McNab, Chris, Armies of the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988, Oxford Dublin, New York, Osprey Publishing, 2022
This is the second Osprey release on the Iran-Iraq War and it is much better than the first one. That’s largely because it has a limited focus upon the armed forces of the two countries rather than the war in general. The author Chris McNab points out that the two militaries were poorly trained and most importantly not well led by Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who did not care about casualties.
Iran and Iraq were evenly matched and had many of the same problems. Iran had a much larger population but it’s army was down to just 100,000 men at the start of the war in 1980 because so many had left and been purged by the 1979 Revolution. Iraq had 200,000 in the regular army initially, but Saddam too had purged the officer corps in 1979. These forces lacked trained and had little idea of how to coordinate the different arms of the military such as using infantry with armor and air power. Iran had poor logistics while Iraq bought too much equipment from different countries and didn’t know how to adequately use it. The lack of well organized and trained armed forces was the reason why neither country was able to make any large incursions into the other’s territory. The author points out neither Baghdad nor Iran had any real strategy or doctrine on how to conduct a war. Those are the reasons why all the fighting was just along the border and dragged on for eight long years.
McNab notes that Khomeini and Saddam also had no consideration for the lives of their troops. The Iranians especially were infamous for human wave attacks by the Revolutionary Guards and its Basij auxiliary force. This led to tens of thousands of casualties. Iraq couldn’t afford such tactics but Saddam didn’t show any real regard for his men either. The result was 1-2 million dead and wounded.
Like all Osprey books there is a slew of pictures and several panels of illustrations noting the uniforms and equipment of the opposing sides. The emphasis is upon infantrymen.
Armies of the Iran-Iraq War has a limited scope and a limited audience. Military readers will enjoy it. People looking for a history of the Iran-Iraq War will only gain a little from it.
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