Iran-Iraq War

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Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Soldiers and Iraqi Tanks on the battlefield
Date 22 September 198020 August 1988
Location Persian Gulf, Iranian-Iraqi border
Result Stalemate; United Nations-mandated cease-fire
Image:Flag of Iran.svgIran Image:Flag of Iraq (1963-1991).svgIraq
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Abolhassan Banisadr
Ali Shamkhani
Mostafa Chamran
Saddam Hussein
Ali Hassan al-Majid
305,000 soldiers
500,000 Passdaran and Baseej militia
1,000 tanks
1,000 armored vehicles
3,000 artillery pieces
65 aircraft
720 helicopters<ref></ref>
190,000 soldiers
4,500 tanks
4,000 armored vehicles
7,330 artillery pieces
500+ aircraft
100+ helicopters<ref></ref>
Est. 500,000+ soldiers/militia/civilians killed or wounded Est. 375,000+ soldiers/militia/civilians killed or wounded
Iran-Iraq War
Mersad - Dezful -Abadan - Undeniable Victory - Khorramshahr - Ramadan - Dawn V - Marshes - Cities - 1st Al Faw - Karbala-5 - Karbala-6 - Karbala Ten - Halabja - 2nd Al Faw

Related U.S. operations
Earnest Will - Prime Chance - Eager Glacier - Nimble Archer - Praying Mantis

Recent wars in the Persian Gulf
Iran-Iraq WarGulf WarIraq War

The Iran-Iraq War, also known as the Imposed War (جنگ تحمیلی, Jang-e-tahmīlī) in Iran, and Saddām's Qādisiyyah (قادسيّة صدّام, Qādisiyyat Saddām) in Iraq, was a war between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran lasting from September 1980 to August 1988. It is commonly referred to as the First Gulf War until the Iraq-Kuwait conflict (199091), which became known as the Second (Persian) Gulf War and later simply the (Persian) Gulf War.

It has been called "the longest conventional war of the 20th century", and cost 1 million casualties and US$1.19 trillion.<ref>See introduction of: D. Hiro. The Longest War. 1991. ISBN 0-415-90406-4</ref>

The war began when Iraq invaded Iran on 22 September 1980 following a long history of border disputes and demands for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The conflict saw early successes by the Iraqis, but before long they were repelled and the conflict stabilized into a long war of attrition. The United Nations Security Council called upon both parties to end the conflict on multiple occasions, but a ceasefire was not agreed to until 20 August 1988, and the last prisoners of war were not exchanged until 2003. The war irrevocably altered politics in the area, playing into wider global politics and leading to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The war is also noted for extensive use of chemical weapons by Iraqi forces against Iranian troops, Iranian civilians and Iraqi Kurds.



Iranian soldiers landing from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in the northern front of the war. The war (according to one estimate) resulted in USD$350 billion in damages to Iran alone.

Although the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988 was a war over dominance of the Persian Gulf region, the roots of the war go back many centuries. There has been rivalry between kingdoms of Mesopotamia (the Tigris-Euphrates valley, modern Iraq) and the rugged highlands to the East (modern Persia or Iran) since the beginning of recorded history in Sumer.

More precisely, the origins of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988 go back to the question of sovereignty over the resource-rich province of Khuzestan. Khuzestan was home to the Elamite Empire, an independent, non-Semitic, and non-Indo-European-speaking kingdom, whose capital was Susa. Khuzestan has been attacked and occupied by various kingdoms of Mesopotamia (and vice versa) many times. Indeed, the dawn of recorded history opens with the earliest historical ruler who can be archaeologically attested, Enmebaragesi of Kish, subduing Elam (ca. 2650 BC), first of several Sumerian potentates to do so. Elam was finally able to return the favor in 2004 BC when they sacked the city of Ur for the first time, bringing the predominant 3rd dynasty of Ur to an end.

Before the Ottoman empire, Iraq was part of Persia ruled under the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty. The rising power of the Ottomans put an end to this when Murad IV annexed what is today Iraq from the weakening Safavids of Persia in 1638 via the Treaty of Zuhab. The border disputes between Persia and the Ottomans never ended, however. Between 1555 and 1918, Persia and the Ottoman empire signed no fewer than 18 treaties delineating their disputed borders. Modern Iraq was created with British involvement in the region and the final collapse of the Ottoman empire, thereby inheriting all the disputes with Persia.

On 18 December 1959, `Abd al-Karīm Qāsim, who had just taken control of Iraq by coup d'état, openly declared: "We do not wish to refer to the history of Arab tribes residing in Al-Ahwaz and Mohammareh [Khorramshahr]. The Ottomans handed over Mohammareh, which was part of Iraqi territory, to Iran." The Iraqi regime's dissatisfaction with Iran's possession of the oil-rich Khuzestan province was not limited to rhetorical statements; Iraq began supporting secessionist movements in Khuzestan, and even raised the issue of its territorial claims at the next meeting of the Arab League, without success. Iraq showed reluctance in fulfilling existing agreements with Iran — especially after the death of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the rise of the Ba`ath Party, when Iraq decided to take on the role of "leader of the Arab world".

In 1969, the deputy prime minister of Iraq openly declared: "Iraq's dispute with Iran is in connection with Arabistan (Khuzestan) which is part of Iraq's soil and was annexed to Iran during foreign rule." Soon Iraqi radio stations began exclusively broadcasting into "Arabistan", encouraging Arabs living in Iran and even Balūchīs to revolt against the Shah of Iran's government. Basra TV stations even began showing Iran's Khuzestan province as part of Iraq's new province called Nasiriyyah, renaming all Iranian cities with Arabic names.

In 1971, Iraq broke diplomatic relations with Iran after claiming sovereignty rights over the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb in the Persian Gulf, following the withdrawal of the British. Iraq then expropriated the properties of 70,000 Iranians and expelled them from its territory, after complaining to the Arab League and the UN without success.

One of the factors contributing to hostility between the two powers was a dispute over full control of the Arvandrud/Shatt al-Arab waterway at the head of the Persian Gulf, an important channel for the oil exports of both countries. In 1975, United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had sanctioned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to attack Iraq over the waterway, then under Iraqi control; soon afterward, both nations signed the Algiers Accord, where Iraq made territorial concessions — including the waterway — in exchange for normalized relations.

Iraq had staged a battle against Iranian forces a year earlier in 1974, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. Iran attempted to destabilize Iraq, and encouraged Kurdish nationalists to break up the country, in response to Iraq's similar activities in Iran's Khuzestan province.

However, the relationship between Iranian and Iraqi governments briefly improved in 1978, when Iranian agents in Iraq discovered a pro-Soviet coup d'etat against the Iraqi government. When informed of this plot, Saddam Hussein, who was Vice President at the time, ordered the execution of dozens of his army officers, and to return the favor, expelled Ruhollah Khomeini, an exiled leader of clerical opposition to the Shah, from Iraq.

Iran's embassy in London was subsequently attacked by Iraqi-sponsored terrorist forces a few months prior to the war in 1980, in what came to be known as the Iranian Embassy Siege.

Saddam Hussein was keenly interested in elevating Iraq to a strong regional power. A successful invasion of Iran would make Iraq the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region, and would strengthen its lucrative oil trade. Such lofty ambitions were not that far-fetched. Severe officer purges (including several executions ordered by Sadegh Khalkhali, the post-revolution sharia ruler), and spare parts shortages for Iran's American-made equipment, had crippled Iran's once mighty military. The bulk of the Iranian military was made up of poorly armed, though committed, militias. Iran had minimal defenses in the Arvand/Shatt al-`Arab river.

Saddam on numerous occasions alluded to the Islamic conquest of Iran in propagating his position against Iran. For example, on 2 April 1980, half a year before the outbreak of the war, in a visit by Saddam to al-Mustansiriyyah University in Baghdad, drawing parallels with the 7th century defeat of Persia in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, he announced:

"In your name, brothers, and on behalf of the Iraqis and Arabs everywhere we tell those [Persian] cowards and dwarfs who try to avenge Al-Qadisiyah that the spirit of Al-Qadisiyah as well as the blood and honor of the people of Al-Qadisiyah who carried the message on their spearheads are greater than their attempts."<ref>Speech made by Saddam Hussein. Baghdad, Voice of the Masses in Arabic, 1200 GMT 02 April 1980. FBIS-MEA-80-066. 03 April 1980, E2-3. E3</ref>

The aftermath of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was central to the conflict. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was threatening to export Islamic revolution to the rest of the Middle East — even though Iran was hardly in any position to do so militarily, for most of the Shah's army had already been disbanded. The Khomeinist camp despised Iraq's Ba`athist secularism in particular, and believed that the oppressed Shias in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait could follow the Iranian example and turn against their governments. At the same time, the revolution in Iran, the destabilization of the country, and its alienation from the West made it a tempting target to the expansionist Saddam Hussein. In particular he felt that Iranian Sunni citizens would rather join a powerful Sunni-led Iraq than remain in the Shia-dominated Iran.

Thus, Iraq started the war believing that Sunnis of Iran would join the opposing forces. It seems that Saddam had not fully appreciated the power of nationalism over historically clan-centered differences, nor the power of the central state apparatus that controlled the press. Although some of the ethnic Arabs of Khuzestan collaborated with Iraqis, most of the Sunnis of Iran turned against the Iraqi forces.

The UN Secretary General report dated 9 December 1991 (S/23273) explicitly cites "Iraq's aggression against Iran" in starting the war and breaching International security and peace.<ref>See:


History of the war

Invasion and repulse

Upon invading Iran on 22 September 1980, then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein boasted he would be in Tehran in 3 days.

The two nations severed diplomatic relations in June 1980, and sporadic border clashes increased. On September 18, Iraq declared the Shatt al-Arab part of its territory. Iraq launched a full-scale invasion of Iran on September 22 1980, claiming as a pretext, an Iranian assassination attempt on Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.

Objectives of Iraq's invasion of Iran were:

  1. Acquisition of the Arvand/Shatt al-Arab waterway as part of Iraqi territory (Iraq's only port connection to The Persian Gulf).
  2. Acquisition of the three islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, on the unilateral behalf of the UAE.
  3. Annexing Khuzestan as part of Iraqi territory.

The surprise offensive advanced quickly against the still disorganized Iranian forces, advancing on a wide front into Iranian territory along the Mehran-Khorramabad axis in Central Iran and towards Ahvaz in the oil-rich southern province of Khuzestan.

Iraq encountered unexpected resistance, however. Rather than turning against the Ayatollah's government as exiles had promised, the people of Iran rallied around their country and mounted far stiffer resistance; an estimated 100,000 volunteers arrived at the front by November. An Iraqi Air Force attack on Iranian airfields was ineffective, due in part to the fact that the Iranian airfields were long enough for the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force to deploy its planes, and that aircraft hangars had been upgraded to withstand bombs. The Iraqis soon found the Iranian military was not nearly as depleted as they had thought. By June of 1982, a successful Iranian counter-offensive had recovered the areas previously lost to Iraq. An especially significant battle of this counter-offensive in the Khuzestan province was the liberation of Khorramshahr city from the Iraqis on May 24, 1982.

Most of the fighting for the rest of the war occurred on Iraqi territory, although some have interpreted the Iraqi withdrawal as a tactical ploy by the Iraqi military. By fighting just inside Iraq, Saddām Hussein could rally popular Iraqi patriotism. The Iraqi army could also fight on its own territory and in well-established defensive positions. The Iranians continued to employ unsophisticated human wave attacks, while Iraqi soldiers remained, for the most part, in a defensive posture.

Iraq offered a cessation of hostilities in 1982, but Iran's insistence from July 1982 onward to destroy the Iraqi government prolonged the conflict for another six years of static warfare.

Newly declassified US intelligence available<ref>SNIE 34/36.2-82 link:</ref> explores both the domestic and foreign implications of Iran's apparent (in 1982) victory over Iraq in their then two-year old war. Iran especially had the opportunity to cut off Iraq from the Persian Gulf at the Al-Faw Peninsula and win the war in the late stages of the conflict.

The Tanker War and U.S. entanglement

Image:Saddam rumsfeld.jpg
Donald Rumsfeld meeting Saddam on 19 December20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984; the same day the UN released a report that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The NY Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the U.S., and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name."<ref>National Security Archive:</ref>

The United States had been wary of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the Iranian Revolution, not least because of the detention of its Tehran embassy staff in the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis. Allegedly there was a secret encouragement by the US administration (President Jimmy Carter, conveyed through Saudi Arabia) which was embroiled in a dispute with the new Islamic Republic of Iran.<ref>Saddam's 'Green Light' By Robert Parry [1]</ref><ref>Iraq & geopolitics, by Henry C K Liu [2]</ref><ref>The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (1991), pp. 71-72</ref> However, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor (United States) doesn't support this assertion.<ref name=Zbig>Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1983). Power and Principle, Memoirs of the National Security Advisor 1977-1981. Farrar Straus Giroux, 451-454, 504. ISBN 0-374-23663-1</ref>

Starting in 1981, both Iran and Iraq attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including those of neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade. After repeated Iraqi attacks on Iran's main exporting facility on Khark Island, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker near Bahrain on May 13 1984, and a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters on May 16. Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter, and this phase of the war was dubbed the "Tanker War."

In 1982 with Iranian success on the battlefield, the U.S. made its backing of Iraq more pronounced, supplying it with intelligence, economic aid, normalizing relations with the government (broken during the 1967 Six-Day War), and also supplying weapons.<ref>See:</ref> President Ronald Reagan decided that the United States "could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran", and that the United States "would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran."<ref>See statement by former NSC official Howard Teicher, dated 1/31/95, to the US District Court, Southern District of Florida:


Lloyd's of London, a British insurance market, estimated that the Tanker War damaged 546 commercial vessels and killed about 430 civilian mariners. The largest of attacks were directed by Iran against Kuwaiti vessels, and on November 1 1986, Kuwait formally petitioned foreign powers to protect its shipping. The Soviet Union agreed to charter tankers starting in 1987, and the United States offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag on March 7 1987 (Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance). Under international law, an attack on such ships would be treated as an attack on the U.S., allowing the U.S. to retaliate militarily. This support would protect ships headed to Iraqi ports, effectively guaranteeing Iraq's revenue stream for the duration of the war.

An Iraqi plane attacked the USS Stark (FFG 31), a Perry class frigate on May 17, killing 37 and injuring 21.<ref>See:</ref> However, U.S. attention was focused on isolating Iran; it criticized Iran's mining of international waters, and sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 598, which passed unanimously on July 20, under which it skirmished with Iranian forces. In October 1987, the U.S. attacked Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for an Iranian attack on the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker Sea Isle City.<ref>See:</ref>

On April 14 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, the United States Navy's largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian ships were destroyed, and an American helicopter crashed with no apparent combat damage, killing the two pilots.<ref>See:</ref>

In the course of these escorts by the U.S. Navy, the cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with the loss of all 290 passengers and crew on July 3 1988. The American government claimed that the airliner had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat, and that the Vincennes was operating in international waters at the time and feared that it was under attack. The Iranians, however, maintain that the Vincennes was in fact in Iranian territorial waters, and that the Iranian passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. U.S. Admiral William J. Crowe also admitted on Nightline that the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles.<ref>See:</ref> . The U.S. eventually paid compensation for the incident; but never apologized.

According to the investigation done by Ted Koppel, during the war, U.S. navy used to set decoys inside the Persian Gulf to lure out the Iranian gunboats and destroy them, and at the time USS Vincennes shot down the Iranian airline, it was performing such an operation.<ref>See:</ref>

"War of the Cities"

Toward the end of the war, the land conflict regressed into stalemate largely because neither side had enough self-propelled artillery or airpower to support ground advances.

The relatively professional Iraqi armed forces could not make headway against the far more numerous Iranian infantry. The Iranians were outmatched in towed and self-propelled artillery, which left their tanks and troops vulnerable. What followed was a bloodbath with the Iranians substituting infantry for artillery. Both sides turned to more brutal weapons and tactics.

Iraq's air force soon began strategic bombing against Iranian cities, chiefly Tehran, starting in 1985. In response, Iran began launching SS-1 "Scud" missiles against Baghdad. Iraq did not respond in kind against Tehran until early 1988, able to deploy only air raids against the Iranian capital up until that point. In October 1986, Iraqi aircraft attacked civilian passenger trains and aircraft, including an Iran Air Boeing 737 unloading passengers at Shiraz International Airport. Iraqi warplanes attacked 34 elementary and high schools in 1986, killing hundreds of children.<ref>See dated IRNA archives:</ref>

In retaliation for the successful Iranian Karbala-5 operation in the fronts, during the course of 42 days, Iraq attacked 65 cities in 226 sorties, bombing civilian neighborhoods. Eight Iranian cities came under the attack from Iraqi missiles. Bombings killed 65 children in an elementary school in Borujerd alone. These events became known as "the war of the cities".<ref>Ibid.</ref>

The war saw the use of chemical weapons, especially mustard gas and sarin, by Iraq. International antipathy to the Tehran regime meant Iraq suffered few repercussions in spite of those attacks. After the war, the UN eventually condemned Iraq for using chemical weapons against Iran. Chemical weapons had not previously been widely used in any major war since the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

With foreign assistance, Iraq financed the purchase of more technologically advanced weapons, and built a more modern, well-trained armed force. After setbacks on the battlefield, it offered to return to the 1975 border. Since Iran was internationally isolated and facing rising public discontent, it agreed to a cease-fire on August 20, 1988.

List of major Iranian operations during the war

  1. 27 September-29 September 1981: Operation Thamen-ol-A'emeh; Iran retakes Abadan.
  2. 29 November-mid-December 1981: Operation Tarigh ol-Qods; Iran retakes Abadan and area north of Susangard.
  3. 21 March-30 March 1982: Operation Fath-ol-Mobeen; Iran expels Iraqi troops from Dezful-Shush area.
  4. 30 April-24 May 1982: Operation Beit-ol-Moqaddas; Iran retakes Khorramshahr and drives Iraqis back across the border.
  5. 14 July-28 July 1982: Operation Ramadhan; Failed Iranian offensive to capture Basra.
  6. 9 April-17 April 1983: Operation Valfajr-1; Failed Iranian offensive in Ein Khosh to capture Basra-Baghdad highway.
  7. 19 October-mid November 1983: Operation Valfajr-4; Iranian offensive in Iraq's Kurdistan near Panjwin makes small gains.
  8. 22 February-16 March 1984: Operation Kheibar; Iranian offensive captures the Iraqi Majnoon Islands in the Haur al-Hawizeh marshes.
  9. 10 March-20 March 1985: Operation Badr; Unsuccessful Iranian offensive to capture the Basra-Baghdad highway.
  10. 9 February-25 February 1986: Operation Valfajr-8; Three-pronged Iranian offensive leads to capture of Fao peninsula.
  11. 2 June 1986: Operation Karbala-1.
  12. 1 September 1986: Operation Karbala-2; Iranian offensive in the Hajj Umran area of Iraqi Kurdistan.
  13. 9 January-26 February 1987: Operation Karbala-5; Iranian offensive in southern Iraq to capture Basra.
  14. 21 June 1987: Operation Nasr 4.
  15. 16 March 1988: Operation Valfajr-10; Iranian offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan.
  16. 27 July 1988: Operation Mersad.

List of major Iraqi operations during the war

  1. 22 September-mid November 1980; Iraqi invasion of Iran
  2. 9 March-10 March 1986; Unsuccessful Iraqi offensive to recapture Fao.
  3. 17 May 1986; Iraqi offensive captures Mehran.
  4. 16 April-18 April 1988; Iraqi offensive recaptures Fao. Use of chemical weapons
  5. 23 May-25 May 1988; Iraqi offensive in northern and central sectors recaptures Shalamche using chemical weapons.
  6. 19 June-22 June 1988; Iraqi offensive captures Mehran.
  7. 25 June 1988; Iraqi offensive recaptures Majnoon Islands.
  8. 12 July 1988; Iraqi offensive retakes all Iraqi territory in the Musian border region.
  9. 22 July-29 July 1988; Iraqi offensive along the entire Iran border, captures some territory in the central and southern sectors with the help of Mojahedin-e-Khalq, but fails in the northern sector.

Armament and support


Military Armaments/Technology

During the early years of the war, Iran's arsenal was almost entirely American made, left over from the Imperial Armed Forces of the dethroned Shah. Iran's foreign supporters gradually came to include Syria and Libya, through which it obtained Scud missiles. It purchased weaponry from North Korea and the People's Republic of China, notably the Silkworm anti-ship missile. Iran acquired weapons and parts for its Shah-era U.S. systems through covert arms transactions from officials in the Reagan Administration, first indirectly through Israel and then directly. It was hoped Iran would, in exchange, persuade several radical groups to release Western hostages, though this did not result; proceeds from the sales were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

In fact, according to the report of the U.S. Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair issued in November 1987, "the sale of U.S. arms to Iran through Israel began in the summer of 1985, after receiving the approval of President Reagan."<ref>Jewish Virtual Library:</ref> These sales included "2,008 BGM-71 TOW anti-Tank missiles, and 235 parts kits for MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles had been sent to Iran via Israel." Further shipments of up to US$2 billion of American weapons from Israel to Iran, consisting of 18 F-4 fighter-bombers, 46 A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bombers, and nearly 4,000 missiles were foiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, and "unverified reports alleged that Israel agreed to sell Iran AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, radar equipment, mortar and machinegun ammunition, field telephones, M-60 tank engines and artillery shells, and spare parts for C-130 transport planes."<ref>Links:


During war, Iran operated U.S.-manufactured F-4 Phantom and F-5 Freedom Fighter fighters, as well as AH-1 Cobra light attack helicopters. It also operated a number of F-14 Tomcat fighters, which, according to a few sources, proved devastating to the Iraqis in the early phases of the war. However, due to the Iranian government's estrangement, spare parts were difficult to obtain. Despite this the Iranians managed to maintain a constant presence with their Tomcats during the entire conflict, mostly due to a combination of spare parts acquired on the black market and parts made in Iran. These were supported by KC-135s, a refueling tanker based on the Boeing 707.<ref>See:</ref>


See also: Arms sales to Iraq 1973-1990

Military Armaments/Technology

Iraq's army was primarily armed with weaponry it had purchased from the Soviet Union and its satellites in the preceding decade. During the war, it purchased billions of dollars worth of advanced equipment from the Soviet Union, France,<ref>BBC:</ref> as well as from the People's Republic of China, Egypt, Germany, and other sources (including Europe and facilities for making and/or enhancing chemical weapons). Germany<ref>Deutsche Welle report:,,716376,00.html</ref> along with other Western countries (among them United Kingdom, France, Spain (Explosivos Alaveses), Canada, Italy and the United States) provided Iraq with biological and chemical weapons technology and the precursors to nuclear capabilities (see below).

The source of Iraqi arms purchases between 1970 and 1990 (10% of the world market during this period) are estimated to be:

Suppliers in Billions (1985 $US) % of total
Soviet Union 19.2 61
France 5.5 18
People's Republic of China 1.7 5
Brazil 1.1 4
Egypt 1.1 4
Other countries 2.9 6
Total 31.5 98.0

The U.S. sold Iraq $200 million in helicopters, which were used by the Iraqi military in the war. These were the only direct U.S.-Iraqi military sales and were valued to be about 0.6% of Iraq's conventional weapons imports during the war.<ref>See:</ref> Ted Koppel of ABC Nightline reported the following, however, on June 9, 1992: "It is becoming increasingly clear that George Bush Sr., operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into [an aggressive power]" and “Reagan/Bush administrations permitted — and frequently encouraged — the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq.” The Reagan Administration secretly began to allow Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt to transfer to Iraq American howitzers, helicopters, bombs and other weapons. These shipments were done without the approval of the U.S. Congress and were in clear violation of the Arms Export Control Act as well as international law.<ref> Phythian, p. 35. Phythian cites Murray Waas and Craig Unger, "In the Loop: Bush's Secret Mission," New Yorker, p. 70. </ref> Reagan personally asked Italy’s Prime Minister Guilio Andreotti to channel arms to Iraq.<ref> Phythian, p. 35. p. 36 Phythian cites Alan Friedman, Spider's Web: Bush, Saddam, Thatcher and the Decade of Deceit, (London: Faber, 1993), pp. 81-84.</ref>

The United States, United Kingdom, and Germany also provided "dual use" technology (computers, engines, etc.) that allowed Iraq to expand its missile program and radar defenses. The U.S. Commerce Department, in violation of procedure, gave out licenses to companies for $1.5 billion in dual-use items to be sent to Iraq. The State Department was not informed of this. Over 1 billion of these authorized items were trucks that were never delivered. The rest consisted of advanced technology. Iraq's Soviet-made Scuds had their ranges expanded as a result.<ref>See:

Yugoslavia sold weapons to both countries for the entire duration of the conflict. Portugal helped both countries: it was not unusual seeing Iranian- and Iraqi-flagged ships side-by-side in Sines (a town with a deep-sea port).


Iraq's air force used Soviet weapons and reflected Soviet training, although it expanded and upgraded its fleet considerably as the war progressed. It conducted strategic bombing using Tupolev Tu-16 Badgers. Its fighters included the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, later supplemented by large purchases of Sukhoi Su-22s and French Dassault Mirage F1s. It also deployed the Anglo-French Aérospatiale Gazelle scout helicopter and the Exocet anti-ship missile.<ref>See:</ref>

Chemical Weapons

Iranian soldiers with gas masks posing in front of a sign reading: "Hey brother, smile".

According to Iraq's report to the UN, the know-how and material for developing chemical weapons were obtained from firms in such countries as: the United States, West Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the People's Republic of China.<ref>Link: The Independent, Wednesday, 18 December, 2002:</ref>

In December 2002, Iraq's 1,200 page Weapons Declaration revealed a list of Eastern and Western corporations and countries, as well as individuals, that exported a total of 17,602 tons of chemical precursors to Iraq in the past two decades. By far, the largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were in Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and Federal Republic of Germany (1,027 tons). One Indian company, Exomet Plastics (now part of EPC Industrie) sent 2,292 tons of precursor chemicals to Iraq. The Kim Al-Khaleej firm, located in Singapore and affiliated to United Arab Emirates, supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.<ref>See What Iraq Addmitted About its Chemical Weapons Program: nyt-041303.gif</ref>

According to the Washington Post, the CIA began in 1984 secretly to give Iraq intelligence that Iraq used to "calibrate" its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops. In August, the CIA establishes a direct Washington-Baghdad intelligence link, and for 18 months, starting in early 1985, the CIA provided Iraq with "data from sensitive U.S. satellite reconnaissance assist Iraqi bombing raids." The Post’s source said that this data was essential to Iraq’s war effort.<ref> Bob Woodward, "CIA Aiding Iraq in Gulf War; Target Data From U.S. Satellites Supplied for Nearly 2 Years," Washington Post, 15 December 1986.</ref>

In May of 2003, an extended list of international companies involvements in Iraq was provided by The Independent (UK).<ref>Link: The Independent, Wednesday, 18 December, 2002:</ref> Official Howard Teicher and Radley Gayle, stated that Bell helicopters that were given to Iraq by U.S. later were used to spray chemical weapons.<ref> Phythian, p. 38. Phythian cites former NSC official Howard Teicher and Radley Gayle, Twin Pillars to Desert Storm: America's Flawed Vision in the Middle East from Nixon to Bush, (New York: William Morrow, 1993), p. 275.</ref>

Iraq's Chemical weapons program was mainly assisted by German companies such as Karl Kobe, which built a chemical weapons facility disguised as a pesticide plant. Iraq’s foreign contractors, including Karl Kolb with Massar for reinforcement, built five large research laboratories, an administrative building, eight large underground bunkers for the storage of chemical munitions, and the first production buildings. 150 tons of mustard were produced in 1983. About 60 tons of Tabun were produced in 1984. Pilot-scale production of Sarin began in 1984.<ref>Central Intelligence Agency report:</ref> Germany also supplied reactors, heat exchangers, condensors and vessels. France, Austria, Canada, and Spain provided similar equipment.<ref>Link: nyt-041303.gif</ref>

The Al Haddad trading company of Tennessee delivered 60 tons of DMMP, a chemical used to make sarin, a nerve gas implicated in so-called Gulf War Syndrome. The Al Haddad trading company appears to have been an Iraqi front company. The firm was owned by Sahib Abd al-Amir al-Haddad, an Iraqi-born, naturalized American citizen. Recent stories in The New York Times and The Tennessean reported that al-Haddad was arrested in Bulgaria in November 2002 while trying to arrange an arms sale to Iraq. Al-Haddad was charged with conspiring to purchase equipment for the manufacture of a giant Iraqi cannon. In 1984, U.S. Customs at New York's Kennedy Airport stop an order addressed to the Iraqi State Enterprise for Pesticide Production for 74 drums of potassium fluoride, a chemical used in the production of Sarin. The order was places by Al-Haddad Enterprises Incorporates, owned by an individual named Sahib al-Haddad. [3]

The U.S. firm Alcolac International supplied one mustard-gas precursor, thiodiglycol, to both Iraq and Iran in violation of U.S. export laws for which it was forced to pay a fine in 1989. Overall between 300-400 tons were sent to Iraq.[4] [5] [6][7]


Iraq did not use biological weapons in the war, but built up its capability during that time.

On 25 May 1994, The U.S. Senate Banking Committee released a report in which it was stated that pathogenic (meaning disease producing), toxigenic (meaning poisonous) and other biological research materials were exported to Iraq, pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It added: "These exported biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction."<ref>Link:</ref> The report then detailed 70 shipments (including Anthrax Bacillus) from the United States to Iraqi government agencies over three years, concluding that "these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the UN inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program."<ref>See:

A report by Berlin's Die Tageszeitung in 2002 reported that Iraq's 11,000-page report to the UN Security Council listed 150 foreign companies that supported Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Twenty-four U.S. firms were involved in exporting arms and materials to Baghdad<ref>Link:</ref> Donald Riegle, Chairman of the Senate committee that made the report, said, "UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs." He added, "the executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control sent Iraq 14 agents "with biological warfare significance," including West Nile virus, according to Riegle's investigators.<ref>Saint Petersburg Times report:</ref>

Financial support

Iraq's main financial backers were the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia ($30.9 billion), Kuwait ($8.2 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($8 billion).<ref>Iraq debt: non-Paris Club creditors: ch2_anxd_img06.jpg</ref>

The Iraq-gate scandal revealed that an Atlanta branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents finally raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, the branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq—some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology.

Aside from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and ABC's Ted Koppel, the Iraq-gate story never picked up much steam, even though the U.S. Congress became involved with the scandal.<ref>Federation of American Scientists report:</ref> This scandal is covered in Alan Friedman's book "The Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq."

Beginning in September, 1989, the Financial Times laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the Financial Times provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the Financial Times, were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohio branch<ref>Report by Colombia Journalism Review:</ref>

Weapons of mass destruction

With more than 100,000 Iranian victims<ref name="r1">Center for Documents of The Imposed War, Tehran. (مرکز مطالعات و تحقیقات جنگ)</ref> of Iraq's chemical weapons during the eight-year war, Iran is one of the world's top afflicted countries by weapons of mass destruction.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, released a list of U.S. companies and their exports to Iraq.

The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans of Iran. According to a 2002 article in the Star-Ledger:

"Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 90,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions. Many others were hit by mustard gas..."<ref>Link to article by the Star-Ledger:</ref>

Iraq also used chemical weapons on Iranian civilians, killing many in villages and hospitals. Many civilians suffered severe burns and health problems, and still suffer from them. Furthermore, 308 Iraqi missiles were launched at population centers inside Iranian cities between 1980 and 1988 resulting in 12,931 casualties.<ref name="r1" />

On 21 March 1986, the United Nations Security Council made a declaration stating that "members are profoundly concerned by the unanimous conclusion of the specialists that chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian troops and the members of the Council strongly condemn this continued use of chemical weapons in clear violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prohibits the use in war of chemical weapons." The United States was the only member who voted against the issuance of this statement.<ref>[51] S/17911 and Add. 1, 21 March 1986. Note that this is a "decision" and not a resolution.</ref>

According to retired Colonel Walter Lang, senior defense intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern" to Reagan and his aides, because they "were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." He claimed that the Defense Intelligence Agency "would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival",<ref>Colonel Walter Lang, former senior US Defense Intelligence officer, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2002.</ref> however, despite this allegation, Reagan’s administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports affirming the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians.<ref>Galbraith and van Hollen, p. 30</ref><ref> Jentleson, p. 78.</ref><ref> Robert Pear, "U.S. Says It Monitored Iraqi Messages on Gas," New York Times, 15 September 1988.</ref>

There is great resentment in Iran that the international community helped Iraq develop its chemical weapons arsenal and armed forces, and also that the world did nothing to punish Saddam's Baathist regime for its use of chemical weapons against Iran throughout the war — particularly since the US and other western powers later felt obliged to oppose the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and eventually invade Iraq itself to remove Saddam Hussein.[citation needed]

The Defense Intelligence Agency also accused Iran of using chemical weapons. These allegations however, have been disputed. Joost Hiltermann, who was the principal researcher for Human Rights Watch between 1992-1994, conducted a two year study, including a field investigation in Iraq, capturing Iraqi government documents in the process.

Iran suffered heavy casualties from Saddam's chemical weapons.

According to Hiltermann, the literature on the Iran-Iraq war reflects a number of allegations of Chemical Weapons use by Iran, but these are "marred by a lack of specificity as to time and place, and the failure to provide any sort of evidence".<ref>Lawrence Potter, Gary Sick. Iran, Iraq, and the legacies of war. 2004, MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-6450-5 p.153</ref> Gary Sick and Lawrence Potter call the allegations against Iran "mere assertions" and state: "no persuasive evidence of the claim that Iran was the primary culprit [of using chemical weapons] was ever presented".<ref>Lawrence Potter, Gary Sick. Iran, Iraq, and the legacies of war. 2004, MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-6450-5 p.156</ref> Policy consultant and author Joseph Tragert also states: "Iran did not retaliate with Chemical weapons, probably because it did not possess any at the time".<ref>Joseph Tragert. Understanding Iran. 2003, ISBN 1-59257-141-7 p.190</ref>

See also:


Iran's ethnic minorities actively participated in the war. Seen here is a cemetery of Azaris killed during the Iran-Iraq war.

The war was disastrous for both countries, stalling economic development and disrupting oil exports. It cost Iran an estimated 1 million casualties,<ref>Rajaee, Farhang. The Iran-Iraq war: the politics of aggression. Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 1993. p. 206</ref> and $350 billion.<ref>Rajaee, Farhang. The Iran-Iraq war: the politics of aggression. Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 1993. p. 1</ref> Iraq was left with serious debts to its former Arab backers, including US$14 billion loaned by Kuwait, a debt which contributed to Saddam's 1990 decision to invade.

Much of the oil industry in both countries was damaged in air raids. Iran's production capacity has yet to fully recover from the damages during the war.

The war left the borders unchanged. Two years later, as war with the western powers loomed, Saddam recognized Iranian rights over the eastern half of the Shatt al-`Arab, a reversion to the status quo ante bellum that he had repudiated a decade earlier.

The war was extremely costly, one of the deadliest wars since the Second World War (see List of wars and disasters by death toll). Many of the prisoners taken by both sides weren't released until up to 10 years after the conflict was over.

The current president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and most of his cabinet members are veterans of the Iran-Iraq war.

Final ruling

On 9 December 1991, the UN Secretary-General reported the following to the UN Security Council:

"That Iraq's explanations do not appear sufficient or acceptable to the international community is a fact. Accordingly, the outstanding event under the violations referred to is the attack of 22 September 1980, against Iran, which cannot be justified under the charter of the United Nations, any recognized rules and principles of international law or any principles of international morality and entails the responsibility for conflict." <p>"Even if before the outbreak of the conflict there had been some encroachment by Iran on Iraqi territory, such encroachment did not justify Iraq's aggression against Iran—which was followed by Iraq's continuous occupation of Iranian territory during the conflict—in violation of the prohibition of the use of force, which is regarded as one of the rules of jus cogens." <p>"On one occasion I had to note with deep regret the experts' conclusion that "chemical weapons had been used against Iranian civilians in an area adjacent to an urban centre lacking any protection against that kind of attack" (s/20134, annex). The Council expressed its dismay on the matter and its condemnation in resolution 620 (1988), adopted on 26 August 1988."<ref>See items 6, 7, and 8 of the UN Secretary General's report to the UN Security Council on Dec 9, 1991:[8][9][10]

  • Secondary link source: p1 p2 p3</ref>



See also

External links

Wikisource has several original texts related to:

Iranian sources

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ar:حرب الخليج الأولى bs:Iransko-irački rat cs:Irácko-íránská válka da:Iran-Irak-krigen de:Erster Golfkrieg es:Guerra Irán-Iraq eu:Iran-Irak gerra fa:جنگ ایران و عراق fr:Guerre Iran-Irak ko:이란-이라크 전쟁 hr:Iračko-iranski rat is:Stríð Íraks og Írans it:Guerra Iran-Iraq he:מלחמת איראן-עיראק nl:Irak-Iranoorlog ja:イラン・イラク戦争 no:Iran–Irak-krigen pl:Wojna iracko-irańska pt:Guerra Irã-Iraque ru:Ирано-иракская война sk:Iránsko-iracká vojna sr:Ирачко-ирански рат fi:Irakin–Iranin sota sv:Iran-Irak-kriget tr:İran-Irak Savaşı


Iran-Iraq War

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