The Last great War: Iran vs Iraq and the lead up to the invasion of Kuwait. - PbNation
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:13 PM #1
Gagarin
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The Last great War: Iran vs Iraq and the lead up to the invasion of Kuwait.

Imagine a war that went on for eight years, caused more than a million casualties, and went through five distinct phases, with every kind of combat you could ask for from huge tank battles, human-wave offensives, artillery duels and amphibious assaults to exotic stuff like naval battles and dogfights with squadrons of MIGs and Sukhois up against American F-14s and F-4s.

Sounds pretty great, right? Well, if you're old enough to remember 1980, it happened right in front of your eyes and if you were like most Americans, you probably weren't interested. It's the Iran-Iraq War I'm talking about here, and most people barely noticed it. It was like that old hippie line, "What if they held a war and nobody came?" The armies showed up all right, but the network news crews didn't bother, even though they were always showing footage from lame little fake wars like Nicaragua and Ulster.

The reason we ignored this war was simple: nobody in America could stand even thinking about Iran. We'd just got through listening to our wimp excuse for a President, Jimmy Carter, try to get the hostages back from the Islamic crazies in Tehran by asking real nice. Then he finally authorized a teeny-tiny rescue mission with a lousy eight CH-54s, and that ended up with some filthy mullah holding up a dead GI's burnt-up arm and laughing. I remember that picture on the news made me so sick I had to go to my room and just lie there thinking about nuking every city in Iran, one a day. I spent a lot of time in the periodical room of the library looking up standoff nukes in Jane's, going, "Yeah...start with Khomeini's favorite town, Qum: whoosh! Suddenly there's no Qum. Next day pick someplace bigger, use a bigger nuke...."

We were supposedly the biggest and baddest country in the world and we couldn't get our people back from a few dozen hairy amateurs. It was sickening. I swear to God, when I heard how this ******* Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize a couple years ago, I felt like puking. He's one of these thin jerks who lives to be a hundred, so you keep hearing about him going around building shacks for third-worlders, getting filmed looking all holy, showing off when he could just write a check with his latest speech fee and fund a thousand shacks for these poor bastards.

We voted him out in '80, but we still couldn't stand to hear about Iran. So when they announced that Iraq was invading Iran, most people just said Great, I hope they kill a lot of Iranians, and left it at that. Nobody wanted details.

I remember thinking -- I was only a kid -- "Hey, it's like a bowl game to decide which country that has a four-letter name beginning with I-R-A gets to be top dog. The "Ira Bowl" or something."

Now that we've got a little experience of our own in Iraq, it's easier to understand how the Iran-Iraq War started. Start with a map and you can see Iraq looks like a funnel narrowing down to the Persian Gulf. That's the most valuable real estate in the country because it's Iraq's only sea access and it's also down there that a lot of the best oilfields are. And it's Shia territory. Iran is Shiite, and Khomeini was like a living God to all the Shiites. He already hated Saddam for booting him out of Iraq after the Shah exiled him.

Saddam saw his chance. As we found out in 1991, Saddam's a gambler. And the odds looked good for him to take Western Iran away from Khomeini back in 1980. The Islamists running Iran were amateurs, a bunch of noisy students and ignorant mullahs. They'd executed most of the Shah's officer corps, and put the rest in prison. So Saddam figured the Iranian Army would be headless and easy to destroy. Same calculation Hitler made about Stalin's army.
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:15 PM #2
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The Iranian Air Force used to be feared all over the Middle East. It was the only AF outside the US to have the F-14, the most advanced interceptor in the world. Iran had some of the best pilots east of Israel and a big fleet of F-4s. But after Khomeini's mullahs started butting in, the elite pilots fled or got executed, the US put an embargo on spare parts (the one effective thing we did against Iran) and soon most of the Iranian AF was expensive scrap rusting in the hangars.

Saddam had another hole card: the Iranian Arab minority. He figured two could play the destabilization game. If Iran started stirring up the Shia majority in Iraq, he'd just return the favor by getting the Arabs in Khuzestan (Western Iran) excited about seceding.

So on September 22, 1980, Saddam launched the biggest surprise attack since the Egyptian thrust into Sinai in 1973.

Saddam had the Arab-Israeli wars in mind, too. He was especially thinking about the Israelis' brilliant preemptive attack on the Arab air forces in the first hours of the 1967 war. He sent his MIG 21s and 23s to destroy Iran's F-4s and F-14s on the ground. But he didn't have Israeli pilots, SA munitions, or intelligence. The F-4s were in reinforced bunkers, the MIGs couldn't carry enough of a bombload to finish off Iran's big airfields, and a few hours after the attack, Iran had F-4s in the air, attacking the Iraqi armor columns. Just like Stalin after the Nazis attacked, Khomeini had to release dozens of pilots from death-row cells, shove instant rehabilitation and pardon certificates into their hands, and beg them to get into the cockpits and win one for the Imam.

The Iraqi ground attacks went pretty well in some sectors, not so great in others. It was a long front, from Kurdistan to the Persian Gulf. Saddam's army was built on the Soviet model, and they were good at the stuff the Soviets did well, like massed artillery fire and coordinated armor attack. But there was one bit of really bad news for the Iraqis: the Arabs in western Iran didn't revolt on cue. In fact most of them were loyal, fighting with the Persians against the invaders. (Like I've said before, never trust any plan that says "and then the natives will welcome our troops with open arms," no matter whether it's Saddam or that ******* Perle saying it.) Iraq took the Shatt-al-Arab, the key waterway in the delta, and grabbed half of Abadan, the most important oil town along the border. Then the attack bogged down.

The Iranians had some basic advantages. For one thing, a much bigger population than Iraq. And their morale was good from the start. There's nothing a Shiite likes better than sacrifice, and here was a case where you could give your life and save the homeland. The boys came running. Lots of them even brought their own burial shrouds with them -- couldn't wait to get into that once-and-for-all nightie, I guess.

The Iraqis started to flinch. They liked it when they were roaring over Iranian villages in their T-55s, but house-to-house fighting against crazy Shias in death shrouds isn't most people's idea of a good time. The Iranians noticed something that really got their blood up: the Iraqis were decent soldiers, but they didn't like dying.

By November 1980, the Iraqis were stalled all along the border and the Iranians were getting excited. All those "students" who ditched their homework to hassle American diplomats had a new enemy to fight. The saps all joined up and headed for the front.

The Iranians had three separate armies: the regular army, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Militia. They competed with each other, and there was the usual interservice crap, but all three wanted to fight. The regulars wanted to clear their names, the Revolutionary Guards wanted to get their 64 virgin concubines by dying ASAP, and the militia wanted to defend their homes.

The key word is "defend." Defending and attacking are whole different ballgames. If you're going to attack, you need highly trained troops, but if you're only asking your troops to defend you can sometimes get a good performance out of amateurs. The Iranians couldn't match the Iraqi armor, but they had more guts and initiative in small-unit engagements. By the end of 1981 Iran had pushed the Iraqis away from Abadan. From then on, the Iraqis were on the defensive. They dug in their tanks, a dumb, coward's move that took away their mobility and showed how plain scared they were.

And the Iranians kept coming. Like the Russians in WW II, they just didn't mind dying, and it started to spook the Iraqis. Saddam tried pretending nothing had happened: in the spring of 1982 he pulled all Iraqi forces back to the 1980 border. All that did was get the Iranians excited. They kept coming, with a huge human-wave attack on Basra. The poor militia bastards, with no training or coordination, just ran at the enemy yelling about Allah. They died like flies, up against Iraqi tanks and minefields. It was one of the most bloody, stupid assaults since 1945.

Saddam knew he had to do something. Well, you know the saying: "when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping." Saddam went shopping through every Warsaw-Pact weapons factory that would let him and his oil money in. He bought everything from MLRS systems to T-62s, but the big-ticket item was a whole fleet of the new Soviet Mi-24 attack helicopter.

If you've read about what the Mi-24 did to the Afghans (before we gave them an edge with the Stinger), you can imagine what a fleet of factory-fresh Mi-24s did to the Iranians' human-wave attacks in 1983. It was a slaughter, and the Iraqis proved that even if they weren't much good at dying, they were good at killing. In one Iranian human-wave attack the Iraqis flew 200 Mi-24 sorties, hosing down the poor Shiite bastards like crop dusters going over a cabbage field.

Saddam's military engineers turned the marshes on the border into artificial lakes, like giant moats in front of the Iraqi lines. And he told his commanders they had one more weapon: gas. The Iraqis started using Mustard Gas, the sickest weapon of WW I. Even the Nazis never dared to use it, but Saddam's troops used it to break up mass infantry attacks. And nobody much cared. That's the story of this whole war: nobody outside of the two countries gave a damn what happened. From 1984 on, the war was like a stuck LP. The Iranians spent lives like Foch and Kitchener on the Western Front, and the Iraqis tried to kill Persians without risking their own cowardly hides.

With the land war stalled out, both sides started looking for other planes of engagement. They found one, the oil depots and tankers that carried Iraqi and Iranian oil to their main clients in Japan.

Like my dad always said when he'd been welding pipe, "An oil depot is basically a big bomb waiting to blow." There's nothing in the world easier to blow up than oil rigs, pipes, or tankers. Saddam started slamming Kharg Island, where the Iranians had a huge depot, early in the war. By the time the war ended Kharg had been hit by 9,000 Iraqi sorties, best video score since Haiphong Harbor back in the Nixon years.

One of the shiny new toys Saddam had stocked up on was our old friend the Exocet, that anti-ship missile that the French were peddling to anybody with a coastline and a grudge. Saddam started using them on any tanker carrying Iranian oil. Iraq attacked nearly a hundred tankers in 1984, scaring the Hell out of the Japanese but not the Iranians.

Iraq was desperate to find some way to hurt these crazy Iranians enough to make them back off. So they tried the old standby, bombing cities, trying to kill as many civilians as possible. That was the debut of the Iraqi Scud attack. The Iraqis fired 200 in 1988, trying to force the Iranians to negotiate. Just like the Scud attacks on Israel in Gulf War I, these attacks were all hype, noise and publicity, good for scaring civilians but with zero military significance.

1988 was a shocker: the Iraqis started winning battles, getting back to their gameplan, the sort of massed-armor attacks their army was designed to do. The Iranians had wasted most of their own armor and artillery early on, so the T-55s rolled right over the Iranian infantry.

The Iranians were finally tired of the war. Everybody who'd wanted martyrdom had found it a long time ago; they signed on the UN's dotted line.

And when it all was over, there was Saddam with this huge army, all dressed up and nowhere to go. He'd learned his lesson about messing with Iran, but Iran wasn't the only oil-rich country in range of his tanks. There was little Kuwait, a big pile of oil and gold with no army to speak of. Saddam had some huge bills to pay for all that materiel he'd put on the AmEx Gold Card, and a wrecked oil infrastructure that didn't have a hope in hell of generating enough income to make the debt.

It must've looked like a total no-brainer: send the tanks to Kuwait, grab the oil and the gold, and your troubles are over. It was one of those plans that look foolproof on paper. Just ask Paul Wolfowitz about that. I hear from one of my Army moles that it took three MPs to pry Wolfowitz's fear-frozen fingers off the airconditioner he was hiding behind in his Baghdad hotel room after the rockets hit.



Thanx to War Nerd for the info.
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:51 PM #3
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Thanks?
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Old 08-12-2004, 10:02 PM #4
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let me edit that
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Old 08-12-2004, 10:03 PM #5
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Good idea. I read it all but I kinda want my 5 minutes back. Nothing too revolutionary.

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Old 08-12-2004, 10:06 PM #6
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THats what im here for..to rob you of "beating it to early episdoes of full house" time.
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Old 08-12-2004, 10:57 PM #7
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THats what im here for..to rob you of "beating it to early episdoes of full house" time.
You fink.
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Old 08-13-2004, 12:37 AM #8
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interesting worth the read
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Old 08-13-2004, 12:44 AM #9
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thanx..if you like war and ordinanace like me its a very interesting story.
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Old 08-13-2004, 09:31 AM #10
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good read, I love history and am facinated by weapons systems
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Old 08-13-2004, 11:16 AM #11
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good read, I love history and am facinated by weapons systems
I prefer Ancient History and how they did battles. You know, Punic Wars, Hannibal and his elephants, Phoenicians vs. Persians all that stuff. It's neat to compare it to modern military. It's the difference between a side scrolling computer game and Halo.
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Old 08-13-2004, 12:55 PM #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by SlingerXL
I prefer Ancient History and how they did battles. You know, Punic Wars, Hannibal and his elephants, Phoenicians vs. Persians all that stuff. It's neat to compare it to modern military. It's the difference between a side scrolling computer game and Halo.
I suppose I side with you on that. But, I am mostly interested with literature reflections of periods of war. I am an avid enthusiast of battles based on religion.
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Old 08-13-2004, 04:21 PM #13
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Well if you like wepons man this war had it.
Fighters (soviet vs American)

Huge tank battles.

Battles with 200 hellicopters at a time.

Human wave attacks.

Chemical war fare.

Navy battles.

Civilian bombardment.

Rockets.

You name it, it was there.
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Old 08-13-2004, 05:51 PM #14
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Originally posted by Gagarin
Well if you like wepons man this war had it.
Fighters (soviet vs American)

Huge tank battles.

Battles with 200 hellicopters at a time.

Human wave attacks.

Chemical war fare.

Navy battles.

Civilian bombardment.

Rockets.

You name it, it was there.
That sounds like a crappy movie.
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Old 08-14-2004, 04:33 AM #15
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Nothing is crappy about arabs killing each other. I thought people here would get boners over this.
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Old 08-14-2004, 01:07 PM #16
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Good write-up. Not much new information to me, but entertaining nonetheless. I've read alot about the Israeli-Arab wars and Soviet-Afghan wars but not much on this subject.
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Old 08-14-2004, 03:01 PM #17
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Nothing is crappy about arabs killing each other. I thought people here would get boners over this.
hah!
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