Iran-Iraq War Anniversary: Declassified US docs, memories and regrets

27 September 2016 | 02:30 Code : 1963436 General category
Iran celebrates the beginning of its eight-year "Sacred Defense" against Iraq’s invasion. Every year, the week named in the memory of the invasion inches forward our insight into the inner workings of a war that killed more than a million individuals.
Iran-Iraq War Anniversary: Declassified US docs, memories and regrets

(Plotting against Iran? Recently released documents reveal how Carter encouraged Saddam Hussein in his anti-Iran campaign.)


September 22-28 each year, Iran marks the start of the 8-year war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Traditionally on the occasion, Iranian top officials offer untold memories, new takes, and at times regrets about the longest conventional war of the 20th century while the public finds it an opportunity to remember its martyrs, veterans, and POWs as well as to put the war in new perspectives.


This year, the talk of the town focused more on the very question why Iran should celebrate the beginning of a war, waged by the enemy, instead of its end.


New pieces of intelligence have also emerged in and out of the country. Senior commander of IRGC in charge of the defense, Mohsen Rezaei, has revealed on his Instagram account that the Guard Corps intelligence division was certain that the war would break out, two month beforehand.


He accused then President Abolhassan Banisadr for dismissing the reports as political maneuver, which later brought Iranian army, already on alert, back from western borders with Iraq.


Yet another political giant who led the war in lieu of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has also emphasized that Iran had decided to resist and not surrender even if the war would go on for twenty years.


His bombshell for this year also targeted Banisadr. Iran’s first president, now in exile, did not allow the army to launch artillery shells amid siege of Abadan, Iran's strategic port a few kilometers away from the Iraqi border, on the grounds that the stocked numbers were limited and they were expensive, according to a written statement issued by Rafsanjani.


Tarikh-e Irani [Iranian History], a sister site to Iranian Diplomacy, also quoted yesterday Iran’s last ambassador to Baghdad Mahmoud Doaei, as saying that the real war started when Shah’s intelligence service SAVAK was dissolved before the 1979 revolution. Speaking to a summit on the “Untold Stories of the Iraqi Imposed War”, held in Tehran, he said the dissolution of SAVAK and the rift in Shah’s army paved the ground for Saddam to restore his reputation after his surrender in 1975 Algiers Accord signed with Iran.


Addressing the same summit, Mohammad Gharazi, governor of the province of Khuzestan, home to Iran's main oil fields adjacent to Iraq, during the war, also repeated remarks made by Rafsanjani: that Banisadr sabotaged the defense by refusing to arm the province.


There were rarely publicized regrets, too. Speaking on live TV, Mohsen Rezaei said on Friday that he believed Iran should have given a six or seven-month break when the strategic port of Khorramshahr, with its supreme symbolic and strategic significance, was freed after 575 days, before entering Iraqi territory. This would surely fail to leverage Iraq’s stance at the time but would serve as a historical evidence for future compensation claims, he added.


(War-time commanders in the days of yore. Middle row from right: Kamal Kharrazi, Ali Shamkhani, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ali Sayyad Shirazi. Bottom row right: Mohsen Rafighdoust)


Reports from media outlets commonly known as opposition media also proved to have the potential to purge them. On September 23, BBC Persian put out a report with declassified US documents showing President Carter had secretly tried to encourage “Iraq’s seizure of the three small islands”, almost two months after the hostage crisis in Tehran, carried away by revolutionary anti-imperialist spirit.


The three islands, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu-Musa, are disputed territory at the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategically important choke points. Iran has regained control over the Islands since November 1971. However, the United Arab Emirates, backed by other Arab states, has continued its provocative claims to the islands, despite failure in international forums, including UN Security Council.


Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was avidly on the side of the UAE. According to the BBC report, Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was the man behind the plan to lionize Saddam.


BBC Persian’s Washington DC correspondent Kambiz Fattahi writes of a Brzezinski letter, addressed to Carter, that advises occupation of the three islands to get Ayatollah Khomeini in long-term humiliation and to release the hostages. The proposition was apparently rejected on 21 December 1979 but then comes a second letter, dated 4 January 1980, in which Brzezinski implies that the affirmative was already given.


Saddam, for his part, took initiative by proposing to Carter, via Ra’is President of the United Arab Emirates Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the fragmentation of Iran. According to BBC, a confidential report from US embassy in Abu-Dhabi, declassified in 2013, demonstrates that Saddam believed Ayatollah Khomeini was ill and the Islamic Revolution had gotten “out of control”, so it was possible for the Leftists to achieve power in Tehran if backed by the Soviet Union. He went so far as to assure Carter that Iraq would guarantee Iran’s oil production.


Nonetheless, the tides had turned once again in Washington. Kambiz Fattahi says he has forwarded the document that advised encouragement of Iraq to raid the three islands to Brzezinski, who responded saying he does not remember anything and the plan was probably abandoned in the State Department.


The BBC article goes on to note that it was unlikely for the then foreign secretary Cyrus Vance not to resists such plans. State Department Bureau of Intelligence, too, had informed Vance on January 7 that Iraq’s small marine forces were not capable of attacking islands so far from their bases.


Knowing this, Saddam secretly sent helicopters and aircrafts to Oman, known for its moderation and close amicable ties with Tehran. This time, Carter and his advisors outmaneuvered Saddam, according to US National Archives documents released after three decades, BBC reports.


Worrisome that spread of war to the Strait of Hormuz could affect oil markets and jeopardize the life of American hostages in Tehran, the US sent different messages to Oman’s Sultan Qaboos to dissuade him against military cooperation with Iraq. The messages and the implicit threats that US will not immediately back Oman, in case of retaliatory measures by Iran, did the trick and the Iraqi air force left Muscat.

tags: iran bbc Saddam Hussein Iran-Iraq war

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