The Iran-Iraq War, Volume 3: Iraq's Triumph

The Iran-Iraq War, Volume 3: Iraq's Triumph

E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper & Farzin Nadimi
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
The Iran-Iraq War lasted from September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and finally ended in August 1988. An attritional conflict marked by high casualties rather than territorial gain, the world remembers it largely for the use of poison gas, most notably on Kurdish civilians at Halabja. Henry Kissinger's view of the affair was that it was a shame that both sides couldn't lose and, in terms of supporting the combatants, the resulting networks and mechanisms by which the armies of Iran and Iraq were supplied and sustained for such an extended period were as complex and baffling as anything the Middle East has yet produced.

The war started with an opportunistic attempt by Saddam Hussein to take advantage of the chaos caused by the Iranian revolution and seize key strategic areas in the Shatt al Arab region. When this failed, the initiative passed to Iran and the fighting was generally characterised by the Iraqis using technology and tactics to offset the Iranian advantage in numbers. By 1986, and at enormous cost, the Iranians had driven the Iraqis back onto the Shatt al Arab and were established on the Faw Peninsula. It's at this point that Volume 3 takes up the story.

The book has three contributing authors and is broken down into five chapters. The different styles are detectable but overall it is an easy read, which is no mean achievement given the density of the material and the likely lack of familiarity with the core material that will be the case with a western audience. The narrative is easy to follow, the conclusions and interpretations are logical and substantiated, and the overall impression is that Hooton, Cooper and Nadini are reliable and informed guides who can be trusted to lead the reader through an often complex and potentially confusing set of events. By the end of the book I was satisfied that I knew as much as I wanted to about the period of history under review and in sufficient detail as to have some understanding, not only of the tactical and strategic decisions made and the cultural context in which they were made but, most importantly, of the cultural context in which the soldiers on both sides attempted to carry them out.

The book itself is one of three which covers the whole Iran-Iraq War and it is Number 9 in a series covering the Middle East at War. A4 with a floppy cover, the book is a combination of narrative, drop boxes allowing for tabulation of Orbats, maps, brief unit descriptions and assorted trivia such as camouflage schemes, and photographs. It's all done comprehensively, and to a very high standard, and particular mention should be made of the number of photographs, which are relevant and play a significant part in helping to bring the whole narrative to life. The publishers are Helion & Company and they have certainly taken the advice of Henry Ford to heart in terms of seeing how much you can provide for a dollar rather than how little.

The Iran-Iraq War, though momentous at the time, now clearly belongs to history and the political landscape which created it has changed beyond all recognition. Nonetheless, it played an import part in the region becoming what it is today and those with an interest in such things will find this a rewarding read. Veterans of Telic will be familiar with the battlegrounds described and those who pondered why the field fortifications in Iraq often seemed to point the wrong way will discover the context in which they were built.

The review edition did not come with a price but, should anyone with an interest in military history or the Middle East encounter an affordable copy of this book, or the companion editions if they are of the same high standard, they will not be disappointed if they buy it.

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