1. What was Iraq’s initial war plan for invading Iran in 1980 and how did it go wrong?
Due to the general sloppiness of Saddam Hussein’s government the Iraqi military invaded Iran with no clear strategic concept and no coherent plan. This is why every surviving Iraqi commander interviewed ever since is providing an entirely different set of recollections. Actually, after monitoring the situation in Iran for months through 1980, the idea was born within the Ba’ath Party’s leadership for an invasion based on an underlying assumption that the Iranian military was in a state of chaos, and thus any appearance of massive mechanized units of the Iraqi Army alone would result in a grand collapse of Iran – and thus a quick and easy victory. The overwhelming secrecy resulted in a situation where – although mobilized and deployed along the border to Iran during August and September 1980 – the Iraqi Army and Air Force commanders received their orders for invasion only 48 hours in advance, often masked as ‘training exercises’. They trundled over the border without an operational and tactical focus, and while even lacking up-to-date maps, hoping ‘something might turn up’ and Iran would then capitulate on its own.
While taken completely by surprise, instead of running away, the Iranians offered determined and bitter – even if chaotic – resistance: and still, within just two weeks main prongs of the Iraqi advance were stopped. Moreover, reacting de-facto ‘automatically’, whatever was left of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) then launched an all-out offensive against the Iraqi oil industry, demolishing it to a degree where it did not fully recover even after the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Especially the latter factor was to prove decisive in the long term: with Saddam’s government expecting a short war and continuing the lavish spending for civilian-related projects, Iraq was actually bankrupt by the end of 1981 and survived the following seven years of war only thanks to extensive crediting by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Effects of this factor were to ultimately to lead to Saddam’s decision to invade Kuwait, in August 1990, and thus the downfall of Iraq as a dominant Arab state.