Morale vs. Technology: The Power of Iran in the Persian Gulf War
JAMES A. BILL
I prefer a thousand strokes of the sword to dying in bed-- Imam Ali
Fighting an invading Iraqi army in a lonely battle, Iran's tenacious and courageous performance in the Persian Gulf war of the 1980s confounded many outside observers and analysts. Iraq enjoyed the support of both superpowers. It had access to expensive modern military matériel supplied primarily by the Soviet Union and France. It was provided with huge financial resources from the plentiful reserves of neighboring oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. And it received technical assistance from some Arab states, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. In addition to these factors, the Iraqi invasion caught Iran by surprise, and throughout the conflict the Islamic Republic was confronted with the difficult task of institutionalizing a revolution. For these reasons and others, many analysts predicted an easy and early Iraqi victory.
Yet Iraq was unable to defeat Iran, and it took ninty-five months before Iran would even agree to a cease-fire. Between 1982 and 1987, Iranian forces took the offensive in the war. They drove the Iraqi invaders out of most Iranian territory while carrying out counterattacks that resulted in Iranian occupation of limited but significant sections of Iraqi soil. Although Iraqi counterattacks in 1988 resulted in that coun-