Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Remembering The Iran-Iraq War Interview With Author Anthony Tucker-Jones

(Weapons and Warfare)
The Iran-Iraq War was one of the longest and deadliest in recent histories. Iran full of zeal after its revolution hoped to spread its ideology across the Persian Gulf and believed Iraq was in its way. Saddam Hussein saw the threat posed by Tehran, but also wanted to seize control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway Iraq’s only access to the Persian Gulf and weaken his neighbor. That led to an eight year war that left hundreds of thousands of casualties. Anthony Tucker-Jones was a long time British intelligence officer, journalist, and now author. His Iran-Iraq War, The Lion of Babylon, 1980-1988 gives a brief introduction to the conflict.

1. There were many issues involved in the run up to the Iran-Iraq War. Which do you think were the most important to explain how the conflict started?

I find this largely forgotten war fascinating. Historically there was long running bad blood between the countries stemming from religious and ethnic differences. In my view the war in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1970s was the catalyst, because the Iranians backed the Iraqi Kurds. The Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shah offered Saddam Hussein a prime opportunity for revenge.

At the same time Revolutionary Shia Iran was looking at Iraq with a Shia majority population, but run by the Sunnis and thinking the country was ripe for regime change.

2. What was Iraq’s initial plan for the war and how did it go wrong so quickly?

It was this very issue that partly prompted me to write an account of the war. Despite its significance it is a conflict that has been neglected over the years.

Saddam planned for a short decisive war against Iran’s weakened armed forces. In many ways the Iraqi invasion of Iran was similar to Nazi Germany’s assault in the Soviet Union. The hope was that the invasion would cause an internal collapse, but that did not happen. If the Ayatollah’s government had fallen the hope was that pro-Shahists could be installed in Tehran, who would be friendly toward Baghdad. In return Saddam would have got concessions over the Shatt al-Arab Waterway and ‘Arabistan’ in southern Iran.

3. Iran and Iraq had two of the largest militaries in the Middle East, but proved unprepared for the war they fought. What is your assessment of the two armed forces and do you think their deficiencies explain the length of the war and the massive casualties they suffered?

What made the conflict interesting from a purely military point of view was that the Iraqi armed forces were schooled in Soviet doctrine while the Iranians had been trained by the Americans. This partly made the conflict an extension of the Cold War. Although Iran had a much larger manpower reserves, shortages of spares greatly hampered its armored and air forces.

They were though both armed to the teeth. Like many countries Iraq and Iran were recipients of the Cold War bonanza whereby both the Superpowers readily supplied enormous quantities of weapons to states they considered allies. However, neither the Iraqis nor the Iranians had any experience of conducting largescale armored warfare. Nor did either side have attainable strategic goals, which resulted in a long drawn out conflict.

4. Iraq tried different tactics like the Tanker War attacking shipping heading for Iran and the War of Cities where it fired missiles and conducted air raids on Iran’s major urban areas to try to force Iran to the negotiating table. How effective were they?

Yes, Saddam’s generals tried everything once the war bogged down on the battlefield, bombing, missiles and chemical weapons – the full horrors of modern warfare. Iran of course reciprocated. By the end I think they had the desired result, both countries were exhausted after eight years of war. In a way Iraq’s tactics made the Iranians more determined than ever to triumph, but Tehran recognized its forces were never going to reach Baghdad.

5. What finally brought the war to an end in 1988?

Essentially they had fought each other to a standstill, having suffered the most appalling casualties. There was complete deadlock on the battlefield. Washington was becoming increasingly clear that it would intervene if the Middle East’s oil supplies were cut off – and indeed had put warships in the Gulf.

6. What were the long term ramifications of the Iran-Iraq War?

These were far reaching and catastrophic. Saddam portrayed himself as the victor and the champion of the Arab world. His subsequent invasion of Kuwait sparked two further wars, but with the Western powers not Iran. As for Iran it became ever more insular backing militant Shia groups around the world such as Hezbollah. Iraq disturbingly became the wellspring for Islamic State or Daesh, which is the subject of my next book charting the collapse of Iraq and Syria.


Anonymous said...

Excuse me but Iran did NOT launch attacks on Iraqi cities nor did it use chemical weapons, not even legally and in self-defense, despite US propaganda efforts at the time to shift the blame for atrocities such as the gassing of the Kurds in Halabja onto Iran

Joel Wing said...

Iran didn't use chemical weapons during the war but it did attack Iraqi cities. Sep 24 Iranian planes hit Baghdad and again on Sep 30 1980 right at the start of the war There were also the 3 wars of the cities where the two sides bombed and fired missiles at each others majorurban areas

Joel Wing said...

No this is it

Anonymous said...

Iran didn't use chemical weapons during the war but it did attack Iraqi cities.

Let first correct your writings:
Iraq had had files tents of compliances to UN Security Council, this should be visited before writing in this matter

as for "Iran didn't use chemical weapons" you should not neglect the report by your senior intelligence regarding this matter:

A War Crime Or an Act of War?
By Stephen C. Pelletiere
Jan. 31, 2003

I don't blame US President Trump keep telling more and more "fake news"

Joel Wing said...

The captured Baathist archives has an audio tape where Saddam talks about gassing the Kurds. During the tape Saddam says "Kill them all". I'll take Saddam's actual words over that article.

Masoud said...

Joel, your famous ignorance is showing again like your typical poor analysis of anything to do with Iraq. First, your response has nothing to do with Iran using chemical weapons or not in the wear. They did in the war's last years, and Halabja was only one instance.

The alleged tape was from May 1988, which was after the Halabja battle and chemical attack, so it's irrelevant. It was said to be Ali Majid, not Saddam so you're doubly wrong. "Alleged tape" because its legitimacy was never verified. Still assuming it is legitimate, it came after the only proven Iraqi chemical attack on Iraqi Kurds and yes Peter Galbraith admitted to lying about what he said to the Senate in September 1988, for which the UN, Red Cross, Iran, Turkey, and others found no evidence for. Having listened to the full tape, the speaker was saying he would threaten Kurdish militants with chemical weapons, not that he would or did take action. We shouldn't forget most Kurdish fighters were fighting for the Iraqi side either.

I'll take the studies and investigations done on the case and the people who knew the most about it over a pathetic ignorant blogger who is obsessed with a country he knows nothing about, lies about, and advocates the war and occupation that destroyed it. Your "blog" is nothing more than astroturfing for debunked neocon propaganda.

Joel Wing said...

It's nice to know Saddam is alive and well. P.S. Was against the war from the start so you're just throwing dumb insults.

Anonymous said...

Joel, or should I say Dick Cheney, glad to know you're so stubbornly ignorant about Iraqi history that you call everyone Saddam for proving you wrong including Kurds like me. This shows you are a supporter of Bush and his wars because just like he called the UN and IAEA Saddam for proving him wrong, anyone who calls out your lies you call them Saddam.

Your response to someone calling you out for lying about Halabja in 2020 amounted to "Investigations and evidence be damned. A questionable recording having nothing to say about Halabja, nothing about having made chemical attacks and came months after Halabja is all the proof I need, and I'll make up another lie that it was Saddam and not Ali Majid as is commonly attributed on the recording."

You defend a lie by making up another lie because you have a surface level reddit level knowledge and understanding about Iraq, and this is why you're an ignorant, amateur blogger who doesn't know the first thing about Iraq or Iraqis. No wonder what few Iraqis and Americans know about your schizo blog think you're a pathetic ignoramus.

Seeing how you deny evidence and make up lies when your fictional beliefs are challenged, what you're saying is that you know Iran gassed Halabja but you're too stubborn to accept a reality opposite of a disproven lie made up by Khomeini the day it happened and with no evidence parroted by US officials when it became politically convenient in the 1990s but especially after 9/11 when it became your hero George W. Bush's mantra. Speaking of Bush, you believe he never really wanted war but was fooled into it and it was all an "accident".

Joel Wing said...

Here's a simple question. How did you hear the tape?

Anonymous said...

From the internet including from PUK who claims to have taken the recording and HRW and there's good-enough translations out there but it helps to know Arabic, something you don't know. Have you tried YouTube? I've seen it there before. You are the first person to say it was Saddam. You were wrong about that just like most things. The speaker, assuming it wasn't a fake which we have to take Jalal Talabani's word for, has always been said to have been Ali Hassan Majid.

It was a vague threat along the lines of "If the militias keep fighting I'll threaten to kill them all." This was after Halabja so it's not relevant to March 16, no places named, not threatening civilians, and no admission of having made chemical attacks. The reason why something that, assuming it was legitimate, was desperately tied to Halabja in US propaganda especially in the years leading up to the Iraq War, despite no relevance, is there is to this day no evidence to blame Iraq unlike there having been evidence to blame Iran.

I see you admit you had no idea what you were talking about when you made that snide response to the anon in 2020 which backfired on you, so my work here is done and I'll take my leave. I'll take proven facts and evidence over a amateur and highly subjective American blogger with no research and analytical skills. One who goes to any lengths to support lies and propaganda as admitted by their own originators as being false and tries to lecture Iraqis and everyone else about Iraq, despite admitting to having no understanding or background on Iraq, no training or background in research and analysis, and can't speak or understand any Arabic or other languages in the region.

Joel, you're an obsessed hobbyist like American Civil War larpers, nothing more. Not an analyst, researcher, and you have proven for years capable of nothing more than superficial understanding of any Iraq topic made worse by biased American nationalist narratives and views that drive all your own views. I'm glad that I and others have reminded you being a subjective, low skilled amateur on many occasions. Stick to your day job instead of embarrassing yourself with your oversized ego. I'm sure you're far better at teaching English to children than you are at any of blogging and pushing twisted opinions and histories of Iraq. Good luck.

Joel Wing said...

Sorry the tape was captured after 2003 and taken to the United States where it was part of the Iraq Memory Foundation contained in California. Those files were returned to Baghdad recently and are in some vault off limits to the public. So no you did not hear the tape.

And here's from another researcher who went through the captured Baath docs and found no Iraqi military report from the Iran-Iraq War that said the Iranians gassed Halabja:

"Like any source, the Iraqi records should be approached cautiously and critically. B.H. Lidell Hart’s warning that “nothing can deceive like a document” remains timely. However, the Iraqi records are as revealing in terms of the claims they contain as they are with respect to those one might expect to find but are missing. ABSENT IS ANY ATTEMPT TO ATTRIBUTE IRANIAN RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE GASSING OF HALABJA or claim that Iran was the first to use chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. With respect to Halabja, the only relatively close claimed instance of Iranian chemical weapons use, both geographically and temporally, was twenty mustard gas shells fired at the 34th Division on March 30, 1988, more than two weeks after the gassing of Halabja.[6] In this regard at least, internal Iraqi documents are consistent with what Iraqi officials told the United Nations investigative team that visited Iraq in April 1988."

The fact that your posts are mostly full of insults says what you're really about.

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