by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 7, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1437)
The months of August and September highlight two anniversaries: the first, Hizbullah’s valiant resistance to Zionist aggression against Lebanon in 2006 and the second Islamic Iran’s eight year long epic defence of the Islamic State against the combined might of kufr emanating through Ba‘thist Iraq.
Last month marked two war anniversaries even if they occurred nearly two decades apart. The first on August 14 was the tenth anniversary of the failed Zionist invasion of Lebanon against the Hizbullah resistance movement in 2006. It was launched on July 12 following repeated Zionist attacks against and kidnappings of Hizbullah fighters defending their own territory, villages, and homes.
Less than a week later (August 20) marked the end of the Iraqi war of aggression against the Islamic State in Iran that the Ba‘thist regime of Saddam Husayn had launched on September 22, 1980. Saddam’s war was to destroy the fledgling Islamic state. This was done at the behest of his Arabian brothers in crime as well as the US, and other Western powers. The West could not live with a genuinely free state, especially one guided and governed by Islamic principles, and led by an imam. This would have been a death knell to the imposed international order in which only fraudulent independence is permitted for client regimes in Asia and Africa. The Muslim East (aka the Middle East) is full of such regimes “led” by their clownish rulers whether kings, presidents for life, or other assorted dictators.
Hizbullah owes its emergence to the inspiration it received from the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Arabian rulers and the secular Palestinian movements were no match for Israel’s firepower or military might. Arabian armies cracked within a few days — six days or at best 17 days — before surrendering to the Zionist invaders. This is also how modern armies are trained: they are only capable of fighting short wars and hope for a quick victory. They are not capable of fighting prolonged wars in which the resisters — Islamic fighters — are willing to fight with small arms and court martyrdom but refuse to surrender before the superior firepower of the enemy. Israel was used to defeating Arabian armies led by cowardly officers more comfortable watching belly dancers that fighting wars. Hizbullah fighters were and are made of entirely different material.
Since their emergence in October 1983, they quickly improved their fighting skills and by May 2000, the Zionist invaders were forced to flee from much of South Lebanon. This was the first time in the history of modern Arabian armies that Israel was defeated and forced to retreat in humiliation. The credit for this goes to an Islamically committed guerrilla force. The Zionist army continued to occupy a sliver of South Lebanese lands from which it carried out aggression against Lebanese villages. In the process, it had also kidnapped a number of Hizbullah fighters as well as ordinary Lebanese villagers.
Hizbullah leader Shaykh Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah correctly surmised that the Zionists would never honour any agreement for prisoner exchange unless the resistance group captured some Zionist soldiers (unlike Israel, Hizbullah does not kidnap civilians) to swap for Lebanese prisoners. On July 12, 2006, Hizbullah fighters ambushed an Israeli patrol comprising two Humvees near the border at Zar’it killing three soldiers, wounding another and capturing Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and Sergeant Eldad Regev. Israel immediately sent a rescue patrol in a Humvee but it turned into an even bigger disaster: the vehicle hit a landmine and four Israeli soldiers were killed.
Instead of learning from these disasters, the Zionists launched a fullscale invasion of Lebanon vowing to rescue its soldiers and teach Hizbullah a lesson. Israeli air force chief Dan Halutz announced, “If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.” He then ordered that for every Hizbullah missile on Haifa (in retaliation for Zionist attacks on civilians!), the Israeli air force should fire 12 rockets at a 12-storey apartment building in Beirut. This clearly constituted a war crime. But as Seymour Hersh reported, the plan to attack Hizbullah had been agreed with American officials at least two months prior to the July 12 incidents (The New Yorker, ‘Watching Lebanon’, August 21, 2006).
Zionist aggression against defenceless Lebanese villages continued for 33 days but it failed to achieve its military or strategic objectives. True, more than 1,300 Lebanese civilians were killed and damage worth $11 billion was inflicted on Lebanon but the Zionist invaders also suffered heavy losses in men and material. When the ceasefire was announced 33 days later, the Zionists put their tail between the legs and fled. The defeat of the Zionist army was so thorough that it created a crisis of confidence and morale among the rulers of the illegitimate entity.
When considered in numbers and materials terms, Hizbullah’s victory was even more impressive. Barely 5,000 fighters confronted 93,000 Zionist military personnel, who were backed by 350 Merkava tanks, thousands of artillery pieces and missiles as well as hundreds of warplanes and helicopters. Dozens of warships also prowled the Mediterranean Sea to impose a blockade on Lebanon. Hizbullah not only knocked out 47 Merkava tanks capturing several but also inflicted major casualties on the Zionist invaders.
How did Hizbullah achieve this remarkable victory? As stated above, it was inspired by the Islamic Revolution and its heroic defence against the confederacy of kufr whose outward manifestation was through the Ba‘thist regime of Iraq. Leadership also played a major role in Iran as well as Lebanon.
The decisions of the leadership in each locale brought about an outcome different than what the enemies of Allah (swt) and Islam had anticipated. These offer important lessons for struggling Muslims worldwide. The Ba‘thist invasion of Iran was launched at a time when Iran was in the throes of revolutionary upheaval. It had only recently overthrown the tyrannical regime of the US-installed puppet, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (January–February 1979 after a year of totally unarmed resistance to his tyrannical rule). Massive purges were carried out in the armed forces (12,000 officers were purged by September 1980) while the terrorist outfit, the Mujahideen-e Khalq (rightly dubbed the munafiqeen) was busy assassinating leading figures of the Revolution.
It was in these circumstances that Saddam’s Ba‘thist army invaded the Islamic Republic and occupied large parts of its territory in Khuzestan province, especially the cities of Khurramshahr, Abadan (where the world’s largest oil refinery was located), and Dezful. Iran was totally unprepared for this attack that was launched with the backing of most Arabian regimes except Syria, Libya, and Algeria. The Arabian regimes also poured billions of dollars into Saddam’s coffers ($60 billion according to their own admission) while the Western world led by the US, France, Germany, and Britain supplied the Iraqi tyrant with chemical, biological, and other lethal weapons. This grand confederacy of kufr was united in overthrowing and destroying the fledgling Islamic State in Iran. But when Muslims are truly committed to Allah (swt), His promised help is assured.
Absorbing the initial shock, Iran quickly regained its footing and mobilized its manpower for the sacred defence. Led by Imam Khomeini whose absolute faith in Allah (swt) inspired millions of people to respond in defence of the revolution, hundreds of thousands enlisted in the Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Inqilab-e Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) as well as the Basij (a volunteer force that provided exemplary service throughout the war). While the traditional army was still recovering from the purges it had undergone to weed out the mercenary pro-Shah officers at the top, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij took on the brunt of the Iraqi assault.
The territory occupied by the Iraqi army in the initial thrust was all that it could grab. On a visit to the Dezful warfront in February 1982, this writer witnessed firsthand the level of destruction wrought by the invading Iraqi army. In the village of Shush, where the grave of the Biblical Prophet Daniel (as) is located and which our group visited, not a single house was left standing. Further, the huge bullet holes from Iraqi machine gun fire were so pervasive that it was difficult to imagine how anyone could have survived such onslaught. Yet the Iranian youth inspired by revolutionary zeal and the honor of achieving martyrdom braved the Ba‘thist attack. Gradually, they started to push out the invaders who had never fired a single bullet against the Zionist occupiers of Palestine.
Within weeks of Saddam’s invasion and his failure to bring down the Islamic government in Iran, the Times of London wrote an editorial under the heading, “Never invade a revolution.” The Observer correspondent filed a report from Abadan in early January 1981 admitting to the Iranian youth’s tenacity and courage. Before the end of the year, the Iraqi forces had been driven out of Abadan and Iran’s revolutionary youth were now involved in mopping up operations. By June 1982, all Iranian territory was cleansed of the Ba‘thist invaders.
It was at this juncture that the leadership of the Islamic Republic had to make a crucial decision: should it continue the war or accept a ceasefire. Sources inside the Revolutionary Defence Council — the highest body tasked with decision-making regarding the war — told this writer that opinion between its members was divided. The Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei was head of the Defence Council at the time and was later elected President. Other members included heads of the three branches of the armed forces, head of the Revolutionary Guards, the Defence Minister as well as the Minister of Islamic Guidance. The Majlis Speaker, and head of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) acting as the Council’s spokesperson were also part of the Defence Council.
Some members wanted to continue the war until the overthrow of Saddam’s regime while others said the ceasefire should be accepted now that Iran had liberated all its territory. Continuing the war option dominated the thinking and they put forward this proposal to the Imam. He told them that if they wanted to continue, then there would be no turning back until Iran had achieved its objective: the overthrow of Saddam’s regime and installation of an Islamic government in Baghdad.
For the next six years, Iran took the war into Iraqi territory even as it faced acute shortage of spare parts for its aging military equipment most of which had been supplied by the US to the Shah’s regime. Together with the rest of the Western world, the US imposed an arms embargo against the Islamic Republic. Saddam’s army had no such problems either in material supplies or money. France supplied its latest attack planes, the Super Etendard, as well as Exocet missiles. Britain, Germany and the US supplied Iraq dual use chemicals and nerve gas that the Iraqi regime promptly converted into chemical and biological weapons to use against Iran’s forces.
While the US and Canada had no diplomatic relations with the Bathist regime in Baghdad, then US President Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld (of Bush era infamy) to meet Saddam and assure him of American support. The US provided $4 billion in aid; Canada gave $2 billion. The US also sold AWACS plane to Saudi Arabia for $8 billion but their real purpose was to monitor Iranian troop movements, information that was relayed to Iraqi war planners in real time.
While Saddam’s forces continued to target Iranian oil platforms as well as tankers in the Persian Gulf, the US sent its warships to protect Iraqi ships from Iranian retaliation. Further, the Saudis flooded the oil market forcing the price to drop precipitously to $10/barrel. At a time when Iran was involved in a costly war, its annual earnings dropped to a mere $6 billion. Saddam’s coffers were flushed with dollars; all he had to do was continue the war with the aim of destroying the Islamic State. Despite these handicaps, Iran’s valiant fighters took the battle to Iraq proper. Faw Peninsula was liberated from the clutches of the Ba‘thists in February 1984.
The first use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi regime occurred in September 1983. On a visit to Iran in October 1983, this writer was informed of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Horrific images of badly burned and bruised bodies of Iranian fighters were made available. These were first printed in the Crescent International of October 16–31, 1983. In order to alert the world to Saddam’s war crimes, this writer personally took the photos to most media outlets in Toronto where the major newspapers are published and offered them for free. Not one media outlet was interested in such evidence. So much for their claims of objectivity and fair reporting!
In early 1984, Iran took the matter to the UN Security Council as Iraqi forces continued to use chemical weapons causing horrible body burns and painful death for Iranian forces. The Security Council sent an investigation team to both Iran and Iraq and reported back to the UN that “chemical weapons have been used in the war” but refused to name the culprit. The Security Council continued to repeat this ritual in subsequent years (1985–1988), but not once did it have the courage to name the party responsible for these war crimes. How could the Council do so when its members — the US, Britain, and France — were guilty of supplying chemical and biological ingredients to Saddam to make such weapons? The use of chemical and biological weapons is banned under the Geneva Conventions but Western regimes are not constrained by rules they themselves make. They were partners in crime with Saddam.
Since the Iraqi war on Iran was fought at a time when the Crescent International was virtually the only Islamic newsmagazine reporting what was really taking place, one more episode relating to war decisions is appropriate. This writer accompanying the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui on a visit to Tehran in May 1985 — incidentally we were subjected to an Iraqi air raid one night but survived! — we had a lunch appointment with Dr. Kamal Kharrazi who was then head of IRNA (later he served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and then as Foreign Minister).
When we arrived at his office, we found him reading the Qur’an. While committed Muslims read the Qur’an regularly, we found this unusual since it was the middle of the day. Upon inquiry, he said the Defence Council, of which he was a member, would be discussing the use of chemical weapons at its meeting the following day. He was checking whether there was any provision in the Qur’an to use such weapons. Over lunch, we had an animated discussion about the subject. The following day it was announced that the Imam had expressly forbidden the use of such weapons. Iraq had used them repeatedly against Iran and the latter also possessed them but it did not resort to similar crimes (for those who make nonsensical allegations against Iran surreptitiously trying to acquire nuclear weapons should take note; resort to such barbaric weapons is the habit of those that have no regard for human life and are possessed by the demonic urge to kill and maim large numbers of people).
Even while Iranian forces made progress inside Iraq, their advances were stymied by Iraq’s indiscriminate use of banned chemical and biological weapons. In the midst of it all, on May 17, 1987, an Iraqi plane fired two Exocet missiles at the American frigate, the USS Stark, killing 37 sailors and injuring 29 others. The USS Stark was accompanying a Kuwaiti tanker carrying Iraqi oil to the international market. Instead of taking action against Saddam’s regime, Reagan blamed Iran for the strike and the ongoing conflict.
Within weeks of the Iraqi attack on the US frigate, the Saudis perpetrated their own crime. They attacked Iranian hujjaj participating in the bara’ah min al-mushrikeen rally in Makkah as commanded by Allah (swt) in the noble Qur’an (9:03). It so happened that this writer was in Makkah for Hajj. The July 31 attack was preplanned and ranks on par with the Yazidi attack on the Ka‘bah 1,350 years ago. More than 402 Iranian hujjaj were slaughtered by Saudi forces in Makkah, the most sacred of places on earth.
The German general Ulrich Wagner was specially commissioned for this purpose. He spent three months in Makkah prior to Hajj to plan the attack! The Najdi Bedouins provided proof — if proof was needed — that they have no regard for Qur’anic commands and are prepared to violate the sanctity of the most sacred place in Islam as well as kill hundreds of hujjaj when Allah (swt) forbids the killing of animals or even altercation at the time of Hajj.
The Americans, their Western allies, and the puppet Arabian regimes were determined to prevent an Iranian victory. Washington repeatedly made clear that it would not allow Iran to succeed. A year later, on July 3, 1988, the US got directly involved in the war against Iran. The USS Vincennes fired two missiles at Iran Air flight 655 from Bandar Abbas to Dubai killing all 290 passengers on board. The Airbus A320 was on its assigned flight path; it was flying over Iran’s territorial waters and was using the same corridor it had used during many earlier flights. To compound its crime, the US awarded Captain Will Rogers III, commander of the Vincennes, the second highest naval medal for “bravery.” In the US military, committing a war crime by mass murder is rewarded with medals for bravery!
The leadership of the Islamic Republic realized that continuing the war was no longer feasible since it was confronted by the combined might of kufr who were now attacking the Islamic Republic directly. It was in these circumstances that the Imam accepted the ceasefire that the UN Security Council resolution 598 had called for. The Imam described it as “drinking from a poisoned chalice.”
While the Islamic Republic was unable to liberate Iraq from the clutches of Saddam, this was achieved some years later by the US itself because the thief of Baghdad had become too big for his boots. The US attacked Iraq not once but twice: in January 1991 and again in March 2003. The first time, Iraqi forces were driven out of Kuwait into which the Iraqi tyrant was lured by then US ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, when she told Saddam the US had no specific opinion about inter-Arab border disputes. Saddam had a border dispute with Kuwait accusing the latter of stealing oil from its fields.
Following the eviction of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Iraq was subjected to punishing sanctions resulting in the death through starvation of more than one million people including an estimated 568,000 Iraqi children (UNICEF figures). The US, the UN, and others belatedly “discovered” in December 1991 that Saddam had after all used chemical weapons! Now he had to be divested of the chemical and biological weapons and all the laboratories had to be destroyed.
In the March 2003 invasion, Saddam was driven from power and following his capture in mid-2006, was hanged on December 30, 2006, a fate he richly deserved.
Islamic Iran had achieved two of its three objectives: the liberation of every inch of Iranian territory and served notice that no power in future would dare attack the Islamic Republic again or face the prospect of decades long war that the predatory powers are incapable of waging. If Iran did not succeed in overthrowing Saddam and hanging him from a lamppost in Baghdad, he went to hell in a stinking cell dangling at the end of a six foot rope.
The lesson from Iran’s heroic resistance — and indeed that of Hizbullah’s — is this: never invade a country whose people are charged with Islamic revolutionary zeal. This is a lesson the pathetic Arabian rulers refuse to learn. They will soon pay for this folly, insha’allah.