Saddam Hussein Research Paper
Why Couldn’t Saddam Hussein Defeat Iran in a Blitzkrieg Campaign in 1980
The Iran-Iraq War was one of the most serious conflicts in the Gulf region in the second half of the 20th century. The conflict was basically determined by the leadership ambitions of both Iran and Iraq. In fact, these two countries were the major competitors for the leadership in the region. This is why it seems to be quite natural that the military conflict between the two states was just a question of time. It should be pointed out that the tension between Iraq and Iran steadily grew and Iraq could not fail to benefit from an excellent opportunity to defeat its major competitor in the region and become the regional leader.
Along with numerous political reasons, economic factors also contributed to the growing tension between countries since the victory in the war was strategically important to both countries, especially to Iraq, which, in the case of success, could establish the dominant position in the region in all domains: political, economic, and even ideological. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that Iraq was the initiator of the military conflict and its war on Iran was an obvious aggression against the state weakened by the profound internal crisis. In such a situation, Iraqi leader naturally expected to realize the plan of a blitzkrieg campaign and defeat the opponent within a few months. Such plans seemed to be quite realistic since Iraq was in an unarguably advantageous position compared to Iran. Having support of the USSR and military superiority over its opponent, Iraq could count for the easy and triumphant military campaign in 1980.
In fact, the plans of Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, were partially fulfilled within less then three months. As the campaign was launched on September 22, 1980, by December 7, 1980 Iraqi leader could estimate that the blitzkrieg campaign was over since the major objectives of the war had been achieved. To put it more precisely, Iraq targeted the acquisition of the Arvand Rud waterway and the annexing of Khuzestan and formally these objectives had been achieved by December 1980. However, in actuality, it was not the end of the war but, in contrast, it was just the beginning of the destructive military conflict that had been lasting for eight years from 1980 till 1980. In such a way, a presumably victorious plan of the blitzkrieg campaign had totally failed since the war had not been over with the first successes of the Iraqi army, but, instead the aggression provoked a strong opposition from the part of Iranian people, which continued the war for almost a decade.
In such a situation, it is possible to speak about failure of the blitzkrieg campaign of Saddam Hussein, which was apparently unexpected not only for the Iraqi leader but for the world community as well because Iraq’s superiority seemed to be unarguable, while Iran was weakened by the revolution and its position seemed to be absolutely disadvantageous. This is why it is extremely important to analyze the factors that determined the failure of Iraqi blitzkrieg campaign because the understanding of the reasons of Iraqi failure can help better understand perspectives of blitzkrieg campaigns in the second half of the 20th century and in the future.
Speaking about the failure of the blitzkrieg campaign, it is necessary to dwell upon military factors, which played probably the most important role in the failure of presumably stronger the Iraqi army over weakened Iranian military forces. In fact, it is necessary to underline that on the eve of the war, Iran practically turned to be in a complete isolation from the rest of the world and was deprived of any support from the part of the major players in international relationships. In this respect, it is very important that neither the USA nor the USSR supported Iran in this military conflict. Moreover, it is even possible to estimate that both superpowers, i.e. the US and the USSR, either had ignored or even actively supported Iraq in the war since its beginning.
To put it more precisely, the USSR had actively supported Iraq in its war on Iran. The Iraqi army was equipped with the Soviet weapon and the USSR provided its Iraqi partners with ample technological as well as political support in the conflict. As a result, the Iraqi army could naturally count for the technological superiority compared to its opponent, which was deprived of any external support since the US had abandoned the country after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as well as British that had also stopped any cooperation with Iran.
Nevertheless, the past partnership between Iran and its former Western allies still remained a very important trace in Iranian defense potential. In fact, after the retreat of Americans and British, Iran had got the arsenal of advanced Western weapon, which provided the country with an excellent opportunity to respond adequately to Iraqi aggression and, what is more, this arsenal, to a significant extent, determined the failure of the blitzkrieg campaign.
In this respect, it should be said that air forces played probably the most important role since the defeat of Iranian air forces and the dominance of the Iraqi army in the air was one of the major conditions of the successful fulfillment of the plan of the blitzkrieg campaign, the tactic that was successfully practiced by the German army during the World War II. In fact, the failure of Iraqi air forces was absolutely unexpected since Saddam Hussein supposed to easily defeat Iranian air forces which did not have support from the part of the US. But, instead, air attacks of Iraqi air forces on Iranian airfields proved to be practically ineffective because they were modernized with the help of the former allies of Iran, the US practically before the war. As a result, Iranian airfields could withstand Iraqi bombing after the modernization and, thus, the impact of Iraqi air attacks was minimal and not so destructive as it was supposed to be. At any rate, the effect of these attacks was absolutely insufficient to destroy Iranian airfields and national air forces, which were the major conditions of the success of the blitzkrieg campaign.
Moreover, equipped with modern American-designed planes, Iranian air forces were the potentially lethal threat to the Iraqi army. As a result, after the first three days of air attacks on Iranian military airfields, radar installations, and supply depots, Iraqi air forces had failed to inflict any significant damage and, what is more, Iranians launched counter-strikes that surprised the Iraqi army with their strengths.
Furthermore, another important factor was the navy superiority of Iran over Iran. In fact, Iranian navy dominated in the Gulf region and practically totally controlled the area, while Iraq was practically deprived of any opportunity to defeat the opponent in the Gulf. At any rate, the correlation of navy forces between Iraq and Iran made the blitzkrieg campaign in the sea practically impossible since weaker Iraqi navy could not defeat rapidly the stronger and better equipped Iranian fleet.
Finally, another argument of Iraqi commanders in favor of the success of the blitzkrieg campaign was the purges that took place in Iran on the eve of the war. As a result, the Iranian army had lost a large number of professional that were loyal to the previous regime and, to a significant extent, the purges were provoked by the fear of the new Iranian government concerning the potential threat from the part of the army, which, as they supposed, might have used their power to restore the ruined regime of the Shah. As a result, Iranian leaders organized purges and, what is more, they opposed to the reinforcement of the Iranian army, which they viewed as a threat to their rule.
Naturally, in such a situation, Saddam Hussein could count for the superiority of the professionalism of his army over the opponent. However, in actuality the professionalism of the Iraqi army was also quite arguable, since purges were organized not only in Iran but in Iraq as well. In fact, Iraqi officers were mainly assessed on the basis of their loyalty to Saddam Hussein than on their professional level. As a result, the more loyal an Iraqi officer was the more opportunity he had to get a higher rank. Consequently, the professional level of both armies was practically equal that also made the perspectives of the blitzkrieg campaign quite vague and doubtful.
Ideology was another important factor that contributed considerably to the failure of the Iraqi blitzkrieg campaign. In fact, it is even possible to estimate that the Iraqi army had lost ideological war, the struggle for the minds of people and soldiers. In this respect, it should be said that since the beginning of the war, Saddam Hussein expected that Iranian society suffered from profound internal conflict and numerous contradictions caused by the revolution. The political and ideological conflicts within the country could contribute to the easy and rapid victory of Iraq.
However, in actuality, the effect of the Iraqi intrusion was quite the opposite to what Saddam Hussein had expected just before the war. In contrast to the expectations of Iraq, instead of the growing tension, Iranian society had consolidated after the start of the war. It is worthy of mention that even military professional that opposed to the new regime readily supported new leaders in the struggle against Iraq. In fact, the Iraqi aggression turned to be the major factor that united Iranian society in face of the external threat. Iranian people forgot all the contradictions they had in face of the threat to the sovereignty of their country and its power and leadership in the region, even though Iraq declared that it was interested only I the part of the territory of Iran and practically led the limited war. As a result, the Iraqi army could not find any support within Iran but a total opposition and, in stark contrast to Iraq, it was a total war for Iran.
Moreover, Saddam Hussein faced a serious problem within his own army since the majority of Iraqi soldiers were Shiites, while the government itself was Sunni. In such a situation, there could be a progressing internal conflict within the Iraqi army because of the difference in religious views of soldiers and the government. The situation was deteriorated by the fact that the predominantly Shiite Iraqi army governed by the Sunni elite had to fight against Iran, where Shiites dominated after the revolution.
Strategic and tactical factors
Along with the strong military opposition from the part of Iran and the lack of significant superiority of the Iraqi army and its ideological problems, Iraqi military forces also suffered from strategic and tactical errors of its commandment. To put it more precisely, Saddam Hussein took an active part in the development of the strategic plan of the blitzkrieg campaign and even took important decisions during the military actions and some battles, even though he was not experienced in military operations. As a result, he made numerous errors and, to a significant extent, it was Saddam Hussein with his ambitions who was responsible for the failure of the blitzkrieg campaign since, if the entire campaign and all military operations were planned and realized by professionals solely without interferences of the Iraqi leader, the blitzkrieg campaign could be quite successful.
However, probably the most important strategic error made by Iraq was the obvious underestimation of the opponent. In fact, Saddam Hussein and his advisors underestimated the military potential of Iran, the weakness of its air forces, the depth of the conflict within Iranian society, and the ability of Iran to oppose to the aggression without any external support. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein overestimated the professionalism of his own army and the role of the external support, especially from the part of the USSR, as well as he practically failed to foresee the weakness of the ideological doctrine of Iraqi aggression compared to the ideological unity of Shiite Iran and the majority of the Iraqi army.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that Saddam Hussein could not defeat Iran in the blitzkrieg campaign because of the number of factors. Firstly, the military superiority of Iraq turned to be fake since the Iranian army proved that it is equal or even superior (Navy) to Iraqis. Secondly, the ideological basis for the war was quite weak since the aggression targeting the acquisition of new territory proved to be not very effective in the conditions when Shiite Iraqi soldiers were forced to fight against Shiite Iran that created conditions for their religious unity, which engendered the opposition to the war within the Iraqi army. Finally, Saddam Hussein despotism and ambitions led to the numerous strategic and tactical errors. All these factors, eventually led to the failure of the blitzkrieg campaign in 1980, which, being officially over, marked the beginning of the long-lasting war.
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