Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Different Wars: Iran and Iraq Wars of 1980s

There has been certain curious terminology from both the Western world and Iran over the eight year war with Iraq back in the 1980's, the two most common terms relating to this war are the Imposed War (usually used by Iranians) and the Iran Iraq War (usually used by Westerners).

The Imposed War is more of a local name for the war since Iraq started it on September 22nd 1980 when the Iraqi Air Force bombed several targets deep within Iran including Mehrabad Airport in Tehran.

Saddam Hussein had many fears that his place in power would be jeopardized if the Ayatollah Khomeini exported his revolution to the oppressed Shi'ites majority of Iraq, so he launched nine divisions of the Iraqi Army into the oil fields of Southern Iran on September 22nd 1980.

He believing Iran was still weak and unorganized following the Islamic Revolution and had openly boasted his army would reach Tehran in three days, however the Iraqi Air Force had failed to wipe out the Iranian Air Force on the ground and the Iranians launched Operation Kaman 99 about a day later striking Baghdad.

Iraq's invasion solidified Iran's revolution and tens of thousands of volunteers rushed to the front lines to fight the Iraqis, RPG armed revolutionary guards halted the onslaught of Iraqi Armour and by 1982 after liberating Khorramshahr from the Iraqis an Iranian offensive against Iraq would soon be launched.

Not long afterwords Saddam decided to withdraw his army completely from Iran, and deployed them on the international border between Iran and Iraq, believing his army being demoralized after the war would still be able to hold a line of defense on the Iraqi side of the border.

Saddam suggested that Iran should stop the fighting and accept a ceasefire and instead send troops to fight with the Palestinians in Lebanon against the Israelis which had invaded the same year, this offer however through emotional purposes was rejected and Ayatollah Khomeini made plans to remove Saddam from power in Iraq seeing him as a threat.

The war which followed from 1982 towards 1988 would see Iran on the offensive, however it was forced to end the war in 1988 to which Ayatollah Khomeini famously compared to drinking a chalice of poison.

Saddam had called the war the Whirlwind War, in the US it is commonly referred to as the First Persian Gulf War.

However looking at it from a more open viewpoint there were clearly two wars that were fought.

1. The Imposed War/Iraq-Iran War (1980-1982)
This was the war that started on September 22nd 1980 when Iraq preemptively attacked and proceeded to invade Iran. An attack which the United Nations failed to condemn Iraq for.

2. The Iran Iraq War (1982-1988)
The Iranian counter offensive which saw the Iran pitted against the Iraq in violent trench wars and several human wave attacks against cities such as Basra.

Iran was forced to give up this war since it didn't have enough military hardware to keep the war going and to defeat the Iraqis, also a million men had been lost in eight years and Iran was forced to accept a ceasefire.


Although from an Iranian viewpoint it has a lot to be bitter for, a million people were killed in the war many of them very young, and along with that was the fact that the United States, France and several other countries armed Iraq before the tide of war turned in 1982, even though the US briefly switched sides in 1985 in the infamous Iran Contra Affair.

The fact remains that for the damage caused on Iran by Iraq one would want to get revenge for the horrors inflicted!

However a broad and neutral view of the whole thing shows as I said two separate wars.


Mark Pyruz said...

Known locally as the Imposed War or Holy Defense in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saddām's Qādisiyyah in Iraq or the First Gulf War.

Anonymous said...

The "million man lost" statement is and has been factually incorrect from day one. Iran does not make any secret of how many martyrs it gave for the war. Just walk into Bonyad Shahid and ask for the latest stats (updated often as bodies are discovered). Right after the war numbers released were around 300,000. I assume by now it's more, perhaps 330,000.

See also

If you make such statements, back it up and don't fall for Western estimates.

Nader Uskowi said...

I agree with Paul that we had two distinct periods in the eight-year war, when Iran was on the defensive and when it went on offensive. The latter changed the character of the war. Hence calling it two different wars, although it might sound too unfamiliar, is actually correct and can open up new scholarship in assessing that unfortunate period in the history of the two countries.

Anonymous said...

It is worth noting that during the two wars, Saddam did use chemical weapons not only against his own people but also agaist the Iranians, an issue that sadly has not been recognized by the world at large !

Azar (Maryland)

Anonymous said...

There were no two wars. Saddam's cease fire was not sincere, it was just shocked from Iran's victory and he was waiting for the arrival of weapons that he had ordered. No one saw this cease fire as sincere and it was just an attempt to buy Saddam some time.

Anonymous said...

Good read, thanks! I got interested in the topic of the Iran-Iraq War and did a quick search and I was able to find a list of Iranian operations conducted during the war, from Wikipedia, with a description of each offensive, but all of it seem to have been angled from an Iranian spectrum. So my question is, are there any known Iraqi military operations during the war, what was their name, what was their strategical objectives? I can't seem to find any info or the name of Iraqi offense/defensive operations anywhere. Are there any books that covers the Iraqi viewpoint/perspective of the war?

Keep up the good work, it's a great blog!

Anonymous said...

Well, no credited scholar actually believes in the 'one million' figure. There is a foundation/institution who have experts & analysts that work on figuring out stuff like how many people fell victim in each military conflicts thru out history. I once came across a very interesting document on the web, put out by said group, which stated that the number of dead Iranian soldiers amounted to circa 180,000...the civilian losses were lower...but when added the total number of killed on the Iranian side reached circa 220,000. These numbers had been attained by closely examining different data, and they had put all the pieces of puzzle together in order to make this accurate conclusion.