially dubbed the conflict the Whirlwind War. It was also referred to as Saddām's Qādisiyyah (قادسية صدام, Qādisiyyat Ṣaddām), in reference to the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah.Origins Post-colonial era
Iran (known prior to 1935 as Persia) had in the past ruled a larger territory, consisting of present day Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. By the late 1800s, the nation had become weak, and had been reduced to its present day size due to the encroachment of rival imperial powers such as the Ottoman Turks, the British, and the Russians.:1 Historically the Arvand Roud/Shatt-al-Arab waterway (called Arvand Roud in Iran and Shatt-al-Arab in Iraq) and Khuzestan Province was all that remained of their prior holdings in Mesopotamia, which had been lost to Turkey centuries earlier. Iran barely maintained its independence throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, being carved up into spheres of influence, invaded in 1917 and 1941, occupied between 1941–1946, subjected to Soviet attempts to create a separate Azerbaijan socialist republic in 1946, and having its government overthrown in 1921 and again in 1953.:4
In 1918, the historical region of Mesopotamia (then a province within the Ottoman Empire) was brought under British rule after the Turkish defeat in World War I. It became a protectorate known as Iraq, and it gained official independence from Britain in 1932, although the British still dominated their politics until 1952. It immediately laid claim to the Shatt al-Arab waterway, Iran's oil rich Khuzestan Province, and the British protectorate of Kuwait, since Kuwait had been part of Mesopotamia prior its takeover by the British in 1899.
One factor contributing to hostility between the two powers was the dispute over full control of the Arvand Roud waterway, with the dispute dating back to the Ottoman-Persian Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Arvand Roud was considered an important channel for the oil exports of both countries, and in 1937, Iran and Iraq signed a treaty to settle the long-standing dispute. In the same year, Iran and Iraq both joined the Saadabad Pact, and relations between the two nations remained good for decades afterwards.
The 1937 treaty recognized the Iran-Iraq border to be along the low-water mark on the eastern side of the Shatt, except at Abadan and Khorramshahr, where the frontier ran along the deep water line (thalweg), giving Iraq control of most of 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.
In 1955, both nations joined the Baghdad Pact. However, the overthrow of the Hashemites in Iraq in 1958 brought to power a new regime that was more stridently nationalist, and which promptly abandoned 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 . 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 the Iraqis called Arabistan) that had a large Arabic-speaking population was not limited to rhetorical statements. Iraq began supporting secessionist movements in Khuzestan, and even raised the issue of its territorial claims at a meeting of the Arab League, though 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 Iraqui Ba’ath Party which took power in a 1968 coup, leading 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 military spending spree, led Iran to take a more assertive stance in the Middle East.
In April 1969, Iran abrogated the 1937 treaty over the Arvand Roud, and as such, Iran ceased paying tolls to Iraq when its ships used the waterway. The Shah justified his move by arguing that almost all river borders around world ran along the thalweg, and by claiming that because most of the ships that used the waterway were Iranian, the 1937 treaty was unfair to Iran.:37 Iraq threatened war over the Iranian move, but when on 24 April 1969 an Iranian tanker escorted by Iranian warships sailed down the river, 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 Iranian Shah’s government. Basra TV stations began showing Iran's Khuzestan province as part of Iraq's new province Nasiriyyah, renaming all its cities with Arabic names.
In 1971, Iraq (now under the effective rule of Vice President Saddam Hussein) broke diplomatic relations with Iran after claiming sovereignty rights over the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb in the Persian Gulf following the withdrawal of the British. Iraq then expropriated the properties of 70,000 people believed to be Iraqis of Iranian origin and expelled them from its territory, after having complained 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. From March 1974 to March 1975, Iran and Iraq fought border war over Iran's support of the Kurds in Iraq. Several attacks took place, however Iran at this time had the 5th most powerful military in the world and easily defeated the Iraqis using their well-armed air force. Not surprisingly, the Iraqis decided against continuing the war, and chose to make concessions to Tehran to end the Kurdish rebellion.
In the 1975 Algiers Agreement, Iraq made territorial concessions—including the Shatt-al-Arab waterway—in exchange for normalized relations. In return for Iraq recognizing that the frontier on the waterway ran 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.:260 However, the Algiers Agreement meant the end of Iranian and American support for the Peshmerga, who were defeated by the Iraqi government in a short campaign that claimed 20,000 lives.:298 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".:298
The relationship between the Iranian and Iraqi governments briefly improved in 1978, when Iranian agents in Iraq discovered a plans for pro-Soviet coup d'état against the Iraqi government. When informed of this plot, Saddam Hussein, vice president at the time, ordered the execution of dozens of his army officers expelled Ruhollah Khomeini, an exiled leader of clerical opposition to the Shah, from Iraq.After the Islamic Revolution See also: Islamic Revolution and Iranian Embassy SiegeIraqi 25-dinar note, as with the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah depicted in the background
Tensions between Iran and Iraq were fueled by Iran’s Shia Islamic revolution and Pan-Islamism in contrast to Iraq's Arab nationalism. Initially, the Iraqi government seemed to welcome Iran’s 1978–79 Islamic revolution, which overthrew Iran’s Shah, who was seen as a common enemy. Therefore, when in June 1979 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Iraqui Shias to overthrow the Ba'ath regime, it was 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 an Iraqi-Iranian friendship based on non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
When Khomeini ignored Hussein's overture and continued with a 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, especially because the Ba'ath regime, despite its secular nature, was dominated by Arab Sunnis, with the Arab Shia majority, together with the Sunni Kurdish minority, being assigned the status of an underclass. As Saddam was a socialist and agnostic, this discrimination had more to do with tribal, political, and cultural reasons rather than religious ones.
However, the primary reason for Saddam's interest in starting a war was that Iran had been weakened by revolution and sanctions and had been internationally isolated. Saddam had heavily invested in Iraq's military since his defeat against the Iranians in 1975, buying large amounts of weapons from his ally the Soviet Union, as well as France. By 1980, Iraq possessed 200,000 soldiers, 2,000 tanks and 450 aircraft.:1 Watching the powerful Iranian army that frustrated him in 1974-1975 disintegrate, he saw an opportunity to attack. Saddam correctly predicted that his major supporters would place a temporary embargo on his regime in response to the attack on Iran, and thus he stockpiled supplies that would last the Iraqis several years.
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, an opportunity for Iraq to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province materialised.:261 In addition, Khuzestan's large ethnic Arab population would allow Hussein to pose as the liberating the Arabs from Persian rule.:260
In 1979–80, Iraq was the beneficiary of an oil boom that saw it take in $33 billion USD, which allowed the Iraqi government to go on a spending spree on both civilian and military projects. On several occasions Hussein alluded to the Islamic conquest of Iran in promoting his position against Iran. For example, on 2 April 1980, half a year before the outbreak of the war, in a visit to Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, he drew parallels to the 7th century defeat of Persia in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah:
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, and Kuwait, whom he saw as oppressed—could and should follow the Iranian example and 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, believing it to be "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, who were workings toward an Islamic revolution in their country.
On 10 March 1980, when Iraq declared Iran's ambassador persona non grata, and demanded his withdrawal from Iraq by 15 March. Iran replied by downgrading its diplomatic ties to the charge d'affaires level, and demanded that Iraq withdraw their ambassador from Iran. In April 1980, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Amina Haydar (better known as Bint al-Huda) were hanged as part of a mass murder campaign to restore Saddam's control. The killing of Iraq's most senior Ayatollah caused outrage throughout the Muslim world, especially for the Shias.
In April 1980 20 Ba'ath officials were also assassinated by Shia militants, and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was almost killed in an assassination attempt on 1 April. Three days later, funeral procession being held to bury students who had died in an earlier attack was bombed. Iraqi Information Minister Latif Nusseif al-Jasim also 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 threat that, if ignored, might one day overthrow him, and thus used the attacks as rationale for attacking Iran later that September, though skirmishes along the Iran-Iraq border had already become a daily event by May that year.The Arvand Roud waterway on the Iran–Iraq border
On 17 September, in a statement addressed to the Iraqi parliament, Saddam stated:
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.An armed Iranian militia woman in front of a mosque during the Iraqi invasion of Khorramshahr, September–October 1980 Iranian preparations
At the same time in Iran, severe officer purges (including numerous executions ordered by Sadegh Khalkhali, the new Revolutionary Court judge), and shortages of spare parts for Iran's US-made equipment had crippled Iran's once-mighty military. Between February and September 1979, the Iranian government executed 85 senior generals and forced all major-generals and most brigadier-generals into early retirement. By September 1980, the Iranian government had purged 12,000 army officers. These purges resulted in a drastic decline in the operational capacities of the Iranian military. Their regular army (which in 1978 was considered the 5th most powerful in the world) had been weakened badly by purges and lack of spare parts. The desertion rate had reached 60%, and the officer corps were devastated. The most highly skilled soldiers and aviators were exiled, imprisoned, executed. Throughout the war, Iran never managed to fully recover from this human capital flight. Continuous sanctions prevented Iran from acquiring many heavy weapons, such as tanks and aeroplanes. When the invasion occurred, many pilots and officers were released from prison, or had their executions commuted in order to combat the Iraqis. In addition, many junior officers were promoted to generals, resulting in the Army being more integrated as a part of the regime by the end of the war, as it is today.
At this time, Saddam began to attempt to create riots in the ethnic Arab Khuzestan province. In addition, he ordered the broadcasting of anti-Iranian government radio promoting unity of Khuzestan with Iraq. Saddam assumed that the Arabs of Khuzestan would revolt against Iran and join the Iraqis when the war began.
In the meantime, a new paramilitary organisation gained prominence in Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (often shortened to Revolutionary Guard, and known in Iran as the Sepah-e-Pasdaran), which intended to protect the new regime and counterbalance the decaying army. Despite having been trained as a paramilitary organisation, after the Iraqi invasion they were forced to act as a regular army. Initially, they refused to fight alongside the army, which resulted in many defeats, but by 1982 the two groups began carrying out combined operations. Another paramilitary militia was founded in response to the invasion, the "Army of 20 Million", commonly known as the Basij. The Basij were poorly armed and had members as young as 14 and as old as 70. They often operated in conjunction with the Revolutionary Guard, launching human wave attacks and other campaigns against the Iraqis.Geographic considerations
The mountainous border between Iran and Iraq made a deep ground invasion almost impossible, and air strikes were used instead. The first waves of the invasion were a series of air-strikes targeted at Iranian airfields. Iraq also attempted to bomb Tehran, Iran’s capital and command centre, into submission.Course of the war 1980: Iraqi invasionLocation of Khūzestān Province in Iran
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. The attack damaged 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. 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 (400 mi) in three simultaneous attackes. The purpose of the invasion, according to Saddam, was to blunt the edge of Khomeini's movement and to thwart his attempts to export his Islamic revolution to Iraq and the Persian Gulf states. Saddam hoped that by annexing Khuzestan, he would send such a blow to the prestige of Iran that it would lead to the downfall of the new government, or at very least put an end to the Iranian calls for his overthrow.
Of the six Iraqi divisions that were invading by ground, four were sent to Khuzestan, which was located near the southern end of the border, to cut off the Arvand Roud from the rest of Iran and to establish a territorial security zone. The other two divisions invaded across the northern and central part of the border to prevent an Iranian counter-attack. Two of the four Iraqi divisions, one mechanised and one armoured, operated near the southern end and began a siege of the strategically important cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr.
The other two divisions, both armoured, secured the territory bounded by the line Khorramshahr-Ahvaz-Susangerd-Musian. 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 materialise, as most of the ethnic Arabs remained loyal to Iran. The Iraqi troops advancing into Iran in 1980 were described by Patrick Brogan as "badly led and lacking in offensive spirit".:261
Though the Iraqi air invasion surprised the Iranians, their air force retaliated with an attack against Iraqi military bases and infastructure in Operation Kaman 99. Groups of F-4 Phantom and F-5 Tiger fighter jets attacked targets throughout Iraq, such as oil facilities, dams, petrochemical plants and oil refineries, and including Mosul Airbase, Baghdad, and the Kirkuk oil refinery, all disrupting Iraq's economy. Iraq was taken by surprise at the strength of the retaliation, as Iran took few losses while the Iraqis took heavy defeats.
The Iranian helicopter force AH-1 Cobra began attacks on the advancing Iraqi divisions; they destroyed numerous armoured vehicles and impeded the Iraqi advance, though not completely halting it. Iran had discovered that a group of two or three F-4 low-flying Phantoms could hit targets almost anywhere in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi air attacks on Iran were repulsed by Iran's F-14 Tomcat interceptor fighter jets, using Phoenix missiles, which down one dozen of Iraq's Soviet-built fighters in the first two days of battle.
The Iranian regular military, police forces, volunteer Basijs, and Revolutionary Guards all conducted their operations separately; thus, the Iraqi invading forces did not face coordinated resistance. However, on 24 September, the Iranian Navy attacked Basra, Iraq, destroying two oil terminals near the Iraqi port Faw, which reduced Iraq's ability to export oil. Thus the ground forces (primarily consisting of the Pasdaran) retreated to the cities, where they set up defenses against the invaders.
On 30 September, Iran's air force launched Operation Scorch Sword, striking and badly damaging the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad.Iranian soldier killed in the Iran-Iraq war
By 1 October, Baghdad had been subjected to eight air attacks. In response, Iraq launched a number of aerial strikes against Iranian targets.First Battle of Khorramshahr Main article: Battle of Khorramshahr
On 22 September, a prolonged battle began in the city of Khorramshahr, eventually leaving 7,000 dead on each side. Reflecting the bloody nature of the struggle, Iranians came to call Khorramshahr "City of Blood" (خونین شهر, Khunin shahr).
The battle began with Iraqi air raids against key points and mechanised divisions advancing on the city in a crescent-like formation. They were slowed down by Iranian air attacks and Revolutionary Guard troops with recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and Molotov cocktails. The Iranians flooded the marsh areas around the city, forcing the Iraqis to traverse through narrow strips of land. Iraqi tanks launched attacks with no infantry support, and many tanks were lost to Iranian anti-tank teams. However, by 30 September, the Iraqis had managed to clear the Iranians from the outskirts of the city. The next day, the Iraqis launched infantry and armoured attacks into the city. After heavy house-to-house fighting, the Iraqis were repelled. On 14 October, the Iraqis launched a second offensive. The Iranians launched a controlled withdrawal from the city, street by street. By 24 October, most of the city was captured, and the Iranians evacuated across the Karun River. Some partisans remained, and fighting continued until 10 November.Iraqi advance stalls Main articles: Siege of Abadan and Operation Morvarid
The people of Iran, rather than turning against their still-weak Islamic Republic, rallied around their country to resist invasion. An estimated 200,000 fresh troops had arrived at the front by November, many of them ideologically committed volunteers.
Though Khorramshahr was finally captured, the battle had delayed the Iraqis enough to allow the large scale deployment of the Iranian military. In November, Saddam ordered his forces to advance towards Dezful and Ahvaz, and lay sieges to both cities. However, the Iraqi offensive had been badly damaged by Iranian militias and air power. Iran's air force had destroyed Iraq's army supply depots and fuel supplies, and was strangling the country through an aerial siege. On the other hand, Iran's supplies had not been exhausted, despite sanctions, and they often cannibalized spare parts from other equipment and began searching for spare parts on the black market. On 28 November, Iran launched Operation Morvarid a combined air and sea attack, destroying 80% of Iraq's navy and all of their radar sites in the southern portion of the country.
Iraq's strategic reserves had been depleted, and by now they lacked the power to go on any major offensives until nearly the end of the war. On 7 December, Hussein announced that Iraq was going on the defensive.
For the next eight months, both sides were to be on a defensive footing (with the exception of the Battle of Dezful), as the Iranians needed more time to reorganize their forces and the damage inflicted by the purge of 1979–80. During this period, fighting 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 the regular divisions, only seven were deployed to the border.1981: StalemateOperation Tariq al-Qods in 1981. The tactics of the war heavily consisted of trench warfare. Battle of Dezful Main article: Battle of Dezful
On 5 January 1981, Iran had reorganised its forces enough to launch a large scale offensive, Operation Nasr. The Iranians launched their major armoured offensive at Susangerd, consisting of the 16th Qazvin and the 77th Khorasan armoured divisions, and broke through Iraqi lines. However, the Iranian tanks had raced through Iraqi lines with their flanks unprotected; as a result, they were cut off by Iraqi tanks. In the ensuing Battle of Dezful, the Iranian division was nearly wiped out in one of the biggest tank battles of the war. When the Iranian tanks tried to manoeuvre, they became stuck in the mud of the marshes, and many tanks were abandoned. The Iraqis lost 50 T-62 tanks, while the Iranians lost 100 Chieftain and M-60 tanks. 141 Iranians were killed during this battle.
The battle had been ordered by Iranian president Abulhassan Banisadr, who was hoping that a victory might shore up his deteriorating political position; instead, the failure hastened his fall. Iran was further distracted by internal fighting between the regime and the Islamic Marxist Mujaheddin e-Khalq on the streets of Iran's major cities in June 1981 and again in September.:250–251 After the end of these battles, the Mujahedeen gradually leaned towards Saddam Hussein, completely taking his side by the mid-1980s. The Battle of Dezful became a critical battle in Iranian military thinking. Less emphasis was placed on the Army with its conventional tactics, and more emphasis was placed on the Revolutionary Guard with its unconventional tactics.Attack on H3 Main article: Attack on H3
The Iraqi Air Force, badly damaged by the Iranians, was moved to the H3 Al Waleed Airfield in Western Iraq, near the Jordanian border, far from Iran. However, on 3 April 3, 1981, the Iranian airforce used eight F-4 Phantom fighter bombers, four F-14 Tomcats, three Boeing 707 refuelling tankers, and one Boeing 747 command plane launched a surprise attack on H3, destroying 27–50 Iraqi fighter jets.Iran introduces the human wave attack
Since the Iranians suffered from a shortage of heavy weapons:225 but had a large number of devoted volunteer troops, they began using human wave attacks against the Iraqis. The human wave attacks were generally supported by Iranian artillery, air power (by 1983 consisting primarily of helicopters, for close air support), and tanks, which acted as mobile artillery and pillboxes. The Army spent much of the war guarding and defending positions already captured, while the Basij and Revolutionary Guard would carry out offensives. Typically, the poorly-trained Basij would launch the initial human wave assaults to swamp the weaker portions of the Iraqi lines and would be followed up by the more experienced Revolutionary Guard members, often with tanks. Iran also focused on manoeuvre warfare using light infantry, later launching limited attacks at night or during bad weather using light infantry and infiltration tactics against the static Iraqi forces. Despite this, Iran still relied on its remaining tanks and planes to help defeat the Iraqi heavy formations, especially during the 1982 battles. The human wave attacks also differed from World War I in a significant aspect, the Iranians attempted to add an element of surprise and deception to most of their attacks, sometimes with success.
The tactics worked well as makeshift defences against the morale-weak Iraqis in southern Iran. However, they were far less effective during their invasion of Iraq, when facing prepared defences, a more determined army, and heavy amounts of foreign military supplies. Though the Iraqis initially showed slow reaction times and difficulty redirecting artillery against the Iranian advance, the attacks were still costly to the Iranians, and they lost hundreds of thousands of men by the end of the war. Bad coordination would often have human waves unintentionally charging alone, with no support from tanks or other units, resulting in a slaughter.Operation Samen-ol-A'emeh Main article: Operation Samen-ol-A'emeh
For about a year after the Iraqi offensive stalled in March 1981, there was little change in the front. However, by late 1981, Iran returned to the offensive and the Iraqi military was forced to retreat. Iran launched an new operation (Operation Samen-ol-A'emeh), ending the Iraqi Siege of Abadan on 27–29 September 1981.Operation Jerusalem Way Main article: Operation Jerusalem Way
In May 1981, after a lull in the battle, 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 problems with morale had developed in the Iraqi Army, with many Iraqi soldiers seeing no point to the invasion.
On 29 November 1981 Iran began Operation Tariq al-Qods (Operation Jerusalem Way) with three army brigades and seven Revolutionary Guard brigades. The Iraqis failed to properly patrol their occupied areas, and the Iranians constructed a 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) road through the unguarded sand dunes, and launched their attack from the Iraqi rear. The battle saw the retaking the town of Bostan from Iraqi divisions, and succeeding by 7 December. Operation Jerusalem Way saw the first use of the Iranian "human wave" tactics, where the Revolutionary Guard light infantry charged at Iraqi positions repeatedly oftentimes without the support of armor or air power. The fall of Bostan exacerbated the Iraqis' logistical problems, forcing them to use a roundabout route from Ahvaz far to the south to resupply its troops. 6,000 Iranians and over 2,000 Iraqis were killed in the operation.1982: Iraqi retreat, Iranian offensiveIraqi prisoners of war at Khorramshahr.
The Iraqis had realized that the Iranians were planning to attack. They decided to attack first, launching "Operation Al-Fowz al-Azim" on March 19. Using heavy amounts of tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets, they attacked the Iranian buildup around the Roghabiyeh pass. While Saddam and his generals assumed they succeeded, in reality the Iranian forces remained fully intact. As a result, his army was completely unprepared for the Iranian offensives to come.Operation Undeniable Victory Main article: Operation Undeniable Victory
Iran's next major offensive was Operation Fath-ol-Mobeen (Operation Undeniable Victory). On 22 March 1982, Iran launched an attack, taking the Iraqi forces completely by surprise. Iranian heliborne troops landed using Chinook helicopters behind Iraqi lines, silencing artillery and even capturing one of the Iraqi headquarters. The Iranian Basij then launched human wave attacks, consiting of 1,000 fighters per wave. They took massive losses but eventually breaking through the Iraqi lines. The Pasdaran and regular army followed up the Basij attack, and surrounded the Iraqi 9th and 10th Armored and 1st Mechanized divisions in the Iranian town of Shush. Iranian armor destroyed almost 400 Iraqi tanks in combat with 196 Iranian tanks lost, and even more Iraqi tanks were lost to Iranian helicopter attacks. The Iranians were led by the general Ali Sayyad Shirazi.
It was a decisive victory for Iran, and Iraqi forces were driven away from Dezful and Ahvaz. By this time, most of Khuzestan had been liberated.Operation Jerusalem Main article: Operation Beit-ol-Moqaddas
Operation Beit ol-Moqaddas (Operation Jerusalem) was launched 29 April 1982. Prior to the attack the Iranians launched numerous air raids against Iraq air bases on the border and in multiple airbases over Iraq, destroying 47 jets (including Iraq's brand new Mirage F-1 fighter jets from France). This gave the Iranians complete air superiority over the battlefield and allowing them to monitor Iraqi troop movements.
On April 29, Iran launched the offensive. 70,000 Pasdaran and Basij struck on three axis- Bostan, Susangerd, the west bank of the Karun River, and Ahvaz. The Basij launched human wave attacks, and were followed up by the regular army and Pasdaran supported by tanks and helicopters. Under the heavy Iranian pressure, the Iraqi forces had to retreat. By 12 May, they had driven out all Iraqi forces from the Susangerd area. The Iranians captured several thousand Iraqi troops and a large number of tanks. Nevertheless, the Iranians took many losses as well, especially among the Basij. On May 20th Iraq launched an unsuccessful counteroffensive.
The Iraqis retreated to the Karun River, with only Khorramshahr and a few outlying areas remaining in their possession. Saddam ordered 70,000 troops to be placed around the city of Khorramshahr. The Iraqis created a hastily constructed defense line around the city and outlying areas. To discourage airborne commando landings, the Iraqis even placed metal spikes and destroyed cars in areas likely troop landing zones. Saddam Hussein even visited Khorramshahr in a dramatic gesture, swearing that the city would never be relinquished. However, Khorramshahr's only resupply point was across the Shatt-al-Arab, and the Iranian Air force began bombing the supply bridges to the city, while their artillery zeroed in on the besieged garrison.Liberation of Khorramshahr Main article: Liberation of Khorramshahr
On the early morning hours of 23 May 1982 the Iranians began the drive towards Khorramshahr across the Karun River. This part of Operation Jerusalem was spearheaded by the 77th Khorasan division with tanks along with the Pasdaran and Basij. The Iranians also hit the Iraqis with devastating air strikes and massive artillery barrages. Saddam's "Wall" quickly collapsed, and with little will to fight, 4,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered immediately. In less than 48 hours of figting, the city fell, and 23,000 Iraqis surrendered to the Iranians. A total of 7,000 Iraqis were killed or wounded in Khorramshahr while the Iranians suffered 10,000 casualties. During the whole of Operation Jerusalem, 33,000-35,000 Iraqi soldiers were taken prisoner by the Iranians.State of Iraqi armed forces
The fighting had battered the Iraqi military: its strength fell from 210,000 to 150,000 troops; over 20,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and over 30,000 captured; two out of four active armoured divisions and at least three mechanised divisions were decimated to less than a brigade's strength, and the Iranians had captured over 450 tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
The Iraqi Air Force was left in no better shape, and after losing up to 55 aircraft since early December 1981, had barely 100 intact fighter-bombers and interceptors. A defector who flew his MiG-21 to Syria in June 1982 revealed that the Iraqi Air Force had only three squadrons of fighter-bombers left that were capable of mounting offensive operations into Iran. The Iraqi Army Air Corps was in better shape, and could still operate more than 70 helicopters. Despite that, the Iraqis still held 3,000 tanks vs 1,000 Iranian ones.
At this point, Saddam believed that his army was now too demoralised and damaged to hold onto any territory in Iran and withdrew his remaining armed forces completely. He redeployed them along the border between Iraq and Iran as a means of defence.International response
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 USD per month. Journalist Patrick Brogan wrote, "It appeared for a while that Iraq would be strangled economically before it was defeated militarily.":263 Syria's closure of the Kirkuk-Banis pipeline left Iraq with the pipleline to Turkey as the only mean of exporting oil. However, that pipeline had a capacity of only 500,000 barrels per day (79,000 m3/d), which was insufficient to pay for the war.:160 However, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Gulf states saved Iraq from bankruptcy by providing it with an average of $60 billion USD in subsidies per year.:263 Though Iraq had previously been hostile towards other Gulf states, "the threat of Persian fundamentalism was far more feared.":162–163:263 They were especially inclined to fear Iranian victory after Ayatollah Khomeini declared monarchies to be illegitimate and an un-Islamic form of government. Khomeini's statement was widely received as a call to overthrow the Gulf monarchies. 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.:163
Saudi Arabia was said to provide Iraq with $1 billion USD per month starting mid-1982.:160
Iraq began support from the United States and west European countries as well. Saddam Hussein was given diplomatic, monetary, and military support by the US, including massive loans, political clout, and intelligence on Iranian deployments gathered using American spy satellites, which allowed them to coordinate attacks against the Iranians. The Iraqis relied heavily on American satellite footage and radar planes to detect Iranian troop movements, and they enabled Iraq to move troops to the site before the battle.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of countries "supporting terrorism" and sold weapons such as howitzers to Iraq via Jordan and Israel. France sold Iraq millions of dollars worth of weapons, including Gazelle helicopters, Mirage F-1 fighters, and Exocet missiles. Both the United States and West Germany sold Iraq pesticides and poisons that would be used to create chemical and other weapons, such as Roland missiles.
At the same time, the Soviet Union, angered with Iran for purging and destroying the Tudeh Party (Iran's national communist party), sent large shipments of weapons to Iraq. The Iraqi Air Force was rearmed with Soviet and French fighter jets and helicopters. Iraq also bought weapons such as AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades from the Chinese. The depleted tank forces were replenished with Soviet tanks, and the Iraqis were rearmed in the face of renewed Iranian attacks. Iran was portrayed as the aggressor, and would seen as such until the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, when Iraq would be condemned.
Iran was unable to get very many new weapons, though they did gain some from China, North Korea, and Libya. There were also some clandestine purchases from certain elements within Israel and the United States, who also bought small arms from China, via North Korea. By 1987, Iran managed to accuire Scud missiles and up to 20–70 Chinese-made J-6 and J-7 fighter jets, which proved useless in combat.Ceasefire proposalAn estimated 95,000 Iranian child soldiers were made casualties during the Iran–Iraq War.
On 20 June 1982 Saddam announced that he was prepared to accept a ceasefire on the basis of the pre-war status quo. Khomeini rejected the Iraqi peace offer and proclaimed that Iran would invade Iraq and would not stop until the Ba'ath regime was replaced by an Islamic republic. Given that Saddam's offer of 1982 served as the basis for the 1988 ceasefire, Khomeini's decision extended the war for the next six years.:11,147
The decision to invade Iraq was taken after much debate within the Iranian government. One faction, comprising Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, President Ali Khamenei, and Army Chief of Staff General Ali Sayad Shirazi, urged Khomeini to accept the ceasefire, as all Iranian soil had been recaptured. In particular, General Shirazi was opposed to the invasion of Iraq on logistical grounds, and stated he would consider resigning if "unqualified people continued to meddle with the conduct of the war."
Of the opposing view was a hardline fraction led by the clerics on the Supreme Defence Council, whose leader was the politically powerful speaker of the Majlis, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. At a cabinet meeting in Baghdad, Minister of Health Riyadh Ibrahim Hussein suggested that Saddam step down temporarily as a way of easing Iran towards a ceasefire, and then afterwards come back to power.:147 Saddam, annoyed, asked if anyone else in the Cabinet agreed with the Health Minister's idea. When no one raised their hand in support, he escorted Riyadh Hussein to the next room, closed the door and shot him with his pistol.:147 Saddam returned to the room and continued with his meeting.Iran invades Iraq Main article: Operation Ramadan
The Iranian generals wanted to launch an all-out attack on Baghdad and seize it before the weapon shortages continued to manifest further. Instead, the decision was made to capture one area of Iraq after the other in the hopes that a series of blows delivered foremost by the Revolutionary Guards Corps would create unrest within the Iraqi Shia society. Later historians have marked this as the first in a series of mistakes that would bring Iran to a verge of defeat.
The Iranians planned their attack in southern Iraq, near Basra, the second most important city in Iraq, and the Al Faw peninsula. Called Operation Ramadan, it involved over 180,000 troops from both sides, and was one of the largest land battles since World War II.:3 The majority of Iran's army was already in the area, and Commander-in-Chief Akbar Rafsanjani, along with most of the leaders in Tehran, expected Iraq's oppressed Shia majority to revolt against Saddam's rule; this would help Iran capture southern Iraq, then Kurdistan (with the help of Kurdish revolutionaries), and finally close in on central Iraq (including Baghdad) from three sides, causing Saddam's government to collapse. Though the Kurdish fighters helped in northern Iraq, the Shia rebellion failed to materialise in southern Iraq. Iranian strategy also dictated that they launch their primary attack on the weakest point of the Iraqi lines; however, the Iraqis were informed of Iran's battle plans and moved all of their forces to the area the Iranians planned to attack.
Over 100,000 Revolutionary Guards and Basij volunteer forces charged towards the Iraqi lines. The Iraqi troops had entrenched themselves in formidable defences, and had set up a network of bunkers and artillery positions. Iraqi morale had gone up, as they were fighting to defend their own 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).
Among the regular Iranian formations that were charging were the 16th, 88th, and 92nd Armoured Divisions, along with the 21st and 77th Infantry Divisions. As they began facing defeat, the Basij were used to bodily clear the Iraqi minefields in order to allow the Revolutionary Guards to advance. The Basij also launched human wave attacks on Iraqi positions, inspired before battle by tales of Ashura, the Battle of Karbala, and the glory of martyrdom. Sometimes an actor (usually an older soldier) would play the part of Imam Hossein and, on a white horse, gallop 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" had signed "Passports to Paradise" (as admission forms to the Basij were nicknamed), received a week of basic military training by the Revolutionary Guard, and were sent directly to the front lines. The human wave assaults, often with no support from other military branches due to lack of ammunition, were met with artillery and rocket fire from Iraq's defence and cause massive losses to the Iranian side. Combatants came so close to one another that Iranians were able to board Iraqi tanks and throw grenades inside the hulls. By the eighth day, the Iranians had gained 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) inside Iraq and had taken a number of bridges. Iran's Revolutionary Guards also used the T-55 tanks they had captured in earlier battles.
However, the attacks came to a halt and the Iranians turned to defensive measures. Seeing this, Iraq used their Mi-25 helicopters, along with French-built Gazelle helicopters armed with Euromissile HOT, against columns of Iranian mechanised infantry and tanks. These "hunter-killer" teams of helicopters, which had been formed with the help of East German advisors, proved to be very costly for Iranians. Several aerial dogfights occurred between Iraqi Migs and Iranian F-4 Phantoms. During this battle, the Iraqis also began to use chemical weapons, contributing to their successes on the battlefield.
On 16 July, Iran tried again further north and managed to push the Iraqis back. However, only 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Basra, the poorly-equipped Iranian forces were surrounded on three sides by Iraqis with heavy weaponry. Some were captured, while many were killed. Only a last-minute attack by Iranian AH-1 Cobra helicopters stopped the Iraqis from routing the Iranians. Three more similar attacks occurred around the Khorramshar-Baghdad road area towards the end of the month, but none were significantly successful.
Iraq had concentrated three armoured divisions, the 3rd, 9th, and 10th, as a counter-attack force to attack any penetrations. They were successful in defeating the Iranian breakthroughs, but suffered heavy losses. The 9th Armoured Division in particular had to be disbanded, and was never reformed. 80,000 soldiers on both sides were killed.Fighting during the rest of 1982
After Iran's defeat in Operation Ramadan, they instigated only a few smaller attacks. Iran launched two limited offensives aimed at liberating the Sumar Hills and isolating the Iraqi pocket at Naft Shahr near the Iraqi border, both of which were still under Iraq occupation. They then aimed to capture the Iraqi border city of Mandali. They planned to take the Iraqis by surprise using Basij militiamen, army helicopters, and some armoured forces, then stretch their defences and possibly break through them to open a road to Baghdad for future exploitation. During Operation Muslim-Ibn-Aqil (1–7 October), Iran recovered 150 square kilometres (58 sq mi) of its own territory and reached the outskirts of Mandali before being stopped by Iraqi helicopter and armoured attacks. During Operation Moharram (1–21 November), the Iranians captured part of the Bayat oilfield with their fighter jets and helicopters, destroying 105 Iraqi tanks, 70 APCs, and 7 planes with few losses. They nearly breached the Iraqi lines but failed to capture Mandali after the Iraqis sent reinforcements, including brand new T-72 tanks, which possessed armour that could not be pierced from the front by Iranian TOW missiles. The Iranian advance was also impeded by heavy rains. 3,500 Iraqis and an unknown number of Iranians died, with only minor gains for Iran.Iraqi tactics against Iranian invasion
For most part, Iraq remained on the defensive for the next six years of war, unable and unwilling to launch any major offensives against Iran, while Iran launched over 60 offensives against the Iraqis. Saddam launched a policy of total war, gearing most of his country towards defending against Iran. By 1988, Iraq was spending 40-75% of their GDP on military equipment. They had increased their manpower drastically, and by 1986 their manpower was greater than the Iranians. Despite that, Iraq consistently lost men and material, largely remaining on the defensive until 1988.
Iraq had a logistical advantage in their defence: the front was located near the main Iraqi bases and arms depots, allowing the Iraqi Army to be efficiently supplied.:260,265 By contrast, the front in Iran was a considerable distance away from the main Iranian bases and arms depots, and as such, Iranian troops and supplies had to travel through roads across several mountain ranges before arriving at the front.:260Victims of Iran-Iraq War
When faced against large Iranian attack, where human waves and the regular army would overrun Iraq's entrenched infantry defences, the Iraqis would often retreat, but their static defences would bleed the Iranians and channel them into certain directions, drawing them into a trap. Afterwards, Iraqi air and armour attacks would pin the Iranians down, while mechanised infantry attacks pushed them back. Sometimes, the Iraqis would launch "probing attacks" into the Iranian lines to provoke them into launching their attacks sooner. Chemical weapons were used as well, and were a major source of Iranian infantry casualties.International response
In 1982, with Iranian success on the battlefield, the U.S. made its backing of Iraq more pronounced, supplying intelligence, economic aid, and dual-use equipment and vehicles, as well as normalizing their intergovernmental relations (which had been broken during the 1967 Six-Day War). 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 formalised this policy by issuing a National Security Decision Directive to this effect in June 1982.
By the end of 1982, Iraq had been resupplied with new Soviet material, 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 built bridges across water obstacles, laid minefields, and prepared new defence lines and fortifications.:2 In order to defend Basra, the Iraqis poured water into a pre-existing lake east of Basra, known as Fish Lake, and filled it with barbed wire, floating land mines, and high voltage electrical power lines to make ir impenetrable to the Iranians. They also began launching air raids against Iranian border cities, greatly increasing the practise by 1984.1983–84: Strategic stalemateFurthest ground gains.Ali Khamenei, with Iranian soldiers on the front-line. Khamenei opposed Khomeini's decision to extend the war into Iraq.
After the failure of the 1982 summer offensives, Iran believed that a major effort along the entire breadth of the front would yield the victory. During the course of 1983, the Iranians launched five major assaults along the front, though none achieved substantial success, as the Iranians staged more massive "human wave" attacks. Khomeini's position on a truce remained unchanged.Operation Before the Dawn Main article: Operation Before the Dawn
Operation Before the Dawn was launched on 6 February 1983. Iran, using 200,000 "last reserve" Revolutionary Guard troops, attacked along a 40 kilometres (25 mi) stretch near Al Amarah, Iraq, about 200 kilometres (120 mi) southeast of Baghdad. Backed by air, armor, and artillery support, Iran's six-division thrust was strong enough to break through. In response, Iraq used massive air attacks, with more than 200 sorties, many flown by attack helicopters. Iran lost more than 6,000 people that day while achieving minimal gain.
In April 1983, the Mandali-Baghdad northcentral sector witnessed fierce fighting, as Iranian attacks were stopped by Iraqi mechanised and infantry divisions. Casualties were 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 the advantage in the war of attrition.:2Dawn Operations Main articles: Operation Dawn 1, Operation Dawn 2, Operation Dawn 3, Operation Dawn 4, Operation Dawn 5, and Operation Dawn 6
From early 1983–1984, Iran launched six Valfajr Operations (Dawn Operations). Most were aimed at the Basra-Baghdad highway, but some were aimed at the central front and Kurdistan. All except Operation Dawn 2 were unsuccessful, with the Iranians either gaining little ground or none at all. Operation Dawn 2 began 22 July 1983, with Iran launching an offensive into the weakly-defended Kurdistan province of Iraq. With aid form the Kurdish Peshmerga guerillas (who had renewed their alliance with Iran), they captured the city of Haj Omran. Iraq responded by its first large-scale use of chemical weapons, and the Iranians did not advance farther.
On 7 February 1984, Saddam ordered his air force to attack eleven Iranian cities; bombardments ceased on 22 February 1984. Though Saddam had aimed for the attacks to demoralise Iran and force them to negotiate, they had little effect, and Iran quickly repaired the damage. Iraq's airforce took heavy losses, however, and Iran struck back, hitting Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Nevertheless, the attacks resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties on both sides, and became known as the first "war of the cities". It was estimated that 1,200 Iranian civilians were killed during the raids in February alone. There would be five such exchanges throughout the course of the war.
Saddam's strategy began to change. Previously, the Iranians had outnumbered the Iraqis on the battlefield; Iraq expanded their military draft (pursuing a policy of total war), and by 1984, the armies were equal in size. By 1986, some areas had Iraqi soldiers outnumbering Iranian ones by two to one. By 1988, the Iraq would have 1 million soldiers, giving it the fourth largest army in the world. Some of their equipment, such as tanks, outnumbered the Iranians' by almost five to one. Iranian commanders, however, remained more tactically skilled.
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 Iraqis facing 250,000 Iranians. 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 capture Kut-al-Imara, Iraq and sever the highway connecting Baghdad to Basra, which would impede Iraqi coordination of supplies and defences. The area, located on a large waterway, had been considered impenetrable by Iranians, but Iranian troops crossed the river on motorboats in a surprise attack. However, the Iranian forces only came within 24 kilometres (15 mi) of the highway.Iran's change in tactics Main article: Battle of the Marshes
After the Dawn Operation defeats, Iran attempted to change tactics. In the face of increasing Iraqi armament and manpower as well as increasing problems on their own side, Iran could no longer rely on outnumbering Iraqi troops. While the infantry and human wave assaults would remain key to their attacks throughout the war, Iran began to rely more heavily on deception surprise attacks, as well as light infantry warfare. In contrast to Iraq's static defences and heavy armour, Iran began training troops in infiltration, patrolling, night-fighting, marsh warfare, and mountain warfare. They also began training thousands of Revolutionary Guard commandos in amphibious warfare, as southern Iraq is marshy and filled with wetlands. Iran used speedboats to cross the marshes and rivers in southern Iraq, landing troops on the opposing banks, where they would dig and set up pontoon bridges across the rivers and wetlands to allow heavy troops and supplies to cross. Transport helicopters were used as well, ferrying troops to the battlefield.
Iran also learned to integrate foreign guerilla units as part of their military operations. On the northern front, Iran began working heavily with the Peshmerga, Kurdish guerillas. Iranian military advisors organized the Kurds into raiding parties of 12 guerillas, which would attack Iraqi command posts, troop formations, infrastructure (including roads and supply lines), and government buildings. The oil refineries of Kirkuk became a favorite target, and were often hit by homemade Peshmerga rockets.
The Iranian offensives were initially successful. In response, the Iraqis had to rely more on chemical weapons and even heavier purchases of weaponry; as a result, the net strategic situation remained largely unchanged. Iran was unable to keep their advantage once they broke out of the marshes and mountain areas, and had trouble maintaining their supply lines, which allowed the Iraqis to beat back their offensives. Iran also failed to resolve the differences between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard, which would also impede their operations.Operation Kheibar Main article: Operation Kheibar
By 1984, the Iranian ground forces were reorganised well enough for the Revolutionary Guard to start Operation Kheibar, which lasted from 24 February to 19 March.:171 Prior to the attack, the Iranian commandos on helicopters landed behind Iraqi lines, and even destroyed Iraqi artillery. Iranian infantrymen crossed the Hawizeh Marshes using speedboats in an amphibious assault. This took the Iraqis by surprise, since the marshes were considered impenetrable, and worse the Iraqi could not use their tanks. The marshes also absorbed the impact of Iraqi artillery and bombs.
The Iranians attacked the vital oil-producing Majnoon Island by landing troops by helicopters onto the islands and severed the communication lines between Amareh and Basra. The Iranians continued the attack towards Qurna.
Iraqi defences, under continuous strain since 15 February, seemed close to breaking. However, they were saved by their use of chemical weapons and defence-in-depth, where they layered several defensive lines; even if the Iranians broke through the first line, they were usually unable to break through the second due to exhaustion and heavy losses.:171 Iran suffered also from a shortage of air and armor and the infantry had to bear the brunt of the fighting. The Pasdaran also used guerilla tactics in the marshes blending into the terrain and bypassing the Iraqis. Iranian mounted infantry using motorcycles also pushed deeper into Iraqi lines.
The Iraqis heavily used Mi-25 Hind to "hunt" the Iranian troops in the marshes, killing many soldiers. On February 27, Iran finally captured Majnoun Island, but lost 50 of their own troop transport helicopters on that day.
By February 29, they had reached the outskirts of Qurna and nearly reached the Baghdad-Basra highway. But by this time, the Iranians had broken out of the marshes and returned to open terrain, and were confronted by the conventional Iraqi forces including artillery, tanks and air power, and also mustard gas as well. 1,200 Iranian troops were killed in the counterattack. The Iranians were forced to retreat back to the marshes, however they still held onto them along with Majnoon Island.
The Iraqis' heavy use of chemical weapons halted the Iranian advance on Basra, thought they failed to retake Majnoon. At least 3,000 Iranians were killed in the fighting in the marshes, with Iraqi helicopter gunships being deployed to "hunt" the Iranian troops through the swampy land.Persian Gulf "Tanker War"Hengam LSLH logistical transport
The so-called "Tanker War" started when Iraq attacked the oil terminal and Iranian tankers at Kharg Island in early 1984. Saddam's aim in attacking Iranian shipping was to provoke the Iranians to retaliate with extreme measures, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz to all maritime traffic, and thereby bring American intervention into the war, as the United States had threatened several times intervene if the Strait of Hormuz were closed. As such, the Iranians limited their retaliatory attacks to Iraqi shipping, leaving the strait open to general passage.
Because Iraq had become landlocked during the invasion, they had to rely on their Arab allies, primarily Kuwait, to transport their oil. Iran attacked tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait, later expanding attacks to the tankers of any Persian Gulf states supporting Iraq. Iraq declared that all ships going to or from Iranian ports in the northern zone of the Persian Gulf were subject to attack. They used air power, primarily helicopters, F-1 Mirage, and MiG-23 fighters armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles, to enforce their threats. After repeat Iraqi attacks on Iran's main exporting facility on Kharg Island, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker carrying Iraqi oil near Bahrain on 13 May 1984, as well as a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters on 16 May. Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter. The Iranian attacks against Saudi shipping led to Saudi F-15s shooting down an Iranian aircraft on 5 June 1984.
The air and small-boat attacks did little damage to Persian Gulf state economies, and Iran moved its shipping port to Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz. Both nations attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including those of neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade.Cargo ship under attack
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. Iran began to rely on its new Revolutionary Guard's navy, which used Boghammar speedboats. Fitted with rocket launchers, RPG's, and heavy machine guns, these speedboats would launch surprise attacks against tankers, causing great damage.
A U.S. Navy ship, the USS Stark (FFG-31), was struck on May 17, 1987 by two Exocet anti-ship 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. Both missiles hit the ship, and one exploded in crew quarters, killing 37 sailors and wounding 21.Attacks on shipping Further information: Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance
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 was directed by Iraq against Iranian vessels, with the Iraqis launching three times more attacks than the Iranians.:3 Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti shipping led Kuwait to formally petition foreign powers on 1 November 1986 to protect its shipping. The Soviet Union agreed to charter tankers starting in 1987, and the United States Navy offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag starting 7 March 1987 in Operation Earnest Will.
During the course of the war, Iran attacked two Soviet Navy ships which were protecting Kuwaiti tankers. Notably, the Seawise Giant, the largest ship ever built, was struck and damaged by Iraqi Exocet missiles as it was carrying Iranian crude oil out of the Gulf.Strategic situation in 1984
By 1984, Iran's losses were estimated to be 300,000 soldiers, while Iraq's losses were estimated to be 250,000.:2 Foreign analysts agreed that both Iran and Iraq failed to use their modern equipment properly, and both sides failed to carry out modern military assaults that could win the war. Both sides often abandoned equipment in the battlefield because their technicians were unable to carry out repairs. Iran and Iraq also showed little coordination on the battlefield, and in many cases units were left to fight on their own. As a result, by the end of 1984, the war was a stalemate.:21985–86: Offensives and retreats
By 1985, Iraqi armed forces were receiving financial support from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Persian Gulf states, and were making substantial arms purchases from the Soviet Union, China, and France. For the first time since early 1980, Saddam launched new offensives.
On 6 January 1986, the Iraqis launched an offensive attempting to retake Majnoon Island. However, they were quickly bogged down into a stalemate against 200,000 Iranian infantrymen, reinforced by amphibious divisions.Operation Badr Main article: Operation Badr (1985)
The Iraqis attacked again on 28 January 1985; they were defeated, and the Iranians retaliated on 11 March 1985 with an offensive directed against Basra, codenamed Operation Badr. Ayatollah Khomeini urged Iranians on, declaring:
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.
The sheer ferocity of the Iranian offensive broke through the Iraqi lines. The Pasdaran with the support of tanks and artillery broke through the north of Qurna on March 14 That same night, Iran succeeded in capturing part of the Baghdad-Basra Highway 8, which had proven elusive during Operations Dawn 5 and Dawn 6 with 3,000 troops and reached the Tigris River. However, the Iranians while being successful had dangerously overextended themselves.
Saddam responded by launching chemical attacks against the Iranian positions along the highway and by initiating the second "war of the cities", with an air and missile campaign against twenty Iranian population centres, including Tehran. Under General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and General Jamal Zanoun (two of the most skilled commanders of the Iraqi military), the Iraqis launched air attacks against the Iranian positions, pinning them down. The Iraqis then launched a massive pincer attack against the Iranians, using mobile infantry and heavy artillery. Chemical weapons were used, and the Iraqis also flooded the Iranian trenches with specially constructed pipes divering water from the Tigris River. Under heavy pressure, the Iranians were forced to retreat. Helicopters also inflicted heavy losses on the retreating Iranian forces, driving them back to the Hoveyzeh marshes.
Thus the Iranians were eventually driven out of their positions, and the highway was recaptured by the Iraqis. However, the Iraqis took massive losses in the air as a result. Operation Badr resulted in 10,000–12,000 Iraqi casualties and 15,000 Iranian ones.Strategic situation at the beginning of 1986
The failure of the human wave attacks during 1984 had prompted Iran to develop a better working relationship between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard and to mould the Revolutionary Guard units into a more conventional fighting force. To combat Iraq's use of chemical weapons, Iran began producing an antidote. They also created and fielded their own homemade drone, the Mohajer 1, fitted with six RPG-7's to launch attacks. It was primarily used in observation, being used for up to 700 sorties.
For the rest of 1986, and until the spring of 1988, the Iranian Air Force's efficiency in air defence increased, with weapons being repaired or replaced and new tactical methods being used. For example, the Iranians would loosely integrate their SAM sites and interceptors to create "killing fields" in which dozens of Iraqi planes were lost (which was reported in the West as the Iranian Air Force using F-14s as "mini-AWACS"). The Iraqi Air Force reacted by increasing the sophistication of its equipment, incorporating modern electronic countermeasure pods, chaff, and anti-radiation missiles.
Due to the heavy losses in the last war of the cities, Iraq reduced their use of aerial attacks on Iranian cities. Instead, they would launch Scud missiles, which the Iranians could not stop. Since the range of the Scud missile was too short to reach Tehran, they converted them to Al Hussein missile with the help of East German engineers, cutting up their Scuds into three chunks and attaching them together. Iran responded to these attacks by using their own Scud missiles, purchased from Libya in 1986.Operation Dawn 8Iranian Operation Dawn 8 in 1986Main article: Operation Dawn 8
On 9 February 1986, the Iranians launched Operation Dawn 8, in which 100,000 troops comprising five Army divisions and 50,000 men from the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij advanced in a two-pronged offensive into southern Iraq. Unlike the earlier offensives, Dawn 8 was planned entirely by professional Army officers, all of whom had begun their careers under the Shah. Iran began with a feint attack against Basra, which was stopped by the Iraqis. Their primary objective was Iraq's al-Faw peninsula, the only area in Iraq that touched the Persian Gulf. The First Battle of Al Faw began when the Iranians, using several thousand of the Revolutionary Guard's amphibious forces, landed at the foot of the peninsula. The resistance, consisting of several thousand poorly-trained soldiers of the Iraqi Popular Army, fled or were defeated, and the Iranian forces set up pontoon bridges crossing the Shatt-al-Arab/Arvand Roud, allowing 100,000 soldiers to cross in a short period of time. To avoid detection by American satellites and Iraqi warplanes, the components of the bridges were welded together underwater during the night. Afterwards, oxygen tanks were strapped to the sides of the bridge, causing it to rise to the surface. Iranian forces drove north along the peninsula almost unopposed, capturing it after only 24 hours of fighting.:240
The sudden capture of al-Faw took the Iraqis by shock, since had thought it impossible for the Iranians to cross the Arvand Roud, and they had reinforced the peninsula, albeit weakly. On 12 February 1986, the Iraqis began a counter-offensive to retake al-Faw, which failed after a week of heavy fighting.
On 24 February 1986, Saddam sent one of his best commanders, General Maher Abd al-Rashid, and the Republican Guard to begin an new offensive to recapture al-Faw. A new round of heavy 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 large bombing offensive by the Iraqi Air Force.:242 However, Iraq's attempts to retake al-Faw again ended in failure, costing them many tanks and aircraft lost. Iraqi losses were so severe that their 15th mechanized division was almost completely wiped out. The capture of al-Faw and the failure of the Iraqi counter-offensives were blows to the Ba'ath regime's prestige, and led the Gulf countries to fear that Iran might win the war. Kuwait in particular felt menaced with Iranian troops only 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) away, and increased its support of Iraq accordingly.:241
In March 1986, the Iranians tried to follow up their success by attempting to take Umm Qasr, which would have severed Iraq from the Gulf and placed Iranian troops on the border with Kuwait. However, the offensive failed. On September 3, Iran launched Operation Karbala-3 against two Iraqi oil platforms around Umm Qasr and Kuwait's Bubiyan Island (an island which hosted Iraqi troops). If successful, early warning radar sites on the platform would be destroyed and the Iraqi troops on Bubiyan Island would be put under pressure. Iranian amphibious commandos and Revolutionary Guards landed on the first platform (Al-Amayeh)defeating the Iraqi troops while Iranian artillery destroyed the second (Al-Bakr). Iraq launched massive air attacks, driving the Iranians off the Al-Amayeh platform.Battle of Mehran Main article: Battle of Mehran
Immediately after the Iranian capture of Al-Faw, Saddam declared a new offensive against Iran, Al-Defa al Mutahharakkha (Arabic: The Dynamic Defense), designed to drive deep into Iran. The Iranian border city of Mehran, on the foot of the Zagros Mountains was selected as the first target. On May 15-19 Iraqi Army's Second Corps supported by helicopter gunships attacked and captured the city. Saddam then offered the Iranians to exchange Mehran for Al-Faw. The Iranians rejected the Iraqi offer. Iraq then continued the attack attempting to push deeper into Iran. However, Iraq's attack was quickly smashed by Iranian AH-1 Cobra helicopters with TOW missiles destroying numerous Iraqi tanks and vehicles.
The Iranians built up their forces on the heights surrounding the city. On June 30, they launched their attack, recapturing the city by July 3. Saddam ordered the Republican Guard to retake the city on July 4, but their attack was throughly defeated. The Iraqi losses were so heavy the Iranians managed to capture some territory inside of Iraq as well. Iraq's defeats at al-Faw and at Mehran was a severe blow to the prestige of the Iraqi regime. The western powers including the U.S. also became more determined to prevent an Iraqi loss.Strategic situation at the end of 1986
Though the eyes of international observers, Iran seemed to be prevailing in the war by the end of 1986. In the northern front, the Iranians began launching attacks toward the city of Suleimaniya with the help of Kurdish, taking the Iraqis by surprise. They came within 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) of the city before being stopped by chemical and army attacks. Iran's army had also reached the Meimak Hills, only 113 kilometres (70 mi) from Baghdad. Iraq managed to contain Iran's offensives in the south, but was under serious pressure, as the Iranians were slowly overwhelming them.
Iraq responded by launching another "war of the cities". In one attack, Tehran's main oil refinery was hit, and in another instance, Iraq damaged Iran's Assadabad satellite dish, disrupting Iranian overseas telephone and telex service for almost two weeks. Many civilian areas were also hit, resulting in many casualties. Iran responded by launching Scud missiles and some air attacks at Iraqi targets. Iran also rebuilt the oil terminals damaged by Iraqi air raids and moved shipping to Larak Island, while attacking foreign tankers that carried Iraqi oil (as Iran had blocked Iraq's access to the open sea with the capture of al-Faw).
In April 1986, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa declaring that the war must be won by March 1987. The Iranians began hastily recruiting many troops for the war, obtaining 650,000 volunteers, and planning large offensives. The animosity between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard arose again, with the Army wanting to use more refined military tactics while the Revolutionary Guard wanted to use human wave attacks. Iran, confident in its successes, began planning their largest offensives of the war, which they called their "final offensives."Saddam's new approach
Faced with the Khomeini's refusal to negotiate peace and the recent defeats in al-Faw and Mehran, Iraq appeared to be losing the war. Iraq's generals, angered by Saddam's interference, threatened a full-scale mutiny against the Ba'ath Party unless they were allowed to conduct operations freely. In one of the few times during his career, Saddam gave in to the demands of his generals. This change was pivotal in allowing Iraq to recapture its territories and force the war to an end. Up to this point, Iraq had tried to keep the war from truly disrupting the day-to-day affairs of the country and the lives of the civilians. Their strategy had been to sit behind static defences and ride out the Iranian attacks. However, the defeat at al-Faw convinced the government to declare total war, announcing that all civilians had to take part in the war effort. The universities were closed and the all of the male students were drafted into the military. Civilians were instructed to clear marshlands to prevent Iranian amphibious attacks and to help build fixed defences. The government tried to integrate the Shias into the war effort by recruiting many as part of the Ba'ath Party. In an attempt to counterbalance the religious fervor of the Iranians and gain support from the devout masses, the regime also began to promote religion and, on the surface, Islamization, despite the fact that Iraq was a socialist regime. Scenes of Saddam praying and making pilgrimages to shrines became common on state-run television. While Iraqi morale had been low throughout the war, the attack on al-Faw raised patriotic fervour, as the Iraqis feared invasion. Saddam also recruited volunteers from other Arab countries into the Republican Guard, and received much technical support from foreign nations as well.
At the same time, Saddam ordered the genocidal Al-Anfal Campaign in an attempt to crush the Kurdish resistance, who were now allied with the Iranians. The result was the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqi Kurds, and the destruction of villages, towns, and cities.
The Iraqis began to prioritise the professionalisation of their military. Prior to 1986, the conscription-based Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Popular Army volunteer militia conducted to bulk of the operations in the war, to poor effect. The Republican Guard, formerly an elite Praetorian Guard, was expanded as a volunteer army and filled with Iraq's best generals. Loyalty to the state was no longer to primary requisite for joining. However, due to Saddam's paranoia, the former duties of the Republican Guard were transferred to a new unit, the Special Republican Guard, which would act as his personal praetorian guard.
Full-scale war games against hypothetical Iranian positions were carried out in the western Iraqi desert against mock targets, and they were repeated over the course of a full year until the forces involved fully memorized their attacks.1987–88: Towards a ceasefireThe People's Mujahedin of Iran, supported by Saddam, started a ten-day operation after both the Iranian and Iraqi governments accepted UN Resolution 598. Casualty estimates range from 2,000 to 10,000.
Meanwhile, as the Iraqis were planning their strike, the Iranians continued to attack. 1987 saw a renewed wave of Iranian offensives in both northern and southern Iraq.Karbala Operations Operation Karbala-4 Main article: Operation Karbala-4
On 28 December, Iran launched the poorly-planned Operation Karbala-4 (Karbalareferring to Karbala,Iraq), and were quickly defeated. It had lacked infiltration tactics the Iranians specialised in, and the human waves were rushed.Operation Karbala-5 Main article: Operation Karbala-5
Under the code words ya Zahra (یا زهرا , "Zahra help us"), OperationKarbala-5 began midnight 9 January with the Revolutionary Guard and Basiji attacking the Iraqi defenses south of Fish Lake, overrunning a battalion of Iraqi infantry. Another wave of Iranians crossed the lake by boat and landed on the western shores, where they attempted a charge for the Shatt al-Arab river. Instead, they faced a counterattack by several brigades of the Iraqi Republican Guard, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. After the southern thrust captured the poorly-defended town of Ad Duayji, Iraq, the Iranians spent the 9th and 10th of January overrunning two of the five Iraqi defence lines, reportedly using dug-in Iraqi tank turrets to shell Basra and other fortifications.
On 14 January, Iraqi Border Guards found themselves nearly cut off in the third line of trenches by Iranian forces moving in on both flanks. Air and artillery attacks dampened, as the marshes absorbed the impact of shells and rockets. After fierce fighting, they withdrew across the Jasim River on the 17th, and the Iranians charged south towards the Shatt al-Arab, taking a small island in the Shatt. However, the Iraqis managed to repulse the capture of the island by moving in from the south on land. In the following days, the Iranians managed secure a bridgehead six miles inside Iraq along the shore lines. The Iraqis later admitted that they lost 50-60 jets to Iranian surface to air missiles (10% of their air force) and for a brief period the Iranians gained air superiority with their limited air power, allowing both fighter jets and helicopters to attack tanks and ground targets. Iran had managed to secretly import Swedish RBS 70 shoulder fired MANPADS which were helpful.
By 22 January, the Iranians were within 12 kilometres (7.5 mi). At this point, the battle became a stalemate. The Iraqis found themselves on the outer perimeters of Basra, whereas the Iranians were close enough to see the eastern buildings of the city. Artillery and medium-range missiles created frequent and heavy bombardments, and Iraqi forces had to evacuate much of the civilian population to northern Iraq.
The situation had deteriorated to the point that Saddam made a rare visit to the troops. During his visit, Saddam announced a significant shake-up of the chain of command, relieving Maj. Gen. Khalil al-Dhouri of the 3rd Corp of his post and executing several lower-ranking officers by firing squad due to their poor performance. Khalil al-Dhouri was replaced with Lt. Gen. Dhia ul-Din Jamal of the 5th Corps from northern Iraq. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was also visible on the war front, reportedly observing the gains made by Iranian forces.
The Iraqis began bombing Iranian supply routes with chemical weapons, as well as Iranian cities, including Tehran, Isfahan, and Qom. It is believed that some 3,000 Iranian civilians were killed in these attacks. Iran retaliated by firing eleven long-range missiles further into Iraqi territory, continually inflicting heavy casualties among civilians and killing at least 300.
By the fourth week of the offensive, Iran effectively held Fish Lake, the Umm al-Tawil islands, the Jasim River, and Duayji. However, the majority of Iranian forces were spent. Iraqi artillery and mortar fire zeroed in on Iranian re-supply routes, hindering advancing forces with both conventional and chemical weapons while the Iranians took refuge in dugouts.
The Iraqi Republican Guard launched a counterattack on 28 January. Using waves of tanks, artillery, and helicopter gunships, the Iraqi Third Army Corps assaulted the Iranians on the western side of Fish Lake before turning south towards Jasim. Artillery effectively pounded Iranian re-supply and reinforcement routes. These bombardments, along with the advancing Iraqi armor into the battle zone, created a pincer movement that crushed the salient by 7 February.
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 again halted the Iranian offensive.:263 However, the Iranians came close enough to Basra to bring up their artillery, and in the ensuing bombardments, the city was largely destroyed.:263 Despite their losses, the Iranian high command issued a statement, claiming capture of 155 square kilometres (60 sq mi) of enemy-occupied territory; the destruction of 81 Iraqi brigades and battalions; the destruction of 700 tanks and 1,500 other vehicles; the downing of 80 Iraqi warplanes; the destruction of 250 anti- aircraft guns and 400 pieces of military hardware; the capture of 220 tanks and armoured personnel carriers. The Iraqis claimed 65,000 Iranians were killed during the battle.Operation Karbala-6 Main article: Operation Karbala-6
At the same time as Operation Karbala-5, Iran also launched Operation Karbala-6 against the Iraqis in Qasr e Shirin in central Iran to prevent the Iraqis from rapidly transferring units down to defend against the Karbala-5 attack. The attack was carried out the Basij infantry, and both the Revolutionary Guard's 31st Ashura and the Army's 77th Khorasan armoured divisions. The Basij attacked the Iraqi lines, forcing the Iraqi infantry to retreat. But an Iraqi armored counterattack surrounded the Basij in a pincer movement, but the Iranian tank divisions attacked, breaking the encirclement. The Iranian attack was finally stopped by mass Iraqi chemical weapons attacks.Iranian decline
After this battle, the Iranian military was effectively a weakened force, and they did not launch any more large-scale offensives for the rest of the war. Government propaganda portrayed the Iranians as being highly motivated and volunteering in droves to "fight for Islam" (which was true earlier in the war). While some religious people and a few children continued to enlist, others, including the more secular Iranians, were trying to escape the conflict. As early as May 1985, anti-war demonstrations took place in 74 cities throughout Iran; however, they were crushed by the regime, resulting in some protesters being shot and killed. By 1986, draft-dodging had become a serious problem, and the Revolutionary Guards and police set up roadblocks throughout cities to capture those who tried to evade conscription. By 1987, the leadership acknowledged that the war was a stalemate, and began to plan accordingly. There were no more "final offensives" planned.
The Iranian Air force, despite its once sophisticated equipment, lacked enough equipment and personnel to sustain the war of attrition that had arisen, and was unable to lead an outright onslaught against Iraq. The Iraqi Air Force, to the contrary, originally lacked modern equipment and experienced pilots. However, after pleads from Iraqi military leaders, Saddam decreased the political influence on everyday operations and left the fighting of the war to his combatants. In addition, the Soviets began delivering more advanced aircraft and weapons to Iraq, while the French improved training for the flying crews and technical personnel, and continually introduced new methods for countering Iranian weapons and tactics. The results of such changes were increasingly felt by the Iranians starting late 1986 and through to the end of the war, as the Iraqi Air Force moved on a comprehensive campaign against the Iranian economic infrastructure. The main Iraqi target had shifted to the destruction of Iranian war-fighting capability. By late 1987, the Iraqi Air Force could count on direct American support for conducting long-range operations against Iranian infrastructural targets and oil installations deep in the Persian Gulf. U.S. Navy ships actively tracked movements of Iranian shipping and defences, reporting them to Iraqis. During February and March 1988, the U.S. Navy supplied targeting information to the Iraqi air force on several occasions, but did not warn their aircraft of Iranian interceptors’ presence, causing the Iraqis to suffer considerable losses each time. The massive Iraqi air strike against Khark island, flown on 18 March 1988, was one such occasion, in which the Iraqis destroyed two supertankers but also lost five aircraft to Iranian F-14 Tomcats, including two Tupolev Tu-22Bs and one Mikoyan MiG-25RB. The U.S. Navy was now becoming more involved in the fight in the Persian Gulf, launching Operations Earnest Will and Prime Chance against the Iranians, while the Iranians threatened to cut off the Strait of Hormuz in response.The war in late 1987 Main articles: Operation Nimble Archer, Operation Nasr 4, and Operation Karbala-10
By the end of 1987, Iraq possessed 5,550 tanks (outnumbering the Iranians five to one) and 900 fighter aircraft (outnumbering the Iranians ten to one). However, after Operation Karbala-5, Iraq only had 100 qualified fighter pilots remaining, therefore the Iraqis began to invest in recuiting foreign pilots from countries such as Belgium, Australia, South Africa, and both East Germany and West Germany. One of the most notable volunteers was the Belgian veteran pilot Max von Rosen who flew daring raids against Iran's Larak Island oil terminals. Iraq also replenished its manpower by integrating volunteers from other Arab countries into their army (for example Iran eventually captured 3,000 foreign soldiers from Egypt alone, not counting other countries). Iraq also began a vigerous program of military self-sufficieny, producing 122mm Saddam howitzers, RPG-7's and Lion of Babylon T-72 tanks. Iraq also became self-sufficent in the production of chemical weapons. In addition, they imported numerous weapons such as British Sea King helicopters, and spare parts. Iran also managed to develop some weapons, including TOW missiles and Silkworm missiles. Iran's air force was very weak containing only 20 F-4 Phantoms, 20 F-5 Tigers, and 15 F-14 Tomcats in operation. Despite that, Iran finally managed to produce some spare parts for their jets, and managed to clandestinely import some parts, restoring some damaged planes into service. Iran's situation continued to deteriorate, and the US even drew up a contingency plan to attack if the Iranians managed to break through the Iraqi lines.
In the "Tanker War" in the Gulf in 1987, Iran continued to both inspect and fire on ships suspected of carrying Iraqi oil. Iraqi fighter jets also attacked Iranian tankers and oil infastructure and were forwarned of Iranian forces by US naval ships. Iran also introduced fighter jet escorts and airplanes for directing fire against foreign freighters. Iran also began launching Silkworm anti-shipping missiles at ships suspected of carrying Iraqi oil.
On September 24, US Navy SEALS captured the Iranian mine-laying ship Iran Ajr, a diplomatic distaster for the already isolated Iranians. On October 8, the US Navy destroyed 4 Iranian speedboats, and in response to Iranian Silkworm missile attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers launched Operation Nimble Archer destroying two Iranian oil rigs in the Persian Gulf. During November and December, the Iraqi air force launched an ambitious bid to completely destroy all Iranian airbases in Khuzestan and destroy the remaining Iranian air force. However, Iran managed to shoot down 30 Iraqi fighers with their jets, anti-aircraft guns and missiles, allowing the Iranian air force to survive to the end of the war.
While the southern and central fronts were in complete stalemate, Iran began to focus on carrying out offensives in northern Iraq with the help of the Peshmerga (a group of Kurdish insurgents). The Iranians encountered some success later in the year with Operations Nasr 4 and Karbala-10, and threatened to capture the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk while they surrounded the city of Suleimaniya and other northern oilfields with the Peshmerga's help. Many Iraqi prisoners were captured and armour destroyed. Nasr-4 was considered by some to be Iran's most successful individual operation of the war. However, Iranian forces were unable to consolidate their gains and continue their advance, and thus could not move forward in 1987. On 20 July, the UN Security Council passed the US-sponsored Resolution 598, which called for an end to the fighting and a return to pre-war boundaries.1988: Iraqi offensives and the UN ceasefire Main articles: Operation Praying Mantis and Iran Air Flight 655
In February 1988, Saddam began the fifth and most deadly "war of the cities". Over the next two months, Iraq launched over 200 Al-Hussein missiles at 37 Iranian cities. Saddam also threatened to use chemical weapons in his missiles, which caused 30% of Tehran's the population to flee. Iran retaliated, launching at least 104 missiles against Iraq in 1988 and shelling Basra. This event was nicknamed the "Scud Duel" in the foreign media.Iran's Kurdistan Operations
On March 1988, the Iranians carried out Operation Dawn 10, Operation Beit-ol-Moqaddas-2 (Jersualem 2) and Operation Zafar-7 in Iraqi Kurdistan with the aim of capturing the Darbandikhan Dam and the power plant at Dukan, which supplied Iraq with much of its electricity, as well as the city of Suleimaniya.:264 The offensive was carried out in conjunction with the Peshmerga. Iranian airborne commandos landed behind the Iraqi lines and Iranian helicopters hit Iraqi tanks with TOW missiles. The Iraqis were took by surprise, and Iranian F-5E Tiger fighter jets even damaged the Kirkuk oil refinery.
Though the Iranians advanced to within sight of Dukan, and captured around 1,040 square kilometres (400 sq mi) and 4,000 Iraqi troops, the offensive failed due to the Iraqi use of chemical warfare.:264 In retaliation for Kurdish collaboration with the Iranians, Iraq launched a massive poison gas attack against the recently Iranian liberated city of Halabja, killing thousands of civilians. Iran airlifted forieign journalists to the ruined city, and the images of the dead were shown throughout the world. However, Western mistrust of Iran, as well as their collaboration with Iraqis, led them to also blame Iran for the attack. At one point, the United States claimed that Iran had launched attack and then tried to blame Iraq for it (though Iran never used poison gas during the war).Second Battle of al-Faw Main article: Second Battle of al-Faw
On 17 April 1988, Iraq launched Operation Ramadan Mubarak (Operation Blessed Ramadan), a surprise attack against the 15,000 Basij troops on the peninsula. The attack was preceded by a massive artillery and air barrage of Iranian front lines. Key areas, such as supply lines, command posts, and ammunition depots, were hit by mustard gas and nerve gas, as well as by conventional explosives. Helicopers landed Iraqi commandos behind Iranian lines while the main Iraqi force attacked in a frontal assault. Within 48 hours, all of the Iranian forces had been cleared from the al-Faw Peninsula. The day was celebrated in Iraq as Faw Liberation Day throughout Saddam's rule.
To the shock of the Iranians, rather than breaking off the offensive, the Iraqis kept up their drive, and a new force attacked the Iranian positions around Basra. Following this, the Iraqis launched a sustained drive to clear the Iranians out of all of southern Iraq.:264 On 25 May 1988, Iraq launched an attack consisting of one of the largest artillery barrages in history, coupled with chemical weapons. The marshes had been dried by drought, allowing the Iraqis to use tanks to bypass and then crush Iranian field fortifications, expelling the Iranians from the border town of Shalamcheh after less than 10 hours of combat against a weak Iranian resistance.:265
One of the most successful Iraqi tactics was the "one-two punch" attack using chemical weapons. Using artillery, they would saturate the Iranian front line with rapidly-dispersing cyanide and nerve gas, while longer-lasting mustard gas was launched via fighter-bombers and rockets against the Iranian rear, creating a "chemical wall" that blocked reinforcement.Operation Praying Mantis
The same day as Iraq's attack on al-Faw peninsula, the United States Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis in retaliation against Iran for damaging a warship a mine. Iran lost several oil platforms, destroyers, and frigates in this battle, which ended only when President Reagan decided that the Iranian navy had been put down enough. However, the Revolutionary Guard's navy continued their speedboat attacks against oil tankers. However, the combined defeats at al-Faw and in the Persian Gulf nudged Iranian leadership towards quitting the war, especially when faced with the prospect of fighting the Americans.Iranian counteroffensive
Faced with such losses, Khomeini appointed the cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, though he had in actuality occupied that position for months. Rasanjani ordered a surprise counterattack into Iraq, which was launched 13 June 1988. The Iranians passed through the Iraqi trenches and drove 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) into Iraq. After 10 hours of fighting, the Iranians were driven back to their original positions again as the Iraqis launched 600 helicopter and 300 aircraft sorties, along with poison gas.Operation Forty Stars
On 18 June, Iraq launched Operation Forty Stars with the help of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq. With 530 aircraft sorties and heavy use of nerve gas, they crushed the Iranian forces in the area, killing 3,500, and nearly destroying a Revolutionary Guard division. The Iranian town Mehran was captured and occupied by the Mujahedeen. Iraq also launched air raids on Iranian population centres and economic targets, setting 10 oil installations on fire.Operation Tawakalna ala Allah
On 25 June, Iraq launched Operation Tawakalna ala Allah ("Trust in God"), retaking Majnoun Island. Hundreds of tanks were used against the Iranians, defeating them in 8 hours of combat. Saddam appeared live on Iraqi television to "lead" the charge against the Iranians. On 12 July at the central front, the Iraqis drove into Iran almost unopposed and captured the city of Dehloran, 40 kilometres (25 mi) inside Iran, and captured 2,500 Iranian troops along with much of armour and material, which took days to transport to Iraq. Soon after, the Iraqis withdrew from the town, claiming that they had "no desire to conquer Iranian territory".
During the 1988 battles, the Iranians put up little resistance to the Iraqi offensives, having been worn out by nearly eight years of war.:253 They lost large amounts of equipment; however, they managed to rescue most of their troops from being captured by the Iraqis, leaving Iraq with relatively few prisoners. On 2 July, Iran belatedly set up a joint central command which unified the Revolutionary Guard, Army, and Kurdish rebels, and dispel the rivalry between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard. However this came too late, and Iran was believed to have fewer than 200 remaining tanks on the southern front, faced against thousands of Iraqi ones.Iran withdraws from Kurdistan and accepts the ceasefire
Saddam sent a warning to Khomeini, threatening to launch a full-scale invasion of Iran and attack Tehran with weapons of mass destruction. Under the threat of invasion, Commander-in-Chief Akbar Rafsanjani ordered the Iranians to retreat from Haj Omran, Kurdistan on 14 July. The Iranians did not publicly describe this as a retreat, instead called it a "temporary withdrawal". By July, Iran's army had largely disintegrated, and Iran had effectively ceased to be a military power. Iraq put up a massive display of captured Iranian weapons in Baghdad, claiming they "captured" 1,298 tanks, 5,550 recoilless rifles, and thousands of other weapons.
At this point, elements of the Iranian leadership, led by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who had pushed for the war initially), persuaded Khomeini to sue for peace. They claimed that in order to win the war, Iran's military budget would have to be increased by 700%, and the war would last until 1993. However, Iran was low in morale and on the verge of bankruptcy. On 20 July 1988, Iran accepted Resolution 598, showing its willingness to accept a ceasefire. A statement from Khomeini was read out in a radio address, and he expressed deep displeasure and reluctance about accepting the ceasefire:
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...:1Soldiers killed in Operation Mersad in 1988
In July 1988, Iraqi aeroplanes dropped cyanide bombs on the Iranian Kurdish village of Zardan (as they had done four months earlier on their own Kurdish village of Halabja). About the same time, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 passengers. The lack of international sympathy disturbed the Iranian leadership, and they came to the conclusion that the United States was on the verge of waging a full-scale war against them. This, along with the defeats in battle and the threat of chemical weapons being used against Iranian cities, pushed Iran to officially accept the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 598. On 20 August 1988, peace was officially restored.
The news of the end of the war was greeted with celebration in Baghdad, with people dancing in the streets; in Tehran, however, the end of the war was greeted glumly 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.:1 In Baghdad, it was seen as a victory, in Tehran, as a defeat.Operation Mersad and end of the war Main article: Operation Mersad
Iran had accepted Resolution 598 on 20 July. However, after seeing Iraqi victories in the previous months, Saddam decided to launch an new attack to gain total victory over Iran. He wished to permanently occupy Khuzestan and western Iran, and gain his objectives from the start of the war. The Iraqi army attacked Khuzestan province and once again pushed towards Khorramshahr. The attack began with chemical weapons strikes along with air and helicopter attacks. However, Iran had anticipated the attack, and used their remaining air force in conjunction with surface-to-air missiles to defeat the larger Iraqi air force. The Iranian forces then took the offensive on 25 July and re-obtained 600 square kilometres (230 sq mi) of territory.
On 26 July, the People's Mujahedin of Iran, with the support of the Iraqi army, started their ten-day campaign, "Operation Forough Javidan" (Eternal Light) in central Iran. While the Iraqi forces were attacking Khuzestan, the Mujahedin worked with Iraqi air forces, armour, and chemical weapons to attack western Iran, advancing towards Kermanshah. The Iranians had withdrawn their remaining soldiers from the battlefield towards the Iraqi invasion, and as a result the Mujahedin advanced rapidly, seizing Qasr-e-Shirin, Sar Pol e-Zahab, and Islamabad-e-Gharb, and pushed towards the provincial capital of Kermanshah. The Mujahedin expected the Iranian population to rise up and support their advance; however, the uprising never materialised. Except for the Kurdish guerilla resistance, the Mujahedeen and Iraqis drove through unopposed, pushing 145 kilometres (90 mi) deep into Iran.
In response, the Iranian military launched their counterattack, Operation Mersad, under General Ali Sayyad Shirazi. Iranian paratroopers landed behind the Iraqi-Mujahedin lines and the Iranian Air Force and helicopters launched a massive air attack, destroying much of the enemy armour. The Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards then moved north from Khuzestan, supressing the remaining resistance in the city of Kerend-e-Gharb on July 29. On 31 July, Iran drove the Iraqis out of Qasr-e-Shirin and Sar Pol Zahab, though Iraq claimed to have voluntarily withdrawn from the towns. The Iranian successes during Operation Mersad were partially due to their defeats in Iraq, which incited them to finally establish a unified command structure permanently quash the differences between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard.
The last notable combat actions of the war took place on 3 August in the Persian Gulf when the Iranian navy fired on a freighter and Iraq launched chemical attacks on Iranian civilians, killing an unknown number and wounding 2,300.
Both sides evenutally withdrew to the international border in the coming weeks, with Resolution 598 becoming effective on 8 August, ending all combat operations. By 20 August, peace was restored. UN peacekeepers belonging to the UNIIMOG mission took the field, remaining on the Iran-Iraq border until 1991. While the war was now over, Iraq spend the rest of August and early September clearing the Kurdish resistance. Using 60,000 troops along with helicopter gunships, poison gas, and mass executions, Iraq hit 15 villages with poison gas, killing many rebels and civilians, and forced tens of thousands of Kurds to relocate to settlements. Many Kurdish civilians and fighters fled to Iran. By 3 September, the anti-Kurd campaign ended and all resistance was crushed. 400 Iraqi soldiers and 50,000 Kurdish people had been killed.Home front Iraq
At first, Saddam attempted to ensure that the Iraqi population suffered from the war as little as possible. There some 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 and total war was introduced, with the entire population being mobilised for the war effort. All Iraqis were ordered to donate blood and some 100,000 Iraqi civilians were ordered to clear the reeds in the southern marshes. Mass demonstrations of loyalty towards Saddam became more common.
In the summer of 1982, Saddam began a campaign of terror. More than 300 Iraqi Army officers were executed for their failures on the battlefield. In 1983, a major crackdown was launched on the leadership of the Shia community. Ninety 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, were arrested and 6 were hanged. The crackdown on Kurds saw 8,000 members of the Barzani clan, whose leader (Massoud Barzani) also led the Kurdistan Democratic Party, summarily executed. From 1983 onwards, a campaign of increasingly brutal repression was started against the Iraqi Kurds, characterised by Israeli historian Efraim Karsh as having "assumed genocidal proportions" by 1988. The Al-Anfal Campaign was intended to "pacify" Iraqi Kurdistan permanently.
Saddam also began implementing a policy of discrimination against Iraqis of Iranian origin.Gaining civilian support
To secure the loyalty of the Shia population, Saddam began a policy of allowing more Shias into the Ba'ath Party and the government, and started efforts to improve Shia living standards, which had been lower than those of the Iraqi Sunnis. Saddam also had the Iraqi state pay for the costs of restoring Imam Ali's tomb with white marble 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.:75–76 The importance of winning Shia support was such 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.:76 Khomeini's behaviour 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.:77–78 On the whole, Iraqi Shias supported their country's war effort against Iran.:75–77 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.:253
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.IranIranian children support Iranian Forces via their money pots.
The Iranian government saw the outbreak of war 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. From the very 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 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".:239
As part of the total war effort, the regime established a group known as the Reconstruction Campaign. Members of this group enjoyed exemption from conscription and were instead sent into the countryside to work on the farms to 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 further help finance 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 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.Military volunteers amassing at Azadi Sport Complex in Tehran.
In 1981, severe civil unrest broke out 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.:250 The MEK started an assassination campaign that had killed hundreds of regime officials by the fall of 1981.:251 On 28 June 1981, the MEK assassinated the secretary-general of the Islamic Republican Party, Mohammad Beheshti, and killed the President, Mohammad-Ali Rajai, on 30 August.:251
In September 1981, street battles again raged between the MEK and the Revolutionary Guard.:251 Thousands of left-wing Iranians (many of whom were not associated with the MEK) were shot and hanged by the government in the aftermath.:251 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.
In addition to the open civil conflict with the MEK, the Iranian government was faced with an Iraqi-supported rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan, which was gradually put down through a campaign of systematic repression. Anti-war student demonstrations also 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 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, Iranian morale had begun to crumble, reflected in the failure of several government campaigns to recruit "martyrs" for the front. Israeli historian Efraim Karsh points to the decline in morale in 1987–88 as being a major factor 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:252
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?:252
Bazargan went to criticize Khomeini for the war, which Bazargan stated was bankrupting Iran, and slaughtering its youth for no good purpose.:252Comparison of Iraqi and Iranian military strength Main article: Order of battle during the Iran–Iraq War
At the beginning of the war, Iraq held a clear advantage in armour, while both nations were roughly equal in terms of artillery. The gap only widened as the war went on. Iran started with a stronger air force, but over time, the balance of power reversed in Iraq's favour. Estimates for 1980 and 1987 were:
|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+|
During the war, Iraq was regarded by the West (specifically the United States) and Soviet Union as a counterbalance to post-revolutionary Iran.:119 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.:119, 198–199 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.:185
In addition, the Soviet Union hoped to use the prospect of reducing arms supplies to Iraq as leverage for forming a Soviet-Iranian alliance.:197 The basis of American policy was described by Bulloch and Morris as follows:
Part of the American dilemma in the Persian 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" 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 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 in the Gulf".Iran, in other words, should be befriended if possible, but must above, be contained.:142–143
The support of Iraq took the form of technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment and satellite intelligence to Iraq, as well as chemical weapons. 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 official ambiguity towards which side to support was summed up by Henry Kissinger when the American statesman remarked that "it's a pity they both can't lose." The Americans and the British also either blocked or watered down U.N. resolultions condemning the Iraqis for using chemical weapons against the Iranians and their own Kurdish citizens.
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".:178 Despite that, the Americans favored a Ba'athist Iraqi victory, and was supported. France, which from the 1970s onwards had been one of Iraq's closest allies, was a major supplier of military hardware to Iraq.:184–185 The French sold weapons equal to the sum of US$5 billion, which comprised well over a quarter of Iraq's total arms stockpile.:184–185 The People's Republic of 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.:185, 187, 188, 192–193
More than 30 countries provided support to Iraq, Iran, or both. Most of the aid went to Iraq. But Iran had a complex clandestine procurement network to obtain munitions and critical materials. Iraq also had an even larger clandestine purchasing network involving 10-12 allied countries, in order to maintain ambiguity over their arms purchases and to circumvent "official restrictions". Also, a number of Arab mercenaries and volunteers from Egypt and Jordan called the Yarmouk Brigade participated in the war alongside Iraqis.
|All countries||International aid to combatants in the Iran–Iraq War|
|United States||United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war||Secret arms sales - see Iran–Contra affair|
|Israel||Israeli support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war||Israeli support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq war. According to senior Mossad Officer, Victor Ostrovsky, Israel supported both Iraq & Iran during the Iran–Iraq war to prolong the war and increase casualties.|
|United Kingdom||British support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Soviet Union||The Soviet Union and the Iran–Iraq War||Soviet support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war||Soviet support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq war|
|People's Republic of China||Chinese support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War||Chinese support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq War|
|France||French support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Kuwait||Kuwait support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Italy||Italian support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|West Germany||West German support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Egypt||Egyptian support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Jordan||Jordanian support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Singapore||Singapore support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war|
|North Korea||North Korean support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq war|
|Yugoslavia||Yugoslav support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war||Yugoslav support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq war|
On 17 May 1987, an Iraqi Mirage F1 attack aircraft launched two Exocet missiles at the USS 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, killing 37 crewmembers and leaving 21 injured. Whether or not Iraqi leadership authorized the attack is still unknown. 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. Due to the extensive political and military cooperation between the Iraqis and Americans by 1987, the attack had little effect on relations between the two countries.U.S. military actions toward Iran
U.S. attention was focused on isolating Iran as well as maintaining freedom of navigation, criticizing Iran's mining of international waters, and sponsored U.N. 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 were damaged, and five Iranian warships and gunboats were sunk. An American helicopter also crashed. These actions and others led to the International Court of Justice case Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), which was eventually dismissed in 2003.U.S. shoots down civilian airliner Main article: Iran Air Flight 655A 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 on 3 July 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board. The American government claimed 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 Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles. At the time, the captain of the Vincennes 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.
In 1996 the U.S. expressed regret for the loss of innocent life.Iraq
Among major powers, the United States began to pursue policies in favour of 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.
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. Some transactions may have involved people, shipping, and manufacturing in as many as 10 countries.
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.
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.Iran
While the United States directly fought Iran, citing freedom of navigation as a major casus belli, it also indirectly supplied some weapons to Iran as part of a complex and illegal program that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. These secret sales were partly to help secure the release of hostages held in Lebanon, and also to make money from the sales to help the Contras in Nicaragua. This arms for hostages agreement turned into a major scandal nearly resulting in the downfall of the Reagan administration.
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 wanted deniability.. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya and the People's Republic of China were arms suppliers and supporters of Iran as well.Both countries
Besides the United States 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 4x4 vehicles, BO-105 Helicopters, explosives and ammunition to Iraq. A research party discovered that an unexploded chemical Iraqi warhead in Iran was manufactured in Spain.
Although neither side acquired any weapons from Turkey, both sides enjoyed Turkish civilian help during the 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 dependency, 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.Financial support
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.
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 Ohio branch.
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 See also: Halabja poison gas attack and Iraqi chemical weapons programVictims of Halabja poison gas attack. Chemical weapons used by Iraq killed and injured numerous Iranians and Kurds.Iranian soldiers had to use full PPE in front line of Iran-Iraq War
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.
According to Iraqi documents, assistance in developing chemical weapons was obtained from firms in many countries, including the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France.
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.Halabja poison gas attack in 1988
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 Watch between 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 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 Iraqi mustard gas is in 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.Bodies of Iranian students killed in an Iraqi Bomber Attack on a school in Borujerd, 10 January 1987.
The Iran–Iraq War was also the first and only conflict in the history of warfare in which both forces used Ballistic Missiles against each other. Iran also used combat drones during this was (Mohajer I), fitted with 6 RPG-7's, and flying up to 700 sorties.
This war also saw the only confirmed air-to-air helicopter battles in the history of warfare, with Iraqi Mi-25s flying against Iranian AH-1J SeaCobras on numerous occasions. The first instance of these helicopter "dogfights" was on the starting day of the war (22 September 1980): two Iranian SeaCobras crept up on two Mi-25s and hit them with TOW, wire-guided anti-tank 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.Human wave
Iran's government infamously used 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 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 , 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 as baseeji, 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"A map indicating the attacks on civilian areas of Iran, Iraq and Kuwait during the "War of the Cities".
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-Hussein improved 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, partly because Baghdad was closer to the Iranian border and Iran used more air sorties, but also because their readiness rate was in decline. In October 1986, Iraqi aircraft began to attack civilian passenger trains and aircraft 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 in Borujerd 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".AftermathDamage to a mosque in KhoramshahrIranian Martyr Cemetery in YazdAn Iraqi Mil Mi-25, brought down during the Iran–Iraq War, on display at a Military museum in Tehran
The Iran–Iraq War was extremely costly in lives and material, the deadliest war ever fought between developing countries. 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 led 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 had a marked effect also on the scientific and technological advancement of the involved countries: Iraq's productivity in the field collapsed and has not yet recovered; Kuwait's scientific output was initially slowed and later on became stagnant; Iran, on the other hand, experienced a scientific revival and as of 2010 has the fastest scientific growth rate in the world.
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 began to be released in 1990, and some 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 Iraqi government commemorated the war with various monuments, including the Hands of Victory and the Al-Shaheed Monument, both in Baghdad.
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 American intelligence that was made 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.
That 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 ha 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 in Resolution 620 (1988), adopted on 26 August 1988.
In 2005, the new government of Iraq apologized to Iran for starting the war.Arguments that Iran, not Iraq, was the aggressor
John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt dispute the conventional assessment that Iraq was the aggressor in the war. In an essay titled "Can Saddam Be Contained?", they argued that Iran took the first military action through its repeated cross-border attacks on Iraq. They went on to say that Iraq's response "was essentially defensive", noting:
Given their history of animosity, it is not surprising that Saddam welcomed the Shah’s ouster in 1979. Indeed, Iraq went to considerable lengths to foster good relations with Iran’s revolutionary leadership. Saddam did not try to exploit the turmoil in Iran to gain strategic advantage over his neighbor and made no attempt to reverse his earlier concessions, even though Iran did not fully comply with the terms of the 1975 agreement. The Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was determined to extend his revolution across the Islamic world, starting with Iraq. By late 1979, Tehran was pushing hard to get the Kurdish and Shi’ite populations in Iraq to revolt and topple Saddam, and Iranian operatives were actively trying to assassinate senior Iraqi officials. Border clashes became increasingly frequent by April 1980, largely at Iran’s instigation. Facing a grave threat to his regime but aware that Iran’s military readiness had been temporarily disrupted by the revolution, Saddam launched a limited war against his bitter foe on September 22, 1980.
Walt and Mearsheimer also quote military analyst Efraim Karsh as saying that "the war began because the weaker state, Iraq, attempted to resist the hegemonic aspirations of its stronger neighbor, Iran, to reshape the regional status quo according to its own image". Foreign policy analyst Robin Wright notes that Iran responded to Hussein's unilateral concessions and withdrawal in 1982 by invading Iraq and declaring "There are no conditions. The only condition is that the regime in Baghdad must fall and must be replaced by an Islamic Republic." Conservative commentator Jude Wanniski, in a piece pointing out that Iran launched the first cross-border attacks (although Iraq was the first to declare war and invade), claimed: "As for who started the war, you need only ask yourself why Saddam would take on a country three times the size of Iraq, 60 million to 20 million, without ever showing the slightest intent of carrying the fight to Tehran. When the escalating skirmishing grew into open war, the Iraqi army moved several dozen miles into Iran and stopped, seemingly ready to come to terms." The New York Times reported: "Some experts say the new Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, agitated for a religious war to incite Iraq's large Shi'ite population to rebellion." MAJ Dexter Teo Kian Hwee, in the Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, pointed out that "most countries" agreed at the time to "label Iran as the aggressor" and that no one accused Iraq of responsibility for the war until after it invaded Kuwait. Hwee also wrote that "Iraq had declared truces and ceasefires a few times, and on occasions unilaterally, hoping to end the war early...Finally, in early 1988, Iraq sought to end the war through an escalation of the war effort. To achieve this, the Iraqis used chemical weapons on Halabja, recaptured the Fao peninsula and drove the Iranian forces out of Majnoon islands. Suddenly, the Iraqis seemed 'alive and rejuvenated' to continue the war effort, while the Iranians seemed to have lost their initial zest. Yet, when Iran accepted UN Resolution 598 in July 1988, Iraq readily agreed to the ceasefire and abided to the resolution accordingly".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.