Before entering the minefields, the children wrap themselves in
blankets and then roll on the ground. The blankets keep their
body parts together when the mines explode so we can carry them
to their martyrs’ graves.
— War correspondent’s description of
Iranian boy soldiers
Not long after the SAS smashed the terrorist attack on his embassy, the Iranian charge d’affaires in London, Sadatian came to see me at the House of Commons. He was haggling with the Foreign Office about the costs of repairing the Embassy which had suffered extensive damage during the rescue operation. He also demanded to know why Britain was not supporting Iran in its war with Iraq. Citing the U.N. charter, he said that all members of the Security Council were duty bound to go to the aid of the victims of aggression. In reply, I stuck to the British and U.S. line that both sides were at fault. The U.K. must therefore stay neutral. But we wanted an end to the war. That was why we supported the U.N.’s ban on the sale of arms to either party.
I was never comfortable with this. And the reality, I soon learned, was more cynical. A British military historian, John Keay put it well when he wrote. “The best the west could hope for was that neither side should gain a decisive advantage and eventually both would lose.” But if that was the approach of both the U.S. and Britain when Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, opinion began to change as the Iraqi onslaught faltered and the Iranians, especially in the south, went over to the offensive and began to get the upper hand. U.S. intelligence suggested that an Iranian breakthrough to Basra, the second city in Iraq was imminent.