Iran-Iraq War begins

Iran-Iraq War begins

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Long-standing border disputes and political turmoil in Iran prompt Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to launch an invasion of Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace agreement, but the Ayatollah Khomeini renewed fighting. Stalemates and the deaths of thousands of young Iranian conscripts in Iraq followed. Population centers in both countries were bombed, and Iraq employed chemical weapons. In the Persian Gulf, a “tanker war” curtailed shipping and increased oil prices. In 1988, Iran agreed to a cease-fire.

IRAN – IRAQ WAR (1980 – 1988)

On 22 September 1980, Iraq launched a surprise military attack on Iran, thereby igniting a war that would last for eight years, ending only when both countries agreed to accept the terms of a United Nations (UN) cease-fire resolution. Iraq's stated reason for initiating the war was defensive: The government in Baghdad claimed that Iranian forces were staging raids across their common border and that Iran's leaders were using the media to incite Iraqis to revolt. But Iraq had experienced more serious "border incidents" with Iran in the past, most notably in the years 1971 – 1975, when the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi had provided well-publicized "covert" assistance for a rebellion among Iraq's Kurdish minority. The same Iraqi leaders who were determined to avoid major conflict with Iran in 1975 had become, only five years later, confident of defeating Iran in battle. The Iraqi perception of changes in international, regional, and domestic politics contributed importantly to the decision to invade a larger and more powerful neighbor.

In the fall of 1980, Iran was isolated internationally as a result of the hostage crisis with the United States. Iran's relations with the other super-power, the Soviet Union, also were problematic because Tehran opposed the Soviet role in Afghanistan. In addition, all the Arab neighbors of Iran shared Iraq's apprehensions about the Iranian rhetoric of "exporting Islamic revolution." Within Iraq, Iran's revolution had emboldened an antigovernment movement among some Shi ʿ ite Muslims, although the actual extent of this opposition may have been exaggerated in the minds of officials. Finally, intelligence about Iran supplied by Iranian military officers who had fled their country in the wake of the 1979 revolution was replete with information about serious factional rivalries among the political leaders and disarray and demoralization within the armed forces. The combined weight of all these factors persuaded Iraqi leaders that war against Iran could be undertaken with minimal costs and major potential benefits, such as seriously weakening or even causing the downfall of a much distrusted regime.

Initially the war went well for Iraq. Iranian forces were surprised by and unprepared for the attack. Iraqis captured Iranian border towns in all four provinces adjacent to Iraq, as well as Iran's major port, Khorramshahr. The Iraqis also besieged Abadan, one of Iran's largest cities and the site of its largest oil refinery, and several smaller cities located 12 to 20 miles removed from the border. After several weeks, however, the Iranians recovered from the shock of invasion and mobilized a large volunteer army that stopped the Iraqi advance. Iraq offered a cease-fire in place, which Iran rejected on grounds that part of its territory was under enemy occupation. For the next six months, the two armies fought intermittent battles along the front line in the western part of the Iranian province of Khuzestan, with neither side achieving any significant victory. Beginning in mid-1981, however, the Iranians gradually gained an advantage, breaking the Iraqi siege of several cities, including Abadan in September. A major victory for Iran came in May 1982, when it recaptured Khorramshahr. Several weeks later, in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon, Iraq announced its forces would withdraw from all Iranian territory.

The summer of 1982 seemed an appropriate time to end the war, but Iran's leaders were beginning to feel victorious and wanted revenge. Thus, in July they decided to continue the war by taking it into Iraq. During the next five years, the advantage in the land battles on the Iraqi front remained with Iran, although it was an advantage that gained Iran only a few miles of ground, notably the Majnun Islands in 1984 and the Fao Peninsula in 1986. Strategy in this period may be described as a war of attrition thousands of men, especially on the Iranian side, which used human wave assaults as a tactic, died in battles that ended as stalemates. In the air, the advantage was on Iraq's side, and the latter used its superiority in aircraft and missiles to strike at Iran's oil installations, industrial plants, shipping, and cities. Iraq also began to use chemical weapons against Iranian forces. Baghdad even authorized the use of chemical weapons against its own Kurdish minority in northeastern Iraq after some of them rebelled and provided logistical support to Iran.

Iraqi missile and aerial bombing of Iranian oil shipping led Iran to retaliate against the shipping of neutral Arab states such as Kuwait, which Iran accused of collaborating with Iraq by providing billions of dollars in loans. The result was the "tanker war" in the Persian Gulf, a phase that added an international dimension to the war when major countries intervened during 1987 to assert the freedom of the seas by sending armed naval ships to escort neutral vessels through Gulf waters. The situation prompted the UN Security Council to pass a cease-fire resolution (1987). Iran initially was reluctant to accept this resolution, but a combination of factors finally secured its acceptance: Iraq's extensive use of chemical weapons in battles during early 1988 a renewed wave of Iraqi missile strikes on Iranian cities, including the capital, Tehran an increasing war-weariness among the general population and uncertainty about the intentions of the United States and other countries that had intervened to suppress the tanker war. The UN-mediated cease-fire came into effect in August 1988. By that time, Iran had lost 150,000 men in battle, and about 40,000 more were listed as missing in action 2,000 Iranian civilians also had been killed in Iraqi bomb and missile strikes. Iraq had lost more than 60,000 men in battle, and at least 6,000 Iraqi Kurdish civilians had been killed by chemical weapons unleashed on them by their own government.


Iran Israel
Population 81,353,100 (2018) 8,840,020 (2018)
Area 1,648,195 km 2 (636,372 sq mi) 20,770/22,072 km 2 (8,019/8,522 sq mi)
Population density 49/km 2 (128/sq mi) 401/km 2 (1,037/sq mi)
Capital Tehran Jerusalem (disputed)
Largest city Tehran Jerusalem
Government Unitary state, Islamic republic Parliamentary, democracy
Current leader Hassan Rouhani Benjamin Netanyahu
Official language Persian Hebrew
Main religions Shia Islam 90–95% [5] [6]
Sunni Islam 4–8% [7] Christianity 1% Judaism <0.1%. [8]
Judaism 74.7%
Islam 17.7% (mostly Sunni) Christianity 2% Druze 1.6% Unknown 4.1% [9]
GDP (nominal) $405.540 billion ($5,193 per capita) $305.707 billion ($38,004 per capita)
GDP (PPP) $974.406 billion ($12,478 per capita) $286.840 billion ($35,658 per capita)
Military expenditures $7.463 billion (1.8% of GDP) [ citation needed ] $16.5 billion (4.39% of GDP) [10]

Pre-modern background

The beginnings of Jewish history in Iran dates from late Biblical times. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Persia. In the book of Ezra, the Persian king Cyrus the Great is credited with permitting and enabling the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple its reconstruction was carried out "according to the decree of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia" (Ezra 6:14). This is said to have taken place in the late sixth century BC, by which time there was a well-established and influential Jewish community in Persia. Persian Jews have lived in the territories of today's Iran for over 2,700 years, since the first Jewish diaspora when Shalmaneser V conquered the (Northern) Kingdom of Israel (722 BC) and sent the Israelites into captivity at Khorasan. In 586 BC, the Babylonians expelled large populations of Jews from Judea to the Babylonian captivity. Jews who migrated to ancient Persia mostly lived in their own communities.

The Jewish Bible's Ketuvim ends in Second Chronicles with the decree of Cyrus, which returned the exiles to the Promised Land from Babylon along with a commission to rebuild the temple.

'Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath Yahweh, the God of heaven, given me and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people—may Yahweh, his God, be with him—let him go there.' (2 Chronicles 36:23)

This edict is also fully reproduced in the Book of Ezra.

"In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: 'Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained, its height being 60 cubits and its width 60 cubits with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. Also let the gold and silver utensils of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned and brought to their places in the temple in Jerusalem and you shall put them in the house of God.' (Ezra 6:3–5)

As a result of Cyrus's policies, the Jews honored him as a dignified and righteous king. However, there is no evidence that the declaration reflected a unique attitude towards Jews. Rather, it may have been part of his renowned tolerance towards the cultures and religions of the people under his rule. The historical nature of this decree has been challenged. Professor Lester L Grabbe argues that there was no decree but that there was a policy that allowed exiles to return to their homelands and rebuild their temples. He also argues that the archaeology suggests that the return was a "trickle", taking place over perhaps decades, resulting in a maximum population of perhaps 30,000. [11] Philip R. Davies called the authenticity of the decree "dubious", citing Grabbe and adding that J. Briend argued against "the authenticity of Ezra 1.1–4 is J. Briend, in a paper given at the Institut Catholique de Paris on 15 December 1993, who denies that it resembles the form of an official document but reflects rather biblical prophetic idiom." [12] Mary Joan Winn Leith believes that the decree in Ezra might be authentic and along with the Cylinder that Cyrus, like earlier rules, was through these decrees trying to gain support from those who might be strategically important, particularly those close to Egypt which he wished to conquer. He also wrote that "appeals to Marduk in the cylinder and to Yahweh in the biblical decree demonstrate the Persian tendency to co-opt local religious and political traditions in the interest of imperial control." [13]

According to the Bible, Cyrus ordered rebuilding the Second Temple in the same place as the first however, he died before it was completed. Darius the Great came to power in the Persian empire and ordered the completion of the temple. According to the Bible, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged this work. The temple was ready for consecration in the spring of 515 BCE, more than twenty years after the Jews' return to Jerusalem.

According to the Book of Esther, during the reign of Persian King Ahasuerus, generally identified as Xerxes the Great (son of Darius the Great) in 6th century BCE, [14] the vizier Haman instigated a plot to kill all the Jews of ancient Persia. The plot was thwarted by Queen Esther who ordered the hanging of Haman and his ten sons. This event is celebrated as the holiday of Purim.

Israeli independence to Iranian revolution (1947–79)

In 1947, Iran was one of the 11 members that formed the Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) charged to investigate the cause of the conflict in Palestine Mandate, and, if possible, devise a solution. After much deliberation the committee presented a Partition Plan for Palestine, which had the support of 8 of the 11 members of UNSCOP. Iran along with India and Yugoslavia opposed the plan, predicting it would lead to an escalation of violence. Arguing that peace could only be established through a single federal state, Iran voted against the partition plan when it was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi predicted that the partition would lead to generations of fighting.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, Israel and Iran maintained close ties. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel [15] as a sovereign state after Turkey. [16] [17] Israel viewed Iran as a natural ally as a non-Arab power on the edge of the Arab world, in accordance with David Ben Gurion's concept of an alliance of the periphery. Israel had a permanent delegation in Tehran which served as a de facto embassy, before Ambassadors were exchanged in the late 1970s. [18] [19]

After the Six-Day War, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs and Iranian oil was shipped to European markets via the joint Israeli-Iranian Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline. [20] [21] Trade between the countries was brisk, [22] with Israeli construction firms and engineers active in Iran. El Al, the Israeli national airline, operated direct flights between Tel Aviv and Tehran. [23] Iranian-Israeli military links and projects were kept secret, but they are believed to have been wide-ranging, [24] for example the joint military project Project Flower (1977–79), an Iranian-Israeli attempt to develop a new missile. [25] [26]


As at 1979, Israel owed about a billion dollars to Iran for business conducted before the Iranian revolution. Some of the debt arose from oil purchased by Israel, and a larger amount from the operation of the Trans-Israel oil pipeline and associated port facilities, which were a joint venture between Israeli companies and the National Iranian Oil Company. Israel decided against paying the debt at a meeting in 1979 and granted legal indemnity to Israeli companies which owed it. At least one Israeli bank account is known to hold $250 million owed to Iran.

Since the 1980s, Iran has been suing in the European courts for payment of the debts and has won several cases. However, payment of the debts is legally complicated by the international sanctions against Iran and by the fact that Israel classifies Iran as an enemy state. [27] In May 2015, a European court ordered the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company to pay $1.1 billion to Iran, which Israel refuses to do. [28]

Under Khomeini (1979–89)

Following the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Iran adopted a sharp anti-Israel stance. Iran cut off all official relations with Israel [29] official statements, state institutes, and events. Iran ceased to accept Israeli passports, and the holders of Iranian passports were banned from travelling to "the occupied Palestine"’ [30] The Israeli Embassy in Tehran was closed and handed over to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. [31] Ayatollah Khomeini declared Israel an "enemy of Islam" and 'The Little Satan' [32] —the United States was called 'The Great Satan'.

According to Trita Parsi, Iran's strategic imperatives compelled the Khomeini government to maintain clandestine ties to Israel, while hope that the periphery doctrine could be resurrected motivated the Jewish State's assistance to Iran. [33] However, at the same time, Iran provided support for Islamist-Shia Lebanese parties, helping to consolidate them into a single political and military organization, Hezbollah, and providing them the ideological indoctrination, military training and equipment to attack Israeli and American targets. [34]

Israeli logistical support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88)

Israel sold Iran US$75 million worth of arms from stocks of Israel Military Industries, Israel Aircraft Industries and Israel Defense Forces stockpiles, in their Operation Seashell in 1981. [35] Material included 150 M-40 antitank guns with 24,000 shells for each gun, spare parts for tank and aircraft engines, 106 mm, 130 mm, 203 mm and 175 mm shells and TOW missiles. This material was transported first by air by Argentine airline Transporte Aéreo Rioplatense and then by ship. The same year Israel provided active military support against Iraq by destroying the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, which the Iranians themselves had previously targeted, but the doctrine established by the attack would increase potential conflict in future years.

Arms sales to Iran that totaled an estimated $500 million from 1981 to 1983 according to the Jafe Institute for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Most of it was paid for by Iranian oil delivered to Israel. "According to Ahmad Haidari, "an Iranian arms dealer working for the Khomeini government, roughly 80% of the weaponry bought by Tehran" immediately after the onset of the war originated in Israel. [36]

According to Mark Phythian, the fact "that the Iranian air force could function at all" after Iraq's initial attack and "was able to undertake a number of sorties over Baghdad and strike at strategic installations" was "at least partly due to the decision of the Reagan administration to allow Israel to channel arms of US origin to Iran to prevent an easy and early Iraqi victory." [37]

Despite all the speeches of Iranian leaders and the denunciation of Israel at Friday prayers, there were never less than around one hundred Israeli advisers and technicians in Iran at any time throughout the war, living in a carefully guarded and secluded camp just north of Tehran, where they remained even after the ceasefire. [38]

Israeli sales also included spare parts for U.S.-made F-4 Phantom jets. [39] Ariel Sharon believed it was important to "leave a small window open" to the possibility of good relations with Iran in the future. [40]

Increasing tensions (1989–present)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

In December 2000, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel a "cancerous tumour" that should be removed from the region. [41] [42] In 2005, he emphasized that "Palestine belongs to Palestinians, and the fate of Palestine should also be determined by the Palestinian people". [43] In 2005 Khamenei clarified Iran's position after an international furor erupted over a remark attributed to President Ahmadinejad according to which Israel should be "wiped off the map" by saying that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country." [44]

On 15 August 2012, during a meeting with veterans of the Iran–Iraq War, Khamenei said that he was confident that "the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography." [45] [46] In addition, on 19 August, Khamenei reiterated comments made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which members of the international community, including the United States, France, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned, [47] during which he called Israel a "cancerous tumour in the heart of the Islamic world" and said that its existence is responsible for many problems facing the Muslim world. [48]

Rafsanjani presidency (1989–1997)

Khatami presidency (1997–2005)

Under reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, elected in 1997, some believed Iran–Israel relations would improve. Khatami called Israel an "illegal state" and a "parasite," [49] but also said in 1999 Jews would be "safe in Iran" and all religious minorities would be protected. [50] A report indicates that Iran tried in 2003 to initiate a rapprochement with Israel by recognizing its existence in a proposal to the United States. The report claims that Iran's peace proposal with Israel was not accepted by the United States. [51] In January 2004, Khatami spoke to an Israeli reporter who asked him on what grounds Iran would recognize Israel. This was believed to be the first time he had spoken publicly with an Israeli. [52] At the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005, Khatami was seated close to the Iranian-born Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who is from the same province, the Yazd Province, as Khatami. Katsav said that he shook Khatami's hand and the two had a brief conversation about Iran. However, Khatami denied this. [53]

Ahmadinejad presidency (2005–2013)

The election of Mahmud Ahmedinijiad, a hardliner of Iranian politics, relations with Israel became increasingly strained as the countries engaged in a series of proxy conflicts and covert operations against each other.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) were believed to have directly assisted Hezbollah fighters in their attacks on Israel. Multiple sources suggested that hundreds of IRGC operatives participated in firing rockets into Israel, and secured Hezbollah's long-range missiles. IRGC operatives were allegedly seen operating openly at Hezbollah outposts during the war. In addition, IRGC operatives were alleged to have supervised Hezbollah's attack on the INS Hanit with a C-802 anti-ship missile. The attack severely damaged the warship and killed four crewmen. It is alleged that between six and nine IRGC operatives were killed by the Israeli military during the war. According to the Israeli media their bodies were transferred to Syria and from there, flown to Tehran. [54]

During and immediately after the Gaza War, the Israeli Air Force, with the assistance of Israeli commandos, was reported to have carried out three airstrikes in Sudan against Iranian arms being smuggled to Hamas through Sudan, as Iran launched an intensive effort to supply Hamas with weapons and ammunition. Israel hinted that it was behind the attacks. Two truck convoys were destroyed, and an arms-laden ship was sunk in the Red Sea. [55] [56] On 4 November 2009, Israel captured a ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and its cargo of hundreds of tons of weapons allegedly bound from Iran to Hezbollah.

In 2010, a wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists began. The assassinations were widely believed to be the work of Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service. According to Iran and global media sources, the methods used to kill the scientists is reminiscent of the way Mossad had previously assassinated targets. The assassinations were alleged to be an attempt to stop Iran's nuclear program, or to ensure that it cannot recover following a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. [57] In the first attack, particle physicist Masoud Alimohammadi was killed on 12 January 2010 when a booby-trapped motorcycle parked near his car exploded. On 12 October 2010, an explosion occurred at an IRGC military base near the city of Khorramabad, killing 18 soldiers. [58] On 29 November 2010, two senior Iranian nuclear scientists, Majid Shahriari and Fereydoon Abbasi, were targeted by hitmen on motorcycles, who attached bombs to their cars and detonated them from a distance. Shahriari was killed, while Abbasi was severely wounded. On 23 July 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad was shot dead in eastern Tehran. On 11 January 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan and his driver were killed by a bomb attached to their car from a motorcycle. [59]

In June 2010, Stuxnet, an advanced computer worm, was discovered. It is believed that it had been developed by US and Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. [60] In a study conducted by Institute for Science and International Security it is estimated that Stuxnet might have damaged as many as 1,000 centrifuges (10% of all installed) in the Natanz enrichment plant. [61] Other computer viruses and malware, including Duqu and Flame, were reportedly related to Stuxnet. [62] [63] Iran claims that its adversaries regularly engineer sales of faulty equipment and attacks by computer viruses to sabotage its nuclear program. [64] [65] [66]

On 15 March 2011, Israel seized a ship from Syria bringing Iranian weapons to Gaza. [67] In addition, the Mossad was also suspected of being responsible for an explosion that reportedly damaged the nuclear facility at Isfahan. Iran denied that any explosion had occurred, but The Times reported damage to the nuclear plant based on satellite images, and quoted Israeli intelligence sources as saying that the blast indeed targeted a nuclear site, and was "no accident". [68] Hours after the blast took place, Hezbollah fired two rockets into northern Israel, causing property damage. The Israel Defense Forces reacted by firing four artillery shells at the area from where the launch originated. It was speculated that the attack was ordered by Iran and Syria as a warning to Israel. [69] The Israeli attack was reported to have killed 7 people, including foreign nationals. Another 12 people were injured, of whom 7 later died in hospital. [70] [71] The Mossad was also suspected of being behind an explosion at a Revolutionary Guard missile base in November 2011. The blast killed 17 Revolutionary Guard operatives, including General Hassan Moqaddam, described as a key figure in Iran's missile program. [72] Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote that several lower-ranked Iranian missile experts had probably been previously killed in several explosions at various sites. [57]

In response to Israeli covert operations, Iranian agents reportedly began trying to hit Israeli and Jewish targets potential targets were then placed on high alert. Yoram Cohen, the head of Shin Bet, claimed that three planned attacks in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Thailand were thwarted at the last minute. [73] On 11 October 2011, the United States claimed to have foiled an alleged Iranian plot that included bombing the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington DC and Buenos Aires. [74] On 13 February 2012, Israeli embassy staff in Georgia and India were targeted. In Georgia, a car bomb failed to explode near the embassy and was safely detonated by Georgian police. In India, the car bomb exploded, injuring four people. Amongst the wounded was the wife of an Israeli Defense Ministry employee. [75] Israel accused Iran of being behind the attacks. [76] [77] The following day, three alleged Iranian agents were uncovered in Bangkok, Thailand, thought to have been planning to kill Israeli diplomatic officials, including the ambassador, by attaching bombs to embassy cars. The cell was uncovered when one of their bombs exploded. Police responded, and the Iranian agent present at the house threw an explosive device at officers that tore his legs off, and was subsequently taken into custody. A second suspect was arrested as he tried to catch a flight out of the country, and the third escaped to Malaysia, where he was arrested by Malaysian Federal Police. [78] Thai police subsequently arrested two people suspected of involvement. [79] [80] Indian police arrested a Delhi-based journalist in connection with February’s car bomb, which injured four Israelis including the wife of an Israeli diplomat. Syed Mohammed Kazmi the journalist was arrested on 6 March 2012, he is said to have been in contact with a suspect police believe might have stuck a magnetic bomb to the diplomat’s car. It is said Kazmi was an Indian citizen who worked for an Iranian publication. [81]

In late February 2012, WikiLeaks published confidential emails from Stratfor, a US-based private intelligence company, which were stolen by the hacking group Anonymous. Among the information released was a claim that Israeli commandos, in collaboration with Kurdish fighters, destroyed several underground Iranian facilities used for nuclear and defense research projects. [82] Khamenei has accused Israel of helping Jundallah carry out attacks in Iran. [83] According to a New Yorker report, members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq received training in the U.S. and Israeli funding for their operations against the Iranian government. [84]

On 18 July 2012, a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria was destroyed in a bombing attack that killed five Israeli tourists and the driver, and injured 32 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the attack. [85] In July 2012, a senior Israeli defense official stated that since May 2011, more than 20 terrorist attacks planned by Iran and Hezbollah against Israeli targets worldwide had been foiled, including in South Africa, Azerbaijan, Kenya, Turkey, Thailand, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Nepal, and Nigeria, and that Iranian and Hezbollah operatives were incarcerated in jails throughout the world. [86] [87] [88] [89]

On 6 October 2012, Israeli airplanes shot down a small drone as it flew over northern Negev. [90] Hezbollah confirmed it sent the drone and Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone's parts were manufactured in Iran. [91] On 24 October 2012, Sudan claimed that Israel had bombed a munitions factory, allegedly belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, south of Khartoum. [92] [93] [94] In November 2012, Israel reported that an Iranian ship was being loaded with rockets to be exported to countries within range of Israel and that Israel "will attack and destroy any shipment of arms". [95] In January 2013, the Fordo nuclear plant was hit by an explosion. Iranian officials suspected Mossad or CIA were responsible. [96] On 25 April 2013, Israeli aircraft shot down a drone off the coast of Haifa, allegedly belonging to Hezbollah. [97]

On 30 January 2013, Israeli aircraft allegedly struck a Syrian convoy transporting Iranian weapons to Hezbollah. [98] Other sources stated the targeted site was a military research center in Jamraya responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons. [99] Two additional air strikes reportedly took place on 3 and 5 May 2013. Both targeted long-ranged weapons sent from Iran to Hezbollah. [100] [101] According to anonymous US officials, Israel launched another airstrike or cruise missile attack on 5 July. It targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the city of Latakia, and killed several Syrian troops. [102]

On 7 May 2013, residents of Tehran reported hearing three blasts in an area where Iran maintains its missile research and depots. Later, an Iranian website said the blasts occurred at a privately owned chemical factory. [103]

Rouhani presidency (2013–present)

In the Syrian Arab Republic

Several incidents have taken place on the Israeli–Syrian ceasefire line during the Syrian Civil War, straining the Iran–Israel relations. The incidents are considered a spillover of the Quneitra Governorate clashes since 2012 and later incidents between Iran-supported Syrian Arab Army and the rebels, ongoing on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan and the Golan Neutral Zone and the Hezbollah.

Since the onset of the Syrian War, the Israeli military is reportedly preparing itself for potential threats should there be a power vacuum in Syria. "After Assad and after establishing or strengthening their foothold in Syria they are going to move and deflect their effort and attack Israel," an Israeli official told The Associated Press in January 2014. Some experts say that while the encroaching militant forces on Israel's border will heighten security measures, the advancements are not likely to create significant changes to Israel’s policy disengagement in the Syria crisis. [104] IAF has been suspected of a number of airstrikes on Syrian soil, allegedly targeting Iranian and Hezbollah targets. [ citation needed ]

In Israel

A court in Jerusalem has sentenced an Israeli man, Yitzhak Bergel to four-and-a-half years in prison for offering to spy for Iran. Bergel belongs to the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect which is vehemently opposed to the State of Israel's existence. [105]

International incidents

On 5 March 2014, the Israeli navy intercepted the Klos-C cargo ship. Israel stated Iran was using the vessel to smuggle dozens of long-range rockets to Gaza, including Syrian-manufactured M-302 rockets. The operation, named Full Disclosure and carried out by Shayetet 13 special forces, took place in the Red Sea, 1,500 kilometers away from Israel and some 160 kilometers from Port Sudan. [106]

In Iran

On 6 May 2014, it was reported that a blast shook the Iranian city of Qazvin. Los Angeles Times reported that the city might be home to a secret nuclear facility. [107] [108] [109] [110]

Iranian state media reported that on 24 August 2014, IRGC had shot down an Israeli drone near Natanz fuel enrichment plant. Israeli military did not comment on the reports. [111]

Two workers were killed in an explosion that took place at a military explosives factory southeast of Tehran, near the suspected nuclear reactor in Parchin. [112] In what was claimed by a Kuwaiti newspaper to be a response ordered by Iran, [113] Hezbollah set off an explosive device on the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-controlled side of the Shebaa farms, wounding two Israeli soldiers. Israel responded with artillery fire toward two Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. [114]

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in office from August 2005 to August 2013, at the October 2005 "World Without Zionism" conference in Tehran [115] [116] adopted a sharp anti-Zionist stance. On 8 December 2005, during a summit of Muslim nations in Islam's holy city of Mecca, Ahmadinejad told Iran's Arabic channel Al-Alam a complicated story on the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel. Since then, the Iranian president has made statements pertaining to these topics. [ citation needed ]

Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Soltanieh

In April 2006, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer interviewed Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, who said, in regards to whether there should be a state of Israel, "I think I've already answered to you. If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionism mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or we [said] they have to be massacred or so, this is fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is." [117]

Vice President Mashaei

In a speech at a tourism convention in Tehran in July 2008, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Vice President and Head of Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran, proclaimed, "No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world." [118] He also added that Iran "wants no war with any country," insisting that Iran's actions during the Iran–Iraq War were purely defensive. [119]

Hard-liners close to the government harshly attacked Mashaei's remarks. President Ahmadinejad, however, defended Mashaei and spoke in his favor. At a news conference, he said, "The Iranian nation never recognized Israel and will never ever recognize it. But we feel pity for those who have been deceived or smuggled into Israel to be oppressed citizens in Israel." [118] [120]

The issue prompted Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei to "spell an end to the debates" on Israel. During a Friday sermon in Tehran, he stated, "It is incorrect, irrational, pointless and nonsensical to say that we are friends with the Israeli people. we are on a collision course with the occupiers of Palestine and the occupiers are the Zionist regime. This is the position of our regime, our revolution and our people." [118]

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami

In August 2012, a senior cleric and Tehran's provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, speaking about Qods Day, called for the annihilation of the "Zionist regime," emphasizing that the spread of the "Islamic Awakening" in the Middle East "heralds annihilation of the Zionist regime." [121]

Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali

In August 2012, Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads Iran's Passive Defense Organization, said ahead of Al-Quds Day that Israel must be destroyed, saying, "[Al-Quds Day] is a reflection of the fact that no other way exists apart from resolve and strength to completely eliminate the aggressive nature and to destroy Israel." Jalali added that the Muslim world is required to support the "oppressed people of Palestine" against "the Zionist usurpers" and that the Islamic Revolution was a "beacon of light." Jalali also said that the "Islamic front in Syria" had strengthened. [45] [122] [123]

In response to these remarks, an Israeli government official said that these remarks were a "reaffirmation of what we continually hear from the Iranian leadership" and that Israel was taking the Iranian threat seriously. The official said that the continual announcement of these remarks show how Iran's leaders believes in them, and that Iran's leadership must end these comments to reduce international pressure. [45] [122]

General Mohammad Ali Jafari

On 22 September 2012, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, said that eventually a war with Israel would soon break out, during which Iran would eradicate Israel, which he referred to as a "cancerous tumour". [124]


After the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, most oil companies left Iran and Iranian government had major difficulties selling oil in the international markets. In the meantime, Marc Rich, an Israeli-Swiss businessman with international ties, entered Iran through his Glencore company headquartered in Switzerland. Rich ignored US and international sanctions on Iran and became the major trader of Iranian oil for 15 years. [125] He claimed that the oil he bought from Iran was shipped to Israel and both countries were aware of this transaction. [126] Rich provided the Iranian government with weapons and missiles through the Iran–Iraq War. For his actions, United States government found him guilty of more than 65 counts of criminal offenses including money laundering and violating Iran sanctions. [127] Rich was on FBI most wanted fugitives for many years, until President Bill Clinton pardoned him on the last day of his office in 2001. [128] This pardon was very controversial and Clinton later regretted this act in his memoirs. There have been reports that former Mossad heads, Avner Azulay and Shabtai Shavit both personally wrote to Clinton arguing for Rich's pardon. Furthermore, Rich's first wife, Denise Rich (née Eisenberg) personally donated more than 1 million dollars to Clinton charities. [129]

In 1998, the Seattle Times reported that pistachio makers in California were unhappy about the fact that Israel imported most of its pistachio from Iran. The head of Iran-China economic room, Asadollah Asgaroladi said in the article that such transactions are easily possible. Based on the article Israel imports only a quarter of pistachios from US and about half of its pistachios from Britain and Germany, whereas these two countries are not producers of pistachio at all and the source is very likely to be from Iran. Furthermore, in 1998 Israeli government punished the Hamama Brothers Co. for illegally importing 105 tonnes of pistachio from Iran. [130] Israeli newspaper Ynet reported in 2007 that US government once again asked Israeli government to stop importing pistachios from Iran. [131] In 2008 US ambassador to Israel, Richard H. Jones wrote a letter to Israel's finance minister Ronnie Bar-on demanding Israel to stop importing Iranian pistachios from Turkey. [132] Similar reports have been published by Haaretz. [133]

In 1998, Israeli businessman Nahum Manbar was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Israel for doing business with Tehran, and in the course of the investigation, "hundreds of companies" were found to have illegal business dealings with Iran. [134] The fall-out reached the United States as some transactions were alleged to have been part of the Iran–Contra affair. A controversy over Israeli-Iranian business links erupted in mid-2011. Israeli company Ofer Brothers Group was subject to U.S. sanctions after it was revealed that it sold ships to Iran via a third party, and that its ships also docked at Iranian ports. [135] However US government cleared Ofer Brothers Group from the list three months later. [136] In 2006 Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the Israeli refinery Paz reportedly purchases crude oil coming from Iran. The article reported that the oil from Iran arrives to Israel through a port in Rotterdam. [137] Another article in Haaretz in the same year reported that the Israeli energy minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer said : "Every attempted contact with an enemy state that serves Israeli business and economic interests, strengthens the stability of the region." And the Israeli foreign ministry said that it was not their business to look into the sources of oil. [138]

Ynet reported that Israeli–Iranian trade, conducted covertly and illegally by dozens of Israeli companies, totals tens of millions of dollars a year. Much of this trade is conducted through a third country. Israel supplies Iran with fertilizer, irrigation pipes, hormones for milk production, seeds, and fruit Iran, meanwhile, provides Israel with marble, cashews, and pistachios. [139] [140] [141] Based on the same report in November 2000, the Iranian government asked an Israeli company, which built Tehran's sewage pipes 30 years earlier, to visit the country for renovations. Shortly afterwards, the assistant director-general of Iran's Ministry of Agriculture visited Israel secretly and stayed at the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel. He expressed an interest in purchasing irrigation pipes, pesticides and fertilizers. [ citation needed ]

In April 2009 a large batch of oranges carrying stickers of an Israeli company were distributed in the Iranian market. Based on the investigations the oranges were imported from Dubai. [142] In December 2011 Bloomberg reported that most of the filtering equipment currently in use in Iran were bought from an Israeli company called Allot Communications. The system called NetEnforcer allows the government to monitor any device that is connected to the internet. The devices were shipped to Denmark, where the original packaging was removed and replaced with fake labels. [143] Al-Monitor reported in 2013 that the Iranian government asked the Israeli experts to visit the earthquake stricken areas in the province of Sistan in 2006. Based on the report the Israeli experts spent the passover of 2006 in Iran. [144] [145]

Military relations


Israel was involved in the arming of Iran during the Pahlavi dynasty:

  • Project "Flower" Tzur (see also Project Flower), a joint collaboration between Iran and Israel, aimed to develop a "state-of-the-art sea-to-sea missile, an advanced version of the U.S. Harpoon missile, with a range of 200 kilometers." [146]
  • Israeli Defense Minister General Ezer Weizmann and Iranian Vice Minister of War General Hassan Toufanian discussed the co-production of Israel's Jericho-2 missile, code named Project Flower. [147]

Khomeini era

The Observer estimated that Israel's arms sales to Iran during the Iran–Iraq War totaled US$500 million annually, [148] and Time reported that throughout 1981 and 1982, "the Israelis reportedly set up Swiss bank accounts to handle the financial end of the deals." [149] [150]

According to the report of the U.S. Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran–Contra affair issued in November 1987, "the sale of U.S. arms to Iran through Israel began in the summer of 1985, after receiving the approval of President Reagan." [151] These sales included "2,008 TOW missiles and 235 parts kits for Hawk missiles had been sent to Iran via Israel." Further shipments of up to US$2 billion of American weapons from Israel to Iran consisting of 18 F-4 fighter-bombers, 46 Skyhawk fighter-bombers, and nearly 4,000 missiles were foiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, and "unverified reports alleged that Israel agreed to sell Iran Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, radar equipment, mortar and machinegun ammunition, field telephones, M-60 tank engines and artillery shells, and spare parts for C-130 transport planes." [152] Israeli arms deals to Iran continued after the Iran–Iraq War, although sporadically and unofficially. [134] [153] [154] [155] [156]

Iranian funding of Hamas and Hezbollah

Iran provides political and financial support and weapons to Hamas, [157] an organization committed to the destruction of Israel by Jihad. [158] According to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, "Hamas is funded by Iran. It claims it is financed by donations, but the donations are nothing like what it receives from Iran." [159] [160]

Iran has also provided support to Hezbollah, another enemy of Israel, with substantial amounts of funding, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid while persuading Hezbollah to take an action against Israel. [161] [162] [163] [164] Hezbollah's 1985 manifesto listed its four main goals as "Israel's final departure from Lebanon as a prelude to its final obliteration" [165] According to reports released in February 2010, Hezbollah received $400 million from Iran. [163]

Nuclear program of Iran

Iran threatening Israel

The nuclear program of Iran with its potential to develop nuclear weapons, together with the anti-Israel rhetoric of the President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his desire for "the regime occupying Jerusalem" to "vanish from the pages of time," has led many Israelis to expect an eventual attack from Iran. [166] [167]

In May 2012, Iran's Military Chief of Staff declared: "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause and that is the full annihilation of Israel." [168]

In August 2012, Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads Iran's Passive Defense Organization, said ahead of Al-Quds Day that Israel must be destroyed, saying, "[Al-Quds Day] is a reflection of the fact that no other way exists apart from resolve and strength to completely eliminate the aggressive nature and to destroy Israel." [45] [122] [123]

In August 2012, a senior cleric and Tehran's provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, speaking about Qods Day, called for the annihilation of the "Zionist regime," emphasizing that the spread of the "Islamic Awakening" in the Middle East "heralds annihilation of the Zionist regime." [121]

Iran's repeated threats against Israel, particularly in 2012, led Canada, a close ally of Israel, to close its embassy in Iran on 7 September 2012, and giving Iranian diplomats 5 days to leave Canada.

On 21 September 2012, at a military parade in Iran to mark the beginning of the Iran–Iraq War, and in which a new air defense system was unveiled, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Iranian air force chief, said that should a conflict between Iran and Israel break out, Israel would "manage the beginning of the war, but the response and end would be in our hands, in which case the Zionist entity would cease to exist. The number of missiles launched would be more than the Zionists could imagine." [169]

On 22 September 2012, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, said that eventually a war with Israel would break out, during which Iran would eradicate Israel, which he referred to as a "cancerous tumor." [124]

On 23 September 2012, Hajizadeh threatened to attack Israel and trigger World War III, saying that "it is possible that we will make a pre-emptive attack" which would "turn into World War III." In the same statement, Hajizadeh threatened to attack American bases in the Middle East as well. Hajizadeh said that as a result of this attack, Israel would "sustain heavy damage and that will be a prelude to its obliteration." [170] On the same day, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hossein Salami said that while Iran isn't concerned by Israeli "threats" to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, such an attack would be "a historic opportunity for the Islamic Revolution to wipe them off the world's geographic history." [171]

On 2 October 2012, Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Shirazi, the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Qods Force, alleged that Iran required only "24 hours and an excuse" in order to eradicate Israel. Shirazi alleged that Israel was "close to annihilation," and allegedly sought to attack Iran out of desperation. [172]

Iran's actions, nuclear program, and threats have been viewed by Dr. Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, as having taken 6 out of 8 steps on the "path to genocide." Stanton urged the international community to take action against Iran and to isolate it, in order to "curb its genocidal intent." He said that "one of the best predictors of genocide is incitement to genocide . and I believe that is exactly what Iran is doing today." Incitement to genocide is a crime under international law. He stressed that it is important not to dismiss "the early signs" as "diabolical rhetoric or as a tactic meant to advance a different goal," and doing so would "enable the perpetrators." Stanton also said that Iran has classified and symbolized Israel via hate speech and an ideology of exclusion, and has dehumanized Israel by portraying potential victim as "cancer" that should be wiped out. In addition, Stanton said that Iran has organized "fanatical militas," such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while stifling dissent in Iranian society. He added that by denying a previous genocide, the Holocaust, by working on weapons of mass destruction, and through global terrorism, Iran has prepared for genocide. [173]

In January 2013, Iran warned that any Israeli attack on Syria would be treated the same as an attack on Iran. [174] After Israel attacked Syria, Iran simply stated that Israel would "regret this recent aggression". [175]

In March 2015, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said that "erasing Israel off the map is not negotiable." [176]

Israel threatening Iran

In November 2003 a Scottish newspaper claimed that Israel "warned that it is prepared to take unilateral military action against Iran if the international community fails to stop any development of nuclear weapons at the country's atomic energy facilities." [177] It cited then Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz stating, "under no circumstances would Israel be able to tolerate nuclear weapons in Iranian possession." In December 2005, a British newspaper claimed that the Israeli military had been ordered by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to plan for possible strikes on uranium enrichment sites in Iran in March 2006, based on Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons in two to four years. It was claimed that the special forces command was in the highest stage of readiness for an attack (state G) in December of the following year. Ariel Sharon reportedly said, "Israel - and not only Israel - cannot accept a nuclear Iran. We have the ability to deal with this and we're making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation." [178] Israeli military Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, was quoted as responding to the question of how far Israel was ready to go to stop Iran's nuclear energy program with the statement "Two thousand kilometers." [179] Seymour Hersh says U.S. Department of Defense civilians led by Douglas Feith have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. [180]

On 8 May 2006, then Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said in an interview with Reuters that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map," Army Radio reported. [181] Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, drew unusually stiff criticism from an analyst on Israel's state television, Yoav Limor, for talking of destroying another country. [182] In May 2006, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz stated that Iran’s nuclear facilities can be destroyed, hinting at a possible plan to do just that. [183] In September 2007, Israel repeated its policy concerning the development of nuclear capacity by its potential enemies. Shabtai Shavit, a former chief of the Mossad, said Iranian atomic facilities could be destroyed within a year, but has not ruled out going that direction. Isaac Ben-Israel, a former general of the Israeli Air Force, said an attack could be carried out at any time but only as a last resort. [184] Iran's Shahab-3 missile exercises were conducted in early July demonstrating that Israel was within reach.

According to the New York Times, Israel sought help from the United States for a military attack against Iran. [185] Israel reportedly asked for bunker-busting bombs for an attack on Iran's main nuclear complex and for permission to fly over Iraq to reach Iran's major nuclear complex at Natanz. The Bush administration rejected the requests. According to the article, White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before President Bush left office. [185]

On 27 July 2009, Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak during a press conference with Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, in Jerusalem, warned Iran that a military strike on its nuclear facilities was still an option: "We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table. This is our policy we mean it. We recommend to others to take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone." [186] The same day, Israel's Ambassador to US, Gabriela Shalev, during a special UN Security Council session held to discuss the situation in the Middle East, called Iran the "biggest supporter of terrorism. The Islamic Republic's nuclear program and its support of terrorism pose a threat to the entire Middle East." [187]

In 2010, Gabi Ashkenazi and Meir Dagan balked at Benjamin Netanyahu's preparations for a strike on Iran. [188]

On 5 November 2012, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his willingness to mount a unilateral attack on Iran's nuclear facilities even without US support. [189] This conflicts with experts' assessments that US support is needed in the form of the newer GBU-31 bunker busting bombs, which are required to penetrate some of Iran's reinforced nuclear facilities such as the Fordo site. Israel currently only has the GBU-28 bunker busting munitions, which are said to be insufficient. However, with the announcement by Netanyahu being made on the eve of the 2012 Presidential elections, tensions between the two allies are likely to rise. [ citation needed ]

In 2013, retiring defense minister Ehud Barak said that though it would be very difficult for Israel to operate alone, that Obama had ordered the Pentagon to prepare detailed plans for an American strike on Iran. [190]

Netanyahu said in September 2013 that President Hassan Rouhani is trying to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that his perception as a moderate makes him a "wolf in sheep's clothing." [191]

In January 2014, during a plenary session at the 9th World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, the President of Israel Shimon Peres said in response to a question about the threat of Iran's nuclear program that "Iran is not an enemy", and there are no historical hostilities between the two countries. In that regard he added: "I don't see a reason to spend so much money in the name of hatred". [192]

In May 2018, it was revealed that Prime Minister Netanyahu had ordered the Mossad and military in 2011 to prepare for an attack on Iran within 15 days of receiving the order. [193] According to Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, Netanyahu backed off after he and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz questioned Netanyahu's legal right to give such an order without Cabinet approval. [193]


On 26 May 2006, then Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov reiterated Moscow's commitment to supply Iran with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles. However Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President of F-35 Program Integration Tom Burbage indicated that once Israel has the F-35 it need not fear the S-300. [194]

In June 2008, Israel conducted a major military exercise that American officials speculated might be training for a bombing attack on Iran. A senior Pentagon official said one of the goals of the exercise was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily: "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said. "There’s a lot of signaling going on at different levels." [195]

The Bush administration did agree to sell a thousand GBU-39 standoff bunker penetrating bombs to Israel, but a strike against Natanz would require hundreds of these bombs. [196]

In a 2009 interview, American diplomat John Bolton argued that the Iran–Israel relationship had deteriorated to the point that it might be "wise" for Israel to preemptively attack Iran's nuclear research facilities. To destroy the facilities, while not a permanent solution to ending Iran's nuclear ambitions, he argued, might delay the progress of Iranian nuclear research for long enough that regime change could occur before the development of a nuclear weapon took place. He cited as an example the case of the apartheid government of South Africa, which renounced their efforts to pursue nuclear weapons after the Mandela government came to power. [197]

In April 2009, Army General David Petraeus said "the Israeli government may ultimately see itself so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it." [198] On 17 September 2009, Ze'ev Elkin said that the delivery by Russia of S-300 missiles may prompt Israel to strike Iran. [199] However, in June 2010 Russia voted for UN sanctions to prevent the S-300 missile sale. [200]

Iran consistently claimed that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes, and that it has no intention of ever utilizing its peaceful nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. During the course of Iran's recent history, specifically during the Iran-Iraq war, Iran has experienced significant outages of its commercial electricity grid. Iran has also continuously claimed that it intends to ultimately export part of the electricity produced by its nuclear reactors to its regional neighbors, as a way of diversifying its mainly oil-based economy to more diversified revenue streams.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in 2012 that an Israeli attack would be unlikely to succeed. [201]

Iran responding to Israeli threats

Iran's former foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki declared that Israel was not capable of an attack and still recovering from the 2006 war in Lebanon. [184] The Iranian Chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari said Israel was within the reach of Iranian missiles and Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off two-fifths of the global oil supply. [184] Iran has the capability to close the Strait of Hormuz or impede traffic for a month or more, and any U.S. attempts to reopen it could escalate the conflict. [202]

According to Mohammad Ali Jafari "If Israel military aggresses against sovereignty and independence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country will use its right, established under international law which unequivocally establishes the right to defend its sovereignty by all lawful means available to it. Moreover, if such aggression is penetrated, the United Nations will be obliged to repulse such an aggression towards its sovereign member". [203]

On 7 February 2010, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the destruction of Israel was assured. According to the Tehran Times, Khamenei told Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, "Israel is going downhill toward decline and fall and God willing its obliteration is certain". Khamenei went on to call Israel "a symbol of atrocity, viciousness, and ugliness," and said the West’s "support for the Zionist regime is ineffective." [204] Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, said that if Israel attacked Iran it would be destroyed within a week. [205]

Iran-Iraq War begins - HISTORY

The then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein claimed as a reason for the invasion a territorial dispute over the Shatt al-Arab, the waterway which forms the boundary between the two countries.

However, the conflict was rooted in regional rivalry.

Saddam Hussein felt directly threatened by the Islamic revolution which had brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in Iran the year before.

The ayatollah, for his part, saw Saddam as a brutal Sunni tyrant oppressing his country's Shia majority, and did not disguise his desire to see him toppled.

Thus, for Saddam Hussein, the war's purpose was pre-emptive: to overthrow the Khomeini regime before that regime could overthrow him.

He believed that Iran was in turmoil and that his forces could achieve quick victory.

It was a monumental mistake.

By 1982 Iranian forces had regained the territory they had lost and pushed across the border into Iraq. Khomeini rejected an Iraqi offer of a ceasefire.

So although Baghdad had started the war, it was Khomeini who prolonged it.

    Khomeini sent thousands of young Iranians to their death in "human-wave" attacks.

In fact, the tanker war served to internationalise the conflict.

After repeated Iranian attacks on its vessels, Kuwait appealed to outside powers for protection - and both the United States and the Soviet Union stepped in.

This helped turn the tide against Iran.

Seeing that their country was exhausted and isolated, Iranian officials urged Khomeini to accept a ceasefire.

When he finally did so, in July 1988, he likened it to drinking a cup of poison.

The economic and political fallout was immense. At least half a million people died, and upper estimates stretch to 1.5 million.

Neither side had achieved its war aims. Khomeini had not overthrown Saddam. Saddam had not overthrown Khomeini or forced him to re-draw the border in Iraq's favour.

Although the Iraqi leader sought to claim victory, in reality he had merely staved off defeat - and even that had required a good deal of outside help.

Iraq's economic plight was one of the factors that led Saddam to take the fateful decision to invade Kuwait in 1990. And on that occasion the Western and regional powers which had come to his aid in fighting Iran united in opposing him.

For Iran, the consequences were no less dire.

The war not only exacted a heavy human and material cost. It extinguished much of the zeal of the Islamic revolution. It led Iranians to question more sharply the capabilities of their clerical leadership.

With Khomeini's death shortly after the end of the war, the country entered a new and more introspective era.

The Iran-Iraq war left a painful legacy. Few modern conflicts have been so long, so bloody and so futile.

The Arab/Muslim World: Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq war was fought for nearly nine years, during which time both countries suffered millions of casualties and billions of dollars in damage. The collateral damage to the economies of other nations was also immense. The war was one of the most strategically important conflicts of modern times because it involved two major oil producers and the region where more than half the world's reserves are located.


The Arabs and Persians (natives of Persia, mostly descendants from places other than Arabia) have been historical rivals dating back centuries. Iran and Iraq, while under British and Turkish rule, also had a number of border disputes. In particular, the two have disputed control of the Shatt al-Arab, the major waterway connecting the Persian Gulf with the Iranian ports of Khorramshahr and Abadan, and the Iraqi port of Basra.

In 1847 a treaty was signed that established the Shatt as a boundary between Iraq and Iran (then the Ottomans and the Persians, respectively). Both agreed to respect freedom of navigation in the waterway, while Iran said it would cease interfering in northern Iraq in exchange for receiving control of two predominantly Arab cities, Khorramshahr and Abadan. The dispute was not completely settled and disagreements continued over the next several decades. In 1975, a new agreement was reached whereby the midpoint of the Shatt was determined to be the boundary between the countries.

By the end of the 1970's, both nations had reduced their dependence on the Shatt. Iraq had built new pipelines through Turkey and Syria, and it developed a new port and offshore oil- loading terminals in the Persian Gulf. Iran had built new oil facilities on Kharg Island in the Gulf. Still, key oil facilities of both nations were within artillery range of each other's armies.

Muslim vs. Muslim

A more important issue than geography was religion. Both nations are Muslim, with the leaders of Iraq primarily from the Sunni branch, and the Iranians, the Shiite. Prior to the Iranian revolution, the distinction between the countries was less religious than ideological. The ruling Ba'ath Party in Iraq was socialist and pro-Soviet, whereas the Iranian shah was anti-socialist (though certainly not democratic) and pro-Western.

The essentially secular Iraqi leadership became more of an issue after the Iranian revolution, when Ayatollah Khomeini, who had spent part of his exile in Iraq (he was expelled in October 1978), began encouraging his former colleagues to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq because his regime was anti-Islamic. This was part of Khomeini's broader strategy of spreading the Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East. Saddam responded as he did to any challenge by a ruthless crackdown on Shiite fundamentalists and by sending aid to Arab separatists in Iran.

Rivals for Power

Looking around the region at the end of the 1970s, Saddam also saw an opportunity to establish himself as the leader of the Arab world. The historic leader was the ruler of Egypt, but Anwar Sadat had been ostracized for making peace with Israel. The Gulf States had money, but were militarily weak. Syria was militarily strong, but financially weak.

Iraq's primary competition for regional dominance was its neighbor Iran, and Iran seemed vulnerable because the revolution there had not yet ended. Khomeini was still in the process of becoming the unchallenged Iranian leader, but he had not solidified his power. The Iranian army was still in disarray and radical Marxists were still battling the religious fundamentalists in parts of the country. From Saddam's vantage point, the timing seemed right to make a move.

The exact beginning of the war and its cause is difficult to pinpoint. One of the earliest clashes occurred in June 1979, when Iraqi aircraft attacked Iranian villages that were believed to be supporting Khomeini-backed Kurdish rebels.

For the next several months, Iran sought to undermine Saddam by encouraging protests by Shiites. Both countries supported rebel movements against the other, and the Iranian-backed rebel group Al Dawaa attempted to assassinate the Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz on April 1, 1980. Saddam outlawed the group, deported large numbers of Iraqis who'd been born in Iran, and executed one of the Shiite clerics who'd led the protests against his regime. Khomeini then began to publicly call for the overthrow of Saddam. Finally, in June 1980, the two nations severed relations.

Between June and September 1980, 193 clashes occurred along the Iran-Iraq border. On September 17, Iraq abrogated the 1975 treaty and proclaimed the Shatt "a national river." As Iraq mobilized Arab allies, Iran warned the Gulf states they would be overthrown if they supported Saddam. Tensions built, until a series of clashes occurred in early September along the border near Qasr e-Shirin. Each nation blamed the other for the fighting. Saddam threatened to seize territory he said Iran was supposed to transfer to Iraq under an earlier agreement, but Khomeini refused to give up the disputed lands. Sporadic fighting finally culminated in Iraq's invasion of Iran on September 22, 1980.

Allies Choose Sides

Given the perceived importance of the outcome, third parties aligned with one or the other in hopes of influencing the fighting. Iran's principal ally was Syria, which used its military to periodically divert Iraqi forces from the Iranian front. Syrian President Hafez Assad also closed a key Iraqi pipeline to the Mediterranean that affected Saddam Hussein's income. Libya, China, and North Korea all sent weapons, particularly missiles, to Iran.

The most unlikely country to support Iran was Israel, given that the revolutionary government had replaced the country's longstanding alliance with an obsessive and hostile Anti-Zionism. Still, the Israelis did provide some arms to their Iranian enemies. Why?

Two main reasons:

  • One is that Israel often subscribes to the Middle East dictum, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," and Iraq was viewed as a more immediate danger.
  • A large number of Jews remained in Iran, and the Israelis hoped to essentially buy their safety while covert and not-so-covert efforts were undertaken throughout the war to get Iranian Jews out of the country.

Iraq's support came primarily from the Gulf states, which that viewed Iran as the greater danger to their security. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each provided billions of dollars in loans and grants. Egypt and Jordan provided some weapons and supplies. The United States, France, and the Soviet Union also sided with the Iraqis.

Rooting for a Draw

One of the major concerns throughout the Iran-Iraq war was that one of the nations would win a convincing victory and emerge as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This would threaten the security of the weaker nations in the region and ultimately the economic security of the Western nations (and Asian countries such as Japan) that depend on Gulf oil. The United States therefore had an interest in seeing the two countries engage in a protracted, inconclusive war that left both worse off than when they started.

Iraq did the best in the initial fighting, seizing a large swath of territory in southern Iran, and besieging Abadan and Khorramshahr. But the tide of the war began to turn in mid-1981, when Iran broke the siege of Abadan and later recaptured Khorramshahr. By June 1982, the Iraqis had been driven completely out of Iran. From that point on, Iraq spent most of the war on the defensive.

Saddam offered to end the war, but Khomeini was not satisfied with having fended off the invaders he now was determined to exact vengeance on Iraq by demanding reparations for the damage the attack had caused he also wanted to see the overthrow of Saddam. Not surprisingly, Khomeini's demands were rejected.

In the summer of 1982, Iran launched its own offensive, attacking the Iraqi port of Basra. The Iranians appeared on the verge of a breakthrough, but the Iraqi forces held, and the fighting settled into a war of attrition. Still, Basra was closed, and Iraq was denied access to the Gulf, severely restricting its commerce and, ultimately, the living conditions of the people.

Tanker Wars

After a period of stalemate, the war heated up again on a new front, the Persian Gulf. The April 1984 attack on a tanker by Iraq marked the beginning of the first phase of the "tanker war," which continued for 18 months., During this time more than 80 ships from various countries were targets. Because of a glut on the international oil market, the fighting did not significantly affect the rest of the world and did not immediately threaten the Gulf sheikdoms.

The fact that Iraq had raised the stakes in the war was a signal that Saddam was becoming more desperate in his desire to force Iran to negotiate a cease-fire. The Iranians were unmoved and responded with their own desperate measures, notably suicide missions against Iraqi strongholds and terrorist attacks on third parties, including the French and Americans (whose embassies in Kuwait were targets).

The United States' Nonposition

The U.S. was in a strange position throughout the war: It wasn't sure exactly how to react. Policymakers definitely did not want Iran to emerge victorious. The consensus was that Khomeini was a serious threat to the stability of the region and to U.S. vital interests, notably oil supplies and Israeli security.

On the other hand, Saddam was viewed as a psychopath backed by the Soviet Union who was less of a threat to American interests, but certainly no friend. Thus, the policy that emerged was to support the pro-Western regimes in the region, bolster their defenses, and hope the combatants weakened each other to the point where neither would emerge from the war as a regional threat to the region.

The Body Count Grows

Given the dictatorial regimes running the war effort in both countries, Iranian and Iraqi citizens could do little more than lament the horrific casualty tolls. These figures continued to rise in 1985, when Iran launched an offensive to cut the main highway between Baghdad and Basra and a combined total of as many as 40,000 soldiers from the two armies were killed. Iraq responded with air strikes against Iranian positions that soon were expanded to include targets in Tehran. Not surprisingly, Iran retaliated in kind, and the civilians in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities became casualties of war.

Arms for the Hostages

In the midst of the war, the United States changed its position and unexpectedly helped the Iranians. In 1985, the Reagan Administration agreed to secretly sell weapons to Iran to win support for the freeing of American hostages being held by terrorists in Lebanon. The principal negotiator on the U.S. side was Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a military aide to the National Security Council, who reported his activities to the National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and his successor John Poindexter.

When the exchange was revealed, it proved embarrassing because of Reagan's oft-stated pledge not to negotiate with terrorists and his claim not to have traded arms for hostages. The situation was further complicated by the disclosure that part of the proceeds of the arms sale had been diverted to support the Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua this was in violation of a law prohibiting U.S. aid to the Contras.

If this was not convoluted enough, the initial sales to Iran were made through Israel. The Iran-Contra Affair, as it came to be known, tarnished Reagan's image, but he was ultimately found to have had no direct knowledge of the secret operation.

Kuwait as Middleman

In 1986 and the beginning of 1987, Iran launched new offensives, the last reaching the outskirts of Basra before again bogging down. Meanwhile, Iraq initiated a new tanker war in the Gulf, prompting Iran to target neutral shipping.

Kuwait, in particular, found itself in the middle of the combatants. To protect its ships from the Iranians, the Kuwaitis sought naval escorts from the Soviet Union and the United States. The U.S. would not cooperate with the Russians, however, and the Kuwaitis refused to accept only American assistance. While the issue was being negotiated, the U.S. began to provide Iraq satellite intelligence with information about Iranian troop movements, and it beefed up its naval presence in the Gulf. An agreement was then reached whereby Kuwait agreed to transfer some of its tankers to American registry so the U.S. could protect them.

On May 17, an Iraqi missile hit the U.S. missile frigate Stark and killed 37 American sailors. Saddam apologized for the mistake and rather than being mad at the Iraqis, the United States directed its anger at Iran.

The United States and its allies began to escort ships with an eye toward preventing another Stark disaster, but the next threat came not from the sky as they expected, but from the sea, where Iranian mines bobbed unseen below the surface. When the U.S. supertanker Bridgeton hit a mine in July 1987, the Iranians exulted at having used "invisible hands" to defeat the United States. Acting once again after it was too late, the United States began minesweeping operations. Eventually, other nations joined the effort to clear the Gulf after Iran threatened to spread mines throughout the vital shipping lanes. Several months later, an Iranian ship was caught in the act of laying mines.

The "Final" Battle

In 1987 and 1988, Khomeini continued to threaten a "final" offensive against Iraq, but none of these changed the situation on the battlefield. Meanwhile, the tanker war continued unabated.

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes was patrolling the northern portion of the Straits of Hormuz. A group of Iranian gunboats had been threatening a Pakistani merchant vessel and one fired on the Vincennes. During the confrontation with the gunboats, the Vincennes picked up an aircraft on radar moving in its direction. The plane didn't not respond to the ship's warnings, so the Vincennes fired a missile, bringing the plane down. It turned out to be an Iran Air commercial jet carrying 290 people who all died in the crash. The Iranians claimed it was an intentional act, but President Reagan said it was a terrible accident, apologized and offered to pay compensation to the victims.

By August 1988, both the Iranians and Iraqis were growing weary of war. Both economies were in shambles, and it was clear a conclusive military result was impossible for either side.

Iran finally agreed to a U.N.-mediated cease-fire. A major factor in the decision to end the war was the Iraqi use of poison gas. Both sides used chemical weapons, but the Iraqis had the capability to use them on a large-scale, a factor that sapped the morale of the Iranian troops and the civilian population.

Ironically, two years later, after Iraq invaded Kuwait (which had previously been more concerned about an Iranian attack), Saddam agreed to withdraw all his troops from Iranian territory, share control of the Shatt al-Arab (he had previously insisted on Iraqi control), and exchange prisoners. The two countries then resumed diplomatic relations.

No one is sure of the total casualties during the Iran-Iraq war, but estimates range from 500,000 to 1 million dead, 1-2 million wounded, and more than 80,000 prisoners. There were approximately 2.5 million refugees, and whole cities were destroyed. The financial cost is estimated at a minimum of $200 billion.

A Draw

After eight years of fighting, neither side could claim victory. The border disputes were not resolved. Both autocrats remained in power and had shored up their internal support, but had lost influence outside their countries. Both countries suffered devastating loses of men, materiel, and financial resources. Nevertheless, Iraq emerged from the war with roughly one million men under arms, 500 combat aircraft, and 5,500 tanks, the nucleus of the force that would fight the U.S.-led coalition in the next Gulf war.

Despite the long war and its high cost, both Khomeini and Saddam continued to pursue their foreign policy agendas, and, within a couple of years, were fomenting instability elsewhere in the region. In the case of Iran, its revolutionaries continued to threaten the Gulf monarchies, particularly Saudi Arabia. The terrorists it sponsored persisted in their efforts to undermine Western interests and menace Israel, particularly from the Lebanese border. Iraq rebuilt its forces and launched another invasion, this time of Kuwait, in August 1990.

In the years since the war, moreover, neither country has abandoned its dream of dominating the region. While Iraq's hopes have been severely undermined by United States military action, Iran has been left largely untouched. The United States has included both in its dual containment strategy, but most other nations have ignored American entreaties to impose strict sanctions on Iran. We know from the results of the 1991 Gulf War, U.N. inspections and intelligence that Iraq has still been able to build up its military and pursue a nuclear weapons program. The Iranians have not faced the same scrutiny or constraints as Iraq and undoubtedly have been even more successful in building their military capability, particularly in the area of nonconventional weapons.

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Following the Iranian Revolution, the Carter administration continued to see Iran as a bulwark against Iraq and the Soviet Union, and therefore attempted to forge a strategic partnership with the new Interim Government of Iran under Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. "Acting head of the U.S. embassy in Tehran" Bruce Laingen realized that Iranian officials were acutely interested in U.S. intelligence on Iraq, and convinced Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Harold H. Saunders to approve an intelligence-sharing liaison with the Iranian government, culminating in an October 15, 1979 meeting between longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer George W. Cave and the Iranian Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Amir-Entezam and Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi. Cave told Mark J. Gasiorowski that he briefed Entezam and Yazdi on Iraqi military preparations and covert operations seemingly designed to facilitate a large-scale invasion of Iran, although no final decision had been made. (The content of Cave's briefing was corroborated by Laingen, Yazdi, Entezam, and Bazargan.) [6] [7] In particular, echoing a March 1979 warning from Pentagon analyst Howard Teicher regarding Iraqi designs on Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan Province, Cave pointed out that Iraq had created a front organization that could instigate unrest among Khuzestan's majority–Arab inhabitants—yet Cave emphasized that war could still be avoided if the strength of Iran's armed forces did not continue its post-revolutionary decline. [8] Furthermore, Cave urged his Iranian interlocutors to monitor the movement of Iraqi troops with "the IBEX listening posts the CIA had constructed in northern Iran" under the Shah. Although Teicher and Cave's predictions proved accurate, they were the product of circumstantial evidence disputed internally within the U.S. government, and the significance of Cave's briefing has been debated. [3] [7] [9] For example, according to Bureau of Intelligence and Research analyst Wayne White, who was not aware of the intelligence that informed Cave's briefing: "The Iraqi army was doing little more than continuing its well-known annual schedule of primarily battalion and brigade-level training exercises . Very little of the Iraqi military was anywhere near the Iraqi-Iranian frontier." Similarly, the head of the Iran desk at the State Department, Henry Precht, stated: "I had no impression at the time that anyone believed Iraq was planning a major attack although we thought that [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] might be stirring up the Kurds. At the time I did not think he would take on his larger and still probably more potent neighbor." [7] [9] On the other hand, Gasiorowski contended that "If Iran's leaders had acted on the information provided in Cave's briefings . the brutal eight–year [Iran–Iraq War] might never have occurred." [10]

Iraq's invasion of Iran in September 1980 was preceded by a long period of tension between the two countries throughout 1979 and 1980, including frequent border skirmishes, calls by Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini for the Shia of Iraq to revolt against the Ba'ath Party, and allegations of Iraqi support for ethnic separatists in Iran. On June 18, 1979, U.S. chargé d'affaires Charlie Naas asked Yazdi about the deterioration in relations Yazdi stated he "does not know what might be bothering Iraq . certainly we have done nothing to bother them." Khomeini had recently condemned Iraq's arrest of Shi'ite leader Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, but Yazdi claimed this had nothing to do with any effort to export the Islamic Revolution to Iraq: Iran was merely concerned with protecting the "religious centers in Najaf and Karbala." Nevertheless, in a subsequent conversation between Naas and Entezam it emerged that the latter was unaware of the anti-Iraq broadcasts "Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was sanctioning in his role as managing director of National Iranian Radio and Television." Continuing to seek good relations with Iranian authorities, U.S. officials uncovered considerable evidence of Iraqi support for Kurdish rebels in Iran under the leadership of Jalal Talabani (Fatah contacts told the CIA's Beirut station that "Saddam Hussein himself was directly involved in supervising these operations") while these rebels were not considered capable of overthrowing the Iranian government militarily, they were undermining Iranian moderates, prompting Precht to broach the possibility of meeting with Iraqi officials to persuade them that Iraq's support for the Kurds was not in its best interest. Throughout this time, Iraq's intentions toward Iran were not entirely clear, as "the Iraqi government was continuing to put out diplomatic feelers, unsuccessfully inviting a delegation led by Bazargan to visit Iraq in July 1979," while the CIA concluded in November (despite Cave's warning the previous month) that Iraq intended "to settle its differences with Iran through negotiations." Muhammed Dosky, "a Kurdistan Democratic Party representative in Washington," also believed "Iraq's overriding goal was to persuade the new government in Tehran to live up to the conditions of the Algiers Accord . Iraq was using Kurdish groups not out of a sense of opportunism, or as a prelude to the coming conflict, but in order to consolidate agreements made with the Shah." Saddam was willing to work with Iranian moderates such as Yazdi, whom he met in Havana in October, but "the mass resignation of the Bazargan government" following the November 4th seizure of the U.S. embassy and initiation of the Iran hostage crisis—and the resulting consolidation of power under Khomeini—"would profoundly change Saddam's decision-making calculus." [7] While the Iraqi archives suggest that Saddam contemplated invading Iran as early as February 1979, he was deterred from doing so until July 1980, at which point "purges and revolutionary chaos" had rendered Iran grossly unprepared for the attack. [11]

Iranian leaders, including Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei, have long espoused a belief that the U.S. gave Saddam Hussein a "green light" to launch the invasion of Iran—something U.S. officials "have unanimously and vociferously denied." [7] Joost Hiltermann observed that a U.S. "green light" is also "the conventional wisdom in the Arab world." [12] In fact, Iranian suspicions that the U.S. would use Iraq to retaliate for the hostage-taking predated the invasion, as Carter noted in his diary on April 10, 1980: "The Iranian terrorists are making all kinds of crazy threats to kill the American hostages if they are invaded by Iraq—whom they identify as an American puppet." There are several reasons for this perception, including some circumstantial evidence. First, although the Carter administration had long been interested in rapprochement with Iraq, prior to the hostage crisis the administration's preference for Iran as the "strategic choice" effectively rendered this impossible. After the dramatic break in Iran–United States relations, however, both American and Iraqi officials made a number of positive gestures towards one another, including "a speech by Saddam denouncing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan," and culminating in an April 10 statement by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David D. Newsom that "The United States is prepared . to resume diplomatic relations with Iraq at any time." Saddam later acknowledged that Iraq had accepted Newsom's offer "during the two months prior to the war between us and Iran" but "when the war started, and to avoid misinterpretation, we postponed the establishment of relations." [7] [13] Moreover, the CIA—desperate for intelligence on Iran—maintained contacts with Iranian opposition figures including "the Shah's last Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar" and Gholam Ali Oveisi, who were themselves in touch with Iraqi officials and had encouraged Saddam to invade. Even though declassified documents state the U.S. "would not fund, assist, or guide [Bakhtiar's] movement, but [was] providing the channel as a means by which he could provide us information on his intentions and capabilities," and there is no evidence either Bakhtiar or Oveisi were acting at the behest of the U.S., "the Iranian militants occupying the embassy found dozens of documents detailing these contacts"—which began "even before the hostage crisis"—and "read them extremely selectively." What ultimately convinced the Iranian leadership of "American complicity in any Iraqi attack" was the July 9 Nojeh coup plot, a failed military coup d'état against Khomeini funded by Iraqi intelligence through Bakhtiar (the Iraqis may have notified the Iranian authorities in advance, as they understood "the damage the subsequent purge would inflict on the Iranian military"). Bakhtiar told the plotters that the U.S. "had given [the coup] its blessing," but "he was lying" as the U.S. "knew nothing about the Nojeh operation and would likely have opposed it on the grounds that it would endanger the lives of the hostages." [7] In August, Saddam made a trip to Saudi Arabia in which King Khalid "reportedly gave his personal blessing to the invasion and promised Saudi backing," which Bryan R. Gibson commented was "a very significant gesture, especially in light of the closeness of American–Saudi relations." [14] United States Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, that it was during this visit that "President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through [Crown Prince] Fahd," as related to Haig by Fahd himself, but at a 2008 conference several academics and former U.S. officials questioned the veracity of this assertion as well as the motives of both Haig and Fahd in promulgating it. [7] [15] [16] As described by Malcolm Byrne: "The American veterans were unanimous that no 'green light' was ever given, and that the Haig document, while intriguing on its face, leaves far too much room for interpretation to be definitive. In any event the Saudi comments did not address the various policy arguments that militated against an invasion—chiefly, the potential danger posed to the American hostages in Tehran—which the participants said held sway with most American officials." [3]

On April 9, the Defense Intelligence Agency received information from a source considered reliable, predicting that "the situation is presently more critical than previously reported" and postulating a 50% chance Iraq would invade Iran. An April 11 CIA analysis is more blunt: "Evidence indicates that Iraq had probably planned to initiate a major military move against Iran with the aim of toppling the Khomeini regime"—and had "sought to engage the Kuwaitis to act as intermediary in obtaining United States approval and support for Iraqi military action against Iran." [7] [17] Carter himself has confirmed that fear the U.S. hostages would be executed if Iraq attacked was one reason he approved a failed rescue mission on April 24. In light of these alerts, the claims of senior Carter administration officials involved with Iran—including White, Naas, Precht, and head of the National Security Council (NSC)'s Iran desk Gary Sick—that they were surprised by the invasion require some explanation. In all likelihood, these warnings went unheeded because "those who doubted they amounted to compelling evidence won the argument. In effect, they were right. Only in early July did U.S. observers note the movement of Iraqi assets out of garrison with war-related 'basic loads' of ammunition", and it was not until September 17 that the CIA indicated "the intensification of border clashes between Iran and Iraq has reached a point where a serious conflict is now a distinct possibility." Even then, as recounted by State Department official W. Nathaniel Howell, U.S. officials remained unsure what to make of Saddam's intentions: "We all followed Saddam's actions and rhetoric closely but most people I knew tended to believe he was posturing." When the invasion came on September 22, "it was unclear whether Saddam had simply fallen into a rage following a smaller skirmish." White recalled: "The outbreak of war did, in fact, come as a surprise to most of us because a decent portion of Iraq's ground forces were still in garrison. The hasty movement of the remaining units up to the front immediately after the beginning of major hostilities was the activity that tended to nudge me toward the abrupt scenario in which Saddam ordered the attack before all military preparations had been completed." [7] [18] Thus, in the view of Chris Emery, "it is unlikely that the United States was ever in possession of clear evidence of Saddam's intention to invade Iran. Although the Carter administration drastically underestimated the scale of Saddam's plans, the disorganized and apparently impetuous nature of the invasion, with much of the Iraqi army still in garrison, and occurring in the context of border skirmishes and aggressive propaganda, muddied the waters for U.S. observers." [7]

Once the war began, the Carter administration's policy was broadly neutral and included several actions that favored Iran, although these could also be seen as aimed primarily at preventing a wider war. While many U.S. officials were initially optimistic that limited Iraqi gains would force Iran to agree to an arms-for-hostages deal (this proved unnecessary because Iran purchased adequate arms and equipment from Syria, Libya, North Korea, the Soviet Union, and Israel), a consensus soon emerged that the war had disrupted whatever progress had been made during negotiations with Sadeq Tabatabaei. When Iraq unilaterally attempted to station MiG-23 aircraft, helicopters, and special forces in several Persian Gulf states to use for operations against Iran, "most made frantic attempts to dissuade the Iraqi aircraft from landing Bahrain even physically blockaded its runways." The Iraqi presence was initially tolerated in Oman (Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said "had been a close friend of the Shah and was probably convinced by Saddam that one decisive attack could bring the revolution down") and Ras al-Khaimah (which had designs on an island the Shah had seized from the United Arab Emirates in 1971), but U.S. officials were "horrified" by the prospect of a regional war, and "after a series of telephone conversations between the White House, Sultan Qaboos, and Sheik Saqr, the Iraqis were swiftly sent on their way." Likewise, when King Hussein informed "U.S. ambassador to Jordan" Nick Veliotes that Iraq was considering the annexation of Khuzestan Province, Veliotes stated: "The U.S. was unalterably opposed to any efforts to dismember Iran." On October 3, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski advised Carter that "we should actively seek new contacts with Iran to explore the possibility of helping it just enough to put sufficient pressure on Iraq to pull back from most, if not all, its current acquisitions," citing the need "to safeguard Iran from Soviet penetration or internal disintegration." The U.S. even tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the flow of weapons from Jordan to Iraq—prompting "Saddam to claim in December that it was supporting 'Iran's "aggression" against Iraq.'" Despite this, the U.S. tolerated the provision of weapons and intelligence from Egypt to Iraq, in exchange for Iraq's assistance in ending the diplomatic isolation Egypt had endured as a result of its Peace Treaty with Israel. In addition, the U.S. "took active steps to make sure that Iraq's ability to export [oil] through the Gulf was unimpaired and could be quickly restored after the cessation of hostilities, primarily by expediting the purchase and early placement of single point mooring buoys," although this "had only limited effect, given the scale of Iranian retaliatory strikes." Finally, "American AWACS planes" were deployed to protect Saudi Arabia at the Saudi government's request. [7]

In Emery's judgement, claims that the Reagan administration's later "tilt" in favor of Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War was merely a continuation of Carter-era policies cannot be supported by available evidence: "The policy that emerged was characterized by a desire to preserve all options, while trying to avoid actions that would undermine the Carter Doctrine or establish an opening for the Soviet Union. The impetus for America to adjust its policy of neutrality, and take a definitive position on which side to back, came in 1982, when the Iranian military threatened to overrun Iraq." Indeed, "the State Department's transition team advised the incoming government" to avoid threatening Iran militarily or assisting the Iranian opposition, as doing so would "make an eventual rapprochement with Iran more difficult." [7] In Carter's own account, "I despised Saddam Hussein, because he attacked Iran when my hostages were being held. It was President Reagan who established diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein after I left office." [19] Gibson averred: "If Washington had any foreknowledge of the invasion, logic would suggest that the timing would be postponed until after the hostages were successfully released." [14] Williamson Murray and Kevin M. Woods describe the "green light" theory as having been "convincingly debunked," citing Gibson. [20] Peter Hahn states that "there is no evidence to support the Iranian contention" that the U.S. helped instigate the conflict, finding several holes in this theory. [21] Regardless of whether the U.S. provided any express "green light" to Saddam, Iranians continue to view the failure of the United Nations Security Council to condemn Iraq's invasion—or to recognize Iraq as the aggressor until after Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait nearly a decade later—as a form of tacit complicity in Iraq's aggression against Iran—not just on the part of the U.S., but the entire world. [22] [23]

By mid-1982, the war's momentum had shifted decisively in favor of Iran, which invaded Iraq to depose Saddam's government. [3] [24] CIA analyst Bruce Riedel recounted: "You just had a series of catastrophic Iraqi defeats. They had been driven out of Iran, and the Iraqi army looked like it was falling apart." [25] "The Reagan administration feared that Iran's army might slice through Iraq to the oilfields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia" [26] Veliotes, then "Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs," "outlined a nightmare scenario in which the Iranians invade Iraq, they defeat Iraq, and then head straight for Israel, which is distracted and debilitated by its ongoing adventure in Lebanon." As a result, the U.S. gradually abandoned its policy of neutrality. [25]

In February 1982, [27] Iraq was removed from the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to ease the transfer of dual-use technology to that country. According to investigative journalist Alan Friedman, Secretary of State Alexander Haig was "upset at the fact that the decision had been made at the White House, even though the State Department was responsible for the list." "I was not consulted," Haig is said to have complained. [1] In March, President Reagan signed National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 4-82—seeking "a review of U.S. policy toward the Middle East"—and in June Reagan signed a National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) co-written by NSC official Howard Teicher, which determined: "The United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran." [26] [27] Pursuant to this Directive, Thomas Twetten arrived in Baghdad on July 27 to share CIA satellite imagery on Iranian troop movements with the Iraqi Mukhabarat. This was "the first U.S. provision of intelligence to Iraq," and sparked a short-lived debate over whether Iraq would tolerate a CIA presence in the country: Mukhabarat head Barzan Tikriti told Twetten to "get the hell out of Iraq," but Iraqi military intelligence—"having already drooled over it and having said repeatedly how valuable it was"—subsequently informed Twetten "we'll continue to look at your information, and we'll assess whether it is of use to us in any way." [25] Reports of Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran reached the CIA as early as 1983, but the U.S. took no action to restrain Iraq's violations of international law, failing even to alert the UN. [28] In late 1983, Reagan selected Donald Rumsfeld as his envoy to the Middle East Rumsfeld met Saddam in Baghdad in December 1983 and March 1984. "On November 26, 1984, Iraq and the U.S. restored diplomatic relations." [27]

According to Teicher's 1995 affidavit and separate interviews with former Reagan and Bush administration officials, the CIA secretly directed armaments and hi-tech components to Iraq through false fronts and friendly third parties such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, and they quietly encouraged rogue arms dealers and other private military companies to do the same:

[T]he United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required. The United States also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat . The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq. My notes, memoranda and other documents in my NSC files show or tend to show that the CIA knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, munitions and vehicles to Iraq. [29]

The full extent of these covert transfers is not yet known. Teicher's files on the subject are held securely at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and many other Reagan Era documents that could help shine new light on the subject remain classified. Teicher declined to discuss details of the affidavit with the Washington Post shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [30]

About two of every seven licenses for the export of "dual use" technology items approved between 1985 and 1990 by the U.S. Department of Commerce "went either directly to the Iraqi armed forces, to Iraqi end-users engaged in weapons production, or to Iraqi enterprises suspected of diverting technology" to weapons of mass destruction, according to an investigation by House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez. Confidential Commerce Department files also reveal that the Reagan and Bush administrations approved at least 80 direct exports to the Iraqi military. These included computers, communications equipment, aircraft navigation and radar equipment. [31]

In conformance with the Presidential directive, the U.S. began providing tactical battlefield advice to the Iraqi Army. "The prevailing view", says Alan Friedman, "was that if Washington wanted to prevent an Iranian victory, it would have to share some of its more sensitive intelligence photography with Saddam." [1]

At times, thanks to the White House's secret backing for the intelligence-sharing, U.S. intelligence officers were actually sent to Baghdad to help interpret the satellite information. As the White House took an increasingly active role in secretly helping Saddam direct his armed forces, the United States even built an expensive high-tech annex in Baghdad to provide a direct down-link receiver for the satellite intelligence and better processing of the information . [1] : 27

The American military commitment that had begun with intelligence-sharing expanded rapidly and surreptitiously throughout the Iran–Iraq War. A former White House official explained that "by 1987, our people were actually providing tactical military advice to the Iraqis in the battlefield, and sometimes they would find themselves over the Iranian border, alongside Iraqi troops." [1] : 38

Iraq used this data to target Iranian positions with chemical weapons, says ambassador Galbraith. [32]

According to retired Army Colonel W. Patrick Lang, senior defense intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern" to Reagan and his aides, because they "were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." [33] Lang disclosed that more than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments. He cautioned that the DIA "would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival." The Reagan administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports affirming the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians. [34] [35]

Joost R. Hiltermann says that when the Iraqi military turned its chemical weapons on the Kurds during the war, killing approximately 5,000 people in the town of Halabja and injuring thousands more, the Reagan administration actually sought to obscure Iraqi leadership culpability by suggesting, inaccurately, that the Iranians may have carried out the attack. [36]

Bear Spares Edit

With the UN-imposed embargo on warring parties, and with the Soviet Union opposing the conflict, Iraqi engineers found it increasingly difficult to repair and replace hardware damaged in battle. [37] [38] According to Kenneth Timmerman, "Saddam did foresee one immediate consequence of his invasion of Iran: the suspension of arms supplies from the USSR." [2]

When he launched his attack, the Soviets were busy playing games in Iran. They were not amused that the Iraqis upset their plans. For generations the KGB had been working to penetrate Iran's Shiite clergy. In February 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini took power and threw the Americans out of Iran, the Soviets stood to gain more than they had ever believed possible. . KGB boss Yuri Andropov [had] little difficulty in convincing Brezhnev and Kosygin to agree to an embargo on arms to Iraq . p. 83-84

The United States assisted Iraq through a military aid program known as "Bear Spares", whereby the U.S. military "made sure that spare parts and ammunition for Soviet or Soviet-style weaponry were available to countries which sought to reduce their dependence on the Soviets for defense needs." [29] According to Howard Teicher's court sworn declaration:

If the "Bear Spares" were manufactured outside the United States, then the U.S. could arrange for the provision of these weapons to a third country without direct involvement. Israel, for example, had a very large stockpile of Soviet weaponry and ammunition captured during its various wars. At the suggestion of the United States, the Israelis would transfer the spare parts and weapons to third countries . Similarly, Egypt manufactured weapons and spare parts from Soviet designs and provided these weapons and ammunition to the Iraqis and other countries.

Little today is known about this program as details remain scarce.

Dual-use exports Edit

On February 9, 1994, Senator Riegle delivered a report—commonly known as the Riegle Report—in which it was stated that "pathogenic (meaning 'disease producing'), toxigenic (meaning 'poisonous'), and other biological research materials were exported to Iraq pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce." It added: "These exported biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction." [41] The report then detailed 70 shipments (including anthrax) from the United States to Iraqi government agencies over three years, concluding "It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the UN inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program." [42]

Donald Riegle, Chairman of the Senate committee that authored the aforementioned Riegle Report, said:

U.N. inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs. . The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control sent Iraq 14 separate agents "with biological warfare significance," according to Riegle's investigators. [43]

Combat planning and battlefield intelligence Edit

More than 60 US Defense Intelligence Agency officers provided combat planning assistance, and the US also provided battlefield intelligence including satellite pictures to Saddam Hussein's military. [44] [45] [46]

Diplomatic support Edit

In 1984, Iran introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council, citing the Geneva Protocol of 1925, condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons on the battlefield. In response, the United States instructed its delegate at the UN to lobby friendly representatives in support of a motion to take "no decision" on the use of chemical munitions by Iraq. If backing to obstruct the resolution could be won, then the U.S. delegation were to proceed and vote in favour of taking zero action if support were not forthcoming, the U.S. delegate were to refrain from voting altogether.

USDEL should work to develop general Western position in support of a motion to take "no decision" on Iranian draft resolution on use of chemical weapons by Iraq. If such a motion gets reasonable and broad support and sponsorship, USDEL should vote in favor. Failing Western support for "no decision," USDEL should abstain. [47]

Representatives of the United States argued that the UN Human Rights Commission was an "inappropriate forum" for consideration of such abuses. According to Joyce Battle, the Security Council eventually issued a "presidential statement" condemning the use of unconventional weapons "without naming Iraq as the offending party." [27]

According to Russ Baker, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, a "vast network" based in the U.S. and elsewhere, fed Iraq's warring capabilities right up until August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait. [48]

Sarkis Soghanalian Edit

Alan Friedman writes that Sarkis Soghanalian, one of the most notorious arms dealers during the Cold War, procured Eastern Bloc and French origin weaponry, and brokered vast deals with Iraq, with the tacit approval of the Central Intelligence Agency. [1]

The most prominent [arms merchant] was Sarkis Soghanalian, a Miami-based former CIA contractor who brokered tens of billions of dollars' worth of military hardware for Iraq during the 1980s, reporting many of his transactions to officials in Washington. [Soghanalian] was close to the Iraqi leadership and to intelligence officers and others in the Reagan administration. In many respects he was the living embodiment of plausible deniability, serving as a key conduit for CIA and other U.S. government operations. p. 36

In an interview with William Kistner, Soghanalian stated that he was "working closely with the U.S. government". [49] According to Timmerman, Soghanalian also helped the Iraqis obtain TOW anti-tank missiles, for which he was later prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice. [2]

Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Edit

The "Iraqgate" scandal revealed that a branch of Italy's smallest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), in Atlanta, Georgia relied partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans to funnel $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, branch manager Christopher Drogoul was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq – some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology. [50]

According to the Financial Times, the companies involved in the scandal by shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill's Ohio branch. [48]

Even before the Persian Gulf War started in 1990, the Intelligencer Journal of Pennsylvania in a string of articles reported: "If U.S. and Iraqi troops engage in combat in the Persian Gulf, weapons technology developed in Lancaster and indirectly sold to Iraq will probably be used against U.S. forces . And aiding in this . technology transfer was the Iraqi-owned, British-based precision tooling firm Matrix Churchill, whose U.S. operations in Ohio were recently linked to a sophisticated Iraqi weapons procurement network." [48]

"One entire facility, a tungsten-carbide manufacturing plant that was part of the Al Atheer complex," Kenneth Timmerman informed the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, "was blown up by the IAEA in April 1992 because it lay at the heart of the Iraqi clandestine nuclear weapons program, PC-3. Equipment for this plant appears to have been supplied by the Latrobe, Pennsylvania manufacturer, Kennametal, and by a large number of other American companies, with financing provided by the Atlanta branch of the BNL bank." [51]

Aside from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and ABC's Ted Koppel, the Iraq-gate story never picked up much momentum, even though the U.S. Congress became involved with the scandal. See an article by journalist William Safire, introduced into the Congressional Record by Rep. Tom Lantos. [50]

By contrast, Alcolac International, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. Alcolac was successfully prosecuted for its violations of export control law.

Index of American companies Edit

According to German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, which is reported to have reviewed an uncensored copy of Iraq's 11,000-page declaration to the U.N. Security Council in 2002, almost 150 foreign companies supported Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Twenty-four U.S. firms were involved in exporting materials to Baghdad. [52] An even longer list of American companies and their involvements in Iraq was provided by the LA Weekly in May 2003. [53]

Aqaba pipeline project Edit

The United States government supported the construction of a new oil pipeline that would run westward from Iraq across the land to the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, permitting access from the Red Sea. The Bechtel Corporation was the prime contractor for this project. Donald Rumsfeld discussed the advantages of the pipeline personally with Saddam Hussein in 1983. The Aqaba project never made it past the drawing board, however, because of its proximity to Israel, which planners insisted upon. So near to the border it would run, the Iraqi leadership feared the Israeli side could disable the pipeline at a later date, simply by "lobbing a few hand grenades" at it. [2]

Tanker War and U.S. military involvement Edit

The Tanker War started when Iraq attacked Iranian tankers and the oil terminal at Kharg island in 1984. Iran struck back by attacking tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait and then any tanker of the Persian Gulf states supporting Iraq. Both nations attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including those of neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade. After repeated Iraqi attacks on Iran's main exporting facility on Khark Island, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker near Bahrain on May 13, 1984, and a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters on May 16. Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter, and this phase of the war was dubbed the "Tanker War."

Lloyd's of London, a British insurance market, estimated that the Tanker War damaged 546 commercial vessels and killed about 430 civilian mariners. The largest of attacks were directed by Iran against Kuwaiti vessels, and on November 1, 1986, Kuwait formally petitioned foreign powers to protect its shipping. The Soviet Union agreed to charter tankers starting in 1987, and the United States Navy offered to provide protection for tankers flying the U.S. flag on March 7, 1987. Operation Prime Chance was a United States Special Operations Command operation intended to protect U.S.-flagged oil tankers from Iranian attack. The operation took place roughly at the same time as Operation Earnest Will, the largely Navy effort to escort the tankers through the Persian Gulf.

Under international law, an attack on such ships would be treated as an attack on the U.S., allowing the U.S. to retaliate militarily. This support would protect ships headed to Iraqi ports, effectively guaranteeing Iraq's revenue stream for the duration of the war.

Special Operations Forces also assisted in this effort. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment operated AH-6 helicopters from a large barge anchored at sea. A second platform was manned by Special Forces from Fort Bragg, piloting OH-58Ds. "These things looked extremely sinister. They were all black and bristling with antennas and had a huge round sight module about two feet in diameter stuck on a mast above the rotor blades. . The impression you got, just looking at one of these things on the ground, was of a giant insect staring at you before you die", a Special Forces officer is quoted as saying. [1]

On April 14, 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. U.S. forces responded with Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, the United States Navy's largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian ships were destroyed, killing 55 sailors in the process, and an American helicopter was shot down, killing the two pilots. [54]

A number of researchers and former military personnel contend that the United States carried out Black operations against Iranian military targets during the war. Lt. Col. Roger Charles, who worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, says the Navy used specially equipped Mark III patrol boats during the night, with the intent of luring Iranian gunboats away from territorial waters, where they could be fired upon and destroyed. "They took off at night and rigged up false running lights so that from a distance it would appear there was a merchant ship, which the Iranians would want to inspect." [1]

Information collected from Operation Eager Glacier, a top-secret intelligence-gathering program, was also used to bomb manufacturing plants inside Iran by the CIA. [1]

AHC Iraq wins the Iran-Iraq war

More US support would be the easiest way to do this. Reagan declines the arms for hostages deal, and instead tries to build a united Sunni front, isolating Iran, in an attempt to bring down the revolution. Could fit well with support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The blowback though. Dear God, the blowback

La Rouge Beret

More US support would be the easiest way to do this. Reagan declines the arms for hostages deal, and instead tries to build a united Sunni front, isolating Iran, in an attempt to bring down the revolution. Could fit well with support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The blowback though. Dear God, the blowback


It'll require more than just the U.S. supplying arms to Iraq. At the time of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had one of the most modern militaries in the Middle East. The big issue Iraq had was internal. Conscripts had little motivation to fight, and NCO's and officers at all levels exercised little initiative they simply executed the mission given to them without regard to the conditions on the ground-sometimes with disastrous results. These are problems that need to be fixed several years or even a decade before the start of the war to have an effect which is doubtful with Saddam Hussein in charge.

The U.S. could send advisors in addition to arms. This may help somewhat, but ultimately Hussein is going to have to give free reign to his generals to run the war this simply won't happen given the type of person that he was.


It depends on how they win, and it depends on what kind of win.

For instance, suppose that Saddam Hussein succeeds in his 'lightning war' strategy - a fast brutal blow against a weak and disorganized Iran that brings about the collapse of the Ayatollahs Regime.

Iraq wins and imposes its territorial aspirations on Iran. I'd say this wouldn't be huge. There's no stomach these days for massive border redrawing.

But I do think that Saddam might try to hive off the Arab-ethnic Khoramshar (sic) region as a new 'liberated' state, and perhaps occupy or turn it into a client state. It would make a terrific buffer, and it's got a lot of Iran's oil capacity. So an independent Khoramshar would really hurt.

The Iranian Mullahs collapse, Iran devolves into bitter civil war, or a succession of weak backwards governments ideally. Which leaves a power vacuum in the Persian Gulf.

Which means that the US needs a new client: Saddam Hussein. Who is happy to make nice, given that he's allowed his liberties.

Meanwhile, a screwed up unstable Iran is going to be a major geopolitical problem for US policy makers, considering that its next door to both the USSR and the bulk of the West's oil. Oops!

If it happens that way, then financially Iraq is far better off. The expenses of the war are a fraction of what they were OTL. Iraq doesn't go into debt borrowing from Kuwait, etc. etc. That's even without possible reparations.

Saddam has a lot more money to indulge in kleptocracy, economic development, throwing his financial weight around with poor arabs. I figure that Saddam would opt in for megaprojects - pipelines, highways, universities, bridges, nuclear programs. Whatever is big. Dictators always think in terms of big building projects. Utility is about 50/50.

Relations with Kuwait will be different. The Kuwaiti's will probably not mess with slant drilling Iraq's oil fields, or will be more easily intimidated not to do it. There's not going to be the same financial issues in place as in Kuwait and Iraq arguing about debt. The Kuwaiti government may be much more cautious. This may save them from invasion. Maybe, maybe not.

Assuming wild success - Iraq emerges as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and the Arab World, essentially trumping Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Lots of political cachet.

Likely radical Islamism would decline, as the technocrats and technocratic movement could show a genuine win. Islamism is, in part, a response to the consistent failure of any model of muslim government in the middle east.

On the other hand, Israel gets to tout Iraq is a genuine existential threat. Israel's been having a hard time lately with existential threat's. The effort to ramp up Malaysia for the role is not going well.

But as much as the US is pro-Israel, it needs Iraq in the region. So it's going to be like Archie going on dates with Betty and Veronica simultaneously - awkward.

How likely was it to happen. Well, I don't think a smarter Saddam or tougher Iraq is the answer. For this to take place, you need Iran to be markedly weaker, or to make some disastrous early decisions the blow the game for it.

Of course, if its just Iran screwing up, and Saddam is no smarter, then we likely have the usual situation where a stupid arrogant man get lucky and wins one - he assumes its skill, not luck, doubles down and keeps pushing until it all blows up in his face.

As to what that blowup would be? Gulf War with America? Revenge of Iran? Middle-East Jihad and Israeli Mushroom clouds over Baghdad? War with Saudi Arabia? Who knows.

The Day After War Begins in Iran

The outpouring of grief for Qassim Suleimani is the country’s first act of retaliation.

Ms. Moaveni is a writer and an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

The last time I wrote seriously about a war with Iran was in 2012. It had been an especially fraught year, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards running naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, Israel and the United States conducting joint drills, and the safety of oil shipping lanes looking entirely unassured. Oil prices rattled skittishly, everyone suddenly monitored ships, and headlines speculated that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites.

My assignment was to consider “the day after” — to imagine how Iranians would react if their country was bombed by Israel. My piece featured scenes of distraught young people gathering on crowded intersections singing the national anthem — suddenly everyone was a terrified Iranian citizen rather than an aspiring guitarist or a day laborer or whatever they were the day before — and a screaming mother buying formula to stockpile from a supermarket. I don’t even remember writing it. How many times can you write, predict and analyze your country’s destruction before your mind begins to dissolve the traces?

That rehearsal feels like it was all in preparation for today. Last week an American drone strike incinerated Iran’s top general and national war hero Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, along with a senior Iraqi militia commander, in what can only be understood as an act of war.

Being here again makes me feel that I — an American citizen of Iranian origin — have been here so often before. The cycles of imminent war and upheaval Iranians seem destined to face every few years, cycles often driven by the whims of the United States and the increasing boldness of Iran, now feel like a civilizational inheritance, a legacy that my mother bore before me, her mother before her, and that I will pass down to my children. Every Iranian family’s history is touched with this past, in its own way.

The American-backed 1953 coup destroyed both my grandfather and great uncle’s careers, until then in service of the government, and sent the latter into exile. America’s support for, and then eventual abandonment of, the Shah helped shape the 1979 revolution, disrupted all of our lives, with the new authorities expropriating our assets, and landing an uncle in prison for belonging to that educated, pro-Western class that built modern Iran and saw the revolution as its demise.

The years that followed only deepened the American-Iranian chasm. There was the 1979-81 hostage crisis at the American Embassy in Tehran, which killed nobody in the end but poisoned relations to this day. The United States scarcely concealed its support for Iraq in the devastating years of the Iran-Iraq War. And in 1988, as the war dragged to a close, continued skirmishing resulted in the U.S. Navy shooting down an Iranian passenger plane flying over Iran’s territorial waters, killing 290 people. Deeply regrettable, lamented President Ronald Reagan, but honors and medals for the naval officers.

For decades now, the United States has often seemed driven to hurt Iran, at times through interventionist policies that were careless and transactional, and then after 1979, with a fierce determination out of proportion to whatever challenge the new system posed.

At a certain point, Iran started retaliating: In the 1980s, it cultivated regional groups and militias hostile to Washington, and encouraged them to take Westerners hostages and staged attacks through these networks. In later years, Iran challenged American roles in wars in the region and interventions in bordering countries — the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 — by backing nonstate allies that rose to become formidable powers in their own right. This lifted Tehran’s game of asymmetrical leverage into a regional influence it had probably never conceived of achieving. General Suleimani was behind much of this strategy.

Many consider him responsible for the deaths of thousands, for his intervention in salvaging Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria. But to many Iranians, Iraqis, Kurds and others, he was a pivotal figure in vanquishing the Islamic State, helping repel its rapid march across Iraq in 2014. In Syria, for the many Syrians who endured the industrial-scale brutality of the Assad regime, the general led what could only be understood as an offensive force. But Iran’s leaders always reminded their people that Syria, the lone Arab country that sided with Iran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, could not be abandoned, that without it, Iran would be vastly more vulnerable in the region.

It is for these maneuvers, in part to provide Iran some deterrence against relentless American hostility, that General Suleimani is remembered. He had become a patriarch for an ambivalent country adrift, forgiven, at least by the hundreds of thousands who turned out for his funeral, for the hard excesses of the force he commanded because he secured the land in a time of the Islamic State’s butchery, seen as a man of honor and merit among political contemporaries who were usually neither. (Of course, he certainly did not impress all Iranians in this way he had detractors who did not support his regional stratagems.)

Iran’s leaders have rallied around his legacy Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” and assured that his killing would “double” resistance against the United States and Israel. Even the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, an octogenarian who is confined under permanent house arrest, issued condolences.

Beyond this official show of unity, newspapers across the political spectrum darkened their front pages, and ran full-cover photos of General Suleimani in all his guises, from brassy military uniform to slick dark suit jacket, with even the most liberal-minded running lachrymose headlines like “the sorrow is inconceivable.”

“What to do with a thorn lodged in the heart? Is this the fate of all the distinguished descendants of this land, regardless of thought and affiliation?” wrote Iran’s most prominent and oft-censored contemporary novelist, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, of the man he said “built a powerful dam against the bloodthirsty onslaught of ISIS and secured our borders from their calamity.”

Iranians have turned out to mourn him on an extraordinary scale, in scenes unmatched since the funeral of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself in 1989. A sea of people fills Isfahan’s 17th Century central square, the seat of Persian history, and pours across the bridges and streets of Ahvaz, men and women from all backgrounds of Iranian society.

The mourning for the general, it could be said, is Iran’s first act of retaliation: what amounts to an extraordinary four-day state funeral in not one but two countries. The cavalcade has twinned two nations in shared public grief and indignation, as the procession moved deliberately across a crescent of Shiite historical memory. First came the cities of the Iraqi south that Saddam Hussein kept cowed and squalid, the holy shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, through to the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which saw the bloodiest fighting of the Iran-Iraq war, an indigenously Arab region where mourning congregations chant in Arabic, and whose inclusion in this spectacle of transnational identity and power has clear unifying purpose.

Nearly 40 years ago, General Suleimani began his career in the trenches of the Iran-Iraq War, the formative drama of the Islamic Republic, where heroism was applauded by most Iranians who felt their country was the victim of external attack and isolation. Today’s Iranians, who will most suffer whatever fallout there is from his death, remain economically blockaded, in a suspended state of siege in all but name. Their country remains, by the design of American policy, sanctioned and cash-strapped, their horizons and potential extinguished by visa bans, medicine shortages and inflation. Pinned between a system that increasingly feels it has little to lose, and the all-out vengeance of a zero-plan United States, Iran has endured what feels like a war economy for decades.

I remember as a child, during the years of war with Iraq, my mother telling me about relatives in Iran who gave away their jewelry to aid the war effort. This time, in the face of President Trump’s tweets threatening to attack Iran and destroy its sites of cultural heritage, I needn’t conjure the unity that comes the day after. The country has gathered to mourn. It is already here.

Azadeh Moaveni (@AzadehMoaveni) is a senior gender analyst with the International Crisis Group and the author, most recently, of “Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS.”

Iraq War

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Iraq War, also called Second Persian Gulf War, (2003–11), conflict in Iraq that consisted of two phases. The first of these was a brief, conventionally fought war in March–April 2003, in which a combined force of troops from the United States and Great Britain (with smaller contingents from several other countries) invaded Iraq and rapidly defeated Iraqi military and paramilitary forces. It was followed by a longer second phase in which a U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was opposed by an insurgency. After violence began to decline in 2007, the United States gradually reduced its military presence in Iraq, formally completing its withdrawal in December 2011.

What was the cause of the Iraq War?

U.S. President George W. Bush argued that the vulnerability of the United States following the September 11 attacks of 2001, combined with Iraq’s alleged continued possession and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, justified the U.S.'s war with Iraq.

When did the Iraq War begin?

The Iraq War, also called the Second Persian Gulf War, began on March 20, 2003.

Watch the video: Iran-Iraq War Begins - 1980. Today in History. 22 Sept 16 (May 2022).