Results of Invasion

  January 30, 2022   Read time 2 min
Results of Invasion
The first battle of Iran’s 1982 invasion took place in an area that formed a hinge connecting Iraq’s Third and Seventh Corps, the sharp right angle that the border forms closest to Basrah.

It is worth describing in some detail because eventually it became the burial ground of Iran’s revolution, the scene of the decisive Karbala V battle. On the sands of this bloody wedge were fought battles as desperate and costly as Gettysburg or Antietam in the American Civil War, or the Marne and Ypres in World War I. Aware that this was the likeliest area of an Iranian invasion attempt, the Iraqis had created a man-made lake to cover most of the sector. This body of water, known as Fish Lake, spreads over a broad expanse of the border and reaches almost to the Shatt al Arab. In the twelve-kilometer (7.2-mile) corridor between Fish Lake and the Shatt, the Iraqis were heavily dug in.

Had Iran’s troops overrun the defenders in this narrow section, they might then have crossed the Shatt and then been only seven or eight kilometers (about five miles) from Basrah. It was widely accepted that the Ba’thists could not survive once Basrah was taken. Attacking on July 13, the Iranians initially encountered little resistance. They therefore drove some distance over the border, only to be jolted by a stiff Iraqi counterattack that pushed them back to Fish Lake, where the initial assault fell apart.

The Iranians regrouped, and on July 16 they tried again. Again the Iraqis allowed them to advance before hitting them on their flanks. By July 17 the Iranians had been pushed once more to their original line. It was a unique feature of these initial engagements that relatively large numbers of Iranians were taken prisoner. This heartened the Iraqis, for in the past the Iranians had died rather than surrender. Iran tried further attacks on July 21 and 23; these, too, were beaten back with severe losses.

On July 28, 40,000 Iranian irregular troops took part in a final futile assault, after which Iraq launched a massive counterattack, driving the Iranians back one final time across the border. After a week of fighting in the scorching heat, both sides were too exhausted to continue. In the end, Iran held a small piece of Iraqi territory, but it had paid a terrible price. Iraq claimed that some 27,000 Iranians had been killed.

Iraq’s loss in dead was about 5,000. The shocking reversal of its fortunes had a particularly unfortunate result for Iran—it intensified disagreements that had been festering within the Iranian general staff between the Revolutionary Guard and regular army commanders. We will defer discussion of this for a bit. Here, we will concentrate our critique on the performance of the Iraqis.

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