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Iran: The Original Iraqi Offensive
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Iran-Iraq War > The Original Iraqi Offensive

THE ORIGINAL IRAQI OFFENSIVE


Baghdad originally planned a quick victory over Tehran. On September 22, 1980, Iraqi fighter aircraft attacked ten air bases in Iran. Their aim was to destroy the Iranian air force on the ground -- a lesson learned from the Arab-Israeli June 1967 War. They succeeded in destroying runways and fuel and ammunition depots, but much of Iran's aircraft inventory was left intact. Simultaneously, six Iraqi army divisions entered Iran on three fronts in an initially successful surprise attack. On the northern front, an Iraqi mountain infantry division captured Qasr-e Shirin, a border town in Bakhtaran (formerly known as Kermanshahan) Province, and occupied territory thirty kilometers eastward to the base of the Zagros Mountains. This area was strategically significant because the main Baghdad-Tehran highway traversed it. On the central front, Iraqi forces captured Mehran, on the western plain of the Zagros Mountains in Ilam Province, and pushed eastward to the mountain base. Mehran occupied an important position on the major north-south road, close to the border on the Iranian side. The main thrust of the attack, however, was in the south. Iraqi armored units easily crossed the Shatt al Arab waterway and entered the Iranian province of Khuzestan. While some divisions headed toward Khorramshahr and Abadan, others moved toward Ahvaz, the provincial capital and site of an air base. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the troops made a rapid and significant advance -- almost eighty kilometers in the first few days. In the battle for Dezful in Khuzestan, where a major air base is located, the local Iranian army commander requested air support in order to avoid a defeat. President Bani Sadr, therefore, authorized the release from jail of many pilots, some of whom were suspected of still being loyal to the shah. With the increased use of the Iranian air force, the Iraqi progress was somewhat curtailed.

The last major Iraqi territorial gain took place in early November 1980. On November 3, Iraqi forces reached Abadan but were repulsed by a Pasdaran unit. Even though they surrounded Abadan on three sides and occupied a portion of the city, the Iraqis could not overcome the stiff resistance; sections of the city still under Iranian control were resupplied by boat at night. On November 10, Iraq captured Khorramshahr after a bloody house-to-house fight. The price of this victory was high for both sides, approximately 6,000 casualties for Iraq and even more for Iran.

Data as of December 1987




Last Updated: December 1987


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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