Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is the Iran-Iraq War That Obscure?

I recently mentioned the bloody battle known as Karbala V, the 1987 Iranian attempt to capture Basra. An author recalls the battle. He does not recall the forces, it seems.

I was looking forward to the article. But I'm not sure what this is talking about:

During the 1980s war, Iraq had a definitive advantage in modern, high-tech weapons.

Baghdad fielded Mirage F1 fighter jets to counter Iranian F-14s. The Iraqis used Milan anti-tank missiles to destroy Iranian tanks. Iraqi PC-6 turboprop trainers shot down low-flying Iranian helicopters. And Iraq fielded thousands of T-72 tanks against Iranian soldiers’ flimsy RPG-7s.

I'd have to dig through some deeply buried boxes for paper copies of the Military Balance descriptions of Iraq's military back then, but I don't think this is accurate.

It is certainly not accurate in 1980, when Iraq invaded. Iran had more advanced weapons than Iraq but Iran was handicapped by the Islamic Revolution which ended American support to keep those weapons in working order and made the regular forces suspect for being the Shah's force.

Over time, Iran's arsenal regressed in quality, but so did Iraq's in terms of tanks.

As a general rule, Iraq certainly did have a material advantage. But Iraq's advantage was not in high tech.

First of all, Iraq didn't have many Mirage fighters. And they were not technologically superior to the F-14--which Iran could not fly much because they were so high tech.

Better to have compared the Iraqi aircraft--mostly Soviet--to the simple F-5 that Iran flew or even the F-4, although that wasn't so simple then.

I'll not comment on the Milan. I think the Soviet-designed stuff was more common, but leave that aside.

A turboprop trainer is by definition not high tech.

The biggest thing that stuck out is that Iraq did not field thousands of T-72 tanks. That would have been a waste.

Let me quote my online summary of a book-length history of the war that I almost sold a couple decades ago:

The First Gulf War also resulted in a capable Iraqi military forged during eight desperate years of war with Iran. Iraqi missile capabilities, poison gas, and a large Republican Guard force were just a few of the threats faced in 1991 that were created during the war with Iran. The war that created this military also helped to shape it in ways that made it vulnerable to America's arsenal. After eight years, Iraq's military was optimized to fight Iran's military machine. Large artillery-backed infantry formations accustomed to fighting the Iranian foot-mobile, slow moving, and cumbersome infantry army in static linear battles were outclassed by the American AirLand Battle-drilled Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. And though Iraq fielded a large armored force by 1991, it had evolved into a low-tech force that fielded numerous obsolescent but cheap tanks that could kill Iranian infantry and still overwhelm Iran's outnumbered and equally obsolete tank fleet. Only a small portion of Iraq's armor could even think about fighting American M-1s and British Challengers. [emphasis added]

I keep meaning to dig it out and work on it, finally.

And what does it mean to call RPG-7 anti-tank rockets "flimsy?" I don't think that word means what he thinks it means.

He also refers to a ZSU-32-4, which I assume he means the ZSU-23-4, quad-23mm tracked anti-aircraft guns. That could be a typo, of course, and is minor.

Yet after stating that Iran for religious reasons didn't want to rely on outside suppliers of arms, the author goes on to his main point that Iran's offensive was not based on religious fervor but used artillery, including large pieces imported from North Korea.

Well, sure. What credible source says otherwise?

So I'm not sure what the point of the article was. Or the author's expertise on the subject.