Last classic war

Last classic war

Iraq against Iran in the fight for oil

The Iran-Iraq war of 1980 – 1988 in terms of scale, duration and level of casualties, along with the Korean and Vietnamese, is among the three largest local wars of the second half of the twentieth century. In Russia, it remains virtually unknown, although there are many interesting things in it.

For example, it’s interesting that Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, was the aggressor. Just as ten years later during the occupation of Kuwait. But if in 1990, the whole world was against Saddam and struck him with “The Storm in the Desert”, then in 80, almost the whole world was for him for some reason (it seems that this is called a double standard). Iraq got weapon and from the socialist camp (most of all - from the USSR, but also from Yugoslavia, Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia), and from the NATO countries (most of all - from France, but also the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy did not stay aside), and neutrals (Sweden, Brazil, South Africa). But only China, the DPRK, Libya and Syria helped the victim of aggression (Iran), and the PRC was happy to sell weapons to Iraq too. However, as part of the Iran-Contra deal, the US supplied Iran with spare parts for some equipment and even several F-4 “Phantom” fighters, but this is a very specific story and not at all that scale.

The cause of the war was officially disagreement over the passage of the border along the river Shatt al-Arab. In fact, it was a war for oil. At least from the Iraqi side. For Iran, at first it was a reflection of aggression, and then also a war for oil, as well as for the export of the Islamic revolution in the Shiite version.

Since the 1979 revolution of the year and the repressions that followed it against the “servants of the Shah regime”, to put it mildly, did not have the best effect on the combat capability of the Iranian Armed Forces, and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) had just been created, at the beginning of the war, Iraq, the advantages of the aggressor, inflicted a number of major defeats on the Iranians. Having launched the 19 war on September 1980, by November Iraqis had occupied more than 20 thousands of square kilometers of territory (first of all in the south-west of Iran), capturing the cities of Qasr-Shirin, Neft Shah, Mehran, Bostan and Khorramshahr. The depth of advance was from 5 – 10 kilometers in the north to 60 kilometers in the south. South-west Iran was interested in Hussein because there was the most oil there.

However, the offensive impulse of the Iraqis quickly dried up, they decided to be satisfied with what had been achieved. Passive defense, however, has never brought anyone good luck. Iran began to break the situation. The lack of technology Persians compensated for superiority in the number of personnel, differing by the same extreme fanaticism.

A year after the start of the war, in September of 1981, the Iranians launched the first successful offensive, throwing the Iraqis away from Abadan. In the spring of 1982, the Persians returned the cities of Shush and Khorramshahr. During the offensive, the Iranians suffered huge losses, but stubbornly went forward. And it worked on the Iraqis. They broke down. In early June, 1982, Iraq took the troops to the border, leaving behind only the disputed areas, because of which the war allegedly began. Baghdad hoped that Iran would agree to a draw. But in Tehran, they rightly perceived the enemy's retreat as a weakness and decided to carry the Islamic revolution in the Shiite version to the west, to the Arab world. Iraq was particularly convenient in this regard, since more than half of the population of this country were Shiites (however, the overwhelming majority retained their loyalty to Baghdad, nationality turned out to be more important than faith).

An Iraqi officer shows the route of the military units in an underground operating bunker on the southern border of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein spent three days, 1981 a year. Photo: AP

The main struggle was still unfolding in the southern sector of the front. Here, in the marshy delta of the Shatt al-Arab, the advantage of Iraq in technology was largely leveled, it was very difficult to use it. But great importance has acquired the superiority of Iran in manpower.

And in the middle of July, 1982, Iran launched an offensive aimed at seizing Basra. In two weeks of fighting, the Persians were defeated; nevertheless, they were able to gain a foothold on Iraqi territory in certain areas.

Then the Iranians regularly conducted offensives in various sectors of the front, gradually biting into the enemy’s defenses. Real success came to them in February 1986, when they were able to capture the city of Fao in southern Iraq, thus cutting off Iraq from the sea and cutting off the Baghdad-Basra railway. A year later, in January 1987, during the next offensive, the Persians approached Basra for six kilometers, but could not take the city. The battles were extremely fierce. At the same time, the parties tried to weaken each other as much as possible, striking the rear. Especially actively they exchanged aviation and missile attacks on capitals and other major cities in 1985, this period is known as the “war of cities”. Throughout the war, Iran fired 455 ballistic missiles across Iraq, Iraq responded with 428 missiles. Interestingly, both sides actively used the Soviet R-17 missiles, better known as the Scud.

Although most of the Iranian attacks were either completely unsuccessful, or the successes were very small, and the losses were gigantic, the Persians completely seized the initiative, transferring the war to enemy territory. The impression was created that if it went on like this, they would press Iraq through. And the Americans intervened. The pretext for this was “tanker war”. Both warring countries sought to deprive the enemy of income from oil exports, so they attacked foreign tankers going to or from enemy ports. Iraq in this war was much more active than Iran (283 strike on the courts against 168), but for some reason Washington noticed only Iranian actions. And he launched attacks against Iranian ships and oil platforms.

Truly Baghdad and Washington "merged into ecstasy" in the spring of 1988. 17 April, Iraq launched a large-scale offensive in the south. The next day, the US Navy conducted a major operation in the eastern part of the Persian Gulf. They destroyed several Iranian oil platforms, sank the Iranian frigate and missile boat, damaged another frigate. At the same time, they certainly diverted significant Iranian forces, contributing to the success of the Iraqi offensive, which ended in complete triumph. The Iraqis returned Faw and liberated almost the entire territory in the south of the country.

After that, the war finally lost its meaning. The parties suffered gigantic human and material losses and were completely exhausted. 20 August 1988, the war ended, neither Baghdad nor Tehran achieved absolutely nothing in it. In fact, they lost both.

From a purely military point of view, the Iran-Iraq slaughter, as it seems at first glance, is not of particular interest. The level of combat training of the parties was extremely low. This was especially true of Iran, which very actively used the “human waves” method during the war and cleared the minefields, firing teenagers and old people with plastic keys from the paradise around their neck. That is, the enemy was literally flooded with corpses. The fighting skills of the Iraqis were not much higher, in general, their actions were very primitive.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to consider this war completely uninteresting. There were very interesting moments in it.

An Iraqi soldier looks at the wreckage of the Iranian “Phantom” F4, shot down by Iraqi troops, in the Air Force Museum in Baghdad, 1984 year. Photo: Herve Merliac / AP

During the Vietnam War and the October War of 1973, anti-tank helicopters for their intended purpose were used sporadically, the Iran-Iraq War (especially its initial stage) was the first where they were used in large quantities. It so happened that the Mi-24, created to destroy NATO tanks in Europe, it was very widely used in counter-guerrilla wars around the world (from Chechnya to Angola), and seriously fought with tanks only in Mesopotamia. And he did it very successfully. So, in the first days of the war, in one of the sorties, eight Iraqi Mi-24s, firing 22 missiles, destroyed 17 Iranian tanks without loss on their part. One of the Mi-24 in the first three months of the war destroyed 55 tanks. Then such successes became less, because Iran used tanks much less. But throughout the war there was aerial battles between helicopters, which on such a scale never happened again. The main opponents of the Mi-24 in these battles were Iranian AN-1 "Cobra" American-made cars. It was hard to say what the real outcome of these battles was. Data on the losses of the parties in any war diverge very much, and in this case the matter is compounded by the fact that two closed totalitarian regimes fought among themselves. In general, the Iranians believe that the Cobras won with a total score of 10: 6, the Iraqis reported that they won the Mi-24 with the same score. However, according to Iraqi data, up to 24 Iranian helicopters (including transport and multipurpose ones) were shot down by Mi-50.

Moreover, October 27 1982 Iraqi Mi-24 anti-tank missile shot down the Iranian American-made fighter F-4 "Phantom". To this day, this case has no analogues, it is believed that this is simply impossible, because the helicopter is not intended for fighting with fighter aircraft. However, this episode can not be considered reliable.

Serious tank battles took place only at the beginning of the war. The largest of these occurred in January 1981 in the Abadan area during the Iraqi repulse of the Iranian counterstrike. Iran lost destroyed and captured from 88 (according to its own data) to 214 (according to Iraqi) tanks (M60 and “Chiefen”). Iraq’s losses ranged from 50 to 100 T-62. As the Iraqis won the battle, their data is closer to the truth. In total, Iraq lost approximately 60 T-72 and about 500 T-62 during the war. Iran's losses exceeded 1,5 thousands of cars. Interestingly, Iran started the war, having about two thousand tanks exclusively Western-made (American МNNUMX, М60 and М47, English “Chiefen” and “Scorpion”), and ended up with about one thousand tanks, of which at least half were Soviet and Chinese production (obtained, as mentioned above, from the PRC, the DPRK, Libya and Syria).

It is very difficult to understand the true result of the air battles of the Iran-Iraq war, the data of the parties diverge significantly. As for the Anglo-Saxon sources, they are highly visible paradoxical playing to Iran. The fact is, apparently, that his Air Force was equipped exclusively with American aircraft (F-4, F-5, F-14), while the Iraqi Air Force - Soviet and a little French. Against this background, political antipathy fades into the background. According to Western sources, Iraqi fighters shot down Iranian aircraft during the war of 50, and Iranian aircraft shot down 221! It is well known about the repression in Iran against the pilots and technicians of the Shah's air force, the catastrophic shortage of spare parts, that if by the beginning of the war Iran had about 450 combat aircraft, then by the end it was about 60, and Iraq had overwhelming air superiority. In this regard, to believe that the Iranians fought in 4,4 times better than the Iraqis, is not very successful. It also reminds the story of a hunting story about how the Iranian pilot Mohammed Sedih in his F-14 29 October 1980 in one battle shot down four MiG-23, which should be considered a record in the history of jet aircraft.

The story about events that took place exactly one month later, on November 29, is not fully reliable. Allegedly Iranian saboteurs blew up the Iraqi oil terminals of Mina al-Bakr and Khor el-Amaya. Covering their departure, Iranian aircraft sank seven Iraqi missile and torpedo boats, hit one MiG-21, six MiG-23 and a French helicopter "Super Frelon", losing only two "Phantoms". In addition, Soviet-made Iraqi missile boats sank one Iranian missile boat. By the way, if these events really took place, then they became the only naval battle of this war (and this battle practically put an end to the existence of the Iraqi Navy). Unless, of course, consider the battle described above between the US Navy and Iran 18 April 1988.

Iranian troops are moving along the front line in Iraqi units. Photo: AP

Alternative data on casualties of the Air Forces parties are not available. There are only fragmentary and extremely contradictory data about the numerous air battles in which everyone shot down everyone, including light fighters, sometimes coping with heavy, much more powerful opponents. Thus, the Iranian F-5 was shot down by a “super-interceptor” MiG-25P, on the other hand the Iraqi MiG-21 was shot down, according to various sources, from one to five F-14, which at that time were one of the best fighters in the world. In this case, the Iranians claim that the F-14 shot down three MiG-25, although the Iraqis do not confirm any of these losses. It is possible that at the very end of the war two F-14 were shot down by the MiG-29 that had just emerged from Iraq.

The Iraqi air force was very actively used for strikes against Iranian troops at the front and in the near front zone, this was the decisive factor in the failure of most Iranian attacks. The effectiveness of these raids was sometimes very high. For example, in March 1986, in the area of ​​the Iranian city of Ahwaz, Iraqi MiG-23BN destroyed and damaged up to 500 enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The sides' air forces also actively attacked each other’s air bases, cities, and infrastructure facilities. Iraq had for this such a unique tool for developing countries as the medium-range bomber Tu-22. He was very intensively used against land and sometimes against naval targets. It may be noted that 19 March 1988, these aircraft set fire to two Iranian supertankers: Avai (316 379 tonnes of displacement) and Sanandai (253 837 tons), while more than 50 people died. Iran, in turn, claims that its F-14 shot down four Tu-22 for the war, two more such aircraft were shot down over Tehran ground defense.

As already mentioned, the parties tried very hard to deprive each other of the main source of export earnings, destroying tankers and oil infrastructure facilities. Thus, Iraqi MiG-25РБ almost completely destroyed the Iranian oil terminal on the island of Kharg. And in November, the 1986 of the MiG-23BN of the Iraqi Air Force, which flew in the air from the An-12 transport, attacked the oil terminal on Lorak Island in the Strait of Hormuz. The distance here is impressive - from the Iraqi airbases to the Strait of Hormuz almost 1,5 is thousands of kilometers, which is too much for the front bombers, which were MiG-23BN.

In general, it can be said that with a generally rather low level of combat training of the parties (from privates to generals), the war was waged with extreme bitterness, the combat equipment, which is quite modern, was used very intensively. Soviet technology was the basis of the Iraqi Armed Forces; it is precisely with its use that the Iraqis owe their major successes. And since the second half of the war, Iran has also largely fought on our re-exported equipment and its Chinese and Korean clones. In general, she showed herself very well. This particularly applies to the Mi-24 helicopter. Interestingly, in the same period, the very same helicopter was the main protagonist of a completely different type of war — the Soviet 40 th Army against the Afghan dushmans.

In fact, the Iran-Iraq war was one of the last classic wars, “World War II with missiles”. In total, after 2,5, after its termination in the same places, on one of the participants of this war, the USA worked a completely different type of war.
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  1. Leonidych
    28 November 2014 09: 57
    the last classical war will be when the banner of Victory will develop over the dome of the white house!
    1. +4
      28 November 2014 11: 13
      Moreover, the Red Banner.
  2. pinecone
    28 November 2014 10: 10
    Iranian troops advance along the front line in Iraqi units. Photo: AP ??
  3. or
    28 November 2014 10: 31
    At that time, on our military maps, Iran was developed as a likely adversary (enemy in a word) in the same way as the US Army.
  4. +1
    28 November 2014 10: 50
    An interesting article, I wanted to know in more detail.
  5. +5
    28 November 2014 11: 05
    With some difficulty I remember that war. The Vremya program, newsreels, tanks, imperialism, and so on ... But I remember well another thing - a feeling of complete tranquility and security for my life. Nobody could touch the USSR! And somewhere, far away, someone fought ...
    That's how it was.
  6. +2
    28 November 2014 11: 10
    And everywhere the ears of our Anglo-Saxon "partners".
  7. +7
    28 November 2014 11: 15
    My old acquaintance still fiercely hates Arabs. He served in air defense and ended up in Egypt during the Israeli-Arab war. In general, cowards and scum ran from transport-loading machines at the slightest danger. There is a battle and everyone has already washed off. At night on the position the helicopters guarded by the Egyptians flew off the radar antenna with the autogenes and pulled it away ... In Vietnam, DRV soldiers crammed into cramped cabins surrounding our specialists in order to protect themselves from fragments. Feel the difference, so they deserved to be defeated.
    1. +2
      28 November 2014 11: 57
      I read somewhere about the case with the antenna. Yes, that is right. Apparently, the Arabs are not fighting very well. They are better at trading. Apparently, therefore, little Israel restrains so many Arab states around itself.
    2. 0
      28 November 2014 13: 12
      Quote: dmi.pris
      At night, helicopters flew to the position guarded by the Egyptians. Autogenes cut off the radar antenna and pulled it

      The Israelis captured not one antenna, but the entire P-12 radar with the Silicon-1 code chips, for which the hell would they need one antenna ... And with the calculations of the ZRDN it’s not so simple, far from all and not always - not worth summarizing. In war as in war ....
    3. Alf
      28 November 2014 19: 55
      Quote: dmi.pris
      .And these traders were deservedly defeated.

      For an Arab man, there are only two male occupations — war and trade. And the Arabs very effectively mix these concepts.
      Our MIG-25 went on reconnaissance over Israel. Each time Phantoms rose to intercept them. Unsuccessfully, but now it's not about that. Our pilots began to use false sorties, i.e. MIG rolled out on the taxiway and ... rolled back. As our pilot writes, at the first moment I thought that the airfield was extinct. Everyone rushed to call.
      1. -1
        29 November 2014 10: 16
        Quote: Alf
        Everyone rushed to call.

        -Yeah, to inform Tel Aviv about the MIGs departure via the switchboard of the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, there were no other telephones at the airport, it is very plausible ... (I wish they could have sent pigeon mail here ...)
        -And not Phantoms (they were used to launch bombing and assault strikes) rose to intercept, but Mirages-interceptors.
        -All of the series I heard, read, a friend of my friend said ...
        There are reliable documentary sources and testimonies of participants in those events, and we must rely on them, and not repeat common myths ...
  8. 0
    28 November 2014 11: 27
    An interesting analysis of the fighting, thanks.
  9. +2
    28 November 2014 14: 43
    Article plus. In general, regarding Arabs and Soviet technology, one can say in the words of an Israeli technician officer that they fell into the wrong hands! The level of training and moral-volitional qualities of Arabs can be clearly seen in all Arab-Israeli conflicts. There is a huge advantage in technology and numbers the wars ended with the same victory of the Jews!
    1. 0
      29 November 2014 07: 39
      Yeah, Arabs - they are such Arabs ...
  10. 0
    28 November 2014 15: 47
    Thank you for the article! The war is long and bloody, and the press is poorly lit.
    But you should not focus on the losses of the parties: each hides his losses, and sticks out his enemies. The thing is dark. Here is the contention of specific episodes - this is interesting.
  11. -1
    29 November 2014 01: 00
    Cold war
    Iran-Iraq war
  12. +1
    21 January 2015 10: 00
    Thank you for the article. A good review of those events.
  13. 0
    9 June 2023 09: 27
    As it turned out, not the last one. The author was mistaken.

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