|Tawakalna ala Allah Operations|
|Part of Iran-Iraq War|
|Commanders and leaders|
Mj. Gen. Mahmoud
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Mohsen RezaeeColonel Ali Shahbazi
Republican Guard |
|Revolutionary Guard, Basij, Regular Army|
100,000-135,000 soldiers in action 1,500,000 total soldiers 5,550 tanks900 aircraft
60,000-100,000 soldiers in action 300,000 total soldiers 1,000 tanks55 operational aircraft
|Casualties and losses|
|1,000-5,000 casualties estimate ||20,000 casualties, 2,000-4,000 captured |
The Tawakalna ala Allah Operations (In God we Trust) were a series of five Iraqi offensives fought towards the end of the Iran–Iraq War, consisting of the Second Battle of al-Faw, the Battle of Fish Lake, the Battle of the Majnoon Islands, the Battle of Dehloran, and the Battle of Qasre Shirin. Iraq had originally only intended to retake the al-Faw peninsula, but following the battles' extraordinary success due to the complete collapse of the Iranian Army units present, the Iraqi command decided to expand the battle into a larger offensive campaign.
Following the Karbala campaigns of 1987, but before the end of summer, the Iraqi Army started secretly practicing maneuvers in the desert behind Basra. The training maneuvers often involved multiple divisions and huge mock-ups of objectives Iraq intended to seize from Iran.
The Iranian defeat during the Karbala Campaign of the previous year had dented the Iranian Army's manpower, supplies, and morale, and as a result increasing numbers of Iranians were turning against the war. This meant that the Iranian Army's mobilization attempt for a renewed offensive against Iraq in 1988 had failed. The Iranian military leadership had also decided at a major strategic conference that the Iranian Army had to undertake extensive retraining in order to defeat Iraq, which could in turn take up to 5 years. As a result the Iranian Army did not try to invade Iraq in 1988. In addition, Iran began to focus on creating an insurgency inside of Iraq, similar to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. They were successful in doing so in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Second Battle of al-Faw
The taking of the peninsula by the Iranians was a strong blow to Iraq's prestige whilst also threatening Basra from the south-east. The retaking of the peninsula was seen by Saddam Hussein as a top priority, and Iraqi General Maher Abd al-Rashid promised to recover the peninsula, going so far as to offer his daughter Sahar to Saddam's son Qusay to show his certainty. Planning for the recovery of the peninsula began soon after it had been taken by the Iranians, and was largely done in secret by a small group of 6, with Saddam Hussein himself being heavily involved in the planning process. The operation was called of "Operation Ramadan Mubarak", which later would become included as a part of the Tawakalnka operations due to its success.
For the second battle of Faw the Iraqis had concentrated over 100,000 soldiers, of whom approximately 60% where from the Republican Guard, against some 15,000 Iranian Basij volunteers. The Iraqi command had expected the battle to take several weeks, but Iraq managed to seize the peninsula in a single day due to the collapse of the Iranian units present, with only minimal losses. This stunning success led the Iraqi command to decide to expand the original battle into a larger offensive campaign against Iran.
The attack on al-Faw was preceded by Iraqi diversionary attacks in northern Iraq, with a massive artillery and air barrage of Iranian front lines. Key areas, such as supply lines, command posts, and ammunition depots, were hit by a storm of mustard gas and nerve gas, as well as by conventional explosives. Helicopters landed Iraqi commandos behind Iranian lines while the main Iraqi force attacked in a frontal assault. Within 48 hours, all of the Iranian forces had been killed or cleared from the al-Faw Peninsula. The day was celebrated in Iraq as Faw Liberation Day throughout Saddam's rule. The Iraqis had planned the offensive well. Prior to the attack the Iraqi soldiers gave themselves poison gas antidotes to shield themselves from the effect of the saturation of gas. The heavy and well executed use of chemical weapons was the decisive factor in the Iraqi victory. Iraqi losses were a little more than 1,000. The Iranians eventually managed to halt the Iraqi drive as they pushed towards Khuzestan.
To the shock of the Iranians, rather than breaking off the offensive, the Iraqis kept up their drive, and a new force attacked the Iranian positions around Basra. Following this, the Iraqis launched a sustained drive to clear the Iranians out of all of southern Iraq.:264
One of the most successful Iraqi tactics was the "one-two punch" attack using chemical weapons. Using artillery, they would saturate the Iranian front line with rapidly dispersing cyanide and nerve gas, while longer-lasting mustard gas was launched via fighter-bombers and rockets against the Iranian rear, creating a "chemical wall" that blocked reinforcement
Battle of Fish Lake
At 9:30am on 25 May 1988, Iraq launched what became known as Tawakalna the First (We Rely on God), consisting of one of the largest artillery barrages in history, coupled with chemical weapons. The marshes had previously been dried by a mixture of drought and Iraqi engineering, despite Iranian attempts at refilling the marshes. The drying of the marshes allowed the Iraqis to use tanks more effectively to bypass and then crush Iranian field fortifications. The Iraqi forces deployed consisted of possibly up to 135,000 men composed of various elements of the Republican Guard and 3rd Corps, attacking along a 15 mile front. Iraqi numerical superiority compared to the Iranians were in the region of 4 to 1. Iraqi forces attacked Iranian positions at Fish Lake, at a point south of Basra, and also to a lesser extent at a point further to the North.
Iran's defenses consisted of trenches, sand mounts, anti-tank ditches, barbed wire, and minefields.
Iraqi forces drove across the Jassem River on the eastern bank of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and cleared a 15 mile corridor to the east and southeast following. Initial Iranian resistance was stiff, with Iraqi forces taking large numbers of casualties when first penetrating the Iranian defenses. Following an Iranian counterattack (which took several Iraqi POW's), a renewed Iraqi offensive utilizing helicopters and chemical weapons forced a hasty withdraw from the Iranians, the with some reports suggesting that the Iranians used private vehicles to retreat.
Although Iran suffered somewhere in the region of six to eight times the casualties felt by Iraq, Iran did not endure particularly high casualties in the context of the war. The greatest losses were those of equipment and land, with the Iraqi's managing to expel the Iranians from the border town of Shalamcheh, which Iran had captured at the cost of 50,000 dead a year earlier, after less than 10 hours of combat due to a weak Iranian resistance.:265 In addition, the Iranians were permanently driven away from Basra. The battle dealt a heavy blow to the Iranian morale, with Iranian recruitment dropping off by 70%. The loss of equipment also affected Iran because it could not easily replace lost armoured units.
Faced with such losses, Khomeini appointed the cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, though he had in actuality occupied that position for months. Rasanjani ordered a surprise counter-attack into Iraq, which was launched 13 June 1988. The Iranians infiltrated through the Iraqi trenches and moved 10 km (6.2 mi) into Iraq, and managed to strike Saddam's presidential palace in Baghdad using fighter aircraft. After 10 hours of fierce fighting, the Iranians were driven back to their original positions again as the Iraqis launched 600 helicopter and 300 aircraft sorties with poison gas.
Operation Forty Stars
Battle of the Majnoon Islands
On 25 June, Iraq launched the second Tawakalna ala Allah operation retaking Majnoon Island. Hundreds of tanks were used against the Iranians, with Iraqi forces present outnumbering Iranian forces possibly up to a factor of 20 to 1. The Iraqi Republican Guard forces had prepared for the battle by launching attacks against mockups of the island. The attack began with one of the largest artillery barrages in history, coupled with massive amounts of poison gas, incapacitating many of the defenders. Iraqi commandos using hovercraft blocked the rear of the island. The Iraqi ground assault began at 3:30 AM, when an assault force using amphibious armored vehicles and boats landed on the island. Afterwards, they immediately set up pontoon bridges and crossed large amounts of forces onto the island. The Iranians had little time to react as they were hit by the huge military "sledgehammer". The Iraqis used 2,000 tanks against 60 Iranian ones.
While Iraqi Republican Guards forces cleared the two islands the Iraqi Third Corps protected their Eastern flank and severed Iranian ties to the mainland, with the help of hovercraft equipped commandos. The battle resulted in over 2,115 prisoners, with the Iranian forces being overwhelmed in 8 hours of combat. Saddam appeared live on Iraqi state television to "lead" the charge against the Iranians. The vast majority of the Iranian defenders were killed during the quick assault, with relatively few taken prisoner.
Battle of Dehloran and the Battle of al-Amareh
The final two Tawakalna ala-Allah operations took place in al-Marah and Khaneqan. By 12 July at the central front, the Iraqis had driven away from al-Amareh, and moved into Iran almost unopposed and captured the city of Dehloran, 40 kilometres (25 mi) inside Iran, and captured 2,500 Iranian troops along with much of armour and material, which took days to transport to Iraq. Soon after, the Iraqis withdrew from the town, claiming that they had "no desire to conquer Iranian territory".
During the 1988 battles, the Iranians put up little resistance to the Iraqi offensives, having been worn out by nearly eight years of war.:253 They lost large amounts of equipment; however, they managed to rescue most of their troops from being captured by the Iraqis, leaving Iraq with relatively few prisoners. The only area where Iran was not suffering major defeats was in Kurdistan. On 2 July, Iran belatedly set up a joint central command which unified the Revolutionary Guard, Army, and Kurdish rebels, and dispel the rivalry between the Army and the Revolutionary Guard. However this came too late, and Iran was believed to have fewer than 200 remaining tanks on the southern front, faced against thousands of Iraqi tanks. In addition, the US launched Operation Praying Mantis (which devastated Iran's navy on the same day of the 2nd Battle of Al Faw), and the US shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 helped to convince Iran's leadership of their isolation and their inability to succeed in the war.
The battles simultaneously highlighted the maturity of the Iraqi army, which had evolved throughout the war to the point where, during the Tawakalna ala Allah Operations, it could carry out combined-arms operations utilising the different branches of the Iraqi Armed Forces as a single cohesive force.
Iraqi chemical weapons contributed decisively to their victories, although it is hard to know how much of the damage inflicted upon the Iranians was caused by the gas.
With the Iranian army in southern and central Iraq in retreat, various elements of the Iranian leadership, led by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who had pushed for the war initially), persuaded Khomeini to sue for peace due to Iran's low in morale and impending bankruptcy. On 20 July 1988, Iran accepted Resolution 598, showing its willingness to accept a ceasefire., and on 20 August 1988, peace was officially restored. While Iraq would not be able to successfully invade Iran again (Operation Mersad), they were able to convince Iran that the war was un-winnable and to accept the ceasefire.
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