Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview

therefore, was the aggregate outcome of several unfortunate factors for the Iranians. With national morale at its lowest ebb, the fear of chemical strikes against population centres looming larger than ever, and material and economic dislocations increasingly unbearable, the combined air and missile attacks were the straw that broke the camel's back.

The impact of missiles on the Iraqi public was a mirror image of that of Iran. Unlike the Iranian regime, which, from the outset of the conflict, tried to unite the masses behind its campaign by stressing the virtue of sacrifice, Saddam sought to insulate the Iraqi population at large from the effects of the war. Fully aware of the fragility of Iraqi morale (after all, he had always had doubts as to how popular he really was among his own subjects), Saddam tried to prove to his people that he could wage war and maintain a business-as-usual atmosphere at the same time. The outcome of this guns-and-butter policy was that the ferocious war which raged on the battlefield was hardly felt on the Iraqi home front. Instead, the country was buzzing with economic activity and the population enjoyed an artificially high standard of living. Whenever the Iranians managed to puncture a hole in this artificial surrealist bubble by striking at Iraq's main population centres, as during the 1985 War of the Cities, Iraqi morale took an immediate plunge, driving an anxious Saddam to seek an immediate accommodation with the Iranians. Conversely, when the Iraqi public could eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel, its resilience to strategic attacks increased significantly. Thus, the seventy-six Iranian missiles that pounded Iraqi cities during the last War of the Cities had a far smaller impact on Iraqi morale than the sixteen missiles fired during the 1985 strategic exchange. This, in turn, underscores MacNaugher's conclusion that 'missiles are an effective coup de grâce weapon, decisive only when target states are already near collapse'.33


CONCLUSION

Whatever their immediate operational value, chemical weapons and ballistic missiles emerged from the Iran-Iraq War as instruments of terror par excellence. The modest impact of these

____________________
33
MacNaugher, 'Ballistic Missiles', 15.

-46-

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