The Iran-Iraq War: Struggle Without End
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR
The Iran-Iraq War:
Struggle Without End
Major Martin J. Martinson, USMC
2 April 1984
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
Author : MARTINSON, Martin J., Major, U. S. Marine Corps
Title : The Iran-Iraq War: Struggle Without End
Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Date : 1 April 1984
The purpose of this paper is to describe the war between Iran and Iraq
which commenced in earnest on September 22, 1980. Its theme is that the war
is a continuation of struggle which has occurred between the peoples of
these two countries for centuries. The war has settled into an immobile
style of trench warfare but it still has the capability to rapidly escalate
and to involve the super-powers.
The first chapter describes the religious, geo-political, historical,
and personal factors that have contributed to this present war. Religious
friction between the Shiite and Sunni Moslems; ethnic friction between the
Persians and the Arabs; personal enmity between the Ayatollah Khomeini and
President Saddam Hussein; and disputed borders are just a few examples of
some of the contributing factors.
The second chapter compares the armed forces of the two nations;
describes the main area of operations; and lists the apparent reasons for
Iraq's attack in 1980. The latter part of the chapter recounts the air, sea
and ground attacks of the initial Iraqi invasion until January 5, 1981.
The third chapter recounts the Iranian counter-offensive from January
1981 until the Spring of 1982. The latter part of this chapter analyzes
some of the successes and failures of the two antagonists using the
framework of the nine principles of war.
The fourth chapter begins with the Iranian offensive of July 1982
and continues through mid-1983. Events of the past year-and-a-half have
been very similar to the trench warfare of World War I. The major portion
of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of the support that different
countries are providing to the adversaries and the reasons behind this
Chapter 5 discusses some of the developments that have come out of the
war. The nature of infantry, armor and artillery tactics has been modified
by the environment of this war. The Iranians and Iraqis have resorted to
the 19th century employment of 20th century weapon systems. As an example,
tank engagements are now generally conducted at ranges of 200-300 meters
because the tank crews don't understand the sighting systems or because the
systems are inoperable.
The final chapter proposes two scenarios that could develop from the
war and speculates how each could involve the super-powers. The conclusion
is made that this struggle will continue to have potential international
ramifications unless drastic measures are taken by the West to reduce the
Most of the sources for this paper were articles in books, magazines
and newspapers. There has been a decided lack of any primary sources and
published press reports have often been speculative because of reporters'
lack of access to the battlefield. As the war is still very much in
progress, there have been few final works published on the subject.
Chapter 1. Causes of the Iranian-Iraqi War 3
Chapter 2. The War: The Iraqi: Attack 19
Force Strengths 23
Theater of Operations 32
The Ground Attack 35
The Naval Battle 37
Air Operations 38
Chapter 3. The Iranian Response 41
Chapter 4. The Modern Western Front 56
Chapter 5. Developments From the War 69
Ground Tactics 74
Air Forces 76
Chapter 6. Impact on International Relations 80
Chronology of Significant Events 90
Annotated Bibliography 100
LIST OF MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
1. Disputed Border Areas 14
2. 1980 Iranian Armed Forces 24
3. 1980 Iraqi Armed Forces 25
4. Theater of Operations 33
5. Iraqi Ground Attack - September 1980 40
6. Iranian Offensive - September 1981 43
7. Iranian Offensive - November-December 1981 45
8. Iranian Offensive - March-April 1982 49
9. Iranian Offensive - September-October 1982 58
10. Iranian Offensive - November 1982, February
and April 1983 61
11. Iranian Offensive - July 1983 63
12. Iranian Offensive - October 1983 64
This research paper is titled "Struggle Without End" to underscore
the fact that the causes of the present struggle between Iran and Iraq have
existed for centuries and will likely continue for as long. A comment made
recently to the author by a member of an Arabic, Persian Gulf country
provides further insight into the conflict. The individual stated that it
was not until the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power that Arabs generally
became aware of the Shiite-Sunni Muslim conflict. The possibility exists
that forces within the Gulf have used the schism between the two sects as a
vehicle to further their political and economic efforts. A similar
situation exists in Northern Ireland where religious, economic and political
causes have become intermingled.
The Middle East Journal was a most valuable source in the conduct of
the research. In addition to providing a day-by-day chronology of the war,
it referenced other possible sources such as newspapers and Foreign
Broadcast Information Service reports. The single most valuable individual
was Mr. Anthony Cordesman who in writing for Armed Forces Journal
International not only analyzed the conduct of the war but also proved very
accurate in his predictions of the war's course.
The forty-two month old war between Iran and Iraq has caused hundreds
of thousands of casualties and it has reduced the economy of Iraq to a
shambles. It has also threatened the oil supply that the West so
desperately needs for survival. However, because the war is deeply-rooted
in religious belief, it promises to be bitterly fought and to continue for
an indeterminate length of time.
The super-powers had little or no hand in the start of the war and have
had less effect on its continuance. The two adversaries, Iran and Iraq, are
being supplied by third countries who have their own reasons for seeing the
conflict continue. Unless and until the United States takes a greater part
in the attempt to get the two parties to the negotiating table, the war will
continue, and the chances of an international conflict will increase.
Author's Note: This topic is a contemporary one; events occur daily which,
if included in this paper, would ensure that it could never be completed.
Hence, the research ended with February 1984. This was necessary to enable
me to organize my material, analyze it, and write the final draft. I
recognize that this time limitation results in my not addressing the March
1984 battles with their reports of 500,000 men engaged in deadly conflict,
the recent charges of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and Baghdag's
claims of assaults on shipping in the Persian Gulf. This is unfortunate,
but time constraints forced this limitation. I also note that the events
of Spring 1984 are in themselves another effort; perhaps in the 1984-85
Academic Year, and officer in the War Since 1945 Seminar will work on them
and produce a companion paper to mine.
Causes of the Iranian-Iraqi War
The current struggle between neighboring Iran and Iraq, which began in
earnest on 22 September 1980, is a contemporary resurfacing of tension that
has existed between these two countries for over sixty years. The conflict
between the peoples of these two states dates back to the death of Mohammed
and, before that, to the rise of the Arab, Persian and Turkish Empires.
The purpose of this research effort is to highlight some of the causes,
old and new, of the present conflict; to recount the general course of the
war; to discuss the development of tactics and weapons; and to discuss some
of the implications of the war on international relations.
In this first chapter,I shall discuss: the demographics of the two
nations; some religious aspects of the area of conflict; the personalities
of the two leaders; and the geo-political situation of the two countries as
it bears on this war. Information contained herein is from many sources,
all of which are unclassified and most of which were written within the past
three years. As the conflict is still occurring, much of what has been
written is speculative and cannot be absolutely confirmed. Estimates, such
as casualty figures, are based on reports by the two adversaries, reports
from observers other than from the two warring nations, or on the analyses
conducted by sources in the United States. Multiple sources are used where
the accounts differ greatly and the opinions of United States analysts are
mentioned when they are available.
The majority of present-day Iranians are descendants of the Persian
Empire. The language of the approximately 35,000,000 Iranians is Farsi
(Persian), an Indo-European tongue. There are, however, sizable portions
of the population in the Khuzistan Province and along the Persian Gulf Coast
who are not Persians; who speak a language dissimilar from Farsi; and who
are descendants of the Arabs.
The population of Iraq was about 11,500,000 in 1976 and is composed
primarily of an Arabic-speaking, semitic people. There are, as in Iran,
sizable portions of the population that do not fit into the general mold.
Large communities of Persians or their descendants live in Iraq. Between
forty and seventy thousand of these Persians were expelled in 1980 by Saddam
The capital cities of both states are the most heavily populated and
economically the most important in the two countries. Baghdad, the capital
of Iraq, is home to over 2.8 million Iraqis and is the location of over half
of the country's industry. Tehran, the capital of Iran, is inhabited by
almost 4.5 million Iranians and is economically significant but not nearly
so much as is Baghdad.
The Persian Gulf (or as it is known, the Arabian Gulf), as the land of
Abraham, Moses, and Mohammed can be described, is the home for three great
monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, one of
these, Islam, has been clearly dominant in this region.
Islam is the youngest of the three religions and dates back to
Mohammed's call in 610 A.D. to preach the truth concerning God, Allah.
Mohammed may not have intended to found a new religion but rather, may have
only been trying to call Arabs back to the worship of the God of Abraham.
Regardless of his motives, Mohammed was the founder of an entirely new
religion. However, just as there are many variations of Christianity, so
there are many variations of Islam, many of which can be attributed to
different interpretations of Mohammed's words. Two of the great sects of
Islam that are of particular importance in this region, and therefore to
this study, are the Shiite Moslems and the Sunni Moslems. There is not
enough space available to fully explore the origins of these two sects but
some highlights of the major differences--differences that have led to
various violent conflicts since the 7th century A.D., will be given.
One major cause of religious conflict is the dispute over the rightful
successor to Mohammed after his death in 632 A.D. This disagreement has
grown into theological, legal and cultural differences between the Shiites
and the Sunnis in the centuries since then.
The Shiites believe that the successors to Mohammed, the Imams, are
descended from Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law. The Imams are regarded as
infallible teachers and the only source of religious instruction and
guidance. This reliance on the Imams for instruction and guidance is
carried from the Shiites' religious life into their daily life, such as
governmental institutions. In fact, for the Shiites there really isn't any
aspect of their lives that doesn't come under their belief that the Imams
are the infallible source of guidance. There were twelve Imams following
Mohammed's death. The last Imam, the Twelth Imam, disappeared in 878 A.D.
without leaving an heir. While awaiting the return of the Twelth Imam, the
early Shiites decided to carry on the line by designating intermediate
Imams. Thus, the Shiites have developed a succession of Imams, in a descent
from Ali. The Shiites teach also that the faithful must believe in all of
the Imams, especially the Imam of their time.
The Sunnis, the orthodox followers of Mohammed, believe that the line
from Mohammed passed to his daughter, Fatima, who married Ali. The Sunnis
discount the combined temporal and religious leadership of the Imam. They
believe that the caliph, the ruler and leader of the Sunnis, must protect
and maintain the faith and territory of Islam, but he is not a religious
leader. Thus, the Sunnis are loyal to the duly-empowered caliph while the
Shiites are loyal to the Imam since his wisdom is believed to be inherited
from Mohammed. This is similar to the controversy between the Catholics who
believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of religion and the other
Christian beliefs that the Pope is not infallible. The similarity can be
extended in that there have been many wars fought in the name of religion,
but which have also really had economic and political differences as the
main causes and objectives of the states engaged in them.
The concept of "jihad" or "holy war" waged in the "Way of God" is also
important to our understanding of the current conflict. The original
concept of "jihad" required believers in Islam to continue to spread the
teachings of Mohammed in the name of their religion, but only to carry the
struggle into the camps of the pagans (or those who did not worship a god).
In other words, followers of Islam were to wage the "jihad" but not with
each other, nor with Christians or Jews, since these peoples were "of the
BOOK" and were exempt from the teachings of or conversion to Islam.2
However, if a "jihad" were declared, and it could be declared by a caliph,
the responsibility to wage the "jihad" fell upon the entire community and
not just upon a few individual Muslims.
For all intents and purposes, both sides have declared the present war
to be a "holy" one. President Hussein made the declaration on November 9,
1980 saying that the purpose of the war was to "defend the ideals of the
message of Islam".3 Although the Iranians have not apparently made an
outright declaration that a holy war is in effect, there are numerous
references to the Iraqis as being infidels. Thus, it would seem that the
Iraqis are not considered by the Iranians to be the "people of the Book",
and that the struggle to spread the true Islamic faith should be taken into
Iraq. One other significant aspect of the "jihad" is that many Muslims
believe that they are guaranteed paradise if they were to die during their
fight in such a struggle. From this understanding of "jihad" and its demand
upon and rewards offered to the individual, we are better able to understand
why so many Iranians and Iraqis give-up their lives so freely.
About 80% of the world's Muslims adhere to the Sunni faith, but most of
the Persian Gulf Muslims are Shiites. This disparity is due to the fact
that between 93 to 98% of the Muslims in Iran, the most-populous Persian
Gulf state, and a little more than half of the Muslims in Iraq, the second
most-populous state, are Shiites. Excluding Iran and Iraq, Sunni Muslims
are in the majority in the Persian Gulf states.4 The religious dispute is
personified in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who is the political and
religious leader of Iran and Saddam Hussein who is the Sunni-Muslim leader
of a country with a Shiite Muslim majority.
The leaders of the other Arabic, Sunni-Muslim Gulf states fear the
regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranian Revolution and the following
Iranian-Iraqi War have provided the example for a conflict between
sophisticated, secular, modern ideas and states and puritanical, religious,
traditional, zealous regimes and societies. Seen here, also, is the
conflict between those interested in continued industrialization and a
secular state and those committed to reducing Western influence and
returning to traditional values. It was also feared that Shiite-inspired
nationalism would cause pro-Western monarchs and shaikhs to come under
increasing pressure. Of considerable irony is the fact that the Ayatollah's
successful,fourteen-year struggle against the Shah was conducted partly from
Iraq and that the Ayatollah now threatens Iraq from his base in Iran.
Just as the tone of American politics can take on the personality of
the President or of the dominant leaders, so, too, can that of foreign
governments assume the personalities of their leaders. Strong, charismatic
men who arrive on the scene at a precipitous time are able to exhort tens of
millions of people into doing their bidding. Who can deny the power of
Hitler, or Stalin or F.D.R., or any one of the dozens of men and women who
have caused the seemingly impossible to happen? Such is the case in Iraq
and much more so in Iran. To more fully understand the conflict that exists
between these two nations, we must more fully understand the characters of
the two protagonists leading each state.
President Saddam Hussein al-Takriti was born in Tikrit, Iraq on April
28, 1937 into a less-than-wealthy peasant family. From the time that he was
still in Tikrit, a number of significant events took place which would have
an indelible impact on his future career. Among these occurrences were some
that caused Hussein to participate in nationalist activities which had as
their goal the elimination of foreign influence, not only in Iraq, but from
all Arab lands.
An important milestone in Saddam Hussein's life was his decision to
continue his studies in Baghdad. Staying in Baghdad for his education, he
became involved in the activities of the Ba'ath Socialist Party and
participated in the abortive coup of 1956. He escaped arrest and later
became a full-fledged member of the Ba'ath Party. 5
At the age of 22 he experienced another great event in his life. he
participated in the attempted assassination of Abd al-Karim Qasim. Wounded
in the attempt, Hussein fled the country and took refuge in Syria. A year
later he moved to Cairo where he completed his education and became involved
in Egyptian Ba'ath Party politics. He returned to Baghdad in 1963 when the
Iraqi Ba'ath Party seized power and was imprisoned in late 1964 when the
Ba'ath Party was removed from power. He was later released and became a key
Ba'ath Party figure when the Ba'athists seized power again in 1968. Hussein
ascended to the presidency in August 1979 when his long-time mentor,
President al-Bakr, stepped down.
While he lived in Egypt, Hussein had become an admirer of President
Nasser and a proponent of Nasser's attempt to promote Pan-Arabism. Now as
President of Iraq, Hussein has attempted to develop his own brand of
Pan-Arabism and he has surrounded himself with loyal family members and
supporters. To keep internal dissent manageable, he has attempted to enlist
the support of his two main sources of trouble. Hussein has partially
placated the Kurds by promising them an autonomous state and he has gained
the backing of the Imam of Naja. The Imam of Naja is the highest ranking
Shiite in the world and his support was essential in any attempt by Hussein
to quiet the Iraqi Shiites. More importantly, President Hussein has
attempted to establish a personality cult with himself as the center. This
action has put him in direct conflict with another cult-leader, the
The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was born on May 17, 1900 and, until the
time of the Iranian Revolution, he had spent all but four years of his life
in theological study and religious teaching. A long time opponent of the
Shah, Khomeini in 1944 contributed to a book which denounced the monarchy
and in 1963 he publicly opposed the Shah's White Revolution. The White
Revolution, an attempt by the Shah to modernize Iran, included laws that
granted immunity to United States military personnel and which redistributed
land, much of which was in the hands of Khomeini and other mullahs. In 1964
Khomeini was expelled because of his opposition to the government. He first
went to Turkey and later moved to Iraq where, until 1978, he led the exiled
opposition to the Shah. In October 1978, under pressure from the Shah, the
Iraqis forced Khomeini to leave. This time he settled near Paris where he
again established his opposition-in-exile. One of many ironic notes is the
belief that it was not until he was forced to leave Iraq and move to Paris
that Khomeini received the press coverage that has become his trademark.
Were he to have remained in Iraq, he might have just withered on the vine
or continued without initial Western publicity.
Upon the Shah's departure from Iran in February 1979, Khomeini returned
to a tumultuous welcome and immediately set about to establish his idea of
the Islamic state. A national referendum was held, an Islamic constitution
was written and the executions of hundreds of the former-Shah's supporters
began. Khomeini attempted to model Revolutionary Iran after an Islamic
state that ended in 661 A.D., calling for rule of the country by Islamic
theologians.6 Therefore, Khomeini set out to establish the religious leaders
as the sources of power in Iran. The mullahs were voted into office and the
country of Iran and all of its resources were soon devoted to carrying-out
the will of its religious zealot leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The leaders of Iran and Iraq have grievances against the other state.
The 1975 Algiers Accord was forced upon President Hussein by the Shah and in
1980 Tehran attempted to establish the Al Dawa Party in Iraq. The ultimate
goal of the Shiite Al Dawa Party was the overthrow of the Ba'athist
government of Iraq. The result of this action by the Al Dawa Party was the
ousting of between 40,000 and 70,000 Al Dawa Party members from Iraq. There
is some suggestion that President Hussein used the attempted subversion by
the Al Dawa as an excuse for doing some early spring cleaning before the war
Khomeini too has his grievances. First, in 1978, President Hussein was
coerced into exiling Khomeini to France from the holy city of Najaf, Iraq.
Secondly, the Ayatollah has been unable to have the spiritual headquarters
of the Shiite sect moved from Najaf to Qom in Iran.7 Najaf, the holiest of
Shiite cities, is the location of the governing religious board of the Najaf
college, the burial place of Ali, and the location of the Imam Khou'i, the
highest authority in the Shiite world. The Imam opposed the movement of the
religious board because he saw it as an attempt by Khomeini to assume
overall leadership of the Shiite world.
There is some support for the Imam's suspicions. Shortly after
Khomeini's return to Iran, there was an effort to have him proclaimed as the
"Hidden Imam"--the Imam who had disappeared in 878 A.D.8 To have Khomeini
proclaimed as the long-awaited Mahdi, the Imam Khou'i would have had to make
the declaration to that effect. Declaring that the Ayatollah Khomeini was
the "Hidden Imam" would have been tantamount to declaring that Khomeini was
a divine being.
The Imam Khou'i refused to make the declaration for several reasons.
First, a "divine" Khomeini would have drastically reduced the power and
prestige of the Imam Khou'i who, as mentioned earlier, is presently the
highest-ranking Shiite. Secondly, such a declaration might have set off
intra-Muslim clashes between Khomeini supporters and his detractors.
Thirdly, the Imam Khou'i is an Arab and with President Hussein's constant
support and guidance he has been able to resist the Ayatollah Khomeini's
efforts to move the Shiite headquarters to Iran.9
Iran and Iraq, as modern countries, are fairly recent additions to the
international scene, but their territorial struggles date back at least to
the sixteenth century. To fully understand the present conflict the
significance of the Shatt-al-Arab River and the geo-politics of the region
must be understood. Figure 1.
The Shatt-al-Arab is the estuary of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and
it forms the Iranian-Iraqi boundary from its mouth on the Persian Gulf to a
point almost halfway between Khorramshahr and Basra, a distance of about
fifty-five miles. Before 1847, the Shatt-al-Arab was an inland river under
the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. In 1847, the weakening Ottoman
Empire, under the Treaty of Ezerum, formally ceded to the Persian Empire the
city of Khorramshahr, the island of Abadan and the anchorage and land on the
eastern shore of the Shatt. Also, freedom of navigation throughout the
Shatt was guaranteed to Persian vessels.10
This was, however, not the final decision on the boundary between the
two countries. Joint Commissions studied the issue and protocols were
signed in 1911 and again in 1914. The Constantinople Protocol of 1913-14
fixed the border on the eastern bank of the river and gave some islands in
the river to Iran, which was the name given by the Shah to the Persian
Empire. Iran, after World War I, claimed that the 1913-14 Protocol was no
longer valid because one of the signatories, the Ottoman Empire, no longer
existed. Iraq, which had evolved from the defeated Ottoman Empire, felt
that the Protocol of 1913-14 was still valid. So many border clashes
occurred between the two nations that the issue was brought before the
League of Nations for resolution. In the resultant Treaty of 1937, Iraq
lost control of the eastern shore when the boundary was moved to the
"thalweg" or middle of the river. Iran also gained sovereignty over the
five miles of the Shatt that flowed in front of Abadan. The city and port
of Khorramshahr, Abadan and the land and anchorage on the east bank, all of
Click here to view image
which had been part of the Ottoman Empire before 1847, went to Iran. Both
parties claimed that they had been forced into signing the treaty by the
British. These claims had some basis in fact but they were also to become
convenient excuses for later violations of the treaty.
Conflict erupted again in 1965 over whether the boundary should be
established at the "thalweg" or at the eastern shore. At that time Iraq was
beset with internal problems and in 1969 Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the then
Shah of Iran, abrogated the Treaty of 1937 through a show of force. Iraq,
as it was militarily inferior and was occupied with internal strife, could
not counter the Iranian moves.
Border conflict occurred again in 1975. Iran, which had been
supporting Kurdish insurgents in Iraq for many years agreed to withdraw its
support for the insurgents and to settle its other disagreements with Iraq.
The underlying reasons for Iran withdrawing its support from the Iraqi Kurds
were quite selfish and, yet, very understandable. First, were the Iraqi
Kurds to gain autonomy, they could very easily incite their brother Kurds in
Iran to renew the struggle for their own independence and lead to the
creation of the new state of Kurdestan. Such an internal struggle would
have been as costly for Iran as it had been for Iraq. Secondly, were the
Iraqis to declare war on Iran because of the latter's support for the Iraqi
Kurds, it could only have damaged both countries. However, the Iraqis,
having lost over 60,000 casualties during the Kurdish Insurgency and being
faced with a stronger potential adversary were forced to agree to the
re-demarcation of the boundary, again on Iranian terms.11
The resultant agreement, the Algiers Accord of March 6, 1975 benefitted
both parties. Iran received Iraq's acceptance that the common boundary was
at the thalweg of the river and that Iraq would no longer support Iranian
dissidents and Arab and Baluch secessionists. Iraq received Iranian
agreement to withdraw support of the Iraqi Kurds and agreement by Iran to
uphold the status quo of the frontier lands.12 This status quo agreement
centered around the mutual exchange of territory that each side felt was
necessary for defense. Although the agreement benefitted both parties, it
was Iraq that lost control of the whole Shatt-al-Arab which is considered by
them to be an inland river.
However, 1979 was to see a major turn of events. Saddam Hussein had
been one of the early supporters of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini and his
attempts to overthrow the Shah, but Iraq had been forced to accept several
unfavorable treaties because of their inferior military strength. President
Hussein reasoned that were the Ayatollah to overthrow the Shah and were the
Iranian military thrown into disarray, then Iraq would have a chance to
dictate the terms of a new border treaty. So in 1979, Saddam Hussein
publicly welcomed the Iranian Revolution, but privately he maintained his
interest on the boundary dispute between the two nations.
A second factor leading to the present conflict was the geo-political
friction between the two countries. Iran occupies a strategic position in
the Middle East. It is a large country of some 1,648,000 square kilometers.
Blessed with coastlines on the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman,
Iran is also a potential land-bridge between the Soviet Union and warm water
ports. Furthermore, Iran can potentially control the important waterways of
the Straits of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.
Iraq, however, is a country of about 438,000 square kilometers and is
almost completely land-locked. With only about fifty miles of coastline,
almost all of which is unsuitable for shipping, Iraq must depend primarily
on its main port of Basra which is almost one hundred miles up the
Shatt-al-Arab River. The Iraqi naval base of Umm Qasar is on the border
with Kuwait and is only accessible to the sea through a narrow channel. The
mouth of the Shatt-al-Arab and any oil that Iraq wishes to move to the Gulf
are under the guns of Iranian naval bases and artillery. Thus, the
Shatt-al-Arab has become an issue between the two states. The Iraqis are
dependent upon the free, unrestricted use of the Shatt-al-Arab and view the
Shatt as an interior river. They feel that the boundary line should be on
the east bank of the Shatt, thereby placing all of the water of the river in
Iraqi territory. The Iraqis claim further that any vessel that travels on
the Shatt-al-Arab can do so only with Iraqi permission and that they must
sail under the Iraqi flag. It was this issue of requesting permission and
flying the Iraqi flag that the Iranians chose to contest in 1969. Iranian
ships under their own flag and escorted by Iranian naval vessels and
aircraft sailed throughout the Shatt, daring the Iraqis to respond. Iraq
could not answer the challenge and it was then that President Hussein was
forced to accept the de facto international status of the Shatt.
Finally, the conflict's origins in economic terms must be discussed.
The source of power in the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf area is oil. The oil
has been underneath the surface for a very long time, but it has gained its
importance only within this century. In 1972, Iraq had only about 36
billion barrels of oil in reserve as compared to about 55 billion barrels
for Iran.13 Compounding this reliance on oil was the fact that Iraq's economy
was not nearly as widely diversified as was that of Iran. Thus, Iran with
greater oil reserves and with a more diversified economy, was not as reliant
on petroleum for its national survival as was Iraq. The addition of another
fact will help to explain Iraq's actions in September of 1980. Most of
Iran's oil production and reserves are located in the province of Khuzistan.
The inhabitants of Khuzistan are Arabs, although they are of Iranian
citizenship. As an excuse to move into Khuzistan and seize the Iranian oil
reserves which he needed badly, President Hussein was to claim that he was
attempting to reunite these Iranian-controlled Arabs under an Arab nation.14
Therefore, we can see that there are several causes for the present
conflict. The Persian-Arab friction is centuries old, while the
Shiite-Sunni religious struggle is one that has flared for over 1300 years.
Of more recent vintage are the disputes over the national boundaries and
control of the petroleum reserves. Most recently, personal bitterness
(along with ambitions) between the two leaders has developed. Any one of
these causes or none of them may be behind the war. Whatever the reason,
any chance of success in ending the war and of preventing future bloodshed
must have as its basis the simultaneous addressal of all the causes.
However, one must realize that any such agreement may be temporary and not a
final resolution of the issues.
The War: The Iraqi Attack
The present conflict, which began in earnest on September 22, 1980, was
not the first and it surely will not be the last struggle between these two
countries. The current conflict continues a tradition of war between the
Iranians and the Iraqis, or the Shiites and the Sunnis,people who have been
at odds with each other for centuries. Now elevated to a "jihad" or holy
war, there seems little likelihood that the struggle will end unless there
are some major changes made in the region. The struggle between these two
countries becomes especially important with the possibility that it might
actively involve the United States and the Soviet Union in a greatly
This chapter will discuss the first phase of the war covering the
period September 22, 1980 until January 5, 1981. It will follow the
development of the war and in doing so concentrate on the following areas:
why the Iraqis chose to open actual hostilities; the force strengths of the
two nations; the theater of operations; and the reasons behind some of the
tactical and strategic decisions.
The West will never really be certain of the motives or reasons behind
Iraq's decision to invade Iran. Observers and scholars can draw inferences
or speculate as to the thought processes but until the war is ended and the
records are studied in detail no one will know for sure why they attacked.
We can, however, read, study and learn from the successes and failures of
the two countries, states which might just be future adversaries or allies
of the United States.
On September 28, 1980, six days after the heavy fighting started,
President Hussein outlined Iraq's initial war aims. He demanded that Iran:
"recognize Iraq's legitimate and sovereign rights over its land and waters"
(the Shatt-al-Arab); "refrain from interfering in Iraq's internal affairs"
(as well as those of other Arab states); "adhere to the principle of good
neighborly relations, and return to the United Arab Emirates the
Iranian-occupied islands in the Persian Gulf."1 These were the stated
reasons for the attack. As the "friction of war" increased and as the tide
of battle changed, the Iraqis modified their stated purpose for attacking;
Baghdad later claimed that Iraq had moved to check Iranian expansionism.
Mr. Anthony Cordesman, in his article in Armed Forces Journal deduced
that there were several reasons or objectives behind Iraq's decision to move
when it did. First, the Iraqis attacked to secure the secular Ba'ath regime
in Iraq from the Ayatollah's declared intent to overthrow it and to prevent
the Iranians from resurrecting the Kurdish Insurgency.2 It should be
remembered that Saddam Hussein, as a Sunni Muslim, is a member of a minority
religious sect in his own country. The majority of Iraqis are Shiites, the
religion of the overwhelming majority of Iranians. Hussein feared that the
revolutionary zeal of Iran could spill or be forced across the border and
lead to his overthrow.
President Hussein had sufficient cause to be concerned about Iranian
attempts to oust the Ba'athist Party. Inspired by his own revolution, the
Ayatollah Khomeini had called for an Islamic Revolution in Iraq and had
attempted to subvert the Shiite population. To foment this revolution,
Tehran radio treated the Iraqi population to Iranian rhetoric on a daily
basis and exhorted the Shiite Iraqis to overthrow the Ba'ath Party and to
fight for a voice in their own government.
A second reason for the Iraqi attack was to secure Iraq's borders from
a long series of military incidents and to claim the 200-300 square
kilometer of territory near Qasr-e-Shirin and Mehran.3 These towns, which
cover the main Iranian approach into Iraq, were promised to Iraq by the Shah
in the Treaty of 1975. The Iraqis were not sure that the present Iranian
government would live up to the promises of its predecessor. One must keep
in mind that the back and forth attempts to demarcate the boundary began in
the early 19th century and that the moves were generally made by the party
that saw itself able to arbitrate from a position of strength.
A third reason for Iraq's attack was to redress the Algiers Accord of
1975 and to give Iraq total control of the waters of the Shatt-al-Arab.4
Since the Shatt is Iraq's lifeline, any force that could interdict the Shatt
would be analagous to someone putting pressure on a person's carotid artery.
Loss of blood through the carotid will result in unconsciousness of an
individual--and loss of the Shatt could result in economic unconsciousness
for Iraq. Iraq also wanted to demonstrate that it and not Iran was the
dominant power in the Gulf area and to enhance Iraq's position at a meeting
of non-aligned nations. For many years, Iran under the Shah had been the
Gulf's police force and regional policy-maker. It was Iran, with American
support and its own tremendous oil wealth, which controlled and directed
actions in and around the Gulf.
But by 1980 the Shah was gone, along with United States support for
Iran, and it seemed like the opportune time for Iraq to make its move. Iraq
had long claimed that Iran had illegally occupied Arab territory, namely the
east bank of the Shatt, the province of Khuzistan (called Arabestan by the
Iraqis), and three Gulf islands (Abu Moussa, Big Tumb and Little Tumb).
To gain support from its Arab neighbors in the fight against Iran, Iraq put
on the cloak of Arab protector and claimed that its movement into Iran was
to "protect Iraqi territory and gain recognition of Iraq's right to Iraqi
land and waters". Saddam Hussein had been pressing the issue of the Shatt
since before the Shah's Fall in December 1978, but must have felt that the
time was best in September 1980 for aggressive action.
A fourth objective of Iraq's attack was to destroy Iranian military
power while it was still weakened by the purges associated with its
revolution and while Tehran was still cut-off from supplies and support from
the United States.5 At the time of the attack in 1980, the American hostages
were still being held by the Pasdaran and the outcome of this situation was
uncertain. Iraq was not sure whether Washington would exchange money,
supplies and equipment for the safe return of the captive Americans. The
United States had a great interest in seeing an anti-Soviet power, not
necessarily a pro-Western power, be in the position of the Gulf's policeman.
Then, as today, the Americans and Iraqis were suspicious of each other's
intentions in the Gulf. In 1980, Iraq was viewed by Washington as very much
a Soviet client-state and Baghdad was uncertain whether or not the United
States would resume diplomatic relations and low-key but important support
The Iraqis, as did many other,could not help but believe that the
leadership of Iran was in a shambles. The Iranian military was in a period
of transition. It was converting from a conventional armed force to that of
the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guard and much of the senior leadership had
been purged. Also, the Iranian maintenance and supply systems were
computerized (they were,after all,American systems) and the Iraqis did not
think that the systems would be functional were the Iraqis to move quickly
A fifth objective, closely associated with protecting Saddam Hussein's
regime, was the desire to overthrow the Ayatollah Khomeini and his fellow
mullahs and replace them with a moderate, secular government.6 Were Iraq to
replace Iran as the policeman of the region, Baghdad would need the
acquiessence of Tehran even if it were obtained through coercion. Iran and
Iraq could not both hold the position of regional leader and any
disagreement between the two would only result in weakening the victor of
As mentioned earlier, Iraq is the only Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Country (OPEC) whose exports must either cross another country
(Syria or Turkey) or pass under the guns of a potentially or actually
unfriendly neighbor (Iran). Iraq, as a country, needed freedom of movement
on the Shatt-al-Arab and unrestricted access to and out of the Persian Gulf.
Thus, the final objective, the seizure of the Province of Khuzistan would
provide some measure of the security that Iraq sought.7
Force Strengths (Figures 2 and 3)
The war with Iran was the first major involvement in military
hostilities for the Soviet-equipped and organized Iraqi troops. The Iraqis
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had fought Kurdish Insurgents and had provided limited support against
Israel in 1973 but the attack on Iran was to be their first real test in a
The Iraqi Air Force consisted of about 28,000 personnel and was
supplied, predominantly, with an assortment of Soviet and French aircraft.
The airforce was divided into squadrons of light bombers (IL-28's and
TU-22's); interceptors (115 MiG-21's); fighter/ground attack (F-1 Mirages,
MiG-17/23's and British Jet Provosts); transports (IL-14's, AN
-2/12/24/26's): and helicopters (Alouwttes, Gazelles, Pumas, Super Frelons,
The Iraqi aircraft, for the most part, had less-than-adequate avionics
and could not carry advanced munitions. Most of the attack squadrons and
all of the bomber squadrons had been retained under President Hussein's
control to "protect the palace" and, therefore, had had very little training
with the ground forces. Iraqi pilots had received very limited training in
the Soviet Union and had received no modern air-to-air training in Iraq.
Iraq, generally speaking, lacked both reconnaissance and target analysis
capabilities. The Iraqis also lacked a viable command and control system
for either close air support or for an integrated air defense. Finally,
Iraqi air-intelligence officers had underestimated the strength and
resilience of the Iranian Air Force and the operations officers had
overestimated Iraq's ability to conduct an air war.
The Iranian Air Force, based on its United States training, was an
offensive arm. This was also evidenced by the types and numbers of aircraft
of which it was composed--188 F-4D/E's, 166 F-5E/F's and 77 F-14's.9 In
contrast to the Iraqis'115 air defense aircraft the Iranians had only about
77 aircraft dedicated to that mission. The Iranians did have about fourteen
dedicated reconnaissance aircraft while the Iraqis had none.10 The Iranians
had other distinct advantages: their aircraft had advanced avionics and
could carry "smart bombs"/precision-guided munitions, and they had American-
trained pilots to fly them. Thus, a few Iranian aircraft could achieve
results that many more lesser-equipped Iraqi aircraft could not. In
addition, the Iranian aircraft had much shorter distanced to fly to hit
strategic targets than did the Iraqis. For example, Baghdad and Tehran are
about 450 miles apart, but Baghdad is about 100 miles from the border while
Tehran is about 350 miles from the same boundary. Based on just the
distance and air defense assets between the border and the capitals, the
Iranians would have an easier time reaching their targets.
One final comparison of the two air forces can be made in the area of
operational readiness. The Iranian Air Force was estimated to be about
fifty percent operational while the Iraqis, knowing that they were about to
attack were at maximum operational readiness.11
The Iraqi Navy numbered about 4,000 men and consisted of
submarine-chasers, patrol boats, missile boats, torpedo boats and mine-
sweepers of Soviet, British and Yugoslavian origin. The two main naval
bases were at Basra and Um Qasr, neither of which is in a secure position
The Iraqi Navy was largely ineffective due to a poor state of training
and inadequate Soviet weaponry. Most of the OSA-I's and II's would best be
described as "low C-4" in training and readiness for operations. Realizing
this, the Iraq is reportedly requested Western assistance in 1978 and 1979.12
The Navy could count on little support from the Air Force which had received
no anti-ship training and which could not reach the Iranian naval bases. As
with their air force counterparts, the Iraqi naval officers seem to have
made some serious oversights in evaluating relative strengths and weaknesses
or they chose to overlook some obviously-glaring discrepancies.
The Iranian Navy, although beset with many problems as a result of the
revolution and subsequent religious purges, was still a potent force
vis-a'-vis the Iraqis. The Iranians could man three missile destroyers,
four missile frigates and four corvettes. The Iraqis had no ships of these
types. More importantly, the Iranians had six P-3 Orion aircraft, each
armed with U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Iran's possession of the
Harpoon concerned other countries besides Iraq. The United States, with its
carrier battle groups in and near the Gulf, had to devise equipment and
tactics to counter its own weapon when faced with the possibility of its use
against the American ships. The Iranian Navy could interdict not only
Iraq's lines of supply and communication, but it could attack ships of other
nations anywhere in the Gulf.
The Iraqi Army had about 200,000 men under arms in September 1980, with
another quarter-million in the reserves. It was equipped with almost three
thousand Soviet-built tanks, including about 100 T-72's, approximately 2,500
armored fighting vehicles (AFV's), and about 1,000 tubes of artillery. The
tank force was a mixture of T-34/55/62's and PT-76's of Soviet origin and
some 100 French AMX-30's, of which more were on order. Mechanized forces
included Soviet BTR 50/60/152's, and BMP's, French Panhards and British
Across the border in Iran were approximately 150,000 men in the active
army and another 400,000 in the reserves. Iranian tanks, primarily
U.S.-made M-60's and British Chieftains numbered about 2,000 with almost
1,000 tubes of artillery. American-made M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers
(APC's) numbered about 250.14
There are several qualitative factors that can be used to contrast the
two armed forces. Because of the disarray that existed in the post-
revolutionary era, Iranian military, the edge in leadershlp, one of several
qualitative factors, must be given to the Iraqis. Although, the Iraqi staff
system was not without its troubles, it was an in-place and functioning
system. In contrast, the Iranian army staff had essentially ceased to exist
above the brigade level. One possible reason that the brigade staffs
survived the purges was that the Iraqis attacked before she purges could get
down that far.
The edge in combat experience must also be given to the Iraqis at the
time of their attack. Elements of the Iranian Air Force, Navy, and six Army
bridgades had been involved in the Dhofar Rebellion in the 1970's, but many
of the veterans had been purged. The Iraqi Army saw some combat in the 1973
Arab-Israeli War, as well as in the almost decade-long counterinsurgency
campaign against the Kurds (who were supported by the Iranians and other
agencies). The Kurdish campaign had resulted in almost 60,000 Iraqi
casualties and it had led the Iraqis into adopting a style of fighting that
would hinder them in the present conventional conflict. Unable to suppress
the small Kurdish guerrilla units in combat, the Iraqis resorted to Soviet
siege tactics. The Iraqis would surround a suspected village, seal it off
from support and then, through methodical use of air, artillery and dug-in
tanks, reduce the village to rubble. Given ample time and a poorly-equipped
foe this technique might work, but it had no place in the high-speed thrust
that Iraq needed to conduct in 1980.
Command and control of the army proved difficult for the Iranians. The
struggle between the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Bani Sadr, and
the Ayatollah Khomeini led to a split in the armed forces. The Pasdaran,
the Revolutionary Guard Militia which had been formed to protect the
Ayatollah and his revolution, was viewed as the keeper of the Shiite faith.
The regular army, as a carry-over from the Shah's reign, was viewed as
unreliable. The regular army's performance during the first days of the war
cleared it of any charges of unreliability but it was still not the
Ayatollah's favorite force. The Pasdaran was in the forefront of the
fighting, at least as seen by Iranian news sources. The Revolutionary Guard
had been given the responsibility of defending the cities and villages and
it was there that one could find the TV cameras of Iran. The regular army,
at least until January 1981, was used in a limited, counterattack role which
was designed to relieve some of the pressure that the Iraqis were putting on
the border cities.
Although giving the external appearance of having a viable command,
control and communications (C3)system, the Iraqis also had serious problems.
Saddam Hussein, as Commander-in-Chief, directed the war through the
Revolutionary Command Council which had representation from the armed
services. However, there were several flaws in this body. First many key
military officials had been purged in 1978. The vacuum that was created by
their deaths was filled by personnel who were loyal to Hussein and who had
seen what happened to those who performed in a manner that did not meet with
his approval. Secondly, some of the potentially most-effective fighting
units were kept to the rear to protect the government from opponents of the
Ba'ath Party. Offensive aircraft, T-72's and loyal combat units were held
around Baghdad and kept under the control of internal security forces.
Thirdly, the Ba'ath Party has a history of distrusting the military and
Hussein as the leader of the Ba'athists may be the most distrustful.
Several sources have indicated that it was Hussein who selected the
military's objectives over the objections of some of the members of the
Revolutionary Command Council. Finally, the politicized military leaders
who were leary of being the "messenger who brought bad news" did not
accurately report the condition of the Iraqi Armed Forces. Thus, we can see
one of the reasons for Hussein's overly-optimistic estimate of his own
country's fighting capability.
Finally, the morale of the opposing force must be considered. Many
Iranians, embued with religious fanaticism, were apparently willing to
suffer great losses to protect their land from the "infidel" invaders.
Iraq, on the other hand, was trying to maintain a "guns and butter" policy
to limit casualties and to isolate the civilian population from the war.
The Iraqis had another reason for keeping the casualty figures low. The
Iraqi officer corps is composed mainly of Sunni Muslins while the enlisted
ranks are, for the most part, from the Shiite community. The Iraqis,
fearing a flare-up of the Sunni-Kurdish-Shiite conflict of the early 1970's,
did not want it to appear as if the Sunni officers were wantonly sacrificing
the lives of the Shiite troops. Additionally, it would not be easy to
convince the populace that the war was going well if ever-increasing numbers
of Iraqi soldiers were being brought home in boxes.
Theater of Operations (Figure 4)
There are several key points which need to be addressed in order to
understand the actions of the two adversaries. From the Iraqi point of
view, Baghdad, the capital of Iraq and the industrial center of the country,
is uncomfortably near the Iranian border. President Hussein had to maintain
sufficient forces between the capital and the Iranians to keep it from being
seized, a situation analogous to the plights of Washington, D.C. and
Richmond during the American Civil War.
Secondly, there are three strategic areas in each of the two countries.
In Iran, these are Tehran, the oil-rich coastal plain of Khuzistan, and the
Bandar Abbas area which guards the Straits of Hormuz. In Iraq the areas of
major importance are Baghdad a strategic, political and economic target; the
rich oil field of Kiruk, in the north; and the Basra area on the
As the offensive force, Iraq had little chance of seriously affecting
either Tehran or the Bandar Abbas areas, because of the distances from Iraq.
Rather, the Iraqis chose to concentrate on securing the Iranian oil fields
in Khuzistan and Abadan Island. There were several very lucrative targets
in Khuzistan. Khorramshahr, Iran's main port, and Abadan, the world's
largest oil refinery with a 1978-estimated capacity of 600,000 barrels per
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day, were both located In the province.15 Futhermore, Dezful and Ahvaz are
key points on the Iranian pipeline and both were important military bases.
On the defensive and ever-mindful of potential Iranian counterattacks,
the Iraqis had a much more difficult problem. First, Iraq had to secure the
northern border to limit the chances of an Iranian invasion and to keep the
Kurds from resurrecting their fierce guerrilla war. Secondly, Baghdad does
not enjoy the natural protection that is the good fortune of Tehran. From
the Iranian post of Qasr-e-Shirin there is a straight shot into the heart of
Iraq,at Baghdad,and Hussein had to be concerned with securing the center
portion of the border.
In the south, any chances of securing the Iranian oil fields,
protecting the Shatt-al-Arab, and creating the Arabestan province rested on
seizing Dezful, Ahvaz, Khorramshahr and the Island of Abadan. This was
where the main attack would occur. The northern and central fronts were to
be economy-of-force defensive operations. Five divisions were committed to
the northern highlands; two divisions were sent against the center to
protect Baghdad; and five divisions (three armored and two mechanized) were
poised opposite the Khuzistan Province.16
Iran, on the other hand, could not afford to concentrate its forces
along one border, but rather had to deploy to meet several perceived
threats. First, the Soviets threatened them from Afghanistan in the east
and from across the Transcaucases in the north. There was unrest in
Baluchistan on the border with Pakistan. Finally, the Iranians still saw
the possibility of another attempt by the United States to rescue the
hostages; hence, forces were deployed in and around Tehran and along the
Persian Gulf. Iran's remaining four understrength divisions were deployed
as follows: one infantry division near Urumiyeh, in the far north; one
infantry division at Sanadaj to keep and eye on the Iranian Kurds; an
armored division at Kermanshah and a brigade at Qasr-e-Shirin; and an armored
division at Ahvaz which protected the air base at Dezful.17
The Time of Attack
The Iraqi attack was timed to occur before the rainy season, which runs
from November through April, began. The northern and central fronts are
subject to rain, which is not critical if the ground units are meant to be
defensive and stationary as were the Iraqi forces. However, dry,
maeuverable terrain was an absolute necessity in the south, where during
the rainy season the ground can easily become a quagmire. The Iraqis had to
make great advances in the south before the rains came and then hope that
the rain would hinder any chances of the Iranias regrouping.
Secondly, the Iraqis had had limited resupply from the Soviets ever
since a falling out between the two in the late 1970's. The Iraqis had
reportedly arranged for shipments of Western supplies and for Western
advisers but they could not expect the former until the Fall of 1981 or
early 1982.18 The delay might have proven too late in light of the
unpredictable threat from Iran and from increasingly-hostile, Shiite-ruled
Syria on its western border. Iraq had to strike while it perceived itself
to be the stronger force.
The Ground Attack
The ground attack in the south by three armored and two mechanzied
divisions swept aside the Irania border militia and quickly isolated
Khorramshahr and Abadan from Ahvaz where the Iranian armor division was
located. The attacks at Ahvaz and Dezful were stopped short, creating a
salient at Susangerd, which had initially been bypassed. The attacks in the
north and center, with their limited objectives were more successful.
Mehran was seized as was the road network linking Dezful with northern Iran.
Seizure of this area had a second important accomplishment in that it
blocked access to Iraq from the east. Further in the north, Qasr-e-Shirin
was seized, thereby protecting Baghdad from a ground attack from that
direction. With seizure of the Musian area eight days after the war
started, Iraq announced that its territorial objectives had been reached.
The Iraqis had been able to maintain an advantage of about 5 or 6:1 in
the south but did not achieve the tactical or strategic results that were
necessary to throw Iran into turmoil.20 Khorramshahr and Abadan had been
isolated but not secured because of the unexpectedly tenacious Iranian
defense. The Iraqis had diluted their forces in the south by attacking
several objectives simultaneously rather than capturing Ahvaz or
neutralizing the airbase at Dezful. The Iraqi army also failed to employ
the proper combat arm against its objectives. Rather than employing
armor-supported infantry at Khorramshahr, the Iraqis relied on the tactics
that they had used against the Kurdish villages in the north. However, the
armor, air and artillery proved largely ineffective in the urban areas.
With its armor stopped, the Iraqis called in a special forces brigade which
was not prepared for urban combat and which suffered tremendous casualties.
Iraq had let itself become involved in a style of combat that was very
different from the blitzkrieg on which it had planned and for which it was
organized and equipped. Gone too was the plan for keeping casualty figures
low. Khorramshahr, now called "Khuninshahr"-"the city of blood", had cost
the Iraqis 1500 lives. Khorramshahr eventually fell on October 24th, but it
had gained time for the Iranians and it had cost the Iraqis the forces that
should have been directed at Dezful and Ahvaz.
In addition to seeing the Iraqis stopped short of their objectives in
the south, October saw another positive event for Iran. On October 13th the
Ayatollah Khomeini established the seven member Supreme Defense Council;
this body was tasked with directing and coordinating the efforts of the
Pasdaran and the regular forces. Bani Sadr was the titular head of the
council but the hard-line mullahs who surrounded Khomeini still had access
to the field commanders. Establishment of the Council helped streamline the
chain of command; however, it was still very much politicized.
The war seemed to have settled down for the winter until January 5,
1981 when the Iranians staged an ill-fated attempt to retake Susangerd which
had been captured by the Iraqis in mid-November. In an effort to regain
favor with the Ayatollah and to prove the worth of his regular forces, Bani
Sadr ordered three understrength armor regiments to attack. The forces
attacked through an area of very poor trafficability and without adequate
infantry support. The Iraqis were ready for the Iranian attack and were
successful not so much because of their defensive efforts but more because
the Iranians were not prepared for the attack.. The Iranians could neither
maneuver nor resupply in the mud and were forced to abandon their vehicles
and the fight.
The Naval Battle
Information about naval operations is rather vague because there has
not been much large-scale activity. A few small attacks were made by each
party during the first phase with the forces spending most of their time in
port. Iraq, with its limited port capability and small coastline is much
more susceptible to interdiction of its Sea Lines of Communication than is
Iran. The three engagements that took place on September 22 and 24 and
November 29 and 30 were disastrous for Iraq. The Port of Basra was
attacked, the installation at Fao was destroyed and several other facilities
were damaged. Naval losses by both Iran and Iraq were extensive, probably
about fifty percent for both sides. However, the larger Iranian naval
vessels were not lost and Iran was able to establish a very effective
blockade of Iraq's ports. The blockade has yet to be broken. Iran was not,
however, able to blockade Aqaba or the Saudi Arabian Red Sea ports through
which Iraq has received a substantial amount of its supplies.
The Iraqi Air Force was to conduct a per-emptive airstrike with the
goal of inflicting a mortal blow on the already-weakened Iranian air arm.
Flown against ten airfields, the attacks were not successful because of
errors in planning as well as in execution. The Iraqis attempted to
neutralize the Iranian Air Force by cratering the runways rather than going
after the aircraft, some of which were in shelters and others which were in
the open. The Iraqis did not possess the ordnance required to crater the
runways and did not possess the skill or avionics required to hit the
runways had they had the ordnance. Therefore, the Iranian Air Force emerged
from the attack relatively unharmed. The Iraqi Air Force was then forced to
disperse its aircraft to bases in Jordan and in other Arab states where they
would probably not be hit by the retaliating Iranian F-4's. Flying in two-
to-four ship formations and at low altitude, the Iranian F-4's flew almost
unmolested over Iraq striking Baghdad and Iraqi airfields on the second day
of the war. The third day of the war saw the F-4's striking at Iraq's vital
oil refineries. Iran would retain control of the skies until the following
year when attrition of aircrews and aircraft would cause it to limit flying
to conserve the air force.
By late October the air war had settled down. Iraq had gambled that it
could execute a blitzkrieg attack into Khuzistan and that the Iranian Arabs
living there would rise up and join their brother Arabs. However, the Arabs
in Iran had become more Iranian (not Persian) and less Arabic. The Iraqis
had underestimated the Iranians, overestimated themselves and somewhere
in between had failed in the blitzkrieg. The coming of pring and the dry
weather would prove most interesting.
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The Iranian Response
The second phase of the war began with Bani Sadr's unsuccessful attempt
at retaking Susangerd in January 1981. The fact that the attack was
unsuccessful can be misleading because it was the last major defeat for the
Iranians thus far. In addition to the armor regiments (about 300 Chieftains
and M-60's) that were committed by the Iranians, a parachute regiment was
also used as a conventional ground force. However, the Iraqis foresaw the
attack and prepared their defensive positions.
Accordingly, as the Iranians attacked, the Iraqis pulled back a few
kilometers toward the Kharek river and set up a three-sided ambush. The
Iranians, thinking that the Iraq is were retreating, rushed in with their
armor forces. Over the course of the next four days the two divisions
fought each other by employing their helicopter gunships and tanks. The
Iranians were caught in untrafficable terrain and had to leave about 100 to
150 tanks on the battlefield; the Iraqis then pursued the fleeing Iranians
about sixty more kilometers into Iranian territory before halting. The
Iraq is lost about 100 tanks themselves as well as many of their attack
helo's. Moreover, the captured Iranian tanks were of little value to the
Iraqis because they had no training on the American and British equipment.
The Jordanians did have Western equipment, however, and became the real
winners of this battle because they received the captured Iranian tanks
without having participated in the fighting.1
The first successful, large scale Iranian counter-attack came almost
exactly one year after Iraq had crossed the border. From September 26th
until the 29th (Figure 6), two infantry divisions supported by armor and
artillery attacked add seized the island of Abadan. The attack was worthy
of note for several reasons. First, the Iranians conducted a number of
small attacks north of Abadan which drew the Iraq is out of position and
secondly, it was characterized by skillful use of the Pasdaran. The
dismounted infantry operated at night pinpointing weaknesses and
strongpoints in the Iraqi line. The Iranians were also able to react well
and to redirect their combat power while the Iraqis seemed to be inflexible,
of ten holding their positions until they were outflanked. Iranian
casualties were about 3,000 killed, mostly Pasdaran who seemed more than
billing to die in frontal assaults against the entrenched Iraqis. However,
Iran with its much larger population base and religious fervor could
temporarily more easily absorb these losses. The lraqis were still
attempting to minimize their losses, although they did lose 4,500 men.
The following months, until the Iranian Spring Offensive of 1982, seem
to have provided time for both sides to recover from earlier fighting and to
prepare for the fighting that was sure to come again with the warmer, drier
weather. There was some fighting around Bustan and Qasr-e-Shirin which was
distinguished for two reasons. First, the claims by both parties were
completely contradictory. Tehran radio reported that 1,000 Iraqis had been
killed and another 1,300 were captured, while Iraqi communiques reported
2,400 Iranians killed and many more wounded during the period November 29
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through December 2, 1981. American analysts doubt the veracity of either
report. The second point is that the Iraqis were unable to hold their
positions. The December 9th New York Times reported that after a long-term
Iranian offensive, President Hussein told Iraqi troops "it is very important
that you not lose any more positions."2 Although the Iraqis had had a year
to prepare their positions they found themselves being pushed back by the
Iranians. (Figure 7)
The aforementioned Spring Offensive commenced in March 1982 with the
destruction of the three Iraqi divisions and three brigades. The Iranians
through extensive recruitment and redeployment had amassed over 100,000
troops, including 30,000 Pasdaran. Again the Pasdaran would be employed
most-successfully in a conventional role. The Iranian combat forces were
organized into four divisions, apparently one more than the Iraqis thought
was present. In their defensive positions were three Iraqi divisions and
eight independent brigades witht he 10th Armored Division in reserve.
At about 0300 on March 22, the Iranians surprised the Iraqis by
attacking at an unexpected time, from an unexpected direction and with an
extra division.3 The Iranians had been successful at combining the "eyes"
of the infantry with the strength of their armor and were able to outflank
the Iraqi positions and to attack the weak points. By this time the
Iranians had begun to conserve their limited air assets, but they were able
to inflict heavy losses on the Iraqis who were flying over the 150
fixed-wing sorties every day. The effectiveness of the Iraqi air was
limited due to intense automatic weapons fire, anti-aircraft artillery, and
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extensive use of Syrian-supplied SA-7's.
Iraqi losses, as at Abadan in September 1981, were tremendous. Western
observers estimate that over 600 tanks and armored vehicles, 10,000
casualties and 15,000 POW's were lost. The 3rd and 10th Armored Divisions,
the 1st Mechanized Division and three brigades were destroyed! Iranian
casualties were placed at about 10,000 including 3,000 to 4,000 killed.4
The Iranian victory in the central front was the first of several to follow
in the next three to four months. Iraq successfully counterattacked in
several areas but it was very much on the defensive tactically against the
Iranians as well as nationally against the Syrians.
In April 1982 the Syrians performed a series of diplomatic, economic
and military manuevers that weakened the Iraqi fighting posture while
strengthening that of the Iranians. The Syrians had chosen to back the
Iranians for several reasons. First, the Syrian government is drawn from
the Alawite faction which is Shiite in its orientation and, therefore, is
inclined towards Iran and away from Iraq. More importantly, President Assad
of Syria had long spoken of a "Greater Syria." Were Iraq to be victorious,
it would strengthen the Riyadh-Amman-Baghdad axis that President Hussein was
attempting to maintain. This axis would effectively reduce Syria's ability
to influence the Arab world and undermine Syria's claim to be the true
leader of the Ba'ath movement.5
The Iraqis were condemned by the Syrians for starting the war and for
diverting attention from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Syria, besides hoping
to be seen as the Ba'ath Party leader, also wanted to be viewed as the Arab
voice in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It will be shown later how the Israelis
are supporting the Iranians, who ironically are receiving aid from both
Syria and Israel.
Israel is supporting Iran because the war is detracting from the
Arab-Israeli conflict. the Syrians are supporting Tehran because Damascus
wants to see the Iran-Iraq War end favorably for Iran and the Arab-Israeli
To ensure that the Syrians attain the position of prominence in the
Arab World, President Assad has taken strong measures to weaken his rival
claimant in Iraq. In addition to providing moral support to Iran, the
Syrians have cut-off the Iraqi oil pipeline that runs through Syria. It is
also suggested that the Syrians provided fuel for Iranian fighters after a
mission over Iraq. The Iranian aircraft flew over Iraq and disappeared from
Iraqi radar over Syrian territory. Sometime later, the aircraft reappeared
over Syria and made the return flight to Iran.6
While Iraq was recovering from the losses received near Shush and
Dezful in March, the Iranians launched their most serious offensive up to
that time. On April 29/30 "Operation Jerusalem" commenced along three axes
in the Khuzistan Province. The first axis was in the vicinity of Susangerd
which the Iranians had failed to recover in January 1981. The second axis
was directed toward the railline and roads which ran from Khorramshahr to
Ahvaz and the Iraqi garrison at Hoveyzeh. The third axis was designed to
recover Khorramshahr, itself.
The Iranian attack was a well-coordinated effort making effective use
of the various combat arms. Infantry night attacks were followed by armor
thrusts and fighter aircraft and helicopter support. Initial success was
good but stiff resistance was met in the northern area and in front of
Khorramshahr, where the Iraqis adopted a more flexible defense. Advice from
French and Jordanian advisors apparently assisted the Iraqi regulars in
performing better but the Iraqi volunteer units did not fare as well.7 The
casualties sustained by both sides were again high, with the Iraqis losing
about 7,500 and the Iranians losing about 2,500. Of the three axes, the two
more successful ones were at Abadan and around Khorramshahr while the effort
in the north was less than fruitful.8
On the 3rd and 4th of May both sides conducted a series of
counterattacks. The Iraqis recovered some land around Khorramshahr and
Hoveyzeh. The Iranians responded by increasing their efforts around Hamid,
in order to sever the Iraqi supply route, and by attacking into Iraq near
the town of Fuka.
By May 14th, the Iranians were in positions that indicated that the
counteroffensive had been very successful (Figure 8). The Iraqi main supply
route through Hamid had been cut, forcing the Iraqis to give up their
positions. The Iranians continued to the Shatt-al-Arab and were now well
within striking range of the Port of Basra. They also threatened to isolate
Iraqi forces in Khorramshahr.
Iran was poised for movement into Iraq but stopped short of a major
incursion. The Ayatollah Khomeini had sworn to topple the regime of Saddam
Hussein but invading Iraq could have had the opposite effect. Iran would
have preferred to see the Sunni-controlled government topple because of a
Shiite-inspired peoples' revolution. Were Iran to invade Iraq, as it had
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itself been invaded, it could have caused the people, even the Shiite, to
rally around the flag. Khomeini hoped that the pressure that Iran applied
would be sufficient to cause Hussein's downfall. A Shiite-ruled Iraq would
establish a corridor of Shiite countries that ran from Iran, through Iraq
and Syria, straight into the Mediterranean Sea.
And so the Iranians seemed to have turned the tide of the battle.
in the span of about a year and half the Iranians had become more
sophisticated and had transformed themselves from a nation that was reeling
from the blow of a massive armored assault into one that was able to pick
and choose the time and place that it wanted to attack. Iraq had changed
from a confident fighter into one who was just hoping that the bell would
ring to signal the end of the round. Iraq's only problem was that there
was no referee in the ring to help it with a standing count.
After the victories of the Iraqis from September 1980 through January
1981, what factors caused the startling turn-around that commenced in
September 1981? As a basis for discussion, the nine principles of war that
are generally taught in U.S. Marine Corps School will be used. The Iraqis
failed to observe some of these principles and the Iranians capitalized on
some others, possibly without even being aware that someone had articulated
them as such. This list of principles is not all-inclusive, but is used
simply as a convenient format for discussion.
OBJECTIVE - The Iraqis failed to direct their operations toward a
proper objective. If the Iraqi government had as its national objective the
downfall of the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, then it should have chosen
intermediate (military) objectives that would lead to the national
objective. But, the Iraqi national authority, and subsequently, the
military did not clearly state their objectives. Being uncertain of what
the objectives were, the military could not plan properly or execute
properly. The Iranians also seem uncertain of their objectives. As a
result of this uncertainty, thousands of Iranians have died.
OFFENSIVE - Neither country has been able to maintain the offensive
and, as a result, they have not been able to achieve decisive results. The
Iraqis wanted to limit the number of troops exposed to combat, and thereby,
keep casualty figures low. They, therefore, consistently failed to allow
for sufficient forces in the follow-on echelons to conduct mop-up
operations. Therefore, the assault forces were forced to stop and clear out
pockets of resistance that should have been bypassed and left to units
better suited for that type of operation. Similarly, the Iranians have not
been able to maintain the offensive because they have had to rely almost
exclusively on infantry to attack the Iraqi fortified positions. The
Pasdaran has been used effectively to probe the Iraqi lines, but it can't
hope to always succeed in frontal assaults against Iraqi air, armor and
MASS - The Iraqis devoted their entire army of twelve divisions to the
attack in September 1980. This would lead one to conclude that the Iraqis
observed the principle of mass. However, the twelve divisions were divided
along three axes composed of five divisions in the north, two divisions in
the center and five divisions in the south. To further dilute their combat
power, the Iraqis subdivided the southern axis by simultaneously attacking
several key objectives, rather than concentrating their forces at Ahvaz,
Dezful and Susangerd.
The Iranians have not been able to employ mass because the massing of
infantry has just not been enough to overcome the Iraqi defensive positions.
The Iranians have been able to succeed on a small-scale but the Iraqis are
able to regroup and push the Iranians back to the local starting positions.
ECONOMY OF FORCE - The Iraq is observed this principle when they
employed their mountain-trained divisions in the north to contain the Kurds
while attempting to mass their armor forces in the south.
The Iranians used the Pasdaran it an economy-of-force role in late
1980. The Pasdaran were employed to tie-up the Iraqi armor in the cities
while the Iranians redeployed the regular army to the bitterly-contested
Khuzistan Province. The Pasdaran, as the expendable component of the armed
forces, are used to soften-up the Iraqi lines for later penetration by the
limited armor forces.
MANEUVER - The Iraqis have been on the defensive for most of the war.
However, a defensive force can make maneuver as much a part of its plan as
the attacking force can make it part of its plan. The Iraq is employed
manuever at Susangerd when they redeployed their forces into a three-sided
ambush that destroyed an Iranian armor division. Unfortunately for the
Iraqis, Susangerd was one of the few times that they seem to have considered
manuever. During the remainder of the first Iranian offensive, the Iraqis
would remain in their defensive positions until they were bypassed,
surrounded and cut-off from their lines of withdrawal.
The Iranians have generally been unable to maneuver on a large scale
because the infantry does not have the ability to move its divisions
undetected over the open terrain and because the command and control was
insufficient for anything except frontal assaults. With rare exception, as
in the attack on Dezful in March 1982, the Iranians have relied on frontal
attacks by the Pasdaran. The apparent intent of these attacks is to wear
down the Iraqi will to fight by causing unbearable casualties to their
numerically inferior army.
UNITY OF COMMAND - Both of the warring countries enjoy unity of
command, at least superficially, because each of the two armed forces;
responds to a single commander. However, this apparent adherence to unity
of command can be misleading in the cases of Iran and Iraq. The
Revolutionary Command Council of Iraq is under the control of President
Saddam Hussein who, as a member of the Ba'athist Party is suspicious of the
military. Therefore, the armed forces of Iraq are under direct, unified
command of a political party that distrusts and misunderstands the military.
The Supreme Defense Council of Iran is also under the control of one man,
the Ayatollah Khomeini. In this case, the armed forces are under the
command of a religious fanatic who has visions of his own divinity. The
Ayatollah seems to view and use the military as a means to the end of
spreading the Iranian Revolution. As with Iraq, there is unity of command
in Iran, but it is destructive for the armed forces. If left to his own
way, the Ayatollah may destroy the military which seeks to protect him.
SECURITY and SURPRISE - The principles of security and surprise are
addressed at the same time because they are opposite sides of the same coin.
These principles were observed more during the early stages of the war when
the battle was more fluid. Now that the war has settled down to trench
warfare there is little chance of achieving strategic surprise. One example
of security and surprise as employed by Iran and Iraq will suffice to
demonstrate this point. The Iranians, although aware of the movement of
Iraqi forces prior to September 22, 1980, were taken by surprise by the
extent of the Iraqi invasion. The Iranians made use of the principles of
surprise and security when they attacked Dezful with four divisions instead
of three. They were able to mass the extra division by moving it at night
and disguising its activity once it was at the front. Presently, the
abundance of reconnaissance assets and the nature of the tactics have
greatly reduced opportunities to maintain secrecy and to exploit surprise.
SIMPLICITY- Both nations have designed fairly simple schemes of
maneuver but for greatly different reasons. The Iraqi plans to attack were
simple because they were modeled after the tactics of the Soviets. The
offensive tactics of the Soviets are well-rehearsed, aggressive and
tactically sound but they are also simple and predictable. If employed
improperly, as the Iraqis have occasionally done, they can be very costly
for the attacker. As was mentioned earlier, the Iraqis employed their armor
and mechanized divisions in the first blitzkrieg and bypassed pockets of
resistance. However, the Iraqis failed to use adequate forces in the
mopping-up echelons so the attacks bogged down.
The Iranians have developed simple plans for a different reason. Very
simply, the Iranians to longer possess the military resources that allow
them to develop and execute complex plans. By early 1981, the Iranians had
very little armor, air or artillery. However, they did have an abundance of
men who were willing to die for their Revolution. Realizing this, the
Iranian military developed plans that were by Western standards simply
brutal;conduct frontal assaults until you bled the enemy white.
Thus, both types of plans were predictable. This has led to the
adoption of the trench warfare where it is not the strength and cunning of
the military hierarchy that is important, but rather the courage and will of
the individual to endure that determines the outcome of the battles.
From a western point of view, many of the principles of war seem to
have been observed but with no apparent consistency. To pay lip-service to
any one of the principles is to do an injustice to those who must execute
the plan. To develop plans that are simple and generally predictable is to
sacrifice the lives of the soldiers who must carryout the order. To put
one's forces under the command of a fanatic who views the military as grist
for the mill is to sacrifice thousands of lives. This what both Iran and
Iraq have done and this is partly why victory on the battlefield has been so
costly in human lives.
The Modern Western Front
This chapter is titled the "Modern Western Front" because this war now
possesses many of the characteristics of the European battlefields of World
War I. Neither side has been able to gather the strength necessary to deal
a decisive penetrating blow, so the two forces involved face each other
exchanging casualties. Additionally, neither side has the mobility or
ability to find and exploit exposed flanks. The battles that occurred
during the 1982 Spring Offensive and the casualties that resulted from them
brought the Iranians to the border and returned several key towns and
positions to their control. For the Iraqis, the tremendous number of
casualties that they suffered bought little more than time in what has
become a war of attrition. Tens of thousands would die, be injured or
captured in the next few weeks in exchange for a little more terrain and a
little more time. The following months would see the two adversaries resort
to using some of their earlier tactics--the tactics that had proven so
costly--and see them turn to new suppliers for desperately needed equipment.
After the successes in March, April and May of 1982, the Iranians
appeared to lose the initiative. They stopped at the border stating that
they had no reason to enter Iraqi territory. However, it appears that the
real reason for this halt was to give Iran time to count its losses and to
resupply its armed forces. As with the SA-7's that it had received from
Syria, Iran was becoming more reliant on Soviet equipment and third-world
sources. To compound problems, a rift had reappeared between the moderates
and the religiously fervent clerics in the Iranian Ruling Council. After
several assassinations and associated power-plays, the more radical clerics
The Summer Offensive opened up on July 13, 1982 with Iranian forces
penetrating to within ten miles of Basra before being halted. A second
attack began on the 21st and a third attack followed on the 28th. These
three attacks produced little except to kill about 27,000 soliders and raise
the total for less than two years of combat to at least 80,000 Iranian and
Iraqi killed, 200,000 wounded and 45,000 captured.1 The new offensive also
confirmed that the Iraqi forces would fight more determinedly when they were
defending their own land and that the Iraqi Shiites would not necessarily
rise up to topple President Hussein.
Stymied in combat on the ground, the Iranians reopened the war of
words. Charges and counter-charges were exchanged between Iran and its Arab
neighbors. Some of the claims were true. Teenagers, "boy soldiers", were
being brought into combat by the Iranians and POW's were being treated less
than humanely, but these seem to be just two of the side effects in what had
become a "jihad".
Two years after the shooting officially started, the Iranians launched
yet another attempt to regain their lost territory and to strike a blow
against the "Satan" Hussein. This time the attacks were directed at Iraqi
forces near Qasr-e-Shirin and at Baghdad. Fifty to one hundred thousand
troops were involved in this most bitter struggle which raged until October
10th. Without the benefit of air or armor, the Iranians resorted to human
wave assaults against the well-prepared Iraqi positions (Figure 9). Losses
in one engagement alone were over 4,000 Iranians and 300 Iraqis killed.2
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Untrained Pasdaran were being fed into a meat grinder but the Iranians, even
after two years of fighting, could absorb these losses. October also saw the
Iraqis attempt to strike back at Iran's real source of strength, its oil.
Kharg Island was attacked several times, as were other facilities and
cities; but as before, the Iraqis could not carry enough of the right ordnance
far enough to do any significant damage.
Early November saw yet another Iranian attack aimed at severing the
roads from Basra to Baghdad. As before, there were limited advances made
and more Iraqi territory was captured before the Iraqis committed their
reserves to stop the drive. The numerically inferior Iraqis made better use
of their combined arms, but they lost several aircraft to the Iranian
"curtain of fire" and SA-7's. The Iraqis had superior combat power in
equipment: tanks 3-4:1; AFV's 5:3; artillery 2:1, and in fighter aircraft
6:1.3 The Iranians, however, still had masses of men and boys who were
willing to sacrifice themselves for the Revolution. The Iranian Navy still
had a strangle-hold on the Straits of Hormuz and Iran still had its oil
November 1982 ended with Iraq again seeking unity among the Arbas and
making more peace proposals. Iran could not be appeased even by Iraqi
declarations of unilateral truce. Iran's preconditions for negotiations
were impossible to meet. These preconditions were: the fall of the
government of Saddam Hussein; Iraq's admission of its responsibility for
starting the war; the withdrawal of all Iraqi troops from and the return of
all Iranian territory; the payment of from $50 to $150 BILLION in war
reparations; and the return to Iraq of the Persian Shiites who had been
expelled by President Hussein in 1980.4 It is evident that these terms are
January 1983 revealed a situation similar to that which existed just
prior to the ill-fated attack on Susangerd. The Iraqis were improving their
defense and awaiting the next Iranian onslaught. The Iranians continued to
rebuild their only viable combat arm, the Army. Having rebuiltto over
200,000 soldiers, the Iranians attacked in February 1983 with six divisions
in one of the largest efforts thus far. This offensive was meant to be the
decisive drive of the war. Again, the target was the Basra-Baghdad road.
As before, the Iranians made some gains but were unable to attain their
objectives. As in the January 1981 attack, the Iranians went against
prepared positions through open wetlands that restricted their movement and
limited their cover. In addition, over 200 sorties a day were flown by the
improving Iraqi Air Force, which could take credit for some of the nearly
6,000 Iranians who were killed.5 The February Offensive was stopped. The
Iraqis still held some 350 square miles of Iranian territory; more Iranians
and Iraqis were dead; and the war of attrition continued.
Two months later, on April 10, the Iranians mounted their second
offensive of the year. But, as in February, the drive was stopped (Figure
10). Needless-to-say, with over 300,000 casualties; with their border
cities in ruins; and considering the economic nightmare that both countries
were facing, many people began to question how much longer the war could
Summer and Fall of 1983 would see two more Iranian offensives. In
July, Iranian forces penetrated Iraq in a drive toward Haj Umran in the
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mountainous northeast region. The purported reason for the attack was to
interdict Iraqi-supported Kurdish forces. As so many times before, the
claims made by the opposing forces differed greatly. Tehran reported that
it had killed 3,800 Iraqi troops, captured 77 square miles of territory and
seized 35 military bases. Baghdad's account of the battle showed that the
Iranians had been turned back and that they had lost over 700 attackers in
48 hours of fighting. Early August saw heavy fighting around Mehran in the
central front area (Figure 11). Although Baghdad claimed to have defeated
the Iranian attack, they did admit to staging a "strategic withdrawal".
Relying on the adage that the best defense is a good offense, Iran
attacked again in October 1983. Again, the fighting was in northeast Iraq,
this time around the garrison towns of Penjwin and Garmak (Figure 12).
Iranian forces claimed they were attempting to defend the towns of Baneh and
Marivan from Iraqi artillery fire but they succeeded in driving to within
100 miles of Kirkuk, the site of Iraq's oil fields. Feeling that its oil
fields were threatened, Baghdad responded with long-range missile attacks on
Dezful and other cities in southwest Iran. This offensive was very similar
to those of the past. The Iranians charged headlong into prepared Iraqi
positions losing thousands of men in the attacks, but eventually overcoming
the defensive positions. This style of fighting was able to make some
tactical gains but it was still incapable of achieving strategic success
necessary to end the war. The ebb and flow of battle continued on the three
fronts without any significant effect on either side.
The war is believed to be costing Iraq about $1 billion a month.6 To
meet these costs, Baghdad is being subsidized by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
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Iraq owes approximately $5 billion to France, Yugoslavia, South Korea and
Rumania for arms purchases and construction projects. In addition, hundreds
of millions of dollars are owed to banks and private companies. Iraq has
refused to pay the companies in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates because
their governments have not assisted Iraq as was once pledged. To reduce
expenses at home, as the guns and butter policy of 1980 has changed, the
Iraqis banned the import of luxury goods. Iraq is pumping only about
650,000 to 700,000 barrels of oil per day through Turkey. This amount
contrasts to 3 million barrels per day prior to the war and against the 1.7
million barrels that Iran is still able to export everyday. Because Iraq is
almost completely dependent on petroleum sales for its revenue, it has had
to find alternate export routes to compensate for the loss of the
Shatt-al-Arab. Iraq is no longer transporting petroleum through Syria to
the Mediterranean because of Syrian hostility. Instead, Saudi Arabia has
agreed to finance a new pipeline that will take the Iraqi oil to the Red Sea
Port of Yanbu.8 Iraq is also attempting to rebuild its main oil facilities
at Fao which were destroyed in 1980 and Turkey has recently agreed to
increase the movement of Iraqi oil moved through Turkish territory.
In addition to increasing its own export capability, Baghdad has sought
to restrict the freedom of economic action that Iran has thus far enjoyed.
With the recent purchase of French Super Etendard fighter-bombers the Iraqis
may be able to interdict the Iranian Sea Lines of Communication. The Super
Etendard, with a speed of 730 m.p.h., an unrefueled range of 530 miles and
equipped with the Exocet missile, is felt to be a serious threat by the
Iranians.9 The Iranians issued warnings that if their oil installations were
seriously damaged they would prevent any ship from entering or leaving the
Gulf. This threat is yet another attempt by the Iranians to keep other
countries from resupplying the Iraqis. The Iranians fully realize that it
is only Iraq's edge in equipment that has kept Iran's forces from being
victorious. Thus, one can see that the Ayatollah has a reason in trying to
isolate Iraq (but failed) and that the threat of closure of the Gulf is
worrisome to the West.Twenty percent of the non-Communist world's oil
supplies pass through the 40 to 60 mile wide Straits of Hormuz. More than
50% of Western Europe's oil imports and 13% of the petroleum used by the
United States comes from the Gulf. Japan is much more dependent, importing
over 60% of its oil from this region. Several of France's allies attempted
to dissuade her from supplying the Super Etendards to Iraq. The French
Foreign Minister's reply to this, apparently, was "Five planes, more or
less. What does that change?"10 Support for Iraq is consistent with French
policy and a resumption of Iraqi exports may enable Iraq to repay its
debt to France.
France is not the only country supplying aircraft to the antagonists.
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in April 1983 that the Chinese
were providing Chinese-built, Soviet MiG-19's and 21's to the Iraqis. These
aircraft, designated F-6 and F-7, respectively, by the Chinese were being
assembled in Egypt and staged in Egypt and Jordan. Egypt was also providing
instructor pilots to Iraq and some Egyptains have flown combat missions,
accompanying Soviet reconnaissance pilots.11 This mixture of advisers and
supporters becomes very interesting considering the past and present
relations of the parties involved. The Iraqis and Soviets had a falling out
in 1978-79 and it is rumored that Soviet freighter carrying Iraqi-bound
T-72's turned back to the Soviet Union when the war started.12 The Egyptians,
who had also had a cooling of relations with the Soviets, are now, more or
less, aligned with Washington and are providing support to Iraq alongside
The saying that politics and alliances makes for strange bedfellows is
carried one step further when supporters of Iran are considered. Aviation
Week and Space Technology reported further that, in addition to the Syrians
and Libyans providing support to Iran, the North Koreans are providing
Chinese-built F-6's. Iranian pilots are apparently receiving their training
on the new aircraft in East Germany.13 Support for the two sides is not
restricted to Soviet products or Soviet-style advice. Israel is backing
Iran with parts and spares to keep the U.S.-built F-4 Phantoms aloft and
with maintenance and cannibalization for the F-14's and Phoenix missiles.14
The Israelis hope that the struggle between Persian Iran and Arabic Iraq and
their respective supporters will prevent the Arabic nations from uniting
and putting pressure on Israel. There are other Western sources of supply.
Hughes Aviation was reported to be providing Iraq with about 60 argiculture-
configured helicopters.15 Members of Congress may have been successful in
blocking this sale, although the aircraft were not to be used for combat.
It matters little, though, if the Hughes aircraft were to be used as
trainers, thereby, freeing-up helicopters that can be used in combat.
The sale of these aircraft has improved the airstrengths of both
countries. It is difficult to accurately determine current strengths but,
based on sources from within Iraq, Iraq's estimated strength is: MiG-23's
(85), MiG-25's (18), ten of which are interceptors, MiG-19/F-6's (about 40),
MiG17's (30), Su-20's (80), Su-7/17's (20), Mirage F-1's (40) and, maybe, 5
Super Etendards, more or less. The bomber and transport force still
includes the TU-16's, 22's, I-76's and AN-12/24/26's, although some of all
of these aircraft have been lost in the air war.16
While adoption of Western-style close air support tactics has improved
the effectiveness of the Iraqi air arm, it is also certain that Iran has
improved its air force, particularly in the anti-air role. Sources do
conflict, but there is general agreement that the Phoenix-equipped F-14's
and the AIM-7-equipped F-4's have taken their toll of Iraqi aircraft. The
Israeli-supplied parts, equipment and training have had the desired effect
of prolonging the war. The Iranian Air Force is thought to consist of about
100 fighter aircraft including about 8-10 operational F-14's and about an
equal number of F-4's and F-5's making up the remainder.17 The Chinese-built
aircraft have not been included because they are not yet operational.
The two warring nations have turned to arms suppliers who provide a
less-sophisticated product and who do not seem to be concerned with the
morality of the war. The business of supplying arms is a very big one and
if the super-powers choose to not be a part of it, then there are many other
countries who will improve their own economies at the cost of regional and
The two warring states have continued to deplete their own coffers in
an attempt to outlast the other. As of late 1983, Iran with its control of
the Straits of Hormuz and its more diversified economy was in a better
position in this war of attrition. Once again, as in the three previous
years, the two nations awaited the coming of Spring and the fighting that
was certain to come.
Developments from the War
There have been many interesting developments uncovered during analysis
of the war. For purposes of discussion, the developments or points of
interest will be categorized into: manpower, ground equipment, ground
tactics, and aviation.
One of the first items of note is that the value and utility of the
individual fighting man has increased, at least in this war. The armed man
has entered into a rennaissance where he has come to be valued as much as
expensive hardware. The Iraqis, in spite of their numerically superior
equipment, were stopped not so much by Iranian equipment, but by Iranian
soldiers with hand-held weapons. Due to a paucity of information, we are
unable to make a final analysis, but preliminary indications are that the
Iraqis were "tank mad".1
For the Iraqis, the tank was the answer to all of their tactical
problems. Tanks were used to reduce small villages to rubble; as fixed
artillery; in maneuver warfare; and in built-up areas. However, as the
previous chapter indicated, they were only effectively used when the Iraqis
made the optimum use of the shock effect and mobility of the tanks. The
mobility of the tank was compromised when it was used as stationary
artillery or when employed in cleaning-up small pockets of resistance. The
armor and armament were compromised when the tanks were employed in built-up
areas or in an area where hand-held ATGM's were fired at very short ranges.
The Iranians, on the other hand, made effective use of their forces,
especially in the urban areas or in short-range fighting. The individual
members of the Pasdaran were as effective in stopping a T-62 in Khorramshahr
as an M-60 or Chieftain were in stopping a T-62 in the desert. The planners
and operators of the United Stated Central Command would do well to develop
tactics and weapons for military operations in urban terrain as much as they
do for mobile desert warfare.
A second item of interest concerning manpower was the wide use of
reserve forces and volunteers. Both countries started the war with reserves
numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Since cross-border shooting had
been in progress for several months, the Iranians were not completely
surprised. In a feat similar to the 1914 mobilization of the taxi-drivers
of Paris, the Iranians were able to put about 200,000 men on the front by
late November 1980.2 This rapid mobilization and movement of both reserves
and regulars in late September 1980, reduced the Iraqi combat ratio from
about 6:1 to about 3:1 by late October.
These 200,000 Iranians were only a small part of the "Army of 20
Million" that was to be raised to repel the Iraqi invaders. The untrained
reserves and Pasdaran were effectively employed to blunt the nose of the
Iraqi armor and to provide the majority of the urban defensive forces.
The Iraqis also called on the reserves to aid in the war effort. From
the estimated 35,000 men of the popular militia who were employed in
September 1980, the activated reserve force grew to over 400,000 in early
1982. Suffering more and more casualties, the Iraqis strove to mobilize a
people's army of over 2.5 million.3 It also sought to enlist the aid,
coerced or otherwise, of its Arab neighbors in the struggle to regain "lost
The reserve forces of both countries proved very effective in defending
their homelands, probably because they were more familiar with the lay of
the land and because they were defending their own soil. This effective use
of lightly armed forces against armored forces offers hope for the
employment of the home defense forces of Western and Northern European
countries. These reserve forces, which are defending their own familiar
land, may prove effective in slowing the Soviet/Warsaw Pact forces and
allows the heavier regular forces time to regroup and redeploy.
The final point concerning manpower is made at a time when some
American armed services are becoming more equipment heavy and personnel
light. With the emphasis on more weapons of increased lethality but fewer
personnel to man these weapons, there will be fewer infantrymen available to
hold terrain. Weapons are excellent for covering more terrain, where the
terrain permits, but it still takes men with their own weapons to hold
difficult terrain or to operate in mountainous or urban terrain. As the
Iraqi losses at Abadan and Khorramshahr and the victories in the mountains
in the north showed, infantrymen cannot always be replaced by tanks or
AFV's. There are situations where numbers of trained men are more important
than lethality and numbers of weapon systems. As the Iranians have also
shown, skillfully employed infantrymen, without adequate air or armor
support can stop, if not turn back, armor heavy forces--in the right
environment on the right terrain and with an obliging enemy.
The second area of general interest concerns the equipment employed in
the war. Chapter 2 listed some of the equipment that was present at the
beginning of the conflict. This section will address the employment of some
of the equipment; its relative strengths and weaknesses; and recent
acquisitions of replacements.
Each side had several thousand tanks of differing origins at the start
of the war, many of which were involved in several armor versus armor
engagements. The victories achieved by either side were attributable not so
much to the effectiveness of the armor and armament of the vehicles, but
more to the proper selection of terrain and tactics. Analysts report that
neither side has been able to maintain their sophisticated gun-sights and
fire-control systems. Therefore, most of the engagements have been at
ranges of only 200-300 meters instead of the expected 1200-1500 meters. At
these distances, the armor is well-within the effective range of hand-held
and ground-mounted anti-armor assets. The Iraqi problems with the T-62's
were mainly with the lead-computing sights while the M-60's and Chieftains
of the Iranian Army were prone to maintenance problems. David Rosser-Owen
in his article "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War" reported that the Iraqis were
more impressed by the Chieftains than they were the M-60's, but that their
Soviet equipment was best, especially the T-72's.4 Neither force was able to
consistently employ its sophisticated ground-based systems. The Iraqis
surface-to-surface missiles, SCUD-B's, and FROG-7's, have only been employed
on a few occasions and then, only to hit large targets such as cities or
military bases. On the Iranian side, it was not until the 1982 Spring
Offensive that they were able to effectively employ their TOW and DRAGON
anti-tank guided missiles.5
This has not been a tank-versus-tank war. With the exceptions of the
initial Iraqi attack, the Iranian counterattack at Susangerd, and a few
other battles, most of the engagements involving armored vehicles have been
between light armored vehicles. Due to the unsuitable terrain in Khuzistan,
which is marshy ground criss-crossed by canals and rivers, and the
difficulty that the adversaries have had in maintaining their main battle
tanks,Iran and Iraq have come to rely more heavily on armored fighting
vehicles.6 Iraq has a variety of these vehicles but relies most heavily on
the Brazilian Engessa EE-9 Cascavels. Baghdad was apparently pleased with
this vehicle's performance because it signed a contract in November 1981,
worth $250 million. Brazilian officials reported that up to 2,000
Cascavels, EE-11 Urutu armored personnel carriers and EE-3 Jaracara armored
cars had seen action in the war. In addition to providing the vehicles, the
contract provides at least five year's worth of parts.7
Iran has relied most heavily on British-made Model 220 Alvis Scorpion
light tanks. However, the Iranians also have the Cascavels since Libya,
which purchased the Cascavels from Brazil has provided them to Iran.8 The
initial hesitancy of the two super-powers to provide equipment and thereby
prolong the war has caused Iran and Iraq to seek other third-country arms
merchants such as the Chinese. Therefore, a war that was not begun under
the auspices of the United States and Soviet Union is now even more out of
As this is not an armor-heavy war and since neither side has been able
to maintain air superiority, artillery, particularly heavy, long-range gun
fire has played an important role. Both sides have made extensive use of
their larger calibre guns to shell cities, ports and oil facilities. It was
Iran's ability to deliver heavy indirect fire that was so effective in
helping to stop the Iraqi drives on Dezful and Ahvaz. It was also the
artillery, this time Iraqi, that destroyed the oil refinery at Abadan.9
However, when used in a purely harrassing role, it seemed to have little
effect on the civilian populace or on the troops. As current television
footage of the shelling of Beirut indicates, day-to-day life seems to go on
once the public gets used to the shock effect of the falling shells. The
important characteristic of the artillery is its ability to destroy and
every meter of range increases its destructive value. Thus, it appears that
the Marine Corps' purchase of the M198 howitzer, with its extended range,
has been validated by the struggle between these two Persian Gulf states.
The development of ground tactics has been very interesting. One of
the first points is the value of a well-prepared defense. As the Iraqis
have generally shown, a good defensive position can inflict heavy casualties
on an attacking force that lacks proper training, morale, and mobility. The
attacker must ensure that he has sufficient combat power to achieve his
objective and he must have adequate training , elan, and the ability to
maneuver to discover the enemy's weak points. The Iraqis showed themselves
to be less than adept while on the offensive, but these same forces have
been able to stand-up well against the attacks of the Pasdaran.
The proper selection of terrain or its improper selection, as in the
attack on Susangerd, is critical. Both sides have displayed a fatal
inability to analyze the terrain and have, therefore, suffered the
consequences. Iraq lost large numbers of men in urban terrain which it
should have bypassed and Iran lost large numbers of tanks because it
attacked through poorly trafficable terrain.
In close association with the employment of the defense and the proper
selection of terrain is the use of obstacles as a "force multiplier". The
Iranians made excellent use of obstacles such as urban areas and waterways
to impede the progress of the Iraqis in September 1980. Similarly, the
Iraqis made extensive use of obstacles to delay the attacks of the Iranians
during the 1982 Spring Offensive.
Unfortunately, the Iraqis dug-in even when they weren't on the
defensive. Rather than risking the loss of their tanks to ATGM's, the
Iraqis would advance very slowly, using bulldozers to prepare hull-down
positions, ahead of the armor, into which the tanks could drive. Thus, the
tanks survived fairly well, but the Iraqis needed quite a few replacements
for their bulldozers and operators.
Although the Iraqis did not maneuver their tanks and armored fighting
vehicles well in combat, they did move them better behind the lines. Large
numbers of transporters were used to redeploy the tracked vehicles from one
area of the front to another, thereby, reducing wear and tear on the
vehicles and allowing their crews to rest when they would otherwise be
Neither side has performed well at integrating its combat arms. The
Iraqis attempted to seize Khorramshahr with armored forces rather than with
dismounted infantry and it used tanks as armored self-propelled artillery
rather than as mobile armored cannon. Similarly, the Iranians sacrificed
many tanks and AFV's at Susangerd partly because they failed to integrate
mechanized infantry into the armor thrust. This inability to integrate
their arms may be due to the jealousy that often exists between the
different branches of the armed forces. The armed services in the two
countries are not willing to cooperate fully in combined arms operations
because they would rather see the credit heaped upon themselves as a single
Both Iran and Iraq have made effective use of special units or basic
units that have received specialized training. Unconventional forces of
Iran or Syria cut the Iraqi oil pipeline in several places and on several
occasions. Iraqi special brigades ware required to secure Khorramshahr and
mountain-trained Iraqi forces performed very well at Mehran and
Qasr-e-Shirin. The special units may have been employed because they were
the best unit for the operation or they may have been employed because the
adversaries were unable to integrate their conventional forces. Being
unable to coordinate their conventional forces, the two adversaries might
have had no chance for success unless they did commit their special units.
However, this is not the preferred reason for employing special trained
Neither side has made consistently effective use of its airpower.
Coincidentally, both sides have tended to husband their aircraft which may
partly account for its generally ineffective use. After the initial
airstrike and subsequent dispersal, the Iraqis kept most of their fighters
back to "protect the palace", i.e. Baghdad. The Air Force did, however,
occasionally venture forth, to keep the Iraqi ground forces from being
routed. The 1982 Spring Offensive saw the Iraqis fly up to 150 sorties a
day but again the aircraft were not used effectively. Lack of confidence in
Soviet training, ordnance, equipment and the mediocre quality of avionics
have caused the Iraqis to depend more extensively on other assets, such as
The Iranian aircraft and pilots performed better than expected against
tactical ground targets during the initial stages of the war. This may have
been largely due to the fact that the Iranians were presented with a truly
"target rich environment" and because the Iraqi air defense was not very
effective. The Iranians were also successful in attacking strategic targets
which may be attributed to the following factors: better planning; greater
range versus payload of the Iranian aircraft; use of smart/precision-guided
munitions; and U.S. versus Soviet training. Two examples of Iranian
missions may illustrate the point. One Iranian raid was conducted over a
distance of 800 kilometers from the nearest Iranian base and it involved
aerial refueling. This is an accomplishment which the Iraqis have yet to
match.11 The second example involves the air attack on the Tuwaitha Atomic
Center, which was conducted on September 30, 1980.12 Initial reports
indicated that the two Phantoms which conducted the attack were flown by
Israelis. Later reports proved that pilots were Iranians and that the
pilots may not have known that the target that they damaged was a nuclear
reactor. Even today, the threat that Iran will attack ships in the Gulf or
conduct other "accidental" bombings, such as the ones conducted against
Kuwait, is sufficient to keep other Arab States out of the frey.13
Irainan use of fixed-wing aircraft has steadily declined for several
reasons. First, the number of operational aircraft has dropped to about
100, primarily because of the lack of parts of the F-4's, F-5's, and F-14's.
This is in spite of the Israeli's attempts to supply the parts for these
aircraft. Secondly, the effectivenness of Iragi air defense has improved and
the Iraqis are no longer presenting the lucrative massed targets that were
apparent at the start of the war.
The hesitancy by both parties to employ high-performance aircraft and
the relatively high number of rotary-wing aircraft has led to an increased
reliance on helicopters. Helicopters have proven very useful in a
close-air-support role in addition to the more traditional roles such as
troop-lift and resupply. Specifically, the Iranians and Iraqis have come to
realize the advantages of using helos in a close-air-support role in the
mountainous terrain of the north and in the areas surrounding the cities.
It is in these areas that the helos are best able to make use of the
available cover and concealment that are not available in the open desert.
Air defense on both sides has evolved into a reliance on air defense
artillery, SA-7's and the concentrated fire of automatic weapons. Because
of poor training and improper maintenance the Iranians have not been able to
effectively employ their HAWK, Rapier of Tigercat surface-to-air missile
systems and have come to rely on the "curtain of fire", and Syrian - supplied
SA-7's to stop the Iraqi helos.14 The "curtin office", which both sides
employ, is the technique of the ground forces firing their weapons into the
air in the hope that hte enemy aircraft will fly into this hail of bullets.
This is obviously not a very efficient air defense means but if you have
enough troops firing, it may be an effective means. At any rate, it has
discouraged close air support by both sides.
On the offense, the Iranians have developed tactics and/or equipment
to counter the SA-2's and SA-3's but have not been able to counter the
SA-6's which, fortunately, have not been present in great numbers.15 The
air-to-air aspect of the war has been very poor. Since neither side has
been able to consistently operate at the high and mid-levels, because of the
SAM threat that is there, most of the flying has been at low altitudes. The
combination of low altitude attack profiles, mountainous terrain and
reliance on infrared-seeking missiles has tended to reduce reliance on
aircraft in the air defense role and to reduce the effectiveness of those
aircraft that are used.
The adversaries, although armed with some of the most-sophisticated
weapons available from the West or East, have found themselves involved in a
type of trench warfare reminiscent of World War I. The sophisticated
weapons often sit idle because the armed forces cannot operate them due to
lack of training or lack of parts. Those weapons that are used are not
employed at their optimum range or effectiveness. Tanks engage tanks at
200-300 meters instead of at ranges in excess of 1200 meters because the
gun-sights can't be used and highly sophisticated interceptor aircraft
aren't flown because their missiles and gun systems don't work. Given
enough time, however, both sides will be able to train and resupply. It
will be when one side or the other feels that it has a distinct edge that we
might see another offensive effort such as in September 1980 or in the
Spring and Summer Offensives of 1982 and 1983.
Impact on International Relations
The full impact that the Iran-Iraq War will have on international
relations in general, and on Soviet-American relations in particular, is at
present difficult to ascertain. Neither of the two super-powers had a hand
in starting the conflict and neither has had any real measure of control
over their former allies or clients. There is some question about whether
either Washington or Moscow were even aware that Iran and Iraq were
deploying forces. In "Implications of the Iraq-Iran War", Claudia Wright
indicates that there was an unusual pattern of Soviet surveillance satellite
launchings on August 26th and September 29, 1980.1 She also indicates that,
although the Soviets may have seen some indications of impending attack,
they were not willing or were unable to intervene.
As explained earlier, the Persian Gulf is an area of vital interest to
Western Europe, Japan and other allies of America. By implication, it is an
area of great interest for the United States even though it is the source of
only a small amount of our oil. In his State of the Union Address in
January 1980, President Carter declared that
"an attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian
Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital
interests of the United States of America and such an assault
will be repelled by any means necessary, including military
The first concern of the United States was the possible closing of the
Straits of Hormuz by Iran, Iraq or, possibly by a third-party. There had
been some reports that the Palestinian Liberation Organization possessed
weapons that could sink a ship in the Straits and that they planned to use
these weapons to fuel the fire of the war. To limit the chances of the
Straits of Hormuz being closed, the United States and other Western nations
increased their naval presence, being careful to not provoke either Iran or
Iraq into unwarranted allegations or actions. The actual employment of
naval forces has not been necessary. Since both Iran and Iraq realize that
their wealth comes from the export of petroleum, they have left the Straits
open. However, this does not preclude a third-party, such as the
Palestinian Liberation Organization from taking actions that would cause the
shippers of the world to refuse to sail through the Straits. Beyond the
understanding of the needs of the world's oil users is the knowledge that
the West would bring tremendous force, political as well as military, to
bear should the oil supply be threatened. Both Iran and Iraq have conducted
air and naval strikes into the Gulf and some ships have been sunk but the
Straits have remained open.
A second source of concern for Washington was the threat by and ability
of the Iranians to conduct airstrikes against other Gulf nations with the
intent of keeping these states from providing more aid to Iraq. Iraq is
being subsidized by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations not only financially
but militarily and morally, as well. Just as the United States provided a
naval presence to keep the seaways open, so an American presence was
provided to keep the airways open. In late September 1980, Washington made
available to the Saudi Arabian government four E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning
and Control System) aircraft. The purpose of these aircraft was to provide
an airborne early warning system to guard against an Iranian air attack into
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Taken together, these two American
forces have helped to maintain the the status quo in the Persian Gulf Region.
The United States does not want either country to decisively defeat the
other. Were the Iranians to convincingly defeat Iraq and were the Sunni
government then to collapse, it would present the world with a corridor of
Shiite countries from Iran, through Iraq, into Syria. Fueled by their
success, the Iranians might attempt to export their revolution to the other
Arab Gulf States. This would present the possibility of a regional war
involving several Arab allies. Choosing to aid its allies, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, et al., Washington could be drawn into the struggle.
Similarly, the Soviets, because of their close association with certain
Gulf client-states such as Syria, could also be drawn into the war. Any
potential decisive Iranian victory could escalate into a regional war
involving several of the Gulf States and some countries outside of the Gulf.
The war could further expand into a confrontation between the United States
which was honoring its stated commitments, and the Soviets who were
protecting their interests.
A similar scenario can be envisioned were the Iraqis able to decisively
defeat the Iranians. The end for Iran could begin if the Ayatollah's forces
are destroyed and the government collapses because of internal and external
pressure. However, the Pasdaran and other large elements of the military
and civilian populace might commence a guerrilla campaign against the Iraqi
victors. The Iranian oil industry would probably be in a shambles since
there would be no direction from the government and many of the refineries
lay in ruins as a result of Iraqi airstrikes. Oil supplies would be cut off
from the West because the Iranians closed-off the Straits of Hormuz with
At this juncture several courses of action exist. First, Syria, true
to its commitment to support Iran could open up a second front against
Iraq's western border. The Iraqis would then be faced with attempting to
rebuild their own country, supress the guerrillas in Iran and the Iraqi
Kurds in the north and fight the Syrians on the Iraqi-Syrian border. Iraq
might ask for and receive the assistance of Jordan and again, the localized
two-country war could become a regional conflict. The oil flow to the West
would stop because now the refineries of both Iran and Iraq are destroyed.
The West may decide that it must move in and take-over the Iranian oil
fields and refineries to start the oil flowing again. The USCENTCOM (U.S.
Central Command) having already been given the alert order would begin
deployment. However, seeing that the time was ripe to gain control of the
oil in Iran and the Persian Gulf, the Soviet could move first. Crossing the
Iranian border from the Soviet Union and Afghanistan with several armored
and mechanized divisions, the Soviets head straight for Tehran and other
northern cities. Simultaneously, the Soviets seize Khorramshahr, Bandar
Abbas and Abadan and the key facilities with their airborne divisions. As
in the "Victorious Iran" scenario, this scenario could guickly expand into a
To limit the chances of either of these two scenarios developing, the
Carter and Reagan Administrations attempted to maintain parity between the
two warring nations and they sought to treat the two countries
even-handedly. As discussed in Chapter 4, the Iranians and Iraqis are
receiving support from Western and Soviet allies. As an example, the French
are supporting the Iraqis and the Israelis are supporting the Iranians.
Both the French and Israelis have their own reasons for conducting business
as they do, but their actions have assisted Washington in maintaining the
status quo. However, there is considerable doubt as to whether the United
States has any real influence with the French of Israelis. There is also no
certainty that France or Israel will continue to work to maintain parity in
the war. Therefore, President Reagan has decided to take a more active role
in the war.
The present administration is no longer content with maintaining the
status quo of death, destruction and the potential for escalation of the war
into a regional or worldwide struggle. The White House has always publicly
supported a peaceful resolution of the conflict as evidenced by its support
of several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Resolution
479, adopted on September 26, 1980 called on Iran and Iraq to refrain
immediately from any further use of force and to settle the dispute by
peaceful means. Resolution 514 of July 12, 1982 called for a "ceasefire and
immediate end to all military operations" and a "withdrawal of all forces to
internationally recognized boundaries."3 Additionally, United Nation
observers were dispatched to the war zone to "verify, confirm and supervise
the cease-fire and withdrawal."4 Needless-to-say, there was no cease-fire
and no mutual withdrawal. Resolution 522 of October 1982 reaffirmed the
needs establishec in Resolution 514 and commended one of the parties, Iraq,
for its willingness to implement Resolution 514 on a unilateral basis. In
fact, Iraq had been calling for a cessation of hostilities since September
28, 1980 which, coincidentally, was about the time that it realized that the
drive into Iran had been stopped.
President Reagan reaffirmed the United States' policy toward the war
which was that Washington would not "standby and allow anyone to close...oil
traffic." The President also stated that "We (the United States) support
U.N. Security Council Resolution 540, which calls for a cease-fire in the
Gulf and urges all states, especially the two belligerents, to avoid action
which would threaten freedom of navigation in the international waters of
the Persian Gulf. We want a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement."5 As
evidenced by these statements and by recent actions, Washington wants the
fighting to stop and for the two parties to meet at the negotiating table.
The White House was one of the behind-the-scene sponsors and backers of an
October 30, 1983 United Nations Security Council Resolution that called for
a cease-fire written in terms to be as acceptable as possible to Iran.
Iran, however, showed no interest.6 The Regan Administration also proposed
to the Baghdad leadership that Iraq should quietly begin, on a trial basis,
efforts to export some of its oil in tankers through the Persian Gulf.7 Were
the Iranians not to interfere, it would free-up some of the Iraqi tankers
that had been contained in the Gulf since the war's start and it might
signal a tacit cease-fire. This would surely open the road to negotiations.
However, an Iranian reaction could cause the Iraqis to counterattack,
thereby causing the escalation that the White House sought to avoid.
These proposals had apparently hit a brick wall with Iran. Therefore,
a new tact was initiated in late-1983. The President began to seek a
"normalization" of relations with Iraq, sending a Special Mideast Envoy,
Donald Rumsfeld, to visit Iraq in mid-December. Mr. Rumsfeld, the
highest-ranking American official to visit Iraq in six years, met with
The stronger stance against Iran is partly in response to Iranian
support for the Shiite faction that may have been responsible for the
bombings of the American Marine and French Headquarters of the
Multi-national Peacekeeping Force in Beirut. The Shiite faction, Al Dawa
(the Call), was expelled from Iraq in early 1980 by President Hussein.
Drawing its support from the large Shiite population in southeastern Iraq,
Al Dawa attempted to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state to replace the
secular Ba'ath Socialist government of President Hussein. The present
leader of Al Dawa, Hojatoleslam Mohammed Baqr Hakim, is operating from
Tehran where he has directed terrorist attacks against targets throughout
the Middle East.12 It is uncertain if Tehran is directly controlling the
activities of Al Dawa abroad or if it is just giving tacit approval for Al
Dawa's activities. In either case, Iran's support of Al Dawa is
unacceptable and cessation of hostilities favorable to Iraq is now the
preferred option for the White House.
The Soviet Union has also followed a course of neutrality in the Gulf, at
least superficially. The Eastern European nations are also dependent on oil
imports. In the past, the primary source of their imported oil was the Soviet
Union, but the Soviets have recently been trying to wean them from the
Soviet oil supply. There are not many sources of oil open to these
countries, but one such source could be the Persian Gulf. The Soviets,
therefore, would like to be in a position where they would have a strong
voice in the allocation of the Gulf's oil. Secondly the Soviets have
demonstrated a propensity for establishing friendly buffer states on their
President Hussein and delivered a letter to him from president Reagan. Mr.
Rumsfeld, as reported in the Washington Post, is said to have repeated a
willingness to resume full dimplomatic relations with Iraq at any time.
Relations had been broken-off between the two countries since 1967, but
interest sections have been maintained in both capitals since then.8
However, the Iraqs are still suspicious of American intentions in the Gulf.
More recent proposals by the Reagan Administration indicate a willingness to
do more than just normalize relations with Iraq and to take steps to impede
the flow of support into Iran. The export of American military hardware to
either Iran or Iraq is prohibited, but non-military supplies that can
indirectly or even directly aid the Iranians have continued to flow. One
such example was the proposed sale of the Hughes helicopters to Iran. There
is some question as to whether the deal was ever concluded, but the intent
to sell potential war supplies to Iran was present. American exports to
Iran for the first ten months of 1983 totalled $161 million, nearly twice
that the $87 million exported in 1982.9 Indirect trading, i.e. that done
through third countries, can account for considerably more although figures
are not available to substantiate this claim. Some of the trading is not
only indirect but is illegal as well. One group in New York was charged
with conspiring to sell $2 billion worth of weapons to federal agents who
posed as representatives of Iran and the Irish Republican Army.10 The United
States does more than export products to Iran. The first ten months of 1983
saw the import of 30 million barrels of Iranian oil, about 3.5 percent of
American oil imports. This figure was up 10 million barrels or about one
percent from 1982.11
borders. Afghanistan was the most recent example of this overt effort to
establish another buffer state. A pro-Soviet Iran, as a Gulf nation with
oil and which bordered on the Soviet Union, would meet both of the Soviet's
needs: a supply of oil and a friendly buffer state. To achieve this goal of
luring the Iranians into a false sense of security, the Soviets declared a
policy of neutrality in the Gulf War. However, since the Soviets were
linked to Iraq by treaty, this declaration of neutrality was, in effect, in
favor of the Iranians. By ingratiating themselves with the mullahs, in that
the U.S.S.R had not aligned itself with Iraq, the Soviets hoped that they
would be the ones that the Iranians would call if they needed help.
This hope of being Iran's friend was greatly diminished in May 1983
when the Iranians expelled eighteen Soviet diplomats and dissoved the
Communist Tudeh Party. Although relations between the two countries were
never particularly good, it was the Soviet Union's renewed sales of weapons
to Iraq that caused the Ayatollah's reaction. Even with this apparent
stain in relations, the Soviets and the Iranians continue to carry on.
With Khorramshahr, its biggest port closed, the Iranians must make extensive
use of the Soviet rail system for the movement of supplies. Additionally,
Soviet-Iranian trade is estimated to be about $1 billion annually, and
one-third of Irans imports travel through Soviet territory.13 It seems most
likely that the expulsion of the Soviet diplomats and banning of the
Communist Party was a "red herring" designed by the Ayatollah Khomeini to
distract the attention of the Iranian populace. The Ayatollah's intent,
apparently, was to blame Iran's internal problems on some entity outside of
the borders, as they had done with the United States and the hostage
situation. It appears that the Soviets are now less a friend of the
Iranians than they were a year ago and that the Soviets are now more willng
to support the Iraqis. However, in the eyes of the Soviets, Iran is the
prize and not Iraq. Diplomatically and superficially, the Soviets will
support the pan-Arabic movement of Iraq. Given a choice between Iran and
Iraq, however, the Soviets will probably opt for Iran's location and its
Therefore, the potential for a Soviet-American conflict is still
present. All of the Western states must ensure the safety of their vital
oil supply but it is Washington that is most willing and able to commit
forces. The Persian Gulf's oil is not currently vital to the welfare of the
Eastern Bloc countries; nor is the existence of pro-Soviet Iran vital to the
security of the Soviet Union. However, if the opportunity to move into Iran
is presented to the Soviets, or if they create the opportunity, then
scenarios that were described earlier are sure to develop.
The West must bring the two warring nations to the negotiating table as
equals, not as victor and vanquished. The fighting and the chance of
escalation must be stopped. The negotiations can't solve the problems of
Persian-Arab enmity nor can it close the Sunni-Shiite rift. The
negotiations can, however, help keep the Soviets out of the Gulf and help
ensure the continued flow of oil to the west.
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1Robert Bernard O'Donnell, "A New Arab Alliance System:
Causes of the Iran-Iraq War and the Reaction of Various Arab States,"
Thesis, Naval Post Graduate School (Monterey, California, 1981), p. 34.
2Alvin J. Cottrell, The Persian Gulf States (Baltimore
and London; The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), p. 289.
3Drew Middleton, "Iraqi Tactics Stress Shelling," New York
Times, 9 November 1980. p. Al.Col.1.
4Cottrell, The Persian Gulf States, p. 305.
5O'Donnell, "A New Arab Alliance System," p. 39.
6Bruce Van Voorst and Roland Flamini, "Man of the Year,"
Time, January 1980, pp. 8-21.
7O'Donnell, "A New Arab Alliance System," p. 46.
8Ibid., p. 47.
10Ibid., p. 10.
11Ibid., p. 17.
12American Foreign Policy Institute, The Impact of the
Iranian Events Upon Persian Gulf and U.S. Security (Washington,
D.C., 1979), pp. 39-64.
13Robert F. Kieser, "The Persian Gulf: An Area of Potential
Conflict," Air University, (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama,
1974), p. 48.
14David Rosser-Owen, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War,"
Armada International, March 1982 pp. 40-47.
1Stephen R. Grummon, "The Iran-Iraq War; Islam Embattled,"
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, (Washington,
D.C.: Georgetown University, 1982), p. 15.
2Anthony H. Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: The
First Round," Armed Forces Journal International, April 1982,
8The Military Balance, 1981-1982, ed., The International
Institute for Strategic Studies, (London, 1982).
9Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 38.
10The Military Balance, 1981-1982, ed.
11William O. Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the
Gulf War," (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania: U.S. Army War
College, 1982), p. 6.
12Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 40.
13Military Balance, loc. cit.
14Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," pp. 8-9.
15Cottrell, The Persian Gull States, p. 631.
16Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 44.
17Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," p. 10.
18Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 44.
19Tanner, Henry, "Iraq's Leaders Call for Talks with Iran
to Settle Conflict," New York Times, September 29, 1980.
20Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," p. 16.
1Gary C. Demack, "Perception and Misperception in the Persian
Gulf: The Iran-Iraq War," Parameters, June 1983, p. 26.
2"Chronology," The Middle East Journal, Spring 1983, pp. 242-
3Anthony H. Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: Part
Two," Armed Forces Journal International, June 1982, p. 73.
4"Iran, Iraq Report Victories Along the Southern Front,"
Washington Post, March 23, 1982.
5Grummon, "The Iran-Iraq War," p. 46.
6Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," p. 21.
7Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: Part Two,", p. 74.
8"Iran Launches New Offensive Against Iraqis," Washington
Post, May 1, 1982.
1Michael Getter, "Iran Seen Widening Invasion," Washington
Post, July 16, 1982.
2Anthony H. Cordesman, "The Iran-Iraq War: Attrition Now,
Chaos Later," Armed Forces Journal International, May 1983, p. 38.
3Ibid., p. 40.
4Christine Moss Helms, "The Iraqi Dilemma: Political
Objectives versus Military Strategy," The Brooking Institution,
1983, p. 84.
5Joseph Panossian, "Iran Starts Offensive, Claims Major
Gains," Washington Post, February 8, 1983.
6Helms, "The Iraqi Dilemma," p. 82.
7"Costly War (II)," Time, June 27,1983, p. 45.
8James Kelly, "Battling for the Advantage," Time, October
24, 1983, p. 35.
9Ibid., p. 34.
10Ibid., p. 35.
11Charles A. Robinson, "Iran, Iraq Acquiring Chinese-
Built Fighters," Aviation Week and Space Technology, April 11, 1983
12Dr. Michael C. Dunn, "There's a New Armored War Being
Fought," Defense and Foreign Affairs, January/February 1982, p. 26.
13Robinson, "Iran, Iraq Acquiring Chinese-Built Fighter," p. 16
16Ibid., p. 17.
17Ibid., p. 16.
1Rosser-Owen, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 42.
2Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: Part Two," p. 76.
4Rosser-Owen, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," p. 44.
5Staudenmaier, "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," p. 17.
6Dunn, "There's a New Armored War Being Fought," p. 26.
9Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: Part Two," p. 78.
10Ibid., p. 73.
11Ibid., p. 84.
12Jed C. Snyder, "The Road to Osirag: Baghdad's Quest
for the Bomb," The Middle East Journal, Autumn 1983, p. 580.
13Cordesman, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War: Part Two," p. 84.
14Ibid., p. 80.
1Claudia Wright, "Implications of the Iraq-Iran War,"
Foreign Affairs, Winter 1980/81, p. 289.
2President Jimmy Carter, "State of the Union Address,"
3"Call Renewed for End to Iran-Iraq War," UN Chronicle,
December 1982, p. 86.
5Juan Williams, "Reagan Warns Iran-Iraq War Could
Escalate," Washington Post, January 8, 1984.
6Dan Oberdorfer, "U.S. Moves to Avert Iraqi Loss,"
Washington Post, January 1, 1984.
10"Counterthreats: Iran's Diversionary Tactics," Time,
August 8, 1983, p. 42.
11Oberdorfer, "U.S. Moves to Avert Iraqi Loss"
12David B. Ottaway, "Beirut Bomber Seen Front for Iranian
Supported Shiite Faction," Washington Post, January 4, 1984.
13Pico Iyer, "Hatred Without Discrimination," Time,
May 16, 1983, p. 27.
Cordesman, Anthony H., He has written several articles for the Armed
Forces Journal, three of which were used as sources for this paper.
Cottrell, Alvin J., General Editor, The Persian Gulf States. Baltimore
and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. A compre-
hensive compilation of essays on the states of the Persian Gulf.
It provides a wealth of detailed information on the militaries,
cultures, economies, politics and histories of the states.
Grummon, Stephen R., The Iran-Iraq War, Georgetown University, 1982.
The Iran-Iraq War caught much of the world by surprise, yet its
antecedents reach back more than a thousand years. Mr. Grummon
accurately recounts the causes of the war, traces its course, and
makes some estimates as to its possible effect on the world.
Theses and Research Papers
Kieser, Robert F., "The Persian Gulf: An Area of Potential Conflict,"
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Air University, 1974. Before
the recent energy crisis, the focal point of the Middle East was
the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The Persian Gulf States were largely
ignored until the present war. The author describes the ways in
which the Persian Gulf countries could become embroiled in war and
the ways in which they can involve the other nations of the world.
McLaurin, R.D., "Military Operations in the Gulf War: The Battle of
Khorramshahr," Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, U.S. Army Human
Engineering Laboratory, 1982. This study deals with the largest
single urban battle of the Iran-Iraq War. There is much more
information contained in this document besides that pertaining to
O"Donnell, Robert Bernard, "A New Arab Alliance System: Causes of the
Iraq-Iran War and the Reaction of Various Arab States," Monterey,
California, Naval Post Graduate School, 1981. This thesis examines
the current conflict and Looks at the causes, both stated and
unstated, offering an opinion as to the real causes of the war.
Staudenmaier, William O., "A Strategic Analysis of the Gulf War," Carlisle
Barracks, Pennsylvania, U. S. Army War College, 1982. This memoran-
dum examines the war from a strategic perspective to determine its
causes; to analyze the military strategy and events of the war in
order to shed light on significant tactical and logistical develop-
ments and to derive tentative conclusions.
Journals and Periodicals
Bill, James A., "Power and Religion in Revolutionary Iran," The Middle
East Journal, Winter 1982, pp. 22-47. The article is an excellent
glossary of the vocabulary of the religions of the Persian Gulf.
It provides an excellent background of the politics of religion.
Christie, John, "The Tinder-box of War," Pacific Defense Review, December
1982/January 1983, pp. 26-30. The author maintains that concern
for the safety of the world should be centered about the Arab-Persian
War more than with the Arab-Israeli War.
Cottrell, Alvin J., "Islam Embattled," National Defense, July - August
1983, pp. 36-39. The article is a very rudimentary summary of the
war,but it is a good primer written by a very knowledgeable man.
Dawisha, Karen, "The USSR and the Middle East," Foreign Affairs, Winter
1982/1983, pp. 438-452. The article traces the development of
Soviet relations with the states of the Middle East. The 1978-79
cooling of relations between the Soviets and Iraqis and recent attempts
by the Soviets to warm things up is covered in detail.
Dunn, Michael F., "There's a new Armored War Being Fought," Defense and
Foreign Affairs, January/February 1982, pp. 9+. The theme of the
article is that the emphasis of armored warfare is shifting from
reliance on heavy tanks to reliance on lighter, more reliable armored
fighting vehicles and Light tanks.
Cordesman, Anthony H., "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War; Parts One, Two and
Three," Armed Forced Journal International, April 1982, June 1982
and May 1983, pp. 32-47, 68-85, and 36-43, respectively. In this
series of three articles, Mr. Cordesman has fully described the
causes of the war, traced its development, analyzed the tactics and
weapons and drawn conclusions. An excellent source of information.
Helms, Christine Moss, "The Iraqi Dilemma: Political Objectives Versus
Military Strategy," The Brookings Institution, 1983. As the title
indicates, Iraq is faced with the problem of developing military
strategies to accomplish vague and undefined political objectives.
Jawdat, Nameer AIi, "Reflections on the Gulf War," 1983, pp. 86-98. This
article is an excellent discussion of the regional and international
problems that could occur from the escalation of the war and subse-
quent defeat of either combatant.
Miller, Marshall Lee, "Will Iran or Iraq Close the Straits of Honmuz?,"
Armed Forces Journal International, December 1983, pp. 24-27.
An up-to-date discussion of the political and economic situation
surrounding and complicating the war in the Persian Gulf.
Milton, T.R., "Where the Cauldron Boiled Over," Air Force Magazine,
January 1981, pp. 98-102. Employment of airpower in the war has
been more haphazard and episodic than according to any doctrine.
The reasons are as murky as the battlfield communiques but the
outcome affects U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East.
O"Ballance, Edgar, "The Iraqi-Iranian War: The First round," Parameters,
Vol. XI, No. 1, pp. 54-59. A preliminary discussion of the
causes, progress and future of the war.
O'Ballance, Edgar, "The Iran-Iraq War," The Marine Corps Gazette, February
1982, pp. 44-50. An updated version of his earlier work, it provided
some of the background for Cordesman's early article.
Owen, Fran E. and Ronendra K. Mukherjee, "lessons of the Postscript War,"
Army, August, 1983, pp. 31-36. A presentation of the "Lessons learned"
from a war that has moved from the front pages to the back pages. The
conclusions are that this type of warfare can be as much a precursor
of future wars as the mobile Arab-Israeli War was for our present
Robinson, Charles A., Jr., "Iran-Iraq Acquiring Chinese-Built Fighters,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 11 April 1983, pp. 16-18. A
description of how the two adversaries have sought the assistance
of many nations to help them continue the war.
Rogal, Kim and Ron Moreau, "The Youngest Martyrs," Newsweek, 21 March 1983,
p. 51. A brief description of the religious fervor that grips Iran and
Rosser-Owen, David, "Lessons of the Iran-Iraq War," Armada International,
March 1982, pp. 40-47. A recapitulation of the course of the war.
It provides a good recipe of the successes and failures of the two
Sciolino, Elaine, "A War Without End," Newsweek, August 15, 1983, pp. 33-34.
Fueled by many outside agencies and fired by the zeal of religion,
this war promises to continue for a long time even if one government
Staudenmaier, William O., "Military Policy and Strategy in the Gulf War,"
Parameters, Vol. XIII, No. 2, pp. 25-25. A condensed version of Col.
Staudenmaier's "Analysis" for the U.S. Army War College. Excellent
coverage of the early part of the war.
Wright, Claudia, "Implications of the Iraq-Iran War," Foreign Affairs,
Winter 1980/1981. The article describes the basic causes of the war
and thoroughly describes the actions of the other Gulf Nations. The
latter part of the article discusses the implications for the U.S.
Kelly, James, "Battling for the Advantage," Time, October 25, 1983, pp.
34-36. After three years of fighting, both countries are suffering
economically and are seeking the assistance of other countries
militarily, morally and economically.
C. Lesser-used Secondary Sources
Jacobson, Jay C., "Military Arsenals: The Persian Gulf," War Data, 1979.
Nyrop, Richard F., Iran a Country Study (1978) and Iraq a Country Study
(1979), Area Handbook Series, Washington, D.C.: American University.
The Military Balance, 1981-1982 ed. The International Institute for
Strategic Studies, London, 1982.
Theses and Research Documents
Helmlinger, Robert B., Jr., "Iranian-Iraqi Antagonisms: Source for US-USSR
Confrontation," Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, U.S. Army War
Radwan, Ann B., "Iraq-Iran and the Gulf: The Regional Dynamic," U.S. Army
War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, 1982.
Journals and Periodicals
Batatu, Hanna, "Iraq's Undergound Shi'a Movement: Characteristics, Causes
and Prospects," The Middle East Journal, Autumn 1981, pp. 578-594.
Demack, Gary C., "Perception and Misperception in the Persian Gulf: The
Iran-Iraq War," Parameters, Vol. XII, No. 2. pp. 65-73.
Iyer, Pico, "Hatred Without Discrimination," Time, May 18 1983,
Snyder, Jed C., "The Road to Oslraq: Baghdad's Quest for the Bomb,"
The Middle East Journal, Autumn 1983, p. 590.
Swearingen, Will D., "Sources of conflict over Oil in the Persian/
Arabian Gulf," The Middle East Journal, Summer 1981, pp. 315-330.
Van Voorst, Bruce and Roland Flamini, "Man of the Year," Time, January
"F-5E/F Fighters Provide Defense on Iraqi Border, " Aviation Week and
Space Technology," June 27, 1983, pp. 79-80.
"Chronology," The Middle East Journal, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall of
1981, 1982, 1983 and Winter 1984.
"Iran, Iraq Still Far Apart on Central Issues," UN Chronicle, May 1982,
"Call Renewed for End to Iran-Iraq War," UN Chronicle, December 1982,
"President's Statement," UN Chronicle, April 1983, p. 9-10.
"The Persian Gulf on Fire," Military Enthusiast, Vol. 1, No. 2.
Getter, Michael, "Iran Seen Widening invasion," Washington Post, July 16,
Middleton, Drew, "Iraqi Tactics Stress Shelling," New York Times, November
9, 1980, p. Al, Col. 1.
Oberdorfer, Dan, "U.S. Moves to Avert Iraqi Loss," Washington Post, January
Ottaway, David B., "Beirut Bomber Seen Front for Iranian Supported Shitte
Faction," Washington Post, January 4, 1984.
Panossian, Joseph, "Iran Starts Offensive, Claims Major Gains," Washington
Post, February 8, 1983.
Tanner, Henry, "Iraq's Leaders Call for Talks with Iran to Settle Conflict,"
New York Time. September 29, 1980.
Williams, Juan, "Reagan Warns Iran-Iraq Could Escalate," Washington Post,
January 8, 1984, p. 1.
"Counterthreats: Iran's Diversionary Tactics," Time, August 8, 1983, p. 42.
"Nowhere to Hide," Time, November 7, 1983.
Carter, Jimmy, "State of the Union Address," January 1980.
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