Chemical Warfare in the Iran-Iraq War
Chemical warfare is a war that involves using the toxic properties of chemical substance as weapons, it does not depend on explosive force to achieve its purpose, and instead it depends on the unique properties of the chemical agent weaponries. A leather agent has been developed to injure or damage the enemy, or refute unrestricted use of the area of terrain. Defoliants were used to devastate the vegetation and deny its use for cover and camouflage; also it can be used against vegetation and livestock to endorse hunger and starvation.
According to Pelletiere C. Stephen, Iran-Iraq war broke out as a result of the power vacuum that developed in the Persian Gulf, with the pronouncement by Great Britain in the late 1960s, which it would pull out from the area where it has exercised sovereignty after centuries. He further stated that, Britain’s decision inspired the shah of Iran to assume Britain's role as “police officer" of the said Gulf, a go ahead that solely he was persuaded to take by the US, but Iraq in particular, perceived itself to be threatened, since the shah made no secret of his extreme dislike of Arab nationalist government there. It was due to this vying for ascendancy between Iran and Iraq that led to the out- break of war in 1980 (Pelletiere. 1992).
Despite Great Britain and other super powers, such as United State, Soviet Union, France and other external nations, they have been seen as the basis of chemical warfare of Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988) it is clear that Iran and Iraq were responsible of the outbreak and continuance of the war.
The Iran- Iraq war outbreak in 1980s has been viewed from the historical perspective to have been fueled by border disputes between Iran and Iraq. It is believed that Saddam Hussein’s resolution to attack Iran was personal mistake based on ambition and sense of vulnerabilities. Saddam Hussein feared that, Iran’s new leadership would make threats weaken Sunnishiba balance, and would take advantage of Iraq’s strategic vulnerabilities that are Iraq’s minimal access to the Persian Gulf. His decision to attack Iran has chronological precedent in the ancient Mesopotamia, fearing internal conflict and foreign invasion and engaging in frequent wars with people of the highlands.
Iraq claimed territories that were occupied by Arabs those were the Southern oil producing province of Iran- Khouzestan, as well as its right over Shatt El Arab- Arvandroud. This continued to raise the heat over border clashes, which existed for many years, as a result, in 1979, the Shatt al Arab waterway dispute, was revived. Iraq claimed 200 kilometer channel up to Iranian shore as their territory. On the side of Iran, they claimed that the Thalweg line running down the middle of waterway was their official border according to 1975 treaty. Iraq under the leadership of Baath considered the treaty as just a ceasefire, not an ultimate settlement.
The Iran-Iraq war was contributed by the conflicts between old Sunni versus Shia and Arabs versus Persians religious and ethnic disputes, and between Saddam and Ayatollah Khomeini personal difference. Iraq initiated the war in an attempt to strengthen its rising power in Arab world and to substitute Iran as dominate Persian Gulf state. It is noted that the war was more directly the effect of poor political judgments, and mistake of part of Saddam Hussein, and the choice to attack taken at an instant of Iranian weak point was Saddam’s. Both Iran and Iraq were enjoying unity of command at least superficially, because each armed force responded to a single command. This unity of command on the side of Iraq was under control of President Saddam Hussein who as a member of the Baathst party was suspicious of the military. Therefore, the armed force of Iraq had direct and unified command of a political party that distrusted and misunderstood the army. On the side of Iran, army was under control of Ayatollah Khomein, who was a religious fanatic. These two personalities on both sides took advantage of the army and involved the army in their personal differences.
Military force played a crucial role in the outbreak of the war from both sides. For instance, Baathist planned their military campaign, and they had a positive attitude on themselves. According to Iraq’s, they referred Iranians as one who lacked cohesive leadership, and who lacked spare parts for America- made equipment. Baghdad on the other side possessed well equipped and trained forces, which made their morale run high against Iran’s armed forces including revolutionary Guard (Pasdaran) troops, who were led by the religious mullahs with inadequate military experience; the Iraqis could muster twelve complete mechanized divisions equipped with latest soviet materials. By the late 1970s, the Iraq’s had assembled an army of 190,000 men, 450 aircraft and 2,200 tanks (Hogendoorn 2008).
The relationship between Iran and Iraq deteriorated in April 1980; when Iranian supported Ad Dawah attempt to assassinate Iraqi, foreign minister Tariq Aziz. When they failed to assassinate foreign minister they further went on and tried another attempt to assassinate the minister of culture and information, Latif Nayyif jasim. In reaction, the Iraqis immediately rounded up members and supporters of Ad Dinah and deported to Iran thousands of shias of Iranian origin. Saddam went further and ordered the execution of presumed Ad Dawah leader Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Bagr as Sadr and his sister.
Robison Grant emphasized that, on 22 September 1980 Iraqi fighter jets that were used to attack nine dissimilar Iranian bases by surprise, with intention to destroy air forces for the Iranians while on the very ground. During this period or moment, there entered 6 Iraqi divisions of army and they drove around 5 miles transversely the border belonging to Iranians on 3 fronts and ended pu occupying 1000 square kilometers of Iranian territory, although this attempt did not succeed the Iranian jets retaliated by hitting strategically crucial targets close to paramount Iraq cities. Following this, the war broke out and went on for eight years. Both sides despite being imported high- tech fighting machines, they had inexperienced and untrained personnel to operate and repair them. As a result, they had to look for other tactics, which were effective caring less about casualties (Smart 2004).
During the war, to avoid defeat Iraq hunted out every promising weapon, this included developing of self- sustaining facilities to produce militarily fundamental quantities of chemical warfare agents. This presented a solution to the masses of evenly armed Basif and Posdoran. These weapons were singularly successful when used on troop meeting areas and supporting artillery. When carrying out distasteful operations, Iraq routinely supported the attacks with deep fires and incorporated chemical fires on forward defenses, artillery positions, command posts, and logical facilities (Maritson 1984, 141).
During this war, Iraq developed the ability to produce, store, and use chemical weapons. These weapons included G-series blister and H-series agents. These weapons were built on various offensive munitions which include aerial bombs, rockets, war heads and artillery shells on the Al Hussein Scud missile variant. During the war, Iraqi fighters attacked Iran by dropping mustard-filled 500 kilogram and tabun-filled 250 kilogram, it is also noted that, they also installed spray tank on an unknown numbers of helicopters. Iran unsuccessfully tried to attack the osirak reactor on September 30, 1980 that belonged to Iraq. In response to Iranian missile attack against Baghdad, Iraqi fired 190 missiles against Iranian cities for a period of six weeks (Iraqi Scientist Reports on German 2003).
The Iraqi air force, which consisted of about 28,000 troops, had a back from soviet and French aircraft. The air force was divided into squadrons of light bombers, interceptors, fighter, transports, and helicopters. Despite these heavy munitions, the Iraq did not have appropriate measures to utilize these munitions to their maximum. For instance, most attack squadrons and all the bomber squadrons had been retained to protect the palace. Also, they had inadequate training, especially pilots, and they received inadequate training in Soviet Union. Iraqis lacked both target analysis and reconnaissance capabilities. They also lacked a viable command and to manage system for either close air hold up or on an integrated air defense (Grant 2003).
On the side of Iran, its air force was backed by United States, where they received their training and assistance. For instance, they were provided by number of air craft’s which included, 166 f-5E’s, 188 F-4D/E’s and 77 F-14’s. Iranians had only about 77 air craft dedicated to the mission, unlike the Iraqis who had 115 air craft defense. Iranians had fourteen dedicated reconnaissance aircraft, the Iranians enjoyed the fact that their aircraft had advanced avionics, and could carry smart bombs, and they had trained pilots to fly them. Also, Iranian took advantage of being near the border, based on that the Iranians would have an easier time to reach their targets, Stephen R. Shalom,’ The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988” Iran Chamber Society 1,2 (n.d).
In conclusion, chemical warfare of Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1981, was largely fueled by internal factors. It is notable that, even though there were external influence, super powers such as Soviet Union and United state, they provided weapons which did not help too much. Case in point is in Iraq where they did not have the skills to use the weapons, thus creating more problems than it solved. It is due to this they had to look for other ways to apply, hence introduction of chemical warfare. Therefore, Iraq and Iran played a significant role in the rise and facilitated the war for eight years.