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Significant military assistance has been provided by Iran to Iraq and this has bought them a large amount of political influence in Iraq’s newly elected Shia government. Iraq is also heavily dependent on the more stable and developed Iran for its energy needs, so a peaceful customer is likely a high priority for Iran, foreign policy wise. North Korea was a major arms supplier to Iran, often acting as a third party in arms deals between Iran and the Communist bloc. Support included domestically manufactured arms and Eastern-Bloc weapons, for which the major powers wanted deniability.

In retaliation for the Iranian Operation Karbala 5, Iraq attacked 65 cities in 226 sorties over 42 days, bombing civilian neighbourhoods. The Iranians responded with Scud missile attacks on Baghdad and struck a primary school there. In total, 10,000–11,000 civilians died as a result of the aerial bombardment of Iranian cities with the majority of those deaths occurring in the final year of the war.

Iranian politicians declared it to be the “greatest victory in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. After Operation Karbala-5, Iraq only had 100 qualified fighter pilots remaining; therefore, Iraq began to invest in recruiting foreign pilots from countries such as Belgium, South Africa, Pakistan, East Germany and the Soviet Union. They replenished their manpower by integrating volunteers from other Arab countries into their army.

Comparison of Iraqi and Iranian military strength

Iraq also became self-sufficient in chemical weapons and some conventional ones and received much equipment from abroad. Foreign support helped Iraq bypass its economic troubles and massive debt to continue the war and increase the size of its military. On 25 June, Iraq launched the second Tawakal ala Allah operation against the Iranians on Majnoon Island. Iraqi commandos used amphibious craft to block the Iranian rear, then used hundreds of tanks with massed conventional and chemical artillery barrages to recapture the island after 8 hours of combat. Saddam appeared live on Iraqi television to “lead” the charge against the Iranians. The final two Tawakal ala Allah operations took place near al-Amarah and Khaneqan.

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While there was direct combat between Iran and the United States, it is not universally agreed that the fighting between the United States and Iran was specifically to benefit Iraq, or for separate issues between the U.S. and Iran. On 26 July 1988, the MEK started their campaign in central Iran, Operation Recenzja brokera przez H\’s BROKER Forough Javidan , with the support of the Iraqi army. The Iranians had withdrawn their remaining soldiers to Khuzestan in fear of a new Iraqi invasion attempt, allowing the Mujahedeen to advance rapidly towards Kermanshah, seizing Qasr-e Shirin, Sarpol-e Zahab, Kerend-e Gharb, and Islamabad-e-Gharb.

As a result, for the first time since 1982, the momentum of the fighting shifted towards the regular army. Since the regular army was conscription based, it made the war even less popular. As early as May 1985, anti-war demonstrations took place in 74 cities throughout Iran, which were crushed by the regime, resulting in some protesters being shot and killed. By 1987, draft-dodging had become a serious problem, and the Revolutionary Guards and police set up roadblocks throughout cities to capture those who tried to evade conscription. Others, particularly the more nationalistic and religious, the clergy, and the Revolutionary Guards, wished to continue the war. The Iran–Iraq War is regarded as being a major trigger for rising sectarianism in the region, as it was viewed by many as a clash between Sunni Muslims and the Shia revolutionaries that had recently taken power in Iran.

However, this came too late and, following the capture of 570 of their operable tanks and the destruction of hundreds more, Iran was believed to have fewer than 200 remaining operable tanks on the southern front, against thousands of Iraqi ones. The only area where the Iranians were not suffering major defeats was in Kurdistan. On 25 December 1986, Iran launched Operation Karbala-4 (Karbala referring to Hussein ibn Ali’s Battle of Karbala).

U.S. military actions toward Iran

The most infamous event was the massacre of 148 civilians of the Shia town of Dujail. At first, Saddam attempted to ensure that the Iraqi population suffered from the war as little as possible. At the same time, the already extensive personality cult around Saddam reached new heights while the regime tightened its control over the military.

According to the Financial Times, Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill’s branch in Ohio were among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government. Despite its larger population, by 1988 Iran’s ground forces numbered only 600,000 whereas the Iraqi army had grown to include 1 million soldiers. By 1987, Iranian morale had begun to crumble, reflected in the failure of government campaigns to recruit “martyrs” for the front. Israeli historian Efraim Karsh points to the decline in morale in 1987–88 as being a major factor in Iran’s decision to accept the ceasefire of 1988. To secure the loyalty of the Shia population, Saddam allowed more Shias into the Ba’ath Party and the government, and improved Shia living standards, which had been lower than those of the Iraqi Sunnis. Saddam had the state pay for restoring Imam Ali’s tomb with white marble imported from Italy.

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Prior to 1986, the conscription-based Iraqi regular army and the volunteer-based Iraqi Popular Army conducted the bulk of the operations in the war, to little effect. The Republican Guard, formerly an elite praetorian guard, was expanded as a volunteer army and filled with Iraq’s best generals. After the war, due to Saddam’s paranoia, the former duties of the Republican Guard were transferred to a new unit, the Special Republican Guard. Full-scale war games against hypothetical Iranian positions were carried out in the western Iraqi desert against mock targets, and they were repeated over the course of a full year until the forces involved fully memorized their attacks. Iraq built its military massively, eventually possessing the 4th largest in the world, in order to overwhelm the Iranians through sheer size. At the time of the conflict, the UN Security Council issued statements that “chemical weapons had been used in the war”.

88: Towards a ceasefire

In February 1988, Saddam began the fifth and most deadly “war of the cities”. Over the next two months, Iraq launched over 200 al-Hussein missiles at 37 Iranian cities. Saddam also threatened to use chemical weapons in his missiles, which caused 30% of Tehran’s population to leave the city. Iran retaliated, launching at least 104 missiles against Iraq in 1988 and shelling Basra.

  • The main Iraqi air effort had shifted to the destruction of Iranian war-fighting capability , and starting in late 1986, the Iraqi Air Force began a comprehensive campaign against the Iranian economic infrastructure.
  • Iran retaliated, launching at least 104 missiles against Iraq in 1988 and shelling Basra.
  • On 17 April 1988, Iraq launched Operation Ramadan Mubarak , a surprise attack against the 15,000 Basij troops on the al-Faw peninsula.

Iran deployed Silkworm missiles to attack ships, but only a few were actually fired. To discourage the United States from escorting tankers, Iran secretly mined some areas. The United States began to escort the reflagged tankers, but one was damaged by a mine Prognoza ekonomiczna dla 29 października-Forex while under escort. While being a public-relations victory for Iran, the United States increased its reflagging efforts. While Iran mined the Persian Gulf, their speedboat attacks were reduced, primarily attacking unflagged tankers shipping in the area.


The same day as Iraq’s attack on al-Faw peninsula, the United States Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis in retaliation against Iran for damaging a warship with a mine. Iran lost oil platforms, destroyers, and frigates in this battle, which ended only when President Reagan decided that the Iranian navy had been damaged enough. In spite of this, the Revolutionary Guard Navy continued their speedboat attacks against oil tankers.

These secret sales were partly to help secure the release of hostages held in Lebanon, and partly to make money to help the Contras rebel group in Nicaragua. More than 30 countries provided support to Iraq, Iran, or both; most of the aid went to Iraq. Iran had a complex clandestine procurement network to obtain munitions and critical materials. Iraq had an even larger clandestine purchasing network, involving 10–12 allied countries, to maintain ambiguity over their arms purchases and to circumvent “official restrictions”. Arab mercenaries and volunteers from Egypt and Jordan formed the Yarmouk Brigade and participated in the war alongside Iraqis. However, rather than turning against the revolutionary government as experts had predicted, Iran’s people rallied in support of the country and put up a stiff resistance.

UN statements never clarified that only Iraq was using chemical weapons, and according to retrospective authors “the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds.” At his trial in December 2006, Saddam said he would take responsibility “with honour” for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons during the war, but that he took issue with the charges that he ordered attacks on Iraqis. A medical analysis of the effects of Iraqi mustard gas is described in a U.S. military textbook and contrasted effects of World War I gas.

Iran was even producing UAV’s and the Pilatus PC-7 propeller aircraft for observation. Iran also doubled their stocks of artillery, and was self-sufficient in the manufacture of ammunition and small arms. The Iranians maintain that Vincennes Konkurencyjny świecie potrzebne są globalne wiadomości was in their own waters, and that the passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. Admiral William J. Crowe later admitted on Nightline that Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles.

While Iraqi military power had been depleted in recent battles, through heavy foreign purchases and support, they were able to expand their military even to much larger proportions by 1988. Faced with their recent defeats in al-Faw and Mehran, Iraq appeared to be losing the war. Iraq’s generals, angered by Saddam’s interference, threatened a full-scale mutiny against the Ba’ath Party unless they were allowed to conduct operations freely. In one of the few times during his career, Saddam gave in to the demands of his generals.

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